As we begin 2014, MorningStar is taking a month to examine the key teachings of Jesus to the church that are to define who we are and how we live in this world. This first message looks at Matthew 28:18-20, the Great Commission, seeking to understand and act upon Jesus words to go and make disciples.
Advent is a time in which we look toward the advent of Jesus Christ. We look back toward His 1st advent with celebration and rejoicing, and we look toward His 2nd advent with anticipation. As we wait for His 2nd advent we want to wait well understanding that God has purpose in our waiting. We may wonder in our waiting if God has forgotten or is simply not taking seriously His promises, but nothing could be farther from the truth. God’s patience is a gift for humanity that allows us time to embrace the redemption that is available through His Son Jesus Christ.
As Jesus enters Jerusalem in what is known as the Triumphal Entry, He is surrounded by crowds who are praising Him as God’s true king. The religious leaders view this as blasphemy and demand that Jesus silence the crowd. Jesus’ response to the religious leaders is somewhat peculiar. Instead of a simply “no,” Jesus makes a statement about rocks crying out. His statement uncovers for us a great deal about our purpose on earth and the outcome if we choose to be a silent majority rather than a vocal public witness to who Jesus is.
Zacchaeus was a wee little man…a man whose life was transformed through his encounter with Jesus. As his story comes to a close, Jesus makes the declaration that He has come to seek and to save that which is lost – those who are like Zacchaeus was. Now, He desires to accomplish this through His followers and when He does it is one of the most joyous occasions in our lives.
God’s relentless pursuit of relationship with humanity continues and expands as the early church scatters and one of the greatest persecutors of the church becomes one of the greatest missionaries for the gospel.
When Jesus asked His disciples “who do you say that I am?” He was not experiencing an identity crisis. He was seeking to help direct their expectations and redefine some of their understandings. Jesus continues to ask that question and it is answered in many different ways, but there is only one way that the Bible permits us to answer this question that is true to who Jesus really is. He is our divine friend who shows us what He thinks of us by going to the cross.
Perhaps you heard the story of Wesley Autrey from a few years ago. Autrey, a 50 year old construction worker from New York City was standing on the subway platform with his two daughters who were heading downtown to see their mother when a man dropped to the platform floor from a seizure. Autrey quickly ran for the help of a transit worker and then borrowed a pen from another rider. He forced the pen between the jaws of the young man, a 20 year old college student, and helped him through the seizure. The young man seemed to be fine, he got up from the floor of the platform and began walking around, but the ordeal was not yet over. As the next subway train was rolling into the station the young man had a relapse and stumbled onto the tracks. Autrey dove into the path of the oncoming train, grabbed the young man and rolled him into the trough between the tracks just in time for the train to pass just inches over his body saving himself and this young man.
I love stories like this one, I think most of us do. There is just something about a story with a hero and a happy ending that makes us feel warm and fuzzy. As I read the story last week from several different sources, I couldn’t help but find myself thinking, “I wanna be that guy.” But that quickly lead me to thoughts of how I would react in the same or a similar situation. I wonder if I would be one of the multitude of riders who stood on the platform and did nothing or would I be the one who came to the rescue of someone in need? What I’ve realized is it’s easy to say you would do something but it’s a lot different when you find yourself right in the middle of the crisis needing to make a quick decision. It’s one thing to know and discuss what’s right it’s quite another to do what’s right.
This whole event is like a modern day example of the parable of the Good Samaritan told by Jesus nearly 2000 years ago. Some of the details are a little different, but there are many similarities. A man is mugged and left for dead on the road between Jerusalem and Jericho, a road that made for dangerous travel during the days of Jesus. A priest just happens by as he is traveling home to Jericho from Jerusalem sees the man and passes by on the other side of the pass. A Levite then does the same a little later. Both men see the man left for dead and both men pass by on the other side pretending they never witnessed the man in need. It’s not until a Samaritan merchant passes by that the man left for dead finds the help he needs. He sees the man and is moved to do something so he goes to the man, binds and treats his wounds and takes him to a safe place to recover for as long as it takes. He then covers the entire bill for the man and rides off into the sunset, never to be heard of again, but always to be remembered.
Jesus tells this story in response to a question asked by someone in the crowd as he is teaching. The man was looking to test Jesus and seeking to justify his own actions, or lack thereof, by getting Jesus’ response to the question, “who is my neighbor?” The point of the question being who do I need to help when they are in need and who should I ignore, to put it bluntly. But the man does not receive the response he is looking for. He was hoping Jesus would simply say, like most of the other religious teachers of the day, love those who are like you and ignore those who are different. But instead of this simple answer Jesus tells the story which takes the man’s question and reverses so that it no longer focuses on the neighbor worthiness of others but the neighborliness of this man and everyone else in the crowd. By the time Jesus is done with the story he asks the question of the man, “who proved to be a neighbor?” a question with an obvious answer, the one who helped the man.
We may not be faced with a situation as dramatic and Wesley Autrey or the Samaritan merchant this week in which we are called upon to risk our lives for a total stranger, but each one of us has a whole host of opportunities to prove we are a neighbor to those around us whether we deem them neighbor worthy or not. Now that’s heroic.
message text: Revelation 3:7-13
message date: 05.16.10
These days it seems that everyone has a strategy, opinion, plan, or formula for how the church should look and operate. However, only one voice really matters, the voice of the one who gave His life for the church, Jesus Christ. The book of Revelation contains 7 letters to 7 churches in which God tells us what His church should look like in order to reflect His image. He shares what to avoid and what to embrace as we reveal the image or our glorious Groom, Jesus Christ. The church at Philadelphia had a unique opportunity to be a gateway to the gospel for the city and surrounding cities. From this church we learn that God will open doors of opportunity for us to spread the gospel and we must be zealous about taking full advantage of those opportunities.
message text: John 14:1-14
message date: 02.14.10
In this 50th year of ministry for MorningStar Baptist Church we are celebrating the fact that Jesus Christ has been our all-sufficient source and solidifying this reality for the years to come. Jesus makes 7 sufficiency statements in the book of John. Jesus 6th sufficiency statement reminds us that our human quest for God ends in Him.
I came across an inspiring story of a young woman who took a stand for her faith in Jesus Christ. This story did not originate from some foreign country in which individuals must hide their relationship with Jesus Christ behind closed doors and it is not a story from centuries past. This story took place just a few years ago right here in the United States of America, the land of the free and the home of the brave, and let me say that in my opinion the story of this young lady epitomizes both of the these values. Megan Chapman was a graduating high school senior at Russell County High School in Kentucky. At the outset of her senior year she had been elected to the chaplaincy of her class. This position had traditionally had the privilege of delivering a prayer at graduation but this year things looked as if they were going to turn out somewhat different. The Wednesday before the graduation proceedings the ACLU filed suit to stop the prayer, and on Friday morning a federal judge issued an order barring the high school from conducting prayer in conjunction with the graduation ceremonies. In this order Megan was actually specifically named as being barred from praying during the graduation. With graduation taking place on Friday night it appeared as though prayer had effectively been removed from yet another part of the fabric of America. Yet, while all these official court proceedings were taking place the senior class officers of the high school had met on Thursday and decided that Megan should not only deliver the prayer at graduation but she should also be the one to deliver a message to the graduating class and everyone present. This group of seniors was determined to have prayer as a part of their graduation so throughout the day on Thursday they had passed out bookmarks containing the Lord’s Prayer, not fully aware of what would take place on Friday. With the realization that her name was specifically sited in a federal lawsuit I can only imagine the incredible pressure that Megan must have been facing. With just hours until graduation she had a critical decision to make, would she stand for Christ in spite of these circumstances and possibly face federal charges or would she comply with the court order and keep silent about her faith in Christ? I’ve asked myself multiple times since reading of Megan’s account what I would have done, though I can’t be one hundred percent certain my prayer is that I would have done the same thing she did. Just three hours before the graduation ceremonies were to take place Megan was contacted by a group of evangelical lawyers who informed her that the court order could only prevent her from praying and not from sharing her personal testimony or a religious message. So Megan prepared to take her stand. With 3,000 in attendance the senior class of nearly 200 students opened up the ceremonies by all standing together and reciting the Lord’s Prayer. Before the students could even conclude the prayer the entire high school gymnasium was enveloped in applause. This was followed up by Megan stepping up to the podium. She had brought a poem with her to the podium but felt as though God was leading her to share a message instead. The message included her personal testimony of her faith in Jesus Christ, her confidence in the peace and guidance of Christ and a desire that everyone present would know Christ as she knows him. There were several instances during Megan’s message in which she was interrupted by applause and cheering as the crowd displayed their support of her decision. I thank God that most of us have not had to face such adversity as followers of Christ, but I also know that God’s Word tells those of us who are followers of Christ that we should be ready for such adversity and expect it. If you were faced with a similar choice with similar severe consequences potentially facing you how do you think you would respond? Would you respond as Megan did and stand boldly for your faith in the midst of adversity or would you quietly give in to the pressure and remain silent about the one who gave everything that you might have life? My prayer is the Megan’s story encourages each of us to have faith in God that there is no adversity too severe that He cannot carry us through and turn such situations into opportunities to proclaim His great message of salvation.