Saturday, October 29, 2016

Hebrews 11:1- 8 "The substance and evidence of the soul"

Hebrews 11:1- 8 "The substance and evidence of the soul"
Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. 2 For by it the people of old received their commendation. 3 By faith we understand that the universe was created by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things that are visible.
4 By faith Abel offered to God a more acceptable sacrifice than Cain, through which he was commended as righteous, God commending him by accepting his gifts. And through his faith, though he died, he still speaks. 5 By faith Enoch was taken up so that he should not see death, and he was not found, because God had taken him. Now before he was taken he was commended as having pleased God. 6 And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him. 7 By faith Noah, being warned by God concerning events as yet unseen, in reverent fear constructed an ark for the saving of his household. By this he condemned the world and became an heir of the righteousness that comes by faith.
8 By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to a place that he was to receive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was going.

Just after saying "But my righteous one will live by faith.” Hebrews I0:38a, the Bible challenges us with historical examples.

The reason is: "Faith has always been the mark of God's servants." Matthew Henry
I. Faith is the EYES of the soul.
A. What is faith and how does it work?
"Faith is a firm persuasion and expectation that God will perform all He promised to us in Christ." [M.H.]
1. It is "being sure of what we hope for."
a. KJV: 'substance"
b. Forward-looking confidence. (Future)
c. This means we will "We live by faith, not by sight." [2 Corinthians 5:71
2. It is being "certain of what we do not see."
a. KJV: "evidence"
b. This is the demonstration or proof. (Past and present)
c. It is irrational to disregard faith or think it is opposed to reason.
B. Why is faith the foundation?
"Faith assumes the place of substance, faith holds the place of argument” (Dante)
1. Faith allows us to have God’s "seal of approval."
a. "This is what the ancients were commended for.” [v 2]
b. It stands to reason they are examples, if faith was honored then, it is honored now.
2. Faith understands the true place and nature of God.
a. The existence of a Creator is the foundation of faith.
b. A Creator means undisputed right of ownership.
c. A Creator means undisputed authority.
d. A Creator means undisputed power.
1.) "Formed at God's command" [v 3b]
2.) God did not have to use tools, process, etc... God spoke.
"Faith in the creation is the foundation and specimen of all faith." [John Wesley]
***** Another way to say this is if you do not believe in a Creator, you do not believe in God. *****
II. Faith is the HEART of the soul.
A.  Abel’s example (He humbled himself before God):
1. "By faith Abel offered God a better sacrifice than Cain did." [v 3a)
2. What was different/special about Abel's sacrifice?
a. It was the best of the best. ("But Abel brought fat portions from some of the firstborn of his flock." [Genesis 4:4]) We can see, the difference is AT'TITUDE.
b. It was a blood sacrifice.
“ln fact, the law requires that nearly everything be cleansed with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness. " [Hebrews 9:22]
1.) In other words the blood sacrifice reflected the penalty for sin and the need for mercy. It reflected (set the precedent) the atonement of future blood sacrifices.
2.) '"Able had faith in the blood substitute while Cain had faith in the work of his own hands." [Jack Waite]
B. The result of Abel’s faith:
1. Abel died...
a. Many people today are under the hatred and persecution unleashed by Cain.
b. It is said that more people have died for Jesus in the last 10 y-ears than in the history of the world.
2. Abel still speaks.
a. We see the early and extreme degradation what sin does to a person. (And are horrified by murder.)
b. We see a clear distinction between righteousness and sin.
III.           Faith is the FEET of the soul.
A. Enoch's example (He earnestly sought God):
1. Enoch had a special connection with God. He "pleased God." [v 5c]
a. "Enoch walked with God; then he was no more, because God took him away.” [Genesis 5:24]
b. Enoch was also a prophet who saw the return of Jesus. [Jude 14]
2. Other than that, we know very little about Enoch.
B. The result of Enoch's faith:
1. Enoch did not die, (This only happened twice. Enoch and Elijah.)
2. Enoch's example is that of seeking God. [v 6]
a. Enoch sought God, and the result of that was a special walk (holiness) with God (at a level none of us will ever know).
b. The image is that of Adam and Eve walking with God in the Garden of Eden." Enoch did not have the Garden but he did walk with God.
IV.          Faith is the HANDS of the soul.
A. Noah's example (He obeyed God):
1. Noah, when warned built an ark.
a. Context: it had never rained. Never flooded.
b. Noah's confidence was that God would do what He said... The word of God was sufficient to move Noah to action.
2. What else do we know about Noah?
a. "This is the account of Noah. Noah was a righteous man, blameless among the people of his time, and he walked with God.” [Genesis 6:9]
1.) Here was someone who also "walked with God."
2.) He was called "righteous" and "blameless" by God as a contrast to the people of his day.
b. "Noah did everything just as God commanded him.” [Genesis 6:22]
1.) Obedience and attention to the details are a mark of faith.
2.) God spoke, Noah acted on what God said.
c. 2 Peter 2:5 "a preacher of righteousness."
1.) Imagine preaching for 120 years and having nothing more than your family to show for it...
2.) Building and ark and preaching must have been humiliating.
B. The results of Noah's faith:
1. He saved his family and condemned the world (which is the real reason people fear the faithful).
2. Good examples either convert sinners or condemn them." [Matthew Henry]
"Your obedience makes their disobedience stand out." [Life Application Bible]
3. We love to talk about the mercy and kindness of God (which are true) but sometimes we God's intention is to bring severe justice.
a. Isaiah's call:
“He said. “Go and tell this people: 'Be ever hearing, but never understanding: be ever seeing, but never perceiving.' Make the heart of this people calloused: make their ears dull and close their eyes. Otherwise they might see with their eyes, hear with their ears, understand with their hearts, and turn and be healed.” [Isaiah 6:9 – 10]
 b. Jeremiah's call:
"Today I have made you a fortified city, an iron pillar and a bronze wall to stand against the whole land--against the kings Judah, its officials, its priests and the people of the land." [Jeremiah 1:18]
"When you tell them all this, they will not listen to you; when you call to them, they will not answer.” [Jeremiah 7:27]
c. Ezekiel's call
"But the house of Israel is not willing to listen to you because they are not willing to listen to me, for the whole house of Israel is hardened and obstinate." [Ezekiel 3:7]
d. Moses' call:
"The LORD said to Moses, "When you return to Egypt, see that you perform before Pharaoh all the wonders I have given you the power to do. But I will harden his heart so that he will not let the people go." [Exodus 4:21]

V.            Faith is the BREATH of the soul.
A. Abraham's example (When called, he did not hesitate):
1. When called, he went. [v 8]
2. Abraham knew it was right to follow even if he did not know the direction, destination, or duration of what God was asking.
B. The result of Abraham's faith:
1. He gave up what was secure and familiar.
2. He gave up what was most precious (Isaac) see Genesis 221
3. His going became "the first link in the golden chain of his faith."
4. He was never hesitant to obey God.
1. What has captured your eye and holds your attention?
2. What has captured your heart and directs where your energies are focused?
3. What has captured your feet and directs your habits and what/who you are seeking?
4. What has captured your hands and motivates your affections?
5. What has captured your breath and gives you the confidence to never hesitate to obey God"
Never forget. Able. Enoch. Noah. Abraham were ordinary people... just like vou.
"Many Christians become frustrated and defeated because their needs, wants, expectations, demands are not immediately met when they accept Christ as Savior. They become impatient and quit." [Life Application Bible]

***** Where do You Begin? *****
1. Recognize there is spiritual distance between you and God. This gap is created and maintained by sin. It separates us from God and spawns suspicion and distrust about God" the church. God's messengers.
2. The only solution for closing this spiritual distance is through faith in God's character (love and mercy) and desire (grace) to save you through the blood of Jesus.
3. You are at this point because God is waking you up from your sin. You now have a choice. Will you go back to the sleep of your sin or wake full to the new life God is offering you through Jesus?

Friday, October 21, 2016

Mark 4:35 – 41 Praise in the storm

Mark 4:35 – 41

Praise in the storm

35 On that day, when evening had come, he said to them, “Let us go across to the other side.” 36 And leaving the crowd, they took him with them in the boat, just as he was. And other boats were with him. 37 And a great windstorm arose, and the waves were breaking into the boat, so that the boat was already filling. 38 But he was in the stern, asleep on the cushion. And they woke him and said to him, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?” 39 And he awoke and rebuked the wind and said to the sea, “Peace! Be still!” And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm. 40 He said to them, “Why are you so afraid? Have you still no faith?” 41 And they were filled with great fear and said to one another, “Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?”

1.            Notice this is Jesus’ idea: [v 35] “Let us go across to the other side.”

                a.            Where do the storms come from?

                                1.)           “God’s will”

                                2.)           “Fallen world”

b.            Sometimes we wonder if God cares: [v 38] “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?”

c.             Fear leads to doubt. [v 40] “Why are you so afraid? Have you still no faith?”

                1.)           Doubt leads to desperation.

                2.)           Desperation leads to choice.

[Ill] Story by black preacher….

                There was a knock at the heart’s door. Answering the door, I found an ugly individual.  So I asked, “Who are you and what do you want?” He answered, “My name is worry, and I’m here to babysit your thoughts.” So I invited him in.

                A while later there was another knock at my heart’s door. Answering the door, I found an uglier individual. So I asked, “Who are you and what do you want?” He answered, “My dame is depression. You are overworking Worry, and I’m here to relieve him.” So I invited him in.

                Still later there was another knock at my heart’s door. Answering the door, I found a grotesque individual. So I asked, “Who are you and what do you want?” He answered, “My name is oppression, and I’m here to relieve depression.”


2.            Notice there is a reason: [v 41] And they were filled with great fear and said to one another, “Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?”

                a.            It is necessary.

                                1.)           Storms are unavoidable opportunities.

                                2.)           Even Jesus had his “crisis.”

Mark 1:12, “The Spirit immediately drove him out into the wilderness.”

                b.            There is something to learn.

                                1.)           They didn’t get it so they went through it again!

                                2.)           Mark 6:45 – 52

45 Immediately he made his disciples get into the boat and go before him to the other side, to Bethsaida, while he dismissed the crowd. 46 And after he had taken leave of them, he went up on the mountain to pray. 47 And when evening came, the boat was out on the sea, and he was alone on the land. 48 And he saw that they were making headway painfully, for the wind was against them. And about the fourth watch of the night[g] he came to them, walking on the sea. He meant to pass by them, 49 but when they saw him walking on the sea they thought it was a ghost, and cried out, 50 for they all saw him and were terrified. But immediately he spoke to them and said, “Take heart; it is I. Do not be afraid.” 51 And he got into the boat with them, and the wind ceased. And they were utterly astounded, 52 for they did not understand about the loaves, but their hearts were hardened.

                c.             There is something to get past.

Exodus 6:9, “Moses spoke thus to the people of Israel, but they did not listen to Moses, because of their broken spirit and harsh slavery.”

                                a.            Exhaustion, discouragement, anguish of spirit…

                                b.            SLAVERY (“comfort”)

                d.            There is a BIGGER battle ahead.

Mark 5:1 – 8, “They came to the other side of the sea, to the country of the Gerasenes. 2 And when Jesus[b] had stepped out of the boat, immediately there met him out of the tombs a man with an unclean spirit. 3 He lived among the tombs. And no one could bind him anymore, not even with a chain, 4 for he had often been bound with shackles and chains, but he wrenched the chains apart, and he broke the shackles in pieces. No one had the strength to subdue him. 5 Night and day among the tombs and on the mountains he was always crying out and cutting himself with stones. 6 And when he saw Jesus from afar, he ran and fell down before him. 7 And crying out with a loud voice, he said, “What have you to do with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I adjure you by God, do not torment me.” 8 For he was saying to him, “Come out of the man, you unclean spirit!”

a.            UNDERSTAND, God is concerned for our spiritual well-being NOT comfort or happiness.

                                b.            God is constantly shaping us to more like Jesus.

                                c.             The testing of our faith means dependence on God and full surrender.

James 1:2 – 4 “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.”

Spurgeon: “Trials teach us what we are, they dig up the soil, and let us see what we are made of.”

3.            Notice God NEVER withholds the storm.

                a.            BECAUSE it’s a compliment to:

                                1.)           Your ability to withstand the storm.

                                2.)           His ability to create something AWESOME out of it.

                b.            TWO responses:

                                1.)           Wrong… give up, complain, self-pity, bitter, run from God.

                                2.)           Godly… Joseph.

[Ill] Joseph: love, status, and comfort. One day he was betrayed, sold into slavery. Another day he was lied about, jailed.

For Joseph dreams became a pile of ashes and faithfulness became a crown.

                                3.)           Godly… Job.

Job 23:10, “But he knows the way that I take; when he has tried me, I shall come out as gold.”

                                4.)           Godly… Jeremiah.

Jeremiah 29:11, “I know the plans I have in mind for you, declares the Lord; they are plans for peace, not disaster, to give you a future filled with hope.” [CEB]

4.            Notice that God’s “go” is also His promise.

                a.            The storm is an opportunity to internalize faith.

                                1.)           Mental and verbal agreement?

                                2.)           Challenge to apply (trust, depend)

Mark 9:23 – 24: “And Jesus said to him, “‘If you can’! All things are possible for one who believes.” 24 Immediately the father of the child cried out and said, “I believe; help my unbelief!”

                b.            The problem is we can’t see beyond the storm.

(Ill.) Prayer “bouncing off the ceiling” is good because God is in the room with you.

Romans 5:3 – 5, “Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.”

Psalm 31:7, “I will rejoice and be glad in your steadfast love, because you have seen my affliction; you have known the distress of my soul.”

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]