Are You Jesus?

Are You Jesus?

Isaiah 58.1-14

Dr. Jim Denison

A friend recently sent me this wonderful story. It seems that a group of salesmen were attending a regional sales convention in Chicago, and were rushing to their airport gate when one accidentally kicked over a display of apples in a basket. Apples flew everywhere. Without stopping or looking back, they managed to reach the plane just before takeoff. All but one. He paused, told his buddies to go on, told one to call his wife when they arrived home to explain his late arrival. Then he returned to the terminal where the apples were lying all over the floor.

He was glad he did. The 16-year-old girl whose apple stand had been overturned was totally blind. She was crying softly, helplessly groping for her spilled produce. The crowd swirled around her, no one stopping. The salesman knelt on the floor with her, gathered up the apples, put them into the basket, and helped set up the display. He then pulled out his wallet and said to the girl, “Please take this $20 for the damage we did. Are you okay?”


Defined By A Cause

Defined By a Cause

Isaiah 54.1-3

Dr. Jim Denison

The young preacher was shouted down. He had dared to suggest that the ministers in Nottingham, England discuss “The Duty of Christians to Attempt the Spread of the Gospel Among Heathen Nations.” The moderator of the meeting was greatly agitated: “Young man, sit down. When God pleases to convert the heathen, he will do it without your aid or mine.”

But William Carey would not be quieted. On May 31, 1792, at a Baptist ministers’ meeting in England, he preached the most famous missions sermon of all time. Taking today’s text as his, his message was titled “Expect Great Things From God; Attempt Great Things For God”.

Within five months, on October 2, 1792, twelve of those who heard him that day had formed the Baptist Missionary Society of England. They began work to send Carey to India. And thus began the Modern Missions Movement which has circled the globe with the good news that our Creator loves us all.

We want our lives to matter. And so we engrave our initials on tree trunks and our children’s initials in wet cement. We affix our names to plaques on walls and buildings. We name streets and cities and stadiums for each other. We want to outlive ourselves. We want to leave a legacy, to be significant. Each of us wants to believe that this tiny planet and our brief lives on it are not all there is, that there is something more, something permanent, something eternal. We want our lives to be defined by a cause which matters.


East and West

East and West

Joshua 22:1-34

Dr. Jim Denison

Thesis: We can know the love only God gives.

Goal: Receive and give the love only God can offer.

A man’s wife died, and the first night after the memorial service was hard for him and his son. The boy got into bed with his father. They lay in the dark, but the boy could not fall asleep. Finally he said, “Dad, is your face turned toward me? I think I can go to sleep, if I know your face is turned toward me.” “Yes,” his father answered, “I’m looking right at you.” Soon the boy drifted off the sleep. The father got out of bed, walked over to the window, and looked up into the heavens. “God,” he said, “is your face turned toward me?”

God not only turned his face towards us, he took ours as his own. He put on our flesh, walked our planet, breathed our air, faced our sins, felt our pain. We could not come to him, so he came to us.

Advent means “to come,” and marks the pilgrimage of God from heaven to earth, from throne room to feed trough, from the worship of angels to the wonder of shepherds. The decision made before the world began that our Creator would be named Immanuel, “God with us.” History is filled with men who would be gods, but only one God who would be man.


Gideon’s Deception

Gideon’s Deception

Joshua 9:1-27

Dr. Jim Denison

Thesis: We must refuse all worldly covenants if we would belong fully to God.

Goal: Choose Christ as your only Lord, and identify specific changes this decision will require.

Jennifer Johnson banged her hands on the steering wheel. “I can’t believe it!” she screamed out loud. She’d run out of gas. It was dark, and she was scared. She was in a part of town where there had been riots only the week before. She could barely see outlines of large warehouses, railroad tracks, and chain link fences. She looked for a telephone, service station, anything. She saw nothing, and was scared.

Then she saw him, and the hair stood up on the back of her neck. Her heart raced. In the middle of the street, coming straight at her, she could see a man approaching. “Maybe he won’t see me,” she prayed. But then he was at her window. He tapped the glass and yelled something, but she was instantly hysterical: “Get away. Leave me alone. Don’t bother me.”


God Fights for Israel

God Fights for Israel

Joshua 10:1-12:24

Dr. Jim Denison

Thesis: We must attack the enemy to win spiritual victory.

Goal: Identify a ministry initiative to attempt.

The scene is one of the most dramatic locations on earth. Standing 1150 feet above sea level, the massive rock outcropping is the largest I’ve ever seen, gray with streaks of metallic brown, flat and imposing. And towering above it is a gigantic cliff, dwarfing the valley below in every direction.

High up on that cliff our tour group could see a cave, the famous “Gates of Hades.” This cave leads to a shaft which bores down through the mountain and this plateau on which it stands, deep into the earth. That shaft is so deep that its bottom has never been found. Even the most sophisticated measuring devices have not been able to determine its absolute depth. I will never forget standing on that rock at Caesarea Philippi, looking up at the Gates of Hades.

As I stared in awe, my mind traveled back to a time when another man stood where I was this day. As he looked around himself he could feel the religious significance of the place.


God’s Provisions

God’s Provisions

Joshua 18:1-21:45

Dr. Jim Denison

Thesis: The will of God never leads where his grace cannot sustain.

Goal: Follow God into his future for you, trusting his provision.

I have read that a buzzard can be trapped in a pen which is open at the top, so long as its dimensions are no more than six to eight feet long. The bird always begins its flight with a run of ten to twelve feet. Without such space, it will not even attempt to fly, though its pen has no roof to keep it from the skies. Similarly, a bumblebee, if dropped into an open glass jar, will remain trapped until it dies. It will fly into the sides of the jar, but will never attempt to escape from its top.

It is easy to struggle with our problems, frustrations, and needs, never realizing that our answer is just above us. God’s purpose for our lives is always greater than we can imagine it to be.

Saul of Tarsus used his theological training and cultural education to achieve significance within Phariseeism. God used them to write half of the New Testament and take Christ across the known world. Peter used his gifts of courage and leadership to create a successful fishing enterprise. God used them to lead his church into all the world (Acts 17:6). Matthew used his literary talents and prodigious memory to record tax accounts. God used them to record the Sermon on the Mount.


Hope In Hard Places

Hope in Hard Places

Isaiah 40:1-5

Dr. Jim Denison

The Presbyterian lay minister Fred Rogers (“Mr. Rogers” to us) once quoted an anonymous scrawling on the bulletin board of the great Notre Dame cathedral in Paris: “The world tomorrow will belong to those who brought it the greatest hope.”

Counselors and psychologists have long known the truth of those words.

Viktor Frankl, the Austrian psychologist and concentration camp survivor, documented the fact that those prisoners who believed in tomorrow best survived the horrors of today.

Survivors of POW camps in Vietnam reported that a compelling hope for the future was the primary force that kept many of them alive.

A mouse dropped in water will give up and drown in minutes. But if it is rescued, it will tread water for more than 20 hours the next time.

Austin pastor Gerald Mann saw his church grow from 60 to 4,000 in 14 years. His explanation: “I know three things people want when they come to church: they want help, they want home, and they want hope.”


Inheritances

Inheritances

Joshua 13:1-17:18Dr. Jim Denison

Thesis: the battle is not over until the victory is won.

Goal: Identify God’s greatest calling on your life, and commit to its complete fulfillment

This is the story of four people named Everybody, Somebody, Anybody, and Nobody. There was an important job to be done, so Everybody was asked to do it. Anybody could have done it but Nobody did it. Somebody got angry because it was Everybody’s job. Everybody thought Anybody could do it, but Nobody realized that Everybody wouldn’t do it. Consequently it wound up that Nobody told Anybody so Everybody blamed Somebody.

The church is its people. We do our ministry through our members as they are empowered for mission and service. We can only inherit the spiritual victory God intends for our church when Everybody does what he and she can do. Let’s learn how to be an army whose troops all fight and win.

Assess the challenges (13:1-7)

The first step in any military strategy is to define the enemy. Determine his strengths and weaknesses. Plan not just for what he will probably do, but for what he is able to do. Define your own opportunities and obstacles. Assess the challenges, before you go to war.


The Joy Of Giving Jesus

The Joy of Giving Jesus

Isaiah 61:1-2

Dr. Jim Denison

The little crowd of 102 persons finally arrived, after surviving two months of stormy seas on a crowded little boat. Their first year, about half died in the severe winter, most of pneumonia. The next year, in the fall of 1621, the survivors planned a time of memorial and sorrow for those who had died in the previous year. But as they looked about themselves at all God had given them—their first harvest, the friendly Indians, their blessings from heaven—they chose to turn that service from one of memorial to gratitude. And so Thanksgiving was born.

On Monday last, at 12:10 in the afternoon, Mr. Rip Parker went home to be with his Father in heaven. He was adamant that there be no memorial service, no funeral, no obituary in the paper. Nothing which would draw attention away from Jesus to him. And so against our wishes, we have planned no memorial service. But he can’t tell me what to preach about. In the context of his physical death, when our souls so want to mourn our loss, Rip would have us count our blessings. And give thanks to our God.