Pursuing Answers to Questions of Faith & Life

Monday, July 31, 2006

God's Signature on Creation?

Can you see His signature? It's not as flashy as a John Hancock, but interesting none the less. So many complain that if only God would sign His name across the heavens then they would believe. I wonder. What about you, do you think even such blatant evidences would really increase faith?

Pursuing Answers to Questions of Faith & Life,


Sunday, July 30, 2006

Sermon--A Day of Assumptions--1 Samuel 16

A Day of Assumption

Thinking you know God’s Will—God’s Will, Will Surprise You

The act of anticipating, taking up, placing, or
considering something beforehand, or before the proper
time in natural order.

To take for granted, or without proof; to suppose as a
fact; to suppose or take arbitrarily or tentatively.

It’s like we are hard-wired to anticipate and assume things. Sometimes, when someone is asking me a question, sometimes I assume I know what they’re going to ask and try to interrupt them with the answer. Then I have to start over again because my assumption was wrong.

Or consider Thanksgiving—just seeing the turkey sitting in the freezer creates a sense of anticipation—I can already taste the turkey even though it’s still a solid block of flesh.

One of my annoying habits is to try and figure out the plot of a movie and guess where it’s going, what’s going to happen to get there. I make certain assumptions—which sometimes irritates Vicky. But as much as I enjoy trying to figure it out, the best movies are typically the ones where I’m totally wrong.

Today we’re going to see one of those “Days of Assumptions” in the life of Samuel. Where last week we looked at the Influence of Samuel at the Anointing of Saul as King, today we’re going to look at the Assumptions of Samuel in the Anointing of David.

Here’s a brief historical recap. In many ways, the anointing and choosing of Saul is one of Saul’s better days. He was 30 when he became king and he ruled for 42 years. But it didn’t take long for him to get into trouble and lose favor with God. Before one battle, Saul was waiting for Samuel to offer a sacrifice. When Samuel didn’t show up to perform his priestly duties as quickly as Saul believed he would, Saul took matters into his own hand and offered a sacrifice to God.
Despite being unqualified to do so. As a result, the kingdom was pronounced to be taken from him. While he had the kingdom for a long time, 40+ years, God was already on the lookout for the next king. In hearing God’s desire for the next King, Samuel heard that this man would be “a man after his own heart”—13:14. He would be a man who seeks to know God, to please God and to serve God in all he says and does. Samuel knew this man was coming, knew this man was out there to replace Saul. Now after uncertainty, after not liking the decision for a king, Samuel has hope and expectation. He trusts that the man God has in mind will be a tremendous step up for the people. When you know that something or someone new is just around the corner, or that they will soon be arriving, your sense of anticipation builds and speculation abounds. Samuel probably begins to wonder what this new king after his own heart looks like, what type of man is he, what makes him different from Saul, how is he similar? I suspect his mind would begin to fill in a few blanks, make a few assumptions of what this king would look like.

It’s in this context of anticipation that Samuel receives the call of expectation for the new king. All he is told is that he’s to go to Bethlehem and to the family of Jesse where one of Jesse’s sons will be anointed king. Along the way, Samuel makes a lot of assumptions

1. 1 Sam. 16:1-3—Samuel Assumes His Life is in Danger
• Assumes Saul will find out
• Assumes Saul will be angry
• Assumes Saul will try to kill him
• Assumes God hasn’t thought of this possibility
• Assumes God cannot or will not protect him
• Assumes he’d better remind God
• Samuel, the former leader of Israel, now old and mature in his walk with God is much more cautious and nervous about following God.
• Wise and Faithful Samuel didn’t assume that God had a plan—a plan that included worship
• Wise and Faithful Samuel didn’t get all the details of God’s plan.
• God assumed and expected Wise and Faithful Samuel to Follow His directions

2. Assumption of God’s Will—vs. 4-6
• This section also starts off with an assumption—the Elders assumed that Samuel’s motives for coming were hostile or judgmental.

• Samuel—God’s lifelong Prophet, Judge and Leader assumed—“surely the LORD’s Anointed stands before me—vs. 6

• Since the criteria for Saul was his height—Samuel assumed appearance would dictate God’s choice again with one of Jesse’s sons. The last guy was tall—then this guy’s going to be tall too.

• How many times do we do the same thing—God did it this way last time—He brought revival last time, He saved someone last time like this—then He’ll do it again this time. We assume God will work the same way every time because it makes life easier on us, we don’t have to think as hard, we don’t have to seek Him as much.

• And yet Jesus provides the pattern for us to learn from. Every one of His miracles and healings were a little different. There was no cut and dry pattern, no cookie-cutter healing—let you and I only care about the pattern, about the right way of doing it, rather than the walk and the relationship. We must never assume that God will do the same thing over and over again, but assume that what worked last time, what worked last year may not work at all this year.

• Eliab was the oldest, the most obvious, the safest choice, the logical choice. Samuel assumed the social norms like the oldest son rule would control and dictate things to God.

• One thing I learn from this about Samuel is that he wasn’t in control of the situation, nor did he know the mind of God like he was the last time in his younger days when Saul was made king. Last time, Samuel was in control—this time, Samuel was just as in the dark as David. God was still trying to teach, still trying to Grow Samuel—to make him more dependent on God even after all these years, rather than the smug—“I’ve got God all figured out. Samuel’s assumptions caused more confusion.

• We do the same thing he did every time we judge a book by it’s cover, a person by their clothes, when we judge a preacher on TV by the size of their crowd or their smile rather than on their theological content—rather than the Word of God. Our assumptions get us in trouble, especially in our walk with God. Our assumptions often lead to disappointment. We think we have God all figured out and then He doesn’t do what we think He should—a prayer gets a “No” and feels unanswered—something doesn’t happen that we think should happen—that leaves us frustrated and mistrustful—but what we’re really saying in those moments is that we believe as if God is accountable to you and me—as if He should take His cues from us. But that is the height of arrogance and foolishness.

God was doing a whole lot more than just choosing a new king. He was teaching an important truth to one of His older and most successful prophets. Don’t think you’ve got Me all figured out—don’t assume you know what I’m doing, or what I’m planning, or who I’m going to use. And if God will teach that lesson to Samuel—He will do it to you and me—no matter how old we are, no matter how long you’ve been a Christian.

• Don’t assume you see the same things the LORD sees. Don’t assume you know more than God knows. Don’t assume how God will use someone, don’t assume you know better whether something is right or wrong in a situation.

• Our tendency is to assume that if something happens the way we want it to, the way we expected to, if it fulfills our expectations, wants or desires, then it must be from God, God must be pleased or He must be blessing what we’re doing. That’s not always the case—we shouldn’t presume to know what God is doing—we shouldn’t presume to take a step without His approval. Too often we take a step for the sake of stepping and the assume and expect God to bless our step.

• God reveals How He chooses—vs. 7—He looks at the heart—our perspective is on the tangible, the visible, the here and now—God sees the more valuable, God sees the more real, the more eternal—the heart, the spirit. When God decides things in this manner, then we get to experience of the…

3. Surprise of God’s Will
• When Samuel says--Are these all the sons you have?—vs. 11a—it’s clear that Samuel is a little shaken, he’s confused. His understanding, his confidence in God is gone—He doesn’t understand at this point—I’m supposed to choose one of Jesse’s sons, right?

• Samuel may not understand it, but God does. In this moment, Samuel is only left with obedience—trusting God to lead him.

• There is still the youngest vs. 11b, which could also be translated “smallest”—ironic description to Saul and his tall borther Eliab——I can see Samuel in that moment totally surprised—that can’t be right—

• When Samuel says—“We will not sit down”—more than just Hurry Up—I believe it is also a reflection of the phrase—“Oh, I gotta see this” It even creates a sense of excitement in Samuel—if none of these guys are the right choice I wonder what kind of man the youngest is.

And then David arrives. He’s young, he’s not very big—but he’s handsome. Samuel immediately is told that this is the guy God has chosen.—Rise and anoint him, Samuel is told.

• God’s will doesn’t fit Samuel’s assumptions. Contrast to 1 Cor. 1—God chooses the foolish things of this world to shame the wise.

• It is often the unscheduled moments, conversations and events that have the greatest impact and are the most memorable. That’s why I cringe when I hear parents talk only about quality time with their kids—as if quality time is scheduled and can be manufactured. Real quality time, quality moments, quality conversations occur in the midst of quantity time, when you aren’t necessarily trying to make something happen.

God’s will surprises us. He is the God of the Interruptions—He is the God of the unexpected—He looks at the heart, He looks at motive, everything.
Don’t presume to know the mind of God.
Assume God’s will is going to surprise us.

• Even why you are here today. He knows exactly how He wants to use you for His glory. He knows exactly when you are ready to embrace Him in Jeus Christ.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Min & Me
Min & Jan

I want you to meet a young lady from Korea that has crossed our paths at University Baptist Church for the past few weeks. Her name in Min Sook. Her first time in a Christian church was while she was here in Macomb practicing her English wiht Western Illinois University. She visited as a guest of Jan (the one without the beard!) who has faithfully reached out to Min and loved her as a true Christian should.

Tonight we met at McDonald's for what should be the last time before she leaves for Chicago with her international group and back to Korea on Monday. Pray for Min as God is speaking to her and drawing her to Himself. She is now and will continue to be a blessing to our lives. God has ignited a sense of urgency to share His love because of her.

I let Min know that I was praying 2 Scriptures with her in mind.

Ephesians 1:17-18--"I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better. 18 I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints,"

Colossians 1:9-14--"For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you and asking God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all spiritual wisdom and understanding. 10 And we pray this in order that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and may please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, 11 being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, and joyfully 12 giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the kingdom of light. 13 For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, 14 in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins."

I pray that God does these things in your life, Min. It is a joy to know you. Will you join me in praying for Min?

Pursuing Answers to Questions of Faith & Life,


Wednesday, July 26, 2006

I forgot to add...

In the previous post on Coincidences pointing to the hand of God, I wanted to ask if anyone else have had moments like these in your life. Please share in the comments section. I know there are many stories of God at work in our lives.

One correction... my NIV Study Bible has over 2000 pages


Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Godwinks and Coincidence

Kevin Bussey, on his blog--Confessions of a Recovering Pharisee--reviews a book called, "When God Winks: How the Power of Coincidence Guides Your Life". You can read it for yourself by clicking here

After reading a few of the comments, I was reminded of such a moment that I wanted to share.

Like most of you, I've had several such moments of "coincidences". One of the comments reminded me of one of the most powerful. Back in the summer of 1994, I was marching with Santa Clara Vanguard, a drum & bugle corps. We traveled across the country on the bus. Most knew I was a believer and tried to take it seriously.

One day on the bus, a friend, Gus, AKA Worf, was sitting a couple of seats behind me. He asked me for my Bible so he could look up his favorite passage. Excited, I gladly gave it to him, a big NIV Study Bible that I still use--1600+ pages. He wasn't really that familiar with the Bible, much less mine (I know I'm often at a loss to find passages without my familiar markings) so after a few minutes he taps me on the shoulder and says something like, "I can't find it, is there any passage you would recommend?" Several of the others in nearby seats stopped to wonder what I would say (they were a little standoffish b/c of my faith but several had some good conversations). At that question my heart jumped a few times at the opportunity here. I prayed a silent prayer and without turning around I told Gus to look up Isaiah 53, one of the most prophetic, Gospel painting, Christ exalting passages in Scripture.

At this point, after giving a specific reference, I expected to hear the pages turning and the eventual "where is that one again?" question. I heard nothing, not a sound. Before I could say anything, Gus tapped me on the shoulder again. "You need to see this" he said. I turned around and looked at him sitting there in the isle with the Bible in his lap. He held it up for me. I looked down at my Bible--all 1600+ pages of it-- to see that it was already turned to Isaiah 53.

I don't know why I should be, but I, like just about everybody sitting there that day, was stunned. I didn't know what to say--so I had him read it out loud, the whole chapter. Most listened. I shouldn't be surprised that our God would do something like that, but I so often am. We serve the awesome, omnipotent Creator of the universe--why am I so surprised that He reveals Himself in such moments to awaken the hearts of those who may be so cold to Him?

Pursuing Answers to Questions of Faith & Life,

Kelly Reed

Monday, July 24, 2006

Sermon--7/23/06--1 Sam. 8-9-10--Making the Most of a Godly Influence

Making the Most of a Godly Influence—1 Sam. 8-9

The hardest thing to learn in life is which bridge to cross and which to burn.
David Russell.

He who chooses the beginning of a road chooses the place it leads to. It is the means that determine the end.
H.E. Fosdick.

It may be true that there are two sides to every question, but it is also true that there are two sides to a sheet of flypaper, and it makes a big difference to the fly which side he chooses.

It happens in sports all the time. You’re watching your favorite team, you watch your coach or staff make a decision on a play, on choosing a player, and you know without a doubt—“That’s the worst decision I’ve ever seen???!!!!”

Maybe you’ve seen your friends or children date someone and decide to marry them, someone you know is bad for them and for anyone else for that matter. And you dread it because it will be a source of strife for years to come. How do you still relate how do you still live and function when a horrible decision is made? How do you have any influence to help or improve the situation? Samuel saw the people of Israel make a bad decision—so he knew what that was like—he’d just seen it—8:6
God had a plan for the life of his nation Israel, but Israel thought they understood better what they needed than God did. They wanted a king, and they wanted one for all the wrong reasons. They wanted to be like the other nations. When we as God’s people desire more than anything else to be like the other people of this world we are in trouble. When we know what God wants in our lives and yet chose to go another direction we are at the very best, choosing second best, often it’s not even close to second.

In this moment we see Israel making a choice that was less than God’s best for their lives. Through it, we can see some things we can learn about Choices. And how to
maintain influence when you’re watching a bad decision being made.

I. Things We Can Learn About Choices.

1. We are free to obey or disobey God.
God desires each of us to reflect His character and love, but God gives us a great deal of freedom to make our own choices in life. For example it is God’s will that I honor others above myself. However, God will permit me to honor myself above others. But when I do, I’ll suffer some negative consequences—broken or strained relationships. It is God’s will that I be generous in sharing my personal possessions. Does God allow me to be selfish and stingy? Yes, but when I am selfish, I will face negative consequences—God is under no obligation to bail you out for an ungodly decision—but despite that, the second thing we learn is that…

2. When we choose less than God’s best he still does not abandon us.
It grieved God and Samuel that Israel demanded a king. Samuel was sent to reason with Israel but they replied, “No, we want a king like all the other nations.” They thought that they knew what was best, they took counsel of their own hearts and having chosen a course independent of God, they proceeded at once to follow it up. Sometimes the severest judgment God can give us is to let us have our own way. And yet even when we reject God’s best he does not forsake his people. Most of us are painfully aware that things would be far better in our lives if they had made wiser decisions. I believe that it is especially frustrating in your own life, or when watching someone you love and realizing that what you or they are going through now is the result of poor past decision in our lives, times when we settled for less than God’s best.

We have a tendency to excuse ourselves, but as hard as it is to deal with our own choices, it’s harder to watch those we love making a bad decision. Ranging from where to go to school, engagements, etc., church, marriage…

Samuel didn’t hide or ignore his reaction, but Samuel took the situation to the right place—vs. 6—He prayed. He didn’t become so upset and bitter that he prayed less for them, he prayed more for them—“But when they said, "Give us a king to lead us," this displeased Samuel; so he prayed to the LORD.”

He made them aware of the consequences and what they could expect from this decision 8:11—“This is what the king who will reign over you will do:”

He was faithful to Follow God even in the face of Refusal—he didn’t cut them off or leave them to suffer the consequences alone but sought to Influence as best he could—vs. 19-22

We see others make horrible decisions all the time. You may know it, but beating them over the head with it isn’t the way to make it better. Constantly reminding of a past failure will only hinder their future. It is important in our relationships to try and use your wisdom and influence to guide.

A Bad Decision Fulfilled—Introduction of Saul—9:1-2
He’s tall, he looks the part, he’s “an impressive young man without equal among the Israelites—a head taller than any of the others”—Saul is the Hebrew version of Goliath—from the outward appearances, he looks like a great man, a great warrior, a great leader. But about the only job for which height is the defining issue is the NBA. Imagine if next week when the search committee presents a candidate and we say—“we’re confident he is God’s choice for UBC because he’s really tall.” I have no way of knowing how tall he is, I just know he’s not allowed to be taller than me, or smarter, better at ping-pong.

He’s sent off for a relatively menial task—not a huge responsibility. And he rightfully does so.

While many people interpret vs. 5 as a demonstration that he’s concerned about the feelings of others, it could just as easily be a sign of his own lacking work ethic (vs. 5)—of a desire to quit and take the easy route home. “I’m sick of looking for these stupid donkeys, let’s go home.”

You can also see that Saul is also not particularly interested in matters of faith—vs. 6—the servant knew more about Samuel’s existence than Saul did. And when Saul, the master’s son didn’t have any money, the servant was prepared. Why would the servant have more money than the son? Was it his own money or money Saul’s father gave him?

Vs. 14—it didn’t take long for Saul to find Samuel—in fact, Samuel was expecting to see Saul. God had warned him—vs. 15-16. This must have been hard for Samuel, he knew the Desire for a King was a bad one—he knew it was really a rejection of God—8:7—but Samuel was still a Prophet to the people, God had told him to do it, and even in it God intended to use Saul to answer their prayer for deliverance. VS 16—and so, even though he didn’t like it, even though it wasn’t the ideal, he faithfully followed and Listened to the wisdom and will of God. This willingness allowed Samuel to be a man of influence even in the times of poor choices.

God knew what he was doing. Perhaps if Saul had not been leading the people and calling up armies to fight against the Philistines, David would have never had the opportunity to deliver Israel from the hands of Goliath.

• In order to maintain True & Genuine Godly Influence you must Listen to and be Faithfully Obedient to God—your personal relationship with God must be vibrant and you must follow him whether it makes sense to you or not.—17-19. Samuel could have heard this news and walked the other way—he could have refused, he could have ignored Saul and his servant, could have lied about his identity. But Samuel didn’t—to do so would remove him from really serving God in this situation.

Consequences of sin and our unwillingness to listen or follow many times keeps us from fully experiencing the blessing and harvest God has for us and to watch. We miss the opportunity to be a blessing to others and a godly influence. In order for us to truly have a good and lasting impact in the lives of others, our own walk with God must be strong and Trusting--

• Second, Samuel had to reveal the wisdom God had given him—a small demonstration of God’s wisdom—he knew all about the donkeys—vs. 20. Then in 10:1—“Has not the LORD anointed you a ruler over His inheritance” Whether Samuel liked the idea or not—God still chose Saul, God still anointed Saul over God’s own inheritance—the people of Israel. Samuel had to reveal this to Saul and eventually to everyone.

Saul and the people didn’t need good advice, they the Word of God. My words, my example are of no good to you unless it is built upon the Word of God and not my own inadequate wisdom and ramblings. Scripture, all of it—as 2 Timothy 3:15-16—“is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, 17 so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.”

What I say must be submitted to the test of the Word of God just like the Bereans wanted to check up on Paul in Acts 17:11—“Now the Bereans were of more noble character than the Thessalonians, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true”

If you want to have a good and godly influence, you must reveal what God has given us in the Word of God, that means we’ve got to read it, study it, live it in order for our words to any real and lasting, eternal impact.

• Third, Samuel Encouraged more than Discouraged—vs. 20b-24
He spoke well of Saul’s family—he saved the best place at the table for Saul—vs. 22, the best cut of meat. He encouraged and tried to give confidence for Saul—not in his own abilities but in the fact that God had chosen him. Samuel used kind words to do so—he was attempting to build what would turn a relatively shy and fearful leader into a character that was as big as his body.

If you want to have a godly influence, even when someone is making a horrible decision—find a way to speak positively to them and build them up rather than tear them down. Show them mercy, show them you care, show them you love them and want the best for them. Let them know you are there for them—and build them up to make the best decisions based on their faith. Ephesians 4:29 “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.

• Fourth—Build & Cultivate Relationship—Even after the meal, and the invitation and all the small talk, Samuel still wanted to influence Samuel, so they continued to talk and reveal God’s will to Saul even after the meal and the next day—vs. 9:25—10:1—Dialogue was ongoing—Samuel didn’t feel the pressure that we sometimes feel that we have to get everything said in one conversation.

Through it all, Samuel never forgot his goal, his duty, his calling—to influence Saul and make him the best king he could be for the Israelites. The amazing thing is that Samuel still wanted Saul to do well. If we’re going to have a king, let’s have the best king. Saul certainly looked the part, and now Samuel wanted to work on Saul’s heart to be the part—to be the kind of godly king the people needed. Samuel sought to see Saul changed by the power of God—10:6—Samuel didn’t just want any guy of the street, but the one who would be a champion of faith.

• Fifth—just like Samuel did in the previous chapter—Pray and bring it all before God. Prayer is a powerful influence, an influence that is at work even when you are not around. You are calling upon the God of the universe to act on behalf of someone who needs Him.

So if you Want to have a Good, Godly influence even in the midst of struggle and poor decisions, then
1. Faithfully Listen to and Follow God Yourself
2. Share the wisdom, experience and Scripture that God has given you
3. Encourage more than Discourage
4. Build & Cultivate Relationship
5. Pray

My life shall touch a dozen lives before this day is done;
Leave countless marks for good or ill, ere sets the evening sun.
This is the hope I always hope, the prayer I always pray:
Lord, may my life help other lives it touches by the way.
Source Unknown.

Friday, July 21, 2006

Do the Little things hurt us?

Sometimes we think that we don't need to sweat the small stuff--we sin, just a little, it's no big deal. Sometimes we think that what we put before our eyes (TV & Movies), or what we hear with our ears (music, bad language) won't effect us much or spiritually.

That can be a dangerous game to play b/c we often don't know the extent or full consequences of just a "small" thing. A small spot of dirt on a dirty shirt won't show up much, but a small dirty spot on an otherwise bright white T-shirt stands out like crazy. We don't know how the "no big deal" things will compromise us or render us distasteful to the Father. His call is to holiness in all parts of life, not just the church parts--we are a whole person, not a splintered person--church is not quartered off in one section and work in another--they are intertwined and interact. What happens in one will effect what happens in the other. In light of that truth, here's a helpful analogy.

Let me ask... are you hungry?


We become de-sensitized a little bit at a time.

Some years ago, I walked into my office after a Sunday morning service to find a sandwich bag on my desk containing three chocolate brownies. Some thoughtful and anonymous person who knew my love for chocolate had placed them there, along with a piece of paper that had a short story written on it. I immediately sat down and began eating the first brownie as I read the following story.

Two teenagers asked their father if they could go the theater to watch a movie that all their friends had seen. After reading some reviews about the movie on the internet, he denied their request.

"Aw dad, why not?" they complained. "It's rated PG-13, and we're both older than thirteen!"

Dad replied: "Because that movie contains nudity and portrays immorality as being normal and acceptable behavior."

"But dad, those are just very small parts of the movie! That's what our friends who've seen it have told us. The movie is two hours long and those scenes are just a few minutes of the total film! It's based on a true story, and good triumphs over evil, and there are other redeeming themes like courage and self-sacrifice. Even the movie review websites say that!"

"My answer is 'no,' and that is my final answer. You are welcome to stay home tonight, invite some of your friends over, and watch one of the good videos we have in our home collection. But you will not go and watch that film. End of discussion."

The two teenagers walked dejectedly into the family room and slumped down on the couch. As they sulked, they were surprised to hear the sounds of their father preparing something in the kitchen.

They soon recognized the wonderful aroma of brownies baking in the oven, and one of the teenagers said to the other, "Dad must be feeling guilty, and now he's going to try to make it up to us with some fresh brownies. Maybe we can soften him with lots of praise when he brings them out to us and persuade him to let us go to that movie after all."

About that time I began eating the second brownie from the sandwich bag and wondered if there was some connection to the brownies I was eating and the brownies in the story. I kept reading.

The teens were not disappointed. Soon their father appeared with a plate of warm brownies which he offered to his kids. They each took one.

Then their father said, "Before you eat, I want to tell you something: I love you both so much."

The teenagers smiled at each other with knowing glances. Dad was softening. "That is why I've made these brownies with the very best ingredients. I've made them from scratch. Most of the ingredients are even organic. The best organic flour. The best free-range eggs. The best organic sugar. Premium vanilla and chocolate."

The brownies looked mouth-watering, and the teens began to become a little impatient with their dad's long speech.

"But I want to be perfectly honest with you. There is one ingredient I added that is not usually found in brownies. I got that ingredient from our own back yard. But you needn't worry, because I only added the tiniest bit of that ingredient to your brownies. The amount of the portion is practically insignificant. So go ahead, take a bite and let me know what you think."

"Dad, would you mind telling us what that mystery ingredient is before we eat?"

"Why? The portion I added was so small. Just a teaspoonful. You won't even taste it."

"Come on, dad; just tell us what that ingredient is."

"Don't worry! It is organic, just like the other ingredients."


"Well, OK, if you insist. That secret ingredient is organic...dog poop."

I immediately stopped chewing that second brownie and I spit it out into the waste basket by my desk. I continued reading, now fearful of the paragraphs that still remained.

Both teens instantly dropped their brownies back on the plate and began inspecting their fingers with horror.

"DAD! Why did you do that? You've tortured us by making us smell those brownies cooking for the last half hour, and now you tell us that you added dog poop! We can't eat these brownies!"

"Why not? The amount of dog poop is very small compared to the rest of the ingredients. It won't hurt you. It's been cooked right along with the other ingredients. You won't even taste it. It has the same consistency as the brownies. Go ahead and eat!"

"No, Dad...NEVER!"

"And that is the same reason I won't allow you to go watch that movie. You won't tolerate a little dog poop in your brownies, so why should you tolerate a little immorality in your movies? We pray that God will not lead us unto temptation, so how can we in good conscience entertain ourselves with something that will imprint a sinful image in our minds that will lead us into temptation long after we first see it?"

I discarded what remained of the second brownie as well as the entire untouched third brownie. What had been irresistible a minute go had become detestable. And only because of the very slim chance that what I was eating was slightly polluted. (Surely it wasn't...but I couldn't convince myself.)

What a good lesson about purity! Why do we tolerate any sin? On the day of the Passover, the Israelites were commanded to remove every bit of leaven from their homes.

Sin is like leaven - a little bit leavens the whole lump (1 Cor. 5:6).

by David Kirkwood

While God's call is to holiness, all of us know, God included, we cannot do it. That doesn't mean holiness is not something to live for and strive for. In our own strength such a striving is a burden--but in the strength and life of the Spirit--it is fruit grown from a life of faith--a product more than an effort. I'm thankful that He has already taken care of the reality of our failure while at the same time, providing the power and relationship to live and walk by faith.


Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Sermon--7-16-06--When You Partake the Lord's Supper

When you Partake the Lord’s Supper…

This Sunday, we were privileged to celebrate 2 important moments in the life of any church. In one Sunday, we were able to see the testimony of believer's Baptism and the testimony of the Lord's Supper. Baptism is a very powerful statement to one's faith and a pledge to God (among other things). When you Partake the Lord’s Supper, you are also making a very powerful statement. In many ways, that statement parallels what we see in the Beatitudes of Matthew 5.

1. When you Partake the Lord’s Supper you are declaring that you are poor in spirit. The Body was broken, the Blood was poured out to pay a debt we were too poor to pay ourselves. Our sin has made us so poor, has so bankrupted our holiness account that we could never do enough good things to earn our place in Heaven. By taking the Lord’s Supper, you are admitting your spiritual poverty and need for a Savior.

2. When you Partake the Lord’s Supper, you are admitting that you mourn over your sin. It is an admission that you have repented, that you are daily turning away from your sin and asking the Power of Christ to change you. The Body and the Blood of Christ confronts our sin and when you reach out and take it—you mourn because you begin to realize that the broken body, the spilled blood from the Cross is what it took for you to be reconciled to God.

3. When you Partake the Lord’s Supper, you are promising that you are meek. You are making the statement that you are laying down the right to your own life, you are willingly putting aside your power and authority over yourself, your dreams, your goals, your family, your life over to Christ. By taking the Bread and drinking the Cup you are admitting that “you are not your own, you were bought with a price.” Meekness is about having power but choosing not to use it, to put it aside. You are meek when you take the Lord’s Supper b/c you are laying aside your power and right to yourself and taking up the Power of Christ in your life.

4. When you Partake the Lord’s Supper you are testifying that you Hunger and Thirst for Righteousness. Since your own righteousness is as filthy rags—since you can never pay your own debt of sin, since we know we are separated from God because of our lack of righteousness, we are hungering for a righteousness that only comes through relationship with Christ. You are declaring that you have a hunger for the things that please and satisfy God. You are proclaiming the ongoing process of God molding and changing your life—removing the things that are not pleasing to Him and replacing it with the holiness and righteousness of Christ.

5. When you Partake the Lord’s Supper you are proclaiming that God has shown you mercy. You are not getting what you deserve and the Bread and the Cup are a demonstration of it. The Punishment you and I deserve was given to Christ instead. When that begins to sink in, then you are changed. God will change you to be more merciful. The Bread and the Cup are reminders to us to of the Mercy of God and our call to be merciful.

6. When you Partake the Lord’s Supper you are thankful that God has given you a Pure Heart. Jeremiah 17:9—“The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?” Jesus said in Matt. 15:19—“For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander.” Left to ourselves our heart is still in darkness, our heart is still impure. The Death, Burial, and Resurrection of Jesus is the cure. By taking the bread and the cup, you are saying that you can do nothing to cure your heart, but only Jesus can and has.

7. When you Partake the Lord’s Supper you are rejoicing because you have accepted God’s offer of Peace. Even though you were an enemy of God, Jesus crossed enemy lines to make a gesture of peace. He was so committed to it that He gave His life so you could be reconciled. By taking the Lord’s Supper you are also accepting the call to be a Peacemaker by sharing the Gospel.

8. When you Partake the Lord’s Supper you are committing yourself to the willingness to endure persecution for Jesus just as He was persecuted for you. Such persecution is happening around the world and it may one day happen here. By taking the Bread and the Cup you are reminded of just what it took for God to save you. We should examine our hearts, and question whether we have the same commitment to Him as He has toward us.

 If you are a believer, then yours is the Kingdom of Heaven.
 If you have received Christ, you have been and will be comforted.
 If Jesus is your Savior, then you will inherit the earth.
 If your sin has been forgiven, then your desire for righteousness will be filled.
 If you have accepted the free gift of salvation, then you have been shown mercy.
 If your heart is filled with the Holy Spirit then you will see God.
 If you share your faith in Jesus, you are a son of God.
 If you are taking the Bread and the Cup this morning—are you testifying to these things? Is your commitment to Jesus as strong as His commitment to you?

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Unoriginal Lesson from Nature--Pt. 4

I found this interesting quote from Erwin McManus that was in line with the recent lessons in nature theme. Interesting Lesson and Application.


"One difference between lions and tigers I’m told is that lions are more easily domesticated than tigers. The reason is that lions hunt only for the purpose of eating. Hunting for them is motivated by hunger. Tigers are different. Tigers hunt for the sheer thrill of the chase. When your pleasure is the hunting and not just the eating, it is much more difficult to be domesticated. All you have to do is keep a lion fed and you will most likely be safe. A tiger is always ready to involve you in a game of tag. You’re it.
At the most primal level, this is supposed to be the difference between Christianity and all other world religions. Other religions hunt for the purpose of survival. They are desperately trying to appease God. All their efforts and energy are motivated by fear, guilt and the unsatisfied hunger of their soul. Genuine followers of Jesus Christ are more like tigers. The thrill is in the hunt. We have met God. We have tasted deeply of Him. We are not trapped in an endless effort to earn God’s love and secure our place in the afterlife. We have found freedom in Jesus Christ and in Him we are fully alive. Our faith is not motivated by a desperate effort to satisfy God, but the unspeakable pleasure of knowing Him. You can train a tiger, but you can’t tame him. God never intended to tame us, but to unleash an untamed faith."

Friday, July 14, 2006

10 Commandments of Worship

I thought this was a decent article that gives food for thought.

RIDGECREST, N.C. (BP)--With correct theology as a key theme at this summer’s LifeWay Worship Conference, Denver pastor Jim Shaddix challenged participants with his “top 10 commandments” for setting a theology of music in worship.

Shaddix, pastor of Denver’s Riverside Baptist Church, noted the “commandments” his during the June 19-23 sessions at the LifeWay Ridgecrest Conference Center in the Blue Ridge Mountains:

1. Thou shalt worship God, not worship worship.

“We are a people of extremes and we have a hard time maintaining a biblical balance,” Shaddix said. “A long time ago, people were nervous about the charismatic movement, so worship services became like funeral services. Now the pendulum has swung all the way to other side and we have hand raising and clapping but lyrics without correct theology. In the revival of worship and the reaction of what we’ve seen, our focus is on the style rather than the object of our worship -– God.”

2. Thou shalt worship as a lifestyle and not as a music style.

“If there is a disconnect in what happens at the church event and what is happening in people’s daily lives, there is a problem,” Shaddix said. “That needs to be more important than if people are singing on the right key.”

3. Thou shalt make the Divine Seeker comfortable first and foremost.

Shaddix warned about trying to make seekers comfortable first and foremost rather than God who seeks after non-Christians. Citing 1 Corinthians 14:23-25, Shaddix noted, “If the presence of God is thick in a place and His Word is communicated clearly, seekers will be transformed.”

4. Thou shalt use music as a sacrifice of praise, not as synonym for worship.

Shaddix challenged today’s definition of worship as music only. Worship should include preaching and not be limited to music alone.

5. Thou shalt be theologically equipped.

As a former professor at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, Shaddix shared his conviction that seminaries tend to give the impression that the study of theology is less important for those serving as ministers of music rather than senior pastors. “We’ve compartmentalized theological education and raised worship leaders to believe it isn’t important to know theology. Therefore they aren’t able to filter out songs that don’t accurately represent God.” He encouraged worship leaders to pursue the study of theology in addition to technical skills.

6. Thou shalt reflect a holistic theology in worship content.

“Celebration is not the only kind of worship,” Shaddix said. “The Bible speaks of worship involving all seasons of life. Is there a place in our worship for saying, ‘God, I don’t understand’?”

7. Thou shalt worship in a rhythm of revelation and response.

“There is no worship without revelation,” Shaddix said. “God reveals Himself most clearly through His Word. We can’t separate the music from the preaching event. We have nothing to worship if God doesn’t reveal who He is.”

8. Thou shalt employ lyrics that reflect communal identity.

Shaddix encouraged the use of songs that represent worship on behalf of the entire church body rather than only individuals by incorporating songs that include “we” in the lyrics rather than “me.”

9. Thou shalt use technology with theological and pastoral sensitivity.

Shaddix agreed that the Bible speaks of worship including clashing cymbals and loud music. However, “Hearing others sing encourages worship. If amplification is so much that you can only hear the sound on stage rather than the people singing beside you, that isn’t good.”

10. Thou shalt foster worship that reflects the diversity and unity of heaven.

Shaddix encouraged worship leaders to keep the end in mind. “God is honored in worship when we strive to accomplish ethnic diversity and congregational unity.”

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Power & Promise--Lessons In Nature--Pt. 3

This is a beautiful display that occured down in AR. The Power of God is sometimes forgotten in the display of His Promise. We sometimes forget that He is still the awesome, Creator of the Universe (the power He still commands, and the title He still holds) because of the love that He has for us. His Grace draws us near, invites us into His presence, and holds us close. And yet He is still the Almighty--"the fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom"-- Fear of His power and rightful judgment should leave us shaking in our boots, and drive us to seek His mercy. Yet even when living in His promise, we should maintain a healthy fear--awe and respect--for who He is, and just how far we have been brought by the blood of Christ. We have been brought from death to life, we have been brought from darkness to light, not because of the good we have done, not because we deserve it, not because we are perfect, but through the Love on display in Jesus, in the Cross and in the Resurrection.

The Power and Promise of God was on display in Christ. The Incarnation, the judgement of sin, while at the same time, the fulfilment of His promise to deliver us and provide the Lamb for us. There's a lot more I could say on Living in Light of His Power and Promise but I think I'll stop there.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Of Waves and Beetles Part 2--Lessons from Nature

This one won't be as organized (with three sermon like points) like yesterday's, but hopefully, it will make sense.

You were supposed to idendify this beetle:

This is a short description of the Bombardier Beetle

“Bombardier beetles (Brachinus spp.) inject an explosive mixture of hydroquinone, hydrogen peroxide plus several potent catalysts into a reaction chamber in the abdomen. Catalase breaks down the hydrogen peroxide into water and oxygen gas. Peroxidase oxidizes hydroquinone into benzoquinone. The mixture of chemicals and enzymes volatilizes instantly upon contact with the air, generating a puff of "smoke"" and an audible popping sound. This caustic flatulence is totally controlled by the beetle, otherwise it might accidentally blow up its rear end. The explosive discharge apparently discourages predators, either by chemical irritation, heat or repugnance. The temperature of the explosive mixture of gasses and fluids is over 100 degrees Celsius, the boiling point of water.”

What’s amazing about these creatures is that all the chemicals are stored in their body at the same time. And given the right conditions, (i.e. threat of some kind) they combine into a very explosive mix. How does the beetle survive with all these volatile chemicals in its body? No one can really explain how, nor even how it makes the chemicals, not to mention (assuming evolutionary theory for a brief moment) how did random mutations and gradual change ever produce such a mix? If the volatility wasn’t so explosive, where would the advantage be? I digress… back to my point.

The volatility of the beetle is constantly inside it with the potential to be released at any time. Are not our emotions much the same way? At any moment, given the right conditions, our emotions can explode from us, hurting others or at least distasteful to those around us. This volatility is in us and many times they serve as a defense mechanism. In some manner, the beetle has the ability to control the release of these chemicals, but do we ever attain that state of control. That’s where the role of the Spirit is so vital—to give us the ability to put on and produce the fruit of the Spirit in us—love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23). We should be slow to become angry, slow to speak, but we must be aware of the volatility within us that can explode at any moment.

The next verse reveals something else that is a problem for us on top of our emotions, something we are supposed to have done, but still have to live with—“Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires. 25 Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.”

We have, according to Romans 7 and 8 plus other passages that we still are at war with the 2 natures within us. The Flesh (sinful nature) and the Spirit live in us simultaneously and battle for control of our mind, of our actions, of our spirit. They conflict sometimes with explosive results. We know what we should do, but so often do the opposite anyway. Boom!

Romans 8:5-13—“ 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 8:9 You, however, are controlled not by the sinful nature but by the Spirit, if the Spirit of God lives in you. And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Christ. 10 But if Christ is in you, your body is dead because of sin, yet your spirit is alive because of righteousness. 11 And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit, who lives in you.

RO 8:12 Therefore, brothers, we have an obligation--but it is not to the sinful nature, to live according to it. 13 For if you live according to the sinful nature, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live, 14 because those who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God.”

How do we live with these 2 incompatible natures together? One thing that is evident is the flesh is the one that is destructive and explosive, but the Spirit is the neutralizer—it is to counter and triumph over the sin nature. Our problem is that, rather than release the Spirit’s power in our lives, we allow the flesh to explode from us in various forms—destroying our witness, destroying our families, destroying our closeness and intimacy to each other and to God.

Are you an explosive person? Unstable, unpredictable, prone to outbursts of anger or indulgence of sin, then know that, as a believer you also carry in you the Holy Spirit with which such a life is unmixable. Allow the work of the Spirit to overcome the explosive nature in you. Let Him change you.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Of Waves & Beetles--Lessons from Nature--Part 1

Rogue Wave Article

The above article in the New York Times is interesting. Here are a few excerpts from it talking about Rogue Waves. The article has several verifying stories and testimonies.

“Enormous waves that sweep the ocean are traditionally called rogue waves, implying that they have a kind of freakish rarity. Over the decades, skeptical oceanographers have doubted their existence and tended to lump them together with sightings of mermaids and sea monsters….
“But scientists are now finding that these giants of the sea are far more common and destructive than once imagined, prompting a rush of new studies and research projects….
“Drawing on recent tallies and making tentative extrapolations, Dr. Rosenthal estimated that at any given moment 10 of the giants are churning through the world’s oceans….
“By one definition, the titans of the sea rise to heights of at least 25 meters, or 82 feet, about the size of an eight-story building. Scientists have calculated their theoretical maximum at 198 feet — higher than the Statue of Liberty or the Capitol rotunda in Washington. So far, however, they have documented nothing that big. Large rogues seem to average around 100 feet.

There you are in relatively smooth sailing waters when all of a sudden a giant wave reminds you just how small you are in the ocean and how not-in-control you really are. The smooth sailing waters tend to create a sense of complacency in us, a sense of self-sufficiency, a smugness about the “life I have made for myself.” The waves remind us otherwise.

What helps improve our chance of survival in such an encounter?

1. Are we pointed in the right direction—ships that are not pointed into the wave, the ones that are broadsided are more likely to be knocked over. In life, the big question is whether we are going in the direction God wants us to go in our lives. If He is directing our paths and making them straight (Prov. 3:5-6) then we are able to hit the rogue waves head on—maybe still caught off guard, but still going in the right direction.
2. Are we constructed with Integrity—many of the ships experience damage when part of their construction is not strong enough or fails in some way—the doors are not secure, the windows burst, the seams buckle, etc. When the Rogue hits us, our spiritual integrity is shown. How much of our faith has built the person—when a strong faith builds—it doesn’t do a half-hearted job but puts on the full armor of God. Our trouble is that we sometimes take it for granted and take the armor off ourselves.
3. Awareness & Forecasting—if we are in certain areas, we know that the possibility is greater for us to get hit. We put ourselves in so much danger—morally, spiritually that it renders us weak and unprepared for the hits. We must be aware of where our danger is—we must be aware of the situations that can compromise us. Some of these waves we can avoid—others we walk right into. But be aware, some people assume that if they are fulfilling #1, then they won’t get hit—wrong assumption—sometimes being exactly where God wants you to be puts you on the front line, directly into the path.

Watch out for the rogue waves that life sends your way—smooth waters do not guarantee smooth sailing.

For a hint of tomorrow’s lesson from nature, identify this beetle.

Sunday, July 09, 2006

7/9/06--Sermon--The Quest for a King

The Quest for a King

An old TV series had a very famous line—“Look! Up in the sky, it’s a Bird. It’s a Plane. No, it’s __________.” Even after Superman’s first introduction over 70 years ago, and given the fact that the most recent movie has grossed about $127,000,000—we apparently are still interested in someone flying out of the sky to our rescue. It’s a very deep seated desire—the idea that we need someone to save us because deep down, we know we don’t have the power to do it ourselves.

The Israelites during this time in the life of Samuel were about to cry out for a savior—cry out for a king.

They had been living as tribes for generations, coming together occasionally, and basically doing whatever they wanted. But they blamed this system for keeping them weak and unorganized rather than their own sinfulness and selfishness.

They didn’t really trust God to lead them effectively, when the problem wasn’t God, but their willingness to listen to Him. They blamed God for their weakness rather than their own sinful hearts. So they wanted to trade in their God leadership for human leadership. They wanted something more tangible—they wanted to trust something they could see. And they were about to find out the reality that comes when someone doesn’t really have the power to do it.

READ 1 Samuel 8:1-5
Israel’s explanations for wanting a king:

A. Explanation #1: Samuel’s sons were Corrupt
a. On one side, Human leadership is failing us—they don’t have the moral leadership, so what we really need is another human to do a better job.
B. Explanation #2: They Needed Stronger Leadership
a. Inability to Work Together or Unify for Protection without being forced to do so
b. School Group Projects always have some that do all the work and a couple who don't do anything. If you were one of those who did all the work, how often did you go to the teacher and say--"Brian's not doing anything, can you make him please?" That's the kind of leadership or complaining the Israelites were doing. That's why we need a king-to make the other tribes (never themselves) do what their supposed to do.
c. The 12 tribes of Israel could not work together because each tribe had its own leader and territory. The people hoped a king would unite the tribes into one nation and one army.
C. Explanation #3: The people wanted to be like the neighboring nations.—This is Keeping Up with the Joneses on a National Scale. Look what they can do with a king!

1. Failure of Human Leadership—not even Samuel was able to pass on the responsibility of true spiritual leadership
2. They Couldn’t lead themselves
3. To Be Like Everyone Else—everybody who’s anybody has one of those.

These sound reasonable and logical—but God saw through their excuses. God knew the real reason—READ 8:6-9—God knew the people were really rejecting Him—really rebelling against Him.
They wanted to look to some ordinary person they could see, and control rather than a miraculous and awesome God they could not see nor control.

They really wanted someone else to save them—so they sought a king, someone to save them, just like we still look for and yearn someone to solve all the world’s problems with some quick fix solution—“If you just do this…”

How did that work out—after all, the Israelites only thought of the Positive and not the Negative. What would the King do? READ 8:10-18

1. Take your sons and daughters
2. He will take your best—vs. 14
3. He will make you a slave
4. A human king takes “for his own use” vs. 16
5. He will not lead in righteousness
6. He will promise but not provide victory
7. He will not meet their greatest need
8. He will not meet their expectations

The Israelites were looking for someone to save them—to take the responsibility off their shoulders, so they could follow.

We are not really that different—we still prefer the tangible. The world is still looking for a Savior—many have tried to fulfill that role—some think government or leader will do it, some think education will do it, some even invent a ready made Savior like you see in Superman.
The last hundred years have seen many rise up, claiming to be our real savior, claiming to have the right answer, the right drug, the right policy—politicians, musicians, even religious figures.

The Bible warns that many will rise up to claim the role of our Savior—in Matt. 24:23, Jesus warns that many will be saying and claiming—“`Look, here is the Christ!' or, `There he is!' do not believe it. 24 For false Christs and false prophets will appear and perform great signs and miracles to deceive even the elect--if that were possible.”

Why are there more false prophets? Because you and I keep falling for it over and over again. Satan finds a good strategy and uses it until he thinks it doesn’t work anymore—but in our quest to connect to the spiritual—when our friends and neighbors are not grounded in the truth, they will fall for anything—space aliens, astrology, drugs, New Age.

Did you catch that last phrase? These false messiahs will be able to perform great signs and wonders—even what many would think of as miracles. But their power does not come from God—it comes from the one who wants to keep you as far from God as possible. No human leader can fulfill our greatest longing and provide for our deepest need. We have seen many rise, fail and fall. Only God can satisfy our greatest need.

The first king of Israel, Saul, provided some victory but ultimately was killed. Their best king, David, failed morally and even brought death onto his people by assessing his military strength rather than trusting in God’s strength. Even the wisest king, Solomon led the people astray to worship false gods. Human leadership will disappoint—our government will never save us because it is ultimately flawed, made up of flawed people. But that desire is still there; that’s why the people, even today are continually looking forward to some better, ideal leader—a Messiah.

We dream, just like they did of a Messiah who would deliver them from occupiers—who would provide an abundance of blessing
A king who would not take but give
A king that does not want to be served, but to serve
A king that does not throw their lives away, but gives his own

This is the longing of our hearts. You see it in the way we elevate our politicians to near sainthood, our sports stars to an untouchable, “Can do no wrong” level. And it shows why we are so crushed or angry when our heroes prove their humanity and show their sin—or why we deny and defend them because we cannot bear to have our leader undermined. Who are you putting on a pedestal?

This longing will never be met in a human king, politician, pastor or anyone else alive today. They cannot do it because what we really need has already been done.
It was done, not with a conquering soldier, not with a commanding king, or a promise making charlatan, but with the Good Shepherd, the Lamb of God—Jesus the Messiah

All our greatest longings are fulfilled in Him. He is the King of kings and the Lord of lords. He didn’t come to be served, but to serve. He didn’t come to sacrifice our lives to build a greater kingdom for himself, but to give His life as a ransom for us all—to buy us back from the kingdom of darkness—to save us from our sin.

He didn’t come to get married and have kids like the Da Vinci Code suggests—He didn’t come to fulfill our expectations, but lived to please God and to Finish the work, to fulfill God’s plan that took Jesus to the Cross—that was why the Father sent Him.

In Matthew 16:21—“Jesus began to explain to his disciples that He must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things at the hands of the elders, chief priests and teachers of the law, and that He must be killed and on the third day be raised to life.”—a considerable amount of time before the events actually happened, Jesus knew exactly what He was going to do—but it didn’t fulfill the expectations of even a close disciple like Peter—vs. 22—“Peter took Him aside and began to rebuke Him. “Never Lord!” he said. “This shall never happen to You!” Jesus turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the things of God, but the things of men.”

Jesus repeatedly says things like John 10:17-18—“The reason my Father loves me is that I lay down my life--only to take it up again. 18 No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again. This command I received from my Father."
John 8:28-29--“ Jesus said, "When you have lifted up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am the one I claim to be and that I do nothing on my own but speak just what the Father has taught me. 29 The one who sent me is with me; he has not left me alone, for I always do what pleases him." Just before His Crucifixion, Jesus said:
John 17:3-4-- Now this is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent. 4 I have brought you glory on earth by completing the work you gave me to do.”
Knowing Jesus and trusting in all He did to fulfill the pan of God, is what eternal life is all about. Jesus completed the work God gave Him to do—that’s why He could say—it is Finished from the Cross—all that was needed to save us, He accomplished in His death—the perfect for the imperfect, the sinless for the sinful—He completed the task that God wanted Him to do.
D. Where human leaders are corrupt—He is Sinless
E. Where They wanted to Unite around Warfare—He Will Unite around Worship—and at the name of Jesus according to Philippians—Every knee will bow and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord.
F. Where they wanted to Settle for the same Flawed system everybody else had—Jesus will bring something totally new—a new heaven and a new earth.

What or who do you look for—what do you hope will save you? Is it money or your job? Is it some leader alive today--

Friday, July 07, 2006

Mystery of the Universe Needs Solving

I have a few ideas, but I need the creative help of people who may know the answer to this mind freezing question.

In light of the Ice Cream Social at our house, Why is it that Homemade Ice Cream is so much harder to eat than store bought? Why does Homemade feel so much colder while you're eating it?

Is it the alignment of the atoms? Is the cold vacuum of space manifesting in between the milk and oreos that I used?

Please, I need to know...

Thursday, July 06, 2006

First Amendment Freedoms

Tonight I presented some material on the First Amendment at UBC’s Wednesday night meeting. I concentrated on the historical aspect of the amendment because it helps me make sense of the grouping. I had always wondered why all those topics: religion, speech, press, assembly, were mashed together in one amendment. Shouldn’t they have warranted their own listing if they were so important? I was always under the impression that the first 2 dealt with religion and the others were for the rest of society. Then history taught me a lesson and I’ve been chewing on it for a couple of years. Last year, a few editorials appeared in MO that demonstrated such a poor grasp of the First and its intentions that I wrote the following letter to the editor response. It was published in The Pathway, the Missouri Baptist Convention’s official paper.

If you want to see the questions I used tonight as well as the history notes, just let me know and I’ll post them as well.

First Amendment—“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.”

Dear Editor:

In response to many of the questions regarding the First Amendment, our understanding of it needs a little work. There is a reason why all of these protections were grouped together under the same amendment, because they were considered related. The “thereof” does not point backwards, it points forwards to the following examples of ways free exercise was not to be denied.

Historically speaking, the prohibition of religion occurred in each of the ways listed in the amendment. Freedom of speech was denied to citizens and preachers who were not a part of the established church. They were arrested and thrown in jail for preaching without a license. Freedom of the press was not just about newspapers and other media. Freedom of the press was denied to citizens who were not allowed to print and distribute religious material that did not conform to the established state church. They were harassed and their printed material was confiscated. Freedom to assemble was denied to citizens who wanted to peaceably assemble in an unauthorized church fellowship. These church gatherings were required to be registered. If they were not registered, they could be broken up by government authorities and the leaders arrested.

Baptists have a history of facing these types of denial of freedom. Roger Williams, who established the first Baptist church in America and Rhode Island, experienced persecution and threats of jail. Isaac Backus led the Warren Association Grievance Committee in Massachusetts opposing tax payer funding for a state church. He also argued in Government and Liberty (1778) that the Revolutionary War was fought for both political and religious freedom. John Leland negotiated with James Madison to include religious freedom protections in the Constitution. Madison himself is reported to have witnessed several Baptists preach from jail while he was a child.

In short, the first amendment was intended to create a climate of freedom in America where religious expression can flourish unhindered by the government and not to squelch, even unpopular ideas in the public square. Modern understanding of Separation of Church & State reverses this and has turned the first amendment from a protection of religious expression to the government taking a hostile position of removal of public religious expression. Baptists, then and today, are opposed to this.

Pursuing Answers to Questions of Faith & Life,

Kelly Reed

Monday, July 03, 2006

My Country 'Tis of Thee

My Country Tis of Thee

The United States of America is 230 years old today. That's a long time for a nation to remain free. But, when you look at our history in the context of world history America is just a CHILD among the nations. Egypt, China, Rome, Greece all make America's history seem so short. Consider what a brief time we've really been here as a nation. When Thomas Jefferson died, Abraham Lincoln was a young man of 17. When Lincoln was assassinated, Woodrow Wilson was a boy of 8. By the time he died Ronald Reagan was a boy of 12.

There you have it. The lives of four men can take you all the way back to the beginning of our country, 230 years ago. We are so young. And yet we stand tall among these nations because of the principles on which we were established: We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.

Thus states the Declaration of Independence, which we celebrate today. And do not let anyone fool you. Freedom ought and needs be celebrated. I celebrate this week with you the freedoms which God has blessed this great nations of ours. Our freedom is from God. We like to think we have a lot to do with our freedom—we call it “My Country”, but this country and Freedom were God’s idea first.

1. My Country—
a. We call it “my country” because we’re proud of it. We call it my country because we’re possessive and protective of it. You and I didn’t make this country—God did. As much credit as we give to our Founding Fathers, no nation is built, no nation collapses without the express directive of God. Jeremiah 18:7—“If at any time I announce that a nation or kingdom is to be uprooted, torn down and destroyed, 8 and if that nation I warned repents of its evil, then I will relent and not inflict on it the disaster I had planned. 9 And if at another time I announce that a nation or kingdom is to be built up and planted, 10 and if it does evil in my sight and does not obey me, then I will reconsider the good I had intended to do for it.”

b. God is greater than any Nation. It is planted or Uprooted at His command.

c. My country is a nation that God has built up and planted. He has blessed it with freedom more than just politically or speech—Freedom of Conscience before God and Faith. The United States is really the first nation where Religious Liberty (as opposed to Tolerance) was made a rule. You do realize there’s a difference. Tolerance is about gaining Permission and being Put Up With. Liberty is about the Recognition of a Right that the Government cannot deny.

d. We are a blessed nation, but We stand or fall by whether we do evil in His sight. Not what we think is good, not what we think is evil.

e. What we think doesn’t matter, what we think is right or wrong, good or evil is not the standard of truth. It is God’s opinion that matters. Even our nation will answer to Him.

f. Yet I am thankful that God is a God of mercy—for if we are warned, and I believe we have been warned, and we repent, then God will show mercy. This country, though we say it’s “My Country” really need to understand that it is His Country.

g. Another indicator of that is the fact that You didn’t pick this country for yourself—God Did. Acts 17:26-28—“From one man he made every nation of men, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he determined the times set for them and the exact places where they should live. 27 God did this so that men would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from each one of us.”

h. We are where we are by God’s design and choosing. We are when we are by God’s choosing. There is something about you and I that are needed in this place in the United States of America at this time. We have a role to fulfill people, and it’s not our agenda that matters, but His.

i. You may not have been born here, but you are here—through whatever means, God has brought you—He has brought you so you may seek Him and find Him in ways that may not have been possible at home.

j. The greatest reason all of us are a part of the Greatest Nation, in this moment is so we will seek God, desire for Him reach out for Him. And to influence others to do the same. The promise is that when we do, we will find that He was there all along with arms open wide waiting for us.

k. America has been and is a blessed nation because it has been a nation that, though not perfect, has sought God. The Providence and Work of God was a dominating reality in the mind’s of our founders. It is a nation that has sent out more money, more people, more resources than any other so other nations might be able to hear about the saving power of Jesus Christ. So long as we as a people and as a nation are exalting the name of Jesus, God will not be far from us.

l. Our heritage as a godly nation is in jeopardy . we are still one of the greatest missions Sending nations—but now other nations are sending their missionaries here and finding resistant hearts.

m. Our condition is shown to be worse when we try to tell kids when they can and cannot pray, can and cannot have a bible study, when the 10 Commandments are more offensive to our courts than child pornography, when morality and marriage is anything goes, and people of faith are seen as just as dangerous or just as immoral than terrorists.

n. This nation’s heritage is built upon the foundation of all men being “endowed by their Creator”, and yet more and more we dismissing the reality of a Creator and are falling into the trap Paul warns of in Romans 1:23 when we knowingly exchange “the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like mortal man and birds and animals and reptiles.” We are worshipping the created more than the Creator—we are elevating ourselves and ignoring Him, making an idol out of humanity. That sounds like evil in His sight to me.

o. Jeremiah asks a very relevant question to the nation that is deliberately doing this. Jeremiah 2:11—“Has a nation ever changed its gods? (Yet they are not gods at all.) But my people have exchanged their Glory for worthless idols. 12 Be appalled at this, O heavens, and shudder with great horror," declares the LORD.”—vs. 19 goes on and says—“Your wickedness will punish you; your backsliding will rebuke you. Consider then and realize how evil and bitter it is for you when you forsake the LORD your God and have no awe of me," declares the Lord, the LORD Almighty.”

p. Do we have any awe of God anymore? Sure, you in this room may—but even we struggle understanding God for who He really is.

q. America and all nations exist to seek God and worship Him
r. That’s why in Revelation 7, John was able to see a “great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language standing before the throne and in front of the Lamb.”

s. You and I exist to seek God—we exist to Advance His Kingdom and His Name all across the earth. Force never accomplishes what changed hearts can. That happens through people sharing their faith—many of them today happen to be in the military, sharing their faith in Christ as they build schools, restore power, build roads. We have a responsibility to change hearts here in Macomb. When we are living who we should be as the people of God, then the nation God has made will be changed.

t. More than we want this to be “My Country”, we should want, we need it to truly be “His Country”; making ‘Tis of Thee a true statement.

2. ‘Tis of Thee
a. All that we are, all that we Celebrate this 4th of July, is “Of Thee”, because of Thee, has it’s origins “of Thee” and all that we do as a nation is “for Thee, “

b. We exist by His Grace—Our Godly Heritage is a testimony to this truth. We are endowed by our Creator with certain inalienable rights.

c. We survive by His Power—we must remember that Divine Protection exists in Righteousness. America can be Judged like any other Nation—nations receive their blessings here and now. If Israel was judged by failure to follow His ways, how much more will America if we continue to reject and distance ourselves from Him.

d. We Have a Glorious Future—when we turn to Him. I believe that although some of our most difficult and trying times are ahead, I also believe that more of our best days are ahead of us.

e. The best days will come when we are Healed in Worship & Humility—2 Chron 7:14—“if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land.”

f. Don’t complain about the ills of Washington and the need of healing there when we have more than enough ills right down the street more than enough healing from drunkenness, gambling, addictions, immorality.

g. Rejoice and celebrate on Tuesday that it is His Country—by Him, For Him—we just have the privilege of being placed right here, right now. In order to truly fulfill our purpose, our great nation truly Needs Thee Every Hour.

h. We are a sweet land of liberty because others before us, and right now have died to win it. God is the author of any liberty, any freedom, our freedom here was first birthed in the mind of God b/c He sought our freedom on the Cross. If any message should ring from the mountain sides, it should be the promise of Freedom in Christ. Psalm 33:12—“Blessed is the nation whose God is the LORD, the people he chose for his inheritance