Faithful to the End

Today is the day of my farewell sermon at ICF.

While I plan to be back in about a month, I don’t plan to conduct any public ministry during that month.

So, this is my final sermon in Kazakhstan…maybe God will allow me to come back and preach again, but I don’t know.

Actually, I often try to think of any sermon I am preaching as though it were my last. It could be the last time I ever preach anywhere, so I want to finish well.

But this sermon will be, by it’s nature, a farewell speech as well as a sermon.

So I begin by saying how much I have loved serving this congregation…and how much I have loved serving in Kazakhstan!

You know that Clover and I began to pray for Kazakhstan in 1985, and even though we are now leaving, after about 15 years, we will not stop praying for the people of this land.

I have valued the multi-ethnicity of Kazakhstan, as there are so many people groups here that I had never heard of before I came here.

I love the friendships that I have made here…

I have learned so much about life through my relationships among both the local and the expatriate community.

I am a much better person, now, that I ever would have been had I remained in America.

And I am so blessed to have been able to work with Peter Hambrey. He is a great man, as you all know, and a man full of wisdom. While I was on furlough, I had no worries with Peter in a pastoral position here at ICF. I have no worries as I depart, either.

I have so enjoyed working with the pastors and board members of the past, from Mark Blair to Terry Bloemsma.

Of course, its been no secret that I and Clover have had many mixed emotions about this transition in our lives. We are accepting it, because we believe that it is clear that God is leading us…

No one has asked us to leave, I want to make that clear, and if we had clear direction to continue, then we would continue to hop along with one-month visas.

But, God has spoken and directed us to go elsewhere. And we do this obediently…yes, we are excited about this move and yes we’ve been exhausted lately, and yes, it has been hard to say “good-bye.”

I have great hope for the people of Kazakhstan and of Almaty.

I see changes in the arena of helping people with special needs, and for that I am grateful.

We at ICF have not been casual observers of the suffering of mentally challenged orphans, but we have been a participant in the changes that have taken place on their behalf.

PRAISE GOD!

I am thankful for colleagues, both local and expat, who will continue to serve here. And if God allows, I hope to return, at least for a visit.

I remember so many things from my time here in Almaty, but one of the greatest things I remember is that I have continued to grow as a Christian believer while here…Kazakhstan has not be a spiritual desert for me, but a place to thrive. I’ve had times that were difficult, but I’ve had times of great fellowship with God.

Many times I have told congregations like you that we need to reach out and share the gospel with others…and I, again, encourage you in this….but let me say, find God and grow.

SERMON INTRODUCTION

As we have been looking at the parables of Jesus in the Gospel of Luke, and as I was considering several passages to share on this Sunday, I was drawn to a favorite story in the Gospel of Luke. It is not a parable, but two stories coinciding together.

It is about two healings that happened around the same time, and about the work of faith in these situations…and how we can understand that faith and see God work in our lives, too.

These are the stories of the healing of a woman who had been sick for 12 years, and the raising from the dead of a 12 year old girl.

Luke 8:40-56

 40Now when Jesus returned, a crowd welcomed him, for they were all expecting him. 41Then a man named Jairus, a ruler of the synagogue, came and fell at Jesus’ feet, pleading with him to come to his house 42because his only daughter, a girl of about twelve, was dying.

   As Jesus was on his way, the crowds almost crushed him. 43And a woman was there who had been subject to bleeding for twelve years, but no one could heal her. 44She came up behind him and touched the edge of his cloak, and immediately her bleeding stopped.

 45“Who touched me?” Jesus asked.
When they all denied it, Peter said, “Master, the people are crowding and pressing against you.”

 46But Jesus said, “Someone touched me; I know that power has gone out from me.”

 47Then the woman, seeing that she could not go unnoticed, came trembling and fell at his feet. In the presence of all the people, she told why she had touched him and how she had been instantly healed. 48Then he said to her, “Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace.”

 49While Jesus was still speaking, someone came from the house of Jairus, the synagogue ruler. “Your daughter is dead,” he said. “Don’t bother the teacher any more.”

 50Hearing this, Jesus said to Jairus, “Don’t be afraid; just believe, and she will be healed.”

 51When he arrived at the house of Jairus, he did not let anyone go in with him except Peter, John and James, and the child’s father and mother. 52Meanwhile, all the people were wailing and mourning for her. “Stop wailing,” Jesus said. “She is not dead but asleep.”

 53They laughed at him, knowing that she was dead. 54But he took her by the hand and said, “My child, get up!” 55Her spirit returned, and at once she stood up. Then Jesus told them to give her something to eat. 56Her parents were astonished, but he ordered them not to tell anyone what had happened.

Luke 8:40-56

PRAYER

There are three aspects of these three stories that give three facets of one great gift, THE PRESENCE OF JESUS that is available to all of us. So I would like to speak about those, today.

Three Types of Touches

1.            The Brief  Touch of Faith

a.     the woman had faith

i.         incredible after 12 yeas of suffering, not only as a sick person,

ii.     but suffering in shame,

iii.     financial ruin and

iv.     medical experimentation)

b.   She had faith in her ability to touch as much as she had in Jesus.

21 She said to herself, “If I only touch his cloak, I will be healed.”

Matthew 9:21

c.    But, Jesus wanted to be the object of her faith

d.   And, Jesus wanted to be in relationship with her.

i.     What this woman did looks like a “touch of faith,” yet, it was just as easily an act of lifeless ritual in that she had no relationship with Jesus, just with what she could get from him

ii.     The older I get as a Christian, the more I realize that I really need Jesus…

please hear me on this…I’m not saying that I am better than before, I’m saying that I recognize how bad I really am, and how much I really need Him.

iii.     What would it have been like if the woman had “missed” Jesus? She reached out and touched him, but she really did “miss” him, but Jesus called her into relationship with him.

SHE GOT WHAT SHE WANTED WITHOUT A RELATIONSHIP

iv.     Jesus calls us into relationship with him…let’s not miss him…let’s not settle for a brief touch, and not grow in our relationship.

v.     I know a man who is 66 years old and has been in church most of those 66 years…yet, he is about as mature in his faith as someone who has been a believer for 66 minutes, in fact, he has less faith than that. He looks for the brief touches, and not for the long-term relationship.

So, there are the brief touches of faith and there is the touch of the Master

2.                 The Touch of the Master

a.   “Master’s Touch”

b.   I can repair a car, or a sink, but I’m NO Master…and the difference is like that between night and day between me and a Master craftsman.

c.    Something interesting about a Master is that he can come to a broken appliance or car and quickly assess the problem, and then to solve it.

d.   FOLLOW-UP: the Master is able to tell us what to do to keep our appliance running well, or our car in good shape.

e.   And, its interesting that I can call a good master who already knows my car and say, “Hi, my car makes this strange noise,” and he can say, “I know your car, and I know how it works…bring it to me and I’ll fix it.”

f.     We can relax, knowing that Jesus, the real Master, can fix anything wrong with us.

g.   Jesus reached out and touched people…lepers, the blind, deaf and dumb, and the dead.

h.   Jesus chose to limit himself in the incarnation, and he was only able to be in one place at one time, and was even susceptible to interruptions, as was the case in this situation as Jairus begged Jesus to come and touch his daughter, and then the sick woman interrupted

i.      Sometimes people look at what they are going through and ask, “Lord, what are you trying to teach me in this?” and this is a healthy attitude rather than whining, “why, oh why, have you allowed this to happen.”

When we see God in something, even something difficult, we actually are able to notice the touch of the Master.

He is not our puppet or our servant who will do as we want, but he does desire to see us have whatever we need.

MAY I ADD, THAT OUR BROTHERS AND SISTERS IN JESUS ARE NOT TO BE OUR PUPPETS, EITHER!

j.        God works, even when people don’t believe and even when they laugh.…

k.    My wife and I attended a Kazakh funeral last year. As the deceased man was being taken from the back yard to the truck by which they would transport his body to the graveyard, the widow and daughter of the deceased cried…yes, these were true cries, as well as forced cries…but the impact of hearing the cries made me want to cry…cry because I won’t see my friend on this side of heaven, again.

l.      Jesus came to Jairus’ home, he had told Jairus to not be afraid, but to believe. Now, everyone with Jairus heard the wails, and they are sure signs that someone had died…like seagulls are signs that the sea is nearby and buzzard the sign that a dead animal is nearby, so wailing like this was the sign that someone had died.

m.  Jesus told the wailers that the little girl was just sleeping and their wails turned into laughter…the wailing was to help with the mourning, but the laughter was their reaction to Jesus’ words of life in that situation.

n.   Jesus touched her, and called out to her and she came back to life, again.

Not only are there brief touches, and not only can the Master touch us, but He can touch through us!

3.            The Touch of the Master through His Disciples…

For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.

Ephesians 2:10

a.   it is interesting to see how a teacher influences his or her students…

b.   adults will, still, say, my teacher in school taught me this or that…

c.    you can see the influence of someone on another artist.

d.   We need to see that we are able to touch the world for Jesus with our lives…with our hands…this should not be reserved for just a short time trip, or while we are “on duty” as ministers and volunteers, but realize that we are always on duty to be God’s hand

There will be those who touch in faith (touch an icon, a talisman, and fail to actually enter into a relationship with Jesus…

people like to say, “to each his own,” which is a celebration of independence and even rebellion,

but Jesus invited this woman to have a relationship with him, not just to draw power from him

Jesus invites us into a relationship with him, too!

As we need the touch of the Master in our lives

We need to let the Master touch through us…

Just after the two stories today, Luke records that Jesus sent the 12 disciples on a journey, and gave them power and authority over demons and sicknesses

They were able to touch the sick and the demon-possessed and see the Kingdom of God come into lives of people.

I must say that it is so difficult to sit with the sick and not know what to do.

In faith I want to pray, “God raise up this sick person in Jesus’ Name,” but I’m no seeing it…yet I can come to the sick as a representative of the Living God and a representative of Kingdom.

This week I had the opportunity to share the Kingdom of God with someone in need, and without coercion, I was able to just invite the person to pray and receive Jesus as his Lord and his Savior.

Jesus is saying this, again, today, as there are among us today people who have hardly any relationship with Jesus, and would even be ashamed to admit that today if I asked them to admit it.

But Jesus wants a relationship with each of us,

And we should let Him touch the World THROUGH us

Three Expressions of Faith

1.              Faith for yourself

“If only I touch his cloak, I will be healed”

Matthew 9:21

a. This woman had been sick for 12 years and had been abused by the system, so, if I had been like her, perhaps I, too, would have just come behind Jesus and touched him

b.   But she did have faith for her needs.

c.    I’m surprised when I meet people who say, “I can’t pray for my own needs, that would be selfish.” But that is how Jesus taught us to pray…”give us this day our daily bread”

d.   On airplanes, the cabin crew announces,

“In the event of a loss of cabin pressure, oxygen will be provided, a mask like this will fall from the panel above, pull it to your face  and by doing so the oxygen supply will be activated. Secure your mask before helping others with theirs.”

we are to help ourselves, first, then we will be able to help someone else.

As Jesus said when it came to the idea of judging…

   3“Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? 4How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? 5You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.

Matthew 7:3-6

If we don’t believe, how will we be able to encourage others to believe

And even if we don’t have a lot of faith, we can ask God for more faith…I love what the father of a demon possessed boy said to Jesus…

[Jesus said ] “Everything is possible for him who believes.”

    24Immediately the boy’s father exclaimed, “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!”

Mark 9:23, 24

e.   Let us have faith that God will help us, and then we can talk about something that we have experienced.

2.                   Faith when all is lost…

a.   Actually, at first, all was not lost, but almost…

consider the pressure on Jairus to see his daughter healed, at any cost…

he comes to Jesus and says “please come”

This was a great expression of faith!

b.   Perhaps the interruption of the sick woman, and her healing, may have initially encouraged Jairus,

c.    But then he is told that his daughter is dead, and that there is no need to keep Jesus coming…Jesus encourages him, “just believe”

I really believe that Jairus exercised faith, first by coming to Jesus and second by sticking to Jesus

…don’t we often wait to come to Jesus…we try to solve things on our own, first, then, after we have made a mess of things, then we come to Jesus, but if results don’t go as we want or as fast as we desire, then we let go of him?

d.   Sad, I so often see people who just give up, when they haven’t really started to believe…it seems to me that the Bible teaches that we don’t believe unless we follow, but we won’t follow

To the Thessalonian church, Paul wrote about our continuous discipleship before God:

   16Be joyful always; 17pray continually; 18give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.

1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

Don’t wait for there to be a crisis to have faith in Jesus, have it now, in the simple and little things of life. Give thanks to God for all that you have, our wealth (what little or lot that we have), our health, etc.

3.        Faith beyond our reach … “If only you would go”

As Jesus called and designated the 12 in Luke 6:12-16, now he sends them, and in Luke 10, he will send 72 people to share the faith.

Some people will never hear the good news unless someone is sent.

As Paul wrote:

13for, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”

    14How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? 15And how can they preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!”

Romans 10:13-15

I stand in Awe of What God has done in the last 20 years as people who had never heard of Jesus as their Savior, have now heard, and can believe and follow Him.

So there are 3 touches, 3 types of faith and 3 different words

Three Different Words

1.            Confession

a.   The woman who had been sick for 12 years was healed, but Jesus called her to “confession.”

There is a Scottish proverb that

“Confession is good for the soul.”

Scottish Proverb

As well, I found this great quote regarding confession:

In confession… we open our lives to healing, reconciling, restoring, uplifting grace of Him who loves us in spite of what we are.

Louis Cassels

But you might be thinking, “these quotes have more to do with confession of a sin, while the healed woman was not asked to confess of her sin, but of her healing.”

And yes, but by “confession,” Jesus was inviting her into the relationship that would do more than just provide physical healing, it would provide spiritual restoration.

Jesus knows that many of us have no time for him, until our lives are threatened, either by sickness or loneliness or poverty. Then we come to him.

Jesus wants us in relationship with him, regularly, and that includes confession.

Confession of my need for Jesus, confession of my sins, confession of my secrets, confession of my pride and self-sufficiency, even confession that I sometimes see Jesus as my good-luck charm, and not as “my maker, defender, redeemer and friend.”

There’s confession, and there’s also silence

2.            Silence

Perhaps, Jesus just knew that the word would get out, as there were mourners, who would later see the girl, alive

Perhaps, Jesus didn’t want the extra publicity.

But what I see in this is that we need to believe, receive, and continue to follow, whatever God has called us to do.

If he wants us to be quiet, let’s do it.

I met a woman once who was married to a man who had no desire to go to church and follow Jesus.

He would not have considered himself to be an atheist, but was not a disciple of Jesus.

Once when the woman’s church was having nightly meetings for a week, she was getting ready to go.

Her husband was sitting in front of the, the TV and asked, “are you going, again, to those meetings?”

she said that she just about to answer him with “yes,” but felt hesitant in her spirit, and sensed that God wanted her to stay with her husband, so she said, “no, I’m going to watch TV with you.”

“You’re gonna do what?” he asked. Then he got up, put on his shoes and coat and took her to church…when an invitation was given to receive Jesus as Lord and Savior, he did!

It’s amazing what happened when a woman of God decided to NOT do what came so natural….she silenced what she would normally have said, and God spoke through her.

3.            Proclamation

Of course, this is what we are to do…in various ways. With words, with actions,

When Jesus sent out the 12 he told them to preach the Kingdom! The same Kingdom that he had asked them to pray would come on earth as it is in heaven.

We, too, are called to proclaim the Kingdom and let this Kingdom take its place in our lives first and also to proclaim the Kingdom to others.

One Special Presence

As we have seen three different touches, three different expressions of faith and three different words, we see one special presence.

All three of these will lead us to the one special presence.

The presence of the Lord is what I Pray for, daily, and want to live in his presence constantly…meaning I want to recognize what is constantly around me, and constantly available to me.

I feel that I see glimpses of his presence, occasionally.

David’s prayer when he wrote Psalm 51 regarding his great sins was not to be cast from God’s presence, which I’m sure he felt far from the healing presence of the Lord.

Do not cast me from your presence
or take your Holy Spirit from me.

Psalm 51:11

I have met those who think that every time something bad happens to them it is because of something that they have done…God’s judgment on them for something.

I notice that in my life, bad things happen, occasionally, even often, but how I feel about it or deal with it has a lot to do with how much I recognize about God’s presence in, around and through me.

In an ongoing situation of shame, his presence made the difference…

what is it that you are going through that seems endless

and you just don’t know how you will be able to make it

At the end of a life, his situation made a great difference in that little girl…I hear reports still of people coming back to life, again…but that may not be our case…can we approach death with the presence of the Almighty God in our lives?

When Adam and Eve sinned, they tried to hide from God’s presence:

Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the LORD God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from the LORD God among the trees of the garden.

Genesis 3:8

When Moses was leading the Hebrew people, he called out to God for help and God told him this:

“My Presence will go with you…”

Exodus 33:14

In the Great Commission Jesus promises to be with us where ever we go.

“And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

Matthew 28:20

Incredible how I am in Kazakhstan, and also in His presence.

He is here right now and He is able to touch, heal, restore and rebuke.

Jesus is here now.

In Spirit…

the Holy Spirit is also called the “Spirit of Jesus.”

In Body…

we are the Body of Christ

In Community…

wherever two or more are gathered

And in the presence of God, we find joy…

When we gather to praise and worship God, we know that we are in His presence, but we need to recognize His presence,

always,

with and

around and

within and

about us.

That’s why Jesus asked, “who touched me,” and why God asked, “Adam where are you.” That’s why the Holy Spirit is asking us today, “have you any time, for me, today?”

Jesus is always here, now.

Several months ago, I was feeling rather tired, frustrated and down, and my wife at that moment asked me to pray for her (I should have asked her to pray for me). In obedience to what I understand about God’s presence, I placed my hand upon a weak and sore part of her body, and prayed, simply, “Lord, I don’t know what you can do, but I ask you to heal and restore, in Jesus’ Name, A-men.”

And Clover said, “wow, your hand became very hot and my pain went away.”

We rejoiced, yet at the same time, I know that I have laid my hands on many more who have not felt a sensation of heat and not had deliverance of disease.

Yet, in all of that, Jesus wants me, and you, to continue and maintain a relationship with him.

24To him who is able to keep you from falling and to present you before his glorious presence without fault and with great joy— 25to the only God our Savior be glory, majesty, power and authority, through Jesus Christ our Lord, before all ages, now and forevermore! Amen.

Jude 1:24

So, I ask you, here at ICF, please

enter,

broaden and

deepen your relationship with God…

not just a brief touch, but a relationship in which you are touched and God touches through you.

Have faith that goes beyond our reach

Confess, often

Proclaim when able,

Be silent when necessary

Recognize and Enjoy, God’s presence.

Let’s pray!

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