“Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all long suffering and doctrine.” (2 Timothy 4:2)
The hardest thing of not being in full-time pastoral ministry for me has been hardly ever preaching. I miss that terribly. For many years, I preached at least 40 times a year. This past year I preached only 5 or 6 times as a guest speaker. Right now I’m reading and meditating my way through the Gospel of Mark in my personal devotional times. In the past, some of my greatest sermons came our of things the Lord showed me during such devotional times. Not long ago, I got SO much out of Mark chapter 6. Had I been pastoring, what follows in this piece would have been preached as a sermon in the near future. The best thing I can do now is to write it down and share it with people through the internet.
I know there are some people who feel things in my life are not right and that what I would share from a pulpit would therefore be of little value. Honestly, I disagree with that. My sermons are expository sermons from the Bible, and in Isaiah 55:11 GOD says of His precious Word, “...it shall not return unto me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please...”. That’s GOD speaking. So, if God in the past has literally spoken through a DONKEY, He can certainly speak through this flawed vessel.
Were I preaching this, the title would be, “EXPECT THE UNEXPECTED”.
This sermon is mainly taken from Mark chapter 6. I encourage you to check that chapter out!
My RMV Official father was considered a driving expert. He taught many many people to drive. Something he drilled into his students was, “Expect the unexpected”. A close variation of that that he would say is, “Accidents happen when LEAST expected!”
As we approach God and the things of God, our attitude should always be: EXPECT THE UNEXPECTED. God OFTEN does what we DO NOT and WOULD NOT expect Him to do!
Closely related to that is a line I’VE often used in discipling people: “YOU CAN’T PUT GOD IN A BOX!” God will not be made to fit neatly into our theology or religion (or “expectations”). I think God just loves to shake up people’s theology, and that includes the theology of Pentecostals, Baptists, and other evangelicals! No, you CAN’T put God in a box!
If you forget everything else about this sermon, please remember:
YOU CAN’T PUT GOD IN A BOX: EXPECT THE UNEXPECTED!
Most Pastors try to make their sermons fit into a format of Three Main Points. I usually did that, too, but THIS one has SEVEN! (Had I actually preached this, the 7 points would have been presented briefly, nobody’s Sunday dinner would have been forfeited!)
1. THE LEFT FOOT OF FELLOWSHIP (vv.1-6)
In Galatians 2:9, it speaks of being given the “right hand of fellowship”. We still use that term in churches today. But sadly, there’s also the left foot of fellowship! It’s bad enough when a human being is given the left foot of fellowship, but how horrific to give THE LORD the left foot of fellowship! Sadly, some churches DON’T want God. My good friend Dick Germaine has often told the story about his early days of pastoring a very liberal Congregational church. A Board member actually stormed out while he was preaching, yelling, “I’m SO #%^##@
SICK of hearing about the blood of Jesus!” That guy wanted to give the Lord the left foot of fellowship. In the early days of the Pentecostal movement, one hundred years ago, many people were baptized in the Holy Spirit, spoke in other tongues, and were quickly THROWN OUT OF THEIR CHURCHES. They were said to be “of Satan”. Those churches gave Pentecostals and the Holy Spirit the left foot of fellowship. At Nazareth in these verses, JESUS is rejected by his home town. This was NOT the Messiah that they wanted or expected. This was the kid with a runny nose who’d been fussy during a Passover meal; this was the kid who’d tracked wood shavings from his Dad’s shop all over Mrs. Abraham’s nice clean floor. This was NOT who they wanted, and they rejected Him.
Have you or I rejected the Lord because He WASN’T as we wanted or expected him to be?!
2. ONE “FAR OUT” TRIP (vv.7-13)
Here, Jesus sent his twelve apostles out to do ministry and He gave them some really weird directions. Imagine God telling you to drive out to Springfield, Missouri, but telling you to take NO cash with you...no credit cards...no debit cards...no checkbook, and just the most minor change of clothes. Imagine HIm saying, “Don’t worry about where you’re going to stay; people will just invited you into their homes, they’ll make you meals, AND they’ll give you gas money!”
Would you go? Well, that’s pretty much how it was. They went, and things DID work out. Yeah, I imagine it was one “far out” trip! A lot of people TALK a lot about “faith”. In fact, VERY few people have ever really walked by faith. Honestly, it’s a difficult area for me, and I’ve failed at this many times. Now, granted there IS a fine line between faith and foolishness. If you want to see a great example of someone in modern times who has walked by face, watch the DVD “Faith Like Potatoes”, the TRUE story of the life of Angus Buchan. He’s a South African farmer and preacher and he is very much alive. What would you be willing to do if God called you to do it? Sadly, I knew a guy who was called to preach; he was called to go to Bible College. In 1982, he was ACCEPTED to attend Central Bible College. He knew he was called. He knew he was supposed to go. But, he got scared. He just couldn’t go through with it. He did not go. He is still a Christian. But his Christian life has been very wishy-washy, and even included a time of drug abuse in which he pretty much lost EVERYTHING material in his life. I can’t help but wonder where that guy would be IF he had continued on and done what the Lord had called him to do.
What is God calling YOU to do? Are you going to do it, or are you too scared?
3. A KING AND A FOOL (vv. 14-29)
Almost anyone in the world who read this story would say the King here is “King Herod” and the fool here is “John the Baptist”. Herod was a puppet king under the Roman government, but he still “lived like a king”. He had money and power. He had fame. John the Baptist had publicly criticized King Herod, and for that, he’d been thrown into prison. Yet, Herod kind of liked John. Incidentally, Herod had more faith than many Christians do. When Herod heard about Jesus doing great miracles, he assumed it was John the Baptist who had been risen from the dead. Now, John the Baptist was executed; he was beheaded/ But Herod believed he had been raised from the dead, his head had been miraculously reattached, and he was doing miracles. I’ve gotta say, that’s faith! But Herod’s no role model. He threw himself a big birthday party. He had too much to drink. A girl there did a sexy belly dance for him. He was so captivated by the girl that he offered her ANYTHING...even half his kingdom. She chose John the Baptist’s head on a platter! Herod really did NOT want to do that..but he had his pride...what would people think? So he had John beheaded. Have you ever thought about what it must have been like for John that night? All of a sudden some guards burst into his cell and yell, “All right, LET’S GO!” John probably thought, “Let’s go? Go WHERE? What did I possibly do?!”
The next thing he knew, his head was cut off!
Yes, the world would say Herod was the king and John was the fool. NO! John is in Heaven. John will reign with Christ as a King and Priest forever! Herod is eternally lost. Who is the fool?
Where are YOUR priorities? What is most important in life to YOU?
4. ONE LOUSY RETREAT (vv.30-34)
When Jesus and his disciples heard about John’s execution, they were pretty shaken by it. Have you ever just needed to get away and process something? Even Jesus and His disciples needed to get away, be alone, have kind of a private retreat, and process this. They went with that intention, and what do you suppose happened?
Look at what it says.
The crowds showed up, essentially saying, “Here WE are, and WE want to be ministered to”.
Do you know what I would have done in that situation? I would have FLIPPED OUT!
I would have told those crowds, “Do you GET this?! We need to be on a private retreat! We need to be by ourselves. GOOD BYE! GO!! We’ll see you in a few days, now GET OUTTA HERE!!”
That’s what I would have done.
Jesus is not like me!
Jesus had compassion for them. Jesus went out and ministered to them, in his own time of need. When you’re spent and just need to be alone and “process” do you know what God may do? He may send people that you’d rather NOT have around for you to minister to. I know, it’s happened to me. Initially, I have NOT liked it. But during those times that I have suppressed my real feelings and have NOT flipped out, and have actually ministered to people when I did NOT feel like doing so, God ALWAYS blessed, and you know what, I got more out of the ministering to the people than they did. I got the blessing because I did what God wanted me to do.
What inconvenient annoying thing are you willing to endure for the cause of Christ? Frankly, what annoying person are you willing to minister to for the cause of Christ?
5. OBSTACLES OR OPPORTUNITIES? (vv. 35-46)
This is one of the most familiar stories in the Gospels, and in fact it’s found in all four Gospels: The feeding of the 5000. There were 5000 MEN (how many women or children?!). They did not have enough food for their journey back. Jesus disciples pretty much said, “That’s OUR problem?! These dopes don’t have enough food. What are we supposed to do? If we bought them all four piece McNugget meals it would probably cost over $10,000. It’s THEIR problem!”
Jesus said, “NO, it’s YOUR problem”. You know the story. Jesus has them all sit down in smaller groups. The disciples find five loaves and two fish that John’s Gospel tells us a “lad” had with him. Jesus blesses the food, the disciples distribute it to the crowds, the food keeps multiplying, and in the end they pick up twelve baskets of LEFTOVERS! Too often, I am a very negative person, like the disciples were. I see things as OBSTACLES. Jesus, rather, saw this as an OPPORTUNITY!
What situation are YOU in today? Honestly, in the natural, I’m in a pretty bad situation in my own life. But the Bible says in Ephesians 3:2 that the Lord is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all we ask or think! Do we really believe that?
God wants us to see situations NOT as OBSTACLES but as OPPORTUNITIES for Him to work and be glorified.
6. WHAT DO YOU SEE? (vv.47-52)
After the feeding of the 5000, the disciples got into their boat on the Sea of Galilee and sailed off, but Jesus remained behind to pray. In the middle of the night, the disciples saw a figure walking on the water, and they FREAKED OUT!
You see, there were all kinds of legends and stories about GHOSTS who haunted the Sea of Galilee. They were convinced they saw a ghost and were terrified. Jesus essentially says in verse 50, “Hey, it’s me, don’t be afraid”.
2 Corinthians 5:7 says we are to walk by faith and not by sight. But DO WE? Listen, a lot of the time, I walk by SIGHT. Back when I was pastoring in Framingham, I remember a woman in our church named Chris who used to often pray, “Help me to NOT go by what I see”. That’s a good prayer. You can go to a magic show and think a guy created a rabbit out of thin air or made a woman disappear. These are all TRICKS. Back to my father that I talked about at the beginning of this sermon, he used to say regarding highway accident investigation that eyewitnesses were often NOT reliable. They would imagine or concoct things. They thought they saw things that they DID NOT SEE.
The question is, in the darkest hours, DO WE SEE JESUS. because, you know what, He is there!
7. STAY FOCUSED (vv. 53-57)
My friend Bob Gill often says, “I have to stay FOCUSED!”
You know, sometimes I have wondered if I have A.D.D.
I can have a hard time “staying focused” on things. I really need to stay focused when I do my job at the answering service. Many times as I’ve gone into work, I’ve prayed (in Bob Gill’s words) “Lord, help me to stay focused on my job today!”
In the region of Genneseret, many crowds came to Jesus. They did not allow anything to deter them from Him. They stayed focused on Him. In fact, they focused on the hem of His garment. They pressed in to touch the hem of His garment. Now, remembering the theme of this sermon, someone may say, “Well, that shouldn’t matter. Jesus can just speak the word and they will be healed. Why focus on touching the hem of his garment? I wouldn’t expect God would need people to do that, nor would He require them to do it. That’s just religious and superstitious.”
In fact, THAT is how the Lord was moving that day and they were moving in the Spirit and they GOT it, and they received their healings!
You know, sometimes in church God wants a VERY quiet and very reverent service...almost like you’d get in a very formal Episcopal Church. And, SOMETIMES He wants a service like a wild southern revival meeting, and there are hundreds of other varieties of what He wants services to be like. Do WE get in the Spirit and DISCERN how God is moving on a particular day, or do we have God in a box and put our own expectations first?
Remember: YOU CAN’T PUT GOD IN A BOX: EXPECT THE UNEXPECTED!
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