Sermon Options: November 14, 2021

September 2nd, 2021

A MOTHER FOR ALL TIMES

1 SAMUEL 1:4-20

In Ponca City, Oklahoma, an artist depicted in a statue some of the women who helped settle the West. The pioneer woman has a bonnet and long dress. With in one hand she holds a Bible close to her heart. With the other hand she leads her child. Her face is turned upward and her eyes gaze into the distance. She is striding boldly across the prairie.

Consider this image for today’s mother. Date book in hand, desktop computer on her shoulder, she heads to the car. Her child is running to catch up with her. They are eating a breakfast pastry, late for the car pool stops on the way to the child development center!

Both of these images contrast with Hannah, who is described in 1 Samuel 1. Hannah could probably identify more with the pioneer woman, but she still offers a contemporary model for today’s mother.

I. A Mother with Sorrow

Many mothers today understand Hannah’s struggle because your home isn’t a bed of roses either. One news account listed the home as society’s violent place. Jealousy tears apart family relationships. Couples who yearn for a child silently grieve with every news account of child abuse. Divorce pits family members against one another.

Mothers may even be misunderstood by the church. Hannah’s preacher saw her praying at the altar and thought she was drunk (v. 13). A mother going through a divorce told me, “I guess I’ll have to find another church. Not one member has said a word to me during this rough time. Maybe they don’t know what to say, or they think I’m an embarrassment to the church.”

Every mother, every home has problems, or will. For Hannah they continued “year by year” (v. 7). The tears easily flowed; her appetite diminished. Her husband worried. Instead of giving up she turned to God.

II. A Mother with Faith

A time of trouble is no time to give up on God and his people. Hannah kept fellowship in the house of God (v. 7). She prayed to the Lord, pouring out her soul before him (vv. 10-11, 15-16). Worship and prayer change the face of our problems. Perplexed by evil, the psalmist said, “When I thought how to understand this, it was too painful for me—Until I went into the sanctuary of God, then I understood” (Ps. 73:16-17 NKJV).

Faith finds new courage in the promises of God. Hannah received the word to “Go in peace; the God of Israel grant the petition you have made to him” (v. 17). The promise was enough. She “went her way and ate, and her face was no longer sad” (v. 18 NKJV). Sorrows and problems find resolution in the promises of God. Countless individuals have by faith “subdued kingdoms, worked righteousness, obtained promises” (Heb. 11:33 NKJV).

George Barna wrote: “What an incredible state of affairs. The family is deteriorating before our very eyes and little is being done to save it. Millions of Americans cannot even describe the meaning of “family values” (Absolute Confusion, Regal Books, 1993, p. 143).

Let’s pray and work together toward the goal of letting both church and home preach God’s will and God’s truth. May both church and family be a place where we can find rest, comfort, and security in God’s love. (Bill D. Whittaker)

FROZEN BY FEAR, FREED BY GRACE

HEBREWS 10:11-14, 19-25

Some animals have a tendency to freeze when overtaken by fear. Rather than run or scurry away, they stand motionless, until overtaken by that which is causing the threat. More than one deer, raccoon, or possum has been caught in the headlights of an automobile, only to freeze in terror and become struck by the automobile.

People can act likewise. Psychologists indicate that fear can grip us and keep us from action. I read of a man struck by a train at a railroad crossing. He lived to tell his story, saying he both heard and saw the train coming his direction, but he was unable to take a step. It was as if his feet had been cemented to the ground.

Other fears are equally paralyzing. The fear of rejection, humiliation, embarrassment, or failure can keep us from taking positive steps in relationships and in our daily living. Fear can even affect the way we relate to God. Because of our sin, our guilt, and our feelings of inadequacy, we may fear the presence of God. We fear his wrath, his judgment, his scrutiny.

The writer of Hebrews offers some good news to soothe our fears. No longer are we to allow fear to freeze us, but rather we are to let grace free us. Through Christ our Lord, we can have confidence as we relate to God.

As the perfect high-priest, Christ has offered a complete and final sacrifice. He now sits enthroned at the right hand of God (v. 12). Because of his work, Christians are being made holy and therefore are able to enter the presence of the Almighty God. As believers, we now have confidence to draw near to God, to hold fast to our hope, and to invest in others.

I. Christ Gives Us Confidence to Draw Near to God (v. 22)

We have confidence to draw near to God’s presence. Separating the Holy of Holies from the common people was a huge veil. Humans belonged on one side and God on the other. Only the high priest could go in, and only then on the day of Atonement. Christ has provided a “new and living way” to enter into the presence of God.

Through Christ, God reaches through the veil and draws us in. What we could not do on our own, Christ has done for us. We can draw near to God as a welcomed child because of the work of our Lord.

It is with great anticipation that we approach the throne of God. And yet there is to be no fear, only the calm assurance of Christ’s confidence. We come in confidence because we have been cleansed. Our hearts are cleansed from all guilt and our bodies are cleansed from sin. And so in faith and in confidence we run to God and seek his face. We have been freed by grace to do so.

II. Christ Gives Confidence to Hold Fast to Our Hope (v. 23)

The ultimate hope of the Christian is contained in two simple statements. First, Christ arose from the grave. Second, Christ is coming again. These two words of affirmation and faith comprise our hope. The book of Hebrews reminds us to hold fast to our hope. We must never lose our grip on what we believe. The confidence for doing so is found in verse 23, “For he who has promised is faithful.”

You’ve seen the bumper sticker that says, “God said it and I believe it.” God is indeed faithful and therefore we can trust all of the promises that he has made. We need only look back to envision our hope for the future, for if we believe in the promises of God, we must also believe in the return of our Lord. We therefore build confidence in our lives and not fear, knowing that God has promised the faithful return of Christ. By holding fast, our faith is enriched and our hope is grounded.

III. Christ Gives Confidence to Invest in Others (v. 24)

As believers, we are to consider how we can constructively spur others on to Christian growth and maturity. We are to take up the ministry of encouragement. Through our faith, others should learn love and the doing of good works. We are not Christians merely for our own sakes, but for the sake of others. We must become contagious communities of faith, encouraging others to grow.

True disciples of Christ are called to make investments in the lives of people. To “spur” others toward maturity will require time, effort, prayer, and example. Though we may feel inadequate, perhaps even spiritually impoverished, God still can use us to build his kingdom if we will invest our lives into the lives of others.

When the automobile first appeared on the scene, thousands of Americans joyfully bought them. It did not take long for the joy to wear thin as many motorists found their cars bogging down along the roadways. The paths made by horses and buggies had too many ruts and puddles for cars to move about freely. To bring back the joy, Henry Ford started an ambitious campaign to introduce street paving to America. He assembled teams and provided them with equipment to begin paving “seed miles” across the nation. From town to town, these crews would pave a one-mile stretch of smooth road. When motorists first drove on the smooth surface, the exhilaration proved too great and soon miles and miles of roadway appeared as the joy of driving gripped the country.

Small investments can bring great rewards, especially those that are eternal in nature. In Christ, we can make a difference in others by spurring them to abundant life and good deeds.

God loves you and longs to enjoy fellowship with you. Rather than be frozen by fear at that thought, allow the grace of Christ to free you to experience the riches of his Kingdom. (Jon R. Roebuck)

COUNTDOWN WITHOUT NUMBERS

MARK 13:1-8

Americans who remember the beginnings of the space age will recall the excitement—and apprehension—about the nation’s first orbital flight. Regular classes were forgotten as the children at my school gathered in front of a black-and-white television to watch the rocket launch. Would John Glenn really circle the earth and return safely? Could such a thing be done? We didn’t know, but we kept our eyes on the screen and listened eagerly for each progress report. Our teachers assured us we were watching history in the making, and they were right.

Suspense, timing, and reminders from a Teacher are part of the scene from today’s Gospel reading. Jesus had left the temple for the final time and had taken his disciples to the Mount of Olives, higher than the temple mount, where they could see the entire city. The odd remark by one disciple, “Look, Teacher, what large stones and what large buildings!” was met with an even stranger prophetic utterance from Jesus: “Do you see these great buildings? Not one stone will be left here upon another; all will be thrown down.”

This interchange serves as introduction to the only long discourse in Mark’s Gospel, often called “The Little Apocalypse.” Verses 1-8 are part of an entire chapter dealing with signs of the end of the age. It is appropriate, therefore, to look at these verses in their context. What are the underlying themes in this prophecy shortly before the Passion, and how do they address the contemporary church?

I. The End of the Age Will Come

The phrase “second coming” does not appear in this chapter, though the revelation or appearance of the Christ is a theme. The destruction of the temple (which burned in A.D. 70), famines, earthquakes, wars and rumors of wars, are not signs of the end, but “birth pangs”—signs preceding the end and confirming Jesus prophecy.

The church for centuries has declared its eschatological belief in reciting this line of the Apostles Creed: “from thence he shall come to judge the quick and the dead.” Ever since this conversation with Peter, James, John, and Andrew, followers of Jesus have believed the Savior will come again.

II. No One Knows When This Will Happen

The first question the disciples asked the Master was, “Tell us, when will this be, and what will be the sign that all these things are about to be accomplished?” It is a question followers (and nonfollowers) of the Messiah still ask. Throughout history and even today, self-appointed prophets have made a cottage industry of predicting when the end of the world will come. The Cold War, the Gulf War, and other events have all been accompanied by literature identifying current events with eschatological names and symbols. But Christ said to the disciples, “But about that day or hour no one knows, neither the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father” (v. 32). Christians should therefore be skeptical of anyone who claims to have inside information, for this contradicts the testimony of the Gospels.

III. Followers of Jesus Are to Be Ready

Jesus instructions were to take heed and watch, for we do not know when the time will come. For disciples of any age, this means striving to grow in the knowledge and love of God, witnessing and serving in Jesus name, and trusting the Lord’s faithfulness. It also means resisting “false Messiahs” and the temptation to second-guess God’s timetable. Finally, it means looking forward expectantly to God’s future. As the writer of Revelation concluded: “He who testifies to these things says, ‘Surely I am coming quickly. Amen. Come, Lord Jesus! The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. Amen.” (Carol M. Noren)

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