Good morning. I was with many of you in here last week when, at the end of the service Pastor George was so moved by the Spirit that he began to cry. He had a hard time getting the words out to end the service and I said to him afterwards, “Thanks George for being so real. But now I don’t know how I can follow you next week when I preach.” He laughed and said; “Well you can just talk about how I was blubbering.” I don’t know about you, but I rejoiced that we have a pastor that shows emotion. Now it might be a little suspect if he ended that way every week, but to see a pastor touched by the very things he is calling us to be touched by. Well to me, that’s real. And realness is what I desire. Hey, that is one of the reasons that God called me to Youth Ministry. Each week I get a dose of reality working with students from hearing the fresh perspective on what scripture means to a sixth grader who isn’t yet jaded by the world to the harsh reality of just how old 34 is in the eyes of a teenager. Being real can be painful, but I would suggest that it is what strengthens the bond in a community of people.
At a conference in Chicago a couple weeks ago, we kept hearing the term authentic community. This idea of moving beyond superficial conversation and spiritual cliché’s to a place where we are truly known and loved and challenged, and that appeals to me so much. It appeals to me because I believe it represents the kind of community that God calls us to in the Bible. It is especially evident to me in how real Jesus is when we look at these scriptures from Mark. In the scriptures we read together, we see a picture of a God who has the same kind of emotions that we do. I shared with you guys in here before that my favorite scripture is in the Book of Genesis, Chapter 6, Verse 6. It says that the Lord was sorry that he had made us and that it broke his heart. It says God hurts. And that’s real. And that’s something that gets me in touch with God. Most of us understand the idea of a faraway huge God that created the universe. The Hebrew word for that aspect of God is . But there is also the aspect of a God that is close, that he is the very air that we breathe, and the Hebrew word for that is Yahweh. A God that is far and near. Elohim and Yahweh. How hard it is to get our minds around that. Yet how fundamental to understanding the different aspects of God in our own lives.
Well, here in Mark, we see another example of Yahweh. God who is near. We see a picture of Christ Incarnate, Christ in the flesh. Mark 6:5 and 6, shows Jesus amazed at the people’s disbelief. At this point in Mark, Jesus had performed the following miracles that are recorded. He had healed the woman with a bleeding problem, brought a little girl back from the dead, healed a man possessed with a legion of demons, calmed a fierce storm, healed a man’s deformed hand, healed a paralyzed man, Peter’s mother-in-law and a man with leprosy. He had done all this and returned to his hometown where according to the scripture, he was going to do some mighty miracles, but it says because of their unbelief, he couldn’t. Okay. I have to pause right here for just a second to make this point. Wow. This blows me away from the first time I read it and every single time I look at it now, listen it says and because of their unbelief; he couldn’t do any mighty miracles among them. Except to place his hands on a few sick people and heal them. Does that excite you? It excites me because healing people isn’t what Jesus considers mighty. Healing people is just kind of an everyday, run of the mill, normal thing for Jesus. That’s kind of like me remembering to take out the trash on Thursday morning without Patti telling me to, that’s a minor miracle. A mighty miracle would be, if I made the bed every morning for a week. I hear that, Amen. Healing people is just a little thing that Christ wants to do for us. The mighty miracles are reserved for the communities that believe.
What did Christ really have in store for the people of Nazareth? How would their story have been different if they had believed? And even more than that, how will Central look different if we will join together in believing that God wants to do a mighty miracle in our community. When they asked me to teach at the three services a couple months ago, nobody said plug 40 Days of Purpose. That never came up, but I tell you as I prepared what I believe God laid on my heart to share with you, I couldn’t escape the fact that we are about to embark on a journey that I believe God wants to do a mighty miracle through. I offer up to you this, if we will join together as a community and believe with all our hearts that the Holy Spirit is going to do a work in each one of us, and our community as a whole, I believe we will see a miracle take place here that none of us imaged, but it is going to take belief and us giving up our doubts.
I want to look at a clip real quickly that some of you guys might know the movie, “Signs” and you are thinking how in the world does that fit, but in the middle of this movie they talk about what faith is, and they use some different language, they talk about luck and coincidences, but listen as we watch this and hear what faith is to each of us. If you haven’t seen “Signs”, I can tell you that it is not a family movie to watch with little kids. It’s a suspense movie dealing with the ideas of aliens from another world that comes to do us harm, but right in the middle of this movie it was meant to scare us and it was very intense, edge of my seat suspenseful and God shows up here and speaks the truth. What’s funny to me is I doubt that the producer had any intention of leading people to Christ through this movie. But God works in mysterious ways. God made the arts. He is the original creative master. And the more I watch movies with him in mind, the more I see Christ redeeming themes woven into stories that creative writers don’t always intentionally put there. So in the middle of this film, we find a great description of faith and it calls us to action. What do we believe? Are we miracle men and miracle women?
(Need to transcribe the text of the clip)
Mark 9:23 and 24, sees a man called by Christ to the same kind of faith action and again in this, I sense a realness emotion from Jesus in these words. He is speaking to this man and he says, what do you mean if I can, Jesus asked? The man had just asked him, If you can heal my son, would you do it? And Jesus says, “What do you mean, if I can?” And do you get the sense of frustration, amazement, maybe indignation from Jesus? Here is yet another person questioning who he is and however innocently the man may have meant it, it came across as unbelief and who can blame the father. His son the scripture tells us has been possessed by an evil spirit for years that caused the boy to often try to kill himself. Time after time, the father had to deal with the boy falling into the water, and we assume he was trying to drown himself, or falling into the fire burning himself, the scripture says. And now he is having violent convulsions. The man had just seen the disciples of Christ fail in their attempt to cast a demon out and surely the man had to be thinking, if these godly men who followed Jesus can’t heal my son, maybe the stories of Christ are exaggerated. And how painful that must have been for him after he put himself out there. But still he asked Jesus to do it, at the same time questions his ability and Jesus gives us hope; give us all hope in his answer. Anything is possible if a person believes. He says, anything is possible if a person believes. And here is what I love most about this encounter, this many is real. Listen to the man’s reply. The father instantly replied, I do believe, but help me not to doubt. How honest is that? How much does that reach into the midst of our souls and tug at who we are? Jesus we do believe, but help us not to doubt. I don’t know about you, but I believe and I doubt all at the same time. I believe that God called me into Youth Ministry, but I doubt sometimes how effective I am now that I don’t speak the same language, and I have lost my hair. I believe that God gave me the perfect wife in Patti, but many times I doubt that one day she won’t get tired of me being lazy, and always trying to fix her problems, and try to find somebody better. I believe God will take care of my every need because of what he has brought me through, but so often I doubt him with our finances. Is there any one of us who doesn’t struggle with belief and doubt just like this father did? And I love where this father puts his doubt, right at the feet of Jesus. The father says, help me not to doubt. He takes responsibility for his belief. He says right away that he believes, but he gives Jesus his doubt. The man does not turn away in shame. He doesn’t proclaim, I will never doubt you again. He acknowledges his doubt right along side his belief and he asks Jesus to help him. We all need to do that this morning. We all need to realize that God has given us the freedom to choose between belief and unbelief, and I pray that each one of you will choose belief this morning, but the scripture says to me that we all have doubts and to be free from it requires a daily giving it over to God.
I want to ask a student to come forward and read a couple of journal entries.
Journal entry #45: My testimony is kind of starting over. It’s full of thanks to God for always being so forgiving. Some people’s testimony is about how they came to know God or how God is working in their lives right now or what he has done in the past. I don’t even remember the date or how old I was when I accepted Jesus, but to me the important thing is just knowing that I have eternal life, I am not perfect, but I am forgiven.
Journal entry #72: Lord, I failed you today just like yesterday. I judged, I said things that I shouldn’t have said, I swore a lot and I knew you were there. Tomorrow, whatever I speak let it be your words. I am only human, and I need you to pick me up God and love me. Whatever was that lyric, something about falling so you could carry me, you know what I mean Lord; well that’s what I want to do. I can’t do this alone. I need you. Give me the wisdom to be like you.
Thanks. Those journal entries come from a journal of a girl name Sarah Podlin and Sarah was in my youth group when I worked in Chicago, and she died last year in her junior year of high school in a car accident. They read those at her funeral, and I am just blown away by this girl who my family loved, and who was loved by just so many that just so real they were that she struggled with her faith everyday. She believed she led so many people into the Kingdom, but she struggled with doubts, and with the things that she didn’t do right, but she kept on trying and that journal just reflects that. The idea is not about being perfect, but it is striving for that perfection that is not going to happen until Jesus completes it the day he takes us home. That’s the kind of faith that keeps Jesus from being amazed at our unbelief and leaving him to simply do some minor miracles and moving on to do the mighty miracles in some other community. You can look through the history of different churches and see windows of opportunities that God opened for them, for him to do a mighty miracle in their midst and I believe that some congregations take advantage of that window, and their communities are changed forever, and I believe that some congregations missed that window because of their unbelief. I truly believe that we are in a window of opportunity here at Central, and that this spring we can see God work in a mighty way if we will believe.
We only see Jesus amazed in two places in scripture. One, is this time of unbelief. The other is the time when the people did believe. The rest of the time we see amazement in the scriptures, it was from other people amazed by Jesus. Are you amazed by Jesus this morning? I have one more scripture to share with you that has had me amazed the last few weeks. In Mark 10, Verse 51, a blind beggar named Bartimaeus comes to be standing in front of Jesus and Jesus asked Bartimaeus, what do you want me to do for you? And Bartimaeus tells Jesus, I want to see. And I think that Bartimaeus had to be amazed in probably three different ways here. The first was, Jesus was talking to him. In the previous verses, we see the people trying to keep Bartimaeus from speaking to Jesus. People who are following Jesus were trying to keep the blind men away instead of trying to help him, so the fact that Jesus was calling on him and talking to him, that was probably surprise number one. Secondly, Jesus asked Bartimaeus what he wants and if I am Bartimaeus, I am amazed that Jesus asked. I am going to be like, do you not see that I am blind. And then finally, Bartimaeus has to be amazed that in Verse 52, Jesus heals him. See it is us who are often amazed by Jesus, but only when we have faith. We Jesus heals Bartimaeus, he makes it very clear what he has been talking about. Jesus says, your faith has healed you. May your faith in Christ heal you this morning.
Let’s pray. Lord, thank you that you just call us to believe. You just call us to have faith and you do the rest. You just have us put our doubts and our struggles and our fears and all of that at your feet and you take care of it. You just say, believe in me and I will do the rest. Lord, this morning as each of us thinks about what it is that we struggle with, that we doubt about you, I just pray that we would have the faith to be healed by putting those things at your feet Lord and then as a community through this, through us joining together in this belief, we will see a mighty miracle take place. Amen.
You guys can sit down for just a minute more. I came in today without going back to the story of the blind beggar and the question Jesus asked. What do you want me to do for you? What do you want? A question that struck a cord deep inside of me. When I heard that a few weeks ago I was moved to tears. As I felt that Jesus was asking me this question that I couldn’t answer. As I tried to sort out in my head what I would ask, I was caught up in the realization that much of what I want is so superficial that as I stand before Jesus I couldn’t waste my answer or anything trivial.
I’ve wanted two things in my life that I can remember. The first was to do Youth Ministry, I believe that desire came from God, and he fulfilled that desire. The second thing I can remember wanting with all my heart is to marry my wife. He gave me that desire as well. But to tell you what I want now from God, I still don’t know. I’m still searching for what the desire of my heart is from God.
But what about you? What is the desire of your heart this morning? God is not some cosmic genie that grants wishes, but He is the God that loves you so much that if you were trying to be in his will, he longs to give you the deepest desire of your heart. I want to be honest, I know there are people in here that have been praying for a long time for someone they love in their family to be healed, for someone to start a relationship with Christ, or something else that is so important to them that it would glorify God if it happened. But it hasn’t happened yet, and I don’t know why that is. I would say that if someone tries to tell you the reason for that- run the other way. We don’t know why God choose to do some things and not others.
All I know is that this morning we have the opportunity to go before God and answer the question he give us – What do you want me to do for you? What do you want and then somehow through our belief and our giving him our doubt God is going to do some mighty miracles in this place. Amen.
If you would like to we have a pond up here on the stage for you to use as a visual representation for your request to God. As we end the service now I invite you to leave the sanctuary in silence contemplating with God your desire. The pond is here for those of you who would like to come forward before you leave and light a candle that represents that desire and kind of push I out floating before God. If you want to do that you just come up and take some time. There’s a couple of baskets up here for your offering if you don’t want to that’s find. We just ask that as you leave, leave quietly and there are offering plates in the back for you. Let’s just spend the next few minutes with God.