June 18, 2017
APRIL 23 2017 BREAKING FREE: Romans 8:1-11
MARCH 12 2017
MARCH 6 We are still having technical difficulties. Sorry for the inconveniece
FEB 19 2017
DUE TO TECHNICAL DIFFICULTIES THERE IS NO RECORDING FOR SUNDAY, FEBRUARY 19, 2017.
Feb 12 2017
February 5 2017
Jan 29 2017
January 22, 2017 How Much Worse Can it Get?
JANUARY 15, 2017 ! Samuel 2:1-10 Hannah Prayed.
JANUARY 8, 2017 1 SAMUEL: BARRENNESS TO BLESSING
December 11, 2016 What do you see? Luke 2:8-20
December 11, 2016 Week Three of Advent Luke 2:8-20; Ephesians 2:14 What do you see? A few moments ago I read the account of the angels and shepherds shared by Luke. Luke, an early follower of Jesus was a careful biographer “Many have undertaken to compile a narrative about the events that have been fulfilled among us, just as the original eyewitnesses and servants of the word handed them down to us. It also seemed good to me, since I have carefully investigated everything from the very first, to write to you in an orderly sequence, most honorable Theophilus, so that you may know the certainty of the things about which you have been instructed.” (Luke 1:1–4, HCSB) “Then an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified.” (Luke 2:9, HCSB) These shepherds were not the owners of the flock. Rather these men were, according to one scholar,
were considered to be the lowest class of people. The nature of their calling prohibited them from frequent participation in the religious rituals of their day, and there were discriminating practices against them with respect to the law courts, for a shepherd was not permitted to give testimony. They were considered to be so unscrupulous and untrustworthy that their testimony was of little value.*
The angel had seen something almost as remarkable – “Then she gave birth to her firstborn Son, and she wrapped Him snugly in cloth and laid Him in a feeding trough—because there was no room for them at the lodging place.” (Luke 2:7, HCSB) Matthew 1:18–20 Luke 1:30–37 “Suddenly there was a multitude of the heavenly host with the angel, praising God and saying: Glory to God in the highest heaven, and peace on earth to people He favors!” (Luke 2:13–14, HCSB)
According to a report produced by the Institute for Economics and Peace, “there are now just 10 countries which can be considered completely free from conflict….”* The same report writes, The number of yearly incidents [of terrorism] has almost tripled since 2011 and the number of deaths has increased to over 30,000. The majority of terrorist activity is highly concentrated in five countries: Iraq, Nigeria, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Syria. Between them these countries accounted for 78 per cent of deaths from terrorism in 2014.* Closer to home we see evidence almost daily of violence, of people at war with themselves and with one another. Kids on the playground fight. Mom’s and dad’s argue with step-dad’s and step-mom’s about who gets which child for which holiday.
1. Peace is the promise of God’s presence Luke 2:29–32; John 1:14 2. Peace is the power of God’s presence to heal all that divides us Luke 4:17–21 Ephesians 2:13–18 So, how do we ‘see’ the same thing the shepherds and angels saw? When we look at the manger scenes in the stores, when we watch the movies of the Christmas event, when we envision in our own minds the birth of Christ, how do gain the capacity to see what it was all about? Is it possible for us to see and experience the peace which the angels sang of, which God brings to fulfillment in Jesus Christ?
A. Open to God’s Promise and Presence
B. Willingness to exercise faith
December 4 The Sustaining Power of Hope Micah 7:7
December 4, 2016 Week Two of Advent Lamentations 3:22-24
The Sustaining Power of Hope
1 Peter 1:10–12 We usually picture OT prophets as men with long scraggly beards, usually living apart from the rest of society, with fire in their eyes, proclaiming loudly the nearness of God’s destruction on those who failed to obey God’s Word. In among the denunciations and promises of judgment, though, we find messages of hope – messages calling for a patient waiting for God to do what He had promised from the very beginning…Genesis 3:14-15. Turn with me to the OT book of Micah – a prophet who lived during the same time as Isaiah and perhaps Jeremiah. Not much is known about this man except that his parents had a solid and committed faith. His name means, “who is like the Lord?”* During his lifetime both the Northern Kingdom, known as Israel, and the Southern Kingdom, called Judah, were constantly under attack by enemies. During his lifetime the northern kingdom ceased to exist and the southern kingdom held on by the grace of God. Micah 5:2–5a “But I will look to the Lord; I will wait for the God of my salvation. My God will hear me.” (Micah 7:7, HCSB)
1. Hope sustains as we look to the future “I will look” in the original language is suggestive of a continued activity.
2.Hope sustains us as we wait
Our English words ‘hope,’ ‘trust,’ and ‘wait’ are often interchangeable in the original language of the OT. Even here in Micah 7:7 you can substitute the words ‘hope’ or ‘trust’ for the Hebrew word translated ‘wait’ and still catch the meaning of the passage. To trust means to wait – to believe and rely on even in spite of the evidence; to hope means to wait in confident expectation that what one believes and trusts will come to pass. To wait is not a passive activity in God’s way of life. Waiting is an attitude of expectation and choosing to live each day with the hope that what God has promised will occur. Luke 2:29–32
3. Hope sustains us as we cry out to God First, he waits for “the God (Elohim = the Creator and All-Powerful One) of my salvation.” Second, Micah cries out to ‘My God (Elohim). Not merely to a god or goddess of the nation or of his ancestors, but to the Creator, All-Powerful One with whom Micah has a personal, even intimate relationship.
NOVEMBER 27, 2016 FIRST SUNDAY OF ADVENT
November 27, 2016
Advent: Week One
Over these next few Sunday’s as we approach the Christmas event we will discover an essential element for experiencing joy, a piece of the puzzle that is absolutely necessary for rejoicing to occur. That element: Hope. One dictionary defines hope as “the desire and search for a future good, difficult but not impossible of attainment.”*
Three times in this brief passage the word ‘hope’ appears. First, in vs. 2, then in vs. 4, and finally in vs. 5. What is the source of our hope? Why is hope such an important part of living as Christ-following life?
- Where does our hope come from?
Hope is expressly ours only through what Paul described as ‘righteousness by faith’ which enable us to ‘have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ’ (Rom 5:1).
Hope, then, stems from a changed relationship. Now that, in Christ, we are regarded as ‘righteous,’ that is we are clothed with the perfect obedience of Jesus in God’s sight, we can have hope. This hope, promised even from the Garden of Eden – that God would do something to deal with sin – is now fulfilled in and through Jesus Christ.
Genesis 1:26; Romans 3:23; Romans 3:24-26
* F. L. Cross and Elizabeth A. Livingstone, eds., The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church (Oxford; New York: Oxford University Press, 2005), 794.
2. But why is hope essential to the Christian life? Paul identifies several reasons why hope is so important for a Jesus follower: a). that which brings true joy is grounded in God’s promise It would seem that Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.* b). Hope is strengthened by the circumstances of our lives c). Hope directs us to the person of Jesus Christ Philippians 3:10-14 CONCLUSION Jeremiah 29:11 Through our hope – even in the darkest of days – Jesus will be made known – in our lives, in our families, in our community, and in our world. NOVEMBER 13, 2016
November 13, 2016 Countering Culture: How Shall We Live?
1 Peter 2:11-17 Introduction When I started driving and hanging out with friends during High School (yes, I had friends…not many, but I did have friends) my dad used to hand me the car keys and remind me that the Schenewerk name meant something in our community. He had worked hard at getting engaged in the schools, in our church, and our neighborhood. He also gave himself selflessly to serve his family – his parents, my mom’s family, and his aunt and uncle who had been like parents to him. So, the name meant something. Our identity as followers of Jesus has certain requirements, certain obligations that are a result of our new life. Peter identifies three of them in the passage we will look at this morning and a few others we will examine next week.
1. ‘Conduct yourselves honorably… [to] glorify God’ Ultimately the very purpose of all creation is to ‘glorify’ God, to make His presence and power visible and tangible. But as Peter reminded his readers there is a prior commitment before our lives can genuinely glorify God. Peter’s understanding of new life in Christ has been expressed in 1 Peter 1 & 2:
a). our new life is destined for an eternal salvation, 1:19
b). our new life is placed under God’s protective care, 2:25
c). our new life is purified by the acceptance of God’s Word, 1:22. In the summer of 1805, a number of Indian chiefs and warriors met in council at Buffalo Creek, New York to hear a presentation of the Christian message by a Mr. Cram from the Boston Missionary Society. After the sermon, a response was given by Red Jacket, one of the leading chiefs. Among other things, the chief said: “Brother, you say that there is but one way to worship and serve the Great Spirit. If there is but one religion, why do you white people differ so much about it? Why not all agree, as you can all read the Book?
“Brother, we are told that you have been preaching to the white people in this place. These people are our neighbors. We are acquainted with them. We will wait a little while and see what effect your preaching has upon them. If we find it does them good, makes them honest and less disposed to cheat Indians, we will then consider again of what you have said.”*
2. ‘Submit to every human authority… [to] silence the ignorance of foolish people.’ Our first and foremost responsibility is to obey God. Only secondarily are we to defer to, or respect, those in authority over us.
3. ‘Live as free people…but don’t use your freedom…to conceal evil.’ The freedom Peter was describing was a freedom from the past that can only come through understanding and appropriating what God has done for us through Jesus by the cross, resurrection, and ascension.
CONCLUSION ‘Why did I just do/say that?’ Conducting ourselves honorably reflects the truth that our life matters, our life is precious, that life is truly a gift… Submitting to human authorities reminds us that the entire universe – as big as it is and as difficult to measure – is ordered under God’s ultimate authority. To live in spiritual freedom is to affirm that God’s gift of forgiveness in and through Jesus enables us to let go our past, to discover fully all that God has for us. ““Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest.” (Matthew 11:28, The Message “Let every detail in your lives—words, actions, whatever—be done in the name of the Master, Jesus, thanking God the Father every step of the way.” (Colossians 3:17, The Message).
November 6, 2016
Countering Culture: How Shall We Live?
1 Peter 1:13-2:3
One of the primary issues at stake in this election season is immigration. Who should be allowed into our nation? What criteria should be used to determine who is allowed to enter our borders?
How did you do?
As followers of Jesus, however, we are often caught between the ideas expressed in the documents that express our national identity and the truths found in God’s Word. For example: the Declaration of Independence declares that all men are created equal. However, most of the writers and signers of that document were slave-owners and would have laughed out loud had you suggested that women or non-property owners should have the right to vote.
In 2016 the differences are even clearer. According to legal interpretations of the 14th Amendment to the US Constitution doctors are allowed to take the life of an unborn child without any threat of legal action. Just over one year ago the US Supreme Court redefined marriage – more on the basis of public opinion than any historical or other evidence.
Peter, one of Jesus’ earliest followers wrote two letters that we have in our Bibles to believers scattered throughout the Roman Empire – which was not merely a geographical entity but more a military presence. How should these believers live? Many of them weren’t or would never be citizens of Rome. Many were indentured servants, slaves, and likely many were far from their place of birth because when Rome conquered an area they often forcibly resettled people across their territories. Peter’s response is comprised of at least four components:
- Temporary Residents vs 13-16
This unusual word “parepidēmos is used in the New Testament only here and in1Pet2:11 and Heb 11:13.”*
prepare their minds for action.’ The KJV uses a graphic illustration of one gathering up one’s robe in order to move quickly, even to run. ‘With your minds ready for action…’ we are to A) ‘be serious;’ B) set your hope completely on the grace to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.’
2.Obedient Children vs. 17
From the thought of aliens Peter jumps to another component of our identity: ‘obedient children.’ Children reflect the nature of their parents! As the children of God we are to reflect God’s unique nature: HOLINESS.
- Believers in God through Jesus Christ vs 18-21
A third component of our identity is defined in vs 18-21 as Peter reminds his listeners of what Jesus has done and how Jesus has acted to distinguish His own from the world.
First, as the temporary residents…chosen according to the foreknowledge of God the Father and set apart by the Spirit for obedience…” we are new creations.
- Brothers/sisters in Christ vs 22-2:3
The fourth component of our identity as ‘stranger/aliens/temporary residents’ reminds us that we are not alone, that having been redeemed, having been chosen and set aprt we are part of a family.
a). as believers our hope for the future is not tied to any political system. Our hope is grounded in what God has done through Jesus Christ and the promise of Jesus’ return.
b). as believers our identity will express itself in two primary ways: holiness of life and a deep and abiding love for one another.
c). finally, our ultimate orientation – even in politics and cultural battles – must be kingdom oriented and not limited to the systems of this world.
Are you a follower of Jesus Christ? Has Jesus given you a new identity? Or are you still trapped in the emptiness of the thinking and lifestyle of the world around you?
If you are a believer, are you honestly disciplining your mind to hear, examine, analyze, remember, and think upon God’s Word – are you willing to do the hard work of thinking about what it means to live as a stranger/alien/temporary resident in this world?
Finally, as God’s holiness makes itself clear in and through you do people mark you by your genuine and deep love for one another?
* Thomas R. Schreiner, 1, 2 Peter, Jude, vol. 37, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2003), 50.
OCTOBER 30, 2016
October 30, 2016
1 Corinthians 1:18-25
What the World Needs Now
What is the most important message of this presidential campaign? Is it Donald Trump’s pledge is to ‘Make America Great Again.’ Or is Hillary Clintons’ theme, ‘We Are Stronger Together’ most important?
The biblical message is truth and it demands a commitment to truth. It means that everything is not the result of the impersonal plus time plus chance, but that there is an infinite-personal God who is the Creator of the universe, the space-time continuum. We should not forget that this was what the founders of modern science built upon. It means the acceptance of Christ as Savior and Lord, and it means living under God’s revelation. Here there are morals, values, and meaning, including meaning for people, which are not just a result of statistical averages. This is neither a utilitarianism, nor a leap away from reason; it is the truth that gives a unity to all of knowledge and all of life. This second alternative means that individuals come to the place where they have this base, and then they influence the consensus. Such Christians do not need to be a majority in order for this influence on society to occur.*
John Piper retired pastor from Minnesota has said that “there are a 1000 needs in the world, and none of them compare to global need for the gospel.”*
- The Gospel is God’s power for transforming lives
One of the fundamental purposes of all government is the protection of life (see Genesis 9).
2 Corinthians 4:7–11,
Well known researchers in the study of missions have noted that “Christians make up 33% of the world’s population, but receive 53% of the world’s annual income and spend 98% of it on themselves. (Barrett and Johnson 2001, 656).”*
2 Corinthians 11:23–27
Nik Ripken describes how many of the believers he has met across the world “don’t just live for Jesus, they live with Jesus every day.”*
- The Gospel is God’s standard for wisdom
We currently live in a world where the standard for wisdom is currently and rapidly shifting from a shared understanding of truth to a world where truth is defined primarily by the individual.
…according to the world’s understanding of ‘wisdom’ the message of the cross – the gospel – is foolishness.
Gordon S. Wood, a noted historian specializing in revolutionary America tells of a lecture he gave in 1976 in Poland. He writes,
At the end of my very ordinary lecture on the American Revolution, a young Polish intellectual rose to tell me that I had left out the most important part. Naturally, I was stunned. She said I had no mentioned the Bill of Rights – the constitutional protection of individual liberties against the government. It was true. I had taken the Bill of Rights for granted. But this young Polish woman living under a communist regime could not take individual rights for granted.*
- The Gospel is God’s plan for restoring unity
Am I born again? Have I received the gospel? If not, why not?
Am I truly living with Jesus day by day? If not, why not?
Am I willing to do whatever it takes, to give whatever it costs, to be what God asks and empowers me to be for the sake of the gospel? If not, why not?
* Nik Ripken with Gregg Lewis, The Insanity of God: A True Story of Faith Resurrected (Nashville: B&H Publishing Group, 2013), 304.
* Gordon S. Wood, The Idea of America: Reflections on the Birth of the United States (New York: Penguin Press, 2011), 334-5.
* Francis A. Schaeffer, The Complete Works of Francis A. Schaeffer: A Christian Worldview, vol. 5 (Westchester, IL: Crossway Books, 1982), 251.
* Seen on Twitter, October 27, 2016.
OCTOBER 23 2016
October 23 2016
The economic platforms of both major parties are expressions of radically different ways of understanding wealth – it’s creation, whose entitled to it, and the responsibility attached to it. As we who are called by the name ‘Christian’ we have a serious responsibility to evaluate each candidate who is running for office and their understanding of economic policies. However, what standard will we use by which to examine these policies?
Some would say fairness – everyone is entitled to an equal opportunity. Others might argue for a standard of total equality where everyone has exactly the same resources. Yet some would suggest that an elite should decide which person is entitled to which resources.
Or we could open the Bible and ask – Is there a biblical standard by which to evaluate economic principles and policies?
- Needless Anxiety
a). Don’t worry
Yet, Jesus says: Don’t worry…Stop striving…Don’t be anxious. Is He kidding? Does He not see the need? Does He not understand that there is more month than paycheck? Sounds like maybe He needs a reality check…or maybe we do?
Reasons to not worry:
1). vs 24 Consider the ravens/birds of the air. They manage to find food because God provides it for them.
2). vs 27 look at the flowers of the field. Notice how they are clothed year after year – without any intervention from us.
How much more of value are we – the crown of His creation, the ultimate expression of His image and likeness – than the birds of the air? The value God puts on a human life cannot be measured, and if He expresses His care for the creation in providing nourishment and other resources He will certainly take care of those who belong to Him.
Look with me at Psalm 147 –
The LORD values those who fear Him, those who put their hope in His faithful love.
- Ultimate Priorities
The ‘cure’ for anxiety is offered in several choices Jesus offers:
a). Seek His Kingdom…For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.
Paul can be instructive here.
Read Philippians 3:4-11:
- changing our basic orientation
- setting new goals
b). Don’t be afraid
c). make money bags/purses that do not wear out.
“an inheritance that is imperishable, uncorrupted, and unfading, kept in heaven for you.” 1 Peter 1:4
OCTOBER 16 2016 WHY DO WE HAVE GOVERNMENT?
OCTOBER 16, 2016 Countering Culture: Why Government?
The Declaration of Independence opens with…
When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.–That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, –That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.
The US Constitution opens with these words:
We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.
But I want us to focus on Genesis 9:5-6 so that we might see the foundational principles for the existence of any and all human government. A couple of cautions:
a). Nowhere in the Bible do we find warrant for one form of government over another. In other words, the republic as we know it cannot be traced to a particular verse of paragraph.
b). The fact of sin has so become ingrained that no human government can escape it’s power. In essence: no form of government devised or developed by humans will ever be free from the power and pull of sin and its influences.
Having noted those cautions let me suggest the following principles that can be drawn from this passage:
- Appropriate Authority
One scholar provides this helpful literal translation of the Hebrew text:
5a And indeed for your lifeblood I will demand an accounting (dāraš):
5b From the hand of every animal I will demand an accounting (dāraš),
5c And from the hand of “man” [ʾādām],
From the hand of each person [ʾîš] his brother,
I will demand an accounting [dāraš] for human [ʾādām] life.*
- Maintaining Justice for all life
The Apostle Paul, living under a tyrannical Roman rule reminded his readers of two compelling truths:
- Romans 13:1-7
All government is of God.
- 1 Timothy 2:1-7
Our task is to pray for all those in authority over us.
First, no government of humans is perfect nor can it be. Sin has so powerfully impacted our world that no one is immune from it.
Second, having been created in the image of God – even though now flawed and marred by sin – each and every human being has an inbred sense of yearning for transcendence, or, put simply God.
Third, in God’s blessing to Noah – which is almost word for word the same as His blessing on Adam and Eve, which is further spelled out to Abraham and his descendants (physical and spiritual) – we see a powerful urge to conserve the best of the past while moving forward into even greater experiences of God’s purpose.
Fourth, we who gather in the name of Jesus Christ as God’s own peculiar people our gatherings, our community as a church can visibly demonstrate what it looks like when people choose to live under God’s authority, to exercise God’s call to accountability, and to protect life in all its expression within the boundaries God as established.
Finally, as we are looking over our ballots in the coming days our choices need to be bathed in prayer, informed by God’s Word, and made in the hope and assurance that whatever occurs, God is still on His throne and our God reigns!
* K. A. Mathews, Genesis 1-11:26, vol. 1A, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1996), 403.
October 9. 2016
An Identity Crisis
October 9. 2016
An Identity Crisis
Genesis 1:26-28; 2:7, 21-25
Facebook, the popular and everpresent social media page now catalogues nearly 60 different options for identifying one’s gender. *
The cultural narrative that defines our world tells us that gender is not assigned at birth but rather a choice that is made, influenced by a variety of factors. According to the current ‘story’ our world desperately wants us to believe is that every person can determine for themselves what they are and who they can become. Transitioning between genders is as normal as changing channels on the TV.
- Man and woman were specifically created for God’s Creation
K.A. Matthews explains,
The narrative marks the prominence of this creative act in several ways: (1) the creation account shows an ascending order of significance with human life as the final, thus pinnacle, creative act; (2) of the creative acts, this is the only one preceded by divine deliberation (“Let us make” in v. 26); (3) this expression replaces the impersonal words spoken in the previous creation acts (e.g., “Let there be,” “Let the earth”); (4) human life alone is created in the “image” of God and has the special assignment to rule over the created order (vv. 26–28); (5) the verb bārāʾ occurs three times in v. 27; (6) the event is given a longer description than previous ones; (7) in v. 27 the chiastic arrangement highlights the emphasis on “image”; and (8) unlike the animals, who are said to have come from the land in v. 24 (though v. 25 makes clear that God created them), mankind is referred to only as a direct creation of God.*
* K. A. Mathews, Genesis 1-11:26, vol. 1A, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1996), 160.
- Man and woman were created distinct by design for God’s purpose
1 Corinthians 11:9, 11–12
3. Man and woman were created different by design to reveal the fullness of God’s character
a). Representing God on earth
b). Respecting God’s Character
CONCLUSION A recent article in the journal First Things explains, Today’s most important acronym expands and contracts like an accordion with seemingly no rhyme or reason. From LGBT, the inclusive train of letters has now swelled toLGBTTQQIAAP2S. The two Ts stand for transgender and transsexual and the double Qs represent both “queer” and “questioning”. The I is for intersex; the twin As for “asexual” and “ally”—the latter meaning you’re hetero but down with the cause. P is for pansexual, the catch-all for being up for pretty much anything depending on the situation. The newest addition is the “2S” which denotes being Two Spirit, a term used by some First Nationers for one who does not fit into the male/female binary.*
Why does it matter… error and confusion over sexual identity leads to: (1) marriage patterns that do not portray the relationship between Christ and the church1 (Ephesians 5:31-32); (2) parenting practices that do not train boys to be masculine or girls to be feminine; (3) homosexual tendencies and increasing attempts to justify homosexual alliances (see question 41); (4) patterns of unbiblical female leadership in the church that reflect and promote the confusion over the true meaning of manhood and womanhood.*
* https://www.firstthings.com/blogs/firstthoughts/2016/04/is-there-an-lgbt-community, accessed on 10/7/16.
* http://document.desiringgod.org/recovering-biblical-manhood-and-womanhood-en.pdf?1471470614, accessed on 10/7/16.
1. Recognize God’s Design
2. Stand Fast for God’s Purposes
Ultimately the issue is a gospel issue. Only in Jesus Christ can we discover all that God intends for us. Sin has so marred the world around us and the people in it that only the cross of Jesus Christ – where He shouldered the sin of the world and by dying satisfied the penalty of sin – that God’s ideal of manhood and womanhood is only possible in the re-creation that comes as we become new persons in Jesus!
Countering Culture: Why Are We Where We Are? Genesis 1:1 October 2, 2016 Mark Harrison, a geologist at UCLA, was recently quoted in The Atlantic: We as a scientific community created an origin myth that has no more intellectual value than 1 Genesis … Although we’re very quick to criticize those that operate on faith, that’s exactly what we did.”* But what if…, what it that myth is built on assumptions that Dr. Harrison calls into question? What if Genesis 1:1 is accurate? What if the Psalmists were more insightful than the scientists debating the finer points of the Darwinian theory that underlies most of the science taught in our schools and assumed to be THE only explanation of why were are? “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” (Genesis 1:1, HCSB) 1. God’s creation reveals Him The Psalmist declared: “The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky proclaims the work of His hands.” (Psalm 19:1, HCSB) 2. God’s Creation is according to His plan According to one scholar, Beginning” (rēʾšît) is often paired in the Old Testament with its antonym “end” (ʾaḥărît), indicating an inclusive period of time (e.g., Job 8:7; 42:12; Eccl 7:8; Isa 46:10). The occurrence of “beginning” (rēʾšît) in 1:1 suggests that it has been selected because of its association with “end” (ʾaḥărît).* Genesis 1:26-28 God’s purpose, however, was delayed – but not derailed by sin. Adam and Eve chose to disobey, which in God’s foreknowledge He had foreseen. This opening act sets the stage for the promise of One to come who would perfectly fulfill all that God had intended for Adam and Eve, one whose name we know as Jesus Christ. As one NT scholar concludes, “Adam represents God’s sovereign presence and rule on earth.”* 3. God’s creation is unique and unrepeatable . In the Hebrew Bible this word translated ‘created’ is only used of God’s activity. The word is never used to describe what humans can do, and the evidence is clear that humans are creative beings. One influential OT scholar notes that the word, as used here suggests “the production of that which had no existence before.”* 4. God’s creation encompasses all that is. First, there is unescapable absolute truth and He is Elohim/Yahweh who has revealed Himself fully and finally through Jesus Christ by His Holy Spirit. Second, the fact of God’s creative power and ability challenge us to carefully consider our place in God’s creation. Finally, knowing that there is a plan and purpose gives us a perspective on the world in which we live. As Patsy Clairmont has observed, normal is just setting on your dryer. Isaiah 40:28–31
What Do You Think About God?
September 25, 2016
The world in which we grew up is no longer the world in which we live. The beginning point for any serious discussion about how we are to live has to begin with what we understand about God. John Calvin, one of the prominent writers, preachers, and leaders of what we now call the Protestant Reformation began his significant work, The Institutes of the Christian Religion with these thoughts:
Our wisdom, in so far as it ought to be deemed true and solid wisdom, consists almost entirely of two parts: the knowledge of God and of ourselves.*
A.W Tozer, a pastor, wrote these words:
What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us. The history of mankind will probably show that no people has ever risen above its religion, and man’s spiritual history will positively demonstrate that no religion has ever been greater than its idea of God.*
Towards the end of the 20th century, Canadian philosopher Charles Taylor noted that
people in the current hyper-secularized culture in America often consider themselves to be religious or spiritual. Secularization…is about unbelief in a personal God, one who holds and exerts authority.*
- God’s Identity
The names by which God identifies Himself give some clues:
- B) God’s Character
* John Calvin and Henry Beveridge, Institutes of the Christian Religion, vol. 1 (Edinburgh: The Calvin Translation Society, 1845), 47.
* A. W. Tozer, The Knowledge of the Holy: The Attributes of God: Their Meaning in the Christian Life (San Francisco: Harper & Row Publishers, 1961.
* Quoted by Albert Mohler, The Endgame of Secularism at http://www.ligonier.org/learn/articles/endgame-secularism/, accessed on 9/16/16.
Compassionate and gracious
Slow to anger and rich in faithful love and truth…
Maintaining faithful love…forgiving…But He will not leave the guilty unpunished….
this wording means something quite different from what it might seem to mean to the casual reader. It does not mean that God would punish children and grandchildren for something their ancestors did but that they themselves did not do. Rather, it describes God’s just punishment of a given type of sin in each new generation as that sin continues to be repeated down through the generations. In other words, God here reminded his people that they could not rightly think something like “we can probably get away with doing this in our generation because God punished an earlier generation for doing it, so the punishment for it has already been given, and we don’t have to worry about it.”*
First, learning to live with the tension suggested by the songs, ‘This Is My Father’s World’ and ‘This World Is Not My Home.’*
Second, of all people we need to exhibit a confidence and assurance about the future.
Finally, we can clearly and openly repudiate our sin and our hold on the values and principles of this world.
Have you ever fully given yourself over to Jesus by receiving Him as Savior and Lord?
Is there some sin that needs to be confessed and forsaken?
Are there some habits, practices that are keeping you from diving into God’s Word and into a more complete relationship with Him?
* Douglas K. Stuart, Exodus, vol. 2, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2006), 717.
* Suggested by Michael Horton in D. A Carson, Christ and Culture Revisited (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 2008), 225.
September 18, 2016
Keep On Keepin’ On
When you think of ‘church’ what comes into your mind?
The NT has a radically different definition and description of ‘church.’ Hebrews 13 is one of those insightful chapters that describes and defines what ‘church’ is to mean.
The key to understanding the author’s intent in Hebrews 13 is found in Hebrews 12:28-29:
“Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us hold on to grace. By it, we may serve God acceptably, with reverence and awe, for our God is a consuming fire.”
What God is doing in and through us, what God intends to accomplish through this entity we call ‘church’ is to expand the sphere of His rule and reign in the hearts of His creation, preeminently people
A church, then is
- A Community
a). Loving one another is hard work.
b). Hospitality was crucial to the advance of the kingdom of God.
c). Remember prisoners.
d). Keep the marriage bed undefiled. God has created appropriate boundaries in marriage.
e). Trust God totally. Contentment is a rare commodity these days. But contentment is critical for community
A church, then
- Centers its life in Jesus Christ
The central affirmation of this section is vs. 8: “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.”
a). remember and obey your leaders
b). Stay focused on Jesus, vs. 9-11
c). the true sacrifice focused is found in Jesus alone
The OT sacrificial system is finished by the death of Jesus Christ
A church, then is
- committed to glorifying God in all things
The verb translated ‘equip’ in the HCSB, ‘make perfect’ in the KJV, is used in contexts where there is something lacking and it is used in contexts that focuses on bringing something or someone to a desired end. This prayer of our author reflects the prayer of Jesus for His disciples recorded in John 17.
To be ‘equipped’ or ‘made perfect’ is simply the author’s way of asking that everything that Jesus asked for His followers, that everything God intends for His people be fulfilled in their lives.
For God to ‘work’ in us what is pleasing is a request that those who read this letter would be the kind of people whose lives were surrendered to the reality of God’s presence and to the purposes of God.
The ultimate purpose of God has nothing to do with us and everything to do with Him.
Tim Keller, a pastor in New York City, concludes that while Christians are a sizeable number of American citizens, our influence leads to “little or no practical impact on how human life is lived in society.”*
- Are you truly linked with a community of believers? To be ‘in Christ’ is also to be part of His people – in a local expression as well as a universal and eternal application.
- How Jesus centered is your life? Are you regularly thankful for what Jesus has done, is doing, and are you looking forward to what He is going to do?
- How are you bringing God glory in and through your life? The counsel of the NT is no matter what you do, do it for the purpose of magnifying God as you go about your life.
* Tim Keller, Center Church: Doing Balanced, Gospel-Centered Ministry in Your City (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2012), 185.
Hebrews 12:14-29 LIVING IN AN ATMOSPHERE OF GRACE September 11, 2016
One of the most significant words in the entire self-revelation of God we identify as the Bible is the word ‘grace.’ The English word ‘grace’ is drawn from the Latin through French. In its original use in Imperial Rome the word signified that which was pleasing and it suggested an attitude of thankfulness.*
1. Pursue Peace and Holiness “make sure that no one falls short of the grace of God…make sure there isn’t any immoral or irreverent person among you” vs 14-17 There are multitude of challenges to maintaining both peace with one another and holiness before God. Our author mentions just a couple: a). selfishness – b). the root of bitterness – In the OT we find the definition of this root of bitterness: Deuteronomy 29:18
2. God’s Accessible Presence “you have come to…the city of the living God” vs 18-24 .
3. God’s Promised Future “make sure you do not reject the One who speaks … hold on to grace” vs 25-29
Drawing from an OT prophet named Haggai, who wrote of a time when God would return and claim His rightful place in His world. The shaking described is yet to come but the reality of God’s kingdom is present here and now. It is grace and grace that allows us to serve God in the manner for which He created us.
For grace to prevail every one of us needs to be individual partakers of God’s grace, and each one of us needs to be part of overseeing the whole. Grace will not flourish in a congregation of individuals – but rather grace will flourish in an environment of reciprocal care for one another. Are you at peace with those in the family of God? Are you seeking to live a holy life? Are you living in the presence of God, knowing that He is accessible at all times for you? Are you holding on to His Word – unalterable and inerrant – willing to hold on to grace even if the world around us tells you that are are crazy?
September 4, 2016
One of the most powerful NT images – for me – is found in Philippians 3 as Paul, an early and very articulate follower of Jesus describes his passion to know Jesus. Eugene Peterson’s modern paraphrase captures Paul’s words like this:
The very credentials these people are waving around as something special, I’m tearing up and throwing out with the trash—along with everything else I used to take credit for. And why? Because of Christ. Yes, all the things I once thought were so important are gone from my life. Compared to the high privilege of knowing Christ Jesus as my Master, firsthand, everything I once thought I had going for me is insignificant—dog dung. I’ve dumped it all in the trash so that I could embrace Christ and be embraced by him. I didn’t want some petty, inferior brand of righteousness that comes from keeping a list of rules when I could get the robust kind that comes from trusting Christ—God’s righteousness. I gave up all that inferior stuff so I could know Christ personally, experience his resurrection power, be a partner in his suffering, and go all the way with him to death itself. If there was any way to get in on the resurrection from the dead, I wanted to do it. *
To fully grasp the power of these sentiments, turn with me to Hebrews 12:1-13. This passage helps us identify how we too can discover this kind of passion:
- Run the race with endurance vs 1-3
a). “since we also have such a cloud of witnesses surrounding us…”
b). “let us lay aside every weight and the sin that so easily ensnares us…”
c). “keeping our eyes on Jesus, the source and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that lay before Him endured a cross and despised the shame and has sat down at the right hand of God’s throne.”
We are not called to be microscopes, but telescopes. Christians are not called to be con-men who magnify their product out of all proportion to reality, when they know the competitor’s product is far superior. There is nothing and nobody superior to God. And so the calling of those who love God is to make his greatness begin to look as great as it really is.*
- Recognize discipline as God’s process for holy living vs. 3-11
- a) discipline for disobedience
b). discipline is for holiness
- Resolve to stay the course vs 12-13
The first readers of this letter were wearied by the constant struggle to maintain their commitment to Jesus Christ in the context of a totally pagan culture. Idolatry was evident wherever one looked. Places of worship dedicated to these idols were commonplace. The community in which these early believers lived had no common understanding of morality, no common language to talk about sin, redemption, and God’s ultimate judgment and God’s ultimate deliverance. No wonder they had grown weary and worn by the constant battle.
Laying aside all distractions…
Seeking God’s perspective on the circumstances of our life…
Refocus our eyes – physically and spiritually – on Jesus.
* Peterson, Eugene H. The Message: The Bible in Contemporary Language. Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress, 2005.
* http://www.desiringgod.org/articles/how-to-magnify-god, accessed on 9/2/16.
AUGUST 28 2016
August 28, 2016
Knowing from James 2:26 that there is such a thing as dead faith; and from James 2:19 that there is such a thing as demonic faith; and from 1 Corinthians 15:2 that it is possible to believe in vain; and from Luke 8:13 that one can “believe for a while, and in time of testing fall away; and knowing that it is through faith that we are born again (1 John 5:1) and have eternal life (John 3:16, 36), therefore, surely we must conclude that the nature of faith, and its relationship to salvation, is of infinite importance. *
But what exactly is faith? Can it be defined? Can it be described? What difference does faith make in a person’s life? Does the subject of faith truly matter, or is it simply enough to believe?
Most of these names are vaguely familiar to most people who have had even a small exposure to the Bible. These characters are called to mind to remind us of vivid expressions of faith in Jerusalem and the Promised Land and away from the Promised Land. Because of time and space constraints our author seeks to summarize both those whose faith has made them notable and those whose faith seemingly was unrewarded, those whose faith did not result in resurrection from the dead, release from some sort of prison, an abundance of earthly possessions. At first glance we might wonder: why do some seem to received a reward for faith and others seem to be ignored?
a). All these were approved through their faith…
b). “they did not receive what was promised…”
c). “since God had provided something better for us, so that they would not be made perfect without us.
- The past is a remarkable reminder of the power of faith
- The present requires a faith that persist
- The future requires a faith that cannot be overcome
Saving faith, as one author had declared
embraces, leans on, and trusts in all that God has done for us in Jesus Christ…Faith, then, recognizes that all the glory belongs to God. Faith saves, not because of our faith, because of the one in whom we trust.*
Today, surrounded by evidence of people whose faith has made a difference in our lives, confronted with the challenge of trusting that God has our future in His hands, what step of faith do you need to make today-
Confess Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord
Follow in Obedience
Identifying with His people
Renew a relationship with God through Jesus Christ
You are never too far away from God!
Today, you can discover this same kind of faith—simply stop struggling and accept what God has in store for you.
As we sing this next song take a moment to search your heart/soul/mind and allow God to reveal Himself to you…
* John Piper, “Foreword” in Thomas Schreiner, Faith Alone: The Doctrine of Justification; What the Reformers Taught … and Why it Still Matters, The 5 Solas Series, Matthew Barrett, Series Editor (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2015), 11.*
Thomas Schreiner, Faith Alone: The Doctrine of Justification; What the Reformers Taught … and Why it Still Matters, The 5 Solas Series, Matthew Barrett, Series Editor (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2015), 262.