Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Pass It On


Key Scripture: Mark 11:22 Have faith in God.

If someone were to ask me what I am, I would say that I am a teacher of the Word of God. My most studied subject in the Bible is faith and I love to
teach its power to heal the sick, move mountains, perform miracles, and
prosper the souls of the righteous. Faith changed my life and I know it will
change yours too.

Jesus lived by faith … Faith which affected every area of His life and
ministry. Jesus’ life was filled with mountain moving moments as He went
from the place of prayer to the place of prayer and did miracles in between.
Faith is a fruit of the spirit which grew in Jesus’ life due to His
relationship with God.

Faith will always be the result of relationship with God. How do we develop
our relationship with God? By coming to know Him through His Word and His works. The more we know about Him, the greater our opportunity to understand His Word, His Will and His Way.

So, as a teacher, teaching faith, I know that I must lay a foundation of and
properly prepare the soil of our souls to receive God’s Word and grow
greater faith. It is God’s will that every Believer be taught the Word and
Works of God. No one can beat a good Bible education … it will pay huge and eternal dividends.

Each week you allow me to give you the benefit of my decades of intense
study in order to better prepare your soul to grow great faith. Tonight’s
message is no different. Here I am again, preparing your heart to have faith in God.

As best I can understand at this point, Jesus was born around the year 4BC. It seems reasonable to assume that Mary and Joseph moved to the city of Nazareth, which is about 15 miles east of the Sea of Galilee, within the first 5 years of Jesus’ life. Jesus was raised the supposed son of a
carpenter along with His brothers and sisters like any other Jewish boy of
His day. He went to school at the local synagogue, learned to read from the Torah, grew up and worked to help the family with their needs.

In about the year AD26, when Jesus was 30 years old, He went to be baptized in the Jordan River near Jericho by His cousin, John the Baptist, who ministered in the spirit of Elijah as one crying in the wilderness,
fulfilling the prophecies of old. After this, Jesus was led by the Spirit of
God out into the wilderness of Judea where He defeated every temptation
offered by the devil.

Returning to His home town of Nazareth and to His home church, the synagogue in Nazareth, Jesus preached the first message revealing who He really was. This message is recorded in the book of Luke, chapter 4, beginning along verse 18. The men who heard the message were so offended they seized Jesus and led Him to the edge of a cliff, determined to throw Him to His death. By the power of God Jesus turned and walked through the crowd who were unable to harm Him. He told them that no prophet is without honor, except in his own country and among his own people.

From that day Jesus chose the towns of Bethsaida and Capernaum as His home. He walked along the shores of the Sea of Galilee and found twelve men whom He called to be His disciples. He spent three years showing these men the love of God and teaching them about the Kingdom of Heaven. He invested Himself in these 12 and raised them up to continue the work of God in His place.

In about the year AD30 Jesus was betrayed by one of His disciples and
crucified on a Roman cross for no crime at all. His death was the promised
spotless sacrifice which paid the eternal price for all sin forever. Through
this sacrifice God reconciled mankind to Himself and opened a door to
eternal life for every person who believes in and receives Jesus as both
Lord and Savior.

The disciple who betrayed Jesus lost the position to which God had called
him. As the prophecies foretold, another person had to be chosen to replace this disciple as an Apostle to the Church. The remaining eleven disciples knew this must take place and determined among themselves to choose a replacement named Matthias. However, I do not believe that Matthias was God’s choice.

In fact, some 5 years later a young zealot, a Pharisee named Saul of Tarsus, who had a reputation for persecuting Jews who believed in Jesus as Messiah, was on his way to Damascus to search out and imprison Jewish followers of Jesus. While still on the road before reaching Damascus Saul was suddenly surrounded by a great light and heard the voice of Jesus speak to him from heaven. As a result of this experience and the miracles which followed, Saul of Tarsus was converted, became a believer in Jesus as Messiah, accepted the call of God and began to preach Christ to the Jews.

People were astonished and afraid of Saul. Unsure of his motives many
believers would not accept Saul’s conversion. This however did not stop
brother Saul from serving his new found faith in Christ. With a show of
sincere and consistent commitment to the Lord, Saul of Tarsus, former
persecutor of the church, became known as Paul the Apostle, a servant of the living gospel of the Lord Jesus.

Given this divine intervention and personal commission by Jesus Christ, it
seems evident to many believers and accepted by scholars in all ages that
Paul the Apostle to the Gentiles was called and set into the place vacated
by Judas Iscariot, fulfilling the scriptures that another man would take the
place of the one who betrayed Christ.

Although Paul attempted to preach the gospel to Jews, he was not received and therefore was given to understand that he had been specially
commissioned to carry the good news of Jesus to the Gentile nations. Thus
we see his missionary journeys filled with gentile conversions carrying out
the great commission to the world.

When the Apostle Paul was finally imprisoned in Rome, many think about the year AD61, perhaps as late as AD65, he wrote some final letters. One such letter written was addressed to the son of a Greek man whom Paul had trained in the ministry. This disciple was at this time living in Ephesus where he was serving as Senior Pastor to the church in that city. The young man I am referring to is none other than Timothy.

What was the final admonition of this elderly Apostle of the Lamb? What were the last words of instruction and encouragement given to Timothy by Paul? Let’s look at 2 Timothy, chapter 2 and see.

2 Timothy 2:2 And the things that you have heard from me among many
witnesses, commit these to faithful men who will be able to teach others

What were Paul’s parting words to Timothy? Simply … Pass It On!

Pass on the Good News … what Good News? The Good News of Jesus … God’s Living Word!

The same message Jesus preached in His first sermon that day in Nazareth…the Good News!

Luke 4
18 "The Spirit of the LORD is upon Me, Because He has anointed Me To preach
the gospel to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, To
proclaim liberty to the captives And recovery of sight to the blind, To set
at liberty those who are oppressed;
19 To proclaim the acceptable year of the LORD."

1. You don’t have to be poor anymore
2. You don’t have to live brokenhearted
3. You can be free from physical bondage
4. Your blind eyes can see again
5. You can be free from mental and emotional bondage
6. Your inheritance has been restored

Jesus gave a six point outline and when they did not believe the Word, Jesus began to expound the reality of the scriptures by interpreting scripture with scripture. He did then what I do here tonight … teach you the Word by teaching you the Works of God in hopes to help you have great faith in God.

Jesus expounded:

Point 1: You don’t have to be poor anymore.

Luke 4
25 "Certainly there were many widows in Israel who needed help in Elijah’s time, when there was no rain for three and a half years and hunger stalked the land.26 Yet Elijah was not sent to any of them. He was sent instead to a widow of Zarephath—a foreigner in the land of Sidon.

Point 2: You don’t have to live brokenhearted …

27 Or think of the prophet Elisha, who healed Naaman, a Syrian, rather than
the many lepers in Israel who needed help."

That’s as far as Jesus got in His exposition before:

28 When they heard this, the people in the synagogue were furious.
29 Jumping up, they mobbed him and took him to the edge of the hill on
which the city was built. They intended to push him over the cliff,
30 but he slipped away through the crowd and left them.
31 ¶ Then Jesus went to Capernaum, a town in Galilee, and taught there in
the synagogue every Sabbath day.

In order to live by faith we must:
1. Learn the Good News
2. Live the Good News
3. Pass It On

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Divine Appointments


Most of you know me as Ashley. Some of you know me as Pastor Ashley. But everyone knows me as Pastor Ron’s son. Today is a special day for me. I have never gotten the opportunity to speak here at the church. The last time I was schedule there was a hurricane. I’d like to start by telling you a little bit about the last decade of my life. I’ll try to keep it short so that it shouldn’t take more than about three hours. I was 18 when I got married, went into the Air Force and moved away from here. I had some growing up to do. I had been raised in this church for over half of my life at the time. I had no idea what an adventure God had in store for me. I didn’t always make the right choices or the best decisions. In reality, most of them were wrong and many of them very costly. I can’t say that I always lived as a Christian should. Since then I’ve come to the conclusion that through my ups and downs, right and wrong choices, good and bad days, God just wouldn’t leave me alone. There were things that He needed done and even though I still don’t know why, He seemed to want me to do them. Well, I think I could spend the next 11 years talking about the last 11 years, but that’s enough about me…for now. I’d like to tell you a story about another person who God needed to get something done.

It’s the story of a young Jewish girl named Esther.

The book of Esther starts by recording the wickedness of Haman; he was the second highest official in the kingdom of Xerxes. Xerxes was the world’s most powerful leader, who ruled from Ethiopia to India in over 127 provinces (Esther 1:1).Esther was just a young girl growing up in a foreign land. She had no idea what God had in store for her. With no parents, she was under the care of her older cousin, Mordecai. By God’s certain doing, the King banished his Queen and had young women from the entire kingdom come and try out for the new position. Esther was one of those women and for a year she was pampered and taught by her maids. In the evenings, she would walk in the courtyard while Mordecai would counsel her on how to act and what to say.

Meanwhile, Haman had a law put into place that on a certain day in the year, anyone in the kingdom could kill a Jew and take their home and possessions without punishment.The King was married to Esther who was a Jew, but this was unknown to the king and his people. Haman hated Mordecai and so decided to have him hung; he built a gallows about 75 feet high and then went off to get the King’s permission. That night the King could not sleep and the book containing their recent history was read to him. The King discovered from that book that Mordecai had foiled the king's attempted assassination (Chapter 6).In the early morning Haman went to see the King to ask permission to hang Mordecai. First the King asked him how best to honor someone. Haman thought the King was talking about him and encouraged him to do great things to honor this person. The King replied "well go and do so to Mordecai". Haman was humiliated!

Mordecai meets with Esther in chapter four and tells her of Haman’s law and encourages her to go to the king without being summoned and persuade him to reverse the law. This is a big deal as going to the king uninvited was punishable by beheading. Esther has Mordecai get the people to pray and fast for three days.In chapter seven Esther risks her life to tell the King that Haman wanted to kill her people. The King is so angry that he orders Haman to be hung on the gallows that he had made for Mordecai.Esther reveals that Mordecai is a relative and the King promotes him to Haman’s position. Mordecai reverses the old law that said the Jews should have been killed on a certain day, but instead says the Jews should protect themselves and defeat their enemies on that day

Key Scripture: Esther 4:14b "… Yet who knows whether you have come to the kingdom for such a time as this?"

This was an extreme example of “A Divine Appointment”. God put us in places, at certain times, for different reasons and most of the time, it’s not about us. Has God ever done that to you?

How can we see Divine Appointments as such?

Last year, I was put to one of my greatest challenges yet. I was working at the church part-time and had just gotten out of our Monday morning Bible Study. We have different people who come and that day one of our College girls was there and needed a ride to Lamar. Now I’m not in the habit of giving rides to young College girls to school alone, so, sorry ladies… Anyway, the Holy Spirit pressed me to take her. I struggled with it and asked God, “Are You sure?” He was, so I went. She didn’t have to leave for 30 minutes, but I felt we had to leave right then. I thought I had an idea of how God was going to use me with all my amazing spiritual abilities and insight. I knew God wanted me to speak into her life, but as it turned out, I was wrong. Nothing! As she closed the door and walked to her dorm, I asked God why I needed to be the one to take her. I dialed my pregnant wife that I hadn’t called or told her where I was and what I was doing because of the Holy Spirit’s push to go so quickly and as I talked with TK and turned on to MLK heading back to the Church, a car going about 60 mph, slid out of control crashing into the stopped car in front of it. I knew why I was there. I hung up and ran to the scene of the accident. It was bad. I had seen “bad” many times before and this was it. As I opened the door on the driver’s side to assess the situation, I saw a woman in her 50s dazed from the air bag and heard the screams of a baby in the back. Without thought I ran to the other side opening to door to find an 11 month old dangling by his arm in the floorboard with the car seat turned upside down, the strap wrapped around his wrist. There was a lot of blood. Apparently, the woman, who was the child’s grandmother, had been drinking and in a hurried state, had not buckled him into the car seat, nor did she buckle the car seat into the car. I grabbed him, car seat and all, and ran calling out to another to get the grandmother to safety because the car had began to smoke. I have been in Radiology for over a decade now. I’ve worked all over the world. Over the years, I’ve specialized in different areas of Radiology including Pediatric Trauma. I worked at Children’s in Oakland for over two years. As I began to assess the baby as all my training and experience had taught me I quickly realized I was in wanting. I held him to my chest looking up and pleading with God to help as there was nothing I could do to save this young and fading life. With that, the baby went quiet and limp. Looking back down, thinking he had arrested from a tension pneumothorax or cardiac tamponod, I started my algorithms for resuscitation but found the baby looking at me calmly and smiling. I wiped the blood from his face and body only to find a ¼ in. cut on his right cheek. I checked his body again and the only thing I can say is that the things I saw and felt before were not there anymore, they were fixed. The paramedics arrived and I gave a statement to the police and left. I went home and changed clothes as my shirt had blood on it and my hands were covered with it. I went back to work and received a phone call from the policeman I’d given my statement to. He wanted to go over the part about the child not being in his car seat. So, I recounted the story again and asked if there was a problem with the encounter. He told me given all the details from the wreck and my story along with the others, he couldn’t understand why the baby was 100% fine and that cut on his cheek was now just a little scratch. Was I hurt? Was it my blood? No, I answered, it was a miracle. What a testimony!

If we are going to have Divine Appointments we are going to have to be:
1.Ready – prepared for immediate use. How? It was a year before Esther met the King and became Queen. She was made ready physically by her maids and mentally and spiritually by Mordecai. We have to have the Word of God in us… be ready in season and out of season as the Word says ...
Things in our lives make us ready. Some we know and some we don’t.
My mom saw a wreck a couple of weeks ago and she said it made her think of me. How can some people run to things like that while others run away? Because they are prepared and ready for that problem which brings me to my next point: Divine Appointments require us to be…

2. Willing – prompt to act or respond. How? First, being ready. Then, listening to the Holy Spirit. As Christians, we should be able to feel when God is prompting us to do something. We should know the voice of our Father. Not all of us listen, but He is always speaking. The Word says His Spirit is going all over the earth looking for those who are willing. Like David and Goliath or The widow of Zarephath in 1 Kings. This was not so for the Young Rich Ruler of Matthew 19 who was ready but wasn’t willing. He was unwilling once he heard what Jesus asked of him. Esther was ready and willing. “If I perish, I perish but I’m going to see the King” 4:16

3. Humble – reflecting, expressing, or offered in a spirit of deference or submission. How?
Trusting God – it’s rarely about you. The ready and the willing are about you, the action is about others. We should be humble in all we do, realizing without God we can do nothing. Esther knew she couldn’t do it without God so she had her people fast and pray. She also didn’t go directly to Haman, but the King, who could do something about it.
Esther 4:14b "… Yet who knows whether you have come to the kingdom for such a time as this?"
You see, God has a plan and He will succeed. He is looking for Ready, Willing and Humble people to participate in it. With all I had learned and experienced in my medical career, I could do nothing. I needed a divine touch for this divine appointment; which leads me to my main point. If you can on get one thing out of this, get this …
God is not as concerned with your ability as your availability.
Would you stand?
Are you available? Are you ready, willing, and humble? Will you be like Esther who didn’t think she could do it, but press through and succeed? I couldn’t fix that little buddy, I had to humble myself and pray. Whether you are in line at the grocery store or at a baseball game, God may call on you to answer some mother’s prayer or just give a kind word to someone God wants to touch, or maybe save someone who turns out to be the next Billy Graham. That young princess in Egypt never knew she was saving Moses, God's chosen deliverer for the Jews. Be ready, be willing, and be humble. Let’s pray

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Time Change


This is the first day of the week, a Sunday, and not just any Sunday, but this is Easter Sunday. This is the Sunday we have set aside to celebrate the most important element of our Christian faith, the resurrection of our Lord and Savior, Jesus the Messiah.

As I understand the scriptures, in about the year AD30, in the spring of that year, right at the time of Passover, on the 15th day of the first Jewish month called Nissan, along about noon there was an earthquake in Judea, somewhere near the city of Jerusalem. We cannot know for sure but many speculate that the earthquake caused a release of dust and debris into the atmosphere which covered all the land of Israel resulting in total darkness throughout the region.

This darkness lasted for three hours. These three hours were the same three hours in which Jesus of Nazareth hung on a cross, suspended between heaven and earth, Son of God and Son of Man, crucified as a perfect sacrifice to pay for the sins of all mankind.

Everyone in the land heard the news and many we have studied about these past few weeks leading up to this Easter service were there in Jerusalem that day … it was a requirement that Jews attend this feast of Passover in Jerusalem.

The disciples of Jesus were there; Mary the mother of Jesus was there; Mary Magdalene was there; Mary, Martha and Lazarus were there; Simeon, the man who carried Jesus’ cross, and his two sons, Alexander and Rufus, were there; most likely the young rich ruler who had refused to follow was there; and Zacchaeus, along with Bartimaeus and at least one of the ten former lepers as well as many others from Jericho; probably even the little children who just a few days earlier were sitting and listening to Jesus, were there with their families and so, so, so many others whom Jesus had touched, healed, called and cared for along the way.

Every one of them felt the tremors, saw the sun hide its face and no doubt thought to themselves what the Roman soldier attending the cross said out loud: “Truly this was the Son of God!”

With Jesus now dead, the temple veil torn, the Sabbath approaching, and the disciples scattered, what was there to do and who was left to do it? We do not know if the two thieves crucified with Jesus were Jewish or not, but as for Jesus, He was a Jew and Jewish law demanded He be buried the same day in which He died … especially today, because sundown marked the beginning of the Sabbath.

A very wealthy man named Joseph, who was a secret disciple of Jesus, was a prominent business man in Jerusalem. This man of means went to Pilate and begged for the body of Jesus. Pilate granted Joseph his request and Joseph, along with Nicodemus, who was also a secret follower of Jesus, took the body of Jesus, prepared it according to the customs and traditions of the Law, and buried Him in a tomb which had just been carved into a rock in an orchard garden near Mount Calvary, which belonged to Joseph.

This garden tomb came with a great stone closure which rolled in front of the door. Thus Jesus’ body was buried and secure on Friday before sundown, while it was still Friday according to the Jews … thus was Jesus’ first day in the grave. Sundown Friday evening began the second day.

On Saturday morning the Jewish leaders went to Pilate and asked him that a watch be set to guard the tomb where the body of Jesus had been laid, at least until the third day. They remembered that Jesus had said while He was alive that He, after three days, would rise again. Pilate granted the guards who went and made the tomb secure, sealed the stone and set the watch. Sundown on Saturday marked the end of day two and the beginning of the third day.

Early Sunday morning, only three days after the full moon, while the guards were watching, there was another earthquake, perhaps an aftershock of the quake on Friday. God sent His angel from heaven, who rolled the stone from the door of the tomb and sat upon it. His countenance was like lightening and his clothes were white as snow. When the watchmen saw the angel they began to tremble and fell down and became as dead men. Satan was defeated and Jesus was raised victorious over sin, death, hell and the grave.

Let’s read our text for today to see what happened next …

John 20 NKJV
1 ¶ Now on the first day of the week Mary Magdalene went to the tomb early, while it was still dark, and saw that the stone had been taken away from the tomb.
2 Then she ran and came to Simon Peter, and to the other disciple, whom Jesus loved, and said to them, "They have taken away the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid Him."
3 Peter therefore went out, and the other disciple, and were going to the tomb.
4 So they both ran together, and the other disciple outran Peter and came to the tomb first.
5 And he, stooping down and looking in, saw the linen cloths lying there; yet he did not go in.
6 Then Simon Peter came, following him, and went into the tomb; and he saw the linen cloths lying there,
7 and the handkerchief that had been around His head, not lying with the linen cloths, but folded together in a place by itself.
8 Then the other disciple, who came to the tomb first, went in also; and he saw and believed.
9 For as yet they did not know the Scripture, that He must rise again from the dead.

(Production Note: When I begin to read verse 10, dramatic portrayal begins, house lights fade and characters move to center stage. Refer to production notes below written in brown.)

10 Then the disciples went away again to their own homes.
11 ¶ But Mary stood outside by the tomb weeping, and as she wept she stooped down and looked into the tomb.
12 And she saw two angels in white sitting, one at the head and the other at the feet, where the body of Jesus had lain.
13 Then they said to her, "Woman, why are you weeping?" She said to them, "Because they have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid Him."
14 Now when she had said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, and did not know that it was Jesus.
15 Jesus said to her, "Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you seeking?" She, supposing Him to be the gardener, said to Him …

(Production Pause … then release of children before continuing message)

John 20
17 Jesus said to her, "Do not cling to Me, for I have not yet ascended to My Father; but go to My brethren and say to them, ‘I am ascending to My Father and your Father, and to My God and your God.’"
18 Mary Magdalene came and told the disciples that she had seen the Lord, and that He had spoken these things to her.

What were the things Jesus spoke to Mary?

* I want to draw our attention to the new position Jesus ascribes to the Believer after His resurrection.
> My Father and your Father … how appropriate for this risen age to see us united forever with Christ in an undeniable, indissolvable family bond.
> He sent Mary with the Good News that we are family.

* Next notice the phrase, “Do not cling to Me” …
> Cling means to cleave to; stick to; be glued to …
> It can also mean to detain or hold on to

Scofield’s 1917 Reference Bible Notes tell us that there are two major opinions concerning the phrase Jesus spoke to Mary, ‘do not touch Me’, or ‘do not cling to Me’, in this passage.

* First there is the opinion that Jesus was in the process of fulfilling the ministry of the High Priest on this day of atonement and was on His way to present the sacred blood in heaven which He did between this meeting and the later meeting where He encouraged Thomas to touch Him. This opinion is in harmony with the types.
> Some might suggest that the difference in Mary and Thomas was that Mary believed and Thomas did not. Perhaps Believers have some restrictions which non-believers are allowed in order to encourage their faith.
> Or it may be only a matter of Jesus’ duty of the day as a High Priest on His way to heaven’s call.

* Then there is the opinion that Jesus was speaking directly to Mary not to detain Him by some previous earthly affection of worship as though He might continue in a former earthly level of relationship. Rather now she must not cling to His earthly image or hold on to the past but rather rise and go forth for Him in obedience to her new responsibilities …

This view brings to mind the consideration that with the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus, times changed.

At the end of Luke the 10th chapter, Jesus had something quite different to say to another woman named Mary. Remember Mary from Bethany, the sister of both Martha and Lazarus?

One day when Jesus and His disciples were visiting their home, Mary was just sitting down at Jesus’ feet listening to Him while Martha was busy with all the chores associated with taking care of that number of guests. When Martha complained to Jesus about Mary sitting down and not helping with the work, Jesus told Martha that Mary had chosen what was best for her at the time and therefore He would not ask her to get up and go to work.

Why would Mary of Bethany be allowed to sit and soak in Jesus and Mary of Magdala told to get up and get busy? Why? Time change! Things were different now …

There is always earthly work to be done and earthly work should not overshadow our relationship with Jesus. However, there is also much heavenly work to be done and our own desires to sit and soak with Jesus must not keep us from going forth and telling the Good News that we have found Him and that He is alive!

Our relationship with Jesus should mean something to somebody else besides us.

Unless our changed life is changing the lives of others, our life hasn’t changed enough yet.

We are in a new day and the duty of the day calls for us to rise up and go to work … and there is much work to be done.

Everyone has a duty of the day. For the angels it was to roll the stone away; for Jesus it was to carry the sacred blood to God and cleanse the heavenly utensils of worship … What is the duty of the day for you and me … it’s the same thing Jesus told Mary Magdalene:

Go and tell others that you have seen the Lord, He is alive, and He has a word that will change their life!

This morning’s Easter message is the same message Jesus preached on that first Easter morning. No other words are sufficient for such a day as this … no other call so great and no other time so pressing …

Hear Jesus saying to you: Go and tell! Answer the call … say yes to Him this morning … say yes to Jesus! Won’t you stand while we pray.

Production Notes in Brown:

Dramatic Presentation Title: “He’s Alive”

Pastor Ron comes to the platform and begins his message, setting the stage for the Resurrection. He briefly describes the death and burial of Jesus and then asks the congregation to turn to John 20:1.
Characters ready themselves awaiting their cue.
Cue: Reading of Scripture Text

Scene 8
*Mary sitting in the congregation at stage right in front row
*Jesus (center doors near the Children’s Ministry Desk)
*House lights dim and stage lights stay up

The tomb will be positioned at stage left, just in front of the screen. Mary gets up and starts walking across the stage in front of the platform. As she nears the tomb, she lays across the steps, weeping.

As Pastor Ron begins reading verse 10,

*Spot light highlights Mary
*House lights dim
*Jesus walks to stage left, a few feet past and behind Mary, allowing the congregation the best view possible

Mary: Gardner, I have come looking for the body of Jesus. Do you know where they have taken Him? Tell me so I can go to Him. (She will continue to look around. Her head is away from Him when He speaks.)

Jesus: Mary!

Mary: (Mary looks back at Jesus and exclaims) Teacher you are alive! (She will bow down on one knee. He will stretch a hand toward her, but not touch her.)

*Characters exit stage left stairwell door
*Lights fade and house and stage lights return

Pastor Ron releases children to Children’s Church and continues message.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Rippling Effects


We are in the most important season of the year for the Church and each Believer. Each spring in the US we see the dogwood trees blooming, new life breaking through the soil and birds welcoming the bright sunshine each morning with great expectancy for the day. These things remind us of Easter and the eternal hope that was birthed one morning almost 2000 years ago when Jesus of Nazareth was raised from the dead victorious over sin, death, hell and the grave.

It was the sacrificial death of Jesus, God’s only begotten Son, on the cross of Calvary that paid the debt of sin for every person who would thereafter believe on Him and confess Him as Lord. However, it was the resurrection of Jesus from the dead three days later that sealed His claim that He was not only the Son of God but also the promised Messiah of the Jews and only Savior of the whole world. The empty garden tomb just outside the old city walls of Jerusalem, adjacent to the Damascus Gate, near the place of the skull called Golgotha, also known as Mount Calvary, still speaks of His triumph today.

Just 10 days prior to His crucifixion, Jesus entered the city of Jericho on His last trip from the Galilee to Jerusalem. He was headed for The Last Passover, to be the sacrificial Lamb Who would take away the sins of the world. As He journeyed with His disciples His mind was on the cross but His heart was still with those poor and needy He would leave behind. Who would care for them? Who would take His place?

With that heart Jesus was looking for laborers, men of means, who could meet the continuing needs of the poor and less fortunate. It was in that frame of mind Jesus found and called Zacchaeus.

Turn with me in your Bible to the book of Luke, chapter 19.

(Production Note: Luke 19:1 will be the cue for Scene 4 to begin. Refer to production notes below)

Luke 19
1 ¶ Then Jesus entered and passed through Jericho.
2 Now behold, there was a man named Zacchaeus who was a chief tax collector, and he was rich.
3 And he sought to see who Jesus was, but could not because of the crowd, for he was of short stature.
4 So he ran ahead and climbed up into a sycamore tree to see Him, for He was going to pass that way.
5 And when Jesus came to the place, He looked up and saw him, and said to him, "Zacchaeus, make haste and come down, for today I must stay at your house."
6 So he made haste and came down, and received Him joyfully.
7 But when they saw it, they all complained, saying, "He has gone to be a guest with a man who is a sinner."
8 Then Zacchaeus stood and said to the Lord, "Look, Lord, I give half of my goods to the poor; and if I have taken anything from anyone by false accusation, I restore fourfold."
9 And Jesus said to him, "Today salvation has come to this house, because he also is a son of Abraham;
10 "for the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost."

Jesus was looking for laborers that day and found one sitting in a tree.

Perhaps no one but Jesus expected the rippling effects this one person could make if they answered yes to the call of God.

Let’s see how Zacchaeus’ life change changed the lives of others that day.

(Dismiss the children and inform them of a special Easter gift to be given to all children in attendance, ages 4 years old through 5th grade next Sunday.)

In the previous lesson we studied the young rich ruler and learned the reason why Jesus was looking for laborers, not just any laborers, but people of means. The young rich ruler refused Jesus’ command.

Walking farther down the road Jesus came to Jericho and found another man of means …

Luke 19:2 Now behold, there was a man named Zacchaeus who was a chief tax collector, and he was rich.

Zacchaeus was a bad man; a liar; a cheat; a notorious sinner … that is until he changed. Zacchaeus had a true conversion experience that day evidenced by the rippling effects of his encounter with Jesus. Something happened … something dynamic … something real … something that completely changed who Zacchaeus had always been and always been known to be. Zacchaeus was born again!

Maybe you think you’re born again … how did things change for you?
Perhaps you want to be different but lack the power or know how.
Could it be that you have never had a true conversion experience?
We don’t do good works to get saved; we do good works as a result of having been saved. It’s the law of rippling affect.

Both the Young Rich Ruler and Zacchaeus were given the same opportunity. They both had encounters with Jesus on destiny’s road.

The Young Rich Ruler said no to change and went away sad because:
* He trusted in his riches
* He was selfish and did not care about others
* He was shortsighted and only considered his earthly comforts
* He was full of religious experiences, yet empty inside
* He was last seen all alone, sad, depressed and without hope
* But after all, he was not a bad man like Zacchaeus - however

Zacchaeus said yes to Jesus and changed … he was last seen:
* Happy & Rejoicing
* Making new friends, helping others and meeting needs
* He found true peace & the lasting joy he had never known

Which one of these two do you want to be like? Zacchaeus of course … that’s a no brainer. Well, let’s see what it would take for us to be like Zacchaeus.

Without regard as to who you are, what you do for a living or how good or bad you have been … if you are going to be like Zacchaeus you are going to have to:

Luke 10:3 And he sought to see who Jesus was, but could not because of the crowd, for he was of short stature.
1. Seek Jesus despite your shortcomings

Luke 10:4 So he ran ahead and climbed …
2. Don’t let others keep you away from Jesus

Luke 10:6 So he made haste and came down and received Him joyfully.
3. Be quick to obey His Word
4. Invite Jesus into your home

Luke 10:7 … they all complained, saying, “He has gone to be the guest with a man who is a sinner.”
5. Don’t get offended and quit

Luke 10:8 Then Zacchaeus stood and said to the Lord, “Look, Lord, I give half of my goods to the poor; and if I have taken anything from anyone by false accusation, I restore fourfold.”
6. Stand up for Jesus
7. Talk to Jesus
8. Make things right with others
9. Live a changed life

If the things which bless you don’t also bless others, you’re not living right. It’s the law of rippling affect, no ripple – you weren’t affected.

The effect is how Jesus knew and that’s how we know that:
* “Salvation has come to this house.”

Production Notes:
Dramatic Presentation Title: “Zacchaeus”
Pastor Ron comes to the platform and begins his message, setting the stage by continuing the story of Jesus’ journey to the Last Passover.
Characters ready themselves awaiting their cue.
Cue: Reading of Scripture Text
Scene 4
Pastor Ron begins reading Luke 19:1-10.
*Jesus and His disciples (stage right door near musician’s platform)
*Families (stage right door to stairwell to Youth Department)
*Zacchaeus (stage left door to stairwell leading to Children’s Department)
Jesus, His disciples, and the families enter and move across the front of the church stopping just left of center stage, talking and conversing with the crowd surrounding Jesus. Zacchaeus enters while the crowd is still moving to their mark, attempts to see Jesus and, looking frustrated, climbs up the ladder to appear sitting in the tree.
Pastor Ron continues telling the story and when the stage is set, Pastor Ron says,
“Jesus was looking for laborers that day and found one sitting in a tree.”
*House lights dim
*Spotlight comes up on Jesus and Zacchaeus
While Pastor Ron continues telling the story, Jesus steps out of the crowd and points at Zacchaeus, who comes down. Jesus puts His arm around Zacchaeus. They walk back through the crowd to center stage.
Zacchaeus portrays an evident life change. The disciples come and congratulate Zacchaeus while Pastor Ron continues to tell the story. Jesus and the disciples move to enhance congregation’s view. Zacchaeus moves back to the crowd and goes to the second or third step and begins giving money to the families around him while Jesus and the disciples watch with joy and satisfaction.
Cue: Whenever Pastor Ron says, “Let’s see how Zacchaeus’ life change changed the lives of others that day.”
*Woman turns to congregation
*Spotlight illuminates woman
*She begins
Scene 5
Woman: Just this morning I was praying and asking God to meet my needs. I had no food in my house, no money to pay my bills, and I didn’t know where my help would come from, but look, Zacchaeus, this notorious sinner, had a heart change. God changed his life to meet my need. I am told it began when Jesus called his name.
Cue: Woman concludes.
*Spotlight illuminates man
*Man begins
Scene 6
Man (turns to congregation): This man Zacchaeus had been robbing from us for years. Last year he took our home. Just yesterday he said I was going to jail if I could not pay all he wanted. He has been so unfair to all of us … until now … look what happened (shows money). I didn’t know he had been keeping records, but he paid me back. What would make such a man give back all he had taken unjustly and add four times as much? What made him do this? What made him change?
Cue: Man concludes.
*All lights fade
*All characters exit except Zacchaeus
*Spotlight illuminates Zacchaeus standing on the step who gives his testimony
Scene 7
Zacchaeus: It is true what they have said. I heard the Master call my name. I have never felt anything like that before. Jesus went to Jerusalem. He became that last Passover Lamb, but He’s alive! You know how I know this? He is alive in me.
Cue: “He is alive in me.”
*Spotlight fades
*Zacchaeus exits
*House lights come up
Pastor Ron releases the children and continues his message, “Looking for Laborers.”

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Missed Opportunities


Tonight we will continue our Easter Series with Scene 3 of our 8 scene dramatic portrayal of Jesus’ journey to The Last Passover. This series covers the last two weeks of Jesus’ earthly life and ministry. In these scenes we will travel with Jesus and His disciples as they leave the Galilee and head south along the eastern shore of the Jordan River toward the city of Jericho where they stop before making that last leg of the journey into Jerusalem for Passover.

The year is about 30 AD, approximately 10 days before Jesus would be crucified in Jerusalem. Somewhere on the road, between Capernaum and Jericho, Jesus encounters a man who was no doubt under the conviction of the Holy Spirit. This man is young and rich and he holds some prominent position in life. He is called the Young Rich Ruler.

All along the way during these two weeks Jesus is focused on calling people into Kingdom service. Here on this road the Young Rich Ruler is going to get his chance to deny himself, take up his cross and follow Jesus. What will this man do with his opportunity? Let’s see:

Take your Bibles and turn with me in the New Testament to the book of Mark, chapter 10 as we begin reading about this man’s opportunity.

(Production Note: When I begin to read the scripture the dramatic portrayal begins. For scene direction refer to notes at the end of this message.)

Mark 10 NKJV
17 ¶ Now as He was going out on the road, one came running, knelt before Him, and asked Him, "Good Teacher, what shall I do that I may inherit eternal life?"
18 So Jesus said to him, "Why do you call Me good? No one is good but One, that is, God.
19 "You know the commandments: ‘Do not commit adultery,’ ‘Do not murder,’ ‘Do not steal,’ ‘Do not bear false witness,’ ‘Do not defraud,’ ‘Honor your father and your mother.’"
20 And he answered and said to Him, "Teacher, all these things I have kept from my youth."

(Dramatic Portrayal Continues and Concludes, then the Children are released before the Message continues)

We see the story unfold on that road near Jericho. No doubt Jesus had his mind on the cross but His heart was still on the people who He would leave behind, those not yet reached and those who had not yet heard the Good News. Jesus was looking for laborers, not just any laborers, but people of means.

Why was Jesus looking for people of means? Because Jesus had, and still has, a heart to help the poor and needy. How else can a person receive help except someone who has what is needed gives to that need. Jesus was looking for people of means to meet the needs of people who had no other means. Today Jesus is still looking for people whom God has blessed to become the hand of God blessing others. It’s the Kingdom way!

Let’s take a closer look at this Young Rich Ruler and his missed opportunity.

Mark 10
21 Then Jesus, looking at him, loved him, and said to him, "One thing you lack: Go your way, sell whatever you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, take up the cross, and follow Me."
22 But he was sad at this word, and went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions.

The scriptures say that upon hearing Jesus’ reply to give what he had to help the poor, the man refused and went away sad because he had great possessions. What would make a person say no to Jesus? What would make a person say no to the greatest opportunity of a lifetime? Perhaps:

Let’s continue reading:

Mark 10
23 Then Jesus looked around and said to His disciples, "How hard it is for those who have riches to enter the kingdom of God!"
24 And the disciples were astonished at His words. But Jesus answered again and said to them, "Children, how hard it is for those who trust in riches to enter the kingdom of God!
25 "It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God."
26 And they were greatly astonished, saying among themselves, "Who then can be saved?"
27 But Jesus looked at them and said, "With men it is impossible, but not with God; for with God all things are possible."
28 Then Peter began to say to Him, "See, we have left all and followed You."
29 So Jesus answered and said, "Assuredly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or lands, for My sake and the gospel’s,
30 "who shall not receive a hundredfold now in this time—houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions—and in the age to come, eternal life.
31 "But many who are first will be last, and the last first."

Perhaps this Young Rich Ruler said no to Jesus because he did not hear what Jesus said.

* Perhaps he heard give up your riches
* Jesus said, give to … not give up –
* Jesus said, invest in others less fortunate
* Jesus said, be responsible … response- able
* Jesus did not say, “I want you to become poor like one of them, but rather I want you to become truly rich like Me!”

Perhaps this man did not know the scriptures. Such as:

Proverbs 11
24 ¶ There is one who scatters, yet increases more; And there is one who withholds more than is right, But it leads to poverty.
25 ¶ The generous soul will be made rich, And he who waters will also be watered himself.

Exodus 20:3 "You shall have no other gods before Me.

What Jesus asked the Young Rich Ruler to do on that road near 2000 years ago is the same thing He is asking each one of us to do today.

What do you trust in? Have you truly put Jesus first place in your life? This may be your opportunity to repent and give Jesus your all.

Don’t miss this opportunity … it’s the opportunity of a lifetime!

(This Brown color is for production notes to help media follow along)

Dramatic Presentation Title: “The Young Rich Ruler”
Pastor Ron comes to the platform and begins his message setting the stage by continuing the story of Jesus’ journey from Galilee to the Garden Tomb, during the last two weeks of His earthly life and ministry.
Actors ready themselves awaiting their first cue.
Cue: Reading of Scripture Text
Scene 3
Pastor Ron begins reading his text from Mark 10:17-20 and continues telling the story up to that point.
*Jesus and His disciples (stage left door near the stairwell to the Children’s Department)
*The Young Rich Ruler (main foyer entry door by the Information Desk)
When Pastor Ron begins reading the text, Jesus and His disciples enter and move across the front walking and talking, stopping just short of center stage left.
When they arrive at their mark, the Young Rich Ruler comes running in and kneels down in front of Jesus, yelling,
“Good Master, Good Master!”
Jesus reaches down, helps him up, and they pretend to talk while Pastor Ron reiterates all of the good things the man has done. When all the characters are present Pastor Ron states that the Young Rich Ruler has kept the commandments from his youth.

*House lights fade
*Spotlight comes up on Jesus and the Young Rich Ruler
Jesus: Yet one thing you have missed. Go and sell everything you have and give it to the poor and you will have treasures in Heaven.
The Young Rich Ruler turns, walks across in front of the stage toward the musician’s loft despondent. Jesus turns to His disciples.
Jesus: How hard it is for those who trust in riches to enter the Kingdom of God.
YRR continues walking away from Jesus, climbs the steps on the platform and stops beside the keyboard. Spotlight comes up on YRR. Spotlight fades on Jesus. YRR turns and faces the congregation and begins monologue.
YRR: I wonder if I missed my chance that day. I heard that Jesus and His followers stopped in Jericho on the way to the Passover in Jerusalem. In Jericho, a tax collector named Zacchaeus did the very thing Jesus asked me to do. I wonder if I missed my chance that day. I didn’t know it would be my last chance to see Him.
Later I heard Jesus claimed to be the King of the Jews and for that He was crucified. Personally, I think the religious leaders saw Him as a threat to their power because the people seemed to love Him. A few days after His crucifixion, His body was reported missing from the Garden Tomb. You know what they are saying…they are saying He’s alive … (pondering) Do you think He’s alive? Could He really be alive?
Scene ends when YRR says,
“Could he really be alive?”
*The YRR drops his head and walks off as all lights fade allowing all characters to exit the stage
*House lights come back up
Pastor Ron dismisses the children and continues with message on missed opportunities.

Mark 10 NKJV
17 ¶ Now as He was going out on the road, one came running, knelt before Him, and asked Him, "Good Teacher, what shall I do that I may inherit eternal life?"
18 So Jesus said to him, "Why do you call Me good? No one is good but One, that is, God.
19 "You know the commandments: ‘Do not commit adultery,’ ‘Do not murder,’ ‘Do not steal,’ ‘Do not bear false witness,’ ‘Do not defraud,’ ‘Honor your father and your mother.’"
20 And he answered and said to Him, "Teacher, all these things I have kept from my youth."