Sunday, May 30, 2010

The Cost of Discipleship - Mark 8:34-38

The Cost of Discipleship - Mark 8:34-38
By Pastor Lee Hemen
May 30, 2010 AM

I remember when I was 10 years old saying I would cut our neighbor’s grass for a couple of dollars, but I had not considered that I would have to rake grass clumps afterwards, edge the lawn, and clean the mower. My father related something that has held me in good stay for the rest of my life after I had complained to him about what was involved. He simply said, “You should have counted the cost.”

How do you measure the cost of something? I know that when I began to shop for a certain item that I want, I begin to look at reviews of the product online, I read up about different manufacturers of similar items, and I look at the manufacturer’s reputation, customer service, and quality of goods. That may work fine for say a camera or big screen TV, but what about other things in life. What about when we begin to count the cost of a relationship, a job opportunity, or say being a disciple of Jesus? How does one count the cost of the latter? Jesus, here in Mark’s gospel gives us the answer and it may be far tougher than we ever figured. Let’s look at the cost of discipleship.

READ: Mark 8:34-38

Today’s church so easily invokes Jesus’ name, often times without a thought to what it means to “follow” him. I am told that during the first few centuries of the early church, not only did one have to prove their faith walk with Christ; they also had to publicly swear their allegiance to Jesus. It was a commitment that took applicants sometimes one to two years to complete. Today’s church encourages a lackadaisical or laissez-faire attitude toward faith in Jesus, but Jesus never promoted this way of thinking. We discover that there are three steps in counting the cost of discipleship…

I. Step One: One cannot be a hanger-on! (Vv. 34-35)

1. Are you really a disciple of Jesus? We discover Jesus calling the crowd, the world, the “hangers-on” to him as well as his disciples, those who should have by now understood what it required to be a follower of his. The crowd wanted their needs taken care of and a Messiah that would throw the Roman “bums out.” Jesus was neither. And here we find him throwing down the gauntlet in front of both groups so that they would completely understand his position on the matter. Following Jesus is not as simple as just saying a prayer and having heartburn. Jesus succinctly states, “If anyone would come after me,” which tells us immediately that while anyone does have the opportunity to follow Jesus; the immediate qualifier that “he must deny himself” disqualifies many. People have a hard time denying themselves. Denying oneself is the antithesis of the world’s motto today: “It’s my life I can do what I want.” We live this out so much so that we find children having sexual relations and it does not surprise us. Unwed mothers are the norm as is the notion of living together out of wedlock. And we would never tell someone that his or her sexual proclivity is ungodly. We are so averse to denying ourselves that we allow our government to pay for another’s lousy business practices and poor personal financial practices through governmental bailouts! And heaven forbid that a church might actually ask you to change your lifestyle, repent or your ungodly life, and actually join, tithe, or serve! However, the bare truth is that denying oneself carries with it the notion that it costs the follower something. A disciple gives himself and his stuff willingly away for the Lord. If you want to try and save your life by following Jesus, forget it. You have to be willing to lose it for him and the gospel’s sake. You have to be willing to let Jesus save your life, die to yourself, and lose it all for the good news. Does that mean I have to give up and surrender my life to someone I cannot see or hear. Absolutely! Faith, by its very nature “is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.” (Hebrews 11:1) If you are still struggling with seeing your old life as dead you can never live for the Lord. Step One: You cannot be a hanger on.

EXAMPLE: In our day and age, we are encouraged to spend money we do not have on things that we do not need to do inane pleasures. Plus, in today’s society, you do not need to have the means to buy the junk we fill our homes with or do the absurd things we do! Now least you think I am being “high and mighty” let me warn you ahead of time that we have a strict rule in our family: If you do not have the cash, you do not buy it. We have only a few exceptions to this rule: When buying a good used car or when purchasing a home. But even here, we make sure we have a large down payment beforehand, we shop around for the very best interest rate, and we pay both off early. Now I do not want to get into the argument of Christian finances, but rather the idea of denying oneself. And, I am speaking to those who call themselves “Christian.” You cannot “take up” your “cross and follow” Jesus with your arms full of stuff. Remember old Harry Truman, not the President, but the mean drunken old codger that owned Spirit Lake Lodge near Mt St Helens. For Harry, his life was his lodge. He refused to leave “his mountain” and ended up being buried under 300 feet of hot volcanic ash and debris. Step one: You cannot simply be a hanger-on.

There are some good questions in life. You know like when you begin to ask yourself, “What will I do for the rest of my life?” “Whom will I marry?” “Is there meaning to life?” These are all good questions, but they are not great questions. Great questions go a little deeper and have staying power for our lives. A great question stands the test of time and here in Mark’s gospel, Jesus gives us a great question: “What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, yet forfeit his soul?” Now that is a great question. Because of this question, we learn what it means in counting the cost of discipleship…

II. Step Two: One has to be willing to give up the world! (Vv. 36-37)

1. Can you bargain for your soul? The answer is a resounding, “NO!” When Jesus asked, “What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, yet forfeit his soul?” he was not inferring a person could make a bargain for it. Rather, Jesus wanted his listeners to give reasons why it would be “good” for someone to “gain the whole world” and yet be willing to “forfeit his soul.” Sadly, because of Hollywood, there are those who actually think Satan wants to wheel and deal for your souls. This comes from a misconception of who Satan is and what he can or cannot do. Satan cannot acquire or bargain for anyone’s soul. This false theology comes from a misinterpretation of when Jesus told his followers, “I tell you, my friends, do not be afraid of those who kill the body and after that can do no more. But I will show you whom you should fear: Fear him who, after the killing of the body, has power to throw you into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear him.” (Luke 12:4-5) He was talking about the Pharisees who wanted to kill him and God who has the power to throw you into hell. Now, let’s get back to Jesus’ question: “What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, yet forfeit his soul?” The answer is you have nothing you could exchange for your soul, nothing -- except, denying yourself and following Jesus. God has a plan and that plan was Jesus coming into the world, sharing the good news, being betrayed, dying on a cross, and rising again after three days. Jesus was exchanged for your soul. He was the payment price God accepted for your sinful life. Paul says, “You are not your own; you were bought with a price.” (1 Corinthians 6:19-20) Come to grips with this reality: You have absolutely nothing God is interested in whereby you could bargain with him concerning your soul. He has already paid the price. Stop trying to bargain with God and deny yourself, take up your cross, and follow Jesus. Step two: One has to be willing to give up the world.

EXAMPLE: It is interesting to watch mothers with their little toddlers trying to get them to obey. Some yell, others plead, and then there are those who try and bargain. It is kind of like watching a mini form of “Let’s Make A Deal,” an old TV show. The mother pleads with the tiny reprobate by bargaining. “If you do this for mommy, she will…” you fill in the blank. Junior can have a complete meltdown in the candy aisle, because he wants a Milky Way, and mom then bargains that if he obeys her now, she will give little Michael malefactor his bribe later. He has just learned how to “make a deal” in his favor. Sadly, there are those who actually think God works this way as well. God does not bargain for your soul, and we have learned that Satan cannot either. The Psalmist wrote that, “No man can redeem the life of another or give to God a ransom for him--the ransom for a life is costly, no payment is ever enough--that he should live on forever and not see decay.” (Psalms 49:7-9) God has already made payment for your soul, and you have nothing he desires. Can you bargain for your soul? No! Count the cost of following Jesus. Step Two: One has to be willing to give up the world!

As a young boy my uncle George related to me, “Lee, never be ashamed of who you are. God has made you just the way he desires.” His words ring true. What we fail to realize is that if we become ashamed of Jesus or his gospel around others, we are admitting that we are embarrassed about our relationship with the Lord. We learn from Mark’s gospel that in counting the cost of discipleship…

III. Step Three: One cannot be ashamed of Jesus! (v. 38)

1. Are you a red-faced Christian? Perhaps you will be. Jesus succinctly addresses the notion that we as human beings often forsake God in order to run after things that ultimately do not matter. It cannot be any clearer than what Jesus tells his followers, “If anyone is ashamed of me and my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will be ashamed of him when he comes in his Father's glory with the holy angels.” Now you might protest and declare, “I’m not ashamed of Jesus, I love Jesus!” But let’s get down to the nitty-gritty shall we? Let’s boil the Barbra Streisand away. Let’s look at the sinful dregs you have left in your life’s empty cup. You cannot say you “love Jesus” on one hand and then not be found regularly in worship (Hebrews 10:25). You cannot say you “love Jesus” and yet never open his word and read it regularly (2 Timothy 2:15). You cannot say you “love Jesus” and not give of your tithes and offerings (Malachi 3:8). You cannot say you “love Jesus” and yet are not a member of a local church (Matthew 18:20 & 1 Corinthians 12: 27). You cannot say you “love Jesus” and do not do what he commands (John 14:15). You cannot say you “love Jesus” and are not living a holy life (Ephesians 1:4; 1 Peter 1:15-16) And, finally, you cannot say you “love Jesus” and have never come to know him as your Savior and Lord (John 3:16-18, 36; John 6:47). And Jesus makes it plain that if you are “ashamed of me and my words” in the world today, he will “be ashamed” of you when he “comes in his Father’s glory with the holy angels.” This is why Paul wrote, “I am not ashamed of the gospel because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes” (Romans 1:16) and why Jesus warned, “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.” (Matthew 7:21) Are you a red-faced Christian? In counting the cost of discipleship, Step three: One cannot be ashamed of Jesus!

EXAMPLE: Try as hard as he might, not even Bill Gates will have anything more than the most meager soul after he is dead. Yet, I firmly believe Bill is in store for some big time embarrassment. You see when Gates hits the Pearly Gates; so to speak, man is he is going to be surprised that his billions of dollars, his sponsorship of abortion, and the buying of mosquito nets for the children of Africa, did not gain him a ticket inside heaven. He will not even be able to climb through a “window” to get in. In fact, he will find more of a hot time in the old town for eternity instead. But let’s just suppose old Bill gave his immortal soul to the Lord, will he matter more than the most impoverish person? Nope. In fact, he still will be embarrassed because Bill did not live his life for the Lord, as he should have. He was and is “ashamed of [Jesus] and [his] words in this adulteress and sinful generation.” In fact, Bill is just the same as millions of other make believe believers who think they have played it safe and will enjoy all there is to enjoy once they get to the throne room of the king of glory. SURPRISE! Will they ever be embarrassed! Jesus tells us that he is going to be “ashamed of him when he comes in his Father’s glory with the holy angels.” In counting the cost of discipleship, Step three: One cannot be ashamed of Jesus!

Conclusion:

We discovered three steps in counting the cost of discipleship with Jesus: Step One: You cannot be a hanger on. Step two: One has to be willing to give up the world. Step three: One cannot be ashamed of Jesus. Have you counted the cost?
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Pastor Lee Hemen has been the outspoken pastor of the same church for 25 years in Vancouver, WA. He writes regularly on spirituality and conservative causes and maintains several web blogs. This article is copyrighted © 2010 by Lee Hemen and is the sole property of Lee Hemen, and may not be used unless you quote the entire article and have my permission. You now have my permission…

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Who is Jesus? - Mark 8:27-33

Who is Jesus? - Mark 8:27-33
By Pastor Lee Hemen
May 16, 2010 AM

What you believe about something says a lot about you truly accept as correct. There are folks who believe that there are many ways to heaven, yet they cannot relate any one particular way. Often their explanations degenerate into a kind of blurred quasi-spiritual mumbo-jumbo about how one feels religious. I would venture that no sane person would accept the same kind of nonsense when trying to get his or her brakes fixed. “There are many ways to fix your breaks. We offer you several options from using a big rock tied to a rope, to whatever makes you feel comfortable within yourself. We here at Inner Peace Motors want you to connect with your car.” Doesn’t quite work, does it?

As Jesus and his disciples were headed from one area of ministry to the next, Jesus pauses along the way and asks them a pointed question concerning who they think he is. Their answers of what others think and Peter’s open confession, tells us a lot about why Jesus would ask this question of them. He had just healed a blind man, and now he desires to know if his own followers can see as well. Let’s discover how…

READ: Mark 8:27-33

Having studied people and the Scriptures for more than 35 years, I have discovered that you can immediately tell a lot about a man by what he says he believes about Jesus. Notice I did not say, “What he believes about God.” Sadly, a lot of men never think about God, except to see him perhaps in his creation of their children as babies or in nature when they go hunting or fishing. From the religious narrow-minded leaders of his day, to the rough and tumble fishermen that accompanied him, Jesus demanded answers from them as to who they thought he was. Let’s ask ourselves…

I. Who is Jesus to me? (Vv. 27-28)

1. Jesus is more than one of the “guys” – he is God! Here, in this section of Mark’s gospel, we find Jesus and his disciples walking along a road, headed to “to the villages around Caesarea Philippi. On the way he asked them, ‘Who do people say I am?’” It seems to be a simple question, but in reality, it is not. The answer demands a deeper understanding of Jesus that many men fail to grasp, especially in our day and age. The men answer not from whom they thought Jesus was, but rather as in how others saw Jesus, “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, one of the prophets.” It gives us some insight to how men see Jesus. Often they see him as just another good old boy, like John the Baptist. Jesus was just one of the boys who could spit and chew with the rest of them, and who would stir up trouble with the status quo. Others see Jesus as a righteous dude, like Elijah, who went about doing good things for widows and orphans. Then there are those who are not quite sure of who Jesus is but realize in some vague way that he might somehow be a holy man of God. And they know that he might be coming back again and all of those who did dirt to others will get theirs. It is kind of a rather convoluted Catholic premillennial dispensational History Channel end times Nostradamus view of Jesus. Now listen how Paul described Jesus: “He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him. He is before all things, and in him, all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy. For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross” (Colossians 1:15-20). Jesus did not want the “crowd” answer from his disciples. He wanted to know who he was to each of them. It is a question we must ask ourselves, “Who is Jesus to me?”

EXAMPLE: Jesus is more than a good man or a great teacher. He is more than a pal he is our friend. A friendship with Jesus is more than being a BFF or best friend. Jesus is our friend because he chose to be that for us. I love it when Denise says, “You’re my best friend.” However, as much as I love her, I know that I occasionally do something that is not so “best friend-ish. In fact, no matter how hard I try, I simply cannot live up to the high standard of being a friend who never lets others down. We all fail from time to time—forgetting to do what we should or simply allowing selfishness to build a barrier between us. As believers, we take comfort in knowing that we are called a friend of God, and He is a true friend who never fails. Abraham “was called God's friend,” and that friendship was related to his faith (James 2:23). Jesus explained how we can receive that designation as well. He said to His disciples, “You are my friends if you do what I command” (John 15:14). There is no better friend, for we know that He will never leave us nor forsake us (Hebrews 13:5). Ask yourself this morning, “Who is Jesus to me?”

Your answer says a lot about what you truly believe about Jesus. Interestingly there are those who want to use any response they can in order to assuage their own sin guilt. When Jesus asked his disciples, “Who do the people say I am?” they gave him all kinds of answers. Then Jesus does something curious, he pointedly asked them, “Who do you say I am?” Why would Jesus do that? I believe Jesus wanted them to understand fully who he was, because if they did not, what was going to occur would leave them bewildered and spiritually shattered. Therefore, let’s ask ourselves…

II. Who do I say Jesus is? (Vv. 29-30)

1. You may not get the Messiah you wanted - Jesus is Savior and Lord! The crowds of Jesus’ day wanted someone who would solve their physical, financial, or national problems. Most were not that concerned about their spirituality. The religious leaders of the day had spiritually blinded them to the reality of their situation. The crowd was comfortable in allowing them to dictate what they should do concerning their relationship with God. They were contented with their festivals, religious ceremonies, and perpetual sacrifices. And, believe me, so were the religious leaders. They were getting quite wealthy off the dupes in the crowd. Jesus now pointedly asks, “But what about you? Who do you say I am?” Peter answers, “You are the Christ.” You would think that after Peter’s answer, Jesus would have praised him, given him the keys to something. Matthew’s gospel relates Jesus tells Peter, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by man, but by my Father in heaven. And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock, I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.” (Matthew 16:17-19) Nowhere do we find him giving Peter the title of “Papa,” Pope or the job of main gatekeeper of heaven. Jesus gives the authority, “the keys of the kingdom of heaven,” to his church (his body in the world) that is his followers: “Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it” (1Corinthians 12:27). Peter sees Jesus as the “Christ” (Messiah) but Peter’s view of him is still distorted by the world just as the crowd’s view of Jesus was. He then warns “them not to tell anyone about him.” The crowd wanted the wrong Messiah. Whether you realize it or not what you actually do and how you relate to those around you displays to rest of the world what you truly believe about Jesus. Are you displaying the wrong Messiah to the world? So, who do you say Jesus is?

EXAMPLE: While you might say with your lips that you believe in Jesus as your Savior and Lord, what do you say with your life? We can deny Jesus so easily. David McCasland writes about a businessman who “often places a Bible verse or a thought-provoking saying on a sign outside his building.” It is a public witness for Jesus. One time as David drove past, the sign contained just two words: “Yes, Lord.” The words stayed on his mind. “Was there any situation to which they did not hold the key?” McCasland couldn't think of one. How wonderful to began every day with those two words! “Yes, Lord. I’ll be content where I am instead of wishing I were somewhere else.” “Yes, Lord. I’ll trust you for the outcome of the uncertainty gnawing at my mind.” “Yes, Lord. I’ll open my heart and hand with the joyous generosity you love.” Wouldn’t every trouble we face today fade if we began with the trusting response of “Yes, Lord!” Now, who do you say Jesus is?

When we deny who Jesus is, we forget that we then become part of the other side. We become enemies of the cross. In fact, we can be Satanic in our relationship with Jesus. Are you surprised by what I just said? Yet that is exactly where we place ourselves when we join with Peter in rebuking Jesus. We may have to remind ourselves of whom Satan is and what he likes to do. Scripture relates he is a powerful created angel who wanted to be like God, was full of pride, took a whole lot of other angels with him in his pride, and fell from God’s favor because of it. He now is mankind’s accuser before the throne of God, he is deceptive, and a liar. So, finally, we must ask ourselves…

III. Am I being Satan to Jesus? (Vv. 31-33)

1. Jesus’ plans will not be dissuaded – even if it cramps our life! Remember, Jesus warned them not to tell anyone about him. Yet, also notice that immediately “he then began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, chief priests and teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and after three days rise again. He spoke plainly about this….” And then Peter blows it, “took him aside and began to rebuke him.” Literally he told Jesus what he was saying wasn’t true! Jesus then “turned and looked at his disciples, he rebuked Peter. ‘Get behind me, Satan!’ he said. ‘You do not have in mind the things of God, but the things of men.’” (Mark 8:30-33) Now that is surprising coming from Jesus to one of his favorite disciples. Why would Jesus be so harsh to Peter? Satan was the source of Peter’s thoughts. Peter was selfishly placing himself on the other side, the side of the enemy. Do you remember when Satan tried to tempt Jesus in the wilderness? Peter took on Satan’s role with Jesus when he tried to dissuade Jesus from his true task in life. Peter loved Jesus but he was misguided in what he desired for Jesus. Do you know that we do the very same thing when we try to persuade Jesus in another direction for our own lives or in the lives of others? Now I know you are already trying to make excuses as to why you do not do that and how you could never be like Satan, but oh yes we can. You see Jesus called Peter “Satan,” because Peter presumed to know what was best for Jesus and thereby for his life and the lives of everyone else as well. Peter was being selfish. He wanted Jesus to live and not to do the very thing he came to earth to do – die on a cross for our sins! We are just as satanically selfish when we try to convince Jesus we know so much better than he does about our lives in him. Now, let’s get real here for a moment and ask ourselves, “Am I being Satan to Jesus?”

EXAMPLE: How can we become “Satan” in our relationship with Jesus? We do it when we know we should join a church and serve, but do not do so. We do it when we know we should be tithing, but we give all kinds of excuses as to why we do not tithe. We do it when we know we should witness, especially after the Holy Spirit has laid someone on our heart and mind, and yet we find anything else to do rather than witness to the person. We do it when we know we should have a time alone with God in prayer, but we allow so many other things to steal away our time alone with God. We do it when God has asked us to trust him with the here and now and yet we find so many reasons to go ahead of him and try to make our plan into his plan. We do it when we blame others for our lack of faith. No matter how we try to slice it any other way, every time we try to dissuade Jesus’ plan in our lives, we are being Satanic and swallowing a lie. Tough words but they are true. Now, what do you think you should ask yourself today? Perhaps, it should be, “Am I being Satan to Jesus?”

Conclusion:
We have learned from today’s passage in Mark just who Jesus is. We did that by asking ourselves three important questions: 1) Who is Jesus to me? 2) Who do I say Jesus is? And 3) Am I being Satan to Jesus? What have you discovered about Jesus in your life?
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Pastor Lee Hemen has been the outspoken pastor of the same church for 25 years in Vancouver, WA. He writes regularly on spirituality and conservative causes and maintains several web blogs. This article is copyrighted © 2010 by Lee Hemen and is the sole property of Lee Hemen, and may not be used unless you quote the entire article and have my permission. You now have my permission…

Sunday, May 09, 2010

Hannah – 1 Samuel 1:1-15

Hannah – 1 Samuel 1:1-15
By Pastor Lee Hemen
May 9, 2010 AM

Do you ever struggle with prayer? What do you think is the nature of the struggle? One struggle is that we end up praying platitudes. How do we stop using the same old platitudes in our prayers? The Proverbist related, “Two things I ask of you, O LORD; do not refuse me before I die: Keep falsehood and lies far from me; give me neither poverty nor riches, but give me only my daily bread (Proverbs 30:7-8).” He had the right idea. Jesus said that part of our prayers should be, “your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us today our daily bread (Matthew 6:10-11).”

One wonderful mother from the pages of the Old Testament can teach us a lot about prayer. Her name is Hannah. In fact, Hannah can teach us bunches about how mothers and the rest of us ought to pray and since this is Mother’s Day, we are going to pause our study of Mark’s gospel and study Hannah and her prayer. Let’s see what Hannah has to teach us about prayer…

READ: 1 Samuel 1:1-15

We can read a section of Scripture and skip right over what God desires to teach us for the day, and so it is here with this story of a young woman named Hannah. We immediately learn something about Hannah that is very vital to understanding the tremendous miracle God was going to do through her for his people. We discover that…

I. Hannah had none! (Vv. 1-2)

1. Having nothing is the best place to start. Hannah had no children. Why is this so important for us to understand? It shows how God can work through one person to bring about the change a nation needs. God desired that Israel change its direction, and Hannah could help provide that change, because a person who has nothing, God can use. We have to pause for a moment and understand the enormity of her situation. For Hannah children would be everything. Her entire world was wrapped up in her ability to have a child, and not just any child, but a baby boy. Hannah had none because God allowed her to be barren. This is where God starts when he desires to do something great. He starts with one person who realizes they have nothing. We live in a day and age where we have everything. How can God begin to work in us when we have so much that distracts us? Perhaps we need to realize anew our utter poverty in him, because in reality we have nothing that matters to God. Nothing but ourselves, and until we come to the poverty of that situation in our faith, we will continue to look to God when in our heart of hearts we believe we need nothing from him at all. God cannot do the great things he desire with people who think they have everything. Hannah realized she needed God because “Hannah had none,” do you. Do you realize your utter poverty before the Lord this day? Until you do, God cannot do with you some great thing he desires.

EXAMPLE: Far too often, we are like a self-centered child who, when he gets some ice cream, immediately looks to see if the child next to him got more than he did. We are like this with every area of our lives. We forget that we came into this world with nothing, and we will leave it with nothing. Everything we acquire while here, including relationships, are on loan to us so-to-speak. Rich or poor, the famous or the inconsequential, the President to the peon will all be equal when they are dead. The only difference will be with those who realized their utter spiritual poverty before the Lord, will have a rich reward. Paul paraphrased an old Hebrew saying by relating that, “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him.” Hannah had come to understand this, but she began with nothing and like Job Hannah learned, “Naked I came from my mother's womb, and naked I will depart. The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away; may the name of the LORD be praised” (Job 1:21). She had nothing to offer God but herself and that is all God ever desires from his people.

Hannah shows us what many fail to realize today regarding their prayers before the Lord. We think, because of our relationship with Jesus, that we can have a rather cavalier attitude concerning our prayers. We can forget that God looks at the heart, not the outside of a person. We forget that God still judges the intent and therefore the contextual content can be very important. We discover that…

II. Hannah poured out her soul! (Vv. 10, 13, & 15)

1. A soul poured out, can be filled by God. Hannah’s prayer was not one of desperately wanting a child so she could have standing with the “in crowd” of her day. Hannah’s prayer was not so she could get Peninnah to shut up. And, Hannah’s prayer was not offered so she could get back that loving feeling of her husband. Hannah’s prayer was from the very depths of her being, her soul; all that was Hannah was being laid out before the Lord because all that was Hannah desired a child. We see that Hannah was literally “pouring out [her] soul” to God. We may earnestly pray for something, we may even vehemently ask God, but do we ever beseech God and lay it all out before him like Hannah did? I do not see folks doing that in our day and age. You see, this is literally a falling down, getting your knees dirty, kind of humiliation outpouring prayer before God. It is the deep inner gut-wrenching heart rendering crying before God’s throne because we not only desire God’s mercy, we desire him to act in spite of our selfish desires, needs, or wants. Now, when was the last time you earnestly prayed like that? This was no lifeline one-time occurrence with her either because evidently she had been doing this quite a while, because we see “This went on year after year” (1 Samuel 1:7). Hannah poured out her soul before the Lord for a child, when was the last time you poured out your soul for the lost? When was the last time you poured out your soul before the Lord for your ungodly nation? Sadly, we often pray such namby-pamby things in such wimpy uninspiring ways. I challenge you to record your prayer time just once and play it back and I believe you wouldn’t be inspired to listen to your own prayers either. Sure, I know God hears our prayers, but just because he hears us does not mean he will act, and I believe that God often does not act because our prayers are not from our very being. We need more pouring out of our soul in our prayers as Hannah did.

EXAMPLE: In the movie “Faith Like Potatoes,” Angus is stricken when with his tractor he runs over and accidently kills his favorite nephew. There is a heart-wrenching scene in the movie where he is in the hospital weeping uncontrollably over the child’s death. When I was a fire department chaplain, I experienced this many times when folks lost a loved one. It is a place of utter hopelessness and helplessness. That is where Hannah dwelt. And that is where we should remind ourselves where we reside as well. I am reminded of the old pastor who when entering his prayer closet would repeat, “I am nothing, and you are everything,” repeatedly to remind himself of who he was and whom God was. I am often shocked at the almost contemptuous attitude some Christians display not only in their prayerlessness, but also in their actual prayers! It is as if they demand from God an answer because of Jesus. While we enjoy a new relationship with God that is unfettered by continual animal sacrifice and works, we would do well to remember we still are addressing a holy and righteous God. Like Hannah, we need to spend more time in pouring out our soul before the Lord and less time focusing on ourselves.

After she has “wept much and prayed to the LORD,” Hannah then “made a vow.” Through her prayer, Hannah gave herself completely over to the will of God. You find neither poetic phrasing here nor any pat prayer pattern. She does not utter the spiritual mantra many of us use in our prayer of, “If it be your will, Lord.” It was through her sacrifice of prayer whereby she completely gave herself and her will over to God, that Hannah came to know the truth of what God’s will would be. Hannah would have to give up that which she longed for the most: her firstborn son. We discover that…

III. Hannah sacrificed everything that mattered! Vv. 10-11, 18)

1. Sacrifice costs. There is no desperate bargaining here, as some might have you believe, with Hannah’s prayer. She had been about this way too long. If only God would “look upon” his “servant’s misery,” see her heart as it was and “not forget” his “servant but give her a son.” She would then be willing to do what God required of her all along. And this, I believe, is the heart of the truth of this passage. God had been working with Hannah over the years in order for her to understand what true sacrifice means. Sacrifice costs the believer dearly. It is not something you would have discarded anyway, it is not your second best, it is not your leftovers, nor is it anything that does not cost the person. Sacrifice is never done in haste and it is never easy. And here it cost Hannah everything. Hannah had finally reached a point whereby she was willing to sacrifice everything that mattered. This is where God could use Hannah. It is where he can use you as well. Serving God, costs us dearly because it cost God his one and only son. Serving God costs us all that we are. It costs us our mind, will, and emotions. It costs us our time, talent, and treasurer. Sacrifice comes when we realize that we will be impoverished in some way by our conscious choice to follow God in complete trust. Hannah had come to understand this, and God answered her prayer. We see that “she went her way and ate something, and her face was no longer downcast.” When was the last time you were sincerely willing to sacrifice it all for the Lord? This includes everything you have including your family – which all are required of the Lord in order to follow him (Matthew 4:21-22; 16:24; 19:21, 29; Luke 9:62; John 12:25-26). When was the last time you totally trusted God, did not flinch, and remained steady on the course he gave you until you were certain he had given you new marching orders? Hannah was willing to sacrifice everything that mattered, are you?

EXAMPLE: When one enters the ministry, you are no longer your own person. In fact, when one comes to Christ, you are now bought with a price and you belong completely to God. If we truly have the mind of Christ, we understand that we are now living sacrifices for the Lord. Many will sing the words, “Take my life lead me Lord. Take my life lead me Lord. Make my life useful for Thee,” and walk fifty feet out the front door of the church and completely forget what we just sang. Our life was only useful for the Lord for all of fifty feet, I guess. Day after day, and year after year, Hannah asked God to look upon his servant’s misery. To see her heart as it was completely exposed. As she did, she began to hear God tell her that her request would be given at a cost. God would not forget, but she would have to honor him because of his great mercy extended toward her. We see what it meant for her because “After he was weaned, she took the boy with her, young as he was, along with a three-year-old bull, an ephah of flour and a skin of wine, and brought him to the house of the LORD at Shiloh” (1Samuel 1:24). Can you imagine doing that with the child you love and sacrifice so much for in life? Hannah did, and we learn that “the LORD was gracious to Hannah; she conceived and gave birth to three sons and two daughters” (1Samuel 2:21). Hannah was willing to sacrifice everything that mattered, are you?

Conclusion:
On this Mother’s Day we have learned a lot from one little mother, Hannah. Hannah had none. Hannah poured out her soul. Hannah was willing to sacrifice everything that mattered.
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Pastor Lee Hemen has been the outspoken pastor of the same church for 25 years in Vancouver, WA. He writes regularly on spirituality and conservative causes and maintains several web blogs. This article is copyrighted © 2010 by Lee Hemen and is the sole property of Lee Hemen, and may not be used unless you quote the entire article and have my permission. You now have my permission…

Sunday, May 02, 2010

Some that Are Blind See - Mark 8:22-26

Some that Are Blind See - Mark 8:22-26
By Pastor Lee Hemen
May 2, 2010 AM

There are those in the world, like the Cheshire Cat from Lewis Carroll’s “Through the Looking Glass,” who actually believe their mad rendition of life is a worthy philosophy to follow. It is a rather odd path to walk:

Alice “began, rather timidly… Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?”
“That depends a good deal on where you want to get to,” said the Cat.
“I don’t much care where…” said Alice.
“Then it doesn’t matter which way you go,” said the Cat.
“…so long as I get SOMEWHERE,” Alice added as an explanation.
“Oh, you’re sure to do that,” said the Cat, “if you only walk long enough.” And, sadly, that is what a lot of folks adhere to for their life’s philosophy. “If only you walk long enough.”

Jesus would declared, “Leave them; they are blind guides. If a blind man leads a blind man, both will fall into a pit.” (Matthew 15:14) Jesus knew that some of those who think they can see spiritually are truly blind guides. However, in today’s passage we find that even some that are blind see. Let’s find out how…

READ: Mark 8:22-26

What defines friendship for you? Is it another person’s compassion for your predicament? Is it their willingness to sacrifice something for you? Perhaps, it is their undeserved love? Whatever defines friendship for you, we discover it portrayed in these verses from Mark’s gospel. Here we see that…

I. Even blind friends bring blind friends to see Jesus! (V. 22)

1. Friends don’t let friends live without Jesus! Sight is a precious thing. I have often thought that if I had to lose one of my senses, I might be willing to lose just about anything except my sight. We find in Scripture that folks often brought their friends who needed healing to Jesus. We find it with those who burrowed through a mud-thatched porch roof in order to lower their paralyzed friend down in front of Jesus. And, now we discover that the friends of an unnamed blind man bring their friend to Jesus. That’s what friends do; they bring their friends to Jesus. The interesting thing is these friends did not bring him because they necessarily believed Jesus was the Messiah, but they evidently did believe Jesus could heal the blind. Perhaps that was enough of a demonstration of faith on their part and on the part of their blind compatriot. Maybe they had the faith and their blind friend needed to discover his. After all, he had to have the faith that Jesus could heal him as well! In reality, we do not even know if they were friends, because it literally states “they brought to him” this blind man. Yet, notice that Mark relates that they “begged Jesus to touch him.” That kind of establishes a concern on their part. How is it then that those in the world can often care more than those who supposedly know God? Far too often those who claim Christ are the ones that are less willing to share their faith or to bring their friends to Jesus. While faith is not by sight, for some, seeing is believing and this may be the only way they would ever come to Jesus. We see in this passage that the spiritually blind can lead a sightless companion to Jesus so he can receive sight. What a gracious thing to do.

EXAMPLE: Hoyt Axton, a country western singer, wrote a song made famous by the old rock band Steppenwolf called “Snow Blind Friend.” It is about a guy who uses his last dollar to buy cocaine (snow). Axton asks the question of the man’s so-called friends in the song, “Did you say you think he’s blind?” He mournfully relates, “Someone should call his parents, a sister or a brother. And they'll come and take him back home on a bus. But he'll always be a problem to his poor and puzzled mother and he'll always be another one of us. He said he wanted heaven but praying was too slow, so he bought a one way ticket on an airline made of snow.” The title of the song is appropriate, because the man is truly blinded by “snow,” his cocaine addiction. All of the man’s friends knew what he was doing, because they were snow blind as well. How can the blind lead the blind? Yet, I know of two men who were on their last “hit,” and one of them decided it was time for them to change. He heard of a revival, a religious meeting, down at the neighborhood church. “Will it help?” the other man asked. “It can’t do us any more harm than this,” his friend replied. And so at his insistence they went and met Jesus that night. They both are now serving as pastors. It is a graphic example of how, sometimes, even blind friends can bring blind friends to Jesus. Can you?

Why is it we are ready to believe some outlandish things, yet not the gospel truth? Like the urban legend of the midget Jehovah’s Witness who was kidnapped while going door-to-door by a special needs boy. He supposedly captured the little guy, locks him in his closet, and runs to tell his mother that he caught a troll. Sorry, but while it may make us smile, it simply is not true. That’s why we should follow Jesus. He is the truth and he always speaks the truth. In fact, we learn that…

II. Jesus is always willing to lead the blind to sight! (Vv. 23-25)

1. Put your hands in the hands of the Man! That’s exactly what the blind man has to do, and we suddenly realize that these lyrics are based on good theology! Like Job, Jesus is “eyes to the blind and feet to the lame.” (Job 29:15) Jesus took the “blind man by the hand and led him outside the village.” And isn’t this a tremendous picture of what our walk with the Lord is to be? In this world we are still blinded by our spiritually blurred vision. Paul writes that “we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror.” (1 Corinthians 13:12) Jesus leads him/us away from his/our old friends, the village, and his/our old way of dependence. He/we now had/have to follow Jesus wherever Jesus decides to lead him/us. Notice that Jesus does not lead him to a nearby alleyway, home, or courtyard. Instead, Jesus takes the blind man out of town and into the open. We see why after Jesus “spit on the man's eyes and put his hands on him.” Jesus desired to ascertain the man’s willingness to be healed and his trust in Jesus’ ability to lead. Jesus leads the same with all who walk with him. “Look around, what do you see?” is what Jesus is tacitly asking. The man answers, “I see people; they look like trees walking around.” Jesus’ power is not weak; the man’s trust is incomplete. Why would we say that? We immediately read that “Once more Jesus put his hands on the man's eyes. Then his eyes were opened, his sight was restored, and he saw everything clearly.” There were no distractions of friends, crowds, city streets, or busy market places – only the man and Jesus. His entire life had been one of darkness and now he begins to see dimly at first, then as he totally trusts Jesus, his sight becomes complete! This is how it is with all of us when we begin to allow Jesus to lead us. And, guess what the wonderful truth is? Jesus is always willing to lead the blind to sight! Even you!

EXAMPLE: Vernon Grounds writes about an anthropologist named Oliver Sacks who “In his book An Anthropologist on Mars… tells about a man named Virgil. Blind from early childhood, Virgil underwent surgery decades later and regained the ability to see. But at first, like the blind man healed by Jesus outside Bethsaida (Mark 8:22-26), Virgil had difficulty seeing. Although he could discern movement and color, he couldn’t put images together to make sense of them. For a time, his behavior was still the same as when he was sightless. Sacks comments, ‘One must die as a blind person to be born again as a seeing person. It is the interim, the limbo... that is so terrible.’” We find that his comment echoes Paul’s teaching about burying our old, dead selves to walk in newness of life (Romans 6:4-14). It is a powerful spiritual change that may bring a time of difficult adjustment for the new Christian. Ingrained habits and attitudes may hang on like leeches. Grounds wrote that, “To overcome sin, we must remember that it is ‘no longer our master.’ We are ‘dead to sin,’ (v.11), and we are to refuse to let it reign in our lives (v.12). Instead, we are to offer ourselves to God as ‘as those who have been brought from death to life’ (v.13). As we take these steps, our spiritual blindness will become a thing of the past, and we will learn that Jesus is always willing to lead the blind to sight!

Have you ever walked into a closed glass door? I have. Then I had to suffer the comments of those who witnessed my mishap: “What’s the matter with you, are you blind?” “Did you think it was open?” “Don’t worry, there’s a blood smudge now so others won’t do what you just did!” It can be both painful and embarrassing. There are always those who think they are so smart when someone else suffers. In fact, we sort of see this in today’s passage as well. We discover that…

III. Some who think they can see, are still blind! (V. 26)

1. The ability to see obstacles helps one avoid collisions! Jesus does a curious thing. He gives the man a warning. “Jesus sent him home, saying, ‘Don't go into the village.’” Why would Jesus tell him that? Maybe it was for self-preservation for both Jesus and his new follower. The man did not need the ridicule of relatives, the curiosity of cronies, and especially the unwanted notice of the nattering nabobs. Jesus had seen how they would harass both those he had healed and their families. (John 9:18-22) Perhaps Jesus wanted the blind man’s friends to have faith not in what they could see, but in what they had learned concerning Jesus. Remember, Jesus also related that a “wicked and adulterous generation looks for a miraculous sign.” (Matthew 16:4) Someone who had just received their sight did not need any unnecessary distractions. The same is true for new Christians. However, it could also have been as simple as the fact that Jesus did not need the excessive attention this miracle could have brought him. We find Jesus telling those he had cured not to bring unnecessary attention to the miracles he performed. (Mark 1:44-45; 5:43; 7:36) The KJV translates the verse by saying Jesus “sent him away to his house, saying, ‘Neither go into the town, nor tell it to any in the town.’” We also know that the folks back in Bethsaida were notorious for their unbelief concerning Jesus. It would be like “casting pearls before swine” for the man to go back there. Jesus declared, “Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the miracles that were performed in you had been performed in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago, sitting in sackcloth and ashes.” (Luke 10:13) Sadly, Bethsaida was where Peter and Andrew had come from and it would be judged more harshly than the pagan cities of Tyre and Sidon! Why? Simply because some who think they can see, are still blind.

EXAMPLE: C. P. Hia writes for RBC Ministries that “Sanduk Ruit is a Nepalese doctor who has used his scalpel, microscope, and simplified cataract surgery technique to give sight to almost 70,000 people over the past 23 years. The poorest patients who visit his nonprofit eye center in Katmandu pay with just their gratitude.” We know that Jesus healed many of physical blindness during His time on earth. But of greater concern to Him were the spiritually blind. Many of the religious authorities who investigated the healing of the blind man in John 9:13-34 refused to believe that Jesus was not a sinner. This caused Jesus to say, “For judgment I have come into this world, that those who do not see may see, and that those who see may be made blind” (v.39). Paul wrote of this spiritual blindness when he said, “If our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing, whose minds the god of this age has blinded, who do not believe, lest the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine on them” (2 Cor. 4:3-4). Jesus warned the newly restored man to stay away from those who would try to discourage his new found faith, because some who think they can see, are still blind.

Conclusion:
We learned today that: Even blind friends bring blind friends to see Jesus, that Jesus is always willing to lead the blind to sight, and finally that some who think they can see, are still blind.
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Pastor Lee Hemen has been the outspoken pastor of the same church for 25 years in Vancouver, WA. He writes regularly on spirituality and conservative causes and maintains several web blogs. This article is copyrighted © 2010 by Lee Hemen and is the sole property of Lee Hemen, and may not be used unless you quote the entire article and have my permission. You now have my permission...