Monday, March 19, 2018

A Pure Life; Psalm 119:9-16

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Sunday, March 11, 2018

The Storm Stiller; Psalm 107, Mark 4:35-41

There are a couple of songs on contemporary Christian radio that I like right now. One is “Rescuer” by Rend Collective, and the other is “Chain Breaker” by Zach Williams. We see Jesus as both of these things and more in our readings this morning. Psalm 107 appears more than once in the lectionary. It occurs at Thanksgiving, which is reflected in our worship this morning as well as in the season of Lent. Obviously, it is a thanksgiving psalm, an ode praising God for deliverance form danger and suffering. We see this in the chorus, which occurs in verses 8, 15, 21, and 31. But in our gospel reading, we see Jesus showing the disciples that this psalm is speaking of Him. Thus, it appears in Lent. By showing Himself as the Storm Stiller, Jesus declares that He is God. Jesus came to show us what God is like. Everything Jesus is, with the exception of His human frailty, God is, and everything God is, Jesus is. The psalm focuses on God’s steadfast love—hesed—which is lovingkindness, grace, loyal love, devotion, affectionate love based on an established relationship, covenantal love, glory, favor, and mercy. God’s love is committed, unchanging, and persistent. And God’s love is seen in the midst of adversity. Our gospel reading reflects verse 4 of Psalm 107—verses 23-32. In our gospel reading, we see that Jesus is in charge of the storm. Jesus is the one who initiates the going out onto the water. He tells the disciples to cross over the Sea of Galilee. They were not the only ones out that evening. Mark tells us other little boats were with them. There were fishing boats and cargo boats, probably just like the one of which I showed the ruins during my Israel presentation. More than just the disciples would be shown that Jesus has power over the storm. The storm was strong and started swamping the boat that the disciples were in. It didn’t happen on our trip, but Jay and Sharon Coker told of a group that went out on the Sea of Galilee like we did, and everything started out calm, but a storm came up and tossed the boat about (and this one with a diesel engine), and then the fog rolled in and no one could see anything. Jay was worried about what the group would think, and they thought, despite some queasiness, that it was awesome because they could see how the disciples would have felt while Jesus was sleeping. In our psalm, we see that it is God who initiates and controls the storm. God causes the wind to lift the waves, which makes the boat go up and down and the men go side to side. In Psalm 107 we see different types of adversity that befall us, and they happen to us for different reasons. In this psalm, the storm represents those times when God puts us into situations of adversity to show us something about Himself in contrast to verses 2 and 3. In verse 2 the prisoners are chained up because they rebelled against the words of God. And in verse 3, sickness has befallen fools because of their sins and transgressions. Obviously, not all in prison are there because of rebellion—innocent people get locked up too. Polly, Elbert, and I watched “Tortured for Christ” last week and saw people beaten and imprisoned for sharing the gospel. It still happens. Even in our justice system, innocent people get locked up and the guilty go free. And obviously, not all sickness is a result of someone’s sinfulness. The wilderness situation in stanza one, Psalm 107:2-9, is a mixture. Part of it is the result of a fallen world. Part of it is human evil, both the Egyptians and the Israelites. Jesus Himself said that as He went about healing people. But this psalm gives different types of adversity and different reasons for it happening. We might not always be able to make a direct correlation, but we ought always seek to learn what the Lord would teach us in it, for there is always a purpose, (suffering is never wasted by God) and we ought always thank God for our deliverance. I don’t think Jesus was a bit surprised by this storm. I think He insisted on crossing the sea precisely because He knew there would be a storm. Certainly, He was not worried about Himself, but He was not worried for others, even though they were about to face adversity. Don’t forget that water was coming into the boat. And so He went to sleep. Now, I’m sure this sleep was in large part due to His humanity. He had been teaching crowds all day and had a breakout session with His disciples afterward. He was in high demand, and I’m sure He was physically, mentally, and emotionally exhausted. He needed to recharge. But just like in Psalm 107, this storm was intentional. The disciples and the others in the other boats needed to see something new in who Jesus was. Just like in Psalm 107, Jesus doesn’t stop the storm until He is asked. In all 4 situations listed in Psalm 107, Yahweh doesn’t intervene until He is asked. Regarding the wilderness in verse 6, “Then they cried out to Yahweh in their trouble and they delivered them out of their distresses.” The same thing is repeated exactly in verse 13 regarding the prisoners, and in verse 19 regarding sickness, and in verse 28 regarding the storm on the sea. Like the people in described in Psalm 107 and like the disciples described in the gospel, we too often wait until we are in a desperate situation to seek the Lord. We exhaust all human effort, when Jesus is standing by ready and waiting, saying, “All you have to do is ask.” Jesus wants us to ask for His help, but He doesn’t want to be our last resort. Maybe the disciples waited because they knew Jesus was tired and didn’t want to bother Him. Our asking God for help is no bother. The Lord is not annoyed with our sincere petitions. Jesus doesn’t help by bailing water, but by calming the storm with a simple command, “Peace, be still.” The Lord’s deliverance often comes through ways we don’t expect or can’t even imagine, so that we learn something new about God, or remember something we should already know about who God is. Mark writes, “And the wind ceased and there was a great calm,” which directly reflects Psalm 107:29, “He calms the storm so that its waves are still.” Once again, Jesus reveals Himself as God in being the Storm Stiller. Ironically, as Jesus asks them why they were so frightened, they become even more fearful, this time not of the water, but of Him. Now their fear is rightly placed as they contemplate Jesus as the Storm Stiller. The disciples and we would be wise to be attentive to the ending of Psalm 107, “Whoever is wise will observe, and they will understand the lovingkindness of Yahweh.” Fear turns to marvel when we see the love of God through delivering us from adversity. Jesus calmed the storm to show that He was God and that He loves His people. Jesus is still the Storm Stiller. We may or may not find ourselves out on a boat in the middle of a stormy sea, but whatever storm we face—be it one of our own making, one because of the fallenness of the world, or one that comes up because God is getting ready to do something awesome, we can trust that Jesus can calm it and bring us through whatever adversity we face. But we need to not let Jesus be our last resort. When we cry for help, He will hear and answer, probably in a way that we would not expect, so that we will give Him the thanks and praise due His name and better come to understand and experience His love.

Monday, March 5, 2018

Generous Women; Luke 7:36-8:3

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Sunday, February 25, 2018

Winning the Spiritual Battle; Psalm 143, Romans 3:19-26

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Sunday, February 18, 2018

Protected By God; Psalm 91, Matthew 4:1-11

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What Love Is; I John 3:16-24

Sermon for Ash Wednesday, 2018. To listen, click here.

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

The Glorious Presence of Jesus; Psalm 97, Matthew 17:1-13

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