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.

following Jesus through fear

following Jesus through fear

We saw last week Jesus allows His disciples to go into the storm—not to chastise their disobedience, but to teach them.

 You say, “How do I learn in the storms of life?” Many of you have shared with me this week how the message spoke to you as you’re going through a storm physically, financially, relationally. So how do you learn in the storm?

Let me give you a formula: T + A + G = Your response

Trial (the storm God allows you to enter) + your Ability (we all have diff levels of physical stamina, financial safety nets, emotional intelligence) + your view of God (who you think He is)= either Fear/Anxiety/Depression or Hope/Rest/Peace.

Following Jesus in the Storm

Following Jesus in the Storm

Jesus has just finished a long day of parables. Verse 34 says, “He expounded all things to His disciples.” But now they’re leaving the classroom. 

So Jesus taught them about His kingdom in parables. Now He’ll show them His kingdom in real life. From the ivory tower into the testing furnace. From the classroom to the school of hard knocks. Jesus is going to quit talking about their faith. Now He’ll start testing it.

How do you react when your faith is tested? How do you react in moments of difficulty when God isn’t responding the way you expected, or it seems like He's not there, or it seems like He doesn't care, or it seems like He doesn't hear? 

Is there a disconnect between your worship on Sunday and the anxiety you’ll feel during week when you sense a storm is coming, or drop-dead panic when a storm rolls into your life—something unthinkable happens in your family, in your relationship? You hear the words “cancer” or “divorce” or “I don’t love you.”

See talking about our faith is easy—on Sunday, when it’s just theory, when it’s just the classroom. But what happens when we go out on the streets of the real world? In the trials and storms of life?

This morning, we’re going to look at following Jesus in the storm. 

following Jesus patiently

following Jesus patiently

We want more visibility. We want bigger. And we want it faster. And Christians can start to apply this thinking to our spiritual lives.

Last week we heard great preaching in our Gospel Conference. Some of you are about to start a week of Bible Conference or the Core Conference.

It’s easy after a week of camp or special services, powerful preaching  to feel like you’re on a spiritual mountain top. But what happens when you come down?

Remember Elijah, the great prophet who had this amazing mountaintop experience where he supernaturally defeats 450 prophets of Baal on Mt. Carmel.

But instead of sparking a revival in Israel, all it gets him is a death warrant from Queen Jezebel. So in the next chapter, Elijah’s fighting depression and suicide.

reaching out with rest

Please turn with me to Mark 2.

 

How many of you like to be tired? How many of you like to be hungry?

 

Some of you have little kids. And you’ve witnessed with your own 2 eyes how they can transform from little angels into demons (fallen angels) when they get tired & hungry.

 

Maybe the same happens to your teenager or your husband.


Do you remember the Snickers commercials “You’re not your when you’re hungry.”

 

Did you know God cares about your food & sleep?

Just as we don’t want to see our kids tired or hungry, our heavenly Father doesn’t want to see us as His children tired or hungry.

 

We’ll see that in today’s text. Look at Mark 2:23