The Dinner Party

Three Miracles of Jesus
Luke 14:1-6
Matthew Raley (7-28-13)

Today we will be exploring the works of Christ through the eyes of Isaac, a fictional eyewitness.

Isaac is reclining at table with his friend Simon, a prominent Pharisee, and Jesus. Isaac sees a prostitute moving toward Jesus on her knees, tears smearing her make-up. She breaks open an alabaster flask and the luxurious odor fills the room. She washes Jesus’s feet with her tears, dries them with her uncovered hair, and pours the ointment on them. Jesus forgives her sins.  The Pharisees are scandalized.  Jesus had no right to release such a woman from her shame.  Only God can forgive sins.

This is the first of three dinner parties where Isaac and his fellow guests are confronted by the mercy of Christ.

Through them we will encounter several characteristics of Jesus’s mercy which will teach us something more about the nature of faith.

Published in: on August 25, 2013 at 11:14 pm  Leave a Comment  

The Agonizing Wait

Three Miracles of Jesus
Mark 5:21-43
Matthew Raley (7-21-13)

Jairus, the synagogue ruler, is sitting with his twelve-year-old daughter who is dying. After she falls asleep, he goes to his roof and begins to pray.  As he calls on the promises of God, he notices people running through the streets shouting, “Jesus!”  He cannot reach Jesus easily. A massive crowd has gathered. Jairus pushes through the people for what seems like hours. When he finally reaches the front of the crowd, he falls at Jesus’s feet and implores him to come heal his daughter.

Jesus agrees and they start off for Jairus’s home. The crowd slows their progress. People just as desperate as Jairus are crying out to Jesus, grabbing at him. The disciples are struggling to form a barrier around Jesus. Suddenly Jesus stops and turns around. He stares at various people. “Who touched my garments?” No one answers. His disciples ask, “What do you mean? The crowd is pressing around you.” But Jesus keeps looking from person to person.

Jairus tenses.  He doesn’t have time for this.  His daughter is dying. In fact, during this delay, Jairus’s servants have been struggling to reach him to tell him his daughter is dead.  Jesus seems unfazed by this news. He looks at Jairus and says, “Do not fear, only believe.”

We learn a great deal about the nature of faith from this story. In today’s message we will be asking the question: What about Jesus are you trusting?

Published in: on August 25, 2013 at 11:07 pm  Leave a Comment  

The Dying Boy

Three Miracles of Jesus
John 4.43-54
Matthew Raley (7-14-13)

A royal official returns, filled with anxiety, to his home in Capernaum.  He rushes to his son’s room where his manager is overseeing the boy’s care. No physician has been able to stop the boy’s decline. The most expensive treatments have accomplished nothing.

The manager says, “Jesus of Nazareth has returned to Cana.” The official has followed Jesus’s rise as a teacher. Wherever he goes, there are signs of God’s power in him and large crowds now listen to him. If Jesus can perform these kinds of wonders, then he can certainly heal the official’s son.

But he looks at the feverish boy, sinking  by the minute. Cana is more than 15 miles away. Jesus won’t do the boy any good over there. The official starts early the next morning and finds Jesus by midday. He implores him to come home with him to Capernaum to heal his dying son.

Today we begin a short series on faith.  We will see that Jesus’s response to the official teaches us a great deal about the nature of faith.

Published in: on August 25, 2013 at 11:05 pm  Leave a Comment  

The Call of the Kingdom

Stories From the Life of Paul
2 Thessalonians 1:5-12
Matthew Raley (7-7-13)

Paul can no longer remember how many times he’s been chained and thrown in prison.  His life has been characterized by unrelenting conflict, much of it violent. He has endured many divisions from other followers of Christ, some personal and some doctrinal. He has endured the shame of being abandoned during previous imprisonments. He endures all these things because Christ went to the cross for him when Paul was his enemy. Christ showed Paul mercy and saved him from God’s wrath.

But this will be Paul’s last imprisonment. He will never be free again in this life. He wants the comfort of fellowship in his last days on this earth. Likely no man yearns for peace more. But he starts to hear that one minister in Asia after another is abandoning him. Men Paul trained, prayed over, comforted, and defended now refuse to rally to him. At his first court date, no one appears on Paul’s behalf.

In today’s sermon we will be asking the question: What sustains Paul, even in the face of such abandonment? What keeps him going through pressure, persecution, pain, and conflict? In answering this question, we will also come to understand the importance of the final entry in our proposed belief statement:

Jesus Christ will return to raise the dead and to establish his reign on earth (Revelation 20:1-6). Only God knows when he will return (Mark 13:32-37). At Christ’s coming, believers will receive immortal bodies and will live eternally in fellowship with God (1 Corinthians 15:50-57), while unbelievers will receive judgment and will be punished eternally in hell (2 Thessalonians 1:5-10). This day motivates us to serve and proclaim Christ right now (1 John 3:1-3), even as we long to live in the new world God creates in him (Romans 8:18-25).


Published in: on August 25, 2013 at 11:04 pm  Leave a Comment  

The Call to Conflict

Stories From the Life of Paul
Ephesians 6:10-20
Matthew Raley (6-30-13)

Saul, Hebrew of  Hebrews, is now called Paul,  Jesus’s messenger to the Gentiles.  He feels an inner drive to preach the gospel to people have never heard it.  He has been trying to preach to the Greek colonies in Asia Minor, but the Holy Spirit has forbidden him to do it.  He is now in Troas, on the edge of Asia, where east meets west.  This strange period of being held back seems to be over. In Troas, Paul has seen a vision of a man from Macedonia, across the Aegean Sea, pleading with Paul to come and help the people there. Paul concludes that God has finally shown him where to preach.

Now we ask: how does a mission go when God supernaturally opens the door?

Today, as we continue examining our proposed belief statement, we will look at the beginnings of Paul’s ministry in Europe.  There we will see that a call to ministry is also a call to conflict and learn how the the Christian is equipped to endure the struggle.

God saved us in order to make us holy (1 Peter 1:13-21). He calls us to display the Holy Spirit’s transforming work (Galatians 5:16-24), to love one another (Romans 12), to care for the poor and oppressed (Matthew 23:23-24), and to spread the good news of Christ’s saving work throughout the world (Matthew 28:18-20). With these calls, God sets us in spiritual conflict with mainstream culture, a struggle that he equips us to endure through the Bible, prayer, and the power of the Spirit (Ephesians 6:10-20).


Published in: on August 25, 2013 at 10:54 pm  Leave a Comment