The Evil Within

We look at Mark 7:1-23, and discuss what is it that makes a person clean or unclean. Do you consider yourself to be presentable to God, or do you think of yourself as defiled and “unclean”? How do you know? And more importantly, if you are unclean, how do you become clean? These questions are answered in Mark 7:1-23.

Sermon delivered at LakeView Church on 2/11/2018.

The Suffering of the Afflicted One

“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Psalm 22:1a, NIV)

Hanging on the cross, dying, Jesus quoted the opening line of Psalm 22. This was no coincidence! Going back to read Psalm 22 is like reading a description of Jesus’s crucifixion, written before crucifixion had even been invented, and written hundreds of years before Jesus walked this earth. The Psalm mentions such details as Jesus being scorned and mocked (vv. 6-7), even foretelling what the religious leaders of the day would say as Jesus hung on the cross (v. 8)! It describes how His hands and feet would be pierced (v. 16), and how they would cast lots for his garment (v. 18).

I can’t begin to imagine the suffering Jesus experienced as He hung on the cross. As I read Psalm 22, lyrics from an older worship song come to mind: I’ll never know how much it cost to see my sin upon that cross. Jesus suffered for me, and as Psalm 22 promises, His suffering was not in vain. The Psalm goes on to say:

“For he has not despised or scorned the suffering of the afflicted one; he has not hidden his face from him but has listened to his cry for help. From you comes the theme of my praise in the great assembly…” (Psalm 22:24–25, NIV)

My prayer for us this week is that we will remember the suffering of the Afflicted One, our Savior, and lift His praise in our lives each day. Thank You, God, for saving me.

Photo by eberhard grossgasteiger on Unsplash

Are You Afraid?

In Mark 4:35-41, Jesus and the disciples head out across the Sea of Galilee in their boats, only to run into a dangerous storm that threatens their lives.  What Jesus does is nothing short of miraculous, and we learn how we can follow Jesus even amidst the storms of life.

Sermon delivered at LakeView Church on 11/5/2017.

Who Is This Man?

On Sunday, we kicked off a new series through the Gospel of Mark, Who Is This Man?  Jesus never wrote a book, but more books have been written about him than anyone else in the world.  He never wrote a song, but more songs have been written about him than any other person in human history.  He never traveled more than 200 miles outside his hometown, but he left his footprint on the whole earth.  Who is this man whose life has changed the course of human history and inspired billions of people over thousands of years to follow him?  Your answer to that question will change your life… forever.

What do I still lack?

This morning I read the parable of the rich young man in Matthew 19:16-30.  He comes to Jesus and asks, “Teacher, what good deed must I do to have eternal life?”  I think it’s so interesting that Jesus doesn’t give the standard evangelical response of, “You don’t have to work for your salvation, silly.  You’re saved by grace through faith, and not by works.  It’s not about religion, it’s about a relationship.”  Instead, Jesus tells this young man exactly what he needs to do in order to have eternal life: “If you would enter life, keep the commandments.”

As Jesus explains what commandments need to be kept, the young man exclaims, “All these I have kept.  What do I still lack?”  When Jesus tells him to sell all his possessions, give the proceeds to the poor, and follow Jesus, the young man goes away sad, “for he had great possessions.”

I think it is ironic that this young man, who had great possessions, asked Jesus what he lacked for eternal life.  He didn’t lack anything, and that’s the point!  In order to enter life, we must lack.  Only when we have nothing but Jesus do we have everything we need for eternal life.  Jesus brought this young man to the mirror and pointed out that he didn’t need anything, and that was the problem.  Unless we need Jesus, we will not receive his life.

Reading this story, I felt the Holy Spirit prodding me to ask myself, “Where do I lack?  And where in my life have I lost the need for Jesus?”  For me, starting as Lead Pastor of this wonderful church has painted a billboard in my life of where I need the Lord’s help!  But there are other areas where I don’t lack, and in these corners of my heart, I need to sell all my possessions and follow Jesus.  As the Apostle Paul said, “But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ” (Philippians 3:7).

My prayer this week is that God will reveal to us where we lack, and where we think we don’t, so that we may lose assurance in ourselves and gain dependence on God.

Why Does God Allow Natural Disasters?

The tornado that ripped through Pontiac this week wreaked havoc, injured at least one family, and left thousands without power.  Thankfully, it didn’t claim any lives.  But, this isn’t always the case.  Other natural disasters in recent years have claimed hundreds of thousands of human lives and cost hundreds of billions of dollars in damage to homes, cities, businesses, and the like.  Given that those of us who live in central Illinois, especially Livingston County, just had a near brush with a destructive and deadly natural disaster, we might be asking the question, “Why?”  Why does God allow natural disasters?

This is a common question after a storm like the one we had this week.  Churches in our area may experience higher attendance this Sunday, as people’s close encounter with the power of Nature gave them pause to consider the frailty and mortality of human life.  This leads some to seek the answer in a church, while others shake their fist at God and curse Him for allowing a tragedy.  Personally, I find it troubling that natural disasters are often labeled “acts of God,” and yet little or no credit is attributed to God for the many good things that we experience daily.  When was the last time we stopped to thank God for a sunny day at the park, or the perfect morning fishing trip?  When was the last time we gave credit to God for the little breeze that cools us on a hot Summer day, or the beauty found in the colors of the Fall leaves?  We often take these little blessings for granted, and then respond with anger at God when our basement floods, or, worse, when a tornado rips through our town and hurts people we love.

Looking at natural disasters from a biblical perspective, we may discover a few things.  First, Genesis 1 teaches that God is all-powerful, the Maker and Master of the entire Universe–including the planet Earth and our own lives.  Indeed, Psalm 24:1 says, “The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it; the world, and all who live in it.”  This means God has power over the weather.  And yet, science has shown us that God created the Universe to function according to certain natural laws, and there are natural cycles and weather patterns that are simply part of the natural world in which we live.

Second, even though the Universe operates according to the natural laws God defined for it, sometimes God intervenes.  In Deuteronomy 11:16-17, God warned the nation of Israel that if they turned away from him to worship the false gods of the other nations, he would “shut up the heavens so that it will not rain.”  This warning was fulfilled in 1 Kings 17, under the prophet Elijah.  Yet, just as every instance of good weather is not directly caused by God’s intervention, every instance of bad weather is not directly caused by God either.  Sometimes a storm is simply the normal result of the natural laws by which our world functions.

Third, it is wrong to say that every natural disaster is caused by God to punish sinful people.  The Bible teaches that we live in a world that is twisted by sin.  In Romans 1:18-32, we learn that sometimes God’s judgment on sinful people is to allow them to continue in their sin.  This is the worst kind of judgment because sin takes us further away from the love and blessing and protection of God, while at the same time wreaking devastation, pain, suffering, depression, addiction, and ultimately death in our lives.  Sin destroys everything and everyone it touches–and it doesn’t just affect you.  Sin will systematically track down and destroy everyone you love.

Yet, God allows us the freedom to choose to sin, and that sin is reflected in humanity at large–just look at ISIS if you don’t believe me.  In the same way that sin is reflected generally in humanity, Romans 8:19-21 teaches that sin is reflected generally in the Universe as well.  This often expresses itself in the form of natural disasters.  Our world is twisted by sin, and that means sometimes the laws of nature spin out of control and create tornados, hurricanes, tsunamis, and the like.  The Bible doesn’t hide this reality, or shrink away from it.  We live in a world wracked by evil, suffering, and death.

Fourth, even though the world is full of evil, ultimately good will triumph.  Evil is not the victor.  Sin will not prevail.  Death is not the end.  Light overcomes darkness–every time.  Jesus paid the penalty for our sin by his death on the cross, and then triumphed over the power of sin through his resurrection on the first Easter Sunday.  All of humanity, and the entire Universe, is longing for the curse of sin to be broken.  In Jesus Christ, we find the strength to break the power of sin in our own lives, and to work together to overcome the effects of sin in the world around us.  And one day, as Revelation 21:1-8 teaches, God will wipe every tear from our eyes and make all things new.  In that day, we will not only be free from the penalty and the power of sin, but we will also be free from the presence of sin in our lives and in this world!

Ultimately, we may not ever truly know why God allows natural disasters to occur.  We do know, however, that God is good, and he is wise, and he knows what is best for this world.  And in the midst of the struggle that is this life, God offers hope: a ray of sunshine in the darkness.  That light is the Light who gives life to all who will believe in Jesus Christ and receive him as their great God and Savior.  Then, we will have the power to work together, help those in need, respond to disasters, and overcome the sin in the world around us.

For other great resources on this topic, visit: