I want to see

Intro 

Do we see what God sees? Are we blind or can we see even partly as God sees? 

Goal 

I want us to see the world as God sees it. 

Sermon Plan 

We will look at a blind man healed by Jesus and look at spiritual blindness. 

I want to see 

A blind man came to Jesus saying, I want to see (Mark 10:46-52). He is referred to as Tim’s son and he knew he was blind. Many times we are blind but don’t even know it because we have never asked Jesus the same request, I want to see. Martin Luther risked his life for incredible changes in the Protestant Reformation. What most of us do not know is that he preached his last sermon to only five people and in the end came to see reality as he angrily declared it a failed reformation. Germans declared Nazism a failure. Russians declared Communism a failure. Human efforts all fail. Only God’s way succeeds. We get so blinded by human efforts that we cannot see God’s way clearly. Let us make the same request to Jesus. I want to see. 

Mercy me! 

A blind man came to Jesus and squawked, “Have mercy on me.” He cried literally, “Mercy me!” (Mark 10:46-52) or, “Pity me!” The crowd rebuked him and told him to shut up. The needy have little political weight then or now. The largest political contributors are the rich. We are a plutocracy, not a true democracy. Like the crowd, we do not want to hear from the destitute. We do not want to hear from Jesus about helping them. Should we show pity or be hardhearted like the crowd in this story? Mercy means God granting even to the unworthy favor, healing, benefits, opportunities and particularly salvation in Christ. Do we feel sympathy with the misery of others? A remarkable thing about Jesus is that instead of judging people for their plight, he was overcome with compassion. Are we? 

Blindness of heart 

Jesus healed the blind (Mark 10:46-52). Can he also heal the blindness caused by self-flattery (Psalm 36:2) or foolishness (Proverbs 22:3; 27:12)? In the longest Psalm praising the law, David prayed that God would open his eyes to see the wonderful things there (Psalm 119:17-24). Paul also praised the law as holy, just and good (Romans 7) and declared that the fault was not with the law but our human inability to keep it. Therefore that perfect law could not make us right with God, but faith in Jesus Christ does (Galatians 2:16). Yet, some who have seen the truth have chosen spiritual blindness (John 9:35-41). Such blindness of heart would alienate us from the life of God (Ephesians 4:18). A famous hymn is a prayer for God to “Open my Eyes.” 

Outro 

Physical blindness is not nearly as blind as spiritual blindness. Lord, help us to see!

Human government

Intro 

Where do we find good human leadership? Where do we find government that truly is in service of the people? 

Goal 

Throughout all human history governments have oppressed and enslaved their citizens. There is only one government that truly exists to serve. 

Sermon Plan 

We will look at the kind of leadership that God expects, conduct a search for a godly politician, and look at the manner and ultimate end of human governments. 

True greatness 

Since long before the days of the robber barons, success in business has been defined by those who have taken the most no matter the means. The name robber baron began in Germany, where for a thousand years feudal lords and bishops blocked traffic on the Rhine River and charged a passage fee, sometimes appropriating the whole cargo. In the USA, wealthy and unethical industrialists have been dubbed with the same pejorative title. Yet those who know the Gospel are not fooled by such claims to greatness. How can a man claim to be a business success when to make his millions he has walked all over others, destroyed businesses and taken people’s jobs? Since the first disciples wanted position (Mark 10:35-45) this worldly thinking has also infected the church. Jesus defined greatness not by position but by giving. 

Seeking a godly politician 

This election is no different than most for those who love God. We wonder if heavenly values will be represented by worldly leaders. This brings up a very important question for all Christians. Can we find a godly politician? Even two of Jesus’ first disciples, James and John, seemed to confuse positions of power with “lording it over” others and flaunting “authority” (Mark 10:35-45). Jesus clearly pointed out what makes for great leadership, self-sacrificial service. Can we find politicians who will give their lives as a ransom for all? Can we find politicians who will give up their pensions, health benefits, their millions, their oppressive authority over us and throwing their weight around with excessively burdensome legislation? If so, then we may have indeed found a truly godly politician. If you find such a person, please let everyone know. 

Manner of human government 

When Israel was given freedom from slavery, God also gave them judges as leaders. These men and women were generals in wartime and court justices in peacetime. But Israel rejected God’s style of government and demanded a human form of government like other nations (1 Samuel 8). Samuel gave them a warning from God about what human government would look like. The administration would engage in conscription for national service, grabbing up large parcels of land for federal use, enact a ten percent tax and the people would be in slavery to the government that they had chosen. Jesus warned his own disciples that human leadership had not changed (Mark 10:35-45) and that can also be said of human governments today. Our taxes are far more than that ten percent and we have all become slaves to burdensome regulations. 

Fall of human government 

When Jesus returns he will replace all human government with God’s. Many rich entrepreneurs will not be happy about it. Human government is symbolized in the book of Revelation by the ancient city of Babylon. Its system is pictured as a mixture of the public and private sectors. Merchants and shippers in the private sector are pictured as mourning over the fall of the Babylonian public sector. They had grown rich through immoral human government. Revelation pictures that government's sins as piled up to heaven (Revelation 18). It is a form of government that enslaves the people. It is a style of leadership that Jesus described in Mark 10:35-45, tyrannical and authoritarian. That is why the cross is such a victory for the poor and oppressed. Jesus showed us sacrificial leadership, the kind exhibited by the government of God. 

Outro 

Good human leadership is what Jesus expects. It has nothing to do with position, but service. Can we find government that truly is in service of the people? Human governments do not exist to serve, but to enslave. There is only one government that truly exists to serve. Thy kingdom come!

Church giving in balance

Intro 

Where our hearts are, there will our treasure also be, so says the old saying. Where are our hearts? 

Goal 

I want us to understand the importance of giving to the church, without feeling that our arms are being twisted. 

Sermon Plan 

We will look at wealth addiction, twisted scriptures and Christian principles of giving. 

Wealth addiction 

Can we be addicted to wealth? Let’s look at Jesus’ personal advice to a wealthy man who asked what he must do to inherit eternal life, or as we say colloquially, to get into heaven. Jesus’ blunt answer was to liquidate his wealth and redistribute it to the poor (Mark 10:17-31). It is a very unpopular idea in today’s political climate, but that was his answer. What can Christians in a capitalist country learn from this? Most of us are addicted to something. Sex, television, gossip, rock and roll, fatty foods and sugar are popular addictions. Modern addiction research suggests that learning self-control over our lives works in most cases. However, certain cases of addiction are out of control and, just like a severe alcoholic, sometimes only abstinence works. Is this the case for many addicted to their wealth? What does that say to us about giving to the church? 

Abuse of Malachi 3:8-10 

I once attended a church where it seemed that about half the time the preacher quoted Malachi 3:8-10 before taking up the offering. I once turned to my wife and whispered tongue-in-cheek that I was going to ask him to take down his pants because I wanted to see if he was also circumcised. This passage is sometimes abused by Christians who claim a New Covenant faith in almost all areas except for tithing. That particular passage was given under the Old Covenant and no longer applied in the letter to Christians. On the other hand, stealing is still wrong and God can still bless us for giving to him. So, for the Christian, rather than a letter of the law command, this is still a principle worth thinking about. We cannot out-give God. 

Abuse of Matthew 23:23 

I also get rather annoyed when Matthew 23:23 is quoted as Jesus’ authority for tithing in the church and for the same reason. Let’s look closely at the passage. Who was Jesus talking to when he said those oft quoted words to twist people’s arms in regard to tithing? Jesus said, “…these ought you to have done…” referring to tithing. However, he was talking to a Pharisee still under the Old Covenant. The blood of the cross had not yet been spilled and the cup of the new covenant not yet filled. Jesus did not give that command to the church. On the other hand, is it good to give a tithe to the church? Of course it is. But, remember that the church is not obligated to the letter of the law, but the spirit. The letter kills, but the spirit gives life. So what would then be the spirit of this law? Some have suggested that proportional giving is a good conclusion. Others have suggested that to give less than ten percent makes us worse than Israel. Still others suggest that not even that amount would be expected of the poor, but more generosity would be expected of the wealthy. What do other New Testament passages say about giving? 

Abuse of 2 Corinthians 9 

Let’s look at 2 Corinthians 9 and 16. Some have abused these passages to justify a weekly offering for the church, but that is not the context. The context of these offerings was for a special offering taken up over several weeks for saints at Jerusalem which had recently suffered a drought. Don’t get me wrong, there are plenty of other passages which support giving at church for the Gospel, but that is just not the context of these particular passages. There is however one very important principle from chapter 9 and verse 6 which would apply across the board in any kind of giving. Sow sparingly and reap sparingly. Sow bountifully and reap bountifully. In this principle we have the implicit blessing of heaven for our generosity towards others including the church. 

Abuse of Abraham’s Example 

Some have said that tithing goes way back beyond the Levitical priesthood of the Old Covenant to Abraham’s example from a time before Mount Sinai and that Christians rely on the faith of Abraham not the letter of Moses’ law. That is certainly true, but if we are going to cite Abraham’s example of tithing, we need to cite it honestly. He may have possibly tithed at other times as his example could imply, but that would be an argument from silence. Abraham is only mentioned as tithing one time on a windfall, not regularly. On the other hand, Hebrews 7 also cites Abraham’s example and gives some interesting hints about tithing for the church. Abraham tithed to Melchizedek and Jesus our High Priest sits in that same order today. The change in the priesthood requires a change in the law. That is a hint and not a detailed explanation. We are required to fill in the blanks by the lead of the Holy Spirit, not by some authoritarian, arm-twisting of mere mortals. 

I once had some dear friends who had left the Catholic Church because they were being pressured to contribute to a local building pledge. Other churches burden people with pledges to budget their giving, but this only serves to force people to make an oath that they may not be able to keep and may be highly offended by. At least that is the regional culture within which I work and I have told people that they can relax. I will not ask for pledges. Give none offense, right? Times change and incomes go up and down. Proportional giving takes that into account, whereas pledges do not. On the other hand, those who would like to pledge for personal reasons are certainly invited to do so, but without any pressure to be locked into that pledge without mercy. 

Bitterness of Giving 

God loves a cheerful giver. In the Greek we read that as a hilarious giver. On the other hand, there have been Christians who have given so much and become bitter. The disciples asked Jesus about this too in Mark 10:17-31. What do we get in return? I remember some dear friends who had been missionaries overseas. They built no retirement plan and no equity in a home. When they returned home in their old age, they had nothing. They had expected that the church would provide the difference. It did not. They experienced a great bitterness of soul and took years to build up even just a modest savings never ever making up the difference. They remained loyal to church service, but this serves as a warning for all of us, that sometimes giving too much can cause problems later on. On the other hand, what else is there worth giving to than the most important message on earth? 

The World’s Most Important Enterprise 

Over the years I have heard of different pastors who were asked to enter politics. Most have simply turned it down because they realize that the office of pastor is higher even than that of any national leader. It is a higher calling. So it is with that portion of our incomes that we give to the church. We are giving to the most important enterprise in the world, God’s work. Those who experience a windfall, either an inheritance, winning the lottery or a sale of a business are certainly encouraged to think about the church in their disposition of those funds. Those of us that can regularly contribute are also encouraged to do so in as consistent a basis as possible, so that the church is able to make some kind of budget. 

Outro 

God loves a joyful giver. If we cannot give with joy; if we feel pressured to do so; please do not give. Please give, if you feel joy in your heart to do so and remember one thing: where our hearts are, there will our treasure also be.

Marriage and the beginning

Intro 

In our modern discussion of traditional marriage, gay issues, divorce and polygamy how often have we asked what God’s intent was? 

Goal 

I want us to understand the importance of marriage as God intended from the beginning. 

Sermon Plan 

We will look at God’s divorce from adulterous Israel, the meanings of divorce and being set free and God’s original design.

Marriage and the beginning 

The Greek word for divorce in Mark 10:2-16 means to leave one’s station. It was also used in the military, meaning to defect. In Deuteronomy 24:1 a man was permitted to divorce his wife if she displeased him, or because he found something wrong with her. It sounds frivolous, like many modern divorces. Jesus calls Christians to a greater level of faithfulness than under the Old Covenant. Divorce ought not to occur unless like ancient Israel, a spouse has been immoral. We could argue that abuse, addiction and a life of crime are all forms of adultery. In our hardheartedness we have perverted God’s original design. On all modern questions of marriage, Jesus brings us back to the basics. In the beginning, God created them male and female, and what God has joined together, let no-one separate. 

God’s divorce 

Midst all the debate over whether or not Jesus was married, did you know that God was divorced? Of course he was not divorced as we know it, but metaphorically so. In Jeremiah 3, God spoke of Israel and Judah as being like unfaithful wives. He divorced Israel and yet pled for her to return to him. In Mark 10:2-16 Jesus gave one legitimate cause for divorce, immorality. Israel’s immorality was her unfaithfulness to God, pictured as her husband. Divorce is one of the most painful of life’s experiences. Nobody hates it more than those who have lived through it. Perhaps that is why Jesus said that God hates divorce, because he has experienced it personally. Divorce ruins our health, finances, families and society. It is so destructively painful. Faithfulness in all relationships is a rare and wonderful treasure. 

Divorcing, forsaking and freeing 

In Mark 10:2-16 we read of one person forsaking a spouse and setting the other free. That’s how it sounds in Greek. The divorcing spouse has repudiated the sacred marriage vows and so the other is released. That is remarkably similar to how Paul describes it in 1 Corinthians 7:15. If an unbeliever departs the marriage, the believing spouse is no longer bound to the marriage, but is set free. This is the exact opposite of the idea that some teach, of a spouse being held in bondage for life because of the actions of the other marriage partner. Jesus described divorce as permitted by Moses, a convenience, as a wrong action. However, contrary to the teachings of bondage espoused by some segments of the Christian community, there is only one unforgivable sin and divorce is not it. 

Outro 

In our modern discussion of traditional marriage, gay issues, divorce and polygamy let’s ask what God’s intent was. God had an intended purpose for marriage from the beginning, but some have suffered greatly due to divorce. May God heal our marriages and heal those who have suffered through divorce!