Often Our “Good Intentions” Destroy Us

Posted by on March 29, 2007 under Bulletin Articles

I am often grieved as I observe ungodly acts and deeds come from good intentions. That definitely includes my actions as well as others’! When we act in fear or give responsibility for our acts to others, we often commit ungodly acts with the rationale that we are acting “for godly reasons in God’s behalf.” When I think of things I did in “godly concern,” I shake my head in disbelief and thank God for His mercy. I also conclude we can justify almost anything we do!

Godly people justified killing God’s own son! When Jesus raised Lazarus, people who were “concerned for the nation of Israel” were deeply concerned!

But some of them went to the Pharisees and told them the things which Jesus had done. Therefore the chief priests and the Pharisees convened a council, and were saying, “What are we doing? For this man is performing many signs. If we let Him go on like this, all men will believe in Him, and the Romans will come and take away both our place and our nation.” But one of them, Caiaphas, who was high priest that year, said to them, “You know nothing at all, nor do you take into account that it is expedient for you that one man die for the people, and that the whole nation not perish.” (John 11:46-50)

Israel’s religious leaders were concerned about the nation’s future. Pilate was concerned about an extremely awkward situation. Rome was concerned about controlling the Jewish people at a volatile time. The soldiers were just following orders. Jewish mockers (Matthew 26:67, 68) reveled in seeing the miracle worker seemingly helpless. The twelve were concerned about the movement’s future-if Jesus died, was there a movement?

Ask them if their concern was “right,” and they would have said, “Yes!” Could God’s purposes be achieved if Israel ceased to exist? Could anything good result from a Jewish revolt? Would disobeying orders solve anything? Was not Jewish society better off without this divisive man? How could there be a movement if Jesus was dead?

The effect of seemingly legitimate concerns produced a single outcome-an innocent man’s death. We are deeply indebted to Jesus and to God for that death. However, the suffering and injustice was incredible! Only Jesus saw the true irony-they had no idea of what they did! God used it-no thanks to humanity!

Wonder how frequently God must act in our failure? Wonder how often the Christ still says, “They have not the least insight into what they do!” Wonder how often God says of us, “How do they think godless motives promote a godly cause?”

For “the name of God is blasphemed among the [godless] Gentiles BECAUSE OF YOU,” just as it is written (Romans 2:24). Never deceive yourself: Godly results are never produced by ungodly motives. Be honest with yourself about your motives and acts.

A Sense of Privilege

Posted by on March 22, 2007 under Bulletin Articles

When I think back to 1969 to my first trip out of the United States, it gives me “goose bumps” of embarrassment. To now realize how arrogant and naive I was then is incredible now! I actually thought everyone in the entire world was exactly alike in the ways they thought and reasoned, but they just spoke different languages. (We are not even alike in this country-just listen to our political wrangling, look at our divided congregations, and consider our divorce rate!)

To presume to tell other people how they should think and feel is arrogance supreme! To believe your way of reasoning is superior to other people’s ways of reasoning is horribly na?ve! Consequently, people look at us (not listen to us!), dismiss us with a wave of the hand or shake of the head, and mutter to their friends, “They are Americans.” If you wish to observe this phenomena, look at everything we do-from wage war, to seek treaties, to conduct international business!

I distinctly remember re-entering American customs in New York after living with my family for two years in West Africa. A huge American flag hung from the ceiling just past customs. Tears filled my eyes just to think of what was ahead. My first visit to a grocery store was an emotional experience. I had not seen that much food in two years-and it was so affordable! My first worship upon return was a jolt! A carpeted, air-conditioned room with padded pews after two years of split bamboo seats and dirt floors “in the bush”! Never had I appreciated life in this country as then! Never had I been filled with such a sense of privilege!

When we had guests from the population area in which we lived in West Africa, I was deeply concerned. How would they react when they saw the prosperity of American congregations? (At maximum strength, we had six families working together.) The comment of my brothers: “You people left this to come live with us?”

Hopefully, something happened in your life to make you aware of your privileges. Hopefully, something happened to make you realize that you enjoy what many never dream about (they have never seen it to dream of it!).

Do you realize the privilege of knowing Jesus Christ? Is that sense of privilege bigger than money? Bigger than possessions? Bigger than lifestyle? Bigger than social level? Bigger than health? Bigger than death? No matter how you live or when you die, do you count it an enormous privilege to know Jesus Christ?

Is it obvious you consider it the privilege of privileges? Is that privilege reflected in who you are and how you live? Is it reflected in how you treat other people-including your family whom you live with and your fellow workers with whom you labor?

We will never correctly reflect our God and our Savior unless we see each of them through eyes that see privilege! A sense of privilege must silence our complaints!

Damaged Goods – Theology of Sin

Posted by on March 18, 2007 under Sermons


  • God
  • Christ
  • Spirit
  • Sin and Humanity
  • Salvation
  • Church
  • [End] Time
  •         Theology

    Damaged Goods: The Story

    • God creates … and it is good, very good! (Genesis 1)
    • God takes one day to enjoy it all (Genesis 2:1-3)
    • God makes man and woman and they live together without shame (Genesis 2:25)
    • God, humans, world – it’s all good!
    • The lying snake (Genesis 3:1-4)
    • Relationships
      • Humans and God: Damaged (Genesis 3:10)
      • Human and Human: Damaged (Genesis 3:12, 16)
      • Humans and Creation: Damaged (Genesis 3:13, 17-19)

    A REAL PROBLEM: Sin, Evil, and Death

    1. Elements of the Human Condition that need to be transformed. They are part of the biblical story. This is the problem of the good that has been damaged.
    2. This Human Condition is a real problem and not some mere transgression of breaking the law
    3. Sin is the result of the damaged relationship with God
    4. Evil is the result of the damaged relationship with other humans
    5. Death is the result of the damaged relationship with creation


  • Estrangement from God
  • Worse than vices and broken rules
  • Sin is darkness (1 John 1:5-8)
  • Sin is a parasite (Romans 7:20)
  • But there’s still some good

    We’ve done more than break God’s rules. God is not simply a cop or authority figure. This isn’t about control. The problem goes even further than simply having to satisfy God’s honor or appease his wrath. (If that’s God then he comes out as rather petty).
    Sin is more than being “Caught in the Act”

    1. We were convinced that the only thing wrong with what we were doing was getting caught – if we didn’t get caught, then we hadn’t done anything wrong.
    2. This is a childish view of sins.
    3. Sins is not a list of vices or laws broken. It is darkness (1 John 1:5-8)
    4. Sin is a parasite – “So the biggest biblical idea about sin … is that sin is an anomaly, an intruder, a notorious gate-crasher. Sin does not belong in God’s world, but somehow it has gotten in. In fact, it has dug in , and, like a tick, burrows deeper when we try to remove it. This stubborn persistent feature of human sin can make it look like it has a life of its own, as if it were an independent power or even a kind of person.” Thus Paul in Romans 7.


  • Estrangement among humans
  • Cain and Lamech (Genesis 4)
  • Justifying evil is the part of the problem (1 John 1:9)
  • But there’s still some good.

    After the fall in the garden, there’s a continuing spiral. A fracture in the creation that continues to crack and shatter. The next story is Cain and Abel. The parasitical sin is crouching at Cain’s door. It attaches itself to Cain and when sin has its way the result is evil.
    This puts God in a predicament. God opposes evil. But God loves Cain. Cain is his child too. But evil isn’t just a problem for God. It’s a problem for everyone. How will Cain live among the rest of humanity? Murder gives way to vengeance. How can the GOOD and Shalom of creation ever be restored. The genie is out of the bottle.
    Redemptive violence isn’t the answer – otherwise humanity will just kill itself.
    It’s really bad when we get to Lamech. He kills and gets into fights just because someone has done him wrong. If Cain was avenged seven times, then Lamech is avenged 77.

    But there’s still some good – look at his sons. Eve has another child. People call on the Lord


  • Estrangement from creation
  • The curse (Genesis 3:17-19, Romans 8:18-25).
  • Hostility between humans and the world leads to death
  • The final enemy (1 Corinthians 15:51-57)
  • But there’s still some good.

    The solution to the problem
    To deal with the problem of sin (estrangement from God) we need a priest. A mediator.
    To deal with the problem of evil (estrangement from one another) we need a prophet. A preacher to teach us how to live.
    To deal with the problem of death (estrangement from creation) we need a king – a king who rules not only over earth but also over the heavenly realms.
    Is there a person who embodies all three of these? Yes. Jesus Christ.

  • You Are Truly Forgiven

    Posted by on under Sermons

    In 1967, James Robert Ringrose had been on the FBI’s most wanted list for one year. He was wanted for writing bad checks. He had bounced his fraudulent checks all over the world. He was finally arrested in Osaka, Japan and spent time in a Japanese jail before being returned to the U.S. When he met the FBI agents who were transporting him back to justice, he told them that he had been saving an item for several years and now he needed it. He then presented them with the Monopoly game card, Get Out Of Jail Free.

    Ringrose truly thought it was that simple, but you and I know that it isn’t. When a crime is committed, one has to pay. Unless of course you are pardoned. Most of us have heard the familiar illustration preached in many sermons about the prisoner on death row. At the last moment he is offered a pardon by the governor. All he has to do is walk out of his cell. He is free. That’s how pardon works. The illustration is meant to show us how God forgives and all we need to do is accept it.

    Is it truly that simple? In the sense that God forgives us because of his mercy and grace and not because we merit it, then it is simple. But in the sense that God’s forgiveness is a legal transaction like a pardon or a Get Out Of Jail Free card, then no, forgiveness isn’t simple at all. You and I know that there’s much more at stake with God’s forgiveness.

    In the case of the prisoner pardoned by the governor, such an act may be legally binding an effective, but the governor isn’t truly forgiving the prisoner. Governors and presidents pardon often pardon people they do not know. The pardon is not personal. The prisoner or accused has not personally offended or harmed the governor. The pardon isn’t even delivered in person. It is effected through the courts and the prison system. Think about it – when the governor pardons a death row inmate, does he come calling on that prisoner. Does the pardon mean that the prisoner may now come to the governor house and they can sit down to a meal together for the first time in years and put behind them all the hurts and grievances behind them. No, none of that happens. The governor isn’t truly forgiving the prisoner.

    This is why you and I know that there is much more going on in true forgiveness. Jesus tells a story that describes what it means to truly forgive and to be truly forgiven. (Luke 15:11-32). It is a story about a man with two sons. The younger son was very disrespectful to his father. He was greedy and dishonorable. He asked his father for his share of his inheritance. Essentially, he was saying that he had no interest in continuing his life as his father’s son and wished his father were dead and that they were reading his will. The father had every right to beat this insulting child and throw him out of the house, but he does an strange thing. He gives him what he wants.

    Now this dishonorable, greedy, insulting child leaves his father with his share of his inheritance. He takes the wealth that has been in his family for generations. He takes the money that his father has carefully saved and cautiously invested so that his son might have a future. He leaves the people who care about him and takes with him the riches that would save him in uncertain times ahead. He takes it and uses it to satisfy his basest desires. He pays for food and drink to make himself happy. He pays women to satisfy his lusts. He pays for others to be his friends. He pays for anything he wants, but when bad times come along he can keep nothing. And in no time at all his family fortune is gone.

    So he takes work feeding another man’s swine. It sounds like honest labor, but it is the sort of labor that his family would find shameful. He’s not working for his family, he’s working for a wage among unclean animals. This isn’t the life he was meant to live. His father had provided for him to have a much better life than this – but that was before this son burned through half the family’s wealth. Back in his homeland where people had some sense of decency, someone might have taken him in and shown him some dignity, but in this faraway country no one wants to help him. And perhaps that’s because they know his story. They know what a reprobate he is. They know how shamefully he has treated his father and his family.

    The son finally makes a decision to return to his father. He has hit bottom and he knows that even the hired hand at the lowest paygrade back on his family farm does better than he has done. He also knows that nothing can ever be the same between him and his father. He has brought such shame to his father. He has insulted his father and shamed his family. Everyone back home knows that he is a dishonorable, greedy, selfish person. Nevertheless, for the sake of survival he will confess his sin to his father and offer himself as a slave.

    Now the father of this foolish child sees him approaching the house. Tradition and decorum dictates that the father should regard the son as “dead to him.” But the father does something truly unusual and truly unconventional. He throws decorum and propriety aside and runs to greet his returning son. Men of importance do not run. He could at least let the son stew in his shame and teach him a valuable lesson before offering him forgiveness, but he doesn’t. He lavishes love on the son who has hurt his family so horribly. It is such an overwhelming display of forgiveness it borders on being shameful. The man had two sons, and his older son is dumbfounded by his Father’s softness. It is one thing to accept the young man’s confession of guilt, but is it necessary to celebrate? That’s the older son’s question.

    The father knows what it means to truly forgive. He isn’t just pardoning the son. He isn’t just erasing his debt or overlooking his shame. He is truly forgiving all the hurt and shame so that he can have his son back. He is truly forgiving the son so that he can maintain a relationship with him. And the father would be truly happy if his older son would truly forgive his brother. Because in that way they can all enjoy being family again. We aren’t told how the younger son felt about being truly forgiven. It is probably the last thing he ever expected. Does the new robe around his shoulders feel heavy? Does he twist the ring around his bony finger? Does he wiggle his toes in his sandals (when is the last time he wore shoes?). Does he rub his cheek where his father kissed him? This son doesn’t know what it feels like to be pardoned or to get out of jail free. He only knows what it is like to be truly forgiven – and it is something he will live with for the rest of his life.

    Forgiveness is not as simple as a pardon or reprieve. Unlike pardon, forgiveness seeks to reconcile the relationship between offender and offended. Forgiveness strives for love and fellowship

    It is isn’t as simple as a truce or forgetting the past and ignoring what has been done. For if forgiveness is truly practiced, then the sins and injuries to be forgiven are on the table. Everyone shares in naming it, but they also share in the blessed work of renaming. The son confessed his sins and he named himself a slave. The father acknowledged his offense, but renamed him “son.”

    That wasn’t easy. Forgiveness is costly and there is a good amount of time and effort that goes into the business of restoring relationship. That’s true of you and I when we forgive and reconcile. It is all the more true of our God who forgives us. He doesn’t simply announce a pardon or call a truce. God works through the cross and in our lives to forgive. And he works to overcome our very human resistance to forgiveness. Accepting forgiveness can make us anxious. We would rather deal with the comforting control of law or the neat simplicity of “Get Out Of Jail Free” cards. But God is forgiving us – he is truly forgiving us.

    You are truly forgiven. We are truly forgiven. Can we accept that?

    Note: In the preparation of this sermon, I have benefitted greatly from two works that deserve special mention.

  • Paul S. Fiddes, Past Event and Present Salvation: the Christian Idea of Atonement. (1989)
  • S. Mark Heim, Saved From Sacrifice: A Theology of the Cross. (2006)

  • Do You Fear Doing Good?

    Posted by on March 15, 2007 under Bulletin Articles

    “Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.” (Matthew 5:16)

    Peter made the first statement to a group that Cornelius assembled. Jesus made the second.

    Were we in a situation for you to ask me questions, many would be answered with an “I do not know.” The longer I live, the more impressed I am with the enormity of evil, the enormity of caring people, the enormity of need, and the enormity of our mission.

    Before you say, “You are weird!” let me confess at times I even think of myself as weird. Because I know specific individual Christians in struggling nations, I am troubled by a question. It is not, “Why do they have it so rough?” It is, “Why do I have it so good?” Some of them look at me as being powerful. I look at myself as powerless. Then I realize, “It is all a matter of perspective combined with need.”

    It often troubles me to learn of others’ expectations and focus. Why? Because I remember when I had similar expectations and focus.

    Perhaps I can focus you on this dilemma by challenging your perspective. Did Jesus raise every dead Israelite? Heal every sick person? Feed every hungry Israelite? Did every blind person he passed see? Did every lame person he saw walk? Did he come for a bigger purpose than raising the dead to die again, healing the sick, feeding the hungry, or curing the blind and lame? What about those who were NOT helped?

    Can you personally teach every person who needs to be taught? Give guidance to every person who needs insight? Have the answer for every spiritual dilemma? Respond usefully to every situation? Solve complications created by poor choices? No!

    Is everything just a matter of perspective? Or logic? Or “correct” responses? Or “sound” answers? If the destination is A, is it just a matter of plotting the human steps necessary to reach A?

    If it is all up to us, why do we keep making messes? If it is not all up to us, how do we determine God’s role? Where is the balance between our efforts and God’s efforts?

    You cannot do it all! You can let God work! How? By making sure you do what Jesus did-go about doing good. Let God use your good for His purposes!

    You Are Forgiven

    Posted by on March 11, 2007 under Sermons

    Join me on a journey of the imagination and let’s visit the temple in the Jerusalem of centuries ago. It is the tenth day of the seventh month. There is a somber mood to activity. This is no ordinary day; it is the Day of Atonement. The priest is making ready to enter into the sanctified, holy place wherein God’s presence dwells. He has observed the ceremonial rules, cleansing himself and dressing in special garments. This is the way it has always been done. All the way back to Aaron, Moses’ brother.

    The priest has slaughtered a bull – praying as he slaughters it asking that the Lord will forgive him of his own sins. He takes the blood of the bull into the holy sanctuary along with a censer of burning incense. Now he enters the Holiest place where the Ark of the Covenant rests. This is God’s throne on earth. As he places the burning incense before the Ark his mind is repeating the words of Scripture: If he follows these instructions, he will not die. If he follows these instructions, he will not die. If he follows these instructions, he will not die. (Leviticus 16:13).

    Now he sprinkles the blood of the bull before the Ark, the throne of God. He does it just as he has always done it; year after year on the tenth day of the seventh month. He has purified himself from his defiling sins. He has sanctified the holy, but still very earthbound, elements of the Temple. Only now is he able to begin the ceremony of atoning for the multitude of sins staining the people of God.

    Just as it has been done every year on the tenth day of the seventh month, two goats are brought as an offering for the sins of the people. The priest slaughters one goat. He will take its blood do what he did with the blood of the bull. The priest takes the other goat by the head and he tells the goat all the horrible and wicked things that the people of God done. He tells this goat how they have missed the mark. He tells this goat how they have fallen short. He tells this goat how they failed to live up to God’s standards. And this is just in the last year, because the priest performed this ceremony only a year ago.

    The goat, burdened with a year’s worth of the sins of the people will be led away into the desert. The people will curse the goat as it is led outside the city. They are cursing their sins. They know what they’ve done. They know how they have fallen short. They know how they have missed the mark. They know how they have failed to live up to God’s standards. They know that their sins are as brutal and ugly as the gore and blood of the sacrificed goat that stains the holy garments of the priest. They also know that there is this day for atonement. Yet, they also know that they will do this all over again next year, on the tenth day of the seventh month.

    Meanwhile, back in our own day and age it is the first day of the week. The people of God assemble. This isn’t like any other day or time. There is a sense of meditation and reverence. The preacher has been praying all morning. He is aware of his own sins. He knows how he has missed the mark. He knows how he has fallen short. He knows how he has not lived up to all of God’s standards. He may dwell on it in prayer, but that will be enough until next Sunday. The people are gathered this day also aware of their sins. During the quiet of the communion and in their mental wandering during the sermon they struggle …

    One man wonders if his baptism was done right. Should he be baptized all over again?

    A woman is concerned that her baptism at such an early age might not be enough of a conversion to cover over the horrible sin she committed two years ago that she dare not tell anyone. This is all she has pondered every first day of the week for the last two years.

    During the Lord’s Supper some feel unworthy to partake of the bread and wine. They focus on the blood of Christ and the tortured body of Christ. They know that it is their particular sins that have put Christ on the cross. They feel unworthy and ashamed to approach God. But maybe if they keep coming on the first day of the week they will somehow prove worthy.

    There are some who plead for change, telling God how sorry they are – especially those who have committed the same sin week after week. They come on the first day of the week to curse themselves for they know how they have missed the mark. They know how they have fallen short. They know how they have not lived up to God’s standards.

    After an hour or longer meditating on their sin and after the chance to confess and prayer, some will leave the assembly place hope that this has been enough. For this hour or so they have reminded themselves of their sins, they understand that they have missed the mark. They understand that they have fallen short. They understand that they have not lived up to God’s standards.

    Perhaps they understand that they have been forgiven. Perhaps the preacher spoke it. Perhaps they felt it or hoped it when they ate the bread and drank the cup. Perhaps they prayed it as they wrote a check or dug in their pockets for money. Maybe just maybe God will forgive them this day – this first day of the week since they have been good and faithful. But they don’t want to get too confident because they know how easy it is to sin. And besides, they will be returning next week on the first day of the week when they will do this all over again.

    Two ages of God’s people, but the same problem: a constant awareness of sin. An opportunity for atonement, but a reminder that this atonement must be managed and handled again and again. I admit that there’s not a lot of hope in these scenes. However, perhaps you recognize the reality in these imagined settings. Perhaps the absence of hope and the chronic knowledge of sin and failure is too familiar. If so, I want to imagine a third reality. It comes from a sermon I did not preach. It comes from a preacher I don’t know. I don’t even know his name, but his sermon is so powerful that it was written into the Bible. You have heard some of the words of this sermon read in our worship today (Hebrews 10). I want us to journey to a hearing of these words …

    I want you to hear the words of a preacher whose sermon was written into the Bible:
    Christ did not enter heaven to offer himself again and again, like the high priest here on earth who enters the Most Holy Place year after year with the blood of an animal. If that had been necessary, Christ would have had to die again and again, ever since the world began. But now, once for all time, he has appeared at the end of the age to remove sin by his own death as a sacrifice. (Hebrews 9)
    Do you hear what he’s saying? He is saying, “In Jesus Christ you have been forgiven.”

    I want you to hear the words of a preacher whose sermon was written into the Bible:
    God’s will was for us to be made holy by the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ, once for all time. (Hebrews 10)
    Do you hear what he’s saying? He is saying, “In Jesus Christ you have been forgiven.”

    I want you to hear the words of a preacher whose sermon was written into the Bible:
    Our High Priest offered himself to God as a single sacrifice for sins, good for all time. Then he sat down in the place of honor at God’s right hand. There he waits until his enemies are humbled and made a footstool under his feet. For by that one offering he forever made perfect those who are being made holy. (Hebrews 10:12-14)
    Do you hear what he’s saying? He is saying, “In Jesus Christ you have been forgiven.”

    “And when sins have been forgiven, there is no need to offer any more sacrifices.” (Hebrews 10:18). Why do we come together and before God day after day and feel that nothing changes? Why do we lose hope that our sins could be forgiven? Why do we keep dredging up our sin and letting it rule us?

    We can criticize the old ways of slaughtered animals and confessing to scapegoats, but if all we’ve done is sophisticate the constant attention to our sin into a mental exercise rather than an ancient ritual, we are never going to live in the spirit of Christ’s forgiveness. “And when sins have been forgiven, there is no need to offer any more sacrifices.”

    Some concerned soul might say, “But people could get lazy and careless if they are too confident in forgiveness. They may not come back to church.” Maybe, but they will never BE church if they think they are always condemned and don’t know that in Jesus Christ they are forgiven. We will never BE church if we are hopelessly burdened with guilt that hinders our righteousness. “And when sins have been forgiven, there is no need to offer any more sacrifices.”

    If you’ve heard the words of this preacher today then you’ve heard an invitation to live in the spirit of forgiveness. If you have been baptized, then stop dirtying yourself with the sins that God has washed away. If you’ve been baptized, then you have new life. Quit shackling yourself to the condemnation of sin and guilt after God has already freed you.

    All of us are invited to make this day a day of new covenant: “This is the new covenant I will make with my people on that day, says the Lord: I will put my laws in their hearts, and I will write them on their minds.”

    God is inviting us to forgiveness. Do you hear what he’s saying? He is saying, “In Jesus Christ we have been forgiven.”

    Can we accept that?

    Sometimes It Is Just Plain Difficult!

    Posted by on March 8, 2007 under Bulletin Articles

    The struggle between the spiritual and the physical over control of our lives is real and difficult. In a society “hooked” on “quick fixes,” we discover there is no “quick fix” in this struggle. There is no pill to swallow, no immediate service to demand, or no “I will report you to your boss” threats. In fact, spiritual maturity intensifies the struggle. Spiritual maturity increases the struggle because it brings awareness and growth. It increases Satan’s problems. Thus, spiritual maturity focuses Satan’s opposition.

    Some things cause Satan minimal problems. Words and the life of the human speaker are inconsistent. Judging is inconsistent. (We condemn and excuse for the same offense.) Rejection is inconsistent. (Some receive hate, and some compassion.) Satan easily points out the inconsistencies.

    Words, judging, and rejection are of minimal threat to Satan. Even the immature can use words, judgments, and rejection. All three are real “turn-offs” to most people. All three make many Christians feel good about themselves [“I did my duty!”], but all three rarely touch the lives of people not in Christ.

    However, godly examples cause Satan major problems. Consider the man or woman in Christ (1) who dares know his or her sinful weaknesses, (2) who acknowledges weaknesses, but (3) who is a constant example of grateful service to the God who saves. How does Satan discredit him or her? The influence of a Christian who forgives personal offenders, who loves the unlovable, and who is gracious to the undeserving is an enormous threat to Satan!

    Consequently, the more Christ-like we become, the greater threat we are to evil. As we grow in Christ, we allow “God in us” to appeal to Satan’s subjects. The result: we increasingly attract Satan’s attention. God’s influence in human life has enormous appeal to those trapped by evil. Peace in Christ and hope through God are powerful forces!

    Do not deceive yourself! You never escape [on earth] the struggle between physical desires that oppose God and spiritual desires to be like Christ! Satan is shrewd and vicious! However, never forget God is more than his equal! Good triumphs through God’s acts! Satan killed Jesus, but God triumphed!

    As Paul said to the Galatian Christians, “Let us not lose heart in doing good, for in due time we will reap if we do not grow weary” (Galatians 6:9).

    Never tire of doing good! Travel to a place where we “fit” (Hebrews 11:14-16). Let’s encourage each other to be real and to walk together!

    The Gift of the Spirit

    Posted by on March 4, 2007 under Sermons

    1. The Mystery of the Spirit:
      1. How does one have a relationship with the Holy Spirit?
        1. It is vitally important that the Holy Spirit be operative among us and in us if we call ourselvesGod’s children. (Romans 8, Ephesians 1)
      2. The details are mysterious
        1. Scripture does not go into detail about the particulars
      3. The effect spirit is clear
        1. Scripture tends to focus on the effect of the spirit
        2. Electricity: Unseen and not completely understood, but the effects are obvious.

    2. The Spirit in the Old Testament:
      1. Three Functions:
        1. Creative –

          1. In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Now the earth was formless and empty,darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters. – Genesis1:1-2
          2. These all look to you to give them their food at the proper time. When you send your Spirit, theyare created, and you renew the face of the earth. – Psalm 104:27-30
          3. The Spirit of God has made me; the breath of the Almighty gives me life. – Job 33:4
        2. Prophetic –

          1. I am filled with power, with the Spirit of the LORD, and with justice and might, to declare toJacob his transgression, to Israel his sin. – Micah 3:8
          2. Then the LORD came down in the cloud and spoke with Moses, and he took of the Spirit thatwas on him and put the Spirit on the seventy elders. When the Spirit rested on them, they prophesied,but they did not do so again. – Numbers 11:25
        3. Empowering – God’s work to save and sustain His people

          1. The Spirit of the LORD came upon Othniel, so that he became Israel’s judge and went to war. -Judges 3:10 (cf. Samson, Judges 14:6, 19)
          2. This is the word of the LORD to Zerubbabel: `Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit,’ saysthe LORD Almighty. – Zechariah 4:6
          3. Where is he who set his Holy Spirit among them, who sent his glorious arm of power to be atMoses’ right hand, who divided the waters before them …? – Isaiah 63:12
      2. God and Spirit are the same
        1. This same Spirit of God is what the NT calls the Holy Spirit (among other names) …

    3. The Spirit in the New Testament
      1. Old Functions, New Functions:
        1. Creative – Not the creation and sustaining of the present world, but of the new reality, theKingdom of God.

          1. The creation waits in eager expectation for the sons of God to be revealed. For the creation wassubjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope thatthe creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom ofthe children of God. We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirthright up to the present time. – Romans 8:19-21
          2. No, this is what was spoken by the prophet Joel: “‘In the last days,’ God says, `I will pour out mySpirit on all people.'” – Acts 2:16-17
          3. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom he poured outon us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior – Titus 3:5
        2. Prophetic – Communication of the new Word of God, the Gospel of Christ.

          1. Whenever you are arrested and brought to trial, do not worry beforehand about what to say. Justsay whatever is given you at the time, for it is not you speaking, but the Holy Spirit. – Mark 13:11
          2. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spiritenabled them. – Acts 2:4
          3. I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened – Ephesians 1:18
        3. Empowering – This is a new work in Jesus Christ and his disciples.
          1. The Spirit was active in a new way in the ministry of Jesus Christ

            • Here is my servant whom I have chosen, the one I love, in whom I delight; I will put my Spirit onhim, and he will proclaim justice to the nations. – Matt 12:18 (Isa. 42:1)
            • The scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed to him. Unrolling it, he found the place where it iswritten: “The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor.He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release theoppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” – Luke 4:17-18 (Isaiah 61:1)
          2. Just as God worked by the power of the Spirit, now Christ does too (cf. The Spirit of Christ, Theother Comforter):

            • But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses inJerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth. – Acts 1:8
            • Ephesians 3:14-19 – Power, love, knowledge. See also 2 Timothy 1:7
            • Now Christians, filled with the spirit of Christ, continue his work …
      2. Baptism in the Spirit:
        1. A New Way of Life:
          1. Romans 8 –
          2. Hope of Eternal Life (8:11) If the spirit lives within us
            • It dwells within us – it marks us as God’s people.
        2. Seal or Deposit. Assurance of what is to come …Present experience of the eternal reality.

          1. God anointed us, set his seal of ownership on us, and put his Spirit in our hearts as a deposit,guaranteeing what is to come. – 2 Corinthians 1:22
          2. Now it is God who has made us for this very purpose and has given us the Spirit as a deposit,guaranteeing what is to come. – 2 Corinthians 5:5
        3. This is clear, but “indwelling Spirit” has actually been neglected/feared because of uneasiness over …
      3. Gifts of the Spirit:
        1. Abilities given by Christ through the Spirit (A. W. Tozer: “The power to do”).
        2. Understanding the Gifts:
          1. Always focused on Christ: (This is how you can recognize the Spirit of God: Every spirit thatacknowledges that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, but every spirit that does notacknowledge Jesus is not from God. – 1 John 4:2. cf. 1 Corinthians 12:3)
          2. Given as the Lord sees fit: (All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he gives themto each one, just as he determines. – 1 Corinthians 12:11; But to each one of us grace has been given asChrist apportioned it. – Ephesians 4:7)
            • Distributed variously and not all the same
            • God’s prerogative, even in the Old Testament: Eldad and Medad in Numbers 11
          3. Always for the good of the church: (Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given forthe common good. – 1 Corinthians 12:7; … to prepare God’s people for works of service, so that thebody of Christ may be built up. – Ephesians 4:12; Each one should use whatever gift he has received toserve others, faithfully administering God’s grace in its various forms. – 1 Peter 4:10)
        3. Kinds of Gifts:
          1. Speech – apostles, prophets, teachers, evangelists (Eph 4)
            • This does not mean hype. Paul had gifts of speech, but he was sometimes regarded as a “weakspeaker.” (1 Corinthians 2:1-5; 2 Corinthians 10:10)
          2. Discernment – wisdom, prophecy
          3. Leadership –
          4. Service/Ministry – miracles, healing, giving
            • These are confirming because they display the power of God, not man.
          5. Gifts of the Spirit need not be strange, but having spiritual gifts must not be confused with having the spirit
        4. Fruit of the Spirit:
          1. These are to be common to all Christians (These things are excellent and profitable for everyone. -Titus 3:8)
          2. Contrary to Sin

            1. So I say, live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature. For the sinfulnature desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the sinful nature. They arein conflict with each other, so that you do not do what you want. But if you are led by the Spirit, youare not under law.
            2. The acts of the sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry andwitchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy;drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inheritthe kingdom of God.
            3. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentlenessand self-control. Against such things there is no law. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucifiedthe sinful nature with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with theSpirit. – Galatians 5:16-25
            4. These are the men who divide you, who follow mere natural instincts and do not have the Spirit. – Jude 19-20
          3. Contrary to the World

            1. We have not received the spirit of the world but the Spirit who is from God, that we mayunderstand what God has freely given us … The man without the Spirit does not accept the things thatcome from the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, becausethey are spiritually discerned … But we have the mind of Christ. – 1 Corinthians 2:12-16
          4. Christ-Like Character and Christ-Like Church

            1. Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And we, whowith unveiled faces all reflect the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his likeness withever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit. – 2 Corinthians 3:17-18
            2. Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit lives in you? If anyonedestroys God’s temple, God will destroy him; for God’s temple is sacred, and you are that temple. – 1Corinthians 3:16
              • The Corinthians were still worldly (3:3-4)
              • The “You” in verse 16 is plural. As individuals we show the fruit, but must also as a group.
              • As a group we must also show a spiritual unity …
        5. Unity of the Spirit:
          1. The Spirit holds us together as a body
            1. The body is a unit, though it is made up of many parts; and though all its parts are many, they formone body. So it is with Christ. For we were all baptized with one Spirit into one body–whether Jews orGreeks, slave or free–and we were all given the one Spirit to drink. – 1 Corinthians 12:12-12
          2. We have a sensitivity to one another, a spiritual bond
            1. 1 Corinthians 12:12-27 = The body analogy
              • Held together despite our differences (which are important!)
              • Strong and Weak are balanced, and the hurting ministered too.
            2. When we fail to show concern and sensitivity to one another as a group, it is because we aregetting out of step with the Spirit of Christ.

      4. Spirit of Love:
        1. The context in which the spiritual gifts operate and have their power
          1. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity. – Colossians 3:14
          2. Without love, they are meaningless. “If I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.” – 1 Corinthians 13:2
        2. A fruit of the Spirit

          1. But the fruit of the Spirit is love – Gal. 5:22
          2. The greatest of “the greater gifts.” – 1 Corinthians 12:31; 13:13
        3. The Key to Unity
          1. The best sort of unity
            1. Barton Stone spoke of Fire Union
              • It makes us uneasy, because we want unity on our terms!

      5. Challenge: The Spirit of the Age, or the Spirit of Christ:
        1. All: Walk in the Spirit
        2. Church: May we live as God’s temple!
        3. Acts 2: “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgivenessof your sins; and you will receive the Holy Spirit as a gift.” … “Be saved from this corrupt generation.”

      Dedication of Elders

      Posted by on under Sermons

      Three purposes of service:
      1. Profess that Christ is the head of this congregation and that He appoints leaders for the church.
      2. Praise God for providing leaders for the sake of the church.
      3. Petition God for His blessing on the relationship of the new shepherds and the congregation.

      “Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing”

      1 Come, Thou Fount of every blessing,
      Tune my heart to sing Thy grace;
      Streams of mercy, never ceasing,
      Call for songs of loudest praise.
      Teach me ever to adore Thee,
      May I still Thy goodness prove,
      While the hope of endless glory
      Fills my heart with joy and love.
      2 Here I raise my Ebenezer;
      Hither by Thy great help I’ve come;
      And I hope by Thy good pleasure
      Safely to arrive at home.
      Jesus sought me when a stranger,
      Wand’ring from the fold of God;
      He to rescue me from danger
      Interposed His precious blood.
      3 O to grace how great a debtor
      Daily I’m constrained to be!
      Let Thy goodness like a fetter
      Bind my wand’ring heart to Thee.
      Never let me wander from Thee,
      Never leave the God I love;
      Here’s my heart, O take and seal it,
      Seal it for Thy courts above.

      An Ebenezer Moment: Witnessing to God’s Help and Guidance
            “Thus far with your help, O Lord, we have come!” It seems we have been building to this moment for quite some time. I can recall meetings and gatherings over a year ago that were preparing us for today. Perhaps it is right to say that God was guiding us to this day.We began the year by studying God’s word and immersing this congregation in the spirit of God’s teaching about leaders, elders, overseers, and shepherds. We have paid careful attention to the example of Christ Jesus; and even as we affirm additional leaders we also affirm that Christ is the only Lord of this congregation and ultimately it is Christ who bestows upon all leaders the privilege of serving.
            Our process of identifying and naming new leaders began on Jan. 28. This congregation was asked to serve as God’s instrument for recognizing men who could lead as shepherds. I am a witness to the fact that our elders gave serious consideration to your input. With much prayer and discussion they continued the process of discerning what God intends. On Feb. 18 the elders offered the names of four men whom you named and who were willing and able to accept this sacred trust: Ron Belote, Russ McConnell, Larry Todd, and Jim Wilson. The elders again invited us to be a part of this process of discernment and the pledge of support for these four men was a resounding yes.
            We believe that God has been our guide and help in this process. We believe that he has graciously spoken through the church to identify leaders full of the Holy Spirit and Wisdom. We affirm this mystery: that this was done through the church, but it is all by God. God worked through the church openly, through members and elders, to lift up new leaders. This has been his way with his people and we are blessed in that way when we humbly submit ourselves to it.

      A Pledge of Servant Leadership: Commitment of the Elder Candidates
      [Benjamin will ask the four candidates to step up on the lower stage and face the congregation]

      God has spoken graciously through his church calling you to tend his sheep. You are being asked to assume the responsibilities of shepherd, overseer, and elder.

      • Will you serve Jesus Christ as your Lord?
      • Will you teach and model the gospel of Christ?
      • Will you ensure the healthy teaching that strengthens the Lord’s people?
      • Will you guide us patiently and prayerfully?
      • Will you lean on the Spirit of God as you equip the church for acts of faithfulness?
      • Will you mentor and shepherd the other leaders God gives to the church?
      • Will you lead us rather than appease us, resolving to keep us focused on God’s purposes?
      • Will you pray for us when we are sick, minister to us when we are hurting, and rejoice with us when we are blessed?
      • Will you work in harmony with your fellow shepherds and with the church?
      • Will you be great among us by serving as Christ did?

      Response: With God’s help we will.

      Read aloud John 13:1-17

      [The current elders will now join them and present them with the “servant towels”]

      As a reminder of the Lord’s example of servant leadership, we offer you this small symbolic token of this day for your encouragement. This is a towel embroidered with the words of Jesus. We hope it serves as a reminder of Christ’s grace to you, your commitment before God and our support of your oversight.

      A current elder will lead a Prayer of Blessing and offering additional comments (something that affirms that they are indeed shepherds, elders, and overseers for this congregation)

      During the prayer, the “current elders” will be laying their hands on the “candidates” as a gesture that demonstrates the sharing of God’s spirit and their affirmation as elders.

      [After the prayer, the men assembled on the lower stage may return to their seats.]

      A Pledge of Support: The Commitment of the Congregation

      Church, our worship today confesses our belief that God has called these men to shepherd our congregation. Our actions from this point forward ought to reflect that belief and it requires commitment on our part.
      So, I will remind all of us of these instructions from the preacher to the Hebrews (13:7, 17) – “Remember your leaders, those who spoke the word of God to you; consider the outcome of their way of life, and imitate their faith … Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls and will give an account. Obey them so that their work will be a joy and not a burden – for that would be of no benefit to you.”

      Brothers and sisters …

      • Will you follow these men in service for the sake of Christ?
      • Will you be respectful of their leadership and imitate their faith?
      • Will you support them in prayer and serve them in peace?
      • Will you “lift up their arms” even as they care for our souls?
      • Will you do all of this knowing that it pleases the Lord and shows the world the perfection of His ways?

      If you so agree and pledge, then I ask you to affirm by saying “With God’s help we will!”

      Prayer of blessing for the church:
      [A representative of the congregation will ask God to help the church live up to this commitment.]

      Invitation to Life in Christ
      [Followed by Song for Responses]

      The Woman With the Issue of Blood

      Posted by on March 1, 2007 under Sermons

      When you study the lives of New Testament people, there is an obvious connection between faith and courage. We do not read of cowardly people being people of great faith in the Lord. People controlled by terror lost their strength to believe.

      Jesus often told his followers, "Fear not," "Be of good courage," or, "Do not be afraid." There is an excellent reason for such instructions from Jesus. People controlled by terror are void of courage. People who have no courage have lost the ability to act by faith.

      We need to carefully, properly understand the relationship between faith and courage. On occasions, people of faith in the New Testament were also afraid. The fact that people of faith have fears or know fear is not the issue. Faith is demonstrated in their courage (1) to face their fear and (2) to refuse to be controlled by their fear.

      Being a person of courage does not mean being a person of exaggerated self-confidence with a huge ego. It does not mean one is a person who loves to talk about "my" accomplishments, "my" abilities, and "my" boldness. If that is a person’s concept of courage, the person has a significantly flawed concept. The shy, the quiet, the unassuming, the disadvantaged, and the abused are capable of great courage and great faith. Courage that allows faith to exist is the courage to trust God when confronting real threats.

      Great courage is not found in enormous trust in self. Great courage is found in trusting God when the forces around you declare, "If you trust God, you will have increased trouble!" In a real way, our faith is not demonstrated until we are in a situation that tests the courage of our conviction.

      I want us to study an incident in a woman’s life who provides us an excellent example of the relationship between courage and faith. Consider Mark 5:25-34 (read).

      1. The background of the passage:
        1. In Mark’s writing, this incident occurred after Jesus crossed the sea of Galilee to the land of the Gerasenes.
          1. There he healed a demon-possessed man who had been uncontrollable.
          2. The demons, by request, entered a herd of pigs that ran down into the sea and drowned.
          3. The people, controlled by fear, asked Jesus to leave their country.
          4. Jesus crossed the sea and returned to Galilee.
        2. Upon return, Jesus encountered a multitude and Jarius, a ruler of a synagogue.
          1. Jarius begged Jesus to help his daughter who was about to die.
          2. Jesus was on his way to Jarius’ home when this incident happened.
          3. Mark said the multitude was thronging Jesus–pressing him on every side.
        3. The woman in the incident had a long-standing medical problem.
          1. For 12 years she endured a slow hemorrhage that would not stop and could not be stopped.
          2. Twelve years is a long time to be sick!
          3. We know nothing else about the woman–who she was, where she came from, or who her family was.
      2. First, note she was a truly unusual woman.
        1. She was unusual because she was determined to find a cure for her ailment–though it has been 12 years, she had not stopped trying.
          1. Mark indicates she went to many doctors and suffered a lot as a result of the treatments she received.
          2. He also states she spent everything she had on those visits and treatments.
          3. However, nothing permanently stopped her hemorrhage.
          4. Even today it would be unusual to find a person with such determination–most would just accept the condition as "incurable."
            1. By our standards, her treatments were primitive and limited.
            2. When treatment resulted in pain rather than relief, she did not have our pain killers to address her suffering.
            3. Most would accept her condition as an unfortunate fact of life that one just had to accept and live with.
            4. Her persistence indicates she was an unusual person.
        2. She was unusual because she was open to hope after 12 years of failures.
          1. After repeated failure and being broke, it would be easy to give up.
          2. It would be easy to become a pessimist.
            1. "Don’t get my hopes up again!"
            2. "I have no desire to get excited again only to be disappointed!"
          3. She heard [not saw!] about Jesus’ miracles, was impressed by the reports, and decided to find Jesus.
            1. Wonder how many times she "heard" about a new doctor who could do wonders?
            2. Just on the basis of what she heard, she decided to find Jesus [no small task!]
              1. Seeing Jesus was not like making an appointment with a doctor.
              2. He continually moved from place to place.
              3. She, broke, would have to guess and wait.
              4. Not even the fact that a multitude waited for him to come discouraged her!
        3. She was unusual because she was bold, but unassuming.
          1. She was confident that if she just touched him she would be okay!
            1. That is an unusual confidence for a woman who saw so many doctors!
            2. A touch instead of a treatment?
          2. Her plan to touch Jesus was a decision of real courage!
            1. She lived in truly "a man’s world."
            2. Publicly, women had virtually no status at all.
            3. Women could not even speak to men [who were not their husbands] in public.
            4. For a woman to speak to a man in public was a serious matter!
            5. If her act of touching Jesus was noticed by someone in the throng of people, the least she could expect from the crowd was a strong rebuke, and Jesus’ reaction was an absolute unknown.
            6. This situation gives insight into why she planned to touch his garment and fade away.
          3. She was definitely determined!
            1. It was no simple task for her to get close enough to Jesus to touch him.
            2. Have you tried to work your way through a moving mass of pressing, pushing people who had the same goal you had–to get near the same person?
            3. She did it the hard way–she worked herself close to him from behind; she did not try to position herself when he passed by!
            4. Wonder how long and how hard she, sick, had to exert herself to get close to Jesus?
          4. She was also unassuming,
            1. She did not ask for help.
            2. She made no demands.
            3. She has no desire to call attention to herself or her condition.
            4. She did not want anyone to know what she did.
            5. She just wanted help with her need.
        4. Because of these qualities, she succeeded.
          1. She would not have been healed without her determination, courage, attitude, motive, and faith.
          2. If she had not had those qualities, she would have lived as a sick woman until her death.
          3. She refused to say:
            1. "He probably cannot help me either!"
            2. "I will never make it through that crowd!"
            3. "If I am discovered, there is no telling what will happen to me!"
          4. So she persisted until she got close enough to Jesus to touch him.
            1. She touched him with faith.
            2. As a result, she was healed instantly.
            3. She felt the healing happen when she touched him.
      3. The second thing you should notice is Jesus’ reaction.
        1. Jesus was immediately aware that someone drew from his power.
          1. He knew it the moment it happened.
          2. He asked, "Who touched my robe?"
            1. Can you imagine how that question sounded to everyone around him?
            2. As Jesus passed, everyone touched him just to tell others they did.
            3. Think of how often the curious touched Jesus.
            4. Imagine the response to his question: "Are you kidding? Everyone is touching you!"
          3. The disciples voiced what a foolish question he asked–they were respectful, but they thought it was a ridiculous question.
            1. "Lord, look at the multitude."
            2. "The whole multitude is pressing against you!"
            3. "You see what is happening–so why ask, ‘Who touched me?’"
        2. Jesus then looked for the person who touched him.
          1. The woman had been careful and discreet in what she did–no one said, "She did it!"
          2. The trembling, scared woman acknowledged what she did.
            1. The Jesus who healed her would surely know she was the person!
            2. Knowing how men felt about women, she had reason to be afraid.
            3. Knowing that she used Jesus’ power without asking his permission, she had reason to be afraid.
            4. She knew what she did.
              1. She knew Jesus knew what she did.
              2. She knew his power was real.
            5. In fear, she fell in front of him and told him the entire truth (do you not image when Jesus asked, "Who touched me?" that those near him backed off as if to say, "Not me!"
          3. Jesus’ response must have amazed her!
            1. "Your faith healed you–your faith allowed this to happen."
            2. "Go in peace"–what comforting words!
            3. "Be cured!"
              1. I wonder at the moment she fell before him that she had the awful fear that the disease would come back.
              2. How awful to know you found the cure after 12 years of searching, felt the relief instantly, and had the disease return.
      4. Consider two observations.
        1. There was an incredible difference in touching Jesus with faith and just touching Jesus.
          1. Many people touched Jesus that day.
          2. Many were touching Jesus when the miracle occurred.
            1. However, they did not expect anything to happen.
            2. Nothing happened.
          3. The woman touched Jesus for a reason with confidence.
            1. She wanted to be helped.
            2. She expected to be helped.
            3. She was helped.
          4. The physical act of touching Jesus was the same for everyone.
          5. The power was present in Jesus when all touched him.
          6. The difference in the result was the difference in the people.
          7. That same difference is distinguishable today.
            1. Some study the word and are changed; some read the word and nothing happens.
            2. Some pray and are strengthened; some pray and are not helped.
            3. Some worship and are closer to God; some worship and are bored and unmoved.
            4. What is the difference?
              1. The physical process is the same.
              2. The power is there.
              3. The difference–the faith [confidence] of the person.
        2. The Lord’s power will not benefit a person unless the person has confidence in the Lord’s power.
          1. I must be careful not to make the wrong application.
            1. Jesus did not confine his miracles to believers.
            2. At times he healed people who did not know who he was (consider John 9:35,36).
            3. Obviously, the dead bodies Jesus raised did not have faith–it was a manifestation of Jesus’ power over death.
          2. At times, Jesus informed people that their faith allowed Jesus’ power to work in them.
            1. Jesus blessed the ignorant or unknowing on occasion, but Jesus did not bless the faithless.
            2. For the person who asked Jesus to help him/her, it was essential for him/her to trust Jesus.
          3. There is no question that Jesus can help us in ways he has promised.
            1. The power is there.
            2. The question is do we have the confidence to let Jesus help us?

      Do you have the courage to have faith? Do you use faith to express your courage?