Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Isaiah 9:6 – 7
“The Power of The Incarnation”

Incarnation means: Jesus, the second person of the Trinity, became human. Paul says, He took on the form of a “servant.” Yet this is one of the most powerful truths in the Bible. It was an early acid test to distinguish false teachers from real teachers. The idea that God Almighty would leave Heaven, voluntarily allow Himself to become the most fragile and vulnerable human to suffer death on the cross implies many things.

I. The Incarnation moves us beyond wishful thinking.

A. Darkness has always been part of human history.

1. Isaiah 9:1 – 2 describes a sunrise in “the land of the shadow of death.”

a. C. S. Lewis noted that we live in the “shadow lands.” Everything is only a shadow of what it was supposed to be and what it will be in eternity.

b.In the face of despair, we tend to develop a sense of wishful thinking.

1.) E.g. The various proposed “solutions” to Iraq only deal with the immediate.

2.) Often medical treatment deals only with symptoms...

3.) Loneliness drives people to do things that are often against their personal beliefs.

2. The power of a name is well known. In the Old Testament, it revealed something about the person.

a. Abram became Abraham when God made a covenant with him and gave Abram part of His name. (The “h” from the sacred name of God.)

b. Jacob’s name was change to Israel when God made a covenant with him and gave him part of His name. (The “el” meaning “God.”)

c. Simon’s name was changed to Peter. (Possibly this was a special covenant with Peter.) Peter means “rock” and was one of the names of O.T. names of God. (Gen 49:24, 1 Samuel 2:2, 2 Samuel 22:3, Psalm 18:2, 31, Isaiah 26:4 etc...)

B. But hope is part of the Christmas tradition.

1. We fill our senses with good things like lights, smells of baking, candies and sweets...

2. We set this hope up against the “N.U.T.s” in our lives.

a. Stress studies show that little things that are constant are worse than a sudden big thing that passes quickly.

b. “N.U.T.s” stands for Nagging Undone Things”

1.) How many are thinking about lunch right now?

2.) How many are planning tomorrow or our Christmas vacations/celebrations?

3.) These things DISTRACT us and DRAIN our energy.

c. So we hope, when we decorate and bake all the holiday goodies that for a short season, we can focus on the real meaning of Christmas.

II. The Incarnation stabilizes our sense of lostness.

A. Think about the name of Jesus for a moment. They are considered “throne names.” The idea is to reveal Jesus.

1. These names reveal Jesus position.

a. The fact is that Jesus is God. (Not a good teacher, not one of many “gods,” etc...)

b. As the rightful rule of everything, He is worthy to be worshiped.

2. These names reveal Jesus character.

a. Some would like to see Jesus as terrible, moralistic, or hateful.

b. God has our safety, good, and best in mind.

3. These names reveal the function of Jesus.

a. What Jesus was going to do, like bring peace.

b. What Jesus was going to mean to us... like being wonderful.

4. These name reveal the divinity of Jesus.

B. Jesus’ purpose was to bring us salvation at His expense.

1. Our salvation is based on the person of Jesus.

a. What happens is we have a difficult time getting past our sense of lostness.

b. We were born lost, live in a lost world, and our sense of spiritual direction is easily disturbed.

2. If Jesus is all this, then our salvation is solid.

a. A contract is only as good as the person/company who signs it.

b. If God made a covenant with us through Jesus, then we can depend on that covenant.

III. The Incarnation is God’s grace towards us.

A. How?

1. “Wonderful” is a cure for the dullness of life ruled by sin.

2. “Counselor” gives direction in the choices of life free from sin.

3. “Mighty God” empowers us to meet the demands of dealing with life.

4. “Everlasting Father” settles the questions of our eternal destiny.

5. “Prince of Peace” deals with the disturbances to our life.

B. Here’s how this happens:

1. Thomas a’ Kempis explained it this way: “He to whom the Eternal World speaketh is delivered from a world of unnecessary conceptions.”

a. There is a difference between knowing ABOUT Jesus and KNOWING Jesus.

b. What happens when we cross over between knowing about and know is that EVERYTHING changes.

1.) Our attitude changes. We see things from an eternal perspective.

2.) Our perspective changes. We see things from a biblical perspective.

3.) Our behavior changes. We do right things not selfish things.

4.) Our ownership changes. We (our lives and our stuff) are controlled by God.

2. Once we have been to the stable in Bethlehem we see the cross outside Jerusalem, the empty tomb, and the New Jerusalem to come... nothing can ever be the same.

IV. The Incarnation offers transformation.

A. Yield the government of your life to King Jesus.

1. When we trust (v “accept”) behavior patterns change:

a. We act to please our King.

b. We are delighted to serve for someone/thing else bigger than ourselves.

2. We move from success (which is for ourselves) to significance (which is for someone else).

3. What do we need to yield? (Everything)

a. We yield our heart. Our emotions and affections are sensitive to the heart of God.

b. We yield our will. Our desires are for what God wants us to do.

c. We yield our mind. Our thoughts line up with how God would think.

d. We yield our bodies. Our obedience becomes actions of love toward our King.

B. We can then enjoy God’s peace.

1. When you know:

a. you are save...

b. what happens is for a greater good...

2. Then you don’t take things personally.

a. Personally means we make “it” about us.

b. Instead, we make it about our King.

If Jesus was born into this world and experienced physical life, we can be born into the heavenly Kingdom and experience eternal life.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Here is the background study I have been doing on the biblical concept of peace. Several of you asked for it. The first point is difficult for some to understand. After all, peace is the commodity of the righteous, right? While peace belongs to the the rightesous, the promise/message of peace may indicate serious trouble. Please read these verses prayerfully.

Peace study.
O.T. = “completeness”

□ In reference to the nation of Israel, 50 of 60 usages mean “absence of strife.” [TWOT]
□ “the idea of unimpaired relationships with others and fulfillment in one’s undertaking.” [TWOT]
□ The Septuagint [Greek translation of the Old Testament done by Jews), often translates “shalom” (the common Hebrew word for peace) as “teleios” (commonly translated “perfect” in the New Testament and gives rise to the concept of Christian perfection].

N.T. = “unity”

“Peace” is the message of the false prophet and the devil’s way of destroying people!

JER 6:13 "From the least to the greatest,
all are greedy for gain;
prophets and priests alike,
all practice deceit.
JER 6:14 They dress the wound of my people
as though it were not serious.
`Peace, peace,' they say,
when there is no peace.

JER 8:10 Therefore I will give their wives to other men
and their fields to new owners.
From the least to the greatest,
all are greedy for gain;
prophets and priests alike,
all practice deceit.
JER 8:11 They dress the wound of my people
as though it were not serious.
"Peace, peace," they say,
when there is no peace.

JER 8:15 We hoped for peace
but no good has come,
for a time of healing
but there was only terror.

JER 14:13 But I said, "Ah, Sovereign LORD, the prophets keep telling them, `You will not see the sword or suffer famine. Indeed, I will give you lasting peace in this place.' "
JER 14:14 Then the LORD said to me, "The prophets are prophesying lies in my name. I have not sent them or appointed them or spoken to them. They are prophesying to you false visions, divinations, idolatries and the delusions of their own minds.

JER 23:16 This is what the LORD Almighty says:
"Do not listen to what the prophets are prophesying to you;
they fill you with false hopes.
They speak visions from their own minds,
not from the mouth of the LORD.
JER 23:17 They keep saying to those who despise me,
`The LORD says: You will have peace.'
And to all who follow the stubbornness of their hearts
they say, `No harm will come to you.'

JER 29:4 This is what the LORD Almighty, the God of Israel, says to all those I carried into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon: [5] "Build houses and settle down; plant gardens and eat what they produce. [6] Marry and have sons and daughters; find wives for your sons and give your daughters in marriage, so that they too may have sons and daughters. Increase in number there; do not decrease. [7] Also, seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the LORD for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper." [8] Yes, this is what the LORD Almighty, the God of Israel, says: "Do not let the prophets and diviners among you deceive you. Do not listen to the dreams you encourage them to have. [9] They are prophesying lies to you in my name. I have not sent them," declares the LORD.

JER 33:6 " `Nevertheless, I will bring health and healing to it; I will heal my people and will let them enjoy abundant peace and security. [7] I will bring Judah and Israel back from captivity and will rebuild them as they were before. [8] I will cleanse them from all the sin they have committed against me and will forgive all their sins of rebellion against me. [9] Then this city will bring me renown, joy, praise and honor before all nations on earth that hear of all the good things I do for it; and they will be in awe and will tremble at the abundant prosperity and peace I provide for it.'

EZE 13:8 " `Therefore this is what the Sovereign LORD says: Because of your false words and lying visions, I am against you, declares the Sovereign LORD. [9] My hand will be against the prophets who see false visions and utter lying divinations. They will not belong to the council of my people or be listed in the records of the house of Israel, nor will they enter the land of Israel. Then you will know that I am the Sovereign LORD.
EZE 13:10 " `Because they lead my people astray, saying,"Peace," when there is no peace, and because, when a flimsy wall is built, they cover it with whitewash, [11] therefore tell those who cover it with whitewash that it is going to fall. Rain will come in torrents, and I will send hailstones hurtling down, and violent winds will burst forth. [12] When the wall collapses, will people not ask you, "Where is the whitewash you covered it with?"

MIC 3:5 This is what the LORD says:
"As for the prophets
who lead my people astray,
if one feeds them,
they proclaim `peace';
if he does not,
they prepare to wage war against him

MAL 2:3 "Because of you I will rebuke your descendants; I will spread on your faces the offal from your festival sacrifices, and you will be carried off with it. [4] And you will know that I have sent you this admonition so that my covenant with Levi may continue," says the LORD Almighty. [5] "My covenant was with him, a covenant of life and peace, and I gave them to him; this called for reverence and he revered me and stood in awe of my name. [6] True instruction was in his mouth and nothing false was found on his lips. He walked with me in peace and uprightness, and turned many from sin.
MAL 2:7 "For the lips of a priest ought to preserve knowledge, and from his mouth men should seek instruction--because he is the messenger of the LORD Almighty. [8] But you have turned from the way and by your teaching have caused many to stumble; you have violated the covenant with Levi," says the LORD Almighty. [9] "So I have caused you to be despised and humiliated before all the people, because you have not followed my ways but have shown partiality in matters of the law.

DA 8:23 "In the latter part of their reign, when rebels have become completely wicked, a stern-faced king, a master of intrigue, will arise. [24] He will become very strong, but not by his own power. He will cause astounding devastation and will succeed in whatever he does. He will destroy the mighty men and the holy people. [25] He will cause deceit to prosper, and he will consider himself superior. When they feel secure, he will destroy many [by peace shall destroy many – KJV] and take his stand against the Prince of princes. Yet he will be destroyed, but not by human power.

1TH 5:1 Now, brothers, about times and dates we do not need to write to you, [2] for you know very well that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. [3] While people are saying, "Peace and safety," destruction will come on them suddenly, as labor pains on a pregnant woman, and they will not escape.

LK 12:49 "I have come to bring fire on the earth, and how I wish it were already kindled! [50] But I have a baptism to undergo, and how distressed I am until it is completed! [51] Do you think I came to bring peace on earth? No, I tell you, but division. [52] From now on there will be five in one family divided against each other, three against two and two against three. [53] They will be divided, father against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against mother, mother-in-law against daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against mother-in-law."

MT 10:34 "Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword.

Peace is often associated with death.

GE 15:15 You (Abraham), however, will go to your fathers in peace and be buried at a good old age.

LEV 26:6 " `I will grant peace in the land, and you will lie down and no one will make you afraid. I will remove savage beasts from the land, and the sword will not pass through your country.

ISA 57:2 Those who walk uprightly
enter into peace;
they find rest as they lie in death.
Lack of peace means sin.

2KI 9:21 "Hitch up my chariot," Joram ordered. And when it was hitched up, Joram king of Israel and Ahaziah king of Judah rode out, each in his own chariot, to meet Jehu. They met him at the plot of ground that had belonged to Naboth the Jezreelite. [22] When Joram saw Jehu he asked, "Have you come in peace, Jehu?"
"How can there be peace," Jehu replied, "as long as all the idolatry and witchcraft of your mother Jezebel abound?"

PR 17:1 Better a dry crust with peace and quiet
than a house full of feasting, with strife.

PR 29:9 If a wise man goes to court with a fool,
the fool rages and scoffs, and there is no peace.

ISA 59:8 The way of peace they do not know;
there is no justice in their paths.
They have turned them into crooked roads;
no one who walks in them will know peace.

ISA 57:16 I will not accuse forever,
nor will I always be angry,
for then the spirit of man would grow faint before me--
the breath of man that I have created.
ISA 57:17 I was enraged by his sinful greed;
I punished him, and hid my face in anger,
yet he kept on in his willful ways.
ISA 57:18 I have seen his ways, but I will heal him;
I will guide him and restore comfort to him,
ISA 57:19 creating praise on the lips of the mourners in Israel.
Peace, peace, to those far and near,"
says the LORD. "And I will heal them."
ISA 57:20 But the wicked are like the tossing sea,
which cannot rest,
whose waves cast up mire and mud.
ISA 57:21 "There is no peace," says my God, "for the wicked.

EZE 7:23 "Prepare chains, because the land is full of bloodshed and the city is full of violence. [24] I will bring the most wicked of the nations to take possession of their houses; I will put an end to the pride of the mighty, and their sanctuaries will be desecrated. [25] When terror comes, they will seek peace, but there will be none. [26] Calamity upon calamity will come, and rumor upon rumor. They will try to get a vision from the prophet; the teaching of the law by the priest will be lost, as will the counsel of the elders. [27] The king will mourn, the prince will be clothed with despair, and the hands of the people of the land will tremble. I will deal with them according to their conduct, and by their own standards I will judge them. Then they will know that I am the LORD."

MK 9:50 "Salt is good, but if it loses its saltiness, how can you make it salty again? Have salt in yourselves, and be at peace with each other."

LK 19:37 When he came near the place where the road goes down the Mount of Olives, the whole crowd of disciples began joyfully to praise God in loud voices for all the miracles they had seen:

LK 19:38 "Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord!"
"Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!"
LK 19:39 Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to Jesus, "Teacher, rebuke your disciples!"
LK 19:40 "I tell you," he replied, "if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out."
LK 19:41 As he approached Jerusalem and saw the city, he wept over it [42] and said, "If you, even you, had only known on this day what would bring you peace--but now it is hidden from your eyes.
Peace comes from a right relationship with God!

NU 6:24 " ` "The LORD bless you
and keep you;
NU 6:25 the LORD make his face shine upon you
and be gracious to you;
NU 6:26 the LORD turn his face toward you
and give you peace." '

NU 25:10 The LORD said to Moses, [11] "Phinehas son of Eleazar, the son of Aaron, the priest, has turned my anger away from the Israelites; for he was as zealous as I am for my honor among them, so that in my zeal I did not put an end to them. [12] Therefore tell him I am making my covenant of peace with him. [13] He and his descendants will have a covenant of a lasting priesthood, because he was zealous for the honor of his God and made atonement for the Israelites."

1CH 22:6 Then he called for his son Solomon and charged him to build a house for the LORD, the God of Israel. [7] David said to Solomon: "My son, I had it in my heart to build a house for the Name of the LORD my God. [8] But this word of the LORD came to me: `You have shed much blood and have fought many wars. You are not to build a house for my Name, because you have shed much blood on the earth in my sight. [9] But you will have a son who will be a man of peace and rest, and I will give him rest from all his enemies on every side. His name will be Solomon, and I will grant Israel peace and quiet during his reign. [10] He is the one who will build a house for my Name. He will be my son, and I will be his father. And I will establish the throne of his kingdom over Israel forever.'

2CH 14:2 Asa did what was good and right in the eyes of the LORD his God. [3] He removed the foreign altars and the high places, smashed the sacred stones and cut down the Asherah poles. [4] He commanded Judah to seek the LORD, the God of their fathers, and to obey his laws and commands. [5] He removed the high places and incense altars in every town in Judah, and the kingdom was at peace under him. [6] He built up the fortified cities of Judah, since the land was at peace. No one was at war with him during those years, for the LORD gave him rest.

PS 29:11 The LORD gives strength to his people;
the LORD blesses his people with peace.

PS 85:8 I will listen to what God the LORD will say;
he promises peace to his people, his saints--
but let them not return to folly.

PS 119:165 Great peace have they who love your law,
and nothing can make them stumble.

ISA 26:3 You will keep in perfect peace
him whose mind is steadfast,
because he trusts in you.
ISA 26:4 Trust in the LORD forever,
for the LORD, the LORD, is the Rock eternal.

ISA 32:17 The fruit of righteousness will be peace;
the effect of righteousness will be quietness and confidence forever.

ISA 55:12 You will go out in joy
and be led forth in peace;
the mountains and hills
will burst into song before you,
and all the trees of the field
will clap their hands.

MK 5:34 He said to her, "Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace and be freed from your suffering."

LK 7:50 Jesus said to the woman, "Your faith has saved you; go in peace."

LK 24:36 While they were still talking about this, Jesus himself stood among them and said to them, "Peace be with you."

AC 10:34 Then Peter began to speak: "I now realize how true it is that God does not show favoritism [35] but accepts men from every nation who fear him and do what is right. [36] You know the message God sent to the people of Israel, telling the good news of peace through Jesus Christ, who is Lord of all

RO 5:1 Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, [2] through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. [3] Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; [4] perseverance, character; and character, hope. [5] And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.

2CO 13:11 Finally, brothers, good-by. Aim for perfection, listen to my appeal, be of one mind, live in peace. And the God of love and peace will be with you.

PHP 4:4 Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! [5] Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. [6] Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. [7] And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

PHP 4:8 Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable--if anything is excellent or praiseworthy--think about such things. [9] Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me--put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.

1TH 5:23 May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. [24] The one who calls you is faithful and he will do it

HEB 12:7 Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as sons. For what son is not disciplined by his father? [8] If you are not disciplined (and everyone undergoes discipline), then you are illegitimate children and not true sons. [9] Moreover, we have all had human fathers who disciplined us and we respected them for it. How much more should we submit to the Father of our spirits and live! [10] Our fathers disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, that we may share in his holiness. [11] No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.

Peace is found in Jesus!

ISA 9:6 For to us a child is born,
to us a son is given,
and the government will be on his shoulders.
And he will be called
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
ISA 9:7 Of the increase of his government and peace
there will be no end.
He will reign on David's throne
and over his kingdom,
establishing and upholding it
with justice and righteousness
from that time on and forever.
The zeal of the LORD Almighty
will accomplish this.

ISA 52:7 How beautiful on the mountains
are the feet of those who bring good news,
who proclaim peace,
who bring good tidings,
who proclaim salvation,
who say to Zion,
"Your God reigns!"

ISA 53:5 But he was pierced for our transgressions,
he was crushed for our iniquities;
the punishment that brought us peace was upon him,
and by his wounds we are healed.

JN 14:25 "All this I have spoken while still with you. [26] But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you. [27] Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.

JN 16:33 "I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world."

EPH 2:14 For he himself is our peace, who has made the two one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, [15] by abolishing in his flesh the law with its commandments and regulations. His purpose was to create in himself one new man out of the two, thus making peace, [16] and in this one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility. [17] He came and preached peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near. [18] For through him we both have access to the Father by one Spirit.

COL 1:15 He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. [16] For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him. [17] He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. [18] And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy. [19] For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, [20] and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.

COL 3:15 Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful

Peace is a result of the Holy Spirit

RO 8:5 Those who live according to the sinful nature have their minds set on what that nature desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires. [6] The mind of sinful man is death, but the mind controlled by the Spirit is life and peace; [7] the sinful mind is hostile to God. It does not submit to God's law, nor can it do so. [8] Those controlled by the sinful nature cannot please God.

RO 14:17 For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit, [18] because anyone who serves Christ in this way is pleasing to God and approved by men.

RO 15:13 May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.

1CO 14:29 Two or three prophets should speak, and the others should weigh carefully what is said. [30] And if a revelation comes to someone who is sitting down, the first speaker should stop. [31] For you can all prophesy in turn so that everyone may be instructed and encouraged. [32] The spirits of prophets are subject to the control of prophets. [33] For God is not a God of disorder but of peace.

GAL 5:22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, [23] gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law

Peace requires effort!

PS 34:14 Turn from evil and do good;
seek peace and pursue it.

MT 10:11 "Whatever town or village you enter, search for some worthy person there and stay at his house until you leave. [12] As you enter the home, give it your greeting. [13] If the home is deserving, let your peace rest on it; if it is not, let your peace return to you. [14] If anyone will not welcome you or listen to your words, shake the dust off your feet when you leave that home or town. [15] I tell you the truth, it will be more bearable for Sodom and Gomorrah on the day of judgment than for that town. [16] I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves.

RO 12:17 Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody. [18] If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone

RO 14:19 Let us therefore make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification.

HEB 12:14 Make every effort to live in peace with all men and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord.

1PE 3:11 He must turn from evil and do good;
he must seek peace and pursue it.

2PE 3:14 So then, dear friends, since you are looking forward to this, make every effort to be found spotless, blameless and at peace with him.
Peace brings blessing.

PS 37:11 But the meek will inherit the land
and enjoy great peace.

PR 14:30 A heart at peace gives life to the body,
but envy rots the bones.

PR 29:17 Discipline your son, and he will give you peace;
he will bring delight to your soul.

MT 5:9 Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God.

JAS 3:17 But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere. [18] Peacemakers who sow in peace raise a harvest of righteousness.
Philippians 4:4 – 9
The Power of Peace

(Ill.) A little girl heard the story of Snow White at school. Excited, she told the story to her Mom. At the end she asked, “Do you know what happened next?” Her Mom answered, “Yes, they lived happily ever after.” “No silly,” said the girl, “they got married.”

Some of us are in desperate need for peace, even in our own homes. Let’s look at a the power of peace.

I. There is peace beyond circumstances and understanding.

A. How do we define peace?

1. There are confused ideas:

a. We confuse peace with being nice or civil.

1.) We think if people are nice to each other then we have peace.

2.) The problem with this is, its only on the surface.

b. We confuse war with peace.

1.) When we fight a common enemy we don’t fight each other (George Orwell in his book 1984).

2.) The problem with this is, its only a distraction.

2. Peace is freedom from internal fear.

B. Anxiety is a problem.

1. It comes from adversity.

a. We struggle with the events and circumstances of life.

b. We struggle with the external pressures.

c. We struggle spiritually

2. It comes from fear.

a. We are uncertain about our health, finances, children, etc...

b. This sets the conditions for terrorism.

1.) “Scientific terrorism” where scientists are discovering “alarming” things all the time.

2.) There is “bird flu,” ultra restrictions on air travel, indexing of passages, etc...

II. Peace is tested in the storm.

***** Peace is NOT the absence of a storm! We are all heading into a storm, in a storm, or just coming out of a storm. *****

A What do you do when anxiety/worry are stirred in your heart.

1. Paul suggests two things.

a. [v 6] “by prayer”

1.) If you have a problem, you go to the person who can solve the problem.

2.) You have a problem. You go to God “Almighty.” (The one you believe created by just speaking. The one who conquered death and sin’s claim on you through the death and resurrection of Jesus.)

b. [v 6] “with thanksgiving”

1.) Scary things strengthen us. (Ill. Winter scares people, unless you live here... Then you don’t understand others fear of winter.)

2.) Anxious things make us MORE dependent on God.

2. These things happen SO THAT the peace of God will be effective. (Like a muscle it must be exercised.)

a. Anxiety/worry/fear are the result of an undisciplined spiritual life.

b. Anxiety becomes a “self-fulfilling prophecy.” We get what we expect.

B. Other biblical explanations for peace:

1. Romans 5:1 “Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” (Peace through salvation.)

2. Psalm 4:8 “I will lie down and sleep in peace, for you alone, O LORD, make me dwell in safety.” (Peace through safety given by God.)

3. Psalm 119:165 “Great peace have they who love your law, and nothing can make them stumble.” (Peace through spiritual stability.)

4. Isaiah 26:3 [KJV] “Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on Thee, because he trusteth in thee.” (Peace through a mind fixed on God. When our eyes are on Jesus we will not sink in the storm.)

III. Peace is made sure in spiritual life.

A. It is the peace of God, no our peace.

1. Jesus said, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” [John 14:27]

2. “For he himself is our peace...” [Ephesians 2:14a]

3. The saying “No Jesus, no peace. Know Jesus, know peace.”

B. The peace of God surpasses anything the human mind can understand.

1. Paul in Philipi [Acts 16]

2. Acts 16:25 says they were “praying and singing hymns.”

a. God tore open the prison doors, ripped off every chain on every prisoner.

b. WHEN GOD’S PEACE IS IN YOUR LIFE, NOTHING CAN CHAIN YOU DOWN, NO PRISON OF ANXIETY, WORRY, FEAR, OR DESPAIR CAN HOLD YOU.

(Ill.) We were flying on a plane at sunset. On one side is beautiful sunset while on the other side it is dark. It doesn’t matter which side you look out, the plane is going to the same place. You have a choice...

IV. Bottom line: peace is a condition of the heart put into practice.

You are given a choice: peace or anxiety?

1. It begins with your relationship with Jesus.

2. Do you practice prayer and thanksgiving?

3. Do you allow God’s peace to guard your heart and mind?

Friday, December 08, 2006

Society Meeting

***** Christianity is “simple” as far as purpose and process.

Matthew 22:34 – 40
Jesus sums up the Old Testament.

1. Love God (total)

2. Love others (“as your self”)

3. Serve in love! (Love is not “just” a feeling.)

***** Loving God is connected to loving others.

1 John 2:7 – 11

1. Its “either/or” but we would be much more comfortable with lots of “gray area” in between. That way we do not have to take responsibility to love for feel guilty because we are not loving.

2. Our relationship with ONE accurately reflects our relationship with God. One non-loving relationship calls into question the whole.

John 17:20 – 23, 26

1. Unity is witness [v 21].

2. Unity is a reflection of relationship [v 22].

3. Unity is a function of love [v 26].

When a church is in a cycle of conflict it demonstrates a lack of love, which is a reflection of a lack of relationship with God. When a church demonstrates love, it is an attractive witness to those who need God.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Luke 2:8 – 20
The Power of a Breakthrough

Charles Kuralt reported that the Livermore CA Fire department had a light bulb that was turned on in 1901 and seldom turned off. If it was an ordinary light bulb it would have burned out 852 times. However, this one was made by the Shelby Electric Company. The Shelby Electric Company went out of business because they made light bulbs the last. Nobody ever needed a new one!

Wouldn’t it be BREAKTHROUGH to have a spiritual experience that would satisfy every past, present, and future spiritual need?

Let me share one with you.

I. God broke through our human problems.

A. God broke through the doubt and fear.

1. “Do not be afraid.” (Any rational person would be terrified.)

2. Fear comes from what we think are bad possibilities.

3. Fear comes from uncertainty and lack of trust.

4. Fear is based on experience and wrong information. (Past angelic visitations required the person to do something extraordinary and were often seen as divine visitations that lead to death.)

B. God broke through the depression and monotony.

1. The “daily grind” and the “boredom” can be get to us.

2. The holiday season is a prime time for depression.

3. Some suffer self-inflicted stupidity, we chose to be miserable.

4. There are circumstances beyond our control which begin to control us.

5. The Christmas message is “good news of great joy.”

C. God broke through our lostness.

1. God provided a “Savior” because we need one. It is a delusion to think we can have “peace on earth” by ourselves.

a. Remember when the President was sending troops to Bosnia for “a year?” (They are still there.)

b. Remember the multitude of peace accords between Israel and the Palestinians?

c. Remember the “War to end all wars?” (We now call it World War I)

2. It is about time someone said, “duh.” We cannot create our own Utopia.

3. It is time we recognize our need for God. Jesus is the only way.

II. The shepherd’s action broke through to eternal change.

A. They had a break through of RECOGNIZING.

1. They recognized something was happening.

a. Recognizing God at work may be the most difficult part.

b. We have so many rational and natural explanations that it can become difficult to recognize God at work.

2. They recognized God at work... “which the Lord has told us about.”

a. They could have said, “that was just a natural thing easily explained by chance and time.” (The evolution argument.)

b. They could have said, “its just a coincidence.” (The “no God” argument.)

3. They recognized that there must be an appropriate response.

a. The message was for them (not someone else).

b. The message carried responsibility for them (not someone else).

B. They had a break though in DOING.

1. Three levels of “spirituality.”

a. knowing

b. doing

c. being

2. The hardest is to break the barrier of getting the body moving.

a. Deciding is important...

b. “Once the feet are set right, all will be right.” (C.S. Lewis “Chronicles of Narnia)

C. They had a break through in SHARING.

1. “They spread the word.”

2. This news was for “all” not just for them.

3. The broke custom and told others.

***** Do we really believe something if we don’t talk about it? We talk about what we believe in and what motivates us. *****

III. Today WE can break through the same way.

A. RECOGNIZE that God wants to break through in our lives.

B. RESPOND to God.

C. REACH out to others.

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Lamentations 3:19 – 26
“The Power of Hope”

“And hope does not disappoint us...” [Romans 5:5a]

“Suffering produces perseverance; [4] perseverance, character; and character, hope.” Romans 5:3b, 4]

The first theme we will look at this Christmas season is “hope.” It is one of the missing elements in our country and church right now. Let’s make three observations about this text.

I. Life can hurt. [vv 19 – 20]

A. [v 19] There is pain given to us by other people and life.

1. “Affliction” refers to distress with mental or bodily pain.

a. Verbal abuse = mental pain, when we are told we are of no worth.

b. Physical abuse = physical pain.

2. Some people use general cruelty as an attempt to build themselves up.

3. Sometimes it is the circumstances of life, beyond our control.

B. [v 19] There is the pain we cause ourselves.

1. “Wandering” refers to the image of someone who has left home (e.g. the “prodigal” son).

a. There is the misery of being alone (sometimes even when married).

b. There is the misery of having nothing (even when rich).

c. The spiritual analogy:

“We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way...”Isaiah 53:6a
“...Therefore the people wander like sheep oppressed for lack of a shepherd.” Zechariah 10:2b

2. Chastisement is the Eastern understanding of “bitterness and gall.”

a. This is the natural result of sin.

b. It is “self-inflicted.”

c. It is God correcting us, before it is to late.

C. [v 19] There is pain give to us by sin.

1. “Bitterness and gull.”

a. “Bitterness” is the word for a bitter herb (wormwood).

b. “Gall” is the bitter secretion of the liver.

c. We get a double dose. “Bitterness” is ingested (created externally) and “gull” is produced internally.

2. Bitterness has consequences!

“See to it that no one misses the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many.” Hebrews 12:15

a. “Trouble” means to be disturbed. This is a lack of harmony and gives us a picture of EMOTIONAL problems.

b. “Defile” gives the idea of being poisoned or polluted. The picture it gives is of SPIRITUAL problems.

D. [v 20] Pain that accumulates.

1. “Down cast” is the image of sinking or being thrown down.

a. It is an Old Testament image of being depressed.

b It is an Old Testament image of being in despair.

The Bible says, “...heartache crushes the spirit.” [Proverbs 15:13b]
The Bible says, “An anxious heart weighs a man down...” [Proverbs 12:25a]
The Bible says, “...a crushed spirit dries up the bones.” [Proverbs 17:22b]
The Bible says, “A man's spirit sustains him in sickness, but a crushed spirit who can bear?” [Proverbs 18:14]

2. There is a good sorrow (leads to repentance) and a bad sorrow.

a. In “Pilgrim’s Progress,” Pilgrim gets off the path and ends up imprisoned in the “Dungeon Despair.”

b. What do you want when you get to this point?

1.) The trouble is that we want relief from suffering.

2.) The cure really is in God.

***** In God there is “hope” not relief! An hope does not disappoint us. *****

II. Love can heal. [vv 22 – 24]

A. The Lord’s great love.

1. The Lord’s love protects us. It is our “heat shield.” (Ill. Space shuttle)

2. The Hebrew word is “(c)hesed” and it refers to a covenant and unfailing love. It is possibly the most important word/concept in the Old Testament because it is the basis of all that God does and requires (in the Old Testament).

3. This “loving kindness” is the foundation of the New Testament word/concept of “grace.”

4. God’s “(c)hesed” is undeserved, unearned, unmerited. It is God’s “want too.”

B. [v 22] God’s compassion:

1. It never fails, never comes to an end.

a. Even when we deserve the worst, God wants to give and do the best.

b. [v 32] “Though he brings grief, he will show compassion, so great is his unfailing love.”

c. Also see Romans 8:35 – 39

2. The key issue is wether we TRUST God... (Someone has said the reason we sin is because of the “sneaking” suspicion that God is not good... in other words, that we can not trust God.)

C. [v 23] God’s mercies are new every morning.

1. NOT yesterday and NOT tomorrow.

a. You cannot live today off yesterday’s lunch.

b. You can not dream of the future and fail to live today.

2. “Todayness”

Jesus said, “Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” [Matthew 6:34]

III. The Lord is good [vv 25 – 26] so there are three things to do.

A. [v 25] DEPEND on God.

1. “Hope” means to look for, expect. It is not “wishful thinking.”

The Bible says, “For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. [18] So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” [2 Corinthians 4:17 – 18]

The Bible says, “I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.” [Romans 8:18]

2. The circumstances of right now will not last. (Ill.) A famous preacher was once asked about his cerebral palsy said, “it is life-long but temporary.”

3. Why can we depend on God? God is good, all the time.

B. [v 25] DEEPEN your relationship with God.

1. “Seek the Lord.”

The Bible says, “For I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. [13] You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.” [Jeremiah 29:11, 13]

2. Two tools:

a. Read the Bible!

b. Pray!

C. [v 26] DEVELOP trust in God.

1. [v 26] Wait quietly before God.

a. It is good to wait quietly in contrast to our know-it-all and mindless activity. It seems everyone has an answer, but only God has the solution.

b. Salvation comes from depending on God, not our efforts for salvation (ours or others).

2. Stop thrashing! (Ill.) “Quick sand” is only about waist deep. We get in trouble when we thrash.

a. Don’t panic. Panic loses perspective.

b. Don’t fear. Fear is a weapon of the enemy.

c. Give up self-effort. Depend on God’s kindness.

3. We are “programed” to not trust.

a. We tell our children “don’t talk to strangers” (for safety in today’s world, this is important).

b. We know “don’t let the salesman get a foot in the door.” (Ever let a Kirby or Rainbow sales rep. in your house?)

c. The TV commercials blare, “don’t pay more than you have too.” (It is proven that people will complain more about a $2 burger than a $20,000 car.)

4. We have to deliberately develop trust in God.
Conclusion:

1. Life can hurt. This hurt can be given to us or self-inflicted. In God there is hope because of His love.

2. Love can heal. God’s love is unfailing/covenant love. God’s love is found in “todayness.” The healing power of God’s love comes from God’s goodness.

3. Three things to do: DEPEND on God. DEEPEN your relationship with God. DEVELOP trust in God.

Friday, November 17, 2006

1 John 2:1 – 11
“Paid in full”

The IDEAL is to not sin. The REALTY is we do sin.

Confusion: One German poet wrote, “I love to sin. God Loves to forgive sin. Really, this world is admirable arranged.”

The Effect:

1. Some people give up because they are discouraged or frustrated. They think they can never be “good enough.”

2. Some people enjoy wallowing in the guild.

3. Some people us it as a license to sin. (They feel, since it is not possible then there is no point in disciplining ourselves.)

4. Some people get stuck in a cycle. (The book of Judges demonstrates that this cycle is a downward spiral.)

Confusion: One person giving a testimony said, “I ain’t what I ought to of been. I’ve stolen hogs, and told lies, and got drunk, and was always getting in fights, and shooting craps, and playing poker, and I’ve cussed and swore, but I thank the Lord there’s one thing I ain’t never done; I ain’t never lost my religion.”

PROBLEM: we put sin on a hierarchy and say some are worse than others (we recognize there are greater social implications... say between murder and lying). However, sin is still sin.

***** So how do we deal with this spiritual conflict? *****

I. We have a defense lawyer – Jesus [vv 1 – 2]

A. The “advocate.”
1. This is an image of a court room setting, we are on trial.

2. The Father is the judge and the Son is the defense lawyer.

B. The defense lawyer has already paid the penalty.

1. KJV = “propitiation” which means Jesus has satisfied the wrath of God.

2. NIV = “atoning sacrifice” which means Jesus as made full payment for our sin by being our substitute.

***** Jesus is our substitute. He took our punishment and paid the price for our sins.” *****

II. We have a pattern for our lives – Jesus [vv3 – 6]

A. God’s Word.

1. We see God at work.

2. We see God’s love in our lives.

3. This does not mean things will not go wrong or feel uncomfortable.

***** Often it is the pressure of things not going right that motivates us to follow the pattern closer. *****

(Ill.) High School shop class, learning the jig saw. We were given templates to follow. If we did not follow the template we would have a duck with no head.

***** When we get off track – sin – we need to be able to understand that there is a pattern to follow. This pattern helps us get back to where we need to be. It gives us direction. *****

B. “Walk as Jesus did.”

III. We have a basic test – our brother [vv 7 – 11]

A. Jesus identified His disciples by saying they would love one another.

1. Remember that person you’ve had a hard time with may be your neighbor in heaven (for eternity).

2. John filled out the other side when he wrote: “But whoever hates his brother is in darkness...”

a. “Brother” is singular... one (not many) become the rule not the exception.

b. In other words, it only takes one to prove that we are a liar.

B. Notice the choice is either - or between two extremes. (Love -v- Hate)

Abraham Lincoln once said “the only ground between right and wrong is battle ground.”

It is not possible to be neutral. The problem is that we would like “gray area” where we don’t have to love the person but also feel it is not right to hate the person. So we create this neutral area were we are not responsible for pro-actively loving but we are not guilty of hating either.

Conclusion: If we sin:

1. We can be forgiven. We have the best defense lawyer BLOOD can by in the Lord Jesus Christ.

2. We can get back on pattern by obeying God’s word and by imitation Jesus.

3. We can do a gut check in our attitude and behavior toward our fellow Christians as a test to see where we are...

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Matthew 5:11 – 12
Persecuted in America

I. Expect external pressure.

A. Three things Jesus mentions:

1. Insult (name calling)

a. This is childish behavior.

b. The aim is public perception.

2. Persecution (government intervention)

a. These are legal attacks.

b. There is the physical use of force. (e.g. Darfur)

3. False accusations (slander)

a. These are made up stories.

b. In reality, it is a mythology surrounding Christians. (e.g. Romans believed Christians were cannibals because of communion.)

B. The situation today in America.

1. Insult

a. Christians have been called “flat-earthers.”

b. Christians have been called “hatemongers” (e.g. a Light and Life magazine article interviewing a big name Christian author who accused Free Methodists of being “hatemongers” because we see homosexuality as a sin, along with many others.)

2. Persecution

a. Students sent to the principals office for praying (silently) before meals.

b. In CA, FL, WA, anti-Christian bias in the court system is being used in custody battles.

c. Battles over the potential of church property seized for commercial interest.

d. Judge More removed from his state supreme court for the public display of the 10 Commandments (actually a Jewish symbol).

3. False accusations

a. Dobson/Focus on the Family was sued for the tragic murder (all murders are tragic) of a gay man in Nebraska (even though the crime was committed by non-Christians).

b. Creation scientists are openly discriminated against.

c. “Value” voters are told not to vote.

d. Woman fired from library for “insubordination” for not working Sundays (which she had never done in 36 years).

II. Understand what underpins the hostility is a hatred of Jesus.

A. Anti-God behavior is historic.

1. Jesus said, “they persecuted the prophets.”

a. Jesus said, “Men love darkness rather than light.”

b. light/truth will never be tolerated by those who control oppressive systems.

2. Persecution - around the world - is accelerating.

a. It is said that more Christians have died in the last 10 years than in the history of the world. (e.g. Darfur is ignored because it is CHRISTIAN)

b. The good news is that under persecution, the church expands rapidly. (e.g. A pastor in Bagdad tells how his church has grown since 2001.)

B. The reality: persecution is not about us.

1. John 15:18 – 21, Its about Jesus.

a. The would “hates” Jesus.

b. We do not belong to the world.

2. 2 Timothy 3:12, Its about lifestyle.

a. Wanting to live godly lives makes others nervous. (If someone is able then others are without excuse.)

b. Godliness is the opposite of what is wanted.

III. How should the Christian react to persecution?

A. Jesus said to “rejoice and be glad” (Matthew 5:12)

1. The Apostles were imprisoned and beaten... their response?

“The apostles left the Sanhedrin, rejoicing because they had been counted worthy of suffering disgrace for the Name. [42] Day after day, in the temple courts and from house to house, they never stopped teaching and proclaiming the good news that Jesus is the Christ.” (Acts 5:41 – 42)

2. It has been said that the mortar that has built the church was the blood of the saints.

B. Jesus said to love and pray for them. (Matthew 5:44)

1. Christianity (and the church) is simple (not easy):

a. Love God. (Matthew 22:37)

b. Love others. (Matthew 22:38)

c. Serve in love. (John 13:34)

2. Other things Jesus said to do:

a. Go the extra mile. (Matthew 5:41)

b. Turn the other cheek. (Matthew 5:39)

c. Do to others what you want done to you. (Matthew 7:12)

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Isaiah 43:16 – 28
Something Old, Something New

Two hunters flew into a remote valley in Canada to hunt elk. On the way home the pilot saw they had bagged six elk. He insisted they could only carry four. The hunters protested. “The plane last year was exactly like this one. It had the same horsepower. The weather was the same. We had six elk last year.” Hearing this the pilot agreed to try.

As they stumbled from the wreckage, the one hunter asked the other if he knew were they were. “I’m not sure but I think we’re about two miles from where we crashed last year.” [Source: Unknown]

I’m not sure if trying the same thing and expecting different results is the definition of insanity or stupidity. Isaiah looks at the past but recognizes that God is doing something new.

I. God has done an awesome thing. [vv 16 – 17]

A. Israel’s history – crossing of the Red Sea.

1. God delivered them out of the bondage/slavery of Egypt.

2. God destroyed the power of the enemy.

B. The Christian’s history – the death and resurrection of Jesus.

1. God delivered the believer out of the slavery of sin.

2. God destroyed the power/dominion of sin in our lives.

C. The is both a command to remember and command to move forward.

1. We need to remember because we are so quick to forget.

2. We need to “fix our eyes on Jesus,” which is to move forward.

William Bennet said, “The reason America is great is because we tend to forget and move forward. The reason America is not great is because we tend to forget and move forward.”

D. Living in the past tends to excuse us from:

1. Attempting BIG things for God today. Thus, we do not have an impact on today.

2. Expecting great things from God today. We reason they are miracles because they don’t happen often.

3. Taking responsibility.

II. God is calling us to a new awesome thing. [vv 18 – 19]

A. Israel move from slavery into the Promised Land

1. How can slaves be transformed into a nation? The Law!

2. How can slaves acquire land? The power of God!

B. The believer today.

1. The believer is now free. Now what?

a. How do we live like freed slaves? Through the power of the Holy Spirit!

b. How are we transformed into a “royal priesthood” [1 Peter 2:9]? Through the power of the Holy Spirit!

c. We have the “power of the resurrection.” [Philippians 3:10]

2. The Bible says, “because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life sen me free from the law of sin and death.” [Romans 8:2]

C. The desert and wasteland are being transformed!

1. Israel was/had become a spiritual wasteland. God intended to change them.

2. Transformation occurs by the power of the Holy Spirit. The law could teach but it could not transform.

III. God allows us to frustrate the new thing.

A. We can ignore God. [v 22]

1. “not called” (encountered)

a. They did not respond to God.

b. They did not pray.

2. “not wearied yourselves for me” (wearied = “to gasp, exhaust”)

a. They put no effort into their spiritual life.

b. They kept up the externals but not the faith. They looked like they were alive but were dead on the inside.

B. We can withhold what God requires. [v 23]

1. “not brought burnt offerings, ... sacrifices.”

a. Tithes and offerings were not brought. The first and most sure sign of spiritual decay is when God’s people stop bringing their tithes and offerings.

b. Time and ability were not used. The second and sure sign of spiritual decay is when God’s people break the Sabbath and do not put their abilities to use for God’s glory.

“This is what the LORD Almighty says: "Give careful thought to your ways. [8] Go up into the mountains and bring down timber and build the house, so that I may take pleasure in it and be honored," says the LORD. [9] "You expected much, but see, it turned out to be little. What you brought home, I blew away. Why?" declares the LORD Almighty. "Because of my house, which remains a ruin, while each of you is busy with his own house.” [Haggai 1:7 – 9]

2. Meanwhile, we make all sorts of demands on God. External things have become more important than God.

C. We can disobey God. [v 24]

1. “Sin” refers to habits that are offensive to God.

2. “Offenses” means perversion with fault.

3. “Transgressions” [v 25] means rebellion.

4. “Transgressed” [v 27] means to break away from.

Eventually externals become pointless.

Even when we frustrate the work of God in our lives... God is still at work. We just keep ourselves from enjoying the blessing and the good things God wants to do for us.
To Do:

1. Rejoice in what God has done. It is the foundation of the future, not the completed work.

2. Be transformed by the power of the Holy Spirit.

3. Check the steps we take away from God. The best cure is to respond to God.

Friday, October 27, 2006

Colossians 1:1 – 14
“Real Christianity”

What is a Christian? Is it someone who goes to Church? An American? Someone who has had a “born again” experience?

I. The essentials of Christian life. (Three basics.)

A. FAITH in Christ Jesus (v 4)

1. Ephesians 2:8

a. We cannot work for or earn our salvation.

b. Two things:

1.) God’s grace (kindness) reaches into our lives (God takes the initiative).

2.) We respond. This is called “faith.”

2. Romans 14:23

a. Faith is the “active ingredient” of the Christian.

b. Our response to God transforms our actions.

c. Faith becomes the line between sin and righteousness.

3. Hebrews 11:6

***** Faith, our response to God is where it all begins. *****

B. LOVE for all the saints (v 4).

1. Christ like love.

a. Unconditional

b. Sacrificial

c. Cannot be offended

d. Doesn’t keep score

2. Begins with those closest to you.

a. Home

b. Church

***** Faith and Love compel us to lead a “changed life.” They alter our sense of life, that is called “hope.”

C. HOPE comes from the “gospel.” (v 5)

1. “Gospel” means “good news.”

2. People of hope have good news for the world.

3. Transformation that:

a. Produce fruit

b. Growth

4. By God’s grace... God says that people can be changed.

***** As our lives change we realize: *****

II. The practical Christian life.

A. Intelligent Christians.

1. (v 6) Hear and understand.

2. (v 9) God will fill u s with the knowledge of His will.

a. “filled” (lit.) “to be made complete.”

b. knowledge is according to what God gives us (not a total dumping of everything).

c. “full knowledge” of God’s will.

1.) Spiritual wisdom

2.) Spiritual understanding

B. Responsive Christian.

1. (v 10) “walk in a manner worthy of the Lord.”

a. holiness, obedience

b. as Jesus would live

2. (v 10) “please Him in all respects”

3. (v 10) “bearing fruit”

4. (v 10) “increasing in the knowledge of God”

C. Strong Christians

1. (v 11) “strengthened with all power”

a. We often see ourselves as “weak.”

b. This strength comes from God’s strength

2. (v 11) “steadfastness” = endurance

3. (v 11) “patience”

4. (v 11) “joyously giving thanks to the Father.”

***** Faith, Hope, and Love are essentials so we can become: Intelligent (thinking and knowing God’s will), Responsive (living holy lives, doing God’s will), becoming strong Christians. All this gives the impression of the rescued Christian life. *****

III. The rescued Christian life.

A. From the old structures

1. (v 13) “dominion of darkness.” (lit.) “authority of darkness”

a. Darkness means we can see, wander aimlessly, run into things, hurt ourselves.

b. Darkness means we hide or sins instead of dealing with them.

c. Darkness is a general reference to being:

1.) A slave to sin.

2.) Under Satan’s dictatorship.

2. Old structures of thought that control us are broken.

B. “Transformed us into the kingdom of His beloved son.” (v 13)

1. Literally this means “moved” from one kingdom to another.

2. (v 14) “redemption”

3. (v 14) “forgiveness of sins”

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

There will not be a post this week.

I was away last week at the annual meeting of the Evangelical Homiletics Society. It was great to meet many of the people who write the books used to teach homiletics. It was humbling to be in the company of earnest and godly scholars. The papers presented were interesting and on the advanced edge of both education and preaching in the current American culture.

As many of you know, the EHS accepted a paper I proposed. I was an alternate presenter, (in other words, I didn't) but consider it an honor to be published at this event.

I will publish again next week. Thank you for your patience.

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Mark 6:1 – 6
Surprising Jesus


Jesus is “amazed at their lack of faith.” So how could something, anything, surprise Jesus? [Theological issue: Jesus was “limited” as part of His experiencing humanity.]

What was it about these people that surprised Jesus?

1. The fact, “Only in his hometown, among his relatives and in his own house is a prophet without honor,” is expected. Jesus noted this as if He were saying “everyone knows this...” It is quoted in all four gospels (Mt 13:57, Mk 6:4, Lk 4:24, Jn 4:44). Oddly enough, this seems to be a non-biblical proverb. Kind of like our “familiarity breeds contempt.” Its just something everyone knows. Its community wisdom observed as a truth. So their rejection of him, based on familiarity should not surprise Jesus.

2. They apparently were Jews, worshiping in the local synagogue [v2]. We get the impression that the Jews of that day were looking for a deliverer they called the Messiah. The Messiah was the promised King of Israel, who was in the line of David. These people were privileged by this expectation in many ways. While the rest of the world was ignorant, they had accurate information. Sure, many were discouraged, but there were people who were working to bring back the King. Maybe, for some, that hope was kindled when they recognized the wisdom of Jesus words and the power of His actions [v2]. Yet, privilege does not lead a person to truth. Jesus said that over and over, so it should not surprise Him that they did not recognize the King of Kings.

3. Why did they “trip(ped) over what little they knew about (H)im” [The Message]? Well they went through a process described by Gordon Allport in “The Psychology of a Rumor.” In order to handle everything they were experiencing, they condensed Jesus life [v 3]. This is called “leveling.” Its always from our perspective. Notice the details are from their experience with Jesus and leave out important details that would disturb their world view. They “sharpened” the details, in essence reducing Jesus to “just” a carpenter. Then they “assimilated” it all into an idea: Jesus was not the expected King, but Jesus was acting like it. Their response, “And they took offense at him.” [v 3] One of the key things that Jesus kept saying was, “If anyone has ears to hear, let him hear.” [Mark 4:23] So, He knew people would not always acquire, process, remember, or speak information correctly. Their faulty ability to process the evidence before them is nothing new, so this did not surprise Jesus.

(Ill.) A man who lived on Long Island was able one day to satisfy a lifelong ambition by purchasing for himself a very fine barometer. When the instrument arrived at his home, he was extremely disappointed to find that the indicating needle appeared to be stuck, pointing to the sector marked "HURRICANE." After shaking the barometer very vigorously several times, its new owner sat down and wrote a scorching letter to the store from which he had purchased the instrument. The following morning on the way to his office in New York, he mailed the letter.

That evening he returned to Long Island to find not only the barometer missing, but his house also. The barometer's needle had been right--there was a hurricane! [E. Schuyler English.]

4. If we sum up these people, it would seem they indulged in three behavioral attitudes.

They were SKEPTICAL. The communal posturing toward Jesus was the He was “just” a carpenter, nothing special.

Maybe they were being SELFISH. They were unwilling to admit that someone from their town was special, which meant that they were not...

In other words, they were STUBBORN, which comes from selfish arrogance. The bottom line is that it seemed, for the most part, they did not want anything special. Because if they admitted, that Jesus was special it would mean they could not comfortably go on with life. They would have to do something about what they knew.

A thousand years before Jesus was surprised, the prophet Samuel said to a stubborn King: “To obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed is better than the fat of rams. For rebellion is like the sin of divination, and arrogance (“stubbornness” = other translations) like the evil (“sin” other translations) of idolatry.” [1 Samuel 15:22b - 23a]

5. As a result, “(Jesus) could not do any miracles there...” [v 5]. Now that surprises us! How is that the Creator of the universe could not do any miracles?

Maybe to understand the answer, we need to look at the only other time Jesus was ever surprised. We find the story in Matthew 8:5 – 13.

6. Here is an officer in the Roman army who’s faith “astonished” Jesus. The Romans were an occupying force that the expected King was supposed to defeat. So, you wouldn’t think that this natural enemy would be a likely candidate for having the kind of faith that could surprise Jesus. Yet, the centurion was desperate. Or maybe we should say uncomfortable. The situation of one of his servants was desperate. He must have loved the servant to take such a big chance.

7. Here it is: the centurion’s faith (which surprised Jesus in both cases, one’s lack of and the other’s “abundance” of faith) led him to take a risk which involved humbling himself and appealing to Jesus. For all his authority, he was powerless and sought out one whom he believed had authority to heal. Maybe it was his understanding of authority that allowed him to trust Jesus. The bottom line is that he acted on this trust. One the other hand, what surprised Jesus in the first story was their lack of faith.

“Faith is not merely your holding on to God--it is God holding on to you. He will not let you go!” – E. Stanley Jones.

8. In another place, the Bible put it this way: “faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.” [James 2:17b] You can say you have faith, or believe, or trust God, until the cows come home (they are not smart enough to do so on their own) but unless you act like it, it does you no good. Your faith is worthless at best and dead at worst. We are like those cows out in the field, looking silly while suffering through life. (Ill. of a bottle of medicine... or car keys...)


a. Are you skeptical or do you take faith-based risk? When was the last time you took a public stand for Jesus and laid your reputation on the line, so that something special would happen, like the centurion?

b. Are you selfish or trusting? The town’s people only cared about what they thought and saw, the centurion acted for someone else’s benefit.

c. Are you stubborn or do you really want God to do something special? If you do, what do you need to do that you cannot do yourself?

“Faith does not operate in the realm of the possible. There is no glory for God in that which is humanly possible. Faith begins where man's power ends.” – George Muller.

What is this going to look like? It will mean a public confession of faith. Have you made one or are you still in the closet? It will mean a public trusting for healing, not just asking for prayer. It will mean serious prayer, corporate prayer. Scripture (and history) seems to indicate that God scales His movement in proportion to the church’s corporate prayer life. It will mean that we just might have to get out of the comfortable, safe boat, and walk on water.

Did you notice that in the town, “He could not do any miracles there, except lay his hands on a few sick people and heal them.” [Mark 6:5] To put this bluntly, I want to be the exception in today’s world/church. How about you?

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

1 Corinthians 11:17 – 32
World Communion Day

[Please note all Scripture referred to and given is NIV unless marked otherwise.]

I. Churches are diverted by division.

A. The Corinthians were divided.

1. 1 Corinthians 3:3 – “You are still worldly.” “You are still carnal.” [NKJV]

a. The Message notes that worldly/carnal Christians are “content only when everything’s going your way.”

b. The ROOT CONDITION of worldliness/carnality creates all sorts of problems.

2. 1 Corinthians 3:3 – “jealousy and quarreling.”

a. Rather than acting like Saints, these sinful behaviors indicate carnality.

b. The behavior is infantile.

3. I Corinthians 3:4 – “I follow... I follow.”

a. The symptom of the sins, which is rooted in carnality, is division.

b. What happens is the eyes are off Jesus and put on human teachers.

B. Division has a certain set of problems.

1. Division does more harm than good.

2. Division brings out the worst side of (otherwise good) people.

3. When brought to worship, division profanes the name of God and desecrates God’s church.

C. The image of the offering is important.

1. Between the Old Testament and the New Testament there is an important shift in the role of the offering and who offers it.

a. In the Old Testament the offering/sacrifice was offered as a reminder of sin and an expectation of Jesus work. It was BROUGHT BY PEOPLE TO GOD.

b. In the New Testament the offering/sacrifice was offered for permanently atonement for sin. It was GIVEN BY GOD AND IS TO BE CELEBRATED BY PEOPLE (communion).

c. In both the O. T. and the N. T. The right heart is seen in doing it the right way.

2. Malachi addressed this issue:

a. The offerings being offered were “defiled” [Malachi 1:7] because they were less than the best that could be offered. God saw this has “contemptible.”

b. The priests encouraged it!

1.) God was not the priority.

2.) Worship was second place to convenience, ease, being non-offensive, etc...

II. Churches are delivered through discipline.

A. Sickness and death are a result of sin BUT sometimes it is the result of discipline/judgement.

1. At “the Fall,” when Adam and Eve first sinned, we were plunged into “the Curse.”

a. It means we are separated from God.

b. It means that separation has physical, emotional, and spiritual consequences that are beyond our control.

2. This Curse is a mild form of relief.

a. Imagine the most evil people never dying.

b. Death has a limiting effect on the evil we are capable of achieving.

B. Discipline is a GOOD thing!

1. The Bible says, “Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as sons. . . If you are not disciplined, . . . then you are illegitimate children and not true sons.” [Hebrews 12:7a, 8]

a. Discipline can be painful.

b. Discipline is directional [God is attempting to bring change].

c. Discipline indicates ownership (the father/son relationship) and is driven by love.

2. What are the steps God uses?

a. It starts with weakness, moves to sickness, and may end in death (assuming there is no repentance).

b. God starts with a gentle nudge (weakness), then a painful reminder (sickness), and may have to take extreme measures (death).

***** We can take this to mean the individual (who celebrate communion as individuals) BUT THE CONTEXT IS CORPORATE! In other words, this process HAPPENS TO CHURCHES.

C. How do churches cycle?

1. A church becomes spiritually weakened when God is not the priority.
Jesus told the Ephesian church: “Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken your first love.” [Revelation 2:4]

2. A church becomes seriously sick when God is left out.

Jesus pleaded with the Laodicean church: “I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! . . . Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me.” [Revelation 3:15, 20]

3. Extreme measures must be eventually taken against an unrepentant church to protect the honor of God and the true church.

Jesus warned: “Remember the height from which you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first. If you do not repent, I WILL COME TO YOU AND REMOVE YOUR LAMPSTAND FROM ITS PLACE.” [Revelation 2:5] [emphasis mine]

III. Churches will dispute this to their death bed.
A. Isn’t this really about “leadership?” [If we only had the right pastor...]

1. Yes, when spiritual leaders look the other way while churches are being torn apart by jealousy and division.

2. Yes, when spiritual leader settle for less than the best.

3. No, these are individual decisions (made by people) that shape the corporate identity.

B. But, I am right, “they” are wrong!

1. What does it matter? Infant behavior wants its own way, adult behavior refuses to throw a temp tantrum because it was offended or didn’t get their own way.

2. Grumbling against someone else is an attempt to shift responsibility and ownership to others. This causes division because people have to take sides and sit in judgement on hearsay and fragments of information.

“Warn a divisive person once, and then warn him a second time. After that, have nothing to do with him. You may be sure that such a man is warped and sinful; he is self-condemned.” [Titus 3:10 – 11]

IV. What does this have to do with communion?

A. To come to this table, you must come with a right heart. [v 27]

1. “Unworthy manner = guilty of sinning.”

2. Not doing so puts us in the same crowd that mocked Jesus at the cross.

B. To come to this table, you must examine your motives. [v 28]

1. Paul instructed, “A man ought to examine himself before he eats of the bread and drinks of the cup.”

2. A wrong heart will never lead us to the right way.

3. A right heart will move us away from our carnality, the sin it causes, and the symptomatic problems they cause.

C. Honor Jesus. [v 29]

1. Recognizing what is happening restores “holy awe.”

2. Stop chasing the emotional high that comes from the divisive games we play with on another.

D. Accept discipline by repenting (before it is too late). [v 32]

1. God loves us to much to let us get away with destructive behavior patterns.

2. When we engage in destructive behavior patterns, we don’t just hurt each other, we dishonor God and desecrate God’s church.

The Bible says, “Is not the cup of thanksgiving for which we give thanks a participation in the blood of Christ? And is not the bread that we break a participation in the body of Christ? [17] Because there is one loaf, we, who are many, are one body, for we all partake of the one loaf.” [1 Corinthians 10:16 – 17]

***** You see, in communion, we are united. Divided communion is impossible. Yet, there will be those who come to this table today who are divided. We are divided by denominational lines and theological distinctives; better known as labels. We are divided by personal likes and dislikes. We are divided by personal histories and an unforgiving spirit. Maybe that is why so many of us are weak, sick, and dying. Maybe that is why so many churches are weak, sick, and dying.

You see, in communion, we have opportunity to repent. When we repent, we set wrong thing right.
You see, in communion, we also have the release and joy of forgiveness... both asked for and given. *****

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Romans 8:15 – 39
“Life on the wings of a promise”

The story is told of a plane on a long trip. At one point the pilot announces that one engine is in trouble. “Don’t worry,” the pilot announces, “the plan has three engines and we can easily fly on one if we need to, but we will be a half hour late.” It wasn’t much longer before the pilot made a second announcement, “We are experiencing problems with another engine and we will be about two hours late.” At this point, one passenger turned to another and said, “I hope we don’t lose the third engine or we’ll be up here all day!”
Some of us have been flying on one engine and its been in trouble for a long time. Paul has just taken us through a very difficult concept; sin in the believer and the necessity for sanctification. Before going on, he pauses to encourage us. [Source: Unknown]

I. The hard times we face now do not compare to what is promised.

A. Why do we face hard times now?

1. [v 20] All creation is held back by the Curse.

a. The Curse is a result of sin.

b. Around us and inside us we have “impurity, deformity, and infirmity” [Matthew Henry]

2. Individuals, by nature, are separated from God.

a. The Bible says: “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” [Romans 3:23]

b. Sin is the root of EVERY problem, misery, and pain.

3. Others may hurt us.

a. We are abused by sin.

b. As instruments of sin, we abuse others.

4. There is systemic evil that drives nations, corporations, and denominations.

a. e.g. The greed for riches.

b. e.g. Pride which drives us for prestige.

c. e.g. Unwillingness to humble ourselves before God.

B. The believer has patience and confidence in hope.

1. The believer longs for full deliverance from sin, suffering, death, and decay. [v 21]

a. At the moment everything is effected.

b. At the moment we are in process. [v 22]

1.) Wesley, “Our salvation is now only in hope. We do not yet possess this full salvation.”

2.) The Bible expresses salvation in three tenses: “we have been saved,” “we are being saved,” “we will be saved.” There is a “already but not yet” quality about salvation.

3.) The ideal track is to move us from sin to salvation and into sanctification and service.

2. The believer joyfully expects to gain the promise in Jesus. [v 23]

a. [v 25] The promise of full rights of adopted children.

b. [v 25] The promise of new bodies that are incorruptible.

c. FACT: This world will not continue in depravity, misery, and meaninglessness.

II. We are not alone in our weakness. [v 25]

A. The Holy Spirit helps us. [v 26]

1. We do not know how/what to pray. [v 26]

a. It doesn’t matter!

Matthew Henry: “The Spirit makes intercession to God, and the enemy prevails not.”

Paul asked to be healed. Instead he got something else.

b. The Holy Spirit knows us and our condition. [v 27]

c. The Holy Spirit knows God’s mind and will. [v 27]
The Holy Spirit directs our prayers. BTW, not all prayers use words...

2. We do have a promise. [v 28]

a. God’s intention is for us to be in harmony with His will. [v 27]

b. Thus, God works in the circumstances of our lives. [v 28]

c. God has purpose for us! [v 28]
Rick Warren: nothing will revive/renew a person or church more than finding a purpose.

B. God the Father is helping us. [v 28]

1. He decided to shape our lives to be like Jesus. [v 29]

a. “Predestined” means God decided in advance.

b. The pattern is Jesus.

2. The idea is to RESTORE what was lost to the Curse.

a. It puts God on our side, again. [v 31]

b. In fact, God did everything for us. [v 32]

c. When God justifies, all accusations are answered. [v 34]

III. Have you noticed we still struggle?

A. God does not promise to remove us from the struggle.

1. The promise is for us to be “more than conquerors.”

a. A conqueror is some who wins the war and is celebrated.

b. A conqueror may lose many battles on the way to winning complete victory in the war.

2. The struggle is good for us.

a. It is part of the shaping process.

b. It draws us deeper into dependence on God.

c. It draws us deeper into relationship with God.

B. God does promise that NOTHING (person, circumstance, or problem) will ever separate us from His love. [vv 35, 38 – 39]

1. No human generated instance can separate us from God’s love. [v 35]

a. What about social or legal threats? [Paul spent many years in jail.]

b. What about government oppression? [Nero’s persecution.]

c. What about war and poverty? [70 A.D. Fall of Jerusalem.]

2. No spiritual related instance. [v 38]

a. What about death? [“For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.” Philippians 1:21]

b. What about uncertainty? [“That is why I am suffering as I am. Yet I am not ashamed, because I know whom I have believed, and am convinced that he is able to guard what I have entrusted to him for that day.” Titus 1:12]

c. What about direct demonic attack? [“But he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me.” 2 Corinthians 12:9]

3. No natural generated instance.

The Message put it this way: “Nothing fazes us because Jesus loves us... because of the way that Jesus our Master has embraced us.”

IV. How does one get these things?

A. “You don’t know what you don’t know” if you are without Jesus.

1. Heaven is a free gift, it can not be earned or deserved.

2. As humans we all fall short and are unable, by our own actions and efforts, to reach heaven.

3. God follows His own rules but He also takes the initiative to wake us up so we don’t have to suffer.

4. Jesus, being eternal and Almighty God, paid with His blood to cover all our wrong, all our mistakes, all our short-falls, so we can reach heaven.

5. You have to trust what Jesus did on the cross and at the empty tomb. That means you give up any and all hope of reaching heaven yourself. Instead, you reach for Jesus and let Him take you to heaven.
[based on James Kennedy’s “Evangelism Explosion.”]

B. Use the pain for gain.

1. If you are sick, you go to doctor (or some medical person who knows what they are doing).

a. When you are hurting, go to God! [“On hearing this, Jesus said to them, ‘It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.’” Mark 2:17]

b. Like a child going to dad. [v 14] (BTW, I used to run to Mom for comfort, to Dad for solutions.)

2. Keep it in perspective.

a. There is NO comparison. [v 18]

Matthew Henry: “The suffering of the saints strike no deeper than the things of time, last no longer than the present time. . .”

b. If you are a believer (true religion of the heart), God IS on your side. [v 32].