21 February 2014

Adversity can perfect our faith


June 2004; I was given the privilege to be the narrator during the 60th Anniversary of the D-Day event at Pointe du Hoc in Normandy, France. While there I had received word that my father who was about 70 at the time was working at the church, had fallen and was in a coma with brain swelling and things were not looking good for him to survive. I ask my mom if she wanted me to come home. Well she said to wait and see how things were going to transpire. Well I did the only thing I knew to do; hit the beach. So on the sands of Normandy beach I’m CRYING out to God. It wasn’t some mamby pamby little prayer; I wasn’t ready to lose my dad. Sure he was in his 70s and I’ve got a family of my own, but I just wasn’t ready to let my dad go and I’m crying out to God as loud as I could as if it would make a difference to Him or not whether He heard me because of the volume of my voice.
What about you, have you ever faced a crisis in your life that you didn’t care who saw or who heard. The only thing in your thought pattern was that you needed God to move yesterday and if He didn’t move it was going to be all over with so you had to get to Him, you needed Him to know; to understand your plight and when you did get to Him it didn’t matter what it looked like all you know is that you needed.

Often times it is in the middle of our adversity when we have revealed to us that strong, perfect peace deposited within each of us by the Father. It is a peace surrounded by faith. We discover things not only about ourselves but more so about the God we serve and that He’s more than willing to raise those dead things, those things that have fallen asleep in our lives to bring glory to His Name. Because sometimes …
It is in adversity where we perfect our faith.

So let's jump into the text if you'd join me and let's turn to Mark 5

Mark 5:22 Then came one of the rulers of the synagogue, Jairus by name, and seeing him, he fell at his feet 23 and implored him earnestly, saying, “My little daughter is at the point of death. Come and lay your hands on her, so that she may be made well and live.” 24 And he went with him. And a great crowd followed him and thronged about him.[1]

Jairus is the leader of the local synagogue, perhaps even the one in Capernaum. We don’t have any indication of how he felt about Jesus but if he was like any of the other leaders in the church of that day most of them didn’t take to kindly to Jesus. But now that his daughter is dying and he is desperate, He comes to Jesus. I wonder if it was difficult for him to kneel before Jesus? We can only speculate, but I don’t even know if he really knew that Jesus was the Messiah—but what He did know is that He could heal people and might be able to heal his daughter. [2]Jarius isn’t just a some random guy, he’s got some clout in the synagogue. Sometimes, ok religion isn’t enough y’all. We can dress it up and put perfume on it but if isn’t breathing it isn’t living and far too often many have relied on religion to get them through various types of trials and have discovered that the only answer to a true trial is the manifest presence of Jesus. Have you ever been there? Ever have too much month at the end of your money and you needed a miracle? Ever faced sickness or known someone facing sickness to the point of death that if Jesus didn’t do something nothing was going to get done? It’s in these moments where we’ve got to buckle up, hold on, trust and believe because
It is in adversity where we perfect our faith.

25 And there was a woman who had had a discharge of blood for twelve years, 26 and who had

suffered much under many physicians, and had spent all that she had, and was no better but rather

grew worse. 27 She had heard the reports about Jesus and came up behind him in the crowd and

touched his garment. 28 For she said, “If I touch even his garments, I will be made well.” 29And

immediately the flow of blood dried up, and she felt in her body that she was healed of her disease.

30 And Jesus, perceiving in himself that power had gone out from him, immediately turned about in

the crowd and said, “Who touched my garments?” 31 And his disciples said to him, “You see the

crowd pressing around you, and yet you say, ‘Who touched me?’ ” 32 And he looked around to see

who had done it. 33 But the woman, knowing what had happened to her, came in fear and trembling

and fell down before him and told him the whole truth. 34 And he said to her, “Daughter, your faith

has made you well; go in peace, and be healed of your disease.” [3]

 

I’m only going to stay here for a quick moment because there’s more to this portion of the passage than meets the eye, so you’re going to have come back to get, in the words of the once great radio announcer Paul Harvey; the “rest of the story.”

Throng of people; whole lotta folks …pushing and pressing in on Jesus most of them unintentionally but we have presented to us a woman with an issue of blood that for 12 years has been looking for a cure in all the wrong places. She’s heard stories of this great Man who heals and has been dreaming of the day when it will be her turn. So today is the day; she’s been rejected time and time again; for the age that most women lived too, she probably has lived half her life with this issue, but it doesn’t matter. Even in doing what she’s doing she’s risking ridicule and shame because she’s a woman in this Jewish society with a blood problem. Because of her condition, this woman was continuously unclean according to Lev 15:25-31. She could not go to the temple to worship. She could not touch anyone or they would be unclean for the rest of the day. If she sat in a chair, it was unclean for the rest of the day, etc. So she was basically cut off from normal fellowship with others and with God; but she doesn’t care Jesus is in the neighborhood and she’s going to get hers. Wouldn’t you? So she gets to where He is and somehow touches the hem and immediately He knows it. Why because the essence of who He is has been affected by the faith of someone in the midst of huge adversity and when it happens Jesus wants to know who it is. The disciples are struggling to figure out what Jesus means because of all the commotion and folks around. But perhaps in a moment of Red Sea proportions the throngs of people probably not wanting anything to happen to them perhaps point the finger. See even those who don’t understand Jesus for who He is, don’t even understand what He can do for them. So here goes Jesus going against everything customary and not only that but taking time away from getting to Jarius’ daughter to heal her. So as she has already been healed by her faith Jesus does something ever so quickly because the enemy loves to steal the blessings that we don’t grasp firmly too, so Jesus confirms the healing and reminds the woman that it was her faith in not only what He could do but who He was. Superstition said that power was in the robe of a great man, priest, rabbi, etc. Her belief was that touching the fabric would make her well. In fact, when she did touch His garment, she was healed.
It is in adversity where we perfect our faith.

Something else for us to walk away with in this woman’s healing was also an example of faith being perfected through adversity. It was also a demonstration of the fact that God is no respecter of person’s. Sure Jarius was an influential, even rich man, but Jesus who has no issue with anything or anyone took a moment to heal someone who was less than second class but had just as much faith, if not more than Jarius. I also think it was an opportunity to test Jarius’ faith and even increase in the words that Jesus spoke to the woman about it being her faith versus superstition and man driven ideals that healed her. But in the midst of the healing of one we find the opposite has just taken place.

35 While he was still speaking, there came from the ruler’s house some who said, “Your daughter is

dead. Why trouble the Teacher any further?” 36 But overhearing what they said, Jesus said to the

ruler of the synagogue, “Do not fear, only believe.” 37 And he allowed no one to follow him except

Peter and James and John the brother of James.

So during this whole process I can imagine Jarius’ thoughts. He’s probably trying to look the part of a concerned clergy; but the other side of the coin is he’s a human being, and his daughter is dying. Probably thinking are you serious Jesus come on, let’s go … and in the midst of all this someone comes from his home and gives him the report. Have you recently received some bad news; something contrary to what you know to be true or want to believe to be true? So I ask you whose report you are going to believe? Perhaps Jesus knowing that Jarius’ isn’t on rock solid ground in the faith of who He is department reassures that all that he has seen thus far and what he has asked for himself is right and true. And so that there wouldn’t be any further negative vibe flowing Jesus doesn’t allow any unbelief follow them as they continue to the home. So even though Jesus has given him reassurance Jarius’ adversity level has just increased again but hold on just one minute because…
It is in adversity where we perfect our faith.
And I don’t know if the adversity can get any harder as he prepares to walk into his home where his“dead” daughter lay.

38 They came to the house of the ruler of the synagogue, and Jesus saw a commotion, people

weeping and wailing loudly. 39 And when he had entered, he said to them, “Why are you making a

commotion and weeping? The child is not dead but sleeping.” 40 And they laughed at him. But he put

them all outside and took the child’s father and mother and those who were with him and went in

where the child was. 41Taking her by the hand he said to her, “Talitha cumi,” which means, “Little

girl, I say to you, arise.” 42 And immediately the girl got up and began walking (for she was twelve

years of age), and they were immediately overcome with amazement. 43 And he strictly charged them

that no one should know this, and told them to give her something to eat. [4]
 
So here we have a house full of folks wailing and crying for the girl has died. Some of these people may not have even known who she was, but because bodies began to decompose so quickly during these times they had professional mourners at the ready to assist the family in this process. Booting these folks out wasn’t in a polite manner it was rather decisive and firm and referred to all those who assembled purely to make noise or having sympathy for the family; rather Jesus wanted only the mother and father and his disciples present in the room. He then speaks in Aramaic which would have been the language Spokane in that region. This is significant because it was widely known that the magicians would speak something unintelligible but Jesus wanted those with ears to hear what He said. And now this dead girl rises and walks. If she wasn’t dead I don’t think there would have been the amount of amazement surrounding the circumstance and just to confirm the total restoration of the girl, Jesus calls for something to eat for her. A confirmation to those who “knew” she was dead that she is now alive and a cause to change their perspective on who He was. Jesus didn’t fix Jarius’ situation he freed his daughter from the grips of death, he freed Jarius and all those around from the traditions of religion. And continue to perfect the faith of Jarius in his adversity.
So what about you? Is there something in your life that needs resurrecting and you aren’t quite sure, but yet you know where to go and who has the answers? However, there’s a bit of trepidation in the midst of that understanding. I’ve come to tell you today be not afraid, only believe because it’s in our adversity where our faith is perfected.

As our faith is perfected we’ve got to remove those things even those people in our lives that have nothing to offer. They only want to make noise and sympathize with our failures. They’d rather mourn it, bury it and get on with it instead of holding out hope. The report of the doctors for my family on my dad weren’t good. He wasn’t going to make it and we should start preparing what to do afterwards. But it was in this adversity and crying out on the beaches of Normandy of my need for God to intervene for my dad. Does that mean it turns out the way we want things to turn out all the time? No there are going to be times when loved ones pass away but are we still going to not be afraid and only believe? Or are we simply going to trust that the Sovereign God of the universe knows what He’s doing. Perfected faith doesn’t mean we get what we want; it just means our hope is something bigger than we are. And we will find that our faith can be made perfect through adversity.




[1]The Holy Bible: English Standard Version(Wheaton: Standard Bible Society, 2001), Mk 5:2124.
[2]Hampton Keathley IV, “The Raising of Jairus’Daughter.”
[3]The Holy Bible: English Standard Version(Wheaton: Standard Bible Society, 2001), Mk 5:2534.[4]The Holy Bible: English Standard Version(Wheaton: Standard Bible Society, 2001), Mk 5:3543.

12 June 2013

Brokeness ... where we find God


Romans 2:1-5  Therefore you have no excuse, o man, every one of you who judges.  For in passing judgment on another you condemn yourself, because you, the judge, practice the very same things.  We know that the judgment of God rightly falls on those who practice such things.  Do you suppose, o man—you who judge those who practice such things and yet do them yourself—that you will escape the judgment of God?

The judgment of God, is that something we give much thought too? We know that God is love and that He loves us very much … so much so that He sent His only Son (JOHN 3:16) … That is pretty comforting, isn’t it? God is a loving, compassionate and merciful God who sacrificed His Son on the cross at Calvary as a substitute sin offering for me for you, for all of mankind. God loves us more than we can possibly imagine. The depth of His love is limitless. Anywhere you turn to Christian television or radio and hear a sermon you won’t have to go far to find out about His love.  However, coupled with that love is the God who is also holy, righteous and just. He is perfect in His sense of justice. Nothing escapes His notice and we being His creation can push His patience to the end. One of the adjectives sometimes used to describe God is “longsuffering”; that word does not mean limitless. We see situations in the Bible where God’s patience was finally exhausted.

The first instance in the Bible where we see God’s patience exhausted is in the Genesis account of Noah. God’s creation actually grieved Him to the point of God wanting to hit reset save for Noah and his family. Genesis 6:5-8 Sodom and Gomorrah is another example … These accounts provide us with another view of God’s being many times we do not want to address. I know that I’d much rather talk about His patience and His willingness to forgive or those times where He stayed His hand in rendering judgment. But I wonder by our over focusing on those attributes of God, do we somehow forget or even deny the idea of accountability thinking that God will somehow look past the way you or I have lived our lives.

No not for a moment … but what is there that we can do about it?  I mean we don’t live that bad do we?  There’s always someone living in a manner that I would never think to do. I mean let’s think about it; let’s go back to Romans but I want to go to chapter 1 and start in verse 18 – 25 … here we see the argument that many make if only I could do what I wanted and we see here in this passage that God has allowed just that … VERSE 24 a society to do what they want because why let’s go to VERSE 28 – 32.

It’s happening around us, it’s happening in the church come on … think about it, the church is the place we should be able to come and have victory but what happens when you hear about the stuff in the mega churches, the mini churches, the local churches right here in these walls … a place where we come in and we talk about “new life," "new creation," "the power of God," "healing," "wisdom," "miracles," "the power of prayer," ...why are we so weak? Why do so many "good Christian people," turn out to be just like everyone else? Divorced. Depressed. Broken. Messed up. Full of pain and secrets. Addicted, needy and phony. I thought we were different. Aren’t we supposed to be different? So what do we do with that?

ROMANS 5: 8 …

Christ died for me even when I was in my mess … even though He knew I would reject Him, even though He knew I would disappoint Him, be disobedient, even after coming to the knowledge of who He was I’d still be prone to wander but it is because of His love for me and the fact that there is nothing I did to earn it and there’s nothing I can do about it which cause me to be a broken man.  I stand before you today a broken man …

Brokenness … what comes to mind when you think of brokenness? 

Webster’s defines it in various ways … ie. violently separated into parts : shattered
damaged or altered by breaking: as

having undergone or been subjected to fracture <a broken leg>

being interrupted, or full of obstacles

violated by transgression <a broken promise>


 

Brokenness. This is where God wants us to be. If you have pain in your life, could it be God working brokenness? Have the circumstance you face have your full attention? Don’t run, hide, grow, angry, or bitter, give up and in to Him. You’ll be glad you did.

Brokenness hurts, it doesn’t feel good, but until we are broken … at the end of ourselves and our self reliance there is nothing God can do for us because it has to be His way; it can’t be my way or a combination of His way and mine; complete and total surrender … I must recognize God for who He is …

 

Job did in Job 42:5

Isaiah did in Isaiah 6:1-5

Paul did in Romans

The good news is that there is a way to escape the righteous judgment of God. That escape is the free gift of salvation by faith in Jesus Christ who died on the cross at Calvary. No matter what anyone else may tell you, there is no other way to escape the terrible judgment of a Holy God except to realize my brokenness and humble myself at the feet of Jesus. You cannot be good enough; you cannot be contrite enough; you cannot be “religious” enough. Thank goodness this is the case because there is no other way that I could get there myself. But I know that I will have Someone standing beside me Who will be able to testify that the price of my entry into the presence of God has already been paid – it was paid almost two millennia ago on a hill outside of Jerusalem. My God paid my price. He did it not because I deserved it but because I didn’t. He died for me and paid that awful price because He knew that I couldn’t. He will do the same for you if you will just let Him.

 

23 January 2013

Taking it all in ...



I posted this picture of Downtown Spokane back in January ... I didn't write anything well because I didn't think anything needed to be said at the moment of what was being presented.

Today I just want to say, perspective has a lot to do with the way we view things in our lives.  But what perspective should we have; if we view things through the lens of Christ, that is a right perspective ... it's when we start looking through the eyes of our sinful nature when things become the object in the rearview mirror are closer than they appear.

Hmmmm ... what's your perspective giving you a view of?