Remember Your Training: Be Still! (Mark 4:35-41)

Sermon for the 5th Sunday after Pentecost (6/28/15)

Theme: Remember Your Training: Be Still!

Text: Mark 4:35-41 

          A couple of weeks ago I had the opportunity to be taught about leadership from a man who knows what he is talking about. Col. Johnny Davis, current commander of the 3rd US Infantry Regiment, the Old Guard, the unit responsible for guarding Arlington National Cemetery (and many other placed just down the road), came and spoke to a group of pastors about leading people in challenging circumstances. He shared some fascinating stories about his tours in Iraq and Afghanistan and leading young men in combat.

One of the points he made jumped into my head as I looked at the reading from Mark I just read. Col. Davis made a point most of us have probably heard before, but he’s seen it first hand: you don’t know what a man is made of until the bullets start flying. He told a couple stories about combat and looking at this 18-year-old kid next to him, and the guy was just frozen, his eyes fixin’ to pop out his skull… just standing there with bullets flying and RPG’s exploding. At times like that he said he would take them by the shoulders, look them in the eye, and say, “Remember your training.” They had been trained for this, now they needed to make the jump to applying their training to a real life situation. It was hard to do, but they had been trained to do it.

That’s essentially what’s happening in Mark 4.

For days Jesus had been training his disciples. He had been standing on the shores of the Sea of Galilee teaching people about God, about the kingdom of God, how to live in this world, how the word of God worked, how to get to heaven. Jesus had been backing up his teaching with amazing miracles, healing anyone and everyone who came into contact with him.

For days Jesus had been teaching his disciples, but now it was time to start making that connection between training and real life situations. So Jesus told the disciples he wanted to go across the sea to the other side… they had no idea what was coming. Continue reading

What are you afraid of? God is on your side! (Matthew 10:24-33)

Sermon for the 5th Sunday after Pentecost (7/13/14)

Text: Matthew 10:24-33

Theme: What are you afraid of? God is on your side!

              Miriam Ibrahim. Does that name ring a bell for any of you? Her name was all over social media and the news a month or two ago. Do you remember what for?

Miriam Ibrahim is a young woman in the Sudan who had the guts to become a believer in Jesus as her Savior. Many of you know how that story played out. You see in Sudan it is against the law to convert from Islam to another faith. So she was brought to court and sentenced to execution by hanging because she refused to disown Jesus as her Savior.

Now the good news is, the news of Miriam’s imprisonment with her two year old son and infant daughter created such an outcry around the world that she is now safe in the US Embassy in Sudan.

Miriam has temporarily escaped the noose of persecutors, people who would kill her because of her faith. But all around the world other Christians, whose names often never make it into American mainstream media, are not so fortunate. From China to Nigeria, Christians in the middle east, far east, and Africa – our brothers and sisters in Jesus – are being stoned, blown up, shot, and hung. Their churches are being bulldozed and demolished. They live their life with a bounty on their heads and the constant threat of violence…

All around the world Christians are being persecuted. It’s terrible and horrible, but it’s really nothing new, is it?

“No student is above the teacher, nor a servant above his master. If the head of the house has been called Beelzebul, how much more the members of his household!”

Jesus promised that if he was persecuted, so would his followers be. And this has been proven true over and over again, from Jeremiah in the first lesson today, to Paul in the second lesson, to Miriam in Sudan, followers of Jesus have faced persecution. Persecution continues because all mankind is born with a natural hatred toward God and what he says.

And so persecutors try. They tried to label Jesus as “from the devil.” They hung him from a cross. They threw Jeremiah into an empty well and left him there to die. Paul was stoned, beaten, robbed, imprisoned, and eventually killed. Persecutors have been and are busy inspiring fear, all in the hope that they could stop Christians from believing in Christ.

What about us? Do we face persecution? Jesus said that if we followed him, we would. So do we? Continue reading

Message from The Mount: Don’t Be Afraid (Matthew 17:1-9)

Sermon for Transfiguration Sunday (3/2/14)

Theme: Message from the Mount: Don’t Be Afraid

Text: Matthew 17:1-9

            Who here knows the story of the god that the ancient Athenians would have worshiped and trusted for peace in this world? Her name was Athena (the namesake of their city), it’s an interesting story… you see there was this other god named Zeus – you may know him as that guy with the lightning bolts. Well, Zeus began having an intimate relationship with Metis, a Titan. Titans were the old generation of gods, before Zeus and those like him came around and kicked them out of power. Well, Metis conceived. This was cause for concern for Zeus because he had been told that any offspring of Metis would become greater than him. So he did the only sensible thing, he ate Metis. Naturally, Metis survived, and she ended up giving birth to a daughter, named Athena, inside of Zeus. She continued to nurture Athena inside of Zeus until he began to complain of terrible headaches. So once again Zeus did the only reasonable thing, he had his own head split open, and out popped Athena, fully armed and ready for battle!… Or so the story goes…

Crazy story, right? So crazy I have to ask: How could the Athenians actually believe such a crazy story? Why did they invest so much of their time, and their energy, and their money in the worship of this false god, whose backstory was completely beyond belief?

I think this little fable, this true history of what these people believed, actually illustrates how similar people of all time and every race really are. Because you see, whether you live in Greece in 500BC or America in 2014 you live in a scary world – scary because bad things just seem to keep on happening, crops fail, storms destroy houses, jobs disappear, and loved ones keep on dying – scary because of the responsibilities of this world that seem to be on your shoulders, and only your shoulders – responsibilities of being a parent, or an employee, or a spouse – the tremendous responsibility of staying alive and keeping those in your care alive too.

This world is a scary place, it always has been, and it always will be this side of eternity, and so this world is full of people looking for a way to find peace – to cope with the scariness of this world. Whether you live in Greece in 500BC or America in 2014, true peace in this scary would is a commodity that is hard to come by, it’s something people are desperately looking for. Continue reading