Archive for the ‘Sermons’ Category

The Christmas Story like you’ve never heard it!

This came from our Women’s Bible study on the Gospel of Matthew.

The Gospel of Matthew Chapter 2

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Lesson 2 of the series “Our Blessed Hope” is now available on youtube. The title is “The Marriage Feast of the Lamb” from Revelation 19. In this lesson we will explore how the traditional Jewish wedding tradition is a picture of the Church as the Bride of Christ. I pray that you enjoy it, and learn something new!


I hope you will subscribe to our youtube channel to receive the studies as they become available. Please “like” and “share” as well. I pray that God will lead us in our teaching of His Word.


“The Marriage Feast of the Lamb”


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I’ve finally had time to record and upload the latest Hebrews lesson – Chapter 11. Here is the audio link Hebrews Chapter 11

Chapter 11 is known as the “Faith Chapter”. How would you define “faith”? Listen and see how this study describes “faith” and those heroes who left us such a legacy.

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Our 2017 Easter Sunday message audio – “10 Lessons from the Road”

The two on the road to Emmaus were “Easter people” and didn’t even know it. Jesus came alongside them, and they didn’t recognize Him. All they saw was the “doom and gloom” that clouded their eyesight. The war had been won, but the battle raged on.


And so are we, “Easter people”. And though we say we know it, we still walk with our eyes and our hearts downcast. We say we know that Jesus walks with us, but our feet drag and our shoulders sag.


O Father, warm our hearts and revive our spirits. Cause us to reach for the Living Bread, and allow us to see the nail-scarred hands reaching out to us. Then, oh Father, may we jump up and run to tell others that He IS alive and we CAN face whatever the day may bring! Because He lives, we CAN face tomorrow (and today, too.)


In His precious Name I pray – Amen.

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The 2017 Good Friday service from Huckleberry Springs Church

It was a great service. You should have been there 🙂

Good Friday sermon and music 

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Today’s Palm Sunday sermon “The ‘Choosing of the Lamb’ Day” is now available on SoundCloud.

“The ‘Choosing of the Lamb’ Day”

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Questions Along the Way

Do you ever have times when you feel like the ground is completely giving away beneath you? Perhaps this message, taken from the series “From Supper to Sunrise” will encourage you.

Jesus and the disciples have just left the Upper Room and are headed to the Garden of Gethsamane – and they are feeling the weight of the moment… and they have questions.

Do you also have questions when times are troubling. May God use these words to encourage you. Amen.


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Christmas Eve Service Huckleberry Springs 12/24/15


Then and Now


I dare say that there is not a person here this evening who does not know the Christmas story. In fact – the mere fact that you’ve taken this time out of your Christmas Eve celebrations with family and friends to be here speaks volumes about the seriousness of your faith. I pray that our music and our message will enhance your Worship experience, this Christmas Eve night.

I listed our scriptures in the bulletin if you brought your Bible and want to follow along. I’m sure you know the stories, but listen as I read them, for a common theme among each of them.

(read Luke 1:5-20; Luke 1:26-38; Matthew 1:18-25; Luke 2:1-14)

Did anyone pick up on the common theme among each scripture? What one thing did the angel say in each encounter – or in Joseph’s case – in his dream?

Do not fear!

We’ve memorized or read or heard these words a thousands time – “Do not fear…” But yet, we seem to somehow think that it was easier for them then, than it is for us, now. So, let’s see…


In our first scripture we saw that Zechariah was a priest and a very old man. He and his wife Elizabeth had no children, which as you know, was a well accepted sign of God’s displeasure in those days. There were hundreds of priests in Zechariah’s day, and when verse 9 tells us that Zechariah was chosen by lot to go into the Holy Place to burn the evening incense, it was a high honor. As he was burning the incense to the Lord, our scripture tells us that an angel (whom we will later find out is none other than Gabriel) appeared to him, standing to the right of the altar of incense. Verse 12 tells us that Zechariah was “troubled when he saw him, and fear gripped him”…

So what was Zechariah afraid of? Well, first of all, it had been over 400 years since God had spoken to His people, and then to be going about a normal routine priestly function (even if it was a great honor) and to look up and a find an angel standing there has got to be a little disconcerting! So Zechariah was afraid of what he saw. What is this going to mean? What is going to happen? It is highly unlikely that Zechariah had ever seen an angel before. What did he look like? How did Zechariah know it was an angel, anyway?

But then the angel said, “Do not be afraid, Zechariah, for your prayer has been heard.” What prayer? What had Zechariah been praying for? Surely to goodness he wasn’t praying for Elizabeth to get pregnant! But, that was the answer, anyway… Sometimes the answers to our prayers aren’t exactly what we expect them to be. Perhaps Zechariah’s prayer was for the Messiah to come – well, John would be the answer to that prayer. Perhaps his prayer was to deliver the people from oppression and sin. And, John was the answer to that prayer, too. Or maybe Zechariah’s prayer was simply, “O Lord, let us hear from You!” And John was definitely the answer to that prayer as well.

If you’re afraid of what you see… God says, “Do not be afraid, I am the answer to your prayer…”


In Luke 1:26, we find the angel Gabriel being dispatched once again. This time he appears to Mary. Mary doesn’t seem to be as disturbed by an angel appearing as she is by what he says. Verse 28 tells us that he said, “Greetings O favored one, the Lord is with you” and then we read that “she was greatly troubled at this statement and kept pondering what kind of salutation this might be…”

In our East Tennessee vernacular we might expect her to say, “What in the world????” But the angel said, “Do not be afraid, Mary for you have found favor with God.” The word “favor” is the Greek word charis and is often translated as “grace.” It means “a gift”. It does not mean one is deemed good enough to be chosen by God – but that God has chosen to give a gift regardless of one’s status.

Before Mary ever received the full account of Gabriel’s message, she was afraid that she had “found favor with God…” Essentially Gabriel said, “Hello Mary! God has chosen to give you a gift”. Now why would that frighten anyone? Often in our culture we expect that a “gift from God” equates to health, wealth and prosperity, but that’s not always what it means. Now, don’t get me wrong – there’s nothing wrong with being blessed with health, wealth and prosperity – but God’s gifts are designed to bring God glory – not us.

Many of you know that our youngest grandson was born in early September. He was a full month early, but appeared to be extremely healthy, and we were so relieved. After a couple of days there began to be some concern that he might have Down’s syndrome. There would need to be blood tests made, and the results wouldn’t be back for a week or so. Our son and daughter-in-law’s pastor and some friends were there when we went back to visit that night. The pastor prayed before he left and he said, “Lord, we know that You have chosen Johnny and Allison to be Jude’s parents…” and right then I knew that Jude would indeed have Down’s syndrome.

God had, in essence, said to John and Allison, and to all our family, “Hello there! You have found favor in My sight and I have chosen to give you a gift!” Were they afraid? You betcha they were, we all were, and still are at times… But God’s gift will always bring Him glory.

I have heard people say “Well, I’m not sure I want that much favor from God!” But do you remember what Mary said? She said, “Behold, the bondslave of the Lord; be it done to me according to Your word.” Submitting yourself to God may be the most difficult and frightening thing you’ll ever do – but it will also be the most rewarding.

If you’re afraid of what you hear… remember the words of Proverbs 3:5-6 Trust in the LORD with all your heart; and lean not unto your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct your paths.

Do not be afraid – God’s gifts are always perfect!


Next we come to Joseph. Poor ole Joseph – bless his heart. I wonder if he ever felt like he was just along for the ride? Here he was, betrothed to Mary – some translations will say he was “engaged” to her – but it was more than that. It was the same as being married – only without living together. To break it off would require an actual divorce – and if she was pregnant – and he knew the baby wasn’t his… Well, that would (by law) require stoning. He had always strived to keep the Law – so – should he do what was right – according to the Law… or should he do the right thing – according to his heart?

I suspect that he went many nights without sleep, trying to come to terms with what lie ahead. Then finally, in utter exhaustion, finally he fell asleep and an angel appeared to him in a dream. We don’t know why the angel didn’t physically appear to Joseph as he did to the others – but at any rate the message was the same “Do not be afraid.” Don’t be afraid to take Mary as your wife. Don’t be afraid to do the right thing – and don’t be afraid of what lies ahead.

If you’re afraid of what lies ahead for you, or if you’re afraid to do the right thing – remember – Do not be afraid, for (as the quote goes) if God leads you to it – He’ll lead you through it…


And finally, there were the shepherds. The shepherds were an interesting lot. By Jesus’ time the Orthodox Jew hated the shepherds. Never mind that Abraham and the Patriarchs were shepherds; never mind that Moses was a shepherd, and the greatest Israelite King of all, David, was a shepherd. The pious Jew hated the shepherds because by that time they were near the bottom of the social ladder. When Jacob and his sons and family went down to Egypt during the famine, they were all nomadic shepherds. When Moses led the Children of Israel out of Egypt some 400 years later less of them were shepherds. And after they returned from Exile in Babylon in 516BC very few were shepherds. It had become a despised trade.

Shepherds were mostly uneducated and unskilled. They were viewed as dishonest, unreliable and because of that, they were not allowed to testify in court. It didn’t matter if you were the only witness to a crime – if you were a shepherd, your testimony was inadmissible – because you were a shepherd. And well, they didn’t bathe very often either. Sheep required care 24/7/365. There were no days off or vacations. And, because of the constant care, they couldn’t keep all the rites and rituals required by the Law – at least the “man-made” portion of the Law; therefore, they were viewed as being constantly ritually unclean.

However, no matter how despised the shepherds were, they were indispensable. The Temple sacrifices required 2 “perfect” first-born lambs every day. Every. Day.  That’s more than 700 lambs a year PLUS the lambs that were needed for Passover and all the other feasts and festivals.

So the shepherds were just doing what their daddies, and granddaddies, and great-granddaddies had done for centuries – keeping watch over their flocks by night… And as the scripture puts it, “the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and (what? I love how the KJV puts it) they were sore afraid.” They were so afraid it hurt!

And what did the angel say? “Do not be afraid. I bring to you good tidings of great joy, which shall be for all people.” Not just those who dress right. Not just those who smell right. Not just those with the right pedigree. All people!

Why were the shepherds afraid? Well, you know, having an angel appear in the night sky might cause some alarm… But here’s what I think really frightened them. The… angel… came… to… them…

To them. The lowest of the low. The most despised. Did they dare believe it?

The message is the same today. Whether you live in a mansion or a mobile home; regardless of how you’re dressed, or how you smell, or what your past reveals, the angel’s message is the same, “Do not be afraid. I bring to you good tidings of great joy, which shall be for all people.”  For we celebrate tonight and tomorrow the birth of a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.

People are still afraid today. We see the condition of the world around us and hear of “wars and rumors of wars”, and yes, we’re afraid of what lies ahead in this coming year. Do we dare believe that God is in control?

We’re not the only ones to face fears such as these.

One of America’s best known poets, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807-1882), composed the words to “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day” on December 25th 1864. When Longfellow penned the words to his poem, America was reeling in the anguish of the Civil War, and was still months away from Lee’s surrender to Grant which would come in the spring of the next year.

As with any composition that touches the heart of the hearer, “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day” flowed from the experience of Longfellow– involving the tragic death of his wife Fanny and the crippling injury of his son Charles from war wounds.

Tragedy struck both the nation and the Longfellow family in 1861. The Civil War began on April 12th, and Fanny Longfellow was fatally burned in an accident on July 10th.

The first Christmas after Fanny’s death, Longfellow wrote in his journal, “How inexpressibly sad are all holidays.” A year after the incident, he wrote, “I can make no record of these days. Better leave them wrapped in silence. Perhaps someday God will give me peace.” Longfellow’s journal entry for December 25th 1862 reads: “‘A merry Christmas’ say the children, but that is no more for me.”

Almost a year later, Longfellow received word that his oldest son Charles, a lieutenant in the Army of the Potomac, had been severely wounded with a bullet passing under his shoulder blades and through his spinal cord. The Christmas of 1863 was silent in Longfellow’s journal.

Finally, on Christmas Day of 1864, he wrote the words of the poem, “Christmas Bells.” Perhaps it was the reelection of Abraham Lincoln, or the possible end of the terrible war, or the fact that his son Charles, had survived his injuries that may have been the occasion for the poem. But in his poem, the Christmas bells loudly proclaimed, “God is not dead.” Even more, the bells announced, “Nor doth He sleep.

God’s Truth, Power, and Justice are affirmed, when Longfellow wrote: “The wrong shall fail, the right prevail.” And the message that the Living God is a God of Peace is proclaimed in the close of the carol: “Of peace on Earth, good will to men.”

History is filled with times that try our souls, and this present day is no exception. However, it is words such as these that bring comfort to our hearts.

And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.



Gracious Lord and Heavenly Father, so many times You have said to us, “Do not fear”, and yet we do. This world is such a fear-ful place. We’re afraid of what we see, what we hear, what lies ahead, and Lord we even fear that You have it all under control… Forgive us. Give us courage, give us peace, and give us grace to be faithful to Your call.

I pray now, Lord, for each home and each family represented here tonight – that You will fill their souls with gladness and joy in this precious season – and may Your presence manifest itself in our lives throughout the year.

We lift our prayer in the wonderful name of Jesus our Lord and Savior – Amen.

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July 4th Weekend Sermon

“How to Heal the Land”


The impetus for the message I want to share with you this morning actually came to me several weeks ago – but – having no set time to share it – I kept procrastinating, thinking, “Oh well… I’ll write it later and put on my blog or something”. Then, last week when Pastor Pat asked me if I wanted to preach today – I knew this was the message God wanted me to share. Not only do I think it’s an important message, but the timing is perfect – for it fits with our 4th of July atmosphere.

Our scripture this morning comes from selected verses from 2 Chronicles chapters 6 and 7. If you’re not familiar with this book, it is found in the Old Testament, about half way between Judges and the Psalms.

Why bring a message for 2015 from an event that took place some 3,000 years ago” Because, as you’ve often heard Pastor Pat say, God’s promises are real!

The setting or context for our scripture is arguably the highest point of Israel’s National history to that date, or maybe even in all of their history; an event even more momentous than Israel’s reemergence as a nation in 1948 – we’re talking about the dedication of Solomon’s Temple.

King David had wanted to build a temple for God, but God told him no, that he was a man of war, and it would be a man of peace who would build it – but God gave the plans for the temple to David. So David was allowed to participate in the design of the Temple. As we come to Second Chronicles, King David has died and Solomon is established as King. Chapters 1-5 detail the building of the Temple and then God filling the temple with His Glory. In chapter 6 the dedication service begins

Chapter 6:13 Now Solomon had made a bronze platform, five cubits long, five cubits wide and three cubits high, and had set it in the midst of the court; and he stood on it, knelt on his knees in the presence of all the assembly of Israel and spread out his hands toward heaven.

Solomon – the king of the mighty Davidic Empire – knelt down – on his knees – in front of all the people, lifted his arms to heaven, and began to pray…

How would we feel today, if our president and the leaders of our nation, went to their knees and lifted their arms to heaven?

First Solomon praised God for His great blessing, and then in verse 19 he asked God to hear his petitions. In verses 20-21 he asked God to protect this Temple; to hear his prayer and the prayers of the people. Then in verses 22-31 he prays a series of specific petitions characterized by a “cause and effect” scenario…

2 Chronicles 6:22-23 If a man sins against his neighbor and is made to take an oath (which he was not supposed to do) and [when] he comes and takes an oath [or repents] before Your altar in this house, then hear from heaven and act and judge Your servants…

2Ch 6:24-25 If Your people Israel are defeated before an enemy because they have sinned against You, and [when] they return to You and confess Your name, and pray and make supplication before You in this house, then hear from heaven and forgive the sin of Your people Israel, and bring them back to the land which You have given to them and to their fathers.

2Ch 6:26-27 When the heavens are shut up and there is no rain because they have sinned against You, and [if] they pray toward this place and confess Your name, and turn from their sin when You afflict them; then hear in heaven and forgive the sin of Your servants and Your people Israel, indeed, teach them the good way in which they should walk. And send rain on Your land which You have given to Your people for an inheritance.

2Ch 6:28-31 If there is famine in the land, if there is pestilence, if there is blight or mildew, if there is locust or grasshopper, if their enemies besiege them in the land of their cities, whatever plague or whatever sickness there is, whatever prayer or supplication is made by any man or by all Your people… each knowing his own affliction and his own pain, and spreading his hands toward this house,

then hear from heaven Your dwelling place, and forgive, and render to each according to all his ways, whose heart You know for You alone know the hearts of the sons of men, that they may fear You, to walk in Your ways as long as they live in the land which You have given to our fathers.

Then in verses 32-33 Solomon addresses the prayers of the foreigner – the immigrant, as we might call him, and guess what? They are the very same.

“Also concerning the foreigner who is not from Your people Israel, when he comes from a far country for Your great name’s sake and Your mighty hand and Your outstretched arm, when they come and pray toward this house,

then hear from heaven, from Your dwelling place, and do according to all for which the foreigner calls to You, in order that all the peoples of the earth may know Your name, and fear You as do Your people Israel, and that they may know that this house which I have built is called by Your name.”

Verses 34-39

When Your people go out to battle against their enemies, by whatever way You shall send them, and [when] they pray to You toward this city which You have chosen and the house which I have built for Your name, then hear from heaven their prayer and their supplication, and maintain their cause.

When they sin against You (for there is no man who does not sin) and You are angry with them and deliver them to an enemy, so that they take them away captive to a land far off or near, if they take thought in the land where they are taken captive, and repent and make supplication to You in the land of their captivity, saying, ‘We have sinned, we have committed iniquity and have acted wickedly’;

if they return to You with all their heart and with all their soul in the land of their captivity, where they have been taken captive, and pray toward their land which You have given to their fathers and the city which You have chosen, and toward the house which I have built for Your name, then hear from heaven, from Your dwelling place, their prayer and supplications, and maintain their cause and forgive Your people who have sinned against You.”

“If/when/then”. “If/when/then.” Over and over Solomon lifted his petitions to heaven because he knew as Paul would later state it in Galatians 6:7 “Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, this he will also reap.” But he also knew that as we read in 1 John 1:9 “If we confess our sins, he who is faithful and just will forgive us our sins…”

And then in verses 40-42 Solomon ends the payer. And this was the dedication prayer at the Temple.

OK – Fast-forward to April 30, 1789. George Washington is being inaugurated as the first president of the United States. At that time, New York City was the capital of the country. When George Washington gave the very first inaugural address, he did just like Solomon at the dedication of the Temple; he acknowledged God’s hand of providence upon the creation of this nation. He said:

“It would be [greatly] improper to omit in this first official act my fervent supplications to the Almighty Who rules over the universe, Who presides in the councils of nations, and Whose providential aids can supply every human defect, that His benediction may consecrate to the liberties and happiness of the people of the United States a Government instituted by themselves for these essential purposes.”

And Washington, too, gave a warning as did Solomon when he said:

“The propitious smiles of Heaven can never be expected on a nation that disregards the eternal rules of order and right which Heaven itself hath ordained”.

In other words – God cannot be expected to bless a nation that disregards His rules of order!

After his speech was over, George Washington led the Senate and the House of Representatives on foot in a procession through the streets of the capital from Federal Hall, the site of the inauguration, to a place that had been appointed for prayer – a little stone church located nearby. In what would later be recorded as the first ever joint session of Congress, the President, the Senate and the Representatives gathered in a Church, so that the first collective act of the newly formed American Government – was to gather for prayer to give thanks, and specifically to commit the future into the holy protection and blessing of the Most High God.

And where was this church? You may actually remember seeing pictures of this church. It’s the little Episcopal Church that sits at the edge of Ground Zero, which at the time of the inauguration, was just a field which belonged to the church.

The very place where Washing prayed to commit the fate of this new nation into the holy protection and blessing of the Most High, was the very place where America was attacked.

But if you remember your Bible history, Solomon’s temple was also destroyed some 300 years later due to the people of God rejecting God’s sovereignty.

But there is still hope. There is still a way to heal our land.

Twenty-three days after Solomon’s prayer and the dedication of the temple – God spoke to Solomon and answered his prayer. And this is what He said:

2 Chronicles 7:12 “Then the LORD appeared to Solomon at night and said to him, ‘I have heard your prayer and have chosen this place for Myself as a house of sacrifice.’” (And it wasn’t just for Israel – in Mark 11:17 Jesus called the Temple “A place of prayer for all the nations”)

Verse 13 – Then God continues with 3 scenarios of judgment “If I shut up the heavens so that there is no rain, or if I command the locust to devour the land, or if I send pestilence among My people…”

These are not necessarily three specific judgments, they are three different types of judgment

In other words

  • if there are “so called” natural disasters – and this covers all of them – drought, famine, floods, fires, hurricanes, tornados, earthquakes, climate change…
  • if the enemy destroys – the word “locust” is often used when talking about a physical enemy (See the book of Joel).
  • or if there is disease – outbreaks and illness

God said, if/when these things happen as judgment – there is a solution

Verse 14

“If My people who are called by My name humble themselves and pray and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, will forgive their sin and will heal their land.”

Oh yeah, yeah, yeah… we’ve heard that before. Yes, we’ve “heard” it before – but have we really heard what it is saying. This is a promise from God. You’ve heard it from this pulpit likely more than any other place – God keeps His promises. You’ve heard Pastor Pat say it – “Nothing is impossible for God” “For in Christ all of God’s promises are ‘Yes’”. And this word from God is just as much a promise as when He said “I will never leave you or forsake you.”

This is the key to everything I’ve shared this morning. So, briefly, let’s break it down.

  • If My people

Who are God’s people? The word literally means “a tribe” or “a flock”. In the context of the Scripture – obviously it is Israel, but in Romans 11, we find that we as Gentiles were grafted in – we’ve been adopted – so we are God’s people.

  • If My people who are called by My name

For something to be called by someone’s name means it is owned by them. Do you refer to yourself as a Christian? Are you called by God’s name? Are you – am I – owned – lock, stock and barrel – by God? Paul said that he was a “Bondservant” to God – that he was totally owned by God.

  • If My people who are called by My name humble themselves

What does it mean to “humble yourself”? The word means “to bend the knee”. When was the last time you “bent your knee” to God? Yes, the Bible lists all kinds of positions for prayer – but there is only one position for humility and it is bowing low or being prostrate before God. Solomon, the king of Israel, knelt down to pray. Are you willing to physically, bow down before Almighty God?

  • If My people who are called by My name humble themselves and pray

What are our prayers like? Keep me safe, heal my hurts, fix my problems, Yes, God cares for His children – but I’m afraid that many times our prayers are in a rut and are all about me and mine…

  • If My people who are called by My name humble themselves and pray and seek My face

Ah – we must seek God’s face. What does this mean – it means we must seek God’s will. What is it that God wants? What is it that brings God Glory? We must seek God’s face. We must look where He looks. But here’s the key to everything…

  • If My people who are called by My name humble themselves and pray and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways

It’s not enough to be called Christian; it’s not enough to kneel down and pray some memorized or rote prayer. It’s not even enough to ask God what is His will… if we’re not going to do it.

“Turn from our wicked ways? What wicked ways?” We have this tendency to think of something “wicked” as things other people do. Our sins are often times so ingrained within us that we don’t even know that what we’re doing is wrong. We’ve talked this way all our lives; we’ve done these things; we’ve watched these programs or surfed these sites. WE don’t see anything wrong with them – but that’s our opinion. What does God have to say about them?

So here’s what we need to do – we need to ask God what is wicked within me. In Psalm 139:23-24 David said, “Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my thoughts. See if there is any wicked way within me, and lead me in the way everlasting.”

Are you willing to lay yourself out before God and ask Him to show you what He wants to change about you? Ask Him if there is any “wicked way within you”? If you’re bold enough to ask Him, I guarantee you, He will show you. The answer might not come this afternoon, but it will come – slowly you will begin to be troubled by things you are saying or things you are doing that are not in accordance to God’s will. If you trust God enough to save you from your sins, shouldn’t you trust Him enough to remove them from you, too?

If God’s people, who are called by His Name will humble themselves, and pray and seek His face, and turn from their wicked ways

Then (He said) “I will hear from heaven, will forgive their sin, and will heal their land…”

Everyone wants their land healed – whether we’re talking about the national land or our own personal land. And this is how we heal our land.

This morning we’re going to open the altar up for one single prayer – “Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my thoughts. See if there is any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.”

The altar is open, if you’re willing to ask God what He wants to change about you. That’s a tough question, and it’s not easy to ask. But God will bless you if you ask it.

Victor is going to sing and then I’ll lift the prayer requests from this morning, and then we’ll have our closing song – but come and pray as long as you want to pray.


——–Now – if you’ve taken the time to read the whole sermon, and are willing to take the challenge of asking God to show you any wicked way within you – let me know. Either comment or e-mail me directly (my e-mail is on the “contact” page). I’d love to know how God answers your prayer, and I’d love to pray for you on your journey.

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This is a lesson based on a Maundy Thursday service. Put yourself in the disciples’ place. What would that meal have been like for you?

The Comfort of the Familiar

(The Disciples’ Last Passover)

You know how it is – you’re tired; you’re stressed out; it’s been a tough few days (or weeks, or months) and all you want to do is “space out”. Yeah, space out… put some old movie on the tv that you’ve seen a thousand times and can practically recite every word – put it on and just let the familiar wash over you like a cleansing shower. You don’t want to have to figure out the plot, or “who-dun-it” or “will she get the guy…?” You don’t even want to think – you just want the comfort of the familiar.

I don’t mean to be irreverent or sacrilegious, but I wonder if that might not have been the attitude of the disciples going into that last Passover meal? Think about it…

The past few months had been increasingly stressful. Ever since Jesus’ question of “Who do men say that I, the Son of Man, am?” And Peter’s declaration of “You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God”! The atmosphere had changed. Jesus seemed more determined to be heading toward – something – that the disciples couldn’t quite put their finger on… Every time they turned around, He was talking about going to Jerusalem and being handed over and dying – or “lifted up” as He called it. What in the world was He talking about? And not only that, but the tension between the disciples had become palatable! “Who’s the most important?” “Who’s the greatest?” “Where are we going to sit when He comes into His glory?” “How’s it all going to work?” “Where’s it going to be?” “When’s it going to happen?” And on and on they went. Every time Jesus mentioned dying, they ignored the statement and began discussing – or rather arguing about what their status was going to be. They just didn’t get it.

And what was up with all the secrecy? “Go into the village and you will see a donkey with a colt tied beside her, untie them and bring them to Me. And if anyone asks you what you’re doing just say ‘the Lord needs them’ and he will let you bring them…” How did He know there would be a donkey with a colt tied with her…? He certainly didn’t seem so secretive when He went riding into Jerusalem in broad daylight with all the people shouting “Hosanna!” But, on what should have been a joyous occasion, they noticed that Jesus was sad… even crying at one point…

And then there was that whole “Passover meal” maneuver – “Go into the city and look for a man carrying a pitcher of water. Follow him to his house and say to him ‘The Master says “where is the guest room…’” Yeah, ok… oh wait! A man carrying a pitcher of water? (Cue the “Twilight Zone” music here.) How could He know that? And why was He trying to hide His movements from them of all people? If He couldn’t trust these twelve men after living with them for three years – I mean – who could He trust?

Yes, these past few months had truly been like an out of control roller coaster ride, so I think the disciples were looking forward to the Passover meal like we look forward to that “mindless activity” that allows us to put ourselves on autopilot for at least a few hours. Think about it – they had each participated in the yearly Passover celebration for their entire lives – 30, 40, or maybe even 50 years for some of them. They knew what would happen, when it would happen, and how it would happen. They could recite the Haggadah (the ritual) in their sleep! They each had likely filled the role as the youngest child asking the four questions concerning the reason for the meal, as well as filling the “head of household” role in their own homes. And, as important as this celebration was – still – one could relax and enjoy the “comfort of the familiar” for at least one night. Yes, this night would be, to the disciples, what “comfort food” is to us… or so they thought…

And then the meal began…

First, the festival candles were lit, and after a response, Jesus lifted the first cup of wine, the cup of sanctification or blessing, which represented God’s promise of “I will bring you out…” and each of them drank of it.

After that, the head of household, or host would wash his hands in preparation for the remainder of the meal, however, when Jesus stood to wash His hands, instead of simply washing His hands, He took off His outer garment, wrapped the towel around His waist just like a servant would, and went to the entrance table and took the pitcher of water and basin that had been prepared for their dusty feet. The disciples immediately began thinking, “What in the world is He doing??? Then… He began to wash the feet of each one of the disciples, including Judas. And He said to them, “You call Me Teacher and Lord, and you are right, for so I am. If I then, the Lord and the Teacher, washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I gave you an example that you also should do as I did to you. Truly, truly, I say to you, a slave is not greater than his master, nor is one who is sent greater than the one who sent him. If you know these things, you are blessed if you do them.”

Well, that certainly put them in their place! But, after that unusual interlude, the meal, and ritual continued. The bread of affliction was broken, and the story retold. The questions were asked, the responses made, the foods eaten, and the Psalms sung… all according to the Haggadah, the order of worship. As the hours passed the disciples seemed to have forgotten that Jesus varied from the usual when He washed their feet, because really, the service hadn’t gotten started good when He did that. And He was always using “teachable moments” as they came up, so really there appeared to be nothing unusual about this Passover celebration… until… Until the second cup, the “cup of judgment” was lifted. When Jesus lifted this cup, and they all knew full well that this was “the cup of judgment”, He said, “One of you will betray Me…” He even added, as if they thought they hadn’t heard Him correctly, “the one who is eating with me.” Well shoot! They were all eating with Him! And so they began asking, “Surely not I, Lord?” meaning, “It’s not me, is it?”

As this discussion was going on, Judas leaned over and said, “Surely it’s not I, is it Rabbi?” But with all the talk, the disciples missed what Jesus said, and the next thing they knew, Judas got up and left. Well, perhaps Jesus needed Judas to go get something else for the meal. Judas did have the money, after all. But, after Judas left, Jesus then turned back to continue the Passover meal. He picked up the middle loaf of the three loaves of unleavened bread, held it up, said a blessing over it and then to their utter surprise said, “You see this bread? This bread is My Body”, and then He broke it in two! Well, actually He ripped it in two! And then they completely understood. He is going to die!  His body is going to be ripped apart. These words were not part of the Haggadah, this was something completely new.

Then He took the third cup of wine – the cup of redemption, thanked God for it and said, “This is My blood of the new covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.” As Jews, the disciples all knew and understand that in order for there to be redemption, and in order for there to be a covenant, that blood… must… be… shed. And Jesus was saying that it was His blood that was going to be shed.

When He said these words, the Passover Seder was forever changed. The disciples may have come to this night wanting just a few hours of the comfort of the familiar – but what they got changed their lives forever. They would leave this place asking lots of questions, which Jesus would answer on His way to the Garden of Gethsemane. He would pray for them, and then spend time in prayer for Himself. He would be tried by six illegal trials, beaten, flogged, humiliated, spit upon, and finally crucified. And then, after three days… He would rise – the “first fruits” of all believers!

The disciples would keep the great commission to take the gospel to Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and to all the world. And for that, most would die a martyr’s death, but they never again discussed who would be the greatest, and I don’t think they sought out “the comfort of the familiar” ever again, either.

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