White Rock Baptist Church Blog
Called to Sacrifice
Lesson and Read: Mark 1.16-20; Luke 14.25-33
Whoever comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and even life itself, cannot be my disciple. Whoever does not carry the cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.
Luke 14.26-27 (NRSV)
This lesson presents two pictures of discipleship. One comes from the start of Jesus’ ministry (Mark 1.16-20) and one from perhaps its zenith (Luke 14.25-35).
In Mark, Jesus passed along the Sea of Galilee and called out to two sets of brothers, Simon and Andrew, James and John. These fishermen dropped their nets and immediately followed after Jesus. Other gospels (Luke 5.1-10; John 1.35-51) indicate that this was not the first meeting between Jesus and these men. They did make a radical decision but they did not leave their businesses without counting the cost. In Luke 14, Jesus’ popularity was at its height. Many “followers” were not disciples. (Today we might say Jesus was “trending,” i.e., the “thing” of the moment). Jesus spoke a word to sober the wild enthusiasm of the crowd. He was on his way to Jerusalem where arrest, torture and crucifixion awaited him. Anyone who would be his disciple had to expect a similar destiny. Jesus was looking for recruits, not spectators. In stark language, Jesus described the cost of true discipleship. Whoever comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and even life itself, cannot be my disciple (v. 26). The Semitic mind was comfortable with the extreme hyperbole; “hate” described an undivided loyalty. However, the choice to follow Jesus was not to be wholly governed by emotion. The parables in verses 28-25 suggested that one must count the cost of discipleship. A poor or uncalculated decision could be foolish (the inability to finish a tower) or tragic (the slaughter of an outnumbered army).
Jesus challenges us. Do we consider what we have (possessions, positions, relationships) to be of greater value than our commitment to him? What we have will not last; it is like the salt compound found around the Dead Sea, which did lose its flavor and was then useless. The cross of Christ is more than an ornamental accessory. Following Jesus is not a guarantee of comfort; it is a call to sacrifice.
Reverend Steven B. Lawrence
WHERE ARE YOU GOING? WHY?
Ephesians 3:16-21 (The Voice)
I am sure that you agree with me that our worship on last Sunday was both celebratory and challenging. We thank God for the power of His spirit present in each event in the total atmosphere of our gathering. May God bless each of you for your presence and participation. Thank you for your words and gifts of love.
Your continued prayers are sought as we seek to discern more clearly God’s summons to our lives in 2019 and beyond. Pray, by the power of the Holy Spirit, that in discerning we will resolutely embrace His summons to the utmost of our capabilities. Let us ask the Lord, in all of our gatherings of worship and of personal interactions, for the collective minds/hearts to say, “WE will TRY”, O’ Lord to do and be Your people.
Two months from today we will observe Women’s Day. Sister Lisa Welch serves as the Chairlady for the celebration and Sister Renee Wynn Ellis, daughter of the Church, will be our guest speaker. Every woman (and man)— whether young, mature or aged—is asked to identify specific arenas in which you will seek to grow in grace as a person and in your relationships as members as the Body of Christ. What blessings await us as we experience the joys of our possibilities made real.
God’s grace and peace be multiplied unto you. . .
These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at him and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.
Deuteronomy 6: 6-7
Our Rescuing God
Read: Psalm 91.1-16
For he will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways. On their hands they will bear you up, so that you will not dash your foot against a stone.
Psalm 91.11-12 (NRSV)
The theme of Psalm 91 is the protection that God gives to those who trust him. Consider the number of words used to describe the act of protection: “shelter,” “shadow” (v. 1); “refuge,” “fortress” (v. 2); “cover,” “shield and buckler” (v. 4); “dwelling place” (v. 9). This psalm may have been part of a liturgy performed by those entering or leaving the temple (the shelter of the Most High) seeking God’s safekeeping from dangers physical (robbers) and spiritual (demons).
According to the Hebrew, this psalm begins with the testimony of the psalmist. “I will say of the Lord . . .” (v. 2). He invites his listeners to likewise put their trust in the Lord (vv. 4-13). At the close, God makes the promises; “I will show them my salvation” (v. 16). God is referred to as “the Most High” (elyon) and “the Almighty” (shaddai) because God is able to protect from every peril. There are unexpected dangers like the snare set by a trapper and there are overwhelming threats like a fatal plague (v. 3). God’s sheltering is personal like a parent (a bird extending his wings) and it is pervasive like a soldier’s shield and buckler (surrounding armor, v. 4). God is present to deliver day or night, in deepest darkness or at high noon (vv. 5-6). The “scourge” and “plague” sound like diseases but they could also be demonic spirits; the “wings” could be those of the cherubim atop the Ark of the Covenant. Or they could belong to the “guardian angels” (see Exodus 23.20) dispatched by God to keep close watch lest that slightest threat comes near (vv. 11-12). Perhaps the most powerful and convincing verses are 14-16. The Lord says those who have “set their love on me” know my name. Therefore, when they call, the Lord will answer. God will be present. God will rescue. God will honor. God will extend life. They will fully experience (see) God’s salvation.
There is a divine promise or an assurance of help in almost every verse of Psalm 91! One could easily call this the psalm of our rescuing God.
Reverend Steven B. Lawrence
Sermon: From Doubt and Disbelief to Faith – Pastor William J. Shaw
Love God for the Gift of Jesus
Lesson and Read: Luke 1.26-32; 2.22, 25-35
The angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And now, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you will name him Jesus.”
Luke 1.30-31 (NRSV)
Many Sunday church schools involve their students in holiday pageants. These events often include children, dressed in costume, reciting memorized verses that tell the stories of our faith. For those churches, there are two lessons in the Sunday school curriculum that never get taught: Easter Sunday and the Sunday closest to Christmas.
This lesson is the Christmas lesson. The birth story of Jesus is only found in the Gospels of Matthew and Luke. However, John captured the central theme of The Nativity when he wrote: For God had such love for the world that he gave his only Son, so that whoever has faith in him may not come to destruction but have eternal life (John 3.16). The baby Jesus was a gift to the world; a blessing, though not inconvenient and a surprise, though not unexpected. Gabriel told Mary, a young teenage girl who was betrothed but not yet married, that she was pregnant with a baby by the power of the Holy Spirit. She wondered how it could be and, no doubt, she thought about what people would say. But, she also placed her faith in God and soon discovered that Joseph would be a faithful, supportive husband. God blessed Mary and Joseph to be the parents of the little babe destined for the falling and the rising of many in Israel (Luke 2.34). Leviticus 12 says 33 days after the birth of a boy, the mother is to present herself before the priest in a service of purification. When Joseph and Mary took Jesus to the temple in Jerusalem, they encountered a devout man named Simeon and a prophet named Anna. Both of them were devoted to their faith and had not lost the hope of seeing God’s promise of a deliverer, the messiah. When they saw the baby Jesus, they were not surprised, because they believed and were expecting. They were, however, thankful that God had permitted them to witness the fulfillment of his promise.
Simeon and Anna rejoiced just to see the beginning of what God was about to do. Their gratitude and praise (Luke 2.29-32, 38) were expressions of their love for God. Let us also lift grateful praise as we celebrate the birth of the Savior.
Reverend Steven B. Lawrence
The Resurrection of Jesus
In the crucifixion of Jesus, we hear and see the assertion of human power and evil attitudes in the world against the Lord. In the resurrection of Jesus God exposes the impotence of human powers against Him and the omnipotence of His love and power towards us. In the contrast the possibilities of life are ever present. In accepting His being and love we find our life. In rejection of Him is our death. The resurrection of Jesus says that in Jesus the power of death is broken: He is Lord of life and death. The resurrection of Jesus was not observed but it was experienced. The resurrection of Jesus says that He is alive and present to us, even WITH us when we become believers of/in Him. As believers we become witnesses of and to His saving presence. As believers we become participants in His life, transformed from being victims to becoming victors, in Him, over all the possibilities of life and death. As believers we become sharers of His joy. As believers, by His spirit, we ARE the Church—His Church. As such ours is the challenge/privilege of living into the fullness of His life and glory!
As the Church let us gather next Sunday for the installation of all Church Officers and the dedication/commitment of all Church members to His will. With all of our hears in the year before us “We Try”.
“May God’s grace and peace be multiplied unto you . . .”