Life's Wilderness Experiences


Wilderness experiences are those times in life when circumstances force us to take time out. They can be lonely times, where evil lurks and wild beasts threaten. They can be times of adrenal fatigue. However, God is also there. 


During our wilderness times, we all need to realize that God is still in control. 


We will look at wilderness experiences, the Holy Spirit’s role, the threats and evils associated with them and their blessings. 

Wilderness Experiences 

Lent remembers Jesus’ forty days in the wilderness (Mark 1:9-15). It is also reminiscent of the forty days of rain in Noah’s day, the forty years of humbling and testing in the wilderness where God was with ancient Israel and they lacked nothing, Moses’ forty days on the mountain, forty days of scouting the promised land, forty years of peace under good judges like Othniel, Deborah and Gideon, forty days of mocking by Goliath, Elijah’s forty day journey into the wilderness where he heard the gentle, quiet voice of God and learned that seven thousand others had not bowed to false religion, and forty days after Jesus’ death when he was seen by countless witnesses. Wilderness experiences are like days of rain, with humbling and testing, yet they can also be great days of revelation, peace and God’s provision. 

The Symbol of a Dove 

Small columbidae are generally called doves and larger ones are usually called pigeons. Why is the Holy Spirit pictured as descending like a dove in Mark 1:9-15? In the Old Testament Noah sent a dove to test if it was time to exit the ark (Genesis 8:8-12). In the same manner, the Holy Spirit lets us know when things are right. David sang of flying away on the wings of a dove to find rest (Psalm 55:6). In the same manner the Holy Spirit takes us to a place of rest. Solomon sang of his love being undefiled like a dove (Song 5:2; 6:9). In the same manner he is called the Holy Spirit. A dove was considered to be harmless (Matthew 10:16). In the same way the Holy Spirit wishes us no harm. 

Our Wilderness Times 

As Jesus’ was driven into the wilderness by the Holy Spirit (Mark 1:9-15), life delivers us into lonely places. Losing a job and getting behind on the bills and being without health insurance can be a security wilderness. Losing a loved one to death or divorce can be a family wilderness. Moving to another part of the world for work or family can be a relationship wilderness. Going bankrupt or losing a house can be a financial wilderness. Straying from the straight and narrow can be a spiritual wilderness. A sudden illness or injury can be a health wilderness. What do we do in wilderness experiences? They are times to slow down and wait for the mighty hand of God. As God was with Noah, Israel, David, Elijah and Jesus let’s relax and await his revelation, peace and provision. 

Demons & Wild Beasts 

We all experience those times in the wilderness where we appear to be surrounded by demons and wild beasts (Mark 1:9-15). Jesus’ outback experience included temptation by the devil and danger from wild animals. Why? What are these times about? They are to test us and make us stronger. They are to build in us something that good times cannot, character. Suffering is good. Those who have suffered are deep and real. Those who have not yet suffered are shallow, spoiled brats. Just as the angels came to serve Jesus in his time of trial, we too must remember that in the midst of our bad times, where it seems like we are surrounded by predators and wickedness incarnate, remember that evil can only fail, because there too are the angels, ready and willing to take care of us. 

Adrenal Fatigue 

Adrenaline junkies love the high of a stressful experience but must deal with the resultant lows. It is like a bipolar experience. Abnormally elevated adrenaline levels are followed by a period of depression. It’s a fight or flight response. Managing the body’s manic-depressive response is an essential skill for singers, public speakers, sports stars, soldiers, police officers and fire fighters. They each experience different kinds of extreme stress, but have a similar experience of adrenal fatigue. The adrenaline rush of good and bad times is followed by long or short periods of depression or adrenaline letdown. In extreme situations, post-traumatic stress disorder can result. Jesus had a wonderful baptism experience followed by forty days of loneliness in the Judean outback (Mark 1:9-15). Does Jesus’ wilderness experience teach us something about how to handle our own down times? 


When we experience wilderness times, they can be lonely times, where evil lurks and wild beasts threaten. They can be times of adrenal fatigue. Let's remember that Jesus also entered the wilderness after a good time, but was served by angels and afterward began the most important ministry in history. During our wilderness times God is also to help us through and may be preparing us for an important next step.

Life after Death

What happens after we die? Science has no satisfactory answer. Politics has no answer. Secular education has no answer. Today we will look at one passage in the Bible that gives us a few clues. 
To give us hope that there is a glorious life after death. 
Sermon Plan
Let’s see why the transfiguration was given, what happens after death by looking at whatever happened to Elijah and Moses. Let’s also look at what kind of Jesus we worship and to whom we should listen. 
Why the Transfiguration
What purpose could the transfiguration have served? Mark 9:2-10 is one of three accounts. There are clues surrounding the passage and perhaps even in other places. In verse 1 Jesus declared that some would see that the kingdom of God has come with power. This passage seems to fulfill that prediction at least in part. Brian Stoffregen ( suggests some other possible reasons for the transfiguration. It connects Jesus and the prophets under the law, but Jesus as the one to listen to, a fact that those overly reliant upon tradition, reason and experience often ignore. It was a mountain-top experience in the middle of their training. It exhibits Jesus’ divinity. His white robes could also symbolize his martyrdom. We learn that religious experiences do not necessarily remove blindness, because the disciples still discussed what it could mean. 
After Death
What happens when we die? Does our body await a resurrection? Are we given a resurrected body immediately? If our spirit goes to God, is it conscious or is it also asleep until a future resurrection? All the possible permutations and combinations exist as theories and somewhere there is a denomination that dogmatically defends its particular take on what happens when we die and when the resurrection is. As an introduction to the whole topic, let’s look at Mark 9:2-10 and see some possible things that it tells us. It seems to indicate that Elijah and Moses are very much alive today. Is that true, or is this just a vision of something that is yet in the future? What does a careful reading reveal? Even the disciples discussed among themselves, puzzling what rising from the dead could mean. 
Whatever Happened to Moses
Was salvation available under the Old Covenant, even though nobody could keep the law perfectly? What happened to Moses, the hero of the Exodus, after he died? He was a man of God, but in the end, due to a mistake he made, he was not allowed to enter the promised land. What about other Old Testament believers? In Mark 9:2-10 is a vision seen on a mountain top. Peter, James and John the inner three disciples witnessed it. The high mountain was probably Mt Tabor according to the most ancient witnesses. Jesus was transfigured in a metamorphosis. It was similar to what will happen after we die. We receive what is in other places called a glorified body. These disciples saw two Old Testament figures after their deaths. It is an encouraging vision of life after death. 
What Kind of Jesus
What kind of Jesus do Christians worship? Is he merely a do-gooder? Was he a combination of the Beatles and the hippie movement, preaching “love is all you need?” Was his life grossly exaggerated by overenthusiastic followers? Whatever he was, he has more followers today than any other spiritual man in human history. In places like Mark 9:2-10 skeptics are challenged by the blatant metaphysical aspects of Jesus’ ministry. This passage is a simple report of an extraordinary experience. Jesus was transformed, metamorphosed in clothes that shone brightly. Two men appeared and were identified as supposedly deceased prophets Elijah and Moses. A cloud covered them and a voice spoke, "This is my beloved son, listen to him!" As the cloud faded the two men had disappeared. Is there life after death? Is Jesus God’s son? You decide! 
Listen to Whom
To whom should we listen, the bishop, the preacher, the televangelist, Saint Paul or the prophets of old? Should we listen to the founders of Christian movements like Wesley, Calvin, Luther and Parham? All of those people may have been faithful servants of God, but none of them is the final authority. The question is answered in Mark 9:2-10. It does not mean that we should demean others. In other places Jesus told us to love our neighbors and that would include those who preach and teach the gospel. However, in the absolute sense, we ought to listen to Jesus first and others after that. That means that if any preacher of the gospel teaches something that Jesus did not, it is really secondary and not an essential of the faith. We obey God and listen to Jesus. 
When my father died of a heart attack in his early fifties, he was revived and lived another twenty years. He told me what he had seen after his first death, that there was a place that was pure good and that after that time he no longer worried about dying. Today we saw why the transfiguration was given, and explored what happens after death, how three disciples saw what happened to two Elijah and Moses after their death. We also so what kind of Jesus we worship and to whom we should listen.

Sermon: 2nd-Class Citizens

Do we know any second-class citizens? What about the poor, AIDS patients, drunks, people of a different ethnic group, handicapped people, ex-cons, disfigured people, people with anger issues or bad social skills, people who smell or have weird hair, people with piercings in odd places or tattoos that look like a carpet, gays, single mothers and old people? Being second class is lonely. Are we willing to reject or accept them? Are we moved with prejudice or compassion for them? Are we repulsed or willing to touch their lives, not tomorrow but immediately? Read Mark 1:40-45.
Help us see the need for second-class citizens to be touched and healed.
Sermon Plan
We will look at a second-class citizen, how Jesus was willing, moved with compassion, and touched the person’s life to bring healing.
2nd-Class Citizens
Who are the second class citizens in our world that we dismiss or shun? When Jesus healed a lonely leper he took his place in loneliness (Mark 1:40-45). Are we willing to be ostracized in order to heal? It is far easier to label someone than accept them and love them. We label people liberals or fundamentalists, black or white, evil or self-righteous, low-lifers or filthy-rich so that we can emotionally dismiss anything about them. Yet, it is usually not completely true. The same is true of the word leper as it was used in Jesus’ day. It did not always refer to Hansen’s disease, but could also have referred to a skin rash or severe acne. It was a dismissive term that turned some people into second class citizens. Jesus put people above social conventions. What about us?
If You are Willing
A leper approached Jesus for healing and pled his case saying, if you are willing you can make me clean (Mark 1:40-45). When asking for God’s help in our needs, it is always good to ask for his will. Sometimes it is not his will that our suffering be relieved or removed in this life. God does occasionally say no. Before his death on the cross, Jesus prayed that God would let his cup of suffering pass, but God did not. Paul asked to be healed of a certain affliction, but God told him that his grace was sufficient. We must always be willing to accept that God knows best, yet we certainly should ask. God invites us to go before his throne boldly and bring all our petitions. Whether God heals or not he knows what is best. In the case of a lonely outcast, Jesus was willing. Are we?
Moved with Compassion
When a leper suggested that Jesus could heal him if he was willing (Mark 1:40-45) Jesus was deeply moved with compassion. The word literally means moved in his bowels, or as we would say today, he felt it in the pit of his stomach. The word is used to describe how Jesus felt when he saw people scattered without caring leadership and in need of healing. It also describes the attitude of the Good Samaritan when he provided for the robbery victim when others had just walked on by, and the heart of the loving father who ran to welcome his prodigal son home. That compassion is the same as God our Father’s towards us, and God our Provider in time of need. It also describes Jesus’ compassion as he looks down on our many needs for healing today. In the case of a lonely outcast, Jesus was moved with compassion. Are we?
Jesus Touched Him
Although leprosy was known since ancient Egypt, it is uncertain as to whether or not Mark 1:40-45 is referring to that disease, as the original language meant “scaly-rough” and was used to describe a variety of skin complaints. What do we do with those whose lives are scaly-rough? Do we prefer the comforts of home rather than reaching out to the needy? Do we avoid touching the lives of others that may cause us fear? Some skin disease spread through touch and that was perhaps why the Old Testament law mandated quarantine and forbade touching anyone so infected as an unclean thing (Leviticus 7:19-21). Yet Jesus’ taught that the law of love overrode the letter of any other law, and he willingly touched the man. How willing are we to reach out and touch the lives of others? In the case of a lonely outcast, Jesus touched him. Will we?
I am Willing
When asked if he was willing to make a leper clean (Mark 1:40-45), Jesus was deeply moved with compassion and replied, I am willing. It is the same word used in Matthew 9:13, when Jesus said that God will have mercy and not sacrifice. In a world where the weak become collateral damage, sacrificed and cast aside, Jesus was willing to become personally involved. To whom will we be Jesus? Jesus means savior. It is his will to save from all kinds of sickness and injury. We live in a world where people don’t want to help directly. We would rather the government do it or give money for a charity to do the dirty work. Charities and governments have their place in solving social ills, but what does Jesus’ example say about willingness to be personally involved? In the case of a lonely outcast, Jesus was willing. Are we?
Immediately Cleansed
Jesus’ healing of a leper in Mark 1:40-45 was immediate. Sometimes it is God’s will to intervene in a moment, and other times it may take a long time. While people die and lose their homes due to lack of health insurance, our politicians argue over method. Should the states do something, the federal government or should we trust the drug companies and the medical profession for an answer? While we argue, people are suffering. Sometimes, God makes us wait too. Ancient Israel waited four hundred years for freedom from slavery. All of this is in God’s will. Sometimes our sins prevent God from intervening immediately. Sometimes our sins have not caused the issue yet God (for reasons which we cannot always understand) delays things. If it is his will, he can intervene and we can be immediately cleansed. In the case of a lonely outcast, Jesus intervention was immediate. Is ours?
Do we know any second-class citizens? Being second class is lonely. Are we willing to reject or accept them? Are we moved with prejudice or compassion for them? Are we repulsed or willing to touch their lives? Do we know someone who has been rejected that we need to touch today?

Sermon: Healing


Since ancient times God has offered healing when we go astray or are affected by circumstances not of our making. Let’s take a closer look at this blessing.


Let us learn how healing comes in many forms.

Sermon Plan

Let’s look at healing since ancient times, healing of a nation, all kinds of healing, healing prayer and anointing the sick.

1. Healing since Ancient Times

If God can create, he can certainly heal the creatures which he created. God reveals himself as our healer throughout the Bible. Possibly the earliest healing in the Bible is when Abraham prayed for Abimelech’s household and God healed them (Genesis 20:17). God promised healing to Israel inExodus 15:26 in return for their obedience. There is also our responsibility for the healing of those we have injured (Exodus 21:19). Numbers 12 and Deuteronomy 28 reveal that one cause of disease can be sin. And in Deuteronomy 32:39 God reveals himself as healer in a manner than no man can. So, when Jesus healed even what we term today as mental illnesses (Mark 1:21-28) it was a sign of his divinity. Though he does not always heal immediately, God’s promise of healing has not changed.

2. Healing of a Nation

God healed Israel’s national problems (1 Samuel 6), water sources (2 Kings 2), leaders (2 Kings 20), land (2 Chronicles 7:13-14) and the people themselves even though they were not perfect (2 Chronicles 30:18-20). It was conditional, if people would humble themselves and pray to God and turn from their wrongdoings. David sang of God healing all our diseases (Psalm 103:1-3) and broken hearts (Psalm 147:3). True healing covers both body and soul and the source of that healing is the cross (Isaiah 53:5). God promised to those who honor God’s name that a new day of righteousness would dawn with healing (Malachi 4:1-2). Jesus healed people in their bodies, souls and minds (Mark 1:21-28). He continues healing the lives of those who have joined a new spiritual nation, the kingdom of God.

3. All Kinds of Healing

Jesus performed numerous healings in Mark 1:29-39. So what kind of healings does God offer? Throughout the Bible we see that the healing offered by God is not limited to sicknesses, but encompasses all of our lives. The Bible includes examples of healing broken hearts, mental problems, national healing, healing agricultural land and healing a family breach. Every aspect of our lives is reachable with God’s healing. Today, we need to be healed nationally and individually. Our communities need healing, especially in our dishonest business practices and crime. Our churches need to be healed, especially the division caused by power politics and non-essentials of doctrine. Our politics needs to be healed, especially the bitter rancor and mud-slinging. Our families and marriages need to be healed, especially for our children’s sakes. Where is that healing available? Find out in church.

4. Healing Prayer

An important part of Jesus’ ministry two thousand years ago was to heal all kinds of illness and disease (Matthew 4:23;Mark 1:21-28). He later ordained twelve to preach and heal (Mark 3:14-15). Healing was connected to Jesus appointment of preaching the gospel, healing broken hearts, proclaiming deliverance for those captive to sin, recovery of sight and freedom for the oppressed (Luke 4:16-21). Some in the church have a special gift of healing, but not everyone (1 Corinthians 12:9, 28-30). James 5:14-16 gave special instructions regarding healing in the church. The elders, which in the context referred to local church leaders, would anoint the sick with oil. James’ instructions did not preclude using other elements in healing. Jesus used mud. It is the prayer of faith that saves the sick not the elements used.

5. Anointing the Sick

When Jesus healed people we are not always told what if any physical rituals or ceremonies he performed. Often he seems to have just helped someone to their feet and they were healed (Mark 1:29-39). The disciples anointed the sick with oil (Mark 6:13). Jesus, however, did one time anoint a man with mud made from his own spit for his healing and then asked him to wash himself in water (John 9:6-11). We could do that if people prefer, but somehow I think that most will opt for the example of the disciples and the instruction in James 5:14-16 to use oil. Who were the elders that James mentioned? The word elder means many different things to different denominations today. But, in the historical context of the day the word referred to local church leaders.


We saw how God has been desirous of healing us since ancient times, how he healed nationally, and all varieties of healing, healing prayer and anointing the sick. God offers us healing today. Please feel free to approach one of us who are leaders of the local church and we will gladly anoint you with oil and pray with you for healing.