Monthly Archives: January 2014

Miracle on 34th Street

Title: Miracle on 34th St.

Text: John 20.24-31

CIT: You can find faith.

CIS: You can find faith.

Introduction: Note: There’s no mention of Christmas in the title.  What about: Christmas Miracle on 34th St. It was released in May 1947, because the powers that be thought movies goers would come out in droves through the summer. In this movie, we meet four principle characters:

  • Brian, a successful lawyer in NY
  • Ms. Doris Walker who works for Macy’s Dept. Store; in charge of Macy’s T-Day Parade
  • Her daughter Susan (played by an adorable Natalie Wood)
  • An elderly man named Kris Kringle who plays the part of Santa Claus in the Christmas parade and ultimately as Macy’s main Santa, who thinks he really is Santa Claus.

The Plot: Kris Kringle finds a drunk Santa at the parade and Ms. Walker is forced to replace him quickly. Kringle agrees to help, but with some reluctance. Doris has a little girl who she has raised to not believe in Fairy tales. She is a somewhat discouraged and cynical, single mother, who through much heartache, has misplaced or even lost her ability to believe.  She will only accept what she can see and know for sure. There is a wonderful exchange during the movie with Kris Kringle who explains that faith isn’t something you can see or hear. It’s what you believe in spite of the absence.

Here is a question for consideration: What is the miracle on 34th Street?

During the movie, Kringle keeps asking Susan to give him a chance to prove he’s the real Santa. So, she asks for a home. She has a magazine cut out. Of course, at the end of the movie, She gets that house! But is this the miracle on 34th St.? No. There is a moment when Brian and Doris are hugging in their soon to be Living Room and Susan has run out back to look at her swing. There in the corner is Kris Kringle’s walking cane. The miracle is found in the fact that former unbelievers become believers and we see an incredible change in their attitude and actions. In fact, this may be the greatest miracle of all, belief!

Transition: For me, the transformation of a person who did not, could not, and would not believe into a person of belief was AND is the miracle. Today, Let’s look at another person who had a hard time believing: Thomas. John 20.19-31; What we find in John is Jesus at work.

I’ve outline this message into 3 parts:

  • Jesus Commissions the Disciples in v 19-25
  • Jesus Cautions Thomas against Unbelief in v 26-28
  • Jesus Challenges us to Believe in v 29-31

Transition: Let’s begin with some background information to Thomas’ unbelief by looking at where

1.     Jesus Commissions the Disciples (20.19-25)

exp.: Why did Thomas not believe? Rd v 25b; He misses out on so much the week before, 1st, he missed

  • Gathering with the brothers and sisters; rd 19; specifically, Sunday night church! 2ndly,
  • Witnessing the Lord, the Resurrected Jesus; rd 19b-20; he showed them; 3rd, he missed
  • Instruction from the Word of the Lord; rd v 21-23; Look at the nature of the new life in Christ
    • They’re to be commissioned – sent with a mission
    • They’re not to be sent out alone, but are promised the Holy Spirit
    • They’re reminded of their relationships and the importance of forgiveness.

But, there is a 4th item he misses and this is most important: He misses

  • The Witness of the Disciples; rd v 24-25a; It’s understandable that he would miss out on the above three, but to not believe the very men he’s spent the last few years with… that’s a big thing to miss out on.

app.: so naturally, his response was (rd v 25b) Unless I see in his hands the mark of the nails, and place my finger into the mark of the nails, and place my hand into his side, I will never believe. He probably feels this way because he has missed out on so much.

But, let me ask you, is he really so different from all of them?

  • They don’t believe Mary when she tells them (Luke 24.11)
  • They don’t believe the disciples who encounter Christ on the road to Emmaus.

Transition: Thomas’ unbelief was really not much different from theirs, except he said, Unless I see in his hands the mark of the nails, and place my finger into the mark of the nails, and place my hand into his side, I will never believe. So, now we see Jesus…

2.     Jesus Cautions Thomas Against Unbelief (20.26-28)

exp.: rd v 26-27; do not disbelieve, but believe; we live in a world of skepticism and disbelief; many reject God’s Word without even knowing that’s what it is;

ill.: I’ve watched with interest the continuing saga of Duck Dynasty. It appears to me that what Phil Robertson did that upset so many was to paraphrase a passage of Scripture. What is it about God’s Word that is so offensive? Really? Well, I think it is simply that God’s Word shines its bright light on our sin. And that’s what hurts. If we’re not confronted in our sin, we’re able to keep moving forward in our sin. However, when confronted with our sin, we have but two options – believe or disbelieve. If we disbelieve, then we can continue moving forward, happy in our sin, until someone, once again shines God’s light on our grossness.

ill.: Some years back, we were traveling at night in South TX. It was summer time and through the day we had accumulated more than our fair share of dead bugs on the windshield. I could actually drive just fine out in the darkness with just my headlights. That it, until we came to a 4-way stop sign out in the middle of no where. There were these streetlights that revealed just how bad the windshield was. I think Christopher was the one who spoke up about it. He noted how well he could see until the light shone in, revealing all of the filth, dirt and dead bugs.

app.: that’s what God’s Word does to our hearts, it reveals our sin. And when that happens, only one of two ways to respond: Believe it or don’t believe it.

Transition: And how does Thomas respond?

exp.: rd v 28; My Lord and my God! For me, this is simply beautiful. Great Confessions:

  • The Birth Narrative: the shepherds, the wise men, Simeon –
  • Martha in John 11: I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, who is coming into the world.
  • Peter in Mt 16: You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.
  • Romans 10.9-10: if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved.

app.: That’s still our confession today. I asked this of Sarah and Amy and Zoe when I baptized them recently.

Transition: I ask this of all our members. And for those who are not? I challenge them to believe, to call upon the one who can save sins and confess Him as Lord. That’s what Jesus does here…

3.     Jesus Challenges us to believe (20.29-31)

  • Hear the blessing: Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.
  • Heed the call: these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.

exp.: these signs; John has 7 signs; signs were what the people kept asking for throughout the book of John; Jesus did many other signs, but these signs of life and death and resurrection are written that you might find faith, without seeing with your eyes.

Transition: That’s the miracle for today… moving from unbelief to belief.

Observations & Implications:

  1. Resist the cynicism and skepticism of doubt and despair that characterize our world.
  2. Replace it with a deep, abiding faith in Christ.
  3. Connect belief and behavior. There is a correspondence between the internal and the external.

Invitation: Won’t you come to Christ today?

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Filed under John, Scripture, W.E.B.S.

It’s a Wonderful Life

Title: It’s A Wonderful Life

Text: 2 Tim 4.6-11

Introduction:

It’s a Wonderful Life! I love the movie. If you haven’t watched it yet, I hope you’ll take some time this week watching it. It is safe for the whole family. The jest of the story is about a man named George Bailey who spends his entire life trying to get out of Bedford Falls. Along the way, he helps so many people. He cares, genuinely cares for people. George Bailey is a good man. Some things go wrong for him, really, no fault of his own, but rather that of his uncle. George is now in pickle. He figures he is better off dead than alive and wishes he’d never even been born. He attempts to kill himself by jumping into a river in a snowstorm. The rest of the story is about an angel named Clarence who helps George discover how differently life would be if he had never been born. The message: you can make a difference in the lives of other people.

Our passage today is found in 2 Timothy 4. We’ll basically be looking at the entire chapter, minus the last couple of verses.

Transition: Paul’s life touched so many other lives, and yet, we find him here at the end of his life serving time in a roman Prison and reflecting on the people he has encountered in ministry. He seems a bit melancholy even as he reflects. His reflection probably begins as he thinks about his own life in comparison to young Timothy. Let me begin with some Context for us.

Context: This is Paul’s last letter. Some people believe Paul never made it out of this last imprisonment, but was subsequently put to death for his faith. Others think he did get released for a short time before his martyrdom. Either way, we find Paul at this writing nearing the end of his life. It’s his 2nd letter to Timothy, who is the pastor at Ephesus. The one message that radiates from this entire letter is how much Paul longs to see his ‘son’ in the ministry again. Rd 2 Tim 1.3-4;

A great summary is found in 1.8-14; here is what I did, you’re doing it now, do it well. rd 2.1; he calls him his child and at other times, his son. Rd 2.2; take what I’ve done with you and now pass that faith on to others to be entrusted with this precious gift called the Gospel. And that is what this letter is about – encouragement and instruction as a young pastor. So we pick up in Ch. 4.

Paul moves through five stages as he gains a perspective of his life:

Paul offers Direction for Timothy – his charge

Then he offers an evaluation on his current situation in life.

Paul then reflects briefly on his ministry – in an almost melancholy way.

Then, he petitions Timothy to come see him. We’ll see that Paul needs the encouragement.

Finally, he offers his conclusions concerning God’s faithfulness in his life.

Transition: Let’s begin with the stage…

1.     His Direction for Timothy (1-5)

exp.: Rd v 1; His Charge – A Pastor:

  1. Preaches (2a)
  2. Prepares (2b)
  3. Persists (3-5); rd v 1-5;

Transition: this has been his life, his experience, it appears to make him consider for a moment

2.     His Evaluation of his Life (6-8)

exp.: that’s stage 2 – Where he’s been, what he’s done, where he is now and what the future holds; simply put

  1. The Present (6)
  2. The Past (7)
  3. The Future (8); rd v 6-8;

Transition: Now, he returns to the statement he made at the beginning of his letter and he offers some final instruction for young Timothy, but it appears Paul is feeling a bit sorry for himself as he moves to stage 3 here, an reflects on his life.

3.     His Reflection on Ministry (9-16)

exp.: rd v 9; Simply put: He’s lonely and hurting; being incarcerated over time has maybe taken its toll on his psyche; He needs encouragement; he longs to see the young man who will carry the torch in to the future. Why is he lonely and hurting?

  1. From Abandonment; rd v 10a

i.     Demas; Col 4.14; Phm 24 as being a partner in ministry; but he found ministry too hard and not as rewarding as he had hoped. Maybe he thought his ministry would be in one of the larger cities in one of the larger churches; maybe even on radio and TV where the big money is. Maybe he’d write some books and make the circuit. No, instead he found himself sitting in jail or waiting in some dump for His mentor to get out of jail. People didn’t take kindly to his message and he was rejected one too many times. So down is Paul from Demas’ abandonment, he considers everyone to have abandoned him; rd v 16;

ii.     All – v 16; he sounds like Elijah in 1 Kings 19.10 – He said, “I have been very jealous for the Lord, the God of hosts. For the people of Israel have forsaken your covenant, thrown down your altars, and killed your prophets with the sword, and I, even I only, am left, and they seek my life, to take it away.” And yet, if you read on, you see that God had hidden and protected 7000 who had not bowed their souls to Baal.

Transition: So, he felt loneliness and pain from abandonment. It looks like he felt it from…

1. From the faithful – they’ve gone to serve as God has led them. Rd v 10b-12

i.     Crescens – to Galatia

ii.     Titus – to Dalmatia

iii.     Mark – he’s just not here! Get him and bring him here;

iv.     Tychicus – is on his way to your church!

Transition: So, he felt loneliness and pain from the unfaithful who abandoned him, and from the faithful who were doing just what Paul would want them to do: they were serving; note: he says I sent them! But that doesn’t remove the loneliness or hurt. He also was lonely and hurting from…

2. From Attacks; rd v14-15;

i.     Alexander, the coppersmith – Alexander is the “Mr. Potter” in our story! Paul warns Timothy about him;

app.: I have to admit that this section gets me down, too. If you think about it, you’d really have it no other way. Don’t you want your children to grow up and begin a life of their own? So, it is in the ministry. You want your children Timothy, Titus, Crescens, Mark, Tychicus, to grow up and begin doing ministry on their own, with the men they’ve entrusted the Gospel to…

Transition: But there is another part of where he is mentally, emotionally, that I want you to see; we saw it in v9; rd v 9; we see it again in v 13 and 21. I’ve labeled this stage…

4.     His Petition to a friend (9, 13, 21)

exp.: 1st, I want to look at v 21;

  1. Be Zealous (literally) to come before winter – this places great emphasis on his loneliness and need for companionship, encouragement and the like. Be diligent to get this done! Look at some of the items he’s requested; rd v 13;

i.     Bring my cloak – Cover, like a winter coat; something you might consider a blanket or Giant Shawl; a covering while traveling in the winter or a blanket to cover up with when catching some sleep.

exp.: this word cloak takes on different meanings in different translations.

There are 3 different words for cloak. It means coat, outer garment, shawl; travel coat; blanket. To further complicate our understanding of this word ‘cloak’ – the word in Eng. cloak appears some 60x’s in 58 verses of the Bible in the NIV; but only 49 x’s in 47 verses of the ESV. The NASB and HCSB both use it on 25x’s; however, this particular word cloak; φαιλόνην in v 13, it appears only this one time in the NT and not at all in the LXX.

So, we have to go to extra Biblical literature to find how it is used. When we do, we see this word used to describe a box, sometimes meaning a chest, like a treasure chest; a smaller box to hold precious items; in particular, it’s a box used to keep as a cover for books and parchments; well, look at the next two items he mentions;

ii.     Bring my books – probably the books of the Bible; Lk 4.17; your probably thinking and wondering why he doesn’t already have them. Answer: dunno! However, remember where he is. If he was arrested and carried away, then he wouldn’t have been able to gather such items. John 20.30 – Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; 31 but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.

iii.     Bring my parchments – above all; probably the ‘paper’ on which he wrote letters.

app.: I think, because he says in v 21; Do your best to come before winter many put the context of the word cloak into a coat or traveling coat; I wonder if what he really is wanting is his Bible and letter writing materials kept safe in their container.

Transition: to this point, I’ve gotten pretty melancholy. I’m sad for Paul and his situation. I’m thinking that he’s very much like George Bailey. A man who has lived a wonderful life, but now finds his current situation dictating how he feels: melancholy, lonely and hurting for encouragement. Longing to hear some news about his work, the churches he has established; longing to hear from the men he’s trained and equipped to carry on his ministry – to know that they’re fighting the good fight, running a strong race, and keeping the faith.

But don’t miss what he says, and we see this in his final remarks of this passage: stage 5.

5.     His Conclusion on matters: But God is Faithful (17-18)

exp.: rd v 17-18; He acknowledges that God provides, protects and pilots us into his kingdom.

  1. God Provides

i.     Stands by

ii.     Strengthens – But the Lord stood by me and strengthened me, so that through me the message might be fully proclaimed and all the Gentiles might hear it.

     2.  God Protects

i.     From the Lion

ii.     From every evil deed – So I was rescued from the lion’s mouth. 18 The Lord will rescue me from every evil deed

     3.  God Guides – He Pilots; and bring me safely into his heavenly kingdom

Transition: I wonder if the apostle George Bailey…um, the apostle Paul had an angel to show him at this sad moment in his life the impact he had had on so many people? Timothy, Titus, Crescens, Tychicus, Epahros, Luke, Mark, Barnabas, Apollos and the list goes on; look in v 19: Pricilla and Acquilla, Onesiphorus; Erastus, Trophimus, Eubulus, Pudens, Linus, and Claudia!

I wonder if he saw the churches affected by his ministry – Rome, Corinth, Galatia, the Lycos Valley with Colossae, Laodicea, Heiropolis, Antioch and Antioch, Lydia, Ephesus, Thessalonica, Berea, Athens, Philippi, etc. etc. etc.!

I wonder if he was able to see the affect his imprisonment would have on the me…and you. That when he had his parchments and his scrolls, he composed for us most of the NT. His imprisonment, His loneliness meant God’s word for our salvation!

God had indeed provided and protected and piloted Paul into his will to touch millions, no probably billions of people.

Transition: So, what does this mean for us today? A couple of observations…

Observations & Implications:

  1. Don’t let your circumstance dictate your mental state!
    1. You may not see it, but God is providing you the strength you need to do his work.
    2. He’s protecting you to the point you need for your service to him. It doesn’t mean that you won’t suffer, but rather that you’ll be put in a position for his work and his glory.
    3. He is piloting you through tough storms, guiding you… what does Paul say? … safely into his heavenly kingdom.
    4. Don’t think because you see so little, that you haven’t accomplished so much. There are little treasures you’ve deposited into people’s lives.
      1. You’ve planted seeds that will become plants and fruit that you may never see. Even in the most trying and difficult relationships! Remember Mark? (John Mark); Paul and Mark parted company in Acts 13 and yet, here we find at the end of Paul’s life, this one who he couldn’t tolerate to do ministry with him was indeed doing just that! And not only for Paul, but we learn even later on, that Mark was instrumental in Peter getting his story of Jesus out – it’s recorded in the Gospel of Mark.
      2. In the movie with George Bailey, he saves his brother’s life, who in turn saves hundreds, if not a thousand lives on a military transport ship. You just might lead one to salvation who will preach to thousands and see them come to salvation. Or they’ll serve as a missionary and plant hundreds of churches and see thousands saved.
      3. Never think your little ministry is too small to have an impact. That little thing you do, that you consider your little treasure chest might just be a light that shines to the world. It might look like a cover, a book or a letter to someone else, but to God – it is a tool that He can use mightily.

Let me close with 1 Cor 1.21 and following: 21 For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe. 22 For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, 23 but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, 24 but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. 25 For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.

26 For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. 27 But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; 28 God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, 29 so that no human being might boast in the presence of God. 30 And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption…

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