OZARK MISSION PROJECT UPDATE

April 25, 2012 at 3:33 pm by  
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The team from Elm Springs will be going to Ozark Mission Project July 8-14.  Our location has changed to Cabot, Arkansas (north of Little Rock) but the dates are the same.  If you would like to help the youth go on the mission trip, please email Denni at elmyouth@hotmail.com ASAP!

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Life After Easter – Day One Luke 24.13-34 April 15, 2012

April 15, 2012 at 2:15 pm by  
Filed under Sunday Sermons

One day after Easter:  There is a lot of confusion; a lot of wild stories and accusations. The women said the body of Jesus was gone;  one even said she saw him, but at first she thought he was the gardener. They all bore witness to seeing an angelic messenger that told them that Jesus had risen from the dead!  Peter, needing to see with his own eyes, ran to the tomb; he, too, said that he witnessed that the tomb was empty, but couldn’t put it all together in his head. In the end, there was, on that first day, a lot of confusion, wild speculation, and above all, grief. Hadn’t they all seen Jesus crucified and buried just three days before? And what if what they were saying was true; that the body – the dead, lifeless, corpse caked with blood and spit and holes in his hands, feet, and side – was not there? Could someone have taken it? But who? Could this all be some grand delusion: that the women and Peter were so racked with grief that they were having a shared hallucination? So many questions…

So some of the disciples headed towards Emmaus. Where is Emmaus, you might ask? It is a place just 7 miles from Jerusalem. Why were they going to Emmaus? Perhaps it was the home of one of the disciples. It is reasonable that they were returning home after the Passover feast. Maybe it held some social or religious significance that has been lost over time.  The name means “hot bath,” and there were famous hot baths from Solomon’s time along that road; maybe they were going for a relaxing soak or a massage after all the stressful events of the preceding days.  Or maybe because it is just 7 miles from Jerusalem, and if you were walking, it is just far enough to get away from the misery and confusion of Jerusalem.

The writer Frederick Buechner describes Emmaus well:

“Emmaus is whatever we do, or wherever we go to make ourselves forget that the world holds nothing sacred: that even the wisest, bravest, and loveliest, decay and die; that even the noblest ideas that we have had – ideas about love and freedom and justice – have always in time been twisted out of shape by selfish men for selfish ends. Emmaus is where we go, where these two went, to try to forget about Jesus and the great failure of his life. (The Magnificent Defeat, p.85)”

And so as they walked along, the Scriptures say they were in an animated discussion: “reasoning out these things.”  And Jesus came alongside them (though they were kept from seeing him as Jesus) and said, to paraphrase, “Whatcha talking about?”

They were kind of rude to their new companion; the disciples turned to him, sadness written all over their faces, and one of them, Cleopas, said, “have you been under a rock? Everyone has heard about what’s happened in Jerusalem these last few days.” And they went on to describe what they knew so far, on the first day of the resurrection.

Remember, these were some of Jesus’ closest companions. I kind of relate it to the news stories that have captivated Northwest Arkansas, and Arkansas in general, over the last week or so regarding the University’s football program. It seems to be all anyone can talk about around here; but in talking with my brother this week, he hadn’t heard hardly anything except for what was reported on the national news.

This might tell us something: sometimes we are so close, so entrenched, in the events that are close to us that we can’t even fathom that these are not a blip on the radar to someone else. And conversely, we can be so consumed by our own thoughts and feelings that we can’t even see the person standing right in front of us!

Back to the story: Jesus begins speaking to these disciples while they walk to Emmaus, (though his identity is still hidden from them) and begins by saying, “you foolish people!” Now, I love what it says in the original language (Greek):  it calls them slow of thought and heart!  Literally, the word is bradycardia: your heart beats too slow!

And then Jesus begins to reveal to them, by going through the Scriptures, that this is an exact fulfillment of what was predicted from the beginning of time until now.

As they approached their stopping point, their learned companion acted as if he was going on, but they begged him to come and stay with them. As he did, they sat together for a meal, and while the Scriptures are not explicit, it simply says, v. 30 “As they sat down to eat, he took the bread and blessed it. Then he broke it and gave it to them. 31 Suddenly, their eyes were opened, and they recognized him. And at that moment he disappeared!”

What made the difference? How did they finally recognize him? Was it then that they got a good look at his face? Or maybe it was as he reached for the bread, it revealed the nail scars in his hands? Or maybe it was just in how he had broken the bread for them, as he had many times before, but most notably just a few days before when he radically re-oriented the Passover meal to reveal in that age-old tradition a purpose in their midst? In whatever way it was revealed to them, at once then Jesus was gone, and they were amazed!  “They said to each other, “Didn’t our hearts burn within us as he talked with us on the road and explained the Scriptures to us?””

1.  Sometimes we are so consumed by our own issues and doubts and fears that we fail to recognize the ONE who is walking beside us.

-          Jesus said he would never leave us or forsake us!  We are NOT alone on this journey!

-          It may be a bit kitchy, but it still holds true: the poem “Footprints in the Sand” by Mary Stevenson:

  One night I had a dream–
I dreamed I was walking along the beach with the Lord
and across the sky flashed scenes from my life.
For each scene I noticed two sets of footprints,
one belonged to me and the other to the Lord.
When the last scene of my life flashed before me,
I looked back at the footprints in the sand.
I noticed that many times along the path of my life,there was only one set of footprints.
I also noticed that it happened at the very lowest and saddest times in my life.
This really bothered me and I questioned the Lord about it.
“Lord, you said that once I decided to follow you,
you would walk with me all the way,
but I have noticed that during the most troublesome times in my life there is only one set of footprints.
“I don’t understand why in times when I needed you most,
you should leave me.”
The Lord replied, “My precious, precious child,
I love you and I would never, never leave you
during your times of trial and suffering.
“When you saw only one set of footprints,it was then that I carried you.”

2. Sometimes our hearts comprehend what our head does not

-          notice that in all of their discussing and deliberation, they were trying to make logical sense out of the events of the past days, and they were failing – miserably.

-          I will admit, I have a great tendency to approach troubles head-first: reason them out, find a logical pattern. But like the disciples, sometimes when the issue is too weighty, or the emotion too strong, logic fails.

-          And in those moments, we must hear our hearts: our slow-beating hearts!

-          “did not our hearts BURN within us!”  It was their hearts that were trying to tell them the truth!

At the conclusion of this story, even though it was dark, even though it was nighttime, and they had already traveled the 7 or so miles one-way to Emmaus, they HAD to get up and go back to Jerusalem!  It was not an option!  They made the return trek – completing a half-marathon that day – so they could find the others in the midst of their doubt and confusion and tell them what they saw with their eyes, heard with their ears, and above all, knew with their hearts!  And wouldn’t you know it, when they got there, the other disciples had the same story to tell!  They said, “the Lord appeared to Peter!”

That Jesus, he sure was busy after being dead for three days!  But there was still more to do;  tune in next week as we take another look at “Life After Easter”

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Would YOU? Romans 5.6-11 Easter Sunday, April 8, 2012

April 9, 2012 at 12:47 pm by  
Filed under Sunday Sermons

There has been a lot of talk this year about the end of the world. From the Mayan Calendar, to last year’s Harold Camping predictions, to the signs people interpret from the world’s economy, to the seeming rise in natural disasters, even to the mysterious birds that have fallen to the earth in Eastern Arkansas; it seems that many people are thinking and talking about the end of the world.

Philosophers have taken note as well; Dr. Jerry Walls, senior research fellow at Notre Dame (and one of my former professors) says there are three distinct ways people approach apocalypse.

The first view about the end is one guided by theology. “Religious believers tend to think, by and large, that the world has, in its end, a goal, a purpose,” Walls says. “They believe that there’s a narrative that is not driven solely by the human actors; there’s a bigger director telling the story and He’s taking it somewhere.”

Others think the world will have a definite conclusion: Something will happen that wipes out our species and potentially all life. It could be anything from an atmospheric change to a super asteroid. The twentieth century development of nuclear weapons only strengthened the belief that we pose a great threat to ourselves, and the most modern schools of thought say it is humanity’s abuse of the planet that will bring about an ecological meltdown.

The third end of the world option is what I call the “Hollywood Eschatology”:  Dr. Walls: “There are a lot of people in these survival movements that are expecting some sort of apocalyptic event—nuclear war, economic meltdown, something of the like—that will throw the world into chaos,” he says. “These people think that they’ll weather the storm, the end of the world as they know it, and then they’ll rebuild after the apocalyptic events have passed.”

I call it the Hollywood Eschatology because there have been a lot of movies made lately based on the end of the world theme. In most, the premise is that there will be survivors, and we must adjust to the new “normal” that exists because of the radical changes that come in a post-apocalyptic world:  anything from mutant animals and even humans, scarcity of resources like food, water, gasoline (think “Mad Max”). There was even a Superbowl commercial with this theme:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XxFYYP8040A

And perhaps the most popular post-apocalyptic movie to come out in a decade, “The Hunger Games” released just a couple of weeks ago, and has already made hundreds of millions of dollars telling the story of a post-apocalyptic North America in which there are 12 districts (there used to be 13) and each year, to remind the inhabitants that there is a price to be paid for rebellion against the Capitol, one boy and one girl between the ages of 12 and 18 from each district are selected by annual lottery to participate in the Hunger Games, an event in which the participants (or “tributes”) must fight in an outdoor arena controlled by the Capitol, until only one remains. The story follows 16-year-old Katniss Everdeen, a girl from District 12 who volunteers for the Hunger Games in place of her younger sister, Primrose.  She chose to lay down her life for the good of her younger sister.

In the Bible, John 15:13 says, “Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends.” At the end of John 13, he said “by this all will know that you are My disciples; if you have love for one another.” Then in 15:13, He says there is no greater love than to give your life for a friend.

What about you? I am willing to give my life for my wife and my kids. I would sacrifice myself for their well-being. While that would be considered “heroic” by some, it would be somewhat normal to give my life to save the life of someone I know and love.

So would you?  Would you give your life in exchange for this one? Or this one?  Would you lay down your life for this person?  How about this one? Would you lay down your life for this person?  (then random unknown people)  How about him? How about her?

You say, I know those people.  Well, Firefighters and soldiers are not called upon to risk their lives for their own families, for those they love – when that time comes, it is usually for complete strangers, perhaps even an enemy. What these men and women do daily is without judgment, meaning – when you go into a burning building, you don’t do a background check to see if that person is on the most wanted list and “deserves” to be saved! You do it because they are in danger, and it’s your job to save them.

But there is a distinct difference between one who will give his life for his own child or even a stranger – and One who gives His life for someone He knows to be a thief, a child molester, a murderer…someone evil.

Would you give your life for this one? Or this one? Or this one?  In deciding, you are judging that those deserve punishment far more than you.

The world has already been JUDGED

It has been judged according to the law of righteousness.  Just as in the days of Noah, Genesis 6:5  The Lord observed the extent of human wickedness on the earth, and he saw that everything they thought or imagined was consistently and totally evil. And the world still sits under judgment by the same righteous standard.

and we have been JUDGED too. We don’t escape this judgment. Romans 3.23 23 For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard.” 

The judge is a righteous judge; it is God Himself. What gives God the right? He is holy; He is not swayed by flights of fancy or favoritism; only God can look at the human heart; only God can discern our thoughts.

And because of this, We have been found GUILTY

But God, the righteous judge, did a very un-judgelike thing: He stepped down from his judgment seat, put on civilian clothes, and paid the penalty Himself – through His Son.  Jesus Christ gave His life knowingly and willingly with complete judgment. Romans 5:7 says, “Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man (a judgment), though for a good man (a judgment) someone might possibly dare to die.”
Vs. 6 has told us that Christ died FOR the ungodly, FOR the unrighteous, FOR the worst of sinners.

At one point in the Hunger Games, Katniss is sitting with Peeta, her friend and co-tribute, and he says, If I’m going to die, I want to die like me.  Katniss says, “I don’t have that option.”  Katniss did not see death as an option; she felt she MUST survive. Jesus, on the other hand, saw that death WAS the only option; that HE was in control of the game: not Pilate, not the Pharisees, not the people, not the pain.

Though Jesus KNEW the sinful condition of every human that had lived or ever would live, the evil that grows out of the human heart, the cold and calculated murderous thoughts and acts of mankind – He CHOSE to “become tribute” for us; to die in our place.

That makes NO earthly sense! The only explanation for such an unthinkable act is – “God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son…”

You see, Jesus knows EVERYTHING about you, but still loves you! He loves you enough to say, “I will take your place; I will die for you.”

And what we celebrate today, on Easter Sunday, is that the price was paid, the ransom met, the judgment was satisfied; and that in so doing, DEATH has become IMPOTENT; Death has no power any more!  1 Cor 15:54ff  “Death is swallowed up in victory.55 O death, where is your victory?    O death, where is your sting?[l]56 For sin is the sting that results in death, and the law gives sin its power. 57 But thank God! He gives us victory over sin and death through our Lord Jesus Christ.

With this knowledge, you are faced with a choice. You can no longer say you don’t understand what Jesus did for you; You can no longer say I will wait until later.

The Bible says Jesus paid the price for you to go to heaven; all you have to do is surrender your life to Him. Here is how you do that –Admit what God already knows, and has judged you guilty:  you are a sinner. Believe that Jesus died and rose again for you, taking the penalty of your sin on HIS back. Confess Him as your tribute; your savior and Lord.
Would you like to know where you will spend eternity? You can settle it today!

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NEED SOME GOOD NEWS?

April 1, 2012 at 6:39 am by  
Filed under Announcements

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