Honesty in Prayer

Since we are in the midst of the Easter season, I want to take one event from Easter week and discuss it a little bit.  This event occurred when Jesus was in the garden praying about what was about to happen.  We read that he was troubled and deeply distressed.  He even says, “My soul is exceedingly sorrowful, even to death.”  Jesus then goes off by himself to pray, and what he prays is remarkable.  He prays, “Abba, Father, all things are possible for you. Remove this cup from me.”

Why is this remarkable?  Well, because Jesus is the creator of the universe.  He is God incarnate.  He is the second person of the Trinity.  He is Lord!  And He’s been singularly focused — He was on His way to Jerusalem, knowing what was going to happen.  Remember that he taught them, saying, “The Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised.”  He knew what he had to do.  In fact, that was the whole reason He came to earth!  The angel told Joseph that Mary would “bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.”  And yet, he prays to God and says, “Remove this cup from me.”  How do we explain this?

Jesus endured pain and suffering while here on this earth.  He was mocked and rejected.  He experienced emotions just like we do.  We read that he was sorrowful, even to death.  In the midst of that, would we expect Him to do anything different?  In the midst of His despair, and in the face of His suffering, He cried out to God. He was honest about the pain He was experiencing.

I don’t know what you are going through this Easter season.  Maybe you’re having trouble experiencing the joy of the resurrection because of what’s going on in your life.  Perhaps you’ve been experiencing a difficult time.  Perhaps you’re angry, or confused, or in pain, or all of the above.  Remember that you can cry out to God, and that He wants you to be honest with him.  He wants you to communicate all your cares and worries to Him.  For it’s only when we share them with Him that He can calm our hearts, ease our worries, and carry our pain away.

And hopefully we can all get to the point where Jesus was in His relationship with the Father.  Jesus, even in the midst of His pain and suffering, even in the midst of His brutal honesty, still exhibits faith and acceptance.  He calls God “Father” and finishes his prayer with, “Yet not what I will, but what you will.”  It is my hope this Easter season that we will all exhibit Jesus’ maturity, honesty, faith, and acceptance.  To God be the glory!

Sermon outline for March 18th — on the radio this morning!

Guarding Against Denying Jesus
Luke 22:54-62

I) How does it _________?

II) Peter's gradual ____________
     A) ________
     B) ________
     C) _________
     D) Lack of _________

III) Peter's situation serves as a ____________ for us
     A) Peter denied Jesus with his ________
     B) We're more likely to deny Jesus with our __________

IV) Love and good ____________ aren't enough to keep us faithful!

V) How do we stay _________?
     A) _______ God, not man!
     B) _________
     C) Be __________
     D) Seek ___________
     E) _______ away from temptation!

Sermon outline from March 11 – now online and being broadcast this morning!

Responding to a Hostile World
John 18:1-11
Matthew 26:47-56
I) Other important ___________
    A) Jesus ___________
    B) Jesus’ care and ______________
    C) Jesus’ ______________
    D) Faithfulness of ______________
II) _____________ of the world toward Christianity
    A) ____________
    B) ____________
    C) ____________
III) How should we _________?
    A) We should be ____________
    B) We should be ____________
    C) We should be _____________
    D) We should be _____________
    E) We should be ______________
IV) Final Considerations
    A) Application seems to be __________
    B) Focus is on being ___________ for your beliefs
    C) Does not seem to prohibit us from __________ others

E) When we respond/react, we may lose the _____________ to see God at work!

Sermon outline from March 4th — now online and on the radio this Sunday!

The Reality of Spiritual Warfare
Luke 22:31-34; Matthew 26:31-35

I) God is in ______________

II) But He does allow us to be _______________

…..A) The world encourages us to ________

…..B) ________ encourages us to sin

…..C) We struggle against _____!

…..D) _________ may be our greatest enemy

III) What can help us when we are _____________?

…..A) We should put on the __________ of God

…..B) Remember that God has a _____________

IV) Even when we fail, we can be _____________!

…..A) God is waiting for us to ___________

…..B) We shouldn’t blame God for our ______________

The Cringing Pastor…

All right, I admit it.  The blog post a week hasn’t been happening, but that will change, simply because some people have asked to have access to my sermon outlines so that they can fill them in while they are listening to the sermons online!  So now I’ll have at least a blog post a week, but before we get to that I do have some thoughts to share…

It happened a few weeks ago.  I was passing by someone in the church hallway on Sunday morning, and they called me “Pastor.”  Not an uncommon occurrence, since so many people call me “Pastor Mark.”  However, this time there was that note of reverence, respect, and awe that, quite simply, made me incredibly uncomfortable.

Now, I understand why this happens.  Scripture tells us to “Obey your leaders and submit to them” (Hebrews 13:17), and “Let the elders who rule well be considered worthy of double honor, especially those who labor in preaching and teaching” (1 Timothy 5:17).  I suppose that it’s not a bad thing that the teaching pastor of a church receive some respect!  But other Scripture passages come to my mind as well.  Passages like Matthew 23:8-12:

But you, do not be called ‘Rabbi’; for One is your Teacher, the Christ, and you are all brethren. Do not call anyone on earth your father; for One is your Father, He who is in heaven. And do not be called teachers; for One is your Teacher, the Christ. But he who is greatest among you shall be your servant. And whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.

There are plenty of passages that are similar to this one, but there is one that pertains to church leadership that is a sober reminder as well. 1 Peter 5:1-4 is one of my theme verses for ministry, and it states:

The elders who are among you I exhort, I who am a fellow elder and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, and also a partaker of the glory that will be revealed: Shepherd the flock of God which is among you, serving as overseers, not by compulsion but willingly, not for dishonest gain but eagerly; nor as being lords over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock; and when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that does not fade away.

I guess that the bottom line is that, regardless of how people respond to me, I need to be humble.  The apostle Paul knew how to do that.  He was able to say: “This is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief” (1 Timothy 1:15).

Pride is the constant enemy of the Christian, especially those who serve in leadership positions.  And we all have to be careful, or we’ll be chastised like the church in Laodicea: “So then, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will vomit you out of My mouth. Because you say, ‘I am rich, have become wealthy, and have need of nothing’—and do not know that you are wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked…” (Revelation 3:16-17).