Pursuing Answers to Questions of Faith & Life

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Don't Forget Reformation Day!

In case it's been lost in all the Halloween hubub, today marks the day in 1517 when Martin Luther nailed his 95 Theses on the door of Wittenburg Cathedral. That act has impacted our society to this day. An event over 400 years ago, based on the principles of Salvation by Grace and Faith alone and the only authority for faith being Scripture, has shaped the freedom we have in America to worship and believe only as our conscience dictates as directed by the Holy Spirit and the Word of God.

Do you appreciate what happened this day? What other benefits are we living with today as a result?

Let Your Light Shine

Just yesterday, Gabriel, Vicky and I carved our first pumpkin. When the moment came to actually put your hand down in and begin cleaning out the inside, Gabriel made a quick exit! Wouldn't even touch one of the seeds. I'd bet I wasn't all that different at 5 yrs. old--I'd certainly forgotten how gross it was and that particular smell.

For my sermon regarding Halloween--go back to the post in early October--for Sunday Oct. 1st--entitled Mixed Signals. The reason I gave my Halloween message so early is so it will be heard before decisions are made and a lot of money is spent. It does not tell you what to do, but asks you to think about why and how you participate.

Sermon 10-29-06--New Creation Assurance

New Creation Assurance
Sometime when you're in an airport, observe the difference between passengers who hold confirmed tickets and those who are on standby. The ones with confirmed tickets read newspapers, chat with their friends or sleep. The ones on standby hang around the ticket counter, pace and smoke, smoke and pace. The difference is caused by the confidence factor. How they act and live is directly related to their security of a place on the plane.
Now consider for a moment which person, the calm waiting person or the pacing nervous one would best describe someone didn’t know whether they were going to hear, “Well done, my good and faithful servant” or “depart from me, I never knew you.” That kind of knowledge can change the way you live, change the way you think, act, even help you enjoy and recognize the abundant life of Christ.
When we are a part of the Old Creation—when we have not been made new, then we are like everyone else on the planet
Slaves to our sin nature, in fact we are Dead in our sins and separated from God
We fear death and especially fearful and uncertain of what happens after death—there is no Hope for those who have fallen asleep apart from Christ according to Thessalonians. And remember what Hope is in Scripture—not wishful thinking, but confidence and certainty about what is coming.
Do you really believe that God made us new creations so that we would continue to tremble in fear and doubt? John says one of the reasons he wrote 1 John was so that “you may know that you have eternal life”. Notice it doesn’t say—“I have written these things to you so you can have a 50/50 chance OR so you can kinda know, OR so you can flip a coin.
Once we have been made new, we cannot be made old again—sure we may act like it, we may try to wear the old nature, but we have been forever changed. Just like Noah could not go back to the world before the flood—neither can a New Creation go back to being an Old Creation. Now that we are made New Creations we can have assurance—assurance that our relationship with God is firm, is established is secure.

1. The Saving Work and Character of God
a. Paul described his trust of God like this in 2 Timothy 1:12--Yet I am not ashamed, because I know whom I have believed, and am convinced that he is able to guard what I have entrusted to him for that day.” Paul had entrusted something to God—his life, his soul, his salvation to God. It was put in a spiritual safety deposit box. He was firmly and fully convinced that what he had trusted to God’s care and management would be thoroughly and completely guarded and protected and that helped him live even in moments of struggle and persecution. It gave him boldness, it gave him confidence. Paul realized that,

b. God’s Love is Powerful

c. Romans 8:38-39—“For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 39 neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”—

d. There is no power that can separate us once we belong to Christ. There is nothing in all creation that can break in and steal us away when we have been united to God in the love and salvation of Christ. What God has joined together, no one can separate—there is no hardship, no struggle—no conceivable future that will cancel out God’s commitment to you in Christ.

e. There is little more freeing than knowing that you are loved and that nothing will change that. Paul was convinced about God’s Character and that helped him to endure all the rejection he was receiving while in the world.

f. Satan uses this world and the hardships directed your way to create doubt in your mind about the Love of God and your place in His Kingdom. Difficulties, persecutions, Satan will use to plague your mind that—it’s your fault, God doesn’t care or isn’t interested in what’s going on in your life. If God really loved you, this wouldn’t be happening.

g. That is a lie. Many of our hardships are because of our love for Him, we become targets in a great spiritual battle. Many of our hardships are because of His love for us—because God disciplines those He loves. If He didn’t love you, according to Hebrews 12, He wouldn’t bother to discipline you, to try and reach your conscience and draw Him closer.

h. Because of our Assurance of God’s Love, the Consistency of His Character, we can endure any circumstance and continue to be faithful through the whole experience—because we KNOW we are His, we KNOW we have been made an Heir, we KNOW we are a New Creation.

i. In the same way we can trust in the Character of God, we can also trust in the fact that,

j. God Has Strong Hands--John 10:27-29—“My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. 28 I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand. 29 My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father's hand. "

k. Things break in my house because I drop them—be they plates, glasses. Sometimes they’re too hot, sometimes they’re slippery, sometimes, I’m just not paying attention.

l. The ability to have a firm grip on things is why some football players never make it out of High School while others go on to make millions of dollars. Just holding onto a little ball is why some baseball teams can win the World Series and others can’t.

m. This passage confirms that God does not have Butterfingers. God doesn’t fumble the ball, He doesn’t drop things, and say, “oops”. More than that, there is nothing or no one that is strong enough, is powerful enough, to break His grip—to pry you out—He will not, no never let you go.

n. It doesn’t depend on your grip on God, it depends on God’s grip on you.

o. Harry Ironside stated that salvation was like Noah inviting a pagan in his day to place his trust in God's Word and come in to the ark. Some view salvation like Noah offering to put a peg on the outside of the ark. "If you just hang on through the storm, you'll be saved." Salvation is not dependent on our holding on to God, but on our being securely held by and in Christ.—I have dropped far too many things in my time to be confident in my ability to hold on to God—but I am thankful that He is holding on to me.

p. If the Character of God was not enough, we also have another guarantee.

The Presence of the Holy Spirit

1. Holy Spirit is a Down Payment
a. Ephesians 1:13-14--And you also were included in Christ when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation. Having believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, 14 who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God's possession--to the praise of his glory.

b. For those of you in Vicky’s SS class, NASB—“who is given as a pledge of our inheritance”—a pledge which is irrevocable.

c. 2 Corinthians 1:21-22--Now it is God who makes both us and you stand firm in Christ. He anointed us, 22 set his seal of ownership on us, and put his Spirit in our hearts as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come.”

d. NASB once again uses that word Pledge, or Down Payment.

How shall we live with that assurance?

Options—Once Saved—Live it Up since it Won’t Change?—Paul says no—we have died to sin and cannot live in it or with it any longer.

We are under a greater obligation to be who we are created to be—a New Creation—not bound by fear, not bound by sin.

Romans 8:12-17-- 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. 15 For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship. And by him we cry, "Abba, Father." 16 The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God's children. 17 Now if we are children, then we are heirs--heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.
You don’t have to live as a slave—where you say, I couldn’t help myself.

You don’t have to live in fear—but you can trust that living or dying—your place in eternity is secure

You can truly be free—free to live and enjoy the life, the opportunities, the beauty around you—even see the many unheralded miracles that are going on all around you.

You are free to be a greater witness to the joy, the hope, the confidence that you have in God’s love. Others are drawn to that confidence and assurance of God’s love.

You are freed to worship with greater passion because you know it’s just a warmup for what you’ll be doing for eternity.

Do you know that you have eternal life? Do you have confidence in God’s love for you? Has the Holy Spirit sealed you and guaranteed your inheritance?

Friday, October 27, 2006

Reminded--Pastor Appreciation

Let me just give my appreciation to our new Minister to Students, Patrick Baily, for the great ministry he has already brought to life at UBC. Thank you for having a heart to shepherd the youth and reach out to WIU and in all things, making discsiples.

Appriciation also goes to his wife Angie and their son Aiden for supporting him in this transition.

While I'm at it--as part of Pastor's Wife Appreciation--Thank you Vicky for supporting me, loving me, and praying for me all these years. I still don't know how you do it. Thanks and Love also go to Gabriel & Moriah for being such great kids and awesome reminders of what's good about family and this world--

Thanks, Vicky for letting me be your husband, and Gabriel & Moriah for letting me be your dad.

Pursuing Answers to Questions of Faith & Life,


Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Sermon--10/22/06--New Creation Supper

New Creation Supper—Communion 10/22/06

It’s easy to get stuck in a rut. You wake up, go to work or school, eat the same lunch with the same people and it just gets old. Sometimes, things become too familiar so that they no longer have an effect on us. Like a movie we have watched over and over again loses some of its impact. A poem that made you cry the first time you read it, now only brings fond memories.

We must be careful that the Lord’s Supper does not fall into the same trap. Let me assure you, it’s not just the same old bread, not just the same old cup.

1. Not the Same Old Bread & Cup—
a. READ Luke 13-20
b. Jesus took something that had been a tradition for generations and redefined it. The meaning of it changed as He ushered in the New Creation that we are by His sacrifice. I wonder what it must have been like for them on that day when the things they had been doing to celebrate the Passover all their lives, were changed and given a new meaning. Shocked, confused. The significance may not have hit them until later. But it was something very real to them, and not to be taken for granted. It was no longer the same old bread and cup.

c. Jesus and the disciples were in the upper room participating in the Passover meal. All of the items, from the Lamb, to the herbs, the unleavened bread, and the cups, had a special symbolic value

d. Those symbols reminded all of them of God’s miraculous provision in their Deliverance from Egypt.

e. At the end of the meal, Jesus stood up and radically changed the meaning of the Passover meal. In Christ’s hands, the bread and cup of fellowship, even as they existed in the Passover meal, were forever changed into something completely different. Once again, the cup symbolized the blood that moved God’s judgment to pass over the people of Israel, the bread symbolized the haste which they had to leave the nation.

f. Jesus was saying in the cup and bread that there was a new Passover when God’s judgment passes over those who embrace Christ in faith—it passed over them, it passes over us today, but not b/c of a lamb or some sacrifice we have provided, not b/c we have wiped blood on our doorframes but b/c God provided the Lamb for us, and His blood was poured over our hearts. The Bread reminds us of what was given, the broken body of Christ.

g. Jesus said it was a new thing being done, it is a new symbol to build a life upon.

h. Taking the Lord’s Supper means that you are committed to the Forgiveness, Love and Purpose of God in your life—

i. You are demonstrating that you desire to be and live as a New Creation. You are dedicating and sanctifying your life to Jesus, setting it apart and forever making it available for Him to use.

j. It is not the same old bread and cup, it is the New Covenant of Life.

2. Not the Same Old Memory—
a. Remember the motivation Jesus gave for the new cup and new bread. They were to do it “In Remembrance of Me”. But how were they to remember him? They had a hard time figuring out what He meant.

b. Just a few days later, all the disciples could remember was the pain of the last few hours of His life, and mourn, as they seemed to be doing btw. Fri. & Sun. They couldn’t believe it was over, they feared for their lives.

c. Even when the women came back with the report of the resurrection in Luke 24:11—“they did not believe the women b/c their words seemed to them like nonsense.

d. Is this how they were supposed to remember Jesus, as a beaten and crucified Messiah, a disappointment compared to their expectations?

e. No, they could not look back on Jesus like that and neither can we. They could not look back on the pain of the Crucifixion

f. Instead they had to look back to what Jesus knew was coming when He told them about the bread and the cup… the Resurrection.

g. Your memory & understanding of Jesus should not be sad, even when seeing powerful depictions of it like in “The Passion of the Christ”, depicting the last days and hours of Jesus in graphic detail.

h. Jesus is no longer hanging on the Cross, He is no longer suffering, no longer being mocked or ridiculed, or buried in a tomb. Jesus is at the right Hand of God—awaiting the moment in History that will bring ultimate victory.

i. Our memory and attitude should be thankful, joyful and victorious b/c of the Resurrection. He willingly endured the crucifixion for me!!! John 15:13—“ Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.” Jesus loved you enough to have His body broken for you, His blood poured out so that you may live.

j. That reality is supposed to drive us, to motivate us into living for Jesus every day. We must let our Memory of Jesus’ Crucifixion control us, change us and move us forward in the Power of the Resurrection that is continually working to make us New Creations in Christ.

k. Today is not just about the same old Bread and Cup, nor about the same old memory of the Crucifixion. It is also about the Promise of our Future.

3. Not the Same Old Future—
a. So many people have a bleak look of the future. So many see the morality and faith of our country decay. They see the wars and the fighting, and the political messes and they despair. Sometimes, we Christians inadvertently contribute to this when we focus so much on books about prophecy on the End Times see the destruction and suffering that is unleashed on the world and are afraid.

b. But Fear has nothing to do with the future spoken of in the bread and cup. The bread and cup are the symbol of the battle that has already been fought and won—a demonstration of our security in heaven. They symbolize the cost, the purchase, the price that God was willing to pay for our lives, the price to buy our freedom so we will no longer be slaves to sin.

c. That’s why when we see Jesus in Revelation 19—as the Rider on the White horse—He is already riding in Victory—He is already wearing the crowns, already Faithful and True—it is why—before any battle is described, vs. 13 tells us He is already wearing a robe dipped in blood. Because this battle was fought and won at the Cross!

d. Christ’s Body was broken in pain for you, but that is not the end. For it was raised in Glory for the Glory of God and for you as well.

e. He was raised so you could be assured that there is Victory, so you can know there is forgiveness, so you can be certain that death and fear no longer has a mastery over you, and so you can know and Praise God for the great lengths He will go to invite you into eternity.

f. The Lord’s Supper is something we should look forward to because it unites us to Jesus and other believers around the world. I look forward to breaking bread and drinking of the cup not only today, here with you, but with Jesus in His glorious future—with the promise of the great multitude from every nation, tribe, people and language.

g. So if you are a believer, let’s not take this bread and this cup out of tradition, or habit. Rather, let us take it with a renewed passion for what Jesus has done for us, that we will go forward in the new life of freedom and life He has bought for us with His Body and Blood.

h. And if you are not a believer in Christ, you’ve never asked Jesus to come into your life to forgive your sin and be Lord and give you a hope and future, then I want you to look at all those around you this morning. Look at the testimony they proclaimed around you. They are identifying themselves with Jesus, they are proclaiming His death and their death, saying, “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me..” (Galatians 2:20).

i. They are testifying of a new life here in this world and the promise of a life forever with God. They have made a decision to believe, won’t you make that same decision today? So as the deacons come forward, remember that Jesus is inviting you to a new life, to be a New Creation and have the creative power of the universe at work in your heart.

j. All those who take the bread and cup are testifying that they are living the life of a New Creation.

Friday, October 20, 2006

Raising of Nations--Israel, America, Babylon

Yesterday morning I shared a conversation with a student that covered many topics. One of which was the United States. One of the points made in the discussion, if my memory serves me right, is the tendency of American ministers to speak of God’s relationship with the US in the same terms that describe God’s relationship with the covenant people of Israel. The point was made that we are not one and the same, God does not relate to the US in the same way as ancient Israel despite our Christian heritage—after all, God did not call us out to be His unique people, He did not enter into a covenant relationship with our ancestors, did not miraculously deliver us from bondage (taxation???). In other words, we are simply a nation that has been raised up—perhaps filled with many children, by faith, of Abraham—but a nation that is in no unique covenant relationship with God like the nation of Israel of the Old Testament.

This was an interesting conversation that paralleled some points made on our Wednesday night studies that are going through the Minor Prophets. In Habbakuk, the author is complaining about the injustices and evils around him, wondering why God isn’t acting the way he thinks God should. Then God further confuses Habbakuk by talking about raising up the Babylonians to judge Israel-HAB 1:6 I am raising up the Babylonians, that ruthless and impetuous people, who sweep across the whole earth to seize dwelling places not their own.”

God raised up the Babylonians to accomplish this task even though they had no covenant relationship, no calling, the nation of Babylon rose and fell by the guidance and will of God. It didn’t make sense because they were more vile than Israel, how could God raise up or use such a wicked nation?

The ultimate lesson is that God is in control even of nations—in control of which ones rise to prominence, for how long, and what they will accomplish. This sentiment is restated in other places.

DA 4:17 " `The decision is announced by messengers, the holy ones declare the verdict, so that the living may know that the Most High is sovereign over the kingdoms of men and gives them to anyone he wishes and sets over them the lowliest of men.'

Acts 17:26—“ 26 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.

God determines the nation, the peoples, the times, the purpose and even the greatness of that nation.

So the question came to me later—why did God raise up the US to a position of world superpower—for what purpose—what does God hope to accomplish through the US?

Were we to provide the light of democracy and religious freedom to the world? Possibly.

Were we to fight against oppression by being in a position to contribute decisively in WWI and WWII? Another possibility.

Were we to be the greatest missions sending and funding nation in Christian history, developing technology and resources to make the fulfillment of the Great Commission truly viable for the first time? Another welcome possibility.

Why has our nation been raised up? For what purpose?

Here’s a scarier question—how do we know when the US has fulfilled its purpose? What happens to the US then?

After Babylon fulfilled its purpose as an instrument of judgment on Israel, it was quickly overrun and replaced—itself judged by another nation.

This came after decades of decline, much like what happened to Assyria. And yet, God reached out to Assyria and gave them an opportunity to repent and turn to Him using the reluctant prophet, Jonah. They did, and they were spared for a few decades.

Where is the United States? I could easily argue that we are in a state of decline and have been since the aftermath of WWII. We have been decaying morally in the midst of unprecedented economic prosperity, a common biblical pattern. Even militarily in some ways we have declined as seen in the aftermaths of Korea, Vietnam, various others. We’re not incapable, in many ways we are still the world’s only superpower, but perhaps we’re no longer as overwhelming and invincible.

Have we fulfilled our purpose and God’s timing us just waiting for the call to judge us?

As a mission sending/funding country did we turn out back on our call when our nation chose to rebuild physically much of what we destroyed in Europe and Japan but did little to rebuild spiritually?

I find it strange that 2 of the most unchurched nations in the world today were recently rebuilt by the supposed Christian nation of America. We rebuilt their structures, their governments, but failed to emphasize their faith. How did we miss this opportunity to rebuild the faith of a people that had been so deceived?

Today, from what I hear, there is a movement in Iraq to embrace Jesus as Savior. Much of this witness comes through our troops—there are baptisms in the Euphrates river and the faith community is growing.

Could God be using the US to reach out to this region, this people—extend the hand of mercy one more time? Are we an instrument of judgment, an instrument of grace, or maybe both? I wonder what would happen to that new faith community if the US presence suddenly disappeared—would they be wiped out? Probably.

God was willing to use an imperfect nation as His instrument in Babylon—the US is far from perfect—can we be used as His instrument, will we accomplish His purpose?

Another question, have we turned our back on our purpose from God, even seeking that purpose? If our purpose was to be a sending nation, a nation that supports the church worldwide, have we succeeded or failed in this purpose? What should He do with us if we have? Then, have we accomplished His purpose and what happens to our nation when we have? Is the US immune from God’s judgment and discipline?

If Israel was not spared, then why should we expect to be? How do we as the people of God, influence our nation to fulfill God’s purposes?

Pursuing Answers to Questions of Faith & Life,

Kelly Reed

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

A New Definition of Blessing

On Sunday nights, we've been going through a study using Empowering Kingdom Growth--The Heartbeat of God by Ken Hemphill. It's a good study, the larger book is better, of course. Here is a small excerpt that talks about the Sermon on the Mount and the redifinition of blessing. Please comment and get the book for more.

A New Definition of Blessing

The beatitudes—Matthew 5:3-12 are the most recognized part of the Sermon on the Mount, serving as a powerful and engaging introduction. They redefine “blessing” to mean “those who have God as their king.” This radically alters the view many of us have embraced or been taught. We have often though of blessing in terms of material things, physical healing, or a parking place near the door. All of these things may be fine, but they live under the umbrella of the only blessing we really need: relationship with the King. Everything else is nice, but nonessential."

How do you understand blessing?

Monday, October 16, 2006

Sermon 10/16/06--New Creation Sacrifice

New Creation Sacrifice

In the past few weeks, we've been looking at our status as New Creations and what it means for us. Today, we'll be looking at how the idea of Sacrifice has changed from the Old Covenant to the New Covenant--and as a result, the expectation from God of our sacrifice has changed as well.

To best show the contrast from the Old to the New--we're going to look at Hebrews 9-10. It's a simple format--read a segment of Scripture and highlight the points it makes. Taken together, we get a good idea of how things have drastically improved in the ministry of Jesus--how Jesus is superior in every way to the old system.

Sacrifice in the Old Testament typically took these forms.
• Fellowship offerings
• Peace Offerings
• Sin offerings—for unintentional sins
• Community Offerings for the Nation—Atonement once a year

Hebrews 9:1-5--describes it this way
Now the first covenant had regulations for worship and also an earthly sanctuary. 2 A tabernacle was set up. In its first room were the lampstand, the table and the consecrated bread; this was called the Holy Place. 3 Behind the second curtain was a room called the Most Holy Place, 4 which had the golden altar of incense and the gold-covered ark of the covenant. This ark contained the gold jar of manna, Aaron's staff that had budded, and the stone tablets of the covenant. 5 Above the ark were the cherubim of the Glory, overshadowing the atonement cover. But we cannot discuss these things in detail now.

Hebrews 9:6-7
When everything had been arranged like this, the priests entered regularly into the outer room to carry on their ministry. 7 But only the high priest entered the inner room, and that only once a year, and never without blood, which he offered for himself and for the sins the people had committed in ignorance.
• Very Limited Access
• Only priests—only High Priest into the Holy of Holies and the Presence of God
• Blood was required to Approach God
• Only good for sins committed in ignorance
• Not good for deliberate or rebellious sins

Hebrews 9:8-10
The Holy Spirit was showing by this that the way into the Most Holy Place had not yet been disclosed as long as the first tabernacle was still standing. 9 This is an illustration for the present time, indicating that the gifts and sacrifices being offered were not able to clear the conscience of the worshiper. 10 They are only a matter of food and drink and various ceremonial washings--external regulations applying until the time of the new order.

• The Way into the Holy of Holies was still closed
• Gifts and Sacrifices were not able to clear the worshippers conscience
• These sacrifices were only a matter of external regulations
• Only intended for a short period of time, until the better replaced them
• Outward cleansing not an inward heart change

Hebrews 9:13
The blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a heifer sprinkled on those who are ceremonially unclean sanctify them so that they are outwardly clean.

• Outward cleansing not an inward heart change

Hebrews 10:1-4
The law is only a shadow of the good things that are coming--not the realities themselves. For this reason it can never, by the same sacrifices repeated endlessly year after year, make perfect those who draw near to worship. 2 If it could, would they not have stopped being offered? For the worshipers would have been cleansed once for all, and would no longer have felt guilty for their sins. 3 But those sacrifices are an annual reminder of sins, 4 because it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins.
• Only a shadow of the good that is coming
• Repeated Endlessly every year
• Can never make perfect
• Worshipers Continued guilty conscience
• Annual reminder of sin
• Impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins

Hebrews 10:11
Day after day every priest stands and performs his religious duties; again and again he offers the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins.
• The Priest must stand—always working
• Offers the same sacrifices over and over
• They can never take away deliberate sins.

Sacrifice in the New Testament
Hebrews 9:11-12— When Christ came as high priest of the good things that are already here, he went through the greater and more perfect tabernacle that is not man-made, that is to say, not a part of this creation. 12 He did not enter by means of the blood of goats and calves; but he entered the Most Holy Place once for all by his own blood, having obtained eternal redemption.
• Jesus had access to the Presence of God as High Priest
• Jesus entered the Holy of Holies by His own blood

Hebrews 9:14
How much more, then, will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself unblemished to God, cleanse our consciences from acts that lead to death, so that we may serve the living God!

• The Blood of Christ cleanses our conscience
• So that we may SERVE the Living God

Hebrews 9:24-28
For Christ did not enter a man-made sanctuary that was only a copy of the true one; he entered heaven itself, now to appear for us in God's presence. 25 Nor did he enter heaven to offer himself again and again, the way the high priest enters the Most Holy Place every year with blood that is not his own. 26 Then Christ would have had to suffer many times since the creation of the world. But now he has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to do away with sin by the sacrifice of himself.
Just as man is destined to die once, and after that to face judgment, 28 so Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many people; and he will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him.

• Christ entered the Real Presence of God, not just the representation on earth
• He only had to do it Once
• Jesus did away with sin and takes away the sins of many people

Hebrews 10:12-14
But when this priest had offered for all time one sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God. 13 Since that time he waits for his enemies to be made his footstool, 14 because by one sacrifice he has made perfect forever those who are being made holy.
• They stand, but Jesus sits—His work is done
• Jesus has made us perfect forever

Hebrews 10:19--22
Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, 20 by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, his body, 21 and since we have a great priest over the house of God, 22 let us draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water.
• We have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place—the Presence of God
• Remember the Veil of the Temple was Torn Down
• We can draw near to God
• We can have a Sincere Heart
• We can have Full Assurance of Faith
• We can have our Conscience Cleansed
• We can have Hope
• We can Encourage One Another
• We have Good deeds prepared for us
• We have Reason to Meet Together

Our Sacrifice
What about us? What how do we respond to this great sacrifice that accomplished so much on our behalf? Sometimes we are confused on what to do—sometimes we think we have to do something to earn it, sometimes we think we have to give something back to satisfy Him. And so we give—since I didn’t hear any clucks, moos, baas, oinks or any other sound while the offering plate was passed around, I assume if you give, you did so by giving money of some kind. But let me suggest something to you—something you don’t hear in church very often--God doesn’t want or need your money.

ISA 1:11 "The multitude of your sacrifices-- what are they to me?" says the LORD.
"I have more than enough of burnt offerings, of rams and the fat of fattened animals; I have no pleasure in the blood of bulls and lambs and goats.

Those things were our equivalent of money.

PS 50:8 I do not rebuke you for your sacrifices or your burnt offerings, which are ever before me.
PS 50:9 I have no need of a bull from your stall or of goats from your pens,
PS 50:10 for every animal of the forest is mine,
and the cattle on a thousand hills.

In several cases, perfectly good offerings and sacrifices and even money was rejected. Cain’s offering was rejected all the way back in Genesis 4
Israelites who tried to sacrifice to God and to Baal had theirs rejected.
In the New Testament—amount is not very important—Luke 2:21—“As he looked up, Jesus saw the rich putting their gifts into the temple treasury. 2 He also saw a poor widow put in two very small copper coins. 3 "I tell you the truth," he said, "this poor widow has put in more than all the others. 4 All these people gave their gifts out of their wealth; but she out of her poverty put in all she had to live on."

Acts 5 saw the offering of Annanias and Sapphira rejected because they did so for show and pretense under the guise of giving more—but God saw through it and revealed it to Peter 5:4—“wasn’t the money at your disposal?”—Keep or give, it’s up to you but don’t lie about it.

Acts 8—Simon the Sorcerer tried to buy the power of the Holy Spirit and his money was rejected.

God is more interested in your heart than what or how much you give. Simply bringing a sacrifice and offering does not please or satisfy or fulfill some duty.

Psalm 51:16-17—“ You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it; you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings.
PS 51:17 The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.”

HOS 6:6 For I desire mercy, not sacrifice, and acknowledgment of God rather than burnt offerings.

God is more interested in you and your heart devoted to Him than He is your money and the amount you give. While money is often an indicator of your devotion to God, don’t think for a moment that just by writing a check you’re fulfilling what God requires of you. God is not interested in the leftovers of our time and money. He wants all of us—completely.

Romans 12:1—“ Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God--this is your spiritual act of worship.”

Colossians 3:17—“ And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.”

HEB 13:15 Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise--the fruit of lips that confess his name. 16 And do not forget to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased.

Whether intentional or not, we all sacrifice something to God. Is He getting your best, not just of your money, but of you, your efforts, your commitment, your time? Why do you sacrifice at all? I hope it's not to impress anyone, or to earn points or any other reason than to show your devotion to Him. Continually sacrifice praise to Him--He is Worthy!

Friday, October 13, 2006

North Korea

Assuming this night photo isn't doctored, I'll bet the North Koreans sure are glad they have a Nuke instead of electricity.

That one dot in NK is probably Kim's car or house. Read about it HERE

Please be praying for them--they are so hostage to their government--so many are starving and suffering. Many join the army early (I assume there's some sort of mandatory service) b/c it's the only place to get a regular meal.

They are in great need of leaders that serve them and not the other way around. They are in great need of the hope found in Christ. I pray God opens these doors.

Monday, October 09, 2006

Sermon--10/8/06--New Creation Gifts

2/8/04—New Creation Gifts
I remember hearing about reporters and doctors that go to interview and study athletes a few weeks after the Olympics. Those athletes, especially the ones who had used steroids to boost muscle mass and stamina, often didn’t look anything like they did during the Olympics. During the games, you could see their big biceps and their washboard stomach, but after the Olympics, they would get some much needed rest & time off.

Have you ever seen an Olympian a few weeks after the Olympics? They’d be gone! The arms would be flabby, the stomachs wouldn’t be as strong. Legs would lose their definition. What happened to all those hard muscles? All that hard word would be lost in a matter of weeks. At some point, they’d have to start all over again to be ready for the next competition.

So not only do you have to work hard to build the muscles, you’ve got to work hard just to maintain what you’ve got otherwise it will be lost. If you don’t exercise your muscles, they weaken.

2 Corinthians 5:17-- Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!” As a New Creation, you have been given gifts and abilities through the Holy Spirit— 1 Corinthians 7:7—“Each man has his own gift from God.” 1 Cor. 12:4-5—“There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit. There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord.

In the same way, if you don’t utilize the abilities and skills God has given you, they weaken. You have the potential to lose them. Jesus taught the parable of the talents to emphasize this truth. As a New Creation in Christ,
1. New Creation Gifts In the Kingdom of God—Talents—Matt. 25:14-15
a. The master desires to entrust his assets to his servants. All His servants are entrusted with something that they are responsible for. Given for a purpose—V. 7—Now to each one, the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good.”

b. This Master is not foolish, he knows that everyone is not the same so the Master determines what each servant is capable of doing—“each according to his ability”

c. God doesn’t apply a cookie cutter standard to His children. God designed us and empowers each of us uniquely and for a purpose. He gives us “talents” or gifts to use on His behalf. Every believer in Christ received at least one gift, we are stewards of God’s Kingdom Assets that come when we become New Creations.

d. Romans 12:4-8 “Just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, 5 so in Christ we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. 6 We have different gifts, according to the grace given us. If a man's gift is prophesying, let him use it in proportion to his faith. 7 If it is serving, let him serve; if it is teaching, let him teach; 8 if it is encouraging, let him encourage; if it is contributing to the needs of others, let him give generously; if it is leadership, let him govern diligently; if it is showing mercy, let him do it cheerfully.

e. So we have these gifts that God desires to give us for us to use. The question becomes, what do we do with the talents we’re given?

2. New Creation Opportunity— Matt. 25:16-18
a. The man with the 5 talents quickly proved the master’s confidence was warranted. He went “at once and put his money to work and gained 5 more”. So did the servant who got 2 talentss.

b. They saw the opportunity presented them and went after it. They used their talents to further the Master’s assets. And we have the same opportunity, to further our God’s Kingdom, to increase His glory and to add not wealth but something far more valuable to God—People He loves.

c. But sadly, we are often more like the 3rd servant who didn’t take advantage of the opportunity that the Master had given him. Instead, he dug a hole in the ground and hid the talent. IOW’s, he didn’t use the money, the Master’s assets the way the master desired him to.

d. As we’ll find out later, the reason had more to do with the attitude the servant had toward the master than it did of his own ability.

e. The talents the servants were given could either be used, misused or they could lie unused. The muscles these talents represent could either grow stronger or weaken with non-use.

f. How you choose to use your spiritual talent muscles speaks to your spiritual fitness. At this point, which servant most describes you?
g. Are you are a New Creation in Christ, you are endowed with gifts or talents from God that He desires for you to use in His Kingdom and you are using them? Or are you the New Creation Servant, given gifts and talents from God that refuses to use their gifts? If you’re not using your talents, the Body of Christ is suffering with that loss.

h. You are essentially burying yourself in the dirt. You’ve dug a hole and climbed down in it waiting for the world to pass you by.

i. We all marveled at seeing Sadaam Hussein, once a powerful dictator, cowering in a hole in the desert. But that reality is insignificant compared to the Servants of God making themselves unavailable for God to use. Here we have the power of God at our disposal and we live as if we have nothing at all.

j. Are your spiritual muscles going unused? Are your gifts and talents getting stronger or are they weakening? It’s important to answer those questions because…

k. There are some expectations with the talents and gifts we are given. There is Accountability that God will hold us to.

3. New Creation Expectations & Accountability—Matt. 25:19

a. Two things we can be sure of, the Master’s Return and the settling of our accounts. At some point, either in the Second Coming of Christ or in our own death, God will come to us to reckon the investment He has made in our lives. Believers will have to account for the gifts and talents the Spirit has given us.

b. People spend millions of dollars on home fitness machines in order to stay in shape, and a significant percentage of those machines are used for a little while and then they gather dust. The promise of improving health goes unattained, not because of the failure of the machine, but the failure of the person to effectively use what they have.

c. But how do we attempt to stay spiritually strong? Our spiritual muscles are suffering from not being used; we’ve become spiritually lazy and flabby. Because of that we’ll have to go into stricter training.

d. God desires us to go into training so our faith will be refined because at some point, God will examine us to determine if we are of any use to Him in growing His Kingdom, to determine whether we are using His talents responsibly.

e. 1 Cor. 3:10-14—“1CO 3:10 By the grace God has given me, I laid a foundation as an expert builder, and someone else is building on it. But each one should be careful how he builds. 11 For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ. 12 If any man builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, 13 his work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each man's work. 14 If what he has built survives, he will receive his reward.

f. 1 Peter 3:6-7—“6 In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. 7 These have come so that your faith--of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire--may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.”

g. God will assess how well we have used the talents, even the Faith He has given us. And He does so, not b/c He wants to see us fail, but b/c He wants to see us succeed and grow stronger in our faith. Jesus wants to see our spiritual muscles strong and in shape. And depending on how we have used our talents, on how we have been faithful with His generosity, will determine whether we experience His blessing or the realization of just what we have been missing out on. Our salvation is not lost, but the greater joy in our salvation is lessened and we understand the true nature of our loss.

4. New Creation Blessing—Matt. 25:20-30
a. The first servant took his 5 talents and earned 5 more. The second servant with 2 talents earned 2 more. They took the talents they had been given and used them responsibly. They understood their responsibility to the Master when they said, “you ‘entrusted’ me”
b. And how does the Master respond to them? He says, “well done, good and faithful servant.” The Master is able to see the heart of his servant by how faithful he was with the talents given to him.
c. God can see our hearts by how faithfully we serve Him with whatever ability we have. It tells Him of our love for Him, our service tells Him of our devotion to Him.

d. God rewarded the 2 Faithful servants. He said, “you have been faithful with a few things, I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!”

e. Our faithful service to God will have a benefit in eternity. We will have the praise of our Savior, we will be given a greater responsibility in His kingdom and we will be invited to fully share in the Master’s Happiness. His Presence will be ours, His joy will fill our hearts.

5. New Creation Loss—v. 24-25
a. But the heart of the 3rd servant was different. And it started with the view he had of his Master. READ 24-25

b. This servant was more afraid of the master, he resented the master for exploiting and benefiting from the work of others.

c. He didn’t want to try hard with his talent b/c he didn’t think he would see much if any profit or benefit from it. And he was afraid of losing the talent and bringing on the “hard” wrath of his master.

d. This servant had no idea who his Master was, this servant had love for His master.

e. He didn’t realize that when the master benefits, when the master’s kingdom grows, the servant will benefit, that the master desires to bless and reward. His heart was revealed to his master.

f. How is your heart revealed to God? Do you fear Him as a hard demanding God or do you love Him and know Him as a God who rejoices in faithfulness and desires to bless?

g. Do you believe God is a hard master, taking advantage of His people? Are you more afraid of failing Him than of benefiting Him? If that is your attitude, you will suffer loss from it. You will miss out on many things that God desires for your life. God wants you to serve and use whatever talents you have. You don’t have to fear God when all you desire to be is faithful.

h. Now we get to see the reaction of the Master. Vs. 26-30. The master recognizes the heart of the servant and sees through his excuses for not using his talent. The Master sees the blame that the servant was trying to pass off onto the master. “It’s really your fault. If you weren’t so hard and demanding, I could have used this talent.”

i. The Master wasn’t confirming that he took advantage of his workers. When he said, “so you knew, that I harvest where I have not sown and gather where I have not scattered seed?” that is, I believe a sarcastic statement.

j. “you knew, you decided, you’ve got it in your head that I’m a hard master?”

k. This is a prejudice, a pre-judgment of the character of the Master so the servant could excuse his behavior. I’ve done that before, so have several people in Scripture, haven’t you? Have you ever given excuses like this one:

“I’m not going to share my testimony of God changing my life because all these people will think worse of me, and besides, I’m not good at speaking in front of people.”

OR “There’s too many good singers in here for me to try to sing a solo.”
OR “There’s people smarter than me that can teach the Bible. I’d hate to say something wrong and have to be corrected, so I’m not going to teach at all.”

OR “well, I’m not going to talk to that person about Jesus b/c I know he doesn’t like me, I don’t really like him and he’s probably not going say ‘yes’ to God anyway”

l. God sees through all the best excuses we can give for not using the talents we’ve been given. He saw through all of mine when I was running from being a pastor.

m. The danger we face is that if we don’t use the gift God has given us to benefit the Body of Christ and the Kingdom of God, we could very well lose that gift and it will be given to someone who will make use of it. READ v. 28. God intends for the Body of Christ to be built up. And if we are not fulfilling the part we are supposed to fill, the body suffers, but eventually, God will raise up someone else to fill that need.

n. We can lose the talent and gift we have been given if we do not put it to use. Remember that passage earlier.

o. 1 Cor 3:12-15—“If any man builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, 13 his work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each man's work. 14 If what he has built survives, he will receive his reward. If it is burned up, he will suffer loss; he himself will be saved, but only as one escaping through the flames.”

p. Our work and accomplishments in life will be examined and only that which grows the Kingdom of God will survive. There will be many things, many of our favorite things, many things that we spend our time in, things that we consider great accomplishments that will not survive this process. They will be burned up, we will suffer loss. Most importantly, we will miss out on the blessings of our master, we will miss out on the joy of our Master.

q. I want you to know that Jesus is not telling this parable b/c He wants to see us fail, b/c He wants to take the gifts and talents away from us. He tells this parable for one main reason. To spur us to action and readiness!

r. He wants us to take seriously our responsibility to use the gifts and talents we’ve been given to further the work of the Kingdom of God and Strengthen the Body of Christ. We must use the gifts we have just like we must use our muscles. If we don’t use them, we become flabby and weak.

s. God wants you to be strong. He wants to say “well done, good and faithful servant… come and share your master’s happiness.” That is what your gifts are for, not for ourselves, but for Him.

t. What is your heart?

u. Everyone here in this room that has received Jesus has a gift, has a talent that our Master has given you.

v. Your gift is for the common good—to prepare God’s people for works of service so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God.

w. God Expects you to Use Your Gift to Serve Him and others.

x. You are Responsible for How you Use Your gift. God will Hold You accountable—in blessing or discipline.

y. How you use your gift is a measure of your maturity in Christ

z. God Desires to See You Faithfully and Successfully Use Your Gift.

aa. Are you using your gift, are you a strong, mature believer or a flabby Christian? How you answer that question says a lot about your love for Him. If you love Him, then Respond to Him when He speaks to you
bb. Maybe you look at your life and you realize that you’re not using the gifts and talents to further His kingdom. Let me say that one of our responsibilities at UBC is to encourage you and to provide you with opportunities to serve God. Respond to Him and commit to living for Him
cc. Maybe you look at your life and you are using your gifts—Respond to Him with Thanksgiving for using you at all.
dd. Maybe you look at your life and you don’t know how God wants to use you or what your gifts are—then respond to Him and we’ll be a part of the faith journey to discover it.
ee. Maybe you look at your life and you realize that you have no gift b/c you are not a New Creation—you’ve never asked Christ into your life.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Personal Testimony--Pt. 2

I referenced in my sermon “Mixed Signals” and in my testimony about some demonic experiences I’ve had. Some may read this and dismiss the possibility out of hand, but please only come to that decision after reading. This is definitely not something that is current or happens often (or really since).

I don’t remember the date the first time it happened, but it was within my first 2 years at the University of Texas. I was walking around campus, probably late for a class, when I heard a voice over my shoulder speak my name. It was one of those raspy voices that sounds like someone playing a trick on you. It was right in my ear and I quickly spun around to see who it was. There was nobody there. But the experience was not positive or reassuring, it was creepy and the hair on the back of my neck stood on end in warning.

I didn’t know what to do, I just knew I had to get to class and so I kept walking. I don’t remember if it happened again in that trip, but it wasn’t the last time. One time—sure, I could dismiss it and not think twice about it, but it began to happen more and more. It got to be a regular thing—at least once a week, sometimes more. Hearing voices was not a normal thing so I began to question my sanity—was I hallucinating, or some other more serious problem. At the time, I never told anyone about it.

I kept coming back, however, to the reaction I kept having—one of warning. This was not right, you’re in danger. Having read Peretti’s, “This Present Darkness”, I entertained the possibility that this was a spiritual battle in some form. I had never experienced this for myself, so I didn’t know. What I did do was begin praying for protection the moment I heard the voice say my name. That action seemed to make the situation pass quickly.

You could argue it was therapeutic, but it got to the point that my reaction of prayer was almost automatic. I didn’t miss a step from hearing the voice and prayer. I didn’t respond with the fear that I always had, but with the assurance of God’s protection. I got to the point that I was able to ignore it. Over the next couple of years, the voice occurred with less and less frequency. From the height of once a week, to once or twice a month, to once a month, to once every couple of months. It never really stopped entirely and it was only while I was on campus.

The question of my mental sanity was still an issue, especially considering I was now a psychology major. But something happened to change all of that. I cannot now remember who I was sitting with at the time, but one day, I was having lunch with some acquaintances at the Student Union just outside the Wendy’s franchise. There was one guy on my left, and two on the other side of the table.

We were enjoying a good lunch with good conversation when all of a sudden, I heard the voice in my left ear. I ignored it, kicked into prayer and kept on dipping my French Fry in ketchup and talking with my friends. I didn’t move, flinch or anything—but the guy next to me did.

He turned around to look. Naturally, he didn’t see anyone, so he said (as normal college student would) “what the #$%@%**&@$ was that???” That stopped me, I did flinch at that. “What are you talking about?”

“Some voice just said your name and there’s nobody there!”

I was stunned, shocked, but there was also a sense of reassurance of my mental stability. He heard it. I had never told him or anyone else, but he heard it, heard it clearly to know exactly what it said and what it sounded like.

That changed the conversation that day and I was able to tell them what had been going on—share the reality of a spiritual battle, the power and protection of Christ and so forth. I don’t know if anything came from it in their lives. I’m not sure if the two across the table ever bought it or if they thought we were pulling their leg, but it happened.

I know the demonic is real from experience. It helps me approach the month of October and Halloween celebrations with a little more caution and understanding of the spiritual battles that will be going on.

Also realize that as much as I know that the demonic is real and something to be taken seriously, I have a much greater experience and knowledge that God Himself is real—He has made a much greater and daily impact on my life in ways that makes Satan’s voice a parlor trick. In many ways, the experience helped teach me the importance of truth, good doctrine and the necessity of distinguishing the voice of my Shepherd from the voice of my enemy.

If anyone has any questions, please feel free to post them here. I’ll do my best to respond to each one.

Pursuing Answers to Questions of Faith & Life,

Kelly Reed

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Personal Testimony--Pt. 1

Now that I’ve been into the blogging world for a while, I thought I should share a bit of my journey of faith. It might help make some of my ramblings make more sense.

My family had attended Baptist churches for most of my childhood. However, I did not go forward until after we had become members of a Presbyterian church in Denton, TX. I believe I became a Christian about the age of 11 while we were at this church. When my family moved to southern California, I was biblically baptized by immersion at the Baptist church we joined there (ironically one we had attended some years before). Unfortunately, my memory of these events is clouded and I do not remember them very well largely due to a lack of maturity on my part and discipleship/follow-up from the churches. This is one of the side effects of baptizing young kids because they may not remember or they may in turn take for granted the significance of what brought them to that decision.

Over the course of the next 6-7 years, church involvement was primarily a social activity for me (friends and cute girls), thus my faith did not grow the way it could have. I know I had some good teachers, but I didn’t’ take advantage of it. So after my family moved back to southern California, I was exposed to a huge display of false and cultic religious systems. Even though I was regularly attending church, I became curious in these other belief systems. What is so amazing about God is that even though I was not fully committed to Him, on numerous occasions, God steered me away from actually becoming involved with or finding much information about these falsehoods.

Only after my family moved to Austin, TX for my Junior year of high school, was I ever directly exposed to false teaching. As part of a Christmas gift exchange in the marching band, I was given the book One, by Richard Bach, a major proponent of Transcendental Meditation. By reading this book I was directly exposed to TM and other New Age formulas, which at the time, due to the immaturity of my faith, I considered very appealing. Once again, however, God proved His faithfulness to my by not allowing me to expose myself to much other material. I did some reading, but it never went much further than that. If we would have had the internet back then, who knows where I would have ended up.

Then on my 18th birthday, just a few months before graduating high school, my best friend, Kevin Scheible, gave me a copy of Frank Peretti’s book, This Present Darkness, which I read in about 3 days. I quickly located the sequel Piercing the Darkness and finished it. These books followed human characters as well as the unseen spiritual conflict with angelic and demonic characters. These books seriously confronted me about what was going to be my source of authority in my life, especially when it comes to accurate information about the nature of reality, existence, and God. What did it was that some of the deceptive practices of the demonic characters were practically word for word with some of the “wisdom” of the “ascended masters” from One that I had found so attractive. I was forced to determine what my source of authority was going to be. I chose the Bible, the Word of God, and my faith has not been the same since. I'll even share in another post the demonic experiences I had while on campus at the University of Texas.

I believe it is important to say at this point that in the years since my faith became alive and real to me, I have struggled with questions surrounding my salvation experience. I do not remember the initial decisive event very well, to which I have questioned, was I really “saved” at that point or the days after my 18th birthday? I no longer have those doubts. I believe I was saved at 11 for two major reasons. First, I can look back during those years and see the numerous protective acts of God’s faithfulness. Though I wandered, He was faithful and never let me wander very far. His protection went beyond the religious exploration. On several occasions, I was one action, one decision away from dangerous sexual or drug related activities which God steered me away from. Though at the time I might not have recognized, nor even appreciated His work, I do now. Secondly, I believe salvation is by the Grace of God and not by works. If I adhere to the belief that there is no formulaic prayer to receive salvation, nor any other thing that I can do to merit my salvation, then neither does it depend upon my explicit memory of the event. What I do know, is the continuing life and fruit of His presence in my life. If I were to suggest that I was not saved at 11, then I would essentially be saying that I had done something wrong in my part of salvation. Yet that would make the “decision” a work, and not an act of receiving God’s unmerited favor. I am unwilling to believe my actions, nor memory, contributes to God’s saving and sanctifying work in my life, which continues to this day.

The decision to make the Bible my source of authority, just before I entered college, prepared me for what I would find there. I rarely had a class at the University of Texas, that didn’t challenge or even ridicule my faith in Christ—often by undermining the Bible. I had 3 basic options, which most students take today when faced with such challenges. I could:
1. Abandon my faith thinking, “My parents are stupid for ever believing this stuff or taking me to church”
2. Ignore the problem, Plug my ears and deny that there is any criticism at all
3. Study and Research and find that Christians have intelligent and reasonable responses to those criticisms

I chose option 3 and was greatly helped by the Probe Center in Austin (www.probecenter.org a part of Probe Ministries— www.probe.org ) a Christian resource library just off campus. My faith was strengthened rather than weakened because I was forced to think about my beliefs for the first time, rather than just accepting what I was taught without question. It was during this time of growth that I heard the call into the ministry. My college experience was my greatest time of personal growth and walk in the faith. Of course, I failed on many levels as well. Since I was supposed to be taking everything seriously now, I wasn’t always rescued from my poor decisions. God desired me to grow into making the right decisions for myself.

Pt. II will focus on experiences while at the University of Texas that confirmed for me the reality of the demonic and provide a better understanding of why i believe the previous sermon was necessary.

Part III will be life in Seminary and coming to terms with God’s call—meeting my wife and eventually becoming a pastor.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Sermon--10/1/06--Mixed Signals

Mixed Signals

I am going to make a few proposals to change some of the famous public service ad campaigns you’ve seen in the last decades and I want to ask how many of you think these sound like good ideas? What kind of message do you think they send?

Noting a shift in the youth mindset and America’s value systems, many of the old government, public service announcements have been retooled. Gone are the outdated “Just Say No”, “Don’t Drink & Drive”, “Don’t Play with Matches” campaigns. Maybe you’ve seen some of the new ones.

Smokey the Bear—longtime spokesman for the National Park Service has come out with a new commercial series concerning playing with fire—“Only You can prevent forest fires, but if you really want to start a fire or play with matches—be sure and only start small fires at home.”

On a similar note—the Illinois Department of Transportation is coming out with a new ad campaign, getting rid of the “Designated Driver” idea, instead, they could offer special training classes for the frequent drinker. The new slogan is—“Protect the Streets—Drink and Drive successfully by Practicing Often.”

“Just Say NO” and other warnings against gateway drugs like alcohol and marijuana have been replaced. Local elementary, middle and high schools can offer after school training and free samples to students so they can find out which drugs they prefer and how to take them correctly. After all, they’re going to do it anyway. “Just say ‘Once’”.

What kind of message do these ads send?

Mixed Signals. Mixed Signals are things that are confusing to our kids. We parents say one thing, then at some point, contradict ourselves and the kids cannot be sure which one they should follow, which one they should believe.

Is it wise for us to say 364 days of the year that something is bad, something is to be avoided, something is dangerous, and 1 day of the year, give them permission to participate in what we’ve been saying is bad all the other days. Last year America spent about 3.3 Billion Dollars on Halloween related things.

This is a month in which many believers will send mixed signals to their kids, their neighbors and friends. Some of it won’t be by design or decision, but by the decision of others. Some may be because you may not have noticed or given it a second thought in some time.

Let me ask you, how many of you, your friends, or your kids have seen more about death, about witchcraft, about evil and murderous and demonic forces lately? If you haven’t yet, drive by the front of Wal-Mart, watch TV this month, ask the video store what type of videos are most rented this month.

I am concerned how we adults and parents tend to tolerate, even send mixed messages about death, the occult, witchcraft or the demonic. Messages that are inconsistent with our faith the remaining part of the year. Adults and Parents seem to be leading the mixed signals.
National Retail Federation
2005 Top Kids' Costumes
# of Children
1. Princess 11.8% 3,778,217
2. Witch 5.2% 1,664,215
3. Spiderman 4.5% 1,439,321
4. Monster 4.1% 1,304,385
5. Darth Vader 3.9% 1,259,406
6. Superhero 3.9% 1,259,406
7. Star Wars Character 2.5% 809,618
8. Batman 2.4% 764,639
9. Ninja 2.3% 719,660
10. Clown 2.3% 719,660
11. Pirate 2.1% 674,682
12. Angel 2.0% 629,703
13. Pumpkin 2.0% 629,703
14. Power Rangers 1.8% 584,724
15. Cinderella 1.7% 539,745
16. Vampire 1.5% 494,767
17. Cheerleader 1.5% 494,767
18. Cat 1.5% 494,767
19. Ghost/Ghoul 1.4% 449,788
20. Soldier/Sailor 1.4% 449,788
2005 Top Adults' Costumes
# of Adults
1. Witch 16.4% 3,923,124
2. Vampire 6.0% 1,448,538
3. Actor/Famous Person 3.3% 784,625
4. Monster 3.0% 724,269
5. Pirate 2.4% 573,380
6. Angel 2.3% 543,202
7. Clown 2.3% 543,202
8. Ghost/Ghoul 2.1% 513,024
9. Zombie 2.1% 513,024
10. Renaissance Costume 2.0% 482,846
11. Princess 1.9% 452,668
12. Devil 1.8% 422,490
13. Grim Reaper 1.5% 362,135
14. Soldier/Sailor 1.4% 331,957
15. Superhero 1.4% 331,957
16. Nurse 1.4% 331,957
17. Gypsy 1.4% 331,957
18. Pumpkin 1.3% 301,779
19. Pimp 1.1% 271,601
20. Wizard 1.0% 241,423

Apparently, the older you get, the darker your costumes. It’s hard to say how these mixed signals are contributing to the spiritual climate in our country. But let me share this with you.

According to Information collected from 1990 to 2001, The fastest growing religion (in terms of percentage) is Wicca -- a Neopagan religion that is sometimes referred to as Witchcraft. Their numbers of adherents are doubling about every 30 months.

14.1% do not follow any organized religion. This is an unusually rapid increase -- almost a doubling -- from only 8% in 1990.

These beliefs, once largely ignored or dismissed in America are increasing in our population and becoming more and more accepted & real to the point that now the military is required to have wiccan chaplains and burial rites.

When the Israelites began entering the Promised Land, they were given several warnings regarding the religious practices of the surrounding peoples and how they were not to be like them. For them such beliefs were a reality, a competing belief system that was a lure to be unfaithful to God.

Deuteronomy 18:10-14—“10 Let no one be found among you who sacrifices his son or daughter in the fire, who practices divination or sorcery, interprets omens, engages in witchcraft, 11 or casts spells [notice good/bad, white/black isn’t mentioned], or who is a medium or spiritist or who consults the dead. 12 Anyone who does these things is detestable to the LORD. 13 You must be blameless before the LORD your God. 14 The nations you will dispossess listen to those who practice sorcery or divination. But as for you, the LORD your God has not permitted you to do so.

Isaiah 8:19-20—“When men tell you to consult mediums and spiritists, who whisper and mutter, should not a people inquire of their God? Why consult the dead on behalf of the living? 20 To the law and to the testimony! If they do not speak according to this word, they have no light of dawn.

I believe God knew what He was talking about when he called His people to stay away from those things because they are dangerous to us spiritually. The other nations practiced these things so they could gain control over or knowledge of the future, they would worship the created thing, rather than the Creator—ultimately these beliefs and practices keep people from an authentic faith in God based on worship in spirit and truth—so these are deceptions intended to prevent us from truly knowing God—so they function as lies and are demonic in their origin.

While many of us dismiss the occult or demonic, I know there are those in this room who can say otherwise, myself included. . I hope you believe the Bible when it talks about the dangers of the demonic and the occult. I hope you believe that Jesus had very real confrontations with the demonic, as did Peter, Paul, the other Apostles and the church—and you don’t write those accounts off as psychological conditions or some other medical phenomenon.

I hope you are not telling your kids that the occult is wrong, it’s dangerous, and totally opposed to God while at the same time saying, “we’re going to let you dabble with it for a little while, just once a year. We’re going to buy dark, occultic decorations for our house, we’re going to encourage playing with witchcraft by putting the black pot in the lawn, we’re going to trivialize death and the demonic with cute cartoon figures and costumes that desensitize you to the real thing.”
That’s like saying:

Playing with matches is bad and dangerous, but let me show you the right way to strike them, let me give you a few things to burn.

You shouldn’t drink kids, but let me buy you a six pack and let you drink it at home.

Hey Kids, there is a spiritual evil out there trying to corrupt your soul and keep you from God, you must Resist the devil—but let me buy you a 10 horned demon mask, a witch or serial killer costume.

John tells us that he wrote the book of 1 John to warn us “about those who are trying to lead you astray”—1 John 2:26. John warns us in 4:1 to “not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God”.

It is my conviction that many Bible believing Christians have stopped “testing the spirits” when it comes to how we participate in Halloween. I’m not saying that that a real Christian will not participate in Halloween. I’m afraid that we no longer care whether what we do, or whether how we celebrate is “from God” or not, that we no longer consider the spiritual impact of HOW we participate. The demonic packaged up as “harmless fun” is still demonic and makes it more dangerous.

2 Corinthians 11:14 warns us that, “Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light”. In other words—he puts on a costume trying to convince everyone he is a cute, harmless, misunderstood guy. He wears a costume to hide who he really is and hopes that you’ll invite him in for a visit.

1. Playing with the Occult is Dangerous—Saul in 1 Samuel 28:4- was so afraid of the Philistines, that after trying to ask God what to do about it and getting nothing—more likely b/c his heart wasn’t faithful and his attempts were more insulting to God than inspiring.
He then sought out a “medium” (the title of a recent TV series, BTW) to consult the dead prophet Samuel. He wore a costume to do it— vs. 8 lets us know that he wore a disguise to meet with this woman. And while most biblical scholars disagree on exactly what happened when the spirit of Samuel appeared, was it really him, was it a delusion or a demonic deception, they all agree that something happened. Saul had to take her word for it because he apparently could not see the vision for himself—vs. 14.

Saul is playing with fire—he is doing something God commanded not to do, something he knows is wrong & tried to get rid of at one point by expelling the mediums earlier in his career.

He is dabbling, thinking he is exempt, thinking that it won’t hurt him, thinking that it’s not really a big deal, but he’s about to find out it is a big deal that there are consequences.

2. Playing with the Occult has Consequences—
1 Chron. 10:13-14—“Saul died because he was unfaithful to the LORD; he did not keep the word of the LORD and even consulted a medium for guidance, 14 and did not inquire of the LORD. So the LORD put him to death and turned the kingdom over to David son of Jesse.

a. Even non-Christians are beginning to recognize Halloween related consequences for children.

b. A study conducted of six- and seven-year-olds by Penn State psychologist Cindy Dell Clark found that most parents underestimate just how terrifying the holiday can be for young kids.

c. “Halloween is a holiday when adults assist children in behaviors taboo and out of bounds," Clark writes in the anthropological journal Ethos. "It is striking that on Halloween, death-related themes are intended as entertainment for the very children whom adults routinely protect."

3. Dabbling In The Occult is not Compatible

a. Acts 19:13-16—The demonic is real and dangerous. You and I must not dismiss it because there is a very real spiritual battle going on; a real demonic power. While most of what we see in America today, like the astrology, the wicca, the psychic hotlines, is fake—it is not always fake. And the Believer should know better than to try and live in both worlds.
b. Acts 19:17-20—Believers Got rid of their old way of life. Some of them had practiced sorcery in their previous way of life—but Jesus changed all of that. They may not have felt convicted to get rid of it in their lives, but they eventually saw the need, no matter how valuable the items were. Sorcery, witchcraft, the occult, idolizing death are not compatible in the lives of those who love God.

Whether you celebrate & participate in Halloween activities is a decision between you and God. I want you to hear me clearly-- the way the world celebrates Halloween is not compatible with your faith.

I’m not questioning your salvation if you have a pumpkin at your house or if you give out candy.

What I do want you to do is question how & why you participate—don’t decide as a parent today, based on the pleasant memories you had as a child. Examine everything by your faith.

1. Test the Spirits to see whether they are from God.
a. Test the things your kids are exposed to—sadly, Halloween is more than just one day—many kids are looking forward to it all month just like they do Christmas—it’s hard to walk into Wal-Mart with all the decorations all over the stores, TV shows more horror movies, cute cartoonish characters try to convince your kids that witchcraft, magic, monsters and death is all harmless fun—they talk as if God sees a difference between a bad witch and a good witch, between black magic and white magic—and there is none.
b. Test the costumes they want to wear—kids, let your faith guide your decision. Adults, make the decision whether something is appropriate for your kids—offer alternatives because it’s not too late

c. Test the decorations of your house—kids open your eyes to what you see at home and ask what message it sends to your friends of your fatih. Parents, re-examine your plans—make your home a place of light and hope that does not glorify dabbling in darkness.

d. Test the decorations of houses as you walk around—don’t go to those houses that glorify the occult

e. Remember that Kids can’t always distinguish between the Real and Unreal. They don’t think like adults logically, emotionally—as the study I mentioned found—the scary, death, occult themes affect them more than we realize. Make a commitment to Protect them and not Confuse them or send conflicting messages

f. Reclaim the day—don’t let this day be controlled by the dead in your house. Try to promote life by handing out tracts with your candy, by carving Christian images in your pumpkins, by inviting all you know and recognize to church, and by reminding your house and your guests that Oct. 31st is the day Martin Luther hammered his 95 Theses on the door of the Cathedral back in 1517 that started the Reformation. On Oct. 31st, he began a revolution of faith that we are living in today.

g. Embrace Philippians 4:8—“Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable--if anything is excellent or praiseworthy--think about such things.”