Sunday, January 31, 2010

Sermon: Leaving to Learn Fishing

(Click HERE for MP3 sermon audio.)

Text: Mark 1:16-20

This passage narrates one of the callings (the others are found in John and Luke; Matthew provides the same event as Mark) of Peter, Andrew, James, and John to follow Jesus. As it follows the summary message of the gospel and what it involves to accept it, this narrative could be understood to provide a prototypical example of what accepting the gospel looks like.

Mark describes the discipleship process as that of leaving the past behind and following Jesus in order to become fishers of people. How might this example be applied in each of our experiences?

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Sermon: Two-Way Street

(Click HERE for MP3 sermon audio.)

Text: Mark 1:14-15

This passage is Mark’s (and Peter’s; c.f., sermons by Peter recorded in Acts) summary of Jesus’ gospel. This passage is an allusion to a prophecy regarding the coming Messiah that is found in Isaiah 9, and to the seventy sevens prophecy (also about the Messiah) in Daniel 9.

The hearers were expecting the Messiah, but not quite the message that Jesus brought. They understood the offer of deliverance and salvation (the first part of Jesus’ message), but the second part regarding their need to respond in repentance and faith would have been quite foreign to most and even offensive to some. But that is Jesus’ gospel message: the offer of salvation is available to all, but it is of no effect unless a person responds and begins the process of repentance – a journey of life-change – through dependence upon the power of God through the Holy Spirit.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Not quite freezing and a bit of sun

The last couple of days have been fairly good for winter. Temperatures have been in the mid to upper 30’s and there’s even been a bit of sunshine. There’s been quite a bit of fog during the early morning hours.

Before things got really stressful this afternoon, I did go out and bicycle the loop while running the Post Office errand. It was dry enough to pull down the road bike. It is always such a pleasure to ride the light, fast bike after pushing the heavy behemoth of the studded tire mountain bike for so many weeks and months. Even so, I could tell after the twenty minute ride that my legs were no longer in very good shape. The cold always seems to sap strength as well.

Facing a spiritual battle

Now that I look at it, things must have started developing sometime last week. Today though, I’ve felt an almost oppressive sense of evil around me. As Adventist, and a North American one at that, my faith is probably best described as intellectual and rational. Sure, I believe in the supernatural but most of the time it seems to be removed from everyday life.

Not this week, and particularly not today.

I sense evil closing in around me, seeking to destroy God’s ministry that I am a part of, and perhaps even destroy my life.

I preached this past Sabbath on Jesus’ temptation [testing] and how the Holy Spirit gives Christians strength to battle Satan. I didn’t think it would come so quickly or so forcefully. Frankly, I am terrified. It’s easy to preach about battling evil but to truly live out the belief is quite another thing.

I picked up Desire of Ages tonight and began reading the chapter on Jesus’ temptation. I found the following:

Whenever one is encompassed with clouds, perplexed by circumstances, or afflicted by poverty or distress, Satan is at hand to tempt and annoy. He attacks our weak points of character. He seeks to shake our confidence in God, who suffers such a condition of things to exist. We are tempted to distrust God, to question His love. Often the tempter comes to us as he came to Christ, arraying before us our weakness and infirmities. He hopes to discourage the soul, and to break our hold on God. Then he is sure of his prey… (120-1)

That is exactly what I am experiencing. My prayer today, repeated over and over, has been a quote from author Anne Lamott, “Help me, help me, help me,” because I don’t know how else to pray. I hope that I will be able to pray her second prayer soon, “Thank you, thank you, thank you.”

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

What makes an activity and time more valuable?

At our [town pastors’] weekly morning coffee the discussion turned to youth ministry and how difficult it was to get any significant youth attendance at weeknight (or even weekend) programs. The primary reason was all of the school extra-curricular activities and sports that goes on. There was lament that the youth weren’t nearly as passionate about Christ (meaning they didn’t prioritize attendance at church programs) as they were about basketball or drama.

The a priori assumption of this discussion was that church activities are more valuable than “secular” ones, such as those provided by the public schools. Is this assumption correct? Is time spent in church and church programs more valuable than time spent in non-church activities? Is religious instruction and socialization with predominantly church people more valuable than enjoying activities that utilize one’s skills and interests, and which involves socialization and interaction with non-church people? Is it proper to divide activities and time between what is sacred/holy and secular/profane, between what is clean – ritually pure – and unclean – ritually impure – (using the Old Testament Levitical terms)? I wonder…

Was Jesus’ attendance at the wedding in Cana a secular or sacred activity? Matthew’s banquet, which Jesus attended, and was for primarily for non-synagogue folks, was that secular or sacred? Jesus seemed to attract negative comments from “church” leaders for spending too much time outside “church” sanctioned activities…

I know there are good reasons to bring church youth together. It can be a time of encouragement. It can be a time to be reminded what it means to follow Christ. It can be a time that is more free (notice I don’t say completely free) from the bad influences of the world. There is value, but does this make organized youth church programs more valuable than other activities?

I think youth programs make it easier for churches and church leaders to work with youth since they are all together in one place at one time. But would youth ministry be any less if, rather than programs, we simply took the time to listen and be involved in the things the youth already are?

Sermon: On Satan’s Turf

(Click HERE for MP3 sermon audio.)

Text: Mark 1:9-13

The Christian life is not necessarily a passive one. Jesus, filled with the Spirit, battled Satan and won the victory over temptation, thereby showing that sin is no match for God and demonstrating the power to redeem sinners from sin. When a person is filled with the Holy Spirit, they could be called to battle Satan on his turf, just as Jesus was compelled to do, in order to bring the message of the gospel to those suffering from the disease of sin and its effects. The Holy Spirit assures Christians that they are not alone in this battle, and that indeed, victory is assured.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Sermon: Good News! You’re Sick

(Click HERE for MP3 sermon audio.)

Text: Mark 1:2-8

We (almost?) never consider to be terribly good news tidings that declare us to be sick. But could an accurate and timely diagnosis be good news if we look at it from a different perspective?

The gospel account begins with a diagnosis of the spiritual condition of all who are born into this world. “You are a sinner,” at first hearing doesn’t seem to be terribly good news. But could it be good news, if we look at it from a different perspective? After all, it is part of the gospel, aka good news.

Sunday, January 03, 2010

Sermon: The Rest of the Gospel

(Click HERE for MP3 sermon audio.)

Text: Mark 1:1

We begin a new series based on the gospel account by Mark.

Mark 1:1 reads, “The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.” (ESV) Scholars now identify this first verse to be a title and many believe it is the title for the entire book. If Mark’s account is the beginning, then what is the rest of the gospel?

This sermon introduces the gospel account by Mark: historical context, audience, some of the themes, literary features, etc. and how these things will inform our interpretation and understanding of the gospel as we continue to study Mark and what that means to live out the gospel in our lives today.

Friday, January 01, 2010

New Years 2010

Happy New Year!

It’s only been a few hours since Alaska welcomed in the New Year. I got all the cooking done and on time.

Added a few more photos that include guests and family.