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Friday, July 13, 2018

The Gospel of the Kingdom: Jesus the Son of God and Son of David - our Divine Saviour King


Here is a useful Bible study on the Kingdom of Christ. Study the following Scriptures and then try answering the questions that follow.


Colossians 1:12-14

Genesis 49:10

Deuteronomy 17:14-20

1 Samuel 8:7

2 Samuel 7:11-16

1 Kings 1:35

1 Chronicles 28:5; 29:23

Psalms 2, 47, 89, 103, 110 and 132:10-12

Isaiah 9:1-7; 11:1-10; 33:22; 45:21-22

Jeremiah 22:18-30 and 23:5-6

Daniel 2:44 and 7:9-27

Amos 9:11

Haggai 2:20-23

Zechariah 6:13

Matthew 4:17,23; 6:9-10; 16:13-28; 24:14

Mark 15:43

Luke 1:30-35; 2:10-14; 17:20-21; 23:42

John 3:3,5;  6:15; 18:36

Acts 1:3,6-8; 2:22-39; 8:12; 14:21-22; 15:8-19; 20:25; 28:23,31

Romans 14:17; 15:12

1 Corinthians 15:23-28

2 Peter 1:1-11

Revelation 1:4-20; 11:1-19; 12:1-17; 17:9-14; 19:6-16; 20:4,6

1.         What does “kingdom” mean?


2.         Has God always been King and Saviour?


3.         Why then did Jesus have to come as God and Saviour?


4.         Why is David so important in connection with the kingdom?


5.         For how long was Israel without a King after Coniah? Why?


6.         Why are Daniel’s prophecies so important?


7.        What is the connection between God as King, David as King and Jesus as King?


8.         What is the connection between Jesus and David?


9.         When did Jesus restore the throne of David? How and Why?


10.       What is the relationship between Jesus as King and Jesus as Saviour?


11.       What will happen to the kingdom when Jesus returns at the end of time?


12.       Does Jesus reign as King of your life?

How does He reign?

How do you know?



Arise, O Lord, and go to your resting place, you and the ark of your might.

Let your priests be clothed with righteousness, and let your saints shout for joy.

For the sake of your servant David, do not turn away the face of your anointed one.

The Lord swore to David a sure oath from which he will not turn back:

One of the sons of your body I will set on your throne.

If your sons keep my covenant and my testimonies that I shall teach them,

their sons also forever shall sit on your throne.”

For the Lord has chosen Zion; he has desired it for his dwelling place:

“This is my resting place forever; here I will dwell, for I have desired it.

I will abundantly bless her provisions; I will satisfy her poor with bread.

Her priests I will clothe with salvation, and her saints will shout for joy.

There I will make a horn to sprout for David; I have prepared a lamp for my anointed.

His enemies I will clothe with shame, but on him his crown will shine.” Psalm 132:8-18


Compare Revelation 1:5-6 and 20:4-6


David Carr


Saturday, July 7, 2018

Nicole Pelletiere via Good Morning America

A Teacher's Legacy

Tammy Waddell was an educator. This beloved teacher passed away at the age of 58 on June 9, 2018,
after a battle with stomach cancer. She had served the children and community of Forsyth County,
Georgia, for thirty years as a paraprofessional and elementary teacher. Those who knew her well
extol her generosity, selflessness, and unconditional love. Part of her legacy was what she wanted
done at her funeral.

In her obituary in the Forsyth County News was this request: "In lieu of flowers, please bring
backpacks filled with school supplies to honor Tammy's passion for children in need or make a
donation in memory of Tammy Waddell to Project Connect." Project Connect is a local program in
Cumming, GA that provides backpacks and school supplies to needy children.

At Waddell's funeral on June 13, a number of teachers lined up outside the funeral home displaying
dozens of backpacks full of supplies that had been donated in her memory.

Waddell's son, Kevin Waddell, 35, who is also a teacher in Forsyth County Schools, told ABC's Good
Morning America that it was no shock to learn the backpacks were one of his mother's final requests.

"Part of what I loved about my mom was the passion she had as a teacher. It's one of the
inspirations that led me to the profession," he said. "She lived life by loving others and she was
never worried about attention . she was just focused on the love," he added.

Even in her last days, she was thinking of others, especially needy students. What a wonderful
legacy of a loving educator!

There was Another who died thinking of others. In fact, He died for others. He died on a cross for
the sins of others, including yours and mine (1 Corinthians 15:3). He died for us because our sins
separate us from God and put us on the path to destruction (Isaiah 59:1-2; Matthew 7:13-14). He
died for us so that we can be saved from our sins and receive the gift of eternal life (John 3:16;
Romans 6:23).

"But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for
us" (Romans 5:8).

God will save and give eternal life to those who place their faith and trust in Jesus (Acts
16:30-31), turn from their sins in repentance (Acts 17:30-31), confess Jesus before men (Romans
10:9-10), and are baptized (immersed) into Christ for the forgiveness of sins (Acts 2:38). He will
continue to cleanse from sin those who continue to walk in the light of His Word (1 John 1:7).

Reflecting on the death that Jesus died for us, the Apostle Paul wrote: "I have been crucified with
Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the
flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me" (Galatians 2:20).

As YOU and I consider Jesus' death on the cross, YOU can say the same thing: "He loved ME and gave
Himself for ME." Think about this: "He died, not only thinking of ME; He died for ME."

Now, won't YOU accept God's loving offer of salvation and eternal life on His terms?

-- David A. Sargent

* Information gleaned from "Teacher's last wish for backpacks at funeral inspires thousands: 'She
lived life by loving others'" by Nicole Pelletiere via Good Morning America of, June
26, 2018.

Thursday, July 5, 2018

Luke 17:32 "Remember Lot's wife."


Lot's wife, a nameless woman, has become for all people of all ages an unforgettable woman. She is a great example of the folly of not following God's commands exactly as he gives them (Gen. 19:12-17, 24-26).


The study of Lot's wife must begin with that unforgettable decision Lot made in Genesis 13. Because of strife between their herdmen, Abraham decides that he and Lot must  separate so he gives Lot the choice of direction to go. Lot lifts up his eyes, beholds the well watered plains of Jordan and chooses to pitch his tent toward Sodom, eventually moving into that city an unforgettable wrong choice (Gen. 13:5-13).


Then comes the unforgettable decision by God (Gen. 18). The day came when God decided to destroy Sodom but before he would do so he told Abraham of his decision. Abraham pleaded for Sodom to be spared (50--45--40--30--20--10) but Sodom's fate was sealed (Gen. 18:17-33). Now comes the unforgettable opportunity. Lot, his wife and daughters are given the opportunity to escape the doom. They have the opportunity to begin a new life but Lot lingers--what is he waiting for? Finally we see them as they leave Sodom (Gen.19:1, 12-22). And now we witness that most unforgettable disobedience on the part of Lot's wife. Instructions had been given one of which was "look not behind thee". Sodom had a strong hold on the heart of this nameless woman. She disobeyed and was consumed just as the angels had said (Gen. 19:17-26).


Lot's wife went a little way toward being saved but she had a problem-- she had a divided heart. This is a problem with many today (Matthew 6:24; Luke 9:61-62; Matthew 6:21). As we travel this pathway of life I hope that we will remember Lot's wife and in so doing make right choices, use our opportunities to serve God, and obey him by giving strict obedience to his commands. Do what he says, it is the only safe way to go!


Charles Hicks

Tuesday, July 3, 2018

'Justification' For Drinking?

A study by Harvard researchers tracked 38,000 men, aged 40 to 75, for 12 years. The results revealed that "those who drank alcohol had 35 to 40 percent fewer heart attacks" and that "the best results came from drinking almost every day." The study was published in the New England Journal of Medicine.

We are certain that there will be some folks, even some of our brethren, who will quickly latch onto this study and use its results as a further argument to "justify" the practice of "moderate, social drinking." This is anticipated, unfortunately, because there have always been some who desperately want to prove that drinking - at least moderate drinking - is "OK." Their arguments are flawed, and their conclusions are wrong.

For sake of argument, let's say that the new Harvard study is correct. Never mind that such studies are routinely discredited by the next "research" that comes down the pike. Also disregard the obvious and awful consequences of ‘problem drinking’ that wreck the lives of millions of people every year. Even if we ignore these things, the argument still fails to "justify" the practice. Consider this parallel example:

Imagine that a "new study" finds that the adrenaline rush that comes from robbing banks is beneficial to one's health. It invigorates the nerves, expands cardiovascular function, and stimulates one's immune system - it may even provide a cure for AIDS (why not!?!). Now, if such research was true (obviously it's not!), would one be "justified" to go out and rob a bank? Certainly not! Any health benefit, real or imagined, would not offset the plain condemnation of stealing found in the word of God (Ephesians 4:28).

Now, here's the point: God's Word clearly and absolutely condemns drunkenness AND so-called "moderate" or "social" drinking (Galatians 5:19-21; 1 Peter 4:3). Questionable "studies" about health benefits notwithstanding, it is still a sin to drink alcohol. Think!

- by Greg Gwin


Friday, June 29, 2018

The Preacher's Thesis

 "Preacher, exactly what was it you were trying to say last Sunday morning?" I doubt that any remark could be more depressing to a preacher who takes his preaching efforts seriously. Yet, I am convinced that the criticism implied in the above comment is widespread and well deserved. It cannot be doubted that most, if not all, that we have to say in a sermon is true, good, and important. The problem is that there is no coherence to all of it. The hearer cannot put his finger on the exact thrust of the sermon and, hence, is not sure what to do with it all.

                It is evident that' one of the best ways to avoid this problem is for the preacher to settle on a sermon thesis before he begins to develop his sermon outline. A sermon thesis is a one-sentence statement of the point that the preacher wants to make. If a preacher cannot summarize his sermon in one clearly worded statement, then he does not know what he is really trying to say and is not yet ready to deliver that sermon. Again, every word of his sermon may be true, but the effect of his words will be scattered rather than focused. Hence, the audience cannot respond appropriately to his message. Indeed, he cannot be sure himself what he wants his hearers to do. However, if a preacher can settle at the outset of his lesson what one specific point he intends to convince his audience of, then he can organize his thoughts around that point and can thereby marshall his evidence in a persuasive manner.

                The sermon thesis corresponds to the conclusion of a logical argument. In every argument, there are three crucial elements, two of which are readily apparent. The two apparent elements are the conclusion and the evidence that supports that conclusion. The invisible element is the mental operation that we call on inference, whereby one thinks, "This (e.g., the conclusion) is so because that (the evidence) is so." To be effective a sermon need not be logically formal or stilted, but it should be structured so that the audience knows what point it is expected to believe and thus can concentrate on honestly making the inference hoped for by the speaker. Regardless of the kind of sermon being prepared (evangelistic, doctrinal, devotional, etc.), every sermon should have a thesis. Without it, a sermon will leave the audience ultimately undirected, albeit momentarily uplifted.

                The following suggestions for a good thesis may appear to be somewhat arbitrary but I have found them to be excellent guidelines.

1.       Avoid beginning a thesis with the word "to." One usually ends up with a sermon aim or purpose rather than a thesis (e.g. "to convince my hearers of the importance of baptism." This is an aim, not a thesis.)

2.       Make the thesis brief (8-15 words) and uncompounded.

3.       The thesis should be fresh and thought provoking (note the effect of a proverb).

4.       It should be arguable. (Why preach that which no one disputes? In times like these there is much persuading, convicting, and changing of minds that need to be done. If you do not have to work to defend your thesis, your audience may think it trite and unessential to the struggles they are really facing.)

Although the following are not perfect examples, they are somewhat helpful in illustrating the above remarks:

"Every Christian should strive to live so that the truth does not suffer in his hands."
(cf. 1 Tim. 3:15.)

"The place to stop adultery is in the heart." (cf. Matt. 5:28.)

"In our haste to forgive, we often opt for false forgiveness."

"A constant struggle in Christian growth is that of avoiding the pull of the average.''


In view of the seriousness of our message, we ought to make every effort to simplify the listening process for our hearers. One good way to begin simplifying that process is to have well in hand, before we prepare our sermons, a concisely stated sermon thesis.

 By Jerry Gross, Doraville, GA

He was astonished at the teaching of the Lord



So, being sent out by the Holy Spirit, they went down to Seleucia, and from there they sailed to Cyprus. 5 When they arrived at Salamis, they proclaimed the word of God in the synagogues of the Jews. And they had John to assist them. 6 When they had gone through the whole island as far as Paphos, they came upon a certain magician, a Jewish false prophet named Bar-Jesus. 7 He was with the proconsul, Sergius Paulus, a man of intelligence, who summoned Barnabas and Saul and sought to hear the word of God. 8 But Elymas the magician (for that is the meaning of his name) opposed them, seeking to turn the proconsul away from the faith. 9 But Saul, who was also called Paul, filled with the Holy Spirit, looked intently at him 10 and said, “You son of the devil, you enemy of all righteousness, full of all deceit and villainy, will you not stop making crooked the straight paths of the Lord? 11 And now, behold, the hand of the Lord is upon you, and you will be blind and unable to see the sun for a time.” Immediately mist and darkness fell upon him, and he went about seeking people to lead him by the hand. 12 Then the proconsul believed, when he saw what had occurred, for he was astonished at the teaching of the Lord. Acts 13:4-12


Barnabas, Saul (Paul) and John Mark proclaim the word of the Lord throughout Cyprus, beginning in the synagogues.

The Roman proconsul of Cyprus summoned the preachers to hear the word of God.

Elymas the magician butts in and tries to turn the proconsul from the faith with his magic.

Paul, under the influence of the Holy Spirit, rebukes Elymas and temporarily blinds him.

The proconsul, having seen everything, becomes a believer – being astonished at the teaching of the Lord.


This is a remarkable incident for a number of reasons:


1.  A Roman proconsul wants to hear the gospel. A proconsul is head of government in a senatorial province.

2.  Luke describes him as “a man of intelligence.”

3.  Satan uses a magician to try and deceive the proconsul.

4.  God uses Paul to confirm, with convincing miraculous demonstration, the power of the gospel over the power of magic. The occasional use of miracles in Acts was for the purpose of confirming the gospel. See Mark 16:15-20; Acts 14:1-7; Hebrews 2:3-4. The proconsul is intelligent enough to spot the difference!

5.  His astonishment, though, is not at the miracle by Paul, but at the teaching of the Lord! This is significant.

6.  It is worth noting that miracles on their own are not necessarily convincing to everyone – they don’t always produce belief. There can always be some ambiguity about them. Note the example in Acts 14:1-7, and also note the reaction of the disciples and others to a couple of Jesus’ demonstrations of power. Mark 4:35-41; John 6. Miracles confirm the teaching. They help prove something. They confirm truth. John 20:24-31. But only if you are open to truth. Note the miracles of Jesus in John 9 and 11 and see how Jewish leaders weren’t convinced. Read John 10:1-21 in between these two miracles. See Matthew 16:1-12; John 7:17; 1 Corinthians 1:18-31.

7.  So here we have two conflicting demonstrations of power – the Holy Spirit and a spirit of magic, some teaching of the Lord, an intelligent government leader, and a conversion to Christ as the outcome.

8.  You have to want a relationship with Jesus, based on complete trust in his teaching, even if you aren’t convinced by everything! If you don’t like the teaching, the miracles won’t change your mind about it.


About the middle of the feast Jesus went up into the temple and began teaching. The Jews therefore marveled,

saying, “How is it that this man has learning, when he has never studied?” So Jesus answered them, “My teaching

is not mine, but his who sent me. If anyone's will is to do God's will, he will know whether the teaching is from God or whether I am speaking on my own authority. The one who speaks on his own authority seeks  his own glory; but

the one who seeks the glory of him who sent him is true, and in him there is no falsehood. John 7:14-18


David Hunter


Monday, June 25, 2018

How apostasy occurs




In his brief, one chapter, but extremely important letter, Jude exhorted his readers to "earnestly contend for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints" (Jude 3).  "The faith" is the full, complete, and final revelation from God to man by Christ through the gospel as set forth in the New Testament.  In it God has revealed all that He has done for mankind's redemption from sin and all that man must do in order to establish and maintain a right relationship with God.  It is the "one faith" (Ephesians 4:5).


In the next verse of his epistle Jude explained why it is so important for Christians to earnestly contend for the faith.  He says, "For certain men have crept in unnoticed, who long ago were marked out for this condemnation, ungodly men, who turn the grace of our God into licentiousness and deny the only Lord God and our Lord Jesus Christ" (Jude 4, New King James Version).


The King James Version says "certain men crept in unawares."  The American Standard Version says "certain men crept in privily" (i.e. secretly).  The Revised Standard Version says, "For admission has been secretly gained by some."  The New English Bible puts it quite graphically when it says, "Certain persons have wormed their way in."


This is a picture of false teachers and how they work.  They never advertise themselves as false teachers.  They never say upfront what their agenda is.  They come in surreptitiously (Phillips' translation).  They enter by stealth, unnoticed for who and what they really are, showing great (though false) humility (Colossians 2:23), speaking "great swelling words of emptiness," appearing to be so kind and so loving and so spiritual minded, "flattering people to gain advantage" (II Peter 2:18; Jude 16).


In reality, those who creep in are "false prophets, who come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves," as our Lord warned in Matthew 17:5.  They are "savage wolves" who "come in among you, not sparing the flock," as Paul stated in Acts 20:29. Of such false teachers the apostle said, "And their message will spread like cancer" (gangrene, ASV) (II Timothy 2:17).  Elsewhere he declared, "For those who are such do not serve our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own belly, and by smooth words and flattering speech deceive the hearts of the simple (the undiscerning)" (Romans 16:18).  In the previous verse Paul had plainly said to mark (note) such divisive teachers and avoid them (i.e., have no association with them) (Romans 16:17).


Let me be plain here: What the preceding texts are warning of still occurs today!   False teachers, lacking the integrity to let others know what they really believe about various vital matters, "worm their way in" to various venues in order to influence and change the thinking, practice, tone, and tenor of those settings.


It happens in local congregations.  Preachers come in whose views are not in alignment with New Testament teaching on such matters as instrumental music in the worship of the church, the role of women in the church, and the undenominational nature of the church.  With a liberal, mocking, deriding view of the New Testament as a pattern for the people of God in all ages and how it authorizes, they soon wreak havoc in those congregations.  Men who do not know their right hand from their left spiritually speaking manage to get themselves appointed as elders (worm their way in) and begin to allow such matters as those mentioned above (and a host of others) to be taught and practiced in the local church. Eventually, that church loses its identity as being "of Christ."


It happens in the Bible Departments of our Christian colleges and universities.  While it is not always the case, it is often the case that young and inexperienced men in the faith (as well as sometimes older men) study in denominational seminaries and in schools of divinity attached to secular universities.  Not being "grounded and steadfast in the faith" (Colossians 1:23), they become easy prey for the infidelity and liberalism to which they are exposed in those schools.  They become enamored with the "scholarship" and the academic euphoria found at such schools, and they breathe the very "air" of those institutions.  They come to believe that they have risen above the rest of their "unenlightened brethren back at home." Then they are hired to teach in the Bible Departments of our schools where they bring their unbiblical and liberal views and corrupt the faith of many young people (including young aspiring preachers) who are influenced by them and their teaching.  It has happened again and again, it is happening today, and the Bible Departments of some of our colleges and universities are now completely dominated by such men.


Most recently it has happened in a Middle Tennessee gathering of preachers (and a few non-preachers) who meet for a half a day once a month for study, reflection, and fellowship.  Into this gathering has crept one whose views on several matters are not in line with the known views of most of those attending this gathering.  Yet, he has been welcomed with open arms by some and has been allowed to present and distribute sermon outlines, review books, participate in leadership roles in the meetings, and in general to have an influence on those too easily impressed with what is falsely called "scholarship." 


While some who attend this gathering may agree with (or at least be in sympathy with) his views and those of the university where he serves as a Professor of Bible, nevertheless since I have made known my objection to his participation in these meetings (first to him and later to the group as a whole) a number of attendees have spoken to me about this matter and agree with me.  One of the former regular attendees wrote to me saying, "Dear Hugh, I sincerely appreciate your conscientious stand for truth.  I have struggled with the same feelings of confliction, wanting to be at the meetings but knowing the liberal influences."  Another wrote: "Hugh...agreed with your email on ___________________ (the name of the person).  / I appreciate your stand for the truth."  Others have sent private messages and some have expressed themselves verbally to me about their concern over this situation. 


I understand that this is an informal gathering, and no one has the authority to ban another from attending.  At the same time, no one has the authority to ban me from speaking out and registering my objection to the participation of this person in the meetings.  As noted above, others agree with my objection to his participating in the meetings.  As the old saying goes, "We shall see what we shall see" where this matter is concerned, but we all would do well to heed the admonition and warning of Jude 3-4.


Hugh Fulford

Saturday, June 23, 2018

The Sign Club Co.

Breaking the Barrier

Imagine not being able to hear. You can't hear the voices of your loved ones. You can't hear the
birds sing. You can't hear music.

Because you can't hear, you find it almost impossible to communicate. It's difficult to inform
others how you feel or even that you need help.

That's a little bit of what it is like to be deaf.

The difficulty in communicating is what causes many deaf people to be isolated, alone, and

That's why Poppy O'Guin Steele has made it her life's mission to be an advocate for deaf children.

"Her actions prove even louder than her words, whether spoken by mouth or signed by hand" writes Ken
Beck in a recent article in The Christian Chronicle. "She founded the Sign Club Co. in 2012. Since
then the organization, based in Tennessee's Sumner County, has taught sign language to more than
1,800 youngsters, with Steele teaching about 900 of them herself."

"Our No. 1 goal is to create friends for our deaf children," says Steele. "I find that, especially
for deaf children, their safety and literacy is often affected by their isolation. They rarely will
have family or friends around them who communicate in their language. So many of our deaf children
hardly have language at all. We try to create a community around them who can communicate with

One of Steele's Club projects is "Silent Night Dinner," based on a Tuesday night tradition her
parents began. "Anyone who came," she explains, "had to sign or sit quietly, whether we went out to
eat or stayed home." When the selected location is at a restaurant, Steele will give some sign
language training to some of the employees. Then she selects a date and invites the deaf in the
community as well as some of her sign language students to come and share the meal and engage with
one another.

"Once, at a Chick-fil-A where I had taught the staff, one of our deaf teens came in and went to
order in sign language, and the cashier took the order and exchanged money. She then sat down with
the hearing students, and they all had a lovely evening laughing and talking in sign language, and
in that moment I said, 'This is what we do.' This child who sat at lunch by herself was no longer
alone. She had friends and was being a teenager and laughing."

The sound barrier that had isolated a child had been broken.

Because God loves us so much, He has "broken the barrier" that separated us from Him. That barrier
was created by our sins (Isaiah 59:1-2).

To break the sin barrier, God had to send His Son to die on the cross for our sins (John 3:16).
Only the sinless Son of God could pay the price for our redemption (1 Peter 1:18-19), and He did.
"In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of
His grace" (Ephesians 1:7).

God will save and give eternal life to those who place their faith and trust in Jesus (Acts
16:30-31), turn from their sins in repentance (Acts 17:30-31), confess Jesus before men (Romans
10:9-10), and are baptized (immersed) into Christ for the forgiveness of sins (Acts 2:38). The
blood of Jesus will continue to wash away the sins of those who continue to walk in the light of His
Word (1 John 1:7).

God has broken through the barrier of sin that kept us from Him by giving His Son to die on the
cross for our sins. We don't have to be separated and lost any more, if only we will accept the
offer of His grace and mercy on His terms. Won't YOU?

-- David A. Sargent

* Information gleaned from "Breaking the Sound Barrier" by Ken Beck in The Christian Chronicle, June
1, 2018,

Friday, June 22, 2018

Moving From Fear to Faith

Mark 4:35-41

On that day, when evening had come, he said to them, “Let us go across to the other side.” And leaving the crowd, they took him with them in the boat, just as he was. And other boats were with him. And a great windstorm arose, and the waves were breaking into the boat, so that the boat was already filling. But he was in the stern, asleep on the cushion. And they woke him and said to him, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?” And he awoke and rebuked the wind and said to the sea, “Peace! Be still!” And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm. He said to them, “Why are you so afraid? Have you still no faith?” And they were filled with great fear and said to one another, “Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?” [Note “Have you still no faith.”  For more rebukes re faith, see 7:18; 8:17f.,21,32f.; 9:19. DC]

Dear Partner in Preaching,

What moves us from fear to faith?

Hold that question for a moment; we’ll come back to it. For now, though, notice with me how similar what we perceive as very distinct responses actually are. Or at least their roots. Think about it. Both fear and faith make sense only in relation to something that is unknown, challenging, difficult, or threatening. I mean, it’s just those kinds of things that make us afraid. And, when you stop to think about it, it’s just those same kinds of things that summon faith to face them. Indeed, in the face of things that are unknown, challenging, difficult, or threatening, it almost seems like there is a clear choice in front of us – fear or faith.

At least, that’s the way Jesus seems to characterize things in today’s story about Jesus’ stilling of the storm, calling out the disciples’ fear and asking why they don’t have faith. Typically, I’m cautious about making such a hard distinction – either faith or fear – because I tend to believe that faith doesn’t so much banish fear as it does make it possible to cope with it. At the same time, it does feel like responding in fear or responding in faith are two very different responses to the same situation. And maybe that’s the issue, not whether you’re afraid, but how you respond.

Which brings me back to my original question: what moves us from fear to faith? Or at least, what enables us – even if we are afraid of something that is unknown, challenging, difficult, or threatening – to act in faith rather than be paralysed by fear?

What struck me while reading this passage from Mark this time is that, interestingly, it’s not the miracle Jesus performs that makes the difference. Indeed, the disciples seems almost more afraid than they did previously. Perhaps it’s shifted from a terror of dying – “do you not care that we are perishing?!” – to more of a holy awe – “who is this, that even the wind and sea obey him?!” – but I’m not sure the actual level of fear has changed.

[It’s as though they don’t understand that Jesus is on their side every moment! Matthew 28:20. DC]

I think this is interesting because we tend to think that faith would be easier to find if we just had a miracle or two to summon and bolster it. But that’s not the case here. Indeed, it’s not the case through all of Mark’s story to this point and even beyond. The disciples have witnessed many, many miracles so far, yet they still don’t know what to expect from Jesus or even who he is. Miracles, it turns out, are ambiguous. [Even with Jesus asleep in the boat, the disciples should have felt secure. They still don’t see who Jesus really is! DC]

There is a poignant scene in the otherwise very violent film Pulp Fiction, when two hitmen, Jules and Vincent, are trying to come to terms with their narrow escape from death. Jules describes their experience as a miracle; Vincent disagrees. After defining a miracle as “God making the impossible possible,” Vincent argues that their escape from death earlier that day doesn’t qualify. Which prompts Jules to say, “Don’t you see, Vincent, that…doesn’t matter. You’re judging this thing the wrong way. It’s not about what. It could be God stopped the bullets, he changed Coke into Pepsi, he found my…car keys. You don’t judge [stuff] like this on merit. Whether or not what we experienced was an according-to-Hoyle miracle is insignificant. What is significant is I felt God’s touch. God got involved.”

“I felt God’s touch. God got involved.” Something similar, I think, is happening in today’s story. The shift in the disciples’ reaction – from “do you not care we are perishing” to “who is this” – signifies a shift from what, the miracle, to who, Jesus. Which leads me to conclude that perhaps the answer to our question – What moves us from fear to faith? – is relationship. It’s the move from what to who, from event to person, from ambiguous miracle to the actual person of Jesus.

And that, Dear Partner, is something we can preach on Sunday. Faith, in the end, isn’t believing certain cognitive propositions about when or how God created the earth, whether or not Jonah lived in the belly of a whale, the nature of Scripture’s authority, or even Mary’s marital status when Jesus was born. Rather, faith is about a relationship, a relationship with the God revealed by the ministry and words and actions of Jesus. And in Mark’s Gospel, the Jesus we meet is relentless in his pursuit of caring for all of God’s children. This very crossing of a rough sea is prompted by Jesus’ determination to get to the other side, to the land of the Gerasenes, a place few rabbis would venture. There he will meet and heal a man possessed by a demon and return him to the community from which he has been ostracized. And then he will come back to more familiar haunts to heal again, this time restoring life to a young girl and healing a woman who has been suffering for more than a decade.

These early chapters of Mark describe again and again Jesus’ determination to free people from all the things that keep them from the abundant life God promises: demon possession, disease, social exclusion, hunger, even death itself. Jesus reveals a God who cares passionately for the wellbeing of all God’s people. This is the One we invite people to trust. And trust, in the end, is the only thing that overcomes fear. Ultimately, you see, the question isn’t what moves us from fear to faith, but who. And the answer is Jesus, the one who will not rest until we see and hear and experience and trust God’s passionate love for us and all the world.

There is a second “who” involved as well, for when we have a hard time trusting, a hard time believing that, in spite

of our shortcomings God still loves us or, for that matter, in spite of those times of loneliness or struggle God is still present in our lives, at those times we gather as a community to read again these stories and remind each other of God’s promises.

And here, Dear Partner, is where things get especially interesting. Because when we do that – when we remind each other of God’s steadfast love – we are stepping into the biblical story to play one of the great roles assigned throughout Scripture. For at critical junctures across the biblical drama, apostles, angels, and prophets will be sent to the people of God to say the four powerful yet simple words that constitute the most frequently repeated command and promise in the Bible: Do not be afraid. And each time we say and hear these words we join all those saints before who, caught up in the Spirit of God, find the courage not just to survive, but to flourish; not just to live, but to live with abundance; and not just to get by, but knowing the favor we enjoy in and through Christ, to dare great things, expect great things, ask for great things, and share great things.

Your words this Sunday, Dear Partner, will help move us from fear to faith be re-introducing us to the God we know in Jesus, equipping us to remind each other of God’s promises and presence, and sending us out in faith to face our fears and confront the challenges of the day with equal measures of courage and compassion. Thank you for your work. Week in and week out, it matters more than you know.

Yours in Christ, David Lose



Tuesday, June 19, 2018

How to be saved

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