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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

Faulkner Had A Point

Why have I decided to start a Wednesday night series on hot button cultural issues? I'm glad you asked. But to answer that, I'm going to need you to travel with me to Mississippi.

William Faulkner said, "To understand the world, you must first understand a place like Mississippi." I took that to heart when I moved to Mississippi in 2004. I spent the next fifteen years trying to do just that. During my time there, I served three churches on a part-time basis before becoming a full-time pastor. I saw a lot of interesting things and heard a lot of interesting stories. Thus our journey begins.

I remember the Sunday in a country church when we had to sing acapella because a cow stomped on the piano player's foot the day before. I remember another service when the substitute piano player fell asleep during my sermon and I had to wake her up to play the closing hymn. I remember the service where the music leader decided to omit a stanza from a beloved hymn. A church member stood up mid-service to chide said music leader in front of the congregation and demand that we sing all the stanzas. We started the hymn over again. Our music ministry is slightly more under control at SVC. But I digress.

I also remember some more serious things. Like when I was near the end of preaching what I thought to be a decent sermon. A young black child, whose family had been visiting our church semi-regularly, walked up the platform steps to the pulpit. I had to stop preaching to see what he needed. He handed me a note. I took the note, stuck it in my pocket, and continued preaching. After the sermon, during the closing prayer, I pulled out the note. It said, "Please pray for my family. My parents are fighting a lot."

I remember the first time a sweet lesbian couple walked into the doors of a country church where I was serving. That was a first for the church, I assure you. Six months had passed and they had continued coming to church almost every week. Then the inevitable division ensued: "They need to hear the gospel," some of the members said. "We don't want to have to explain this to our children," others said.

I remember when I worked at a high school in Jackson. An online student from another state complained to me via email that he didn't want to have to take our Mississippi history course. Why? Because Mississippi was the most terrible state in the country and they were all racists and everybody knew it and he didn't want to have to learn about it and that's that.

I remember walking through the cemetery of one church for the first time and seeing the Confederate graves marked with Confederate flags. I remember walking through the cemetery of another church and being told that the graves just outside the fence were the graves of slaves. That church used to have slaves sit outside the open windows of the sanctuary to participate in the worship services from afar.

I also remember being on the campus of Reformed Theological Seminary in Jackson when the term "woke" started being used there. A student formed a group on campus called the Reformed African American Network (RAAN). They started using a lot of the popular "woke" language of the day with the full support of the seminary. Their leader even started calling for reparations. It wasn't long until the president of the seminary was accused by many of being a social justice warrior and cultural Marxist (other terms I learned during my time at RTS). The RAAN morphed into The Witness: A Black Christian Collective. They don't consider themselves Reformed anymore.

Many of the cultural issues that are swirling around us now as a nation were swirling around me in Mississippi: family decay, homosexuality, education, racism, being woke, the drift of the church from being Christ-centered to being social justice-centered. Maybe Faulkner had a point.

Charles Spurgeon said, "She who marries today's fashion is tomorrow's widow." Our church leadership wants to equip you to deal with hot button issues in a Biblical way. That's the point. We want you married to the only Bridegroom who will never let you down—the Lord Jesus Christ. He'll play a major role in this series because the answers to our deepest questions, and deepest needs, are found in Him. Come to our Wednesday night study at 6:00 p.m and we'll think about some of these things together. And while you're at it, invite a friend or neighbor.

Posted by Heath Cross

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