Pursuing Answers to Questions of Faith & Life

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Sermon--11/26/06--The Christmas Smear

It’s That Time Again—

I’m not talking about the time to put up Christmas Trees or Stockings or Lights or time to Put on the Pounds, nor even time to shop like crazy and trample on fellow shoppers like happened this weekend. I’m talking about that time when you will soon see Jesus on more magazine covers and in more television Specials than ever before—I expect it to start this week—it will be more than just whether Merry Christmas is allowed in stores or work. You may be thinking that this is a good thing; that our country may be turning around in their interest about Jesus. I hope so, but in many ways, these depictions are more of an Annual Smear campaign against Jesus. If all people read are these magazines and watch are these programs, then there is a greater possibility that they won’t want anything to do with the Christian Faith—because the Jesus they talk about is not the same Jesus we put our faith in. Who your Jesus is, is vital.
Having the right person to put your faith into is Vital to belief. The pledge of faith and commitment in baptism is dependent on the Person of Jesus—as is the Lord’s Supper that we will participate in later. And yet so many inaccuracies and deceptions abound about who Jesus really was and is will be perpetuated the as we approach the wonder of the Incarnation in the Birth of Christ.

Knowing the real Jesus is just as important as getting the correct address on a letter or sending an e-mail; if you mess up the address or the identity, then your message will be lost or misinterpreted.

I had found an internet story that speaks of this.
There was this couple from Minneapolis, MN who decided to go to Miami Beach to thaw out during a particularly harsh winter.
This couple were frequent flyers and because of the airlines strange policies, the husband was scheduled to fly down to FL the day before his wife. Once he got to his hotel and into his room, he decided to e-mail his wife back in MN that he had made it. Unfortunately, he did not notice that he had misspelled his wife’s e-mail address.
In South Carolina a woman received an e-mail. She was checking it because she wanted to see if any of her family had contacted her. See, she had just returned from her husband’s funeral, a Methodist minister for many years who had been called to glory just a few days earlier.
Upon reading her first e-mail, she let out a loud scream, fainted and fell to the floor. The woman’s son rushed into the room and found his mother on the floor. He glanced at the computer screen and saw the following e-mail message:

To My Loving Wife,
I’ve just been checked in. Everything has been prepared for your arrival here tomorrow. Looking forward to seeing you then.

Your Devoted Husband.
PS.—Sure is Hot down Here!!

Having the correct identity is important. That’s why one of the central questions of the Gospels is Jesus asking, “Who do you say that I am?”

Many of these magazines and programs have a tremendous amount of good and interesting information, that way, they make themselves believable and credible. But the writers will mix in a vision of Jesus that is totally foreign to the biblical account and what we believe. In fact, they have an agenda to recreate Jesus for this new millennium.

An article in the Atlantic Monthly from 1996 argues that this quest for the “Historical Jesus” started in the Enlightenment. They wanted to find “an inspirational but purely human figure who might have intended something different from the dogmatic—and in the view of many, oppressive—faith that grew up in his name.” “This Jesus for the America of the Third Millennium [is] a Jesus with little supernatural baggage but much respect for cultural diversity.”

One of these scholars is so impressed by these recent efforts that he goes so far to say “it’s over, we’ve had enough apocalypses. We’ve had enough martyrs. Christianity has had a 2000 year run, and it’s over.”

That quote is over 5 years ago and I’m glad to say, faith in Jesus Christ is alive and well!!!
We need to keep in mind the words of Paul who warned us in

Colossians 2:4 & 8 “4 I tell you this so that no one may deceive you by fine-sounding arguments.
COL 2:8 See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ.”

There are many fine-sounding arguments—but they are ultimately hollow & deceptive, they can take you or keep you captive. Our human traditions and worship of reason wants to fit God into a nice, neat package where He never does anything unexpected, or anything that we cannot explain.

One magazine I bought a year or 2 ago, the US News and World Report says that these scholars and historians “have sought to discern to what extent the Christ of faith, as perceived and experienced by Christian believers, resembles Jesus of Nazareth, the man who lived and died in Roman occupied Palestine”.
It states clearly that these efforts have “focused as much on the veracity [or truthfulness] of the New Testament Gospels as on the figure of Jesus himself.”

These articles get press based upon which have the more exaggerated or more unorthodox claims—after all, the traditional, biblical account isn’t quite as scandalous as it was when it was first written—we’ve become desensitized to it all cute and cuddly in our nativity scenes. So let me give you a few examples.

1. The Atlantic Monthly article quotes a scholar as believing that “no one really knows how Jesus died and that the other Gospel stories [such as His resurrection], are pure fiction.”

2. “From Jesus to Christ”—shown on PBS is a 4 hour program that has some great information during 2 hours, but ultimately desires to tear down the Jesus of Faith in the other 2. Unfortunately, it was the brainchild of a man from the University of Texas. The program states on several occasions, without any argument or proof, that Jesus was not born in Bethlehem but likely Nazareth. That means, according to them, the shepherds were a lie, the wise men were a lie, the fulfillment of prophecy was a lie.

3. The same program argues that Jesus was not born of a Virgin, but that was mythology created later. Mary, they state as obvious, was likely attacked by a passing Roman soldier. This makes Jesus’ genealogy a lie, His sinless life a lie, His deity a lie.

These issues are foundational to the person of Jesus—who He is and what He did for us. If Jesus’ lineage is a lie—then He is not eligible to be the Messiah as an “heir to the throne of David”. If the Virgin Conception—the Virgin Birth is not reality, if He was conceived and born in the normal manner, then Jesus would have been born with the same fallen sin nature that you and I have—so He would have died for His own sins and not yours or mine—the Cross would have no power to deliver us, nothing with which to purchase our freedom from sin and death.

Accepting these new teachings leaves you with a Jesus who is just an interesting man, a good—even moral teacher, a political outsider who ruffled the wrong feathers. Simply a man who gathered a following but was ultimately killed—no miracles, no resurrection—just a man divorced from any real divinity—without any real power.
Those who hold such teachings consider one of the greatest miracles to be that anyone pays attention to Jesus at all—that He isn’t lost to historical obscurity.

Maybe you never realized how important If these are things you haven’t heard or seen before, be ready. This type of smear is becoming more and more prominent; especially around college campuses. Professors, co-workers, even fellow students have many points and arguments that can easily shake the foundations of faith.

Maybe you have heard these issues before, maybe you have similar questions yourself—maybe they cause you to wonder. I want you to know that having questions is OK—careful investigation is vital—that’s what Luke promised he was doing in Luke 1:3—“I myself have carefully investigated everything from the beginning”—and he is the most detailed about the unique situation surrounding the birth of Jesus.

Along with trying to sell more magazines, these articles desire to shake the foundations of our faith and weaken our trust in the biblical accounts and the idea of who Jesus is and how we answer that question, “Who do you say that I am”.

The foundational beliefs the early church had about Jesus did not take decades to develop, I want to look at a passage of Scripture which gives us a strong indication of what the early church believed even soon after the Resurrection of Christ. Turn to

1 Corinthians 15:1-8
1CO 15:3 For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, 4 that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, 5 and that he appeared to Peter, and then to the Twelve. 6 After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep. 7 Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles, 8 and last of all he appeared to me also, as to one abnormally born.
This passage is representative of early Church teaching based on some powerful reasoning.—EARLY KEY TEACHINGS

1. 1 Corinthians is identified as an early book in itself. Paul claims in 16:5-9, that he was writing while staying in Ephesus as reported in Acts 19 & 20:31. That means we can safely put the writing about or before 55 AD. This is only about 25 years after Jesus’ Resurrection.
2. Notice how Paul starts this section: “3 For what I received I passed on to you”. What follows is essentially a recitation of early Christian teaching about Jesus—that was taught to him to familiarize him with the basic beliefs of Christ the Messiah Paul now embraced. Some set and established form of teaching that Christians memorized.
3. If we put the Crucifixion and Resurrection in the late 20’s or early 30’s, then Paul’s conversion would have been at most a couple years later, by AD 32. Paul spent a couple of years learning his new faith and met with the Apostles for the first time 3 years later (Acts 9 & Gal. 1). Here was the likely time that Paul “received” this information.

4. So that reasonably traces the teaching about Christ’s death, burial & resurrection & more importantly, the meaning of His death & Resurrection—“For Our Sins”—to the mid 30’s, roughly 5 years after the Resurrection.
Not long after these were taught to him, Paul began preaching this Good News around the Roman World.

What does this passage teach us about Jesus and the Church’s beliefs?

1. Christ’s Death is based on the Fulfillment of Old Testament Prophecy—Isaiah 53, Psalm 22
2. He died for a reason—for our sins as opposed to His own
3. Jesus was Buried and Considered Dead
4. The Resurrection occurred on the Third Day and fulfilled Prophecy—Psalm 17:9-11, Jonah 1:17, Matthew 12:40
5. The Resurrected Jesus Appeared to Eyewitnesses—many who were still alive at the time of writing
A. Peter
B. The Apostles
C. 500 believers (likely at the Sea of Galilee) many still alive
D. James, the half-brother of Jesus
E. Lastly Paul on the road to Damascus

I’ll take a guess and say that you’re wondering how this helps a discussion of Christmas and the birth of Jesus.

It is Important because…

1. It shows how quickly the essential beliefs about Jesus was taught and practiced—the biggest issues like His Death, Burial & Resurrection were believed, practiced and taught
2. Proves that these beliefs were not created long after the fact but were believed and taught by the Apostles immediately.
3. Eyewitnesses were still alive to refute the story—Including Luke and Matthew’s accounts of Jesus’ entrance into this world
4. Demonstrates the fact that miracles marked the faith of early Christians and changed their lives from running and hiding at Jesus’ arrest to bold proclamations after His Resurrection
5. Demonstrates the Historical Nature of central Christian beliefs because without the Resurrection, Paul says our faith is worthless and we are still in our sins.
6. If miracles such as the Resurrection can have an early and historical foundation then our confidence in the Virgin Birth and our Celebration of Christmas increases dramatically. Their beliefs are consistent. Luke’s careful investigation is legitimate and trustworthy.
7. The unique and special birth of the Messiah was not an after the fact construction, but a fulfillment of the Scriptures in the same way that the Messiah’s death & Resurrection fulfilled Scripture: Isaiah 7:14—“The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel.”, Isaiah 9:6—“For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.”
8. As We enter this season, celebrating the moment of history when God chose to make His greatest entrance, to make Himself most Vulnerable, don’t buy into the annual Christmas Smear. Understand that God desires that our faith be strengthened and not shaken no matter what we read or see. Instead, realize the Jesus of History is the Jesus of Faith. Be encouraged about the true Jesus of history. What began at Bethlehem, is the foundation that leads us to His Table, in which He broke bread and invited His followers to join Him and take of His Body and bread.
9. We have many reasons to be confidence in Christmas—many reasons to accept Christ’s invitation to join Him at His table. How you answer, “Who do you say that I am?” is what qualifies you for this table

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Doctrinal Tiers

In recent months, there has been debates going on in SBC circles concerning what beliefs we must share in order to be missions cooperating Southern Baptists. In the course of this discussion, some have proposed that we examine issues/doctrines based upon a priority or tier system. The basic proposal is below.

Tier 1 --- An Essential Doctrine Necessary To Be Considered a Christian, for a Denial of this Doctrine is a Denial of the True Christian Faith.

Tier 2 --- An Essential Doctrine Necessary to be Considered a Southern Baptist Christian, and if One Disagrees With It, He Cannot Serve in Leadership of the SBC.

Tier 3 --- A Low Priority Doctrine that Is Not Necessary to Believe in Order to be a Fully Cooperating Southern Baptist (leadership, missionary, trustee, etc..).

Here are some examples

Deity of Christ is easily Tier 1.

Believer's Baptism by Immersion is more like a Tier 2 doctrine.

Specific End Times Understandings--Dispensational/Amillenial, Pre-Trib Rapture/Post-Trib Rapture--would be more like a Tier 3 Doctrine

The problem is agreeing on where a doctrine or issue fits. Not all doctrines are worth dividing over, not all are hills on which to die. Let me ask you a couple of questions.

How valid is this breakdown?

What other examples can you give and your suggested Tier placement?

Do you have any experiences when you witnessed people dividing over less important issues?

Pursuing Answers to Questions of Faith & Life,


Sunday, November 12, 2006

Sermon--11/12/06--An Invitation to God's Feast

Come to the Feast

One overlooked fact of this time of year is the extra pressure that is put on families that are spread more and more across America. Where do you go? How many of you already have your plans for where you’re going to eat for Thanksgiving and Christmas. How many of you have had to make a decision between more than one invitation?

It’s not always easy during this time of year—to prioritize and not be distracted. And yet when we’re distracted, we miss out on the blessing and the abundance. If deciding where to go is not hard enough, you’ve also got to start thinking about what to get.

Now is the time that we begin being overwhelmed with things to have. Voices are calling from the TV, from the Radio, wooing you with the must have ticket items to make your home complete.

In case you haven’t noticed, the must have, hot ticket items are not limited to toys like the Tickle Me Elmo from a few years ago—adults have them too—certain tools, certain flat panel TV’s or Video equipment. All these things vie for our attention—so many ads that try to convince you to buy more and more and more—try to convince you what is most valuable, what is the popular, what is the

1. Timely Opportunities to Waste—Isaiah 55:2
a. Opportunities to Waste—we have so many opportunities to waste what God has given us. The first thing that Isaiah mentions is our money—we can spend and waste so much money on non-essentials.

b. READ Isaiah 55:2b-c—“Why spend money on what is not bread, and your labor on what does not satisfy?”

c. Having bread to eat—the basic food—is an essential—if you want to live, you’ve got to eat—there are some basic elements of life that we cannot do without and we take them for granted that we’ll always have them. Look at your bills and consider how many of the things you’re paying for are luxuries—how much, what percentage of your expenses are the convenient add ons—the type of things that would be the first to go in a crisis—the first you would abandon, discard or sell.

d. We spend money on so many unimportant things, things that don’t help us survive—and yet they really demand so much of our time, not just in using them, but in paying for them. How long do we have to work hard for things that won’t satisfy. Satisfy—to gratify the desire or need. Whatever it is may satisfy for a little while, but so often that satisfaction is short lived—you become bored with it, forget about it and want to move on—there is a continual hunger for the new and improved.

e. Break it down. How long, how many days at your job did it take to pay for that entertainment center, that new satellite TV system? Could you live without it?

f. We Tend to Fill Up on Bad Things rather than Good Things and all they do is further complicate things—all they do is add worry and frustration—and contribute to a growing dissatisfaction with life.

g. And yet we are invited to the good, the better, the best. We should want to have the necessities—we should “eat what is good” But to fully receive it, we must

2. Listen to Him & Delight in Him—Isaiah 55:2c-3
a. When we crave the pure spiritual milk of the Word of God—when we hunger and thirst for righteousness—His Word will satisfy our deepest need—we will be filled with what is good. God provides the best—imagine starving and then feasting on the “richest of fare.”—in other words, no one can provide anything better—there is no greater feast, nothing better for you than what God provides.

b. And you have been given an invitation—you have been invited to God’s feast, not just for Thanksgiving, not just for Christmas & Easter.

c. Hear and respond to God’s invitation in vs. 1--Accept His Invitation—Isaiah 55:1—all who are thirsty must respond to what God is doing in their life.—

d. And the promise from Matthew is that God will bless you abundantly when you truly hunger after Him and seek Him.

e. Sometimes making a decision among family where you should attend is difficult, and yet we have the greatest invitation the universe has ever known and for some strange reason, you and I are willing to ignore it, to put it aside, to pretend like we don’t see it or hear it and accept another invitation & go somewhere else.

f. Imagine if you were given an invitation to dinner at the White House with the President of the United States—pick your favorite—they will fly you out, set you up, drive you around, give you a tour of everything and you’re response is that you’d rather stay home because there’s a really good episode of Lost on this week, or b/c you want to see the World Championship of Basket Weaving.

g. We are thirsty and don’t come to the waters. We are starving and don’t come to the Feast that is prepared for us.

h. Why is it such a dilemma when God gives us an invitation? Don’t you believe God knows how to throw a good party—how to cater a good meal—how to have the best to eat and drink—how to have the most fun? Have you ever wondered what kind of feast God would bother to invite you or me too?

3. What Kind of Feast Does God Invite to?
a. Before we get to that—notice that He calls us to come—and to come without worry of whether you can pay for it or not.

b. When we have accepted God’s invitation, it doesn’t cost us anything—vs. 1—it doesn’t cost us anything because God is the one that is taking care of all our needs and is providing everything for us. You don’t have to bring any cash, there’s no price menu—you don’t have to choose between paying the bills and buying food because God is catering and bringing out the best for you.

c. Isn’t that like Salvation? He offers us a great gift and we worry whether we can afford it—we try to take out our wallet and pay for the gift with our own righteousness—but no! His invitation doesn’t cost us anything.

d. He invites us to a banquet—a great feast—and everything has been made ready. Everything is prepared—there’s plenty to eat, plenty to drink. Enough to fully satisfy you—it is a blessing of God.

e. Luke 14:15-17—“When one of those at the table with him heard this, he said to Jesus, "Blessed is the man who will eat at the feast in the kingdom of God." I want to eat at the feast in the Kingdom of God. I want to sit down at His table, pick up my fork and see what my God is going to bring out for me. But what kind of feast is this?

LK 14:16 Jesus replied: "A certain man was preparing a great banquet and invited many guests. 17 At the time of the banquet he sent his servant to tell those who had been invited, `Come, for everything is now ready.'

f. Matthew 22:1—“Jesus spoke to them again in parables, saying: 2 "The kingdom of heaven is like a king who prepared a wedding banquet for his son.” We are invited to a Wedding Feast—a Wedding Banquet. The Father is preparing a Wedding Celebration for His Son to be United to His Bride and you and I are invited. Not just to be witnesses, not just to be on the guest list—but to be the guest of Honor—to BE the BRIDE for the Bridegroom—the Father is preparing this feast so we can be welcomed into His family.

g. How can you refuse such an invitation? How can you let something get in the way of it? How can you think something is more important, something is more valuable? How can you not put aside every wasteful distraction to accept this invitation?

h. Because the Wedding Feast of the Lamb is Beautiful—it is Glorious. Revelation 19:6-9—“Then I heard what sounded like a great multitude, like the roar of rushing waters and like loud peals of thunder, shouting:

For our Lord God Almighty reigns.

REV 19:7 Let us rejoice and be glad
and give him glory!
For the wedding of the Lamb has come,
and his bride has made herself ready.

REV 19:8 Fine linen, bright and clean,
was given her to wear."

(Fine linen stands for the righteous acts of the saints.)

REV 19:9 Then the angel said to me, "Write: `Blessed are those who are invited to the wedding supper of the Lamb!' " And he added, "These are the true words of God."

j. It is all prepared by the Father—even the clothes we are to wear—so that excuse that I hear sometimes that you don’t have the right clothes is done with—God isn’t interested in what you’re wearing on the outside as He is the righteousness given to you by the Blood of Christ—He has thought of everything. And He is inviting you.

"Come, all you who are thirsty,
come to the waters;
and you who have no money,
come, buy and eat!
Come, buy wine and milk
without money and without cost.

7 Let us rejoice and be glad
and give him glory!
For the wedding of the Lamb has come,
and his bride has made herself ready.
7 Let us rejoice and be glad
and give him glory!
For the wedding of the Lamb has come,
and his bride has made herself ready.

"Blessed is the man who will eat at the feast in the kingdom of God."

Thursday, November 09, 2006

IBSA Convention Follow Up Thoughts

Well, my family and I finally got back from the Illinois Baptist State Association’s Annual Convention in Springfield.

It would have been better, but Moriah has been throwing up this week and now both she and Vicky are sick, both throwing up on the ride home. On Vicky’s birthday to boot.

Here’s a couple observations. I may have been one of the youngest people attending other than my children—and I only saw 4-5 children. It was not a very family friendly event and children were not an expected part to bring along. Middle of the week, nothing family friendly. When one speaker commented on the grayness of the messengers, my thought was, “Gee, I wonder why?”

Overall, this was the most uneventful convention I’ve ever been to. It was mostly a “Go Get Em” pep rally. One significant complaint, however, had to do with our mission agencies, the North American Mission Board and the International Mission Board. While I enjoyed hearing the stories and other efforts of the IMB and NAMB, considering the embattled years these institutions have had—resignation due to mismanagement, trustee battles over narrowing of missionary qualifications over “3rd tier” doctrinal issues like Private Prayer Language—I expect to be informed about the status of each and what if any corrective measures are in place. Rather than a pep talk—we’re doing great—keep sending your money—softball that keeps churches uninformed, I’d rather have transparency and an honest assessment of the health of the ministry.

IBSA has made the health of churches a priority under the guidance of the new Executive Director, Nate Adams. I like him by the way, he seems honest, passionate and straightforward without all the polished political smoozing. If the health of churches is a priority—so should the health of our missions agencies—and yet nothing was said on those important issues. Not a word. I was saddened. What is the health status of NAMB, the IMB? I don’t know—I certainly didn’t learn anything from their representative—who made a fine presentation. The numbers present a great picture—but I know there are leaks in that dam—that if not dealt with will breach and cause a flood.

In the future for the IBSA—if you want to have younger involvement, you’ve got to engage families and kids. Maybe move the event to Friday and ½ Saturday—maybe allow churches to train workers with the new VBS materials. I don’t know yet. I’m planning on writing the new Ex. Dir. so they’ll consider it next year. Also, please respect me and your pastors and messengers enough to not gloss over significant issues at play—please keep us informed rather than hope nobody asks a “sensitive question”.

Overall, I would have enjoyed the Convention more if my family was a little healthier, if some would have moved to the plethora (sure Jefe!) of seats in the middle of the rows so a family with kids and a stroller could sit on the end and make a quick exit when needed, rather than clog up the ends, or if my family was truly welcome and engaged somehow.

To top it all off, as one of the newest alumni of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in IL, I quickly got pegged to help with next year’s alumni luncheon. Oh joy. Still, I’m glad I went.

Pursuing Answers to Questions of Faith & Life,

Kelly Reed

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Tuesday, November 11, 2006

Regardless of the outcomes, I hope you voted today and acted like a citizen of freedom. I hope you allowed your faith--what you believe in--guide your decisions.

Pursuing Answers to Questions of Faith & Life,


Sermon--11/5/06--The Season of Thanksgiving---John 6

The Season of Thanksgiving - John 6

We have been looking for the last several weeks at what it means to be a New Creation and how that change effects us and the way we live. Now that October is behind us we are entering a season of reminders. In December, we have the reminder of the Incarnation—how God was willing to step out of Glory into our ravaged existence in order to invite us and provide a way for us to be with Him.

First though, comes the reminder of thanks. If you are a New Creation—redeemed and set free, restored to relationship with your Creator, then you have a lot to be thankful for. I am glad that our nation has chosen to remind itself every year to be Thankful for our bounty and our blessings. But one thing should be noted, the declarations of our nation’s Thanksgiving were not made in the best of times. There was a lot or rebuilding going on, there was a lot of continuing mourning.
It is the times of difficulty that create the opportunity for us to truly realize and give thanks to God for all that we have.

If we can give thanks in difficult circumstances, when things are not the best, then we are living as a New Creation, with our mind forever reminded of where we have been, how we have been changed, and where we are going. We are following the model of thanksgiving given by Jesus Himself.
Jesus showed us how we can and must express genuine thanks even in the face of overwhelming needs. The opportunity came when a large crowd, captivated by His miracles, followed Jesus around the Sea of Galilee. You see it in John 6.

1. New Creation--Thanksgiving Living—Don’t Panic When Needs Arise—6:1-5

When Jesus looked up and saw a great crowd coming toward him, he said to Philip, "Where shall we buy bread for these people to eat?" (John 6:5)
All of a sudden, Jesus and the disciples were confronted with an overwhelming need. Jesus did not respond as if something terrible or unusual has happened. He does not panic—unexpected needs are nothing new—not then, not now either.
We will always have needs. It is the nature of being human. We were not created to be self-sufficient. Needs are a normal part of life.
But sometimes we can be surprised by needs—it’s important that we don’t panic.
Needs can hit our lives with such fury that we don’t really know what to do, our minds freeze. Bills come when least expected. Poor health can arrive without warning. Crises typically arrive unannounced.

The fact that some needs surprise us does not mean that God is surprised. Far from being unprepared, our Father is well aware of our needs. All of them. All the time. So we don’t need to panic b/c we know God is still in control.
But if this situation didn’t surprise Jesus, why did He ask Philip the question in the first place?

2. New Creation Living—Tests Your Safety Nets with Needs—6:6-

Jesus asked Philip where they were going to get the food to feed the huge crowd. Jesus was conscious of the need and already had a supernatural solution in mind, but was calling it to Philip’s attention. It was a test!

He asked this only to test him, for he already had in mind what he was going to do. (John 6:6)

More than any other situation in life, needs expose and test our internal support systems. Needs reveal the true objects of our trust. Where do we turn for help in a crisis? Do we cry out to the Lord? Do we confidently trust Him to give what we need when we need it?

Or do we look for our own self-made back-up plans, our emotional safety nets? Safety nets are those just-in-case solutions we get ready in case the Lord doesn’t come through. The places we are more likely to run to for shelter and help in our times of need.

Needs will show you who or what you are really trusting in. They serve a purpose.

If you think Jesus is just some ordinary guy, you’re going to think Jesus was only concerned with the logistics of feeding the large crowd. But Jesus wanted to know where Philip and the disciples would run to with a need so great. Would Philip trust God or look for his own back up plan?

Philip ran to his personal ability to feed the crowd, asking himself how long he would have to work to feed the group. He did the math.

Philip answered him, "Eight months' wages would not buy enough bread for each one to have a bite!"

JN 6:8
His calculations were flawless but his formula was flawed. He left God out of the equation.

Andrew looked at what was immediately available as a solution. The small lunch was more than enough for the boy, but it could not begin to eliminate the need confronting the disciples.

Another of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter's brother, spoke up, 9 "Here is a boy with five small barley loaves and two small fish, but how far will they go among so many?" (John 6:7-9)

Phillip was saying “What I can DO is insufficient and inadequate.” Andrew was saying “What I HAVE is insufficient and inadequate.” When we finally accept that, Jesus is there to say, “Good, now we’re ready to talk.”

When the disciples’ safety nets ripped apart by the overwhelming need, their theology was exposed.

You need to know that Jesus doesn’t want us to live depending on our own efforts and what our own minds can come up with. We’re not supposed to live with safety nets or back up plans. He is calling you to live without safety nets. No matter how great the need, He desires that you run and call upon Him and not look to or trust in anything else.

This is not a call to drop out of Social Security or drop your insurance coverage. I’m not saying that if you have a savings account, you don’t really trust God. However, any of those things can quickly become just as much of an idol as a carved rock or piece of wood.

Your needs are designed to draw your heart into greater dependence upon God, and not upon yourself or your resources, abilities or any one or anything else.
Instead, New Creation Living wants you to

3. New Creation Living means--Focus on God—not Yourself--John 6:10-13

Jesus said, "Have the people sit down." There was plenty of grass in that place, and the men sat down, about five thousand of them. 11 Jesus then took the loaves, gave thanks, and distributed to those who were seated as much as they wanted. He did the same with the fish.

When they had all had enough to eat, he said to his disciples, "Gather the pieces that are left over. Let nothing be wasted." 13 So they gathered them and filled twelve baskets with the pieces of the five barley loaves left over by those who had eaten. (John 6:10-13, 23)

The disciples were astounded. Jesus took the resources they had—which were inadequate—and gave thanks to God. In the midst of an overwhelming great need, He gave thanks. It was a choice. Two miracles resulted.

There was the miracle of the inadequate becoming more than adequate. Everyone ate as much as they wanted!

Then there was the miracle of understanding. The disciples never forgot what they had witnessed. Even years later, when he wrote his gospel, John used the spot from the Feeding of the 5000 as a marker to identify Jesus’ movements—vs, 23.

This is such a significant moment that the 5000 is the only account recorded in all 4 Gospels. The day after, John described a boat that touched ashore near the place where they ate the bread after the Lord gave thanks. (John 6:23) The spot was branded into their memories. They never forgot what had happened there and the lesson they had learned.

The disciples eventually realized they could thank God for everything—even in needs that were overwhelming or unmet. We can give thanks even in needs that were overwhelming or unmet when you trust that God will carry you through no matter what. He will take your inadequacies and use them for His glory.

5. New Creation Living means—Growing Through the Needs

But notice Jesus didn’t act immediately. It would have been easy for Him to have acted quickly to remove all anxiety from their hearts—but He didn’t. He asked questions and deliberately waited, and prolonged their uncertainty, to train their hearts to be grateful at all times. They were learning together.
Jesus wanted them to get beyond their own abilities, to get beyond the crisis of the moment and Trust God, and He demonstrated it by giving thanks to His Father in the midst of uncertainty.

Jesus gave thanks over the bread and the fish—in the face of the need, before it was met. It is important that we maintain a grateful spirit, willing to honor and glorify God even in the face of needs—that is a sign of our growing and maturing.
Did you knew that one of the ways our understanding of Jesus is messed up is b/c we don’t thank Him enough. Giving Thanks Helps our Understanding.
Paul warns the Romans about the warped and idolatrous view of God that can result from an attitude of ingratitude:

For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22 Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools 23 and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like mortal man and birds and animals and reptiles. (Romans 1:21-23)

As a consequence of ingratitude, lost men and women fail to see God as He really is. They miss His glory. They replace Him with gods of their own creation.
It is vital that we maintain a grateful, trusting spirit in the face of our needs. Otherwise our view of God will be skewed and false. That’s not saying—“Gee I’m so happy that I have this disease.” OR “Thank You Jesus for that car accident that took away my legs.” Instead, growing in faith to praise Him, to glorify Him, to hold on to Him and let Him carry you through.

Needs expose our source of strength and our safety nets.

Needs also provide us with the opportunity to express our thanks and our dependence.

2 Corinthians 1:8-11 We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about the hardships we suffered in the province of Asia. We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired even of life. 9 Indeed, in our hearts we felt the sentence of death.

Paul was very Genuine about what he was feeling. He realized he was in hardship, that they were suffering under great pressure, despair.

But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the
dead. 10 He has delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us. On him we have set our hope that he will continue to deliver us, 11 as you help us by your prayers. Then many will give thanks on our behalf for the gracious favor granted us in answer to the prayers of many.

Do you panic when the crisis comes? Do you try to do or fix everything on your own? Are you living from crisis to crisis by your safety nets? Then realize that God may very well bring a crisis into your life to demolish your safety net.
He desires that you are willing and able to Give Thanks and Praise to God even in the midst of the trials.

As a New Creation God will carry you… don’t jump out of His arms—run to Him first.
Do you have someone to run to in times of trial? If you are in a trial right now—can we pray for you?

If you are interested in joining this church and allowing us to help carry your burdens, then please come forward.

Friday, November 03, 2006

Stack of Reeds

Minus the picture taker, of course.


Wednesday, November 01, 2006

How well do you know your faith?

How well do you know the Gospel? How comfortable are you with your Bible? How well can you share your testimony? How well do you know Jesus?

If you can’t say you know it well, you can’t explain your testimony, or feel distant from Jesus, there may be something you can do about it.

It’s the teaching principle. You never know something nearly as well until you have to teach it. You never think of all you need to think of until you do a run through in front of someone.

Paul shared a similar thought in Philemon—that being you will better and more fully understand your faith when you are actively, vibrantly, continually sharing your faith.

Philemon 1:6— “I pray that you may be active in sharing your faith, so that you will have a full understanding of every good thing we have in Christ.”

IOW, if you will dare to actively and repeatedly share your faith, you will be amazed at how well you know it, how close you are to Jesus, how more vibrant and passionate your life with Christ is. I can testify that I never know my Bible as well as those moments as I am sharing my faith or explaining some concept to an unbeliever. I believe it is because of the work of the Holy Spirit empowering those moments—but He will bring to mind certain passages, He will help me find them even when I’m unsure of the exact place, He will help me make connections between passages that I had always missed before.

If you want to have a full understanding of your faith, then share it with someone. It keeps you sharp and thinking. The conversation will not just end at the parting, it will continue in your mind as you process the conversation, as you think about what you could have said—“oh, I wish I would have thought of that!”. And when the next time comes around, you’ll be more comfortable in sharing, your mind will be even better able to testify to your Savior.

We have so many good things in Christ—most of which we take for granted, don’t even think about, which we don’t understand. We lose track of just how far we have fallen and just how much grace was needed to bring us back into fellowship. But sharing your faith, sharing the Good News will make you talk about the good things we have in Him, will make you appreciate even more what He did for you and remind you the lengths God went to share with you His love, His forgiveness, His desire to be with you forever.

If your relationship is a little stale—do a little sharing.

Sharing—it’s not just for 2 year olds anymore. Then again, sharing was never meant to be just about toys.

Pursuing Answers to Questions of Faith & Life,

Kelly Reed