One Dozen Years A Forsythian!

Twelve years ago, I began ministering among the special family of God known as Forsythe Church of Christ. I can truly say that Maggy and I have been so blessed to be associated with you. Your many encouragements have made us feel a part of the “Forsythe Family” over the years. Each year I am reminded of how grateful we are for the opportunity to serve you.

I have often reflected on the past of our church, and how many people, events, and perspectives have shaped who we are today. E. C. McKenzie’s pastoral care and personable ministry during the beginning years of our church set the tone for Forsythe. The scholarship and love that Don Glover demonstrated over nearly 30 years of ministry here deepened our appreciation for the rich heritage of Christianity that influences our thinking. I have no idea what will be said about my ministry here when it concludes some day, but I’m walking in the steps of some giants of faith!

Our first priority in ministry must be love. Love for His Word, love for His people, and love for His appearing.”

Sinclair B. Ferguson

That is what I have attempted to emphasize in my preaching and studies and interactions with you. The power of God’s grace is magnified in the lives of imperfect, broken, and needful creatures such as ourselves. God loves us deeply and pursues us relentlessly. As much as I love you, God loves you so much more than can be expressed.

We cannot afford, however, to spend too much time thinking about the past. The past serves as a foundation for the future of ministry and outreach in Ouachita Parish. Jesus has given us His mission to reach the lost. Our future, it seems to me, has a new spark of energy as we move toward a merger with Jackson Street Church of Christ. I admit that in the beginning, I received that word with trepidation and perhaps some fear. But when godly people make up their minds to unite together in serving our eternal Father, we believe that the blessing of God will be present. 

Churches today all across America are consolidating resources and merging meeting places in unprecedented number. Let us pray that everything we do is to glorify God in this community. Lifting up Christ is our primary concern, and it should guide all our considerations. On this date in 2020, we begin our 13th year of ministry with you. Looking forward, we are hopeful and prayerful because God is powerful and present.

Love to all, John & Maggy.

What Faith Requires: Belief

Christians are called to live a life of faith. When we have faith in Jesus Christ we are saying that we trust Him, that our life belongs to Him, and that we may not know what lies ahead, but we know that He is there. As we journey through Mark’s Gospel we see many people responding in faith to Jesus and His works and words. This is what we do – we hear / read / follow Jesus. He amazes us by what we see in Him – his love, sacrifice, mercy, grace, hope. The life of faith requires certain things of us… today we want to think about how faith requires BELIEF. Do we really believe in Jesus Christ? If we do, what difference does it make in our everyday life?

Our text tells of a man named Jairus – a synagogue leader who was in a desperate situation – his daughter was dying. He asked Jesus to come and lay hands on her so she could get well and live. (Luke 8:41 He fell down at Jesus’s feet and pleaded with him…)

While he was still speaking, people came from the synagogue leader’s house and said, “Your daughter is dead. Why bother the teacher anymore?”36 When Jesus overheard what was said, he told the synagogue leader, “Don’t be afraid. Only believe.” 37 He did not let anyone accompany him except Peter, James, and John, James’s brother. 38 They came to the leader’s house, and he saw a commotion—people weeping and wailing loudly. 39 He went in and said to them, “Why are you making a commotion and weeping? The child is not dead but asleep.” 40 They laughed at him, but he put them all outside. He took the child’s father, mother, and those who were with him, and entered the place where the child was. 41 Then he took the child by the hand and said to her, “Talitha koum” (which is translated, “Little girl, I say to you, get up”). 42 Immediately the girl got up and began to walk. (She was twelve years old.) At this they were utterly astounded.

Mark 5:35-42, CSB

This story turns on the short statement Jesus made in vs 36: “Don’t be afraid. Only believe.”

BELIEVE WHEN WE FEEL HELPLESS (Mark 5:35)

There is nothing as helpless as death – it seems so final. Yet Jesus was not intimidated by death at all. He encouraged Jairus to believe, even though others had given up and didn’t want to bother Jesus any longer. To them, Jesus was of no use against this enemy. They didn’t know the power of Jesus the way we do!

Helplessness, weakness, feeling like giving up – all of these are addressed by our faith. Abraham and Sarah were old and unable to have children, yet an angel asked them if anything was too hard for the Lord! (Genesis 18:14)

We give up on life, marriage, relationships, hopes, and even that we might be saved. When we Believe Jesus, we are never helpless – we have the greatest helper that has ever walked the earth! Jairus was so desperate, yet he had faith – he believed. That’s what faith requires.

BELIEVE WHEN OTHERS HAVE GIVEN UP (Mark 5:36-40)

Living the life of faith in a world of faithlessness can be challenging. Sometimes people who had faith have given up. Sometimes people will discourage our faith. Sometimes the difficulties of life will discourage faith.

Jesus walked through the house with doubters and laughters, and walked into the room with Jairus’ daughter. When we are afraid, He is not.
-When we do not know the future, He does.
-When we have no power, He is powerful.
-When we aren’t sure, He is faithful.

BELIEVE BECAUSE HE CAN (Mark 5:41-42)

We are not people of faith because we have such great wisdom, strength and power – but because He does! We believe because we know that Jesus CAN. There is nothing that is beyond his power. His resurrection proves that even death does not hold the ultimate keys of power any longer.

How often do we defeated because of what we cannot do? We must learn to place our concerns, cares, and grievances in the hands of Jesus. Jairus was a believer – a desperate man who regarded Jesus as the last hope for his sick daughter.

BELIEVE BECAUSE HE IS OUR LAST HOPE (Mark 5:25-34)

Sandwiched into this story was an interruption – a woman who crawled to Jesus through the crowd.

Now a woman suffering from bleeding for twelve years 26 had endured much under many doctors. She had spent everything she had and was not helped at all. On the contrary, she became worse. 27 Having heard about Jesus, she came up behind him in the crowd and touched his clothing. 28 For she said, “If I just touch his clothes, I’ll be made well.” 29 Instantly her flow of blood ceased, and she sensed in her body that she was healed of her affliction. 30 At once Jesus realized in himself that power had gone out from him. He turned around in the crowd and said, “Who touched my clothes?” 31 His disciples said to him, “You see the crowd pressing against you, and yet you say, ‘Who touched me?’” 32 But he was looking around to see who had done this. 33 The woman, with fear and trembling, knowing what had happened to her, came and fell down before him, and told him the whole truth. 34 “Daughter,” he said to her, “your faith has saved you. Go in peace and be healed from your affliction.”

Mark 5:25-34, CSB

I can’t imagine this woman’s desperation. A twelve-year flow of blood had left her hopeless. Doctor after doctor had been unable to help her. She had no more money because she spent everything trying to find a cure … instead…she got worse. Then she heard that Jesus was near and determined that “If I just touch his clothes, I’ll be made well.” She reached out and touched him, and was immediately healed. Jesus told her “Daughter, your faith has saved you. Go in peace and be healed from your affliction.” Just like Jairus… she believed, even though helpless; she believed when others had given up, she believed because Jesus could do what no one else could do.

Our last hope is Jesus – when we have done all we can do to repair the damage of our own sin, we must then turn to Him.

Conclusion Belief is core to Christianity – one cannot be a Christian without it.

*Tevin was born premature and ill. He was born three months early and weighed just 3.5 lbs He was only given a 20% of surviving the initial days after his birth. Tevin Coleman today is a running back for the San Francisco 49ers. He recently said, “I’m here for a reason. I’m here to do something. I’ve literally been a fighter since I’ve been
born. It reminds me that I can never give up. God has blessed me to be here on this earth.”

When we want to give up, we should remember that we are here and God blesses us as we serve Him.
-When you’re feeling helpless – believe Him!
-When others have given up – believe Him!
-When in doubt, believe Him because He CAN!
-When you’re feeling hopeless – believe Him beyond all others.

Jairus’ daughter was twelve years old. The woman suffered with the issue of blood for twelve years. One seems a new health issue, the other one long term. Whether you need God’s help for healing, hope, strength, freedom, finances, relationships – whatever it is you need most from God today: Don’t lose faith when the battle takes a long time or seems too late. Trust the One in whom we can place all of our faith with assurance.

Source:
*https://churchleaders.com/news/369526-3-players-playing-for-jesus-in-the-big-game-mahomes.html

Review: A Diary of Private Prayer

Diary Of Private Prayer (Scribner Classic)Diary Of Private Prayer by John Baillie
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I loved this little book of prayers by a Scottish theologian from 1949 – morning and evening prayers for 31 days plus a special morning/evening prayer for Sundays. I was taking a class and the teacher often started the class with the morning prayer from this book. So, I decided to get a copy for myself. I found each prayer to be beautiful – but also thoughtful. Modern readers will have to work with the style of writing that employs what we might call “King James Version” language … Thee, Art, Thou, etc. … but in some ways that lends to the beauty of these prayers.

Some of the prayers give space for personalization. One example:

“To Thy care also, O Father, I would commend my friends, beseeching Thee to keep them safe in soul and body, and to be present in their hearts to-night as a Spirit of power and of joy and of restfulness. I pray for … and … and … I pray also for the wider circle of all my associates, my fellow workers, my fellow townsmen and all strangers within our gates; and the great world of men without, to me foreign and unknown, but dear to Thee; through Jesus Christ our common Lord, Amen.”

You get the sense of the language issue I mentioned. But I do like to read the prayers of others, especially when they widen my perspective of prayer. John Baillie’s prayers do that for me.

These prayers are humble, and seek God’s grace and forgiveness. One such prayer expressed the following:

“I confess, O God – that I often let my mind wander down unclean and forbidden ways:
that often I deceive myself as to where my plain dutie lies:
that often, by concealing my real motives, I pretend to be better than I am:
that often my honesty is only a matter of policy:
that often my affection for my friends is only a refined form of caring for myself:
that often my sparring of my enemy is due to nothing more than cowardice:
that often I do good deeds only that they may be seen of men, and shun evil ones only because I fear they may be found out.
O holy One, let the fire of Thy love enter my heart and burn up all this coil of meanness and hypocrisy, and make my heart as the heart of a little child.
Give me grace, O God…”

Curious use of the colon in that writing, but that’s the way it was in the book.

Each prayer is fairly short and you can read them in less than five minutes. But if you savor the thoughts and reflect on your own heart, these prayers can help your prayer time be rich with time spent with the Savior.

I am sure I will spend more time with this little prayer companion.

View all my reviews

Narrative Lectionary February 2

February Theme

In February I’ll be emphasizing faith as we continue our journey through Mark under the theme ‘What Faith Requires‘. Each week we will consider an aspect of the active faith to which we are called. The first week we will emphasize the word BELIEVE. That’s a natural place to start talking about faith.

BELIEVE

For February 2 the Lectionary points us to Mark 5:21-43 and Psalm 131. In the Mark text there is a divided story, the Healing of Jairus’ Daughter (21-24, 35-43). It is interrupted by the healing of the woman with an issue of blood (25-34).  In both accounts we witness desperate people who have a certain belief that Jesus has both power and willingness to heal.

Jairus is a synagogue leader who has a daughter who is dying. Like all parents in that situation, he desperately and unashamedly begs Jesus to come to his house and lay hands on her. He believes that Jesus can heal her. Interrupting their journey is an unnamed Woman who has an incurable bleeding disorder. She desperately wants to touch the hem of Jesus’ garment because she believes that will bring healing. When it does take effect, Jesus says to her “Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace and be freed from your suffering” (Mark 5:34, NIVUK).

The celebration of that healing is cut short when word comes from Jairus’ household that his daughter has died. Humans said, “Why bother the teacher anymore?” Jesus said, “Don’t be afraid; just believe”. Further, when Jesus arrived at the house and told them “The child is not dead but asleep”, they laughed at him. It seems there is a mixture of people in this story – some who believe, some who have yet to believe. That’s all about to change as Jesus raises the twelve year old girl and the people were “completely astonished”.

There seems to me to be a movement of desperation to belief / unbelief and then to faith. Faith calls us to believe – to trust – to know that Jesus is able. These stories recount for us the power and compassion of Jesus. Like those in Jairus’ household, we are amazed. When we face the desperate times in our lives are we moved to trust … to reach out and touch … to know He cares?

Resources

Working Preacher Commentary by C. Clifton Black

Working Preacher Commentary by Emerson Powery

Working Preacher Commentary by Mark G. Vitalis Hoffman

Working Preacher Commentary by James Boyce

Working Preacher Commentary by Karl Jacobson

Word to Worship Song Suggestions for this week’s texts.

Ecologian: A Funny Thing

Living the Lectionary: Phillip Heinze

The Weakness of the World – sermon by Ray Stedman

Taking Jesus Seriously – Lewis Galloway

Jairus’s Daughter – Frederick Buechner

List of Resources from Sermon Writer

William Barclay Daily Study Bible – Mark 5

Fear Not Only Believe by Kevin Ruffcorn

Jesus Saves the Unclean – John Mark Hicks

Links from TextWeek

Links for Expository Preaching: Mark by Milton Stanley

Hem of His Garment – sermon by W. A. Criswell

Raising of Jairus’ Daughter by Hampton Keathley IV

Podcasts

Pulpit Fiction podcast / notes on Mark 5:21-43

NL;DR Podcast: Jesus Heals Two Women

Working Preacher Podcast for Mark 5:21-43


Jesus An Amazing Savior

If you could bring every broken part of you to Jesus for healing, what would you bring to Him today? This is what we see people doing in the stories about Jesus.He is the One who receives broken hearts … dreams … lives. He is the only one who can bring healing and peace and grace. We have noted this month that Jesus is Amazing! Teacher, Friend, he has an Amazing Mission, and He is an amazing Savior.

We all need saving – all of us are sinners … imperfect … human. There’s some part of all of us today that needs to be saved. Jesus came to save us so that we can live with him for eternity.

Mark 5 describes a scene of terror and destruction. It’s late in the evening. The disciples had just crossed the Lake of Galilee in a storm. The city of Garasa was one of the ten cities of the Decapolis. Geographically, Jesus has ventured well into Gentile territory. This area is characterized by many caves in the limestone rock, many of which were used as tombs.

As soon as he got out of the boat, a man with an unclean spirit came out of the tombs and met him. 3 He lived in the tombs, and no one was able to restrain him anymore—not even with a chain— 4 because he often had been bound with shackles and chains, but had torn the chains apart and smashed the shackles. No one was strong enough to subdue him. 5 Night and day among the tombs and on the mountains, he was always crying out and cutting himself with stones.6 When he saw Jesus from a distance, he ran and knelt down before him. 7 And he cried out with a loud voice, “What do you have to do with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I beg you before God, don’t torment me!” 8 For he had told him, “Come out of the man, you unclean spirit!” 9 “What is your name?” he asked him. “My name is Legion,” he answered him, “because we are many.” 10 And he begged him earnestly not to send them out of the region. 11 A large herd of pigs was there, feeding on the hillside. 12 The demons[b] begged him, “Send us to the pigs, so that we may enter them.” 13 So he gave them permission, and the unclean spirits came out and entered the pigs. The herd of about two thousand rushed down the steep bank into the sea and drowned there.

Mark 5:2-13

Jesus Is Our Savior From the Evil of this World

This man was suffering from a powerful demon living in him. I think of demon possession as something that happened in the first century – but I do not discount the work of Satan in this world.

Little children, you are from God, and have conquered them; for the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world.

1 John 4:4

Still Satan is very active in our world today. Jesus was able to resist Satan and when he died, he crushed Satan. We are victorious because of Christ – not because of self.

If you are struggling with evil thoughts, activities, or troubles in your life – Jesus is an amazing Savior from the evil of this world.

Jesus is Our Savior from the Pain of the Life.

This man endured such physical and emotional pain.

There are many signals that our world lives in great pain. Self-destructive lifestyles and habits. The rise of suicide, murders, crime. Emotional pain of loneliness, disappointment, regret, separation from those we love. Family pain, trauma, abuse, debt, doubt.

Kent Hughes: “Are you deeply scarred? Do you have filthy habits – perhaps a mouth that is totally out of control, that has said little that is clean in years? Perhaps you are dishonest. It is your way of life. Maybe your scar is sexual, whether heterosexual or homosexual, and you feel you are beyond help. Not so! Jesus who calmed the stormy seas also calms the storm-tossed soul. He can do so with a word.”

Come to me, all of you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take up my yoke and learn from me, because I am lowly and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 

Matthew 11:28-29

Jesus is Our Savior from the Destruction of Sin

Jesus’ mission was to bring spiritual healing to lost humanity.

For God loved the world in this way: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.

John 3:16

After his resurrection the Apostles preached about Him and his message – the truth about the cross, his death, his
resurrection.

When they heard this, they were pierced to the heart and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles: “Brothers, what should we do?” Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, each of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.

Acts 2:37-38  

…We were buried with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, so we too may walk in newness of life. 

Romans 6:4

JESUS is Our Savior from a Life Without Purpose

As he was getting into the boat, the man who had been demon-possessed begged him earnestly that he might remain with him. 19 Jesus did not let him but told him, “Go home to your own people, and report to them how much the Lord has done for you and how he has had mercy on you.” 20 So he went out and began to proclaim in the Decapolis how much Jesus had done for him, and they were all amazed.

Mark 5:18-20

When Jesus Has brought us healing and salvation we become witnesses for Him in our everyday life.

This man that Jesus healed went into the Ten Cities – the first one to bring the message about Jesus into this Greek territory. When people saw the man who used to run through the woods cutting himself and screaming … is now telling them calmly how Jesus had healed him – the people were all AMAZED. Jesus is Amazing!

For those of us who have experienced the cleansing power of the blood of Jesus, it is our joy to tell others what He has done for us.

Conclusion

The well-known and highly feared demoniac of Gadarenes was healed and everyone rejoiced! Right? No.

What was great news for him, was disruptive to others. Obviously the pigs who ran over the cliff. The owners of the pigs – who suffered losses I’m certain. They begged Jesus to leave. How much he had to offer them, but they were more focused on their own lives and not what He could do for them.

Today Jesus is our Amazing Teacher, Friend, Savior – Are you begging him to stay or leave? Whenever Jesus is mentioned, or is at work, Some just want Jesus to leave. Jesus will change our lives. Jesus will expose our wickedness. Jesus will cost us. There is no way to stay the same if Jesus is in your heart. You can submit to Him. You can send Him away.

If you could bring every broken part of you to Jesus for healing, what would you bring to Him today? What do I envision Jesus saying to me as I come to Him? Why would you wait any longer to bring Christ your broken life … He is an amazing teacher, friend, and savior. He’s been on an amazing mission to bring you to Him forever.

LifeGroup Questions

  1. How would you respond to a Christian who questions, in this modern day, whether we still need to believe in angels and demons?*
  2. The demon possessed man was a frightful sight. People had given up on him. What are some situations where the struggles that people face are frightening to us? How can we overcome our fears of those who are struggling in sin and reach out to them?
  3. If you could put yourself in their shoes, what do you imagine are some of the reasons the people of Gadarene begged Jesus to leave?
  4. In what ways can someone who has just been saved be a better evangelist than someone who has been a Christian and studied the Bible for a long time?*
  5. How does Jesus’ sending out of the man to the Ten Cities give us insight into His mission to save the world? How do we interpret that mission as it applies to our life in the Kingdom?
  6. If someone were to ask you how Jesus makes our life whole when we have suffered pain, loss, or self-destructive habits … what would you say to them?

*Questions from Christ-Centered Exposition: Exalting Jesus in Mark by Daniel L. Akin. Holman, 2014

Resources
Akin, Daniel L. Christ-Centered Exposition: Exalting Jesus in Mark. Holman, 2014.

Hughes, R. Kent. Mark Volume One: Jesus, Servant, and Savior. Crossway, 1989.