Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Video: Jesus' Hands: God's Love Touching Our Lives - Part 2

Jesus' Hands: A Display of God's Love

Preached at Northwest Christian Church
David P. Kautt
Sunday Morning, February 26, 2012

Ephesians 3:14-21, “For this reason I bow my knees to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, from whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named, that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with might through His Spirit in the inner man, that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and depth and height— to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge; that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.  Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.”

How is it that God makes His love for us tangible, concrete, practical and touchable?  The Psalmist David, who penned the words (“My Times are in God’s Hands”) found on the front cover of today’s worship bulletin knew the answer to that question.  God uses, Jesus uses, His hands.  If you want to look it up, the reference alluded to on the cover of the worship bulletin is from Psalm 31:15.  Wrestling with the anguish of physical weakness, anyone here able to relate to that?  Distressed by grief and the losses he had sustained in his life – anyone here ever experienced those things?  Attacked, forsaken and forgotten by friends and enemies alike – anyone here know how that feels?  Dealing with all of those difficult dilemmas, what does David the psalmist do?  Where does he end up?

3 Times, at least as I observed it in my reading and study of this passage, Psalm 31, David the psalmist refers to God’s hands, and concludes, “This is how I know that You love me, God.  This is how…”  Verse 8 – “You have not handed me over to the enemy, but You have set my feet in a wide place, a roomy, spacious location.”  This is how I know that You care about me.  You hands.  Verses 14 and 15 – “As for me, You are my God.  As far as I am concerned, I trust in You, O Lord. My times, every day, every house, every minute, every second of my life is in Your hands.”  This is how I know that You know what I’m going through.  Psalm 31:5 - David the psalmist bolding exclaims, “Into Your hands, O God, I commit my spirit.”

How is it that God makes His love for us tangible, practical, concrete, touchable?  Anybody ever see one of these?  Anybody ever noticed hands stretched out like this?  Ultimately, that’s how the apostle Paul defines and describes the love of God, the love of Christ, for us, in the text we read at the outset from Ephesians 3, isn’t it?  Paul depicts the love of God, the love of Christ, in cross-sized, cross-shaped dimensions.  I want to know, I’m praying that you might know and experience the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, all the width, length, depth and height of God’s love for you in Jesus Christ. 

We’ve been examining that subject, haven’t we, through the lens of the gospel of Mark, a portrait of the life of Jesus penned by one of Peter’s dear friends, John Mark.  And what have we learned so far?  We have learned that Jesus, the Servant who rules, with His hands he cleansed a leper, effected a healing, helping, cleansing, with His hands.  We’ve learned that Jesus, the Servant who rules, with His hands, quieted a raging fever ravaging the body of Peter’s mother-in-law.  His hands calmed her.  Restored strength to her.  We’ve learned that Jesus, the Servant who Rules, who has authority over leprosy and fevers, also has power, authority, to illuminate the darkness, to give sight to the blind, to open deaf ears and loosen bound up tongues.  Yes, we have learned, isn’t it amazing?  Isn’t it glories?  That Jesus, the Servant who rules, also has power with His hands and His words, over DEATH!  A little girl, Jairus’ precious daughter, Jesus spoke to her the tender words, the life-giving words, ‘Talitha Cummi,’ ‘Little girl, I say to you, arise!’ 

In the first 8 chapters of the gospel of Mark, we watch in wonder and amazement at how God, using the hands of Jesus His Son, the Servant who rules, says, ‘This is how you know, that I love you!’  But then, beginning in chapter nine, Peter, an up-close, and very, very personal eye-witness to all that John Mark relates to us in the Book, Peter shows us how that Jesus is not only the Servant who rules, but listen, He also is the Ruler, the King of Kings and Lord of lords, who serves.  Would you take time with me this morning to walk up and down and around Mark chapter nine and ten, and observe with me the love of God at work, through the hands of Jesus, the Ruler who serves. 

First of all, notice with me the context, the background, the ‘shadow’ if you will, that looms large over this entire section.  Mark 9:1-8 – We call that section the record of the transfiguration of Jesus.  Up to this point in the narrative of this gospel, the emphasis has been on the Servant who rules.  Now, in this incredible experience with Jesus, Moses and Elijah, on that mountain, Peter, James and John begin to have their eyes opened to the fact that Jesus is not only a Servant who rules, who has authority over fevers and leprosy and blindness and death.  But that He also is, God, Jesus’ Father says and shows them that He is also the Ruler who serves.  THE One, not one of the ones, but THE One that they must worship, serve and obey! 

But mountain-top lessons, you know this don’t you?  Spiritual mountain-top lessons are often quickly forgotten in the nitty, gritty of life’s ‘valleys’, aren’t they?  The very next day, the very next section of Mark 9, Peter, James and John come down from that mountain with Jesus, and they, along with their fellow disciples, are confronted with the nitty, gritty, bad and ugly problem of demonic oppression and the devastation it causes in people’s lives.  A desperate father had brought his young son to Jesus’ disciples, thinking that they, like their Master, could help them.  They couldn’t.  They hadn’t been able to do a thing to help this man or his son.  In fact, the first part of the text seems to indicate that the disciples had gotten side-tracked with a debate they were having with the scribes.  And Jesus, quickly analyzing the situation, was not happy!  “How long!  How long am I going to have to put up with you guys and your lack of faith?”  But, then look at what happens next.  Jesus, the Ruler who serves, doesn’t do what so many other rules would do, He doesn’t leave the problem to His bumbling underlings.  No!  What does He do?  Jesus speaks the words this desperate father had been hoping he’d hear all along.  “Bring the boy to Me.”  Jesus, the Great One, as testified by God Himself on transfiguration mountain , with His words, “You deaf and mute spirit, I command you, come out of this boy and enter him no more!”  Jesus, with His words, AND with His hands, lifts up an otherwise helpless young man and restores him, whole and strong, to his father.  What a blessing.  What an amazing miracle, right?  But, listen, is the lesson over, finished, as far as Jesus’ disciples are concerned?  Remember?  They had been helpless, powerless, to assist this man and his son.  What did they need to learn from this encounter?  The right words to say?  The proper magical formula to follow to perform a miracle?  No!  They needed to learn, to know, to live by what Jesus, the Ruler who serves, lived by.  Verse 29, “This kind comes out by nothing but by prayer and fasting.”  In other words, ‘yes, I’m the Ruler, but listen, fellows, I can do nothing, I am powerless to help people like this boy and his father, apart from the strength of My Father in heaven!’  Have you learned that lesson, that basic A-B-C’s kind of lesson, regarding serving and ministering?  Have I? 

Press on with me, would you?  Jesus, the Servant who rules, and now, in this the second and final half of Mark’s gospel, Jesus, the Ruler who serves, He has another mountain in view, doesn’t He?  What mountain is that?  Verses 30-32 – It’s a hill called Calvary, right?  Jesus, the Ruler, in His ultimate act of service, and atoning sacrifice, would soon stretch out His hands on a Cross and by that answer the question once and for all, about how much God loves us. 

But, He wasn’t there yet and certainly His disciples were a long ways from understanding that, weren’t they?  How do we know that?  Well, in verse 32, the text says it plainly, doesn’t it?  It says that the disciples did not understand what Jesus was trying to teach them about His coming death, and not only that, but they were also afraid even to ask Him about it.  But, then notice the very next section of the passage.  It contains a lesson on leadership and ministry that the disciples were very, very slow to learn. 

Verses 33 and following, Jesus is the Ruler, the Great One, right?  In chapters one through eight He showed it repeatedly through His miracles of helping and healing, right?  And, then, beginning with the transfiguration event, and the declaration of God Himself, the second half of this Gospel proclaims the same message, right?  Jesus is the Great One.  But, look who’s arguing the point.  Look who’s missing the point.  12 thick-headed, hard-hearted men Jesus had chosen to follow Him.  Jesus is the Ruler, the Great One, for sure.  But how does He define greatness?  How does He show, demonstrate, what His kind of greatness is all about?  ‘Okay, fellows.  It’s time to gather around for another ‘skull session’, another teachable moment.  Verses 35 and following.  ‘Let me tell you what real greatness is all about.  Real greatness is all about serving.  In the very next chapter, Jesus reinforces the very same lesson with these words, “Even the Son of Man,” that’s an Old Testament Messianic title with every bit as much declaration of Jesus’ greatness as God His Father spoke on transfiguration mount.  Mark 10:45, Jesus says, “Even the Son of Man, as great as He is, and will be, did not come to BE served, but to serve and to give His life as a ransom for many.” 

How does Jesus define true greatness?  The Great One says, ‘I’m here to serve and to give up My life for you.’  And, how does He demonstrate that greatness?  He uses His hands!  Verse 36 – “Then Jesus took a little child and set him in the midst of them.  And when Jesus had taken the little fellow in His arms, Jesus said to His disciples, ‘whoever receives one of these little ones in My name receives Me; and whoever receives Me, receives not Me, but Him who sent Me.”

My loved ones, do you see it?  Do you?  Jesus, the Servant who rules, Jesus, the Ruler, the Great One who serves, He is building a kingdom with His hands.  And He wants you to be a part of that kingdom of love and light.  But to be a part of that kingdom, what must we do?  We must die.  We must die to the selfish striving for our own greatness.  We must die to us that we might live in Him, through Him, and most of all, for Him.  Jesus said it this way, and with these words we will close:

Mark 8:34-35, “When He had called the people to Himself, with His disciples also, He said to them, “Whoever desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake and the gospel’s will save it.

The serving, saving, self-sacrificing hands of Jesus, stretched out on Calvary’s cross, that’s how God makes His love for us tangible!  That’s how!

Monday, February 20, 2012

Jesus' Hands: God's Love Touching Our Lives - Part 2

Preached at Northwest Christian Church
David P. Kautt
Sunday Morning, February 19, 2012

Ephesians 3:14-21, “For this reason I bow my knees to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, from whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named, that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with might through His Spirit in the inner man, that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and depth and height— to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge; that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.  Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.”
How is it that God makes His love for us concrete, tangible, practical, touchable? 

To be strengthened with might by God’s Spirit in the inner man, that Christ might dwell in our hearts by faith, to be rooted and grounded in love – these were the things the apostle Paul asked God to do in the fives of the Christians at Ephesus, why?  So that they might be able to comprehend with every other Christian, the dimensions, the ‘Cross-Sized’ dimensions of God’s love, in Christ, how wide it is, how long it is, how deep it is and how high it is.  But not just to GRASP it, intellectually, conceptually, but what?  Paul prayed that the Church, the people of God, would KNOW that love, that we would EXPERIENCE that love that goes way beyond intelligent comprehension and so be filled with all the fullness of God!  Wow!  Have you ever prayed a prayer so gigantic, so enormous in scope and purpose? 

Lord, would you, please, answer that pray in me, would you please, accomplish that prayer in us! 

The love of God, how is it that God answers, has answered, that prayer?  How does He make His love for the world, and, in particular, for His Precious Bride, the Church, real, practical, tangible, touchable?! 

You remember it from last time, don’t you?  Can you put your hands together in this way? 

The gospel of Mark, that unique portrait of the life of Jesus presented, I believe, through the eyes of the Apostle Peter, and his young friends, John Mark, this portion of Scripture provides us with at least seven powerful illustrations of God’s love, long, wide, high and deep, through the hands of Jesus.  Would you find again that portion of the Word of God, and let’s explore, not only God’s love, His tender compassion for sin-sick humanity, but also, His special redeeming love, sanctifying love, for the Church, His Bride. 

Mark 7:31-37, “Again, departing from the region of Tyre and Sidon, He came through the midst of the region of Decapolis to the Sea of Galilee. Then they brought to Him one who was deaf and had an impediment in his speech, and they begged Him to put His hand on him. And He took him aside from the multitude, and put His fingers in his ears, and He spat and touched his tongue. Then, looking up to heaven, He sighed, and said to him, “Ephphatha,” that is, “Be opened.”  Immediately his ears were opened, and the impediment of his tongue was loosed, and he spoke plainly. Then He commanded them that they should tell no one; but the more He commanded them, the more widely they proclaimed it. And they were astonished beyond measure, saying, “He has done all things well. He makes both the deaf to hear and the mute to speak.”

Have you ever made a list of the things, the common things, the ordinary things, you take for granted?   It’s 6:30, 6:45 in the morning, sun will be up shortly.  We take that for granted, don’t we?  Got to run to the grocery store, got to head off to work.  Jump in my car, put the key in the ignition, it’s gonna start, right away.  We take that for granted.  How about this?  We awaken in the morning, yes, to the blare of the alarm clock, but also the sounds of people we love and who love us, clanking around in the kitchen or bathroom, little feet, and big ones, too, pitter-pattering in the living room or laundry room.  Can you imagine what it would be like to awaken each morning to silence?  We take our hearing for granted, don’t we?  Or, what about this?  I can relate, “Where would this preacher be, if, when he opened his mouth, nothing came out?  We take our ability to speak, for granted, don’t we?  Imagine not being able to SAY the words, ‘I love you!’  Imagine not being able to HEAR them!  That was the plight of my great uncle, Jim McKnight.  And that was the plight of this unnamed man whose friends brought him to Jesus. 

How is it that God makes His love for the world real, tangible, practical?  The hands of Jesus, look what Jesus dos with His hands.  Verse 33, first of all, Jesus takes this man aside, away from the crowd, to minister to him privately and personally.  You know, that’s just a little detail in the account, but, if you think about it, it speaks volumes about the kind of gracious Servant/King Jesus is, and about how to go about ministering to the needy as Jesus did.  Jesus didn’t merely pronounce a ‘blanket blessing’ of help and healing on a sea of faces.  He didn’t run them through a cattle chute like some big ‘herd’ – next!  Next!  Next!  Next!  No!  He took this man, whose world was full of silence, and, I suspect, full of great pain, and with His powerful, healing hands, OPENED, LOOSENED, FREED, what had previously been closed and pad-locked!  Jesus’ hands, the amazing instruments of God’s love, look at what He does with those hands: the Awesome Creator Who made these incredible organs of hearing and speech, Jesus uses those very same hands to heal this man’s body and to open, wide a door he’d likely never, ever walked through before. 

I mentioned the teachers, the preacher, the sales-people in our midst, those of us blessed with the ‘gift of gab’.  Jesus, the Master Teacher, the Prince of Preachers, if anyone ever had the ‘gift of gab’, He did.  But, look.  One more thing we need to notice here.  The thing about Jesus that caused everyone to marvel, in this instance it wasn’t His speaking, His telling a parable or preaching a sermon.  No!  Rather, verse 37, take a look, the text says that what caused the people to be astonished was what Jesus had DONE, not said, but DONE, with His hands!  “He had done ALL things well!  He makes both the deaf to hear – no more silence!  Hallelujah!  And He makes the mute to speak – praise the Lord!” 

When God says, ‘I love you’, He doesn’t write it on the clouds, He doesn’t put up a billboard along the highway!  He doesn’t send you a text with smiley faces and strange abbreviations!  No!  He uses Jesus’ hands!  He uses His Son’s hands!
Mark 8:22-26, “Then He came to Bethsaida; and they brought a blind man to Him, and begged Him to touch him. So He took the blind man by the hand and led him out of the town. And when He had spit on his eyes and put His hands on him, He asked him if he saw anything.  And he looked up and said, “I see men like trees, walking.”  Then He put His hands on his eyes again and made him look up. And he was restored and saw everyone clearly. Then He sent him away to his house, saying, “Neither go into the town, nor tell anyone in the town.”
So far, in our look at the hands of Jesus, God’s incredibly tender and powerful instruments of His love for the world and for the Church, we have learned that Jesus used His hands to CLEANSE the leper; He has CLEANSING hands.  And that He used His hands to QUIET Peter’s mother-in-law, who was sick with a raging fever.  Jesus has CALMING, QUIETING hands.  And that He used His hands to give life to Jairus’ little girl; ‘Talitha, Cumi – Little girl, arise!’  Jesus has LIFE-GIVING hands! 

But, now look, what kind of hands does Jesus have?  Mark 8:22-26 – Jesus has illuminating hands.  I mentioned a moment ago, that you and I have a tendency to take things, many, many ordinary, everyday, but very, very important things, for granted. 

Peggy can relate, can’t you, Peggy?  You had your second cataract surgery performed last week, and praise God, so far it appears as if everything was very successful.  She can see things, CLEARLY, that she hasn’t seen in years!  Imagine, Peggy, what it would be like to awaken each morning, not to a world of silence, that would be bad enough, wouldn’t it?  Can you imagine what it would be like to awaken each morning to a world of darkness?  Groping about, stumbling along, trying to find your way.  By the way, darkness, blindness, that is the situation, spiritually of every lost, unsaved man, woman and child.  God, please open their eyes, that they may see! 

Take a look at this text.  Mark 8:22 and following.  First of all, please notice the DEPTH of the need!  Remember Paul’s prayer in Ephesians 3 that we read at the outset?  Paul prayed that we might comprehend and experience the DEPTH of God’s love for us in Christ!  Listen.  This passage in Mark 8 illustrates the point well.  The depth of God’s love, demonstrated, ultimately in Jesus’ great SACRIFICE of love at Calvary, that DEEP, DEEP love, can ultimately only be calculated in terms of the exceeding depth of our need for it!  Mark 8:22 – “Then Jesus came to Bethsaida and they brought to Him a blind man…”  Then, notice the next sentence, the next phrase, it says that the people BEGGED Jesus to touch him, to heal him!  This wasn’t a request for a cure for a hang nail, or a case of the sniffles.  No!  This was an urgent plea for the LIGHT of the World, the Maker of this man’s eyes, to Shine into his life, to touch him with His hands, that he might see!  Illuminating the DARKNESS, taking away the blindness, that’s what Jesus does with His hands.  That’s how God shows His love through Jesus’ hands! 

I was contemplating these things, and their message for me, for us, and realizing those things that we take for granted, physically, organs of hearing and speaking and seeing that function fully and flawlessly.  Those of us who aren’t like my great uncle, Jim McKnight was, those of us aren’t afflicted like this blind man was, we forget that, unless and until Jesus extends His loving hands to lift the veil over our eyes, and to open and loosen our bound tongues and blocked ears, we won’t see Him, we won’t hear Him, we won’t be able to speak for Him

One final passage, the very next section of Scripture in Mark chapter 8.  Jesus gathers around Him not the multitudes, but His disciples.  We might put it his way, He gathers around Him His church.  And, what does He do?  He wants to know, yes, what the crowds are saying about Him, sure!  But more importantly, much more significantly, Jesus wants to know, wants to hear, to see, to know who WE think He is.  And what is Peter’s answer?  Mark 8:29, “You are the Christ,”  “You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God.”  (Matthew 16:16)

Here’s my question for you, Church.  Here’s what we must always keep in mind, people of God.  How did Peter come to know this?  I mean, if you look at his life, this guy, at times, he’s as blind as they come!  At times, he’s as deaf as they come, speaking when he should have been listening!  How did Peter, this often very ‘blind’ and ‘deaf’ man come to this world-changing conclusion: Jesus, you are the Christ, the Son of the Living God?!

Here’s how: Matthew 16:17 – The parallel passage to this text in Mark 8, Jesus, the One whose hands give sight to the blind and hearing to the deaf, Jesus says, “Flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but My Father who is in heaven!”

I praise God for my eye sight and for ears that are open and a tongue that is loose, maybe at times too loose!  But, listen – what I need even more, more, more, more, are eyes to see the things God helped Peter to see and ears to hear the things God helped Matthew and Mark to hear! 

Why?  So that I might speak!  So that I might go, and tell!  The hands of Jesus, God, would you use Your Precious Son’s hands to help us see and hear and speak! 

Thursday, February 16, 2012

February: Month of Love

February is often called the ‘Month of Love’.  During this month, many sermons and lessons will be preached extolling the wonder of God’s love.  Undoubtedly, at the heart of these messages will be passages of Scripture like John 3:16 and Romans 5:8.  However, when did you last hear a sermon about God’s love presented from Hebrews 12:3ff?  Speaking of God’s parental, disciplining love, Hebrews declares:
For consider Him who endured such hostility from sinners against Himself, lest you become weary and discouraged in your souls. You have not yet resisted to bloodshed, striving against sin. And you have forgotten the exhortation which speaks to you as to sons:
“My son, do not despise the chastening of the Lord, Nor be discouraged
when you are rebuked by Him; For whom the Lord loves He chastens,
And scourges every son whom He receives.”
If you endure chastening, God deals with you as with sons; for what son is there whom a father does not chasten? But if you are without chastening, of which all have become partakers, then you are illegitimate and not sons. Furthermore, we have had human fathers who corrected us, and we paid them respect. Shall we not much more readily be in subjection to the Father of spirits and live? 10 For they indeed for a few days chastened us as seemed best to them, but He for our profit, that we may be partakers of His holiness. 11 Now no chastening seems to be joyful for the present, but painful; nevertheless, afterward it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.
God’s parental or disciplining love presents a different side to this favorite topic of our, doesn’t it?  According to Hebrews, when God disciplines and corrects us, He, in fact, proves that He loves us and confirms that we are indeed His children!  Much more, when He chastens (i.e., disciplines) us, He does so to benefit us (kind of like my dad saying to me before he spanked me, ‘Son, I am spanking you because I love you and want what is best for you).  In John 15:1ff, Jesus uses the illustration of a vinedresser (in that text, God, our Father), pruning the branches (in that text, genuine believers) in order to cause them to be more fruitful.  Obviously, the point in both passages is the same:  God (the ultimate loving Father) disciplines His children to produce an abundant harvest of righteousness in our lives.
May we not despise His chastening.  May we not lose heart when He rebukes us. Rather, may our prayer be that of the psalmist, “Let the righteous strike me; it shall be a kindness.  And let him rebuke me; it shall be as excellent oil; let my head not refuse it,” (Psalm 141:5).  And may we always remember Solomon’s instruction:  “Do not correct a scoffer, lest he hate you; rebuke a wise man, and he will love you.
 Give instruction to a wise man, and he will be still wiser; teach a just man, and he will increase in learning, (Proverbs 9:8 – 9).  In Jesus’ love, David

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Jesus' Hands: God's Love Touching Our Lives - Part 1

Image: copyright 2012, Phoebe Kautt.
Preached at Northwest Christian Church
David P. Kautt
Sunday Morning, February 12, 2012

Ephesians 3:14-21, “For this reason I bow my knees to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, from whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named, that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with might through His Spirit in the inner man, that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and depth and height— to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge; that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.  Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.

What a powerful prayer for the church that Paul composed, when he wrote this letter to the Ephesians!  It is a prayer that I pray God would fulfill in your life and in my life, a prayer for full comprehension and appreciation of God’s great love in Christ for His Church, a love that is wider and longer and deeper and higher than we have yet to see!  A love that ultimately is mediated by and measured in terms of the Cross. 

The love of God, in stark contrast to and graciously offered and supplied in spite of and to overcome our sin, our guilt, our condemnation and even our fully-deserved, damning punishment in hell, is surely one of the favorite themes of every preacher, music to the ears and hearts of every true believer in Christ.

The love of God, how is that love, how was that love made concrete, made tangible, touchable, practical?

Our family received an interesting and eye-catching wedding announcement recently.  The notification was from a couple we’ve known for several years, and it included not only the details regarding the wedding, you know, date, time, place, etc., but also a very unique picture of the engaged couple.  The photograph of the future bride and groom, shows them making the sign of love, the symbol of love we’re seeing so much of this week, with their hands.  Her right hand, his left hand, joined together like this to make the shape of a heart. 

I don’t know if you’ve ever looked at it this way before or not, but the hands of Jesus, healing hands, helping hands, merciful hands, nail-pierced hands, what are they?  What are the hands of Jesus?  They are the means, the instruments through which God has made His love concrete, tangible, touchable and very, very practical!  The breadth, the length, the depth and the height of God’s expansive love for His Bride, the Church - do you want this prayer of the apostle Paul to be accomplished, fulfilled, carried out in your life, in your family, in this church?  To know this love that surpasses knowledge, to bring this prayerful petition to fruition in you and me, Jesus allowed His Father to use His hands.  Take a look with me, will you, please? 

The gospel of Mark, the gospel that many have called the gospel, the life of Christ, the portrait of Jesus’ life according to Peter, through his young friend, John Mark.  This portion of Scripture provides us with seven powerful illustrations of the Love of God, through the HANDS of Jesus. 
Take a look with me, please.  Mark chapter one, the love of God displayed and demonstrated through the hands of Jesus, I don’t know if you have noticed this before or not, but God’s love runs on two parallel ‘tracks’, two ‘rails’ set one alongside the other, yet each one with unique and different aspects.  The two ‘tracks’, the two ‘rails’ are these: John 3:16, everyone know and praises God for that verse, right?  “For God so loved the world…”  God’s love for sin-sick humanity, seen, shown, in the gift of His Son, that’s ‘rail’ number one.  And, then, there’s ‘rail’ number two: Ephesians 5:25ff - that great passage detailing a husband’s selfless, sacrificial love for his wife.  Do you remember the text?  What is the basis for that strong and compelling exhortation to Christian husbands?  Ephesians 5:32 – Paul says, “This is a great mystery”, a profound truth hard to completely grasp, “but,” he continues, “I am talking about Christ, the heavenly ‘Husband’, and the Church, His ‘Bride’.” 

The love of God, in Christ, runs on two somewhat parallel ‘tracks’, His great love for the world AND His great, great, great love for the Church.  Notice how that is played out here in Mark chapter one, through the hands of Jesus.  Let’s read, beginning at verse 29.

Mark 1:29-31, 40-44, “Now as soon as they had come out of the synagogue, they entered the house of Simon and Andrew, with James and John. But Simon’s wife’s mother lay sick with a fever, and they told Him about her at once. So He came and took her by the hand and lifted her up, and immediately the fever left her. And she served them.  Now a leper came to Him, imploring Him, kneeling down to Him and saying to Him, “If You are willing, You can make me clean.”  Then Jesus, moved with compassion, stretched out His hand and touched him, and said to him, “I am willing; be cleansed.” As soon as He had spoken, immediately the leprosy left him, and he was cleansed. And He strictly warned him and sent him away at once, and said to him, “See that you say nothing to anyone; but go your way, show yourself to the priest, and offer for your cleansing those things which Moses commanded, as a testimony to them.”
How is the love of God made practical, tangible, touchable?  In both accounts, you see it, don’t you?    God’s love, stretched out in Jesus’ hands, they were cleansing hands.  This leper, what did he need?  What does the world need, filthy, as it is, impure, unholy as it is, before the holy, holy, holy God?  It needs, those ‘lepers’ need, the hands of Jesus!  What was it that moved those healing, helping hands?  Some would say that it was Jesus’ heart.  After all, the text does say that Jesus was “moved with compassion”.  But, I would ask you to consider: “is that all that prompted Jesus to stretch out His hands?” 

Many a person, many of us, are stirred emotionally, on the ‘feeling level’, by the needy condition of people we see and know.  But, how many of us stretch out our hands to help?  Notice carefully with me that Jesus’ hands, they came to be stretched out to this man, yes, because of compassion, a heart touched by this man’s need.  But, that’s not all!  You see it, don’t you, in the man’s pleading, “If you are willing,” “If you have the want-to” we might say, “You, Jesus, with Your hands, you can make me clean!” 

What sets apart Jesus and His hands from so many of us and our hands, is that Jesus’ love for this man is more than, goes deeper, wider, longer, higher than mere emotion!  No!  Flowing out of that compassionate heart was a will, a willingness to stretch out His miracle-working hands and DO

How is it that God makes His love, for the world, for lost ‘lepers’ like this man, tangible, practical?  Jesus’ hands!  But, then, as I said, there’s a second ‘rail’, a second ‘track’ upon which the love of God travels.  And, that is His love for His Church, His chosen generation, His royal priesthood, His holy nation, His own people.  That’s what I think we see displayed in the other text we read from a moment ago.  Early on in His ministry, Jesus has the opportunity to minister to His own, and on a very meaningful level, at the home of his dear friend and disciple Simon Peter.  You see the situation, as it is described there in verses 29 and 30.  A woman, who was especially dear to the Galilean fisherman, Peter’s wife’s mother, was in bed sick with a fever.  I don’t know how many of you have ever been afflicted with a high fever before, but those things can make you feel terrible!  And sometimes they can rage on for hours, maybe even days.  What does someone, someone you love, suffering the tormenting effects of a raging fever need, when that temperature is spiking?  Two Tylenol, and call me in the morning, right?  That’s what the doctor will tell you.  No!  They need hands, the calming, quieting, healing hands of the Great Physician. 

Jesus’ Church, His bride, sick, writing in agony, our gracious ‘Husband’ comes to us, touches us, and does for us what only He can do!  Praise God!  But, then what?  Well, look again at the text with me, will you?  The presentation of the life of Jesus supplied here by John Mark, with oversight from the apostle Peter, Mark’s gospel presents Jesus, who He is, in two different, but complementary ways.  According to Mark, Jesus is first of all the Servant who Rules, who has authority over leprosy and spiking temperatures.  Jesus is the Servant who Rules.  But also, if you read on in the second half of this Book, Mark also presents Jesus as the Ruler – Israel’s King – who serves!  Mark one, verse 31, what response, on the part of Peter’s mother-in-law, do Jesus’ helping, serving hands elicit from Simon Peter’s wife’s mother? 

The apostle John puts it like this: “We love Him because He first loved us!”  Mark simply relates that this woman, calmed, quieted, healed of her raging fever, by the hands of Jesus, got up quickly and began to use her hands, to serve Him!   There’s a lesson in that, my friends!  There is! 

How is it that God makes His love for the world, and for the Church tangible, practical? 

Mark 5 – one of the most moving accounts of the love of God at work, through the hands of Jesus, is found in Mark chapter five.  It’s actually two accounts in one, the record of the woman with the issue of blood, and her desperate attempts to touch Jesus with her hands.   And, mingled with it, the account of the raising of Jairus’ little daughter from the dead.  We don’t have time to look at the whole account in detail, but notice these few aspects with me, if you would.  Once again, like with the leprous man in chapter one, the situation is urgent.  Verse 22 and 23, Jairus, this little girl’s father, falls at Jesus’ feet and pleads with Him, “My little girl lies at the point of death.  Please come and lay You hands on her, that she may be healed, and she will live.” 

Have you been in the bedroom, the hospital room of a little child, gasping for breath, struggling to hang on, surrounded by weeping parents, and loved ones?  Men, this man Jairus, his love, his tenderness toward his little daughter packs a lesson for us also!  He cherished her.  Couldn’t bear the thought of losing her!  But, to put it bluntly, his hands, HIS hands were tied!  He needed, his little girl needed Someone whose hands weren’t! 

Some time ago I read about a sign in a certain restaurant that made this simple statement: “This is a kid-free zone!”  Imagine if Jesus would have put out the word to all the Jairuses around Him, “My ministry helps only those who are at least 5 ft. 3 in., only those who are old enough to get their driver’s license, mature enough to live on their own!”  In a couple of other places we read that that was what the disciples wanted to promote and publicize about Jesus.  That His ministry was a ‘kid-FREE ministry’, that He was too busy, perhaps too important, to bother with children!  Oh, but what do Jesus’ hands tell us here?  What do His words show us here? 

We have a couple of songs that put it so meaningfully, don’t we?  Jesus Loves the Little Children.   Kid free?  No, Jesus’ ministry was kid-friendly!  Little ones to Him belong!  Do you remember how this distressed father, Jairus, spoke about his daughter.  Verse 23 – “My little girl.”  Jairus cherished her, loved her, couldn’t bear the thought of losing her!  But, what about Jesus?  Two things, take a look.  First of all, at Jesus’ words, not Jairus’ the father, but Jesus’ words, verse 41, “Talitha Cumi’ – that’s Aramaic for, “Little girl” “Little one, you belong to Me!  And, then, Jesus stretches out His hands and YANKS up that girl abruptly out of that sick bed, right?  Sometimes us rough and rude and impatient fathers do that, don’t we?  But, not Jesus!  Not Jesus!  No!  Because He is friendlier to children than even the best Chuck-E-Cheese in town.  What does Jesus do?  Verse 41 – Gently, tenderly, lovingly, He takes her, lifts her, and I suspect, He also holds her, this little girl’s Maker and Healer, with His hands

How do you know, how can you tell that God loves you?  Watch carefully, will you?  The Hands, the healing, helping, calming, quieting, compassionate, tender, nail-scarred hands of Jesus, that’s how we know!  That’s how we can tell! 

Video - Jesus' Hands: God's Love Touching Our Lives

David's sermon on Sunday, February 12, 2012. 

Monday, February 6, 2012

How Will Others View My Success?

Preached at Northwest Christian Church
David P. Kautt
Sunday Morning, January 29, 2012

            1 Samuel 18:1-16, “Now when he had finished speaking to Saul, the soul of Jonathan was knit to the soul of David, and Jonathan loved him as his own soul. Saul took him that day, and would not let him go home to his father’s house anymore. Then Jonathan and David made a covenant, because he loved him as his own soul. And Jonathan took off the robe that was on him and gave it to David, with his armor, even to his sword and his bow and his belt.  So David went out wherever Saul sent him, and behaved wisely. And Saul set him over the men of war, and he was accepted in the sight of all the people and also in the sight of Saul’s servants. Now it had happened as they were coming home, when David was returning from the slaughter of the Philistine, that the women had come out of all the cities of Israel, singing and dancing, to meet King Saul, with tambourines, with joy, and with musical instruments. So the women sang as they danced, and said:
“Saul has slain his thousands,
And David his ten thousands.”
Then Saul was very angry, and the saying displeased him; and he said, “They have ascribed to David ten thousands, and to me they have ascribed only thousands. Now what more can he have but the kingdom?” So Saul eyed David from that day forward.  And it happened on the next day that the distressing spirit from God came upon Saul, and he prophesied inside the house. So David played music with his hand, as at other times; but there was a spear in Saul’s hand. And Saul cast the spear, for he said, “I will pin David to the wall!” But David escaped his presence twice.  Now Saul was afraid of David, because the Lord was with him, but had departed from Saul. Therefore Saul removed him from his presence, and made him his captain over a thousand; and he went out and came in before the people. And David behaved wisely in all his ways, and the Lord was with him. Therefore, when Saul saw that he behaved very wisely, he was afraid of him. But all Israel and Judah loved David, because he went out and came in before them.

Hebrews 11:6, “But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.”

I want to be more successful, more prosperous this year – in 2012 – than I was last year.  4 Sundays ago, can you believe it, we are nearly one month into the new year?!  4 weeks ago I made the rather bold statement that I just rehearsed a moment ago.  I want this year, 2012, to be a more successful, prosperous year for me, for my family, and for the people of God than last year.  That’s quite a statement isn’t it?  That’s quite a challenge to all of us, isn’t it?  And what does it entail?  In what areas of our lives does God have the power and, I believe, the desire to prosper us, to make us more successful?  Materially, monetarily – we’ve looked at that right up front, didn’t we?

Then, there was what we called ministerial prosperity, success as servants of the King of kings and as stewards of what, in reality, belong ultimately to Him!  And, then magisterial prosperity, we talked about this last time, success and blessing from God, like He gave Joseph, like He gave Solomon, so that they might wisely and uprightly rule and lead.  I pray this for our government leaders.  Even more important than that, I pray this for our family leaders, husbands and fathers and our church leaders, those essential societal building blocks that make our nation strong and free. 

And, one more – I want to be, I hope and pray that you will be, and your spouses and children and families, will be more prosperous, more successful militarily.  Military!  The armor of God, do you remember what I’m talking about here?  To be successful militarily, to prosper when one attempts to stand against the wiles of the devil, to quench all his fiery darts, can we do it on our own?  One page after another in this Book records the answer to that question, doesn’t it?  No!  “Be strong in the Lord, and in the power of His might!  Put on the whole armor of God that you may be able to stand and with-stand in the evil day…”  That’s God’s formula for military success, isn’t it? 

I want to be more successful, more prosperous militarily, magisterially, ministerially, and even materially, this year, than last.  And, how is that going to happen?  What must I know, what must I do to pursue those lofty goals?  Two principles, two abiding spiritual principles that should guide our lives every day of this new year.  Remember what they are?  ‘God with us’ – in Genesis 39, we saw it repeatedly, didn’t we?  The first key to Joseph’s amazing success was not his skill, not his incredible intellect, not that he was more shrewd or had more savvy than everyone else!  No!  The key was the Emmanuel principle, those four simple, but powerful words, “God was with him!”. 

Joseph succeeded in all four of these areas of life, because God was with him.  No other explanation is given!  No other reason is the reason for his success!  But, did Joseph let all of that success go to his head?  There’s a temptation, a huge pot hole just a step or two down that road of prosperity, and what is it?  PRIDE – that’s right. PRIDE. 

The hand, the power of God to bless Joseph was mightily upon Joseph’s life, and he prospered, greatly.  But, did he forget God in the process?  No way!  What an example Joseph is of humility, of humbly abiding by that second, crucial ingredient of success, of real prosperity: he honored God.  Time and time again, when he could have taken the credit himself, “I did this,“ “I did that,” he turned the spotlight where it belonged!  ‘I know this, I can do this, I have received this, because of God!’  Joseph, successful as he was, lived by the ‘Honor God’ principle.  The magnify the Lord principle.  And, because he did, God not only blessed him, but also He used him to be a blessing, an instrument of God’s blessing upon the lives of many, many others.  That’s success, my friends, that’s success! 

As I have been studying this subject for these message, I have been amazed, an dyes, humbled and convicted by what God’s Word has to say about success.  Unlike the world’s definition of success: pursue it, achieve it, at any cost!  Break the rules, by-pass the boundaries, it doesn’t matter, just come out on top.  This Book says to me, that prosperity is stymied when I transgress God’s commands!  Further, Proverbs 28:13 teaches me that to try to hide my sins and transgressions, will prevent me from prospering and that only sincere, humble confession of sin, and intentional turning away from sin, will open me up to the blessings bound up in God’s covenant love for me. 

And, unlike the world’s ‘guidebook’ that makes us want to pursue prosperity on our own, in our own way, by our own strength and ingenuity, this Book, what does it say?  We read it at the outset: Hebrews 11:6 – “But without faith it is impossible to please God, for he who comes to God must believe that He exists and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him!”  Real success, lasting success, you and I, ultimately, we’re not going find it on Wall Street, or Main Street, or even on your street or my street.  But, we will find it, and enjoy it on ‘Seek Ye First Street!’ 

Success, prosperity - one of the questions that I have been faced with as I have pursued this study the last few weeks has been this one burning question: “how do others view the Joseph’s, those folks who prosper by the hand of Almighty God?’

1 Samuel 18 – We read a portion of that chapter a moment ago, didn’t we?  I came across this passage again in my study of success and prosperity, and, of course, it captured my attention because I share the same name with the main character – David.  That always causes you to sit up and take notice, doesn’t it?  But, as I studied this text, I found some very interesting, and very, very helpful insights into the effects of one person’s success on another person or group of people.  Take a look with me, will you?

1 Samuel 18 – David, as I said, is the main character, the ‘hero’ we might say, at this point in the record of 1st Samuel, but next to him is another main character, the ‘villain’ in the story, King Saul.  And, what do we see here?  What are we to learn?  Well, notice with me first off, that King Saul has had a measure of success himself, right?  1 Samuel 18, the cheers of the women who came out to meet their returning warriors was, “Saul has slain his thousands!”  Saul, you have had a significant amount of success as a soldier and as a king leading your army into battle.  And, how did Saul get that way?  What was the key to his success on the battlefield?  Verse 12 of our text implies it, and the previous several chapters describe it in greater detail, as it was with Joseph over in Genesis 39 and following, so it was for King Saul – the Emmanuel Principle.  The mighty hand of God upon Saul’s life is what gave him that success as a soldier and as a king.  And everything was just fine for a good while, right?  Until what?  Until God began to test Saul, to see what he was really made of.  ‘Saul, I’m sending the Philistines against you.  Saul, I’m sending a 9-foot tall giant named Goliath to face you, to see whether or not you will trust me to win, to see whether or not you will honor me when I give you the victory! ‘ 

By the way, did you know that, from God’s perspective, none of us is ever really a success, unless and until we pass the tests He puts on us! 

How did Saul do?  How did he handle the tests?  Well, at first, because of the wise counsel of old Samuel, point him to God, reminding him not to get the Bighead, he did okay…  But, then he starts to fudge a little you know, I don’t have to obey God completely on this one, forget the details, I hit the high spots, but I won’t sweat obeying God down to the letter.  Bad idea.  Bad idea, Your Majesty.  3 or 4 times Saul does this kind of thing and, inch-by-inch, he’s walking further and further away from the One who enabled him defeat those thousands.  Until finally, Saul goes too far, and God removes His hand of blessing from Saul’s life, and places it upon a young man, a shepherd boy from Bethlehem named David. 

The ‘Emmanuel, God-with-us’ principle.  And, the ‘Honor God’ principle.  Do you remember how we learned that hose two success ‘keys’ go together? 

God says in 1 Samuel 17, Saul has walked away from me, so now I must test him with a 9-foot tall sized test.  A Philistine giant named Goliath.  I have withdrawn my hand of blessing from you, Saul, but I will give success and I will be honored, when I give the victory over that giant through, not a king, but a lad! 

You remember the story, don’t you?  Trusting in God, in Emmanuel, to be with him, and honoring God both before and after the victory, David gets the accolades that once went to King Saul.  1 Samuel 18:7, “Saul has slain his thousands, but David has slain his ten thousands!”  Good news to the ears of King Saul?  How do others view you when God places His hand on your life to bless you and prosper you?  Some people, the King Sauls in your world, eye you with suspicion, moved by jealousy and envy, they well up with anger, maybe even hostility.  Like the Jewish leaders toward Jesus, they’ll be afraid of you, and maybe even will try to pull the rug out from under you. 

But, don’t let them intimidate you.  Keep the Helmet of Salvation on, hold up that Shield of Faith, don’t unfasten the Belt of Truth!  Be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might!  Honor Him, make Him large and very near before the eyes of those who want to cut you down to size.  1 Samuel 18:10 – that’s what David did, he sang his songs of praise to God, while dodging Saul’s spear point! 

But, then, there are others who watch our lives, as God blesses us, as He prospers us, and how do they respond?  Not everyone acts like Saul did toward David!  In preparing the Israelites for a new leader, God prospered David and exalted him in the eyes of the people, over and above the esteem that King Saul had. 

1 Samuel 18:12-16, “Now Saul was afraid of David, because the Lord was with him, but had departed from Saul. Therefore Saul removed him from his presence, and made him his captain over a thousand; and he went out and came in before the people. And David behaved wisely in all his ways, and the Lord was with him. Therefore, when Saul saw that he behaved very wisely, he was afraid of him. But all Israel and Judah loved David, because he went out and came in before them.”

Some people will really love you and admire you when they see your success.  Maybe they recognize and acknowledge where that success comes from, but still they will hold you in high esteem.  What are you to do when that kind of thing happens?  Well, don’t do what David was tempted to do, don’t do, what even ole Joseph was tempted to do, remember?  When Joseph’s brother came down to Egypt and didn’t realize who he was. 

God was with David, God had His hand of blessing on Joseph’s life, both of them, in their prosperity had opportunities to use that success as ‘upper-hand leverage’ to get even with the ones who had done them wrong, King Saul, Joseph’s brothers.  But both of them, instead of using their positions of prominence and prosperity to hurt, what did they do?  They used them to help!  David spared Saul’s life – twice – David had the chance to put the spear point through Saul’s belly, but he didn’t!  Instead, he honored God, he overcame evil with good! 

When God grants success to your life, to my life, some people are going to hate us, and others are going to love us.  But, listen – like with the apostles in Acts chapters 2, 3, 4 and 5, all of those people, the lovers and the haters, all of them need to see us doing what we do, prospering as God causes us to prosper by faith!  They need to be able to see that we know, we realize that God is the Rewarder of those who diligently seek Him! 

Acts chapter 2 through 5, I mentioned this section of Scripture a moment ago, let me read from a brief portion of it as we close.  How do others view us when God places His hand of blessing upon our lives? 

Acts 5:11-20, “So great fear came upon all the church and upon all who heard these things.  And through the hands of the apostles many signs and wonders were done among the people. And they were all with one accord in Solomon’s Porch. Yet none of the rest dared join them, but the people esteemed them highly. And believers were increasingly added to the Lord, multitudes of both men and women, so that they brought the sick out into the streets and laid them on beds and couches, that at least the shadow of Peter passing by might fall on some of them. Also a multitude gathered from the surrounding cities to Jerusalem, bringing sick people and those who were tormented by unclean spirits, and they were all healed.  Then the high priest rose up, and all those who were with him (which is the sect of the Sadducees), and they were filled with indignation, and laid their hands on the apostles and put them in the common prison. But at night an angel of the Lord opened the prison doors and brought them out, and said, “Go, stand in the temple and speak to the people all the words of this life.”

When God blesses you, and I pray He will this year, when He causes you to prosper, some will hate you, envy you, try to pull the rug out from under you, and others will love you.  But listen, everyone who observes your God-given success needs to be touched by you, ministered to by you, for Jesus’ sake!