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Dogged Determination

This Sunday we will be considering the remarkable miracle found in Mark 2:1-12, the healing of the paralytic. Whenever I read this story I am impressed with the dogged determination of the four men who took the paralytic to Jesus. How far did they have to carry him? How difficult was it to get him on the roof? How hard was it to make a hole in the roof? Who paid for the repairs? Did they give each other a "high five" afterward and thank God they didn't have to carry the paralytic home?

One thing is for sure: these four unnamed individuals refused to miss an opportunity to be with Jesus. No matter the distance, no matter the difficulty, no matter the crowds, they took their friend to Jesus knowing they might never have another opportunity. Obviously they loved the paralytic very much.

E.M. Bounds once said that our laziness after God is our crying sin. Do we have half the determination of these four men? Whom will we bring to Jesus? Can we watch and pray for more than one hour? Do we wrestle with God, like Jacob, until we have obtained His blessing? Do we ask and seek and knock like the persistent widow who bothered the unrighteous judge? If none go with us, will we still follow Jesus?

In England, during the Great Awakening, many lifeless churchmen were aghast with the message proclaimed by a new group of preachers. These churchmen took it as a matter of course that if a person was baptized, as most were, he or she was a Christian. Indeed, for many of them to an Englishman was the same thing as being a Christian. But along came George Whitfield and John Wesley saying it was not so; that there must be deep and lasting repentance from our sins and dynamic faith in Jesus Christ. One astonished hearer said to Wesley, "Sir, if this be Christianity, I never saw a Christian in my life."

I wonder what people see when they look at us? Do they see people who are complacent and half-hearted, who believe Christianity is only a matter of going to church occasionally and not committing any serious crimes? I hope not. Instead, may they see hungry believers, people who love God and His church, who seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, who pound the door and storm the gates (Mt. 11:12), and who let nothing stand in the way of an opportunity to be with the King Himself.

Posted by Jim Bachmann

Hurry to the Cross

Fred Craddock says that the key to an engaging sermon is movement. There must be a destination that the sermon is heading toward. It must be going somewhere. The same goes for stories. Good plots keep moving. They don't bog down and become boring. Action moves the story from one scene to the next. Since we've just begun a sermon series on the Gospel of Mark, here's a fun fact: The book of Mark moves. It moves fast.

In my Bible, I've circled every occurrence of the word "immediately" in Mark. I'm not a math major, but my best count is that "immediately is used 41 times in the book. To put that in perspective, it's used 59 times in the whole of the New Testament. Mark loves that word.

A further breakdown of Mark's use of "immediately" sheds light on the purpose of the book. Of the 41 times Mark uses the word, 33 of them are in the first 8 chapters. Mark is moving the action along because he is in a hurry to get to chapter 8.

So what's the big deal about chapter 8? Near the end of that chapter, Peter confesses Jesus as the Christ. Upon this confession, Jesus "began to teach [the disciples] that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and the chief priests and the scribes and be killed, and after three days rise again. And he said this plainly" (Mark 8:31-32) This is a message that Jesus will repeat in chapters 9 and 10 (9:31, 10:32) before making His death march into Jerusalem in chapter 11. From there, the final seven chapters focus on the last few days of Jesus' life. Of sixteen chapters in the book, eight of them are focused on Jesus predicting His death and then the events leading to it.

So what was Mark's big hurry in the early chapters? He was hurrying to get us to Christ's sufferings. He was hurrying to bring us to the cross. And herein lies a principle for you and me: Hurry to the cross. When you are hurting, hurry to the cross. When you are tempted, hurry to the cross. When you have sinned, hurry to the cross. When you have deep questions about God and life, hurry to the cross. 

Anytime I talk about the cross like this, I'm reminded of something that happened in a former pastorate. During a sermon, I told the people to "look at the cross." A sweet lady came to me after the service and asked, "How can I look at the cross? You don't have any crosses in your sanctuary." I then explained to her that going to the cross, and looking at the cross, is something you do in your mind. This is what Isaac Watts is talking about when he says,

When I survey the wondrous cross
On which the Prince of glory died,
My richest gain I count but loss
And pour contempt on all my pride.

Surveying the cross is taking the time to think deeply about what Jesus was doing on that cross. It's to think about the deep love He expressed there and the salvation He secured for us there.

Many times over the years I've had people say to me something like, "If God loves us so much, why does He allow such bad things to happen to me?" I always give the same answer to that question. It goes like this:

If you are considering God in the abstract, I understand your question. If you view God as a distant, ethereal, abstract Being, then I get the objection. But the gospel tells us that God came down out of the distant, ethereal, abstract realm to become a human being. And as a human being, He suffered greatly for you. You can say to the distant ethereal God, "the difficulty of my life makes me call your love into question." But can you look Jesus in the eye, as He hangs upon the cross, and say the same?

My life is hard, Jesus. This burden is heavy, Jesus. This hurts, Jesus. And He looks at you through His crimson mask and says, "I know. And I love you." And in that moment, you know it's true. That's why we hurry to the cross. I look forward to seeing you Sunday when we can all hurry to the cross together.

Posted by Heath Cross

Encouraging Update

Something beautiful happened Wednesday night at 5:15! For the first time in years our church family enjoyed a great midweek meal, studied God's Word, and experienced sweet fellowship. It almost seemed worthy of another dedication service! Now that the room is thoroughly "baptized", we trust that many wonderful events and lasting memories will be established there in the coming years.

One thing we haven't done yet is have a Sunday School class in the fellowship hall. I'm sure that day will come, though. Speaking of Sunday School, please attend the class of your choice. At my former church we had a significant problem of people loitering in the hallways while classes were taking place. We are blessed to have a great choice of classes and teachers so avail yourself of this spiritual buffet. How blessed we are not to suffer a famine of the word of God! To see a list of our current classes, click here.

Below is some more random information about items that are likely of interest to you:

  • Work will begin on widening Pasquo Road to three lanes this month. The project will take about a year.
  • Our elevator has been repaired. Pray that it lasts until Sunday!
  • Drainage improvements will be made to the north entrance grassy area.
  • Preschool playground committee will soon begin design work.
  • August income was strong and made up some of our July deficit.
  • Attendance last Sunday was our largest since March and included many visitors.
  • Men's and women's Bible studies begin next week. Sign-up forms are in the church lobby.

See you Sunday!

Posted by Jim Bachmann

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