Saturday, November 8, 2014

Sermon on Psalm 103

Paul Horne
Psalm 103 sermon

            Have you ever experienced something so grand that all you wanted to do was talk about it. For those of us who are married, think back to when you first fell in love with your spouse, all you could do was sing their praise they could do no wrong. Well this is how David feels about the Lord in Psalm 103. He is rejoicing over all the goodness of God and how he relates to his people. It is my hope that by the time we are done looking at this Psalm we will all be rejoicing right along with David, because of what we see the Lord doing not only in our lives but also in the lives of those around us.
         David is rather emphatic when he says “Bless the Lord, O my soul” so much so he feels the need to repeat himself.  When he goes to bless the Lord he doesn’t want to do it in some halfhearted manner, he wants to do it with all that he has. He wants to do as Jesus spoke about in Mark 12:30 when he told the scribes who questioned him, “And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’”(ESV) In verse two he expresses what would be our first point that we should not forget all the benefits we receive from the Lord. David is praising the Lord for his greatness, but “the opposite of “praise” is “forgetfulness”, to forget the benefit of the Lord is to disregard his covenantal Lordship.”[1] He spends the next four verses expounding on those benefits. How easy is it for us to fall into a place of complacency and forgetfulness? I know for myself it is a daily struggle to remember all of the good the Lord has done for me. The greatest thing we should remember is that he forgives our iniquities, which is no small feat. He forgives us of our iniquities by the blood of his son Jesus Christ and the price that was paid on the cross. All of our benefits center around all the redemptive qualities we receive in Christ. “The use of who and your personalizes the acts of God in that he forgives and restores individuals.”[2]
It needs to be understood in verse three it is not a literal sense of healing all of our diseases, it is more of a metaphorical reference to sin. Once we look at verse four we are told that we are going to be crowned with steadfast love and mercy, this is not the last time steadfast love shows up, so lets look at it and see more about it. The Hebrew word is hesed,  which can mean faithfulness, loyalty, loyal love, goodness. What does it mean to you that the Lord has crowned you? It means he makes us part of the family, because if you have faith in Christ you are now in the family and you receive this steadfast love and mercy. Another great benefit we receive from God is that we do not go about longing for things, because he satisfies us with good. The satisfaction we receive from the Lord, is greater than anything we would ever get from the world, he gives us eternal satisfaction, while all the world can offer us is temporal satisfaction. With that satisfaction comes a renewal of our youth like that of an eagle. This verse brings to many believers minds Isa 40:31. In ancient Israel “The eagle serves as a symbol of vigor and freedom associated with the benefits of restoration to divine favor and covenantal status.”[3] In verse six we are told that the Lord works righteousness and justice for the oppressed. That makes me think that the Lord is working for good for those who are being put upon. Some would say that righteousness relates to salvation and justice or vindication. These are some great benefits to have received from the Lord, I cannot imagine anyone better work towards my vindication. How about you can you think of someone who can come into your bad situation and turn things around for you?
Next we learn about the ways the Lord acts towards his people. Before he revealed himself to the world incarnate as Jesus Christ he revealed himself to Moses, and then to the people of Israel.  Unlike the Lord some people are known to have a temper at times, but the Lord has never let that happen to him, there has never been something we have done that caught him off guard and made him become irate. No he responds in the complete opposite manner with mercy, grace, and steadfast love. Verse nine should probably be understood in the manner that he will not always scold or rebuke us, nor will he remain angry with us forever. As a human being how easy do you find yourself holding a grudge against someone for something they did? The question then becomes do they even know that they have wronged you, and are you holding on to your anger for no reason allowing it to tare you apart? The Lord doesn’t repay us deed for deed, or deal with according to the things that we have done. When I say us I am referring to those who belong to Christ, we have been redeemed and bought by the blood of the Lamb and have his righteousness covering us in place of our sinfulness. He did that because he loved us before the foundation of the earth, the Lord is not forgetful in the sense that we know forgetfulness. Verse 12 tells us “as far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our transgressions from us. That is something to rejoice about which is the point I have been making that the Lord has given us so many benefits to be glad over.
While this verse are not specifically about fatherhood is makes me think back on my own childhood and also how I am raising my own children, I was shown certain amount of compassion from my father could it have been more sure, but it could have been less also. I strive daily to show my boys that I love them through little gestures and try not to speak harshly to them. The same way I try and be compassionate towards my children God doesn’t try he just does. The word here for compassion Keraham, can mean love or show pity toward. We need to be careful and not think that the Lord is going to show pity (word the KJV uses) towards just anybody there is a stipulation mentioned, and it is to those who fear him. On this verse the famous Baptist preacher Charles Haddon Spurgeon gives this rebuke,
Some of you he does not pity at all. You that do not fear him, but trifle with him, you that hate him, you that despise him, you that are careless about him, you that never think about him—you have none of his pity. When you are sick he looks on your sickness as something you deserve. When you go astray, he looks upon your wandering as a mere matter of course of your guilty nature, and he is angry with you. Your afflictions are not strokes of his rod, they are cuts of his sword. Your sins are not things he overlooks, but if you die as you now are –guilty and unsaved—justice shall look on you with a tearless eye and say to you, “You knew your duty, but did it not.” Think not that this text shall afford you any consolation in this life or in that which is to come. You shall not have even a drop of water to cool your tongues in hell. No pity shall be shed upon you there.

After hearing such a scathing rebuke you should either be scared or comforted. Which are you? To those of us in this life that fear and follow the Lord we will receive this pity and compassion.  I could not imagine what life would be like without the Lord showing me compassion for all the things I have done and will do.  David moves on from the compassion of the Lord to the frailty of man and how God remembers us. Psalm 8:4 ask the question of “What is man that you are mindful of him, the son of man that you care for him?” Our days are short and filled with self-indulgence but the Lord still remembers us. This is another reason we should be praising God.  Just like the verses in Isaiah we are equated to as grass and flowers. What David is doing here is contrasting the days of man with the steadfast love of the Lord which is from everlasting to everlasting.
Again though his love comes with some stipulations, but there is also additional blessings that take place as we observe what the Lord commands. There are three things we have to keep in mind as we go about our daily lives that will ensure we receive this steadfast love of the Lord. As we have seen we need to fear him, fear here means to reverence or worship him, next we are to keep his covenant that he has made with us, and lastly remember to do his commandments. What commandments do we have to live by today, are they the 10 commandments or the Jewish law or is it to love God and love other people? If we do the last two we will be fulfilling the rest of the Law.
Verse 19 establishes our last and final point that all things must praise God; while it doesn’t explicitly say that you will see how I came to that conclusion once we take a little bit of a closer look at verses 19-22.
         Why is the Lord worthy of praise, well if we haven’t established that fact already, I haven’t done my job. But, to add to the reasons we should praise God is that “The Lord has established his throne in the heavens, and his kingdom rules over all.” That means there isn’t anything or anyone in this world that the Lord doesn’t have rule over, now whether or not one submits to that rule willingly is a different story.
Four times in the last three verse we are told the Bless the Lord. Not just us as individuals, but also his angels, his hosts and all of his works. That leaves no stone unaccounted for everything is to bless the Lord and sing his praises. But knowing what we are supposed to do and doing it are two different things. What makes it difficult for you in your life to openly or better yet in private praise the Lord? I say that because I have found there are times I can sing the Lord’s praises to people in public but in my private life I struggle to recognize all the things he has done for me and all the praise he truly deserves.
So let us be like the fall leaves and show God’s splendor and glory in our lives and speak about it not only to those who come around but to ourselves also. Let not a rock have to cry out praises to our God and king because we were to timid to do it.
It is my hope that our time together has enlivened your hearts to all the good things the Lord has done for and given to us. Please do not leave this place and forget the benefits we have for loving the Lord, or forget the ways in which he acts towards us, and most of all that we should praise him for it all, David felt that praising God was so important that he not only started his Psalm that way he ended it that way as well.

[1] Vangemeren, 651.
[2] Ibid, 652.
[3] Ibid., 652.

Friday, November 7, 2014

Sermon on Matthew 8

Paul Horne
Sermon on Matthew 8

         Have you ever met someone who simply changed your life? Maybe it was your spouse, or a friend, or a boss. It could be anybody, for me the person I met who changed my life was Jesus Christ. Because when I met him he changed almost everything about me, he did however let me keep my quirky personality. During our time today we are going to take a trip through Matthew 8 (the entire chapter), and see some of lives touched by Jesus, and determine who he is. The question I want you to keep thinking about throughout this sermon is who do you say Jesus is?       
         This book was recorded by one of the original disciples whom once was a tax collector. Matthew was also known as Levi seeing that both names are interchangeable Semitic names, like that of Simon/ Cephas or Peter as we know him. Now that we have an understanding of who wrote this material, we need to understand a little bit more about the letter, like where it was written and who it was written to. It has been said that it has a Palestinian origin, more specifically it was written in Syria, and it was written before the fall of the temple in AD 70, but not long before.  According to Carson and Moo, “Because Matthew devotes so much space to OT quotations, some have suggested that he wrote his gospel to teach Christians how to read their Bibles—What we refer to as the OT.” (Carson, 157) The one question that comes out of this entire gospel and we are going to be considering today is who do we say Christ is? As C. S. Lewis has said “He was either a liar, a lunatic, or he was who he said he was.” So let’s take a closer look at our text.
         Make sure that you bear with me because we are going to cover a lot of ground in short period of time. First thing we notice in our text is that as Jesus came down from the mountain a great crowd was following him, and from that crowd came a leper, which would have been unusual since they were supposed to be separated from the rest of society, it is just my speculation but  maybe he felt he could blend in with all the other sick people. Upon closer inspection we notice that Jesus did not go looking for this man but he came to Jesus to make his request known. Leprosy in the NT was named for many differing types of skin diseases, along with traditional leprosy as we know it today. Notice he did not dare demand that Jesus make him whole, but he came humbly saying, “Lord if you will, you can make me clean.” It should be noted that healings were not a common thing and it was considered to be as difficult as raising the dead. Jesus without any hesitation reached out and TOUCHED the man saying “I will, be clean.” And immediately his ailment was cured. The only stipulations Jesus gave this man were not to say anything to anyone about what had transpired, and he was to go and show himself to the priest.  It was something for Jesus to touch this man it would have made him ceremonially unclean himself. This man recognized that Jesus had some sort of authority over disease or else he would not have come and sought him out. What kind of recognition are you giving to Jesus in your life?
         Moving on we come to Capernaum, where Jesus had chosen to make his base of operations so to speak. This town was in Jesus’ day an important garrison town, because not every town had its own military presence. From that presence came a man who was a centurion, notice here again that the man came to Jesus with his request. After Jesus was apprized of the situation with the centurions servant Jesus tells the man that he will come to wherever he was and heal him. This again was something that would have been a no-no in Jesus time; a Jew especially a Rabi doesn’t enter the house of a gentile. In those days it was common to ask for  prayer from a Rabi or in our case a pastor. But that is not what the centurion is asking for he is specifically looking for a healing. What makes this passage so important is the fact that the man would not let Jesus come to where his man was, he stated, “he was unworthy to have you come under my roof, but only say the word and my servant will be healed.” This man was not making some simple statement about a Rabi he was acknowledging the authority that God had given to him. He draws the analogy of his leadership and understanding the power his word carries and Jesus’ word was much more authoritative.  D.A. Carson in his commentary on Matthew says, “This analogy, though not perfect,  reveals an astonishing faith that recognizes that Jesus needed neither ritual, magic, nor any other help; his authority was God’s authority and his word was effective because it was God’s word.” That is a powerful statement! Let’s take a moment just to let that sink in, here is a man not of Jewish descent and he is able to recognize the power of God in Christ while he was walking the earth.
          I personally love Jesus’ response to this, it is said that he marveled at the response of the centurion. This man was able to make the God of the universe pause and marvel at his faith. Because he had a faith greater than those in Israel. There is one other instance in which someone who was not of Israel showed great faith and that is the Canaanite women in Matthew 15:21-28. Her daughter was possessed by a demon and she came begging to Jesus to heal her daughter. He responded is it right to take the bread from the children and give it to the dogs. You need to understand that in that day a dog was a lowly creature a scavenger it was not you fluffy house per that  many of us have now a days. So in essence what he is saying is it right to give away what is meant for Israel to someone of lesser status, so to speak. Her response was that even the dogs get the crumbs from the master’s table. All she was asking for was what ever he could spare. So like the centurion she recognized the greatness the lied within Jesus.
         Jesus, how I just love the sound of his name, Jesus! Jesus goes on to lay out what is going to happen showing that gentiles will come in and enjoy what was prepared for Israel, by means of entering into heaven, while the Jews will be cast out because they have not recognized who Jesus truly is.  Again we see Jesus tells the man to go and it was done as he had requested, because he had believed. This time Jesus had not stipulations for him. Are you starting to get a clearer picture of whom Jesus is? If not keep with me; we will keep painting his portrait.  
         In the next paragraph we notice that there has been no change time so we may assume that this is still on the same day when Jesus enters Peter’s home and finds Peter’s mother in law lying sick and with a fever. This needs to be understood that the word his in this sentence is not referring to Jesus but to Peter. Fever in that day was caused by many things and itself was thought to be a disease, so to touch someone with a fever would make you unclean. For the second time in this chapter the Lord has touched someone who should have made him unclean, but it did not. As soon as she was touched the fever left her, she got up and started to serve the Lord Jesus. I would dare say that when the Lord touches the dirty parts of our lives we should be grateful when he cleanses us and find ways to begin serving.
         The very next verse points out that Jesus work was carried on into that evening. He was casting out demons merely by speaking a word to them, imagine the kind of power and authority Jesus’ words had. He still speaks to us today through his Holy Spirit and the Bible. It also says that he healed all, notice that he healed all who were sick, not some of them, not a few of them but all of them that were brought to him that were sick received healing.
         I must confess when I first read verses 18-22 (REREAD IF NECCISSARY) I wondered what purpose did they serve, because they were unlike the previous verses filled with healings and great acts of faith. As I read along I realized that this section is a bridge for the rest of the chapter. It leads us back to our original question of who Jesus is, and lays out the cost to follow him.
         After a brief interchange with some would be followers Jesus and his disciples finally enter the boat to head to the other side of the Sea of Galilee. This boat was not a tiny vessel nor was it extremely large, it has been discovered that fishing boats from that era were about 26.5 ft long and 7.5ft wide; large enough for all the men to fit on it comfortably. I mention the size of the boat because Matthew mentions the size of the storm saying that it was a GREAT storm. Storms were known to brew up out of nowhere on the Sea of Galilee, because it sits down in a valley between mountains, apparently this storm was larger than the normal surge that would happen. During this storm Jesus was a sleep in the boat not necessarily unaware of what is going on but unfazed by it.
         At this moment the disciples fear was palpable, because they could no longer stand what was happening around them they went and woke Jesus up from his sleep; saying “Save us Lord; we are perishing.” Do you see what is happening here they have some measure of faith that Jesus is capable of saving them from the storm, but not enough faith that they will make it to the other side. Jesus asked them why are they afraid of you of little faith? You would think that their faith was great because they asked him to stop the storm, but they were lacking in faith to make it through the storm having the God of the universe with them. We want to be quick to criticize the disciples for their lack of faith but as a believer I have had many times in my walk were the Lord has had to give me that gentle rebuke of you of little faith. While I knew he could do it, I may not have always trusted that he would.
         So what does Jesus do? He stands up in the boat (which is not advisable) and rebuked the winds and the sea. In Mark 4:39 we are told he says “Peace! Be Still!!” and the wind ceased and the waves calmed. It did not take a moment to decide whether or not if it was going to obey, it did as it was told immediately. This caused the men to marvel. If you remember earlier in this chapter The Lord marveled at the centurions faith. They were asking among themselves what kind of man is this? These men who have been with him for sometime now and have seen him perform many miracles in just this chapter alone are still unsure about who this man is. Again I ask you who do you say he is? He has shown that he not only has control over the human body, and demons, but he also has control over the natural world.
         After reaching the other side of the sea they came upon the town or Gadarenes, and were approached by two demon possessed men. Some things you need to know about this town is that it lays in the predominantly Gentile region of the Decapolis, and on the hillside were probably ancient tombs that these two men came out of. Carson points out that Jesus retreated here not for ministry but to get away from the crowds. So these men possibly met them along the shoreline. Did you see how fierce these demons possessed men were, so much so that no on could pass by them! But that did not hinder Jesus from attempting to do so.          Notice that these demons automatically recognized who Jesus was, when they ask, “What have you to do with us, O Son of God?” This right here gives us an answer to the question we have been asking, who is Jesus, he is the Son of God, but not only that he should be Lord and Savior to you as well. If all you do is recognize him as the Son of God you are no better than the demons according to James 2:19 who believe that God is one and they shudder!! The next thing they say is have you come to torment us before the time? Or the appointed time; showing that they know what is supposed to happen to them and their leader. Verse 30 helps reinforce the fact that they were in a Gentile area because there was a herd of pigs near by (in Marks account he numbers them close to 2k) at least at some distance. The ESV says that they begged, other terms such as implored or plead or made an appeal to Jesus could have been used also. They begged to be sent into the herd of pigs and Jesus told them to GO! Which in turn caused the pigs to commit mass suicide by running off the steep bank into the water. If you look closely you will see that this time it is the herdsmen who go and tell of what has happened to the towns people, not only what had happened to the pigs but also what had happened to the demon possessed men, before the Lord could say not to. Then the entire city came out meet this Jesus who had just ruined their livelihood, and they begged him to leave. According to RC Sproul, they not only asked him to leave because of what he had done to the herd, they recognized him as GOD!
         After our journey we should see Jesus more clearly. Is he who he said he was when he claimed to be God? Or is he merely some crazy man that was able to convince men to follow him and perpetrate a lie for centuries. We have seen him heal numerous people, cast out demons, and calm a storm. You have two options now you can either recognize him as God, and receive him as your Lord and Savior or you can deny what he has done and go on about your life as you have never heard any of this information.  

 If you would like to know more about this Jesus I’d be more than happy to speak with you.  Go in the peace of God.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

The Power of a Mentor: Following the Pattern Set Before Us.

As a student preparing for ministry I am coming to a greater realization that having a mentor who is in ministry is vitally important. The set of verses that constantly come to mind are the words Paul wrote to Timothy in his second letter, “You then, my child, be strengthened by the grace that is in Christ Jesus, and what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.” (2 Timothy 2:1-2, ESV) Listen to how Paul speaks to Timothy; he calls him my child, showing such a deep loving relationship. We know from human standards that a father is to teach his children how to live in all aspects of life. We need mentors the same way we need to have fathers in our lives to set the patterns for us to follow. Without them we have the tendency to go astray.
            The relationship of mentoring is not a one-way street; it is one that branches off to others. We should be learning from our disciple maker while at the same time taking what we are being taught and teaching it to other men (and women) in the faith.  In order to be in a disciple making relationship it requires work to be put in, along with time. Jesus invested his time in twelve men whom he would send out into the world to teach others. He not only sent out twelve but at one point he sent out seventy-two men two by two (Luke 10:1). The best way for us to be sent is by a man we are learning from so we can implement what is being taught. 
            What does a mentor look like? A mentor is going to look different for each person; you may not have just one mentor in you life or at one point of time. There will be areas in life that you need to have the footsteps of someone else to follow whether it be in a hobby, in your profession, or in general guidance for your life. This person should be some type of authority on the subject; not necessarily having to have credentials but having done a what ever it is you are seeking them for a period of time with a good track record. You do not want to start following after someone or seeking their help when they have no idea how to handle the struggles you are facing because they have just started the activity themselves.
            Do you have an idea on how this association should look? It is imperative that when you enter into a formal mentoring relationship that some standards be set. The type of standards I am referring to are like how often will there be contact made, what forms of contact are best for this relationship. What kind of accountability is going to be set in place if any at all? Are you both going to keep this association merely about the mentoring/disciple making or is this going to become more of an intimate friendship where lives overlap?
I would recommend depending on the type of commitment being made, that lives become intertwined with an at least weekly (if not several times a week) contact. It does not matter where the contact comes from be it a phone call, text message, social media interaction. And no less than once a month interaction face to face in a setting that is not sterile, but inviting conversation and allows the relationship to feel more organic and real.

It is my hope that this work will inspire you to strengthen those relationships that are in place and to possibly form new ones. I leave you with this who is investing in you and who has the Lord placed on you heart to invest into?