Thursday, June 02, 2016

Goodbye Sault Ste. Marie

The time has come for me to move on.  June 5, 2016 is my last Sunday in Sault Ste. Marie, MI.

Or as C.S. Lewis put it in The Last Battle, "upward and inward!" God has called my wife and me to a new and exciting direction and ministry.

I love this community.  It's been a joy to be a co-founder of the "Family Arts and Crafts Family Fun Fair" which is part Engineer's Weekend (the last Friday and Saturday of June).  Being a mediator has given me one form of blessing, or as Jesus said, "Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God" [Matthew 5:9]

I've spent 15 years at this church. If I had stayed one more year, I would have doubled up the previous two longest tenured pastors. Possibly this is not "bad" since I was told that I was not wanted at the church before I was appointed and eventually survived two attempts to get rid of me.

A parsonage was built and payed off. A garage was built thanks to anonymous donations from two families. Several fixes were made to the church building: a new metal roof, overhang/concrete, finally (after 20+ years) connecting to city sewage.  The church is debt free.

But what I'm most excited about are the people who's lives have been changed by God, through His grace. Indeed, the blood of Jesus can cleanse us from all unrighteousness.  There are too many to recount and memory is not able to keep track.  So far this year we have had 4 baptisms and three professions of faith.

Maybe it's best that I finish this phase of my life (and blog) by suggesting that Christianity is fairly simple: love God and love others (all).  If you want to know how to do that, read the Bible and do what it says. 

Philippians 3:13b – 14 “One Thing”

Philippians 3:13b – 14
“One Thing”

Introduction:  Paul said that he was “pressing on” but there were two things he needed to do to accomplish that task.

I.             “Forgetting what lies behind.” [v 13]

                A.            Paul obviously remembered the past:
                                1.            Paul remembered past accomplishments. [3:4 – 6]
2.            Paul remembered bad things: shipwrecks, imprisonments, and beatings. [2 Cor. 11:24 – 25]
3.            Paul remembered bad people: warned Timothy (2 Tim. 4:14), handed people over to Satan (1 Tim. 1:20).
4.            Paul remembered his bad behavior: crimes against the church (Gal. 1:13)

***** Paul is saying that he did not allow the past to effect or hinder or alter the direction he was going.

                B.            The past can hinder us!
                                1.            Preference: to NOT try something new.
                                2.            Preference: to play it safe and keep to the known.
                                3.            Preference: to AVOID or STAY AWAY from possibilities.
                                4.            Sometimes we are motivated by fear or comfort or shiny distractions.

***** “That’s not how we do it here.” Is this the death mantra of dying churches?

Transition: Paul focus away from the past (good or bad) and fixes his energy on what is in front of him.

II.            “Straining forward to what lies ahead.” [v 13]

                A.            Distractions?
1.            “Tyranny of the Urgent” (Charles Hummel) – confusion between what is important and what seems urgent… “jumbled priorities.”
2.            Reality check: Most of us are motivated by circumstances and feelings, NOT by what we THINK believe.
3.            Attention to what seems to be urgent (needed to be done) can cause us to lose sight of what is important. (e.g. Husband/wife… earn money, take care of house… wake up strangers)
4.            The truth about PRIORITIES: ultimate we do what we want (value, believe)

B.            Direction?

“Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ” [Phil. 3:8 ESV]

1.            Belief: “surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord”…  BECAUSE NOTHING is more important.
2.            Choice: “I have suffered the loss of all things” … BECAUSE they are “rubbish.” (KJV = “dung”)
3.            Goal: “that I may gain Christ” … BECAUSE Paul did not hold his ministry or eternal destiny lightly. 

“So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air. 27 But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified.” [1 Cor. 9:26 – 27]

                                4.            Value: The actual perspective… “Christ Jesus my Lord” OR “rubbish?”

Transition: With those things in place Paul is now free to move forward.

III.           “I press on” [This is the Greek word for “persecute”… as in pursue, chase]
A.            Paul puts all the zeal and energy he used to persecute the church into his pursuit of Jesus.
                1.            We don’t see this in English but the emphasis of v. 14 is on the “goal.”
                2.            Reaching the goal assumes a “prize.” 

B.            Paul feels the pull of “God’s upward call in Christ Jesus” [CEB]
                1.            NOTHING is more important than Jesus.
                2.            This single pursuit is compelling to the point of obsession. 

“In Christ I have a righteousness that is not my own and that does not come from the Law but rather from the faithfulness of Christ. It is the righteousness of God that is based on faith. 10 The righteousness that I have comes from knowing Christ, the power of his resurrection, and the participation in his sufferings. It includes being conformed to his death 11 so that I may perhaps reach the goal of the resurrection of the dead. 12 It’s not that I have already reached this goal or have already been perfected, but I pursue it, so that I may grab hold of it because Christ grabbed hold of me for just this purpose.” [Phil. 3:9 – 12 CEB]

Put another way:

“Because Christ Jesus has made me his own” [Phil. 3:12b ESV]

Saturday, October 03, 2015

2 Corinthians 5 This Confidence

2 Corinthians 5
This Confidence

1.            Confident in faith 6 – 10

 So we are always confident, because we know that while we are living in the body, we are away from our home with the Lord. We live by faith and not by sight. We are confident, and we would prefer to leave the body and to be at home with the Lord. So our goal is to be acceptable to him, whether we are at home or away from home. 10 We all must appear before Christ in court so that each person can be paid back for the things that were done while in the body, whether they were good or bad. [CEB]

                a.            Faith not sight.

                                1.)           True vs apparently true.
                                2.)           PROBLEM is “interpretation” of what we see/experience.
                                                a.)           Based on personal feelings, likes, etc…
                                                b.)          Effected by the “Fall” (sin, sinful nature)
                                                c.)           We are “bent” people…. Cooked sticks.

                b.            What world do we really belong too?
                                1.)           The Christian lives in this world but does not belong to it.
                                2.)           So… we should NOT be owned by the things off the world.
                                3.)           We live as citizens of another country.

*** This confidence causes us to live in a way that is controlled by Christ’s love. ***

2.            Controlled by love 13 – 15

 If we are crazy, it’s for God’s sake. If we are rational, it’s for your sake. 14 The love of Christ controls us, because we have concluded this: one died for the sake of all; therefore, all died. 15 He died for the sake of all so that those who are alive should live not for themselves but for the one who died for them and was raised.

                a.            Christ’s love toward us, on the cross.

                                1.)           Greater love
John 15:34, “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.”
                                2.)           God’s love
John 3:16, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.”
                                3.)           God’s love expressed through us
1 John 3:16 – 18, “By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers. 17 But if anyone has the world's goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God's love abide in him? 18 Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth.”

                b.            This conclusion means that we live for Jesus, not ourselves or the world.

2 Corinthians 5:15, “and he died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised.”

*** This confidence comes from the fact that we are a new creation.  Not belonging to this world. ***
3.            Created new in Christ 17, 21

17 So then, if anyone is in Christ, that person is part of the new creation. The old things have gone away, and look, new things have arrived!

21 God caused the one who didn’t know sin to be sin for our sake so that through him we could become the righteousness of God.

                a.            Salvation is an act of creation.

                                1.)           [v 15] “The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.”
                                                a.)           “Passed away” is an image of something that is left behind,                                                                     neglected.
1 Corinthians 11:13, “When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways.”
                                                b.)          The idea is this happens naturally, almost without notice.
                                2.)           The idea of “new” is something we have NOW!
                                                a.)           It is an expression of what and how we were created to be.
                                                b.)          It is an expression of eternity.

                b.            This happens because of an exchange:

[v 21] “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”
                                1.)           God made Jesus “to be sin” BECAUSE we are not righteous.
                                                a.)           Nothing righteous about us.
                                                b.)          We do NOT even know what righteousness is in reality.
                                2.)           God gives us the POSSIBILITY (“might”) of becoming “the                                                                  righteousness of God”
                                                a.)           This exchange must be transacted… like a check.
                                                b.)          Do we actually take accept this transaction or leave it                                                                             dormant?
                                3.)           Here’s the deal:
                                                a.            It is “imputed” to us. (“to attribute or ascribe”
                                                b.            But it must be “implanted” in us. (“to put or fix firmly”                                                                          dictionary)
                                                c.            Just because something has been given to us, does NOT                                                                          necessarily mean it makes a difference or is used.
*** This confidence gives us direction of our lives. ***

4.            Commissioned to call 18 – 20

 All of these new things are from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and who gave us the ministry of reconciliation. 19 In other words, God was reconciling the world to himself through Christ, by not counting people’s sins against them. He has trusted us with this message of reconciliation.
20 So we are ambassadors who represent Christ. God is negotiating with you through us. We beg you as Christ’s representatives, “Be reconciled to God!”

                a.            BECAUSE we were reconciled we are given the ministry of reconciliation.

                                1.)           You can’t talk about what you do not know.
                                2.)           You can’t talk about someone you do not know.
                                3.)           We who know God and know this reconciliation CAN talk.

                b.            This commission is a royal appointment to represent Christ. (lit. “sent with authority)

                                1.)           “Negotiate” (KJV “beseech”) – discussion for the purposes of achieving                                                 a settlement.

(ill.) “Did the judge ever beseech a condemned criminal to accept of pardon? Does the creditor ever beseech a ruined debtor to receive an acquittance in full?” [Wesley]

                                                a.)           What God is doing through us is giving the reason(s) and                                                                         terms for the settlement (reconciliation).
                                                b.)          Why would God trust us? Trust you?
                                2.)           “Beg” (KJV “pray”)
                                                a.)           Literally “beg”… gives the feeling of desperation.
                                                b.)          Why would we beg others to be reconciled to God?

                1.            If we are confident in our faith, do we live like it? (Or does or lives betray a lack                                  of faith?)
                2.            If we are controlled by the love of Christ, does it compel us to behave differently
                               toward others?
                3.            If we are part of a new creation, have we left the old behind?
                4.            If we are sent with authority, to speak and act on God’s behalf, what difference are
                               we making in the world?