Following Jesus by Remembering

Following Jesus by Remembering

Have you ever been doing something and all of a sudden you had this eerie feeling “I’ve done this before.” or “I’ve seen this person before.”? They say that most of us have had a déjà vu experience. Déjà vu is French for “already seen.”

In fact, there’s a list of different types of déjà vu:


·      Déjà boo: The eerie feeling I've been frightened like this before.

·      Déjà coup: The eerie feeling my government’s been overthrown like this before.

·      Déjà do: The eerie feeling my hairdresser’s given me this cut before.

·      Déjà stew: The eerie feeling this is made from the pot roast we ate the week before.

When we come to our text today, we get the feeling we’ve witnessed this situation before. These verses are full of similarities to a scene we’ve already seen in Mark’s gospel:

·      In v. 1, we find a hungry multitude. We’ve seen that.

·      In v. 2, Jesus has compassion on the multitude.

·      In v. 3, the disciples ask, “How can we feed this multitude?”

·      In v. 4, Jesus asks them for a food count.

·      In v. 6a, we find they have just a few loaves & fishes,

·      In v. 6b, Jesus multiplies them to feed everyone.

·      In v. 8, the disciples collect baskets full of leftovers. 

We read this and we think: “Didn’t this just happen? This feels like déjà vu.”

“Didn’t we just see Jesus feeding a 1,000s with a few loaves and fishes?”

And the answer is: Yes, it was at the end of Mark 6.

You say “Then why do we have it all over again at the beginning of Mark 8?

Was Mark tired when he wrote this scroll?

Did he accidentally repeat the story?

Is this déjà vu?

Following Jesus with Sighing

Following Jesus with Sighing

Last time we saw the importance of understanding that Jesus is using sign language.

Today we’ll see He exhibits more unusual behavior.

This time, we’ll see the meaning of Christ’s sigh language.

People sometimes wonder…

·      “Does God care about human suffering— the suffering of 14 million orphans in Africa whose parents died of AIDS?

·      Does God care about the women in Asia being trafficked as sex slaves?

·      Does He care about the Christians being killed and their homes burned in India?

·      Does God care about the suffering of your loved one battling a vicious disease?

I mean we care, we’re moved when we see images of starving children or see our loved one in a hospital bed.

Sometimes we wonder, “Is God as moved by these sights as we are?”

We ask ourselves, “Does He care?”

Following Jesus with Hands-on Ministry

Following Jesus with Hands-on Ministry

Paul Marcarelli is an actor, best known for being the "Test Man" in Verizon commercials 2002 to 2011, where he walked around saying “Can you hear me now?”

Though Verizon didn’t drop his calls, they eventually dropped his contract t in 2011.

So like an NBA player, he switched to the competition. Now he’s the spokesperson for Sprint.

Those commercials were popular because we’ve all been there.

We’ve experienced the frustration of trying to have a conversation, but you can’t hear what the other person’s saying. Every other word blanks out.

Or you’re talking away to someone for three minutes when your phone rings. And it’s the person you thought you were talking to. And you realize you’ve been talking to dead air. How many of you have ever done that before?

Then you can’t remember where you were in the conversation. Because I’m on Sprint, I often find myself asking, “Can you hear me now?”

Imagine if the answer to that question was always “No.”

What would it be like to never hear? To be deaf?


Following Jesus into God’s Family

Following Jesus into God’s Family

Yesterday was the 50th anniversary of man walking on the moon.

I’ve heard about Apollo 11 my whole life. But this week I was surprised to discover it was also the 1st celebration of the Lord’s Supper on the Moon. 

Buzz Aldrin, an elder at his Presbyterian church in Houston, brought Communion bread and a silver cup.

He planned to share the Communion with the world over the radio. But the atheist Madalyn Murray O’Hair had recently sued NASA, so they told him to keep his comments more general.

After unpacking the Communion elements and laying them in front of the guidance system, Aldrin said:

Houston, this is Eagle. This is the LM Pilot speaking. I would like to request a few moments of silence… to invite each person listening, wherever and whomever he may be, to contemplate for a moment the events of the past few hours and to give thanks in his own individual way.

He then read John 15:5 which he’d handwritten on a scrap of paper. Where Jesus says

I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing.

Then he partook of the Supper. Aldrin later said.

“In the one-sixth gravity of the moon, the wine curled slowly and gracefully up the side of the cup.  It was interesting to think that the very first liquid ever poured on the moon, and the first food eaten there, were communion elements.” 

As much as I thought I knew about Apollo 11, that was a surprising story.

Back in May, we looked at the surprising response of a Syrophoenician mother.  

Today we’ll look at the surprising statement Jesus made to her. And how this surprising story points to the reason we’re here today—gathered around this Communion table.

Following Jesus with Application

Following Jesus with Application

Last week we looked at Christ’s high view of the authority of scripture. Yet many denominations and Christians hold to manmade traditions over God’s Word.

Now if you talked to any of those groups, they’d say, “We believe in the authority of scripture.”

The Pharisees would have been furious if you accused them of having a low view of scripture. They would say, “How dare you! We’ve given our lives to God’s Word. We spend much of our day reading it, memorizing it, meditating on it, teaching it. How dare you accuse us of having a low view of scripture.”

 The problem is they held more tightly to their traditions, their manmade applications of God’s Word.

Following Jesus and the Bible

Following Jesus and the Bible

This morning we’re going to see that the Pharisees read the Bible like that lawyer. In fact, the scribes were lawyers. They viewed the Bible as a law book—full of legal codes & legal loopholes.


But how does Jesus view the Bible?

What does Jesus think about the authority of the Bible?


Many people today struggle with the idea of the Bible having authority over your life.


They say, “We like Jesus— His teaching; His life of good deeds, helping the hurting, advocating for the marginalized, reaching out to outcasts.

What we don’t like— is the Bible.”


“How can you treat a religious text written 1,000s of years ago as authoritative today? I mean we’re so much more enlightened—socially, scientifically, sexually.”


They say, “The Bible is outdated. Even parts of it, our society agreed with 10 or 20 years ago, are now condemned as hate speech.”


That’s what our culture says. “We like Jesus—but not the Bible.”

So what does Jesus think about the Bible?

Following Jesus from the heart

Following Jesus from the heart

More than 200 years ago, Edward Gibbon wrote, The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire. He spent 20 years studying the Roman Empire to find out how such a great nation fell so dramatically.


Gibbon listed 5 primary reasons for the collapse:

1.    The rapid increase of divorce, with the undermining of the sanctity of the home, the basis of society.

2. Higher and higher taxes; and the spending of public money on bread and circuses.

3. The mad craze for pleasure, with sports becoming more exciting and brutal.

4. The building of gigantic armies to fight external enemies, when the most deadly enemy, the decadence of the people, was within.

5. The decay of religion; faith fading into mere form.


Interestingly, Gibbon’s 1st volume was published in 1776, the year our nation was born.

The event we celebrate this week on July 4th.


This should be a sober warning that we’re repeating many of the same patterns that wrecked the Roman Empire.


I want to focus on the last one, the fact that our faith can fade into mere form.


Instead of being moved by God’s majesty, we can end up just go through the motions.


In Mk. 7, Jesus comes face to face again with the Pharisees. They attacked Him 5x in chs. 2 & 3. These religious men looked good on the outside. But looks can be deceiving.

Following Jesus the I AM

Following Jesus the I AM

I heard the story of a country preacher who would visit a widow in his church named Mrs. Jones. He liked to visit her at lunchtime because she would prepare a meal with fresh vegetables from her garden that they’d eat at a picnic table.

But one day, he arrived a little early, and knocked on the door, and she didn’t answer.


So he walked through her garden calling for her, but never found her.

Finally, he left a note on her door with a simple scripture reference, “Rev. 3:20.”


What he didn’t realize is Mrs. Jones was getting out of the shower, when he came. She was too embarrassed answer without time to get ready, so she waited until he left.

After he left, she opened the door, got the note, and opened her Bible to Rev. 3:20,

“Behold I stand at the door and knock and if anyone hear my voice, I will come in and eat with them.”


Mrs. Jones laughed, and then she sent her pastor a note.

“I got your verse from the last book of the Bible. Read this one from the first book of the Bible and you’ll understand my predicament— Genesis 3:10.”


When the pastor opened his Bible, he read…

“I heard thy voice in the garden, & I was afraid for I was naked, & I hid myself.”


Gen. 3:10 is the 1st reference to fear in the Bible.

Before Adam & Eve sinned, they never experienced fear. Until they disobeyed God.

Since then, because of sin, fear has been part of our human existence.


This morning we see…

A.   You will often feel afraid in life’s storms.


At the end of v. 50, Jesus tells His disciples, “Be not afraid.”


Now who is He talking to? Strong, blue-collar fishermen, sailors—who rowed the oars with muscular arms & hauled in fish with burly shoulders. But they were afraid.


See, as men, especially fathers, we hate to admit our fears. But they’re real.

·      We fear we won’t measure up to the expectations our families have for us.

·      We fear we won’t be able to adequately provide enough for our families.

·      We fear we won’t be able to always protect our families.

·      Maybe more than anything we fear the day when our families won’t need us.

Following Jesus your Interecessor

Following Jesus your Interecessor

Please turn with me to Mark 6.


One evening during a violent thunderstorm a mom was tucking her young son Liam into bed. She was about to turn off the light when he asked with a tremor in his voice, "Mommy, will you sleep with me tonight?"


The mom smiled and gave him a reassuring hug. She said, "I can't, honey. I have to sleep in Daddy's room."


Liam thought about that for a moment, then he shook his head and said with a hint of disdain, “The big sissy."


In Mark 6, the disciples just had a mountaintop experience with the feeding of the 5,000, but things are about to change. They’re about to find themselves all alone in the middle of a storm.


One of the hardest parts of going through a storm in life is when, like Liam, you feel all alone. Maybe you don’t tell those around you, or when you do, they just can’t understand or truly sympathize with what you’re going through. You feel abandoned in the storm.


In his book entitled A Wolf at the Table: A Memoir of My Father, Augusten Burroughs writes that when he was 7, he realized that whenever he’d try to crawl onto his father's lap, his dad would push him away. He would stare at the TV and wouldn’t even look at his son.

So little Augusten started keeping a scorecard on a clipboard of how many times his dad refused to cuddle with him. He said it was close to 100%.

Hungering for his dad’s presence, the boy took one of his dad’s shirts and a pair of pants out of the closet, stuffed them with pillows, and sprayed them with his dad's cologne. At night, he would snuggle up against this mannequin dad, pretending to be held and loved.

He said one day his mom found the dummy, and simply returned the clothes to the closet, the pillows to the bed.

He said: "Over time, my father's smell faded from the pillows until there was nothing left of him at all."

Maybe going through life’s storms, and you feel all alone—like your heavenly Father has abandoned you.


How do you follow Jesus in the storm?

Following Jesus with Power

Following Jesus with Power

Please turn with me to Mk. 6. Our theme is Following Jesus in 2019.


It’s already June. We’re almost ½ way through the year. So if you’re not following Jesus in 2019, unless you’re a guest, what’s your excuse?


Maybe we say, “Because something bad happened in my life, so I don’t know if He cares.” We saw last time Jesus sees with eyes of compassion. Like a Shepherd, He cares about our needs—both physical & spiritual.


Maybe you say, “Well, I’m glad someone cares about Me. But you just don’t realize how insurmountable this obstacle is. I’m so broken, I don’t know if I can be mended.”


This morning, we’re going to see not only does Jesus care, but Jesus can.


Not only does the Great Shepherd sympathize with our needs. He can do something about it. This story is a picture of the Gospel.

Divine Power + Divine Compassion = Everything You Need.


No matter how burdened you are, no matter how weary you are, no matter how confused you are, no matter what you’re facing tomorrow, Jesus is not only compassionate, He’s powerful. He can meet your needs!


Let’s look at our Shepherd’s Ability: Jesus Can!

Following Jesus with Compassion

Following Jesus with Compassion

On this Memorial Day, we are thankful for these American heroes who paid the ultimate sacrifice for our freedom. We honor their sacrifice!

As Christians, we owe an even greater debt of gratitude to the Hero who not only died for us but rose again. The Captain of our Salvation, Jesus Christ.

In Mark 6:34, Jesus looks out over a crowd of people and is moved with compassion because He sees their needs. He sees them verse 34 says “as sheep not having a shepherd.”

 And Jesus is not just describing the crowd then. He’s describing us today. All of us.

·      Isaiah 53 says, “All we like sheep have what? gone astray.”

·      Jesus sees with compassion a wife who’s come to realize her husband loves his alcohol or his work or his hobby or his addiction more than her.

·      Jesus sees a couple who’ve worked so hard to make ends meet, only to be hit with another financial emergency, and they fall back further.

·      Jesus sees with compassion a young woman who’s considering horrible things because of an unexpected pregnancy. She’s desperate for love & forgiveness, for help & encouragement.

·      Do you see the many sheep without a shepherd? Because all we like sheep have gone astray.

A Mother's Surprising Faith

A Mother's Surprising Faith

On this Mother’s Day we want to say “thank you” to our mothers. We also recognize this day can be very difficult. I know this is one of the hardest days of the year for many women.

But as a church family, we want to celebrate all women in every stage of life. We have a gift for all our women after the service in the lobby.

We want every woman here to know that you are valued and loved in the body of Christ.

Our sermon this morning is entitled “A Mother’s Surprising Faith.”

I’ll read from Mark 7:24-30

And from thence he arose, and went into the borders of Tyre and Sidon, and entered into an house, and would have no man know it: but he could not be hid.

For a certain woman, whose young daughter had an unclean spirit, heard of him, and came and fell at his feet:

The woman was a Greek, a Syrophenician by nation; and she besought him that he would cast forth the devil out of her daughter.

But Jesus said unto her, Let the children first be filled: for it is not meet to take the children’s bread, and to cast it unto the dogs.

And she answered and said unto him, Yes, Lord: yet the dogs under the table eat of the children’s crumbs.

Following Jesus through Doubt

Following Jesus through Doubt

On Wednesday, we ended up with a turtle in a box, that we put on the back deck. Thursday my wife Karie & our 5-year-old Andrew were on the deck, so they let the turtle out of the box. Well, he wanted even more freedom, so he went to the edge of the deck, & stuck his head through the rails, but his shell saved him from plummeting to his death.

 But 15 minutes later, Karie & Andrew heard a thud. The turtle went to the edge of the top stair where he balanced precariously before falling down to the next step. Before they could do anything, he did it again, thud. And slowly the turtle went to the end of the next step.

 Well Andrew was so concerned the turtle would tumble down the stairs, he ran down, picked up the turtle, and carried him to the bottom of the stairs. Where the turtle showed his gratitude by reaching out and biting Andrew’s stomach. Andrew dropped the turtle. So now a tummy-biting turtle is on the loose somewhere on Paris Mountain.

This morning we’re going to see a man who was in a position much like that turtle. He was balancing precariously at point of indecision. Herod was waivering indecisively. He was paralyzed by doubt.

James uses a similar word for doubt, “Double-minded.” Have you ever felt like that? One part of your brain says, “This is what you should do.”But another part says, “But this is what I want to do.” James says, “A double-minded man is what in all his ways?” Unstable.

Maybe that’s how you feel this morning, like you have spiritual vertigo. You know what you should do. But this is what you want to do. And you’re torn. We saw last Sunday evening there’s a war in each of our hearts between Belief & Unbelief. Today we’re going to see that war play out in the heart of Herod.

Following Jesus against Unbelief

Following Jesus against Unbelief

This morning we saw usually hometown kids who make it big, become hometown heroes.

 I remember driving through Wilmington, NC, and noticing part of the highway was named after Michael Jordan. That makes sense.

 But instead of being celebrated & having the road named after Him, Jesus experiences rejection in His hometown of Nazareth. They found Him offensive.

 And V. 6 tells us He was stunned. “And He marvelled because of their unbelief.”

 Almost every time we see a word for “amazed” in the Gospels, it’s the crowds who are amazed by Jesus. But here Jesus is amazed by the crowd. He’s amazed by their unbelief.

 Unbelief is a powerful force.

·      Adam & Eve exercised unbelief and the whole human race fell under the Curse.

·      Noah was called to be a preacher of righteousness, but what did the people in his day do? They laughed at Him. And what was the result of their unbelief? The whole world (except Noah’s family) was wiped out.

·      Aaron’s unbelief led to 3,000 people being slaughtered.

·      Unbelief kept Moses and 100s of 1,000s of Israelites from entering the Promised Land.

·      Even when they got to Canaan, God’s people continually struggled with unbelief and went through cycles of apostasy & judgment.

·      Achan’s unbelief resulted in the death of his whole family and many Israelite soldiers.

·      Sennacherib’s unbelief led to his assassination by his own sons and the massacre of 185,000 of his troops.

·      Judas’ unbelief led to his suicide & the betrayal of Christ.

·      The Pharisees & scribes were almost all unbelievers.

 The Bible has a lot to say about faith, belief, but also unbelief.

Following Jesus through Offensiveness

Following Jesus through Offensiveness

A few weeks ago, we were having supper with our neighbors. And their son told us how he was a pole vaulter in high school. And his friend & teammate was Sandi Morris who is now one of the best female pole vaulters in the world. She won silver in the last Olympics. And gold at the Indoor Championships last year.

 Last July the hometown girl came back to Greenville for the Liberty Bridge Jump-off and set a world record that year, clearing 16 feet, 3 inches.

 Now imagine next year at the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo that Sandi Morris wins the women’s pole vault gold medal. A few days later she flies back to Greenville.

 And a huge crowd gathers at the airport.

Her friends are there. Her family is there. People who’ve known her since she was a kid. And Sandi steps out of the plane and walks down waving.

 But instead of cheering, she’s met with jeering.

Instead of congratulating her, the hold up signs that say…

“You’re offensive to us, Sandi.” “Greenville finds you offensive.”

 Can you imagine the world’s greatest female pole vaulter was rejected like that—by her hometown? Sandi would be stunned.

 But this is exactly what happened to the world’s greatest preacher. When Jesus comes back to His hometown, He is rejected. V. 6 says “He marveled because of their unbelief.”

Following Jesus by Faith

Following Jesus by Faith

Friday I had the privilege of delivering the Message of Hope for the Fallen Trooper Memorial Service at the Highway Patrol Headquarters near Columbia.


I told them how I can vividly remember receiving the call early in the morning of October 24, 2017, that Trooper Keith Rebman had been struck and was in critical condition, I became physically sick.

Keith wasn’t just a member of our church, he was a friend. His daughters go to school & SS with my children. His wife Michelle’s family have been pillars in our church for years.


Isaiah 55:9 says, “God’s ways are above our ways, and His thoughts are above our thoughts.” I take solace in that verse, because in my finite mind, I can’t understand why Keith was taken so early.

My heart breaks for Michelle, for their daughters Olivia, Charlee, & Kennedy.  


I said: But today is Good Friday, another day I can’t understand—how God would let His perfect sinless Son be executed— the greatest injustice in human history. But God in His infinite wisdom knew that with 3 nails & 2 pieces of wood, Jesus would build a bridge between God and us. We call it the Cross.


Following Jesus’ Touch

Following Jesus’ Touch

Until a couple hundred years ago, we didn’t understand the pathology of disease. In fact, the Jewish Talmud suggested a woman suffering like this, should carry the ashes of an ostrich egg in a linen bag in the summer or in a cotton bag in the winter. Or carry a barley corn found in donkey dung, or drink wine with alum & crocuses, or onions.


With doctors like that, no wonder it grew worse.


So now she’s bankrupt from paying all her money out of pocket to these doctors.


How many of you can identify with spending all your money on some invasive treatment or expensive drug that only makes you worse. Now you’re bankrupt and 5 steps back!


This poor woman is dealing with:

·      the pain of her worsening condition,

·      the poverty of spending all she had on a cure,

·      and the despair of knowing she’s incurable.


But on top of that, according to Leviticus 15, because of this bleeding, she was considered ceremonially unclean.

Following Jesus Desperately

Following Jesus Desperately

Maybe sometimes you feel like the man inching across the ice.

You know the importance of faith in trials, but your faith is overwhelmed by fear.


You know in your head that Jesus is powerful.

At the end of ch. 4, we see His power over a dangerous storm at sea.

At the beginning of ch. 5 we see His power over demons in a man.


We know Jesus can handle storms on the sea & demons in a man, but how many of us encounter either of those? 

·      I mean we live in the Upstate, not too many of us spend a lot of time out on the sea, navigating through life-threatening monsoons. 

·      Not too many of us have knowingly encountered a demon-possessed person—unless you work in the nursery , you might think you have.


But does Jesus care about the common problems we do face?

1.    Like the fear of getting sick? Being diagnosed with a severe illness. We all know someone whose facing that.

2.    Or the fear of losing everything financially? Destitute, bankrupt

3.    The fear of being lonely? With no one to talk to, feeling isolated

4.    The fear of dying? Or seeing a loved one die?


We’re going to see all 4 of these fears in the 2nd half of Mark 5, with 2 desperate people.

But both of them trust Jesus in spite of their fear.

Following Jesus' Rule

Following Jesus' Rule

We’ve seen Christ’s followers in frightening situations—a life-threatening monsoon at sea, a demon-possessed guy in a graveyard.

It’s easy in those situations to be overcome by fear.

Right now, we’re praying for Morningsiders facing cancer.

For others it’s fear of the unknown.

You’re finishing high school or college—and wonder what will be next.

We face fear throughout life.

From the fear of rejection by friends or a significant other, the fear of failing a class or a marriage, or losing your job, the fear of getting Alzheimer’s.

These fears can be paralyzing.

Following Jesus Against Sin

Following Jesus Against Sin

Now for civilized Americans in 2019, this may sound primitive even outlandish.

You say, “Do you really believe in demons?”

The vast majority of Americans say they believe in God & heaven. But not so many believe in demons & hell.

Maybe you say, “I’ve never seen a demon-possessed person. I don’t plan to be demon-possessed.” If you’re a believer, you cannot be possessed by demons. You say, “So then how does this apply to me?”

Well, the Bible clearly teaches the existence of demons.

You say, “Yeah, that’s because it was written in ancient times when people had a primitive & simplistic view of the spiritual realm. They didn’t understand how the world works before the Age of Science. They didn’t understand mental illness, & disease, & epilepsy, they were simplistic and naïve.”

Actually, the Bible’s understanding of demons is complex, not simplistic. It is nuanced, not naive. It is multi-dimensional, not one-dimensional.