Pursuing Answers to Questions of Faith & Life

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Sermon- 12/23/07 - Mission Initiated - Christmas 2007

Mission Inspired

Mission Impossible—assignment received, then self destructs

The mission didn’t start in Bethlehem, it started according to John 1:1—“In the Beginning”—in the heart of God—remember a couple of weeks ago that the Crucifixion an wasn’t Plan B—it wasn’t a MacGyverism Improvisation. God knew

God lost something in the Fall—something He desperately wanted back.

Because of sin God was No longer able to walk among His precious & prized creation. Ephesians 2:10 describes you and I as “God’s workmanship”—the work of His hands—from the word Poeima—where we get the word Poem—God’s Masterpiece—where He is writing the story of our existence into the universe. Humanity is precious to Him

And that precious creation which He was able to walk and talk with was put on the other side of a great chasm of separation due to some of the very creative power He had given them—moral awareness of right & wrong and the Freedom to decide.

Imagine DaVinci never able to look upon the Mona Lisa after completing it because it blinded him. Imagine Shakespeare never able to read or listen to another one of his sonnets because the words poisoned him. Imagine your pride and joy—something you worked hard for, something you built or restored being off limits.

We are so much more than any thing or item to the heart of God—He considers you and me, His masterpiece.

There in the garden, He was able to walk and talk with us as you or I would walk with our spouse, with our friend—take a leisurely journey together for no other reason than the fact that you enjoy their company.

Sin disrupted that, it broke that—His holiness and aversion to sin made it humanly impossible to fix—we couldn’t just shout out a quick, “I’m sorry” and God come back with “Hey, no big deal. Just forget it ever happened… same time tomorrow?”

No—Our Sin is a Big Deal—the Great Chasm of Separation that is too great for us to overcome—doesn’t just hurt you and me—it grieves the Heart of God. It is possible to grieve the heart of God

PS 78:37 their hearts were not loyal to him, they were not faithful to his covenant.
PS 78:38 Yet he was merciful; he forgave their iniquities and did not destroy them. Time after time he restrained his anger and did not stir up his full wrath.
PS 78:39 He remembered that they were but flesh, a passing breeze that does not return.
PS 78:40 How often they rebelled against him in the desert and grieved him in the wasteland!

Ezekiel 6:9-- how I have been grieved by their adulterous hearts, which have turned away from me, and by their eyes, which have lusted after their idols.

Ephesians 4:30-- 30 And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.

We grieve His heart—
While that is a barrier to us—the great thing about God is that it won’t stop Him—the Barrier was not something He would just Snap His fingers at and fix

God is unwilling to Reestablish this Relationship like I Dream of Jeanie—a quick painless blink of the eyes and—poof—it’s all better.

No—this was too serious for that—a battle had to be fought—you and I were now held captive in the kingdom of darkness, slaves again to fear & sin, Satan & death—

Picture the Kingdom of Darkness with a great gate—like the Black Gate from the Lord of the Rings.

Can you picture God walking up to the door, knocking softly and saying, “excuse me, I’m really sorry to bother you Satan, but can I please have my valuables, my masterpieces back?”

The Mission was a Call to Battle—it was a fight to regain and restore captured men and women—

The heart of God was and is willing to fight for you and me. In the Beginning—God knew our Redemption, our Reconciliation, our ability to freely and without fear walk the journey of faith & life would Require an Invasion.

I typically envision an invasion as a huge number of soldiers storming a beach like at Normandy in WWII.

But God did not send an invading Army, He sent only One invader—His Only Son—

Now if you’re going to send One Soldier into hostile territory, behind enemy lines what do you think that soldier should look like?

Captain America
Incredible Hulk
We don’t get a soldier trained for battle even an enhanced Patriot, we don’t get a super-strong creature or even an alien Superman

We get THIS—(picture of Mary holding baby Jesus)a Tiny Baby with no skills in Jujitsu, no Advanced Infantry Training, no Special Ops, no Hostage negotiation—I mean, this baby looks totally harmless—

And yet the arrival of this child is the first knock that shatters the gates of the Kingdom of Darkness

This arrival we typically call the Incarnation—

John 1:1—In the Beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God. 14—And the Word became Flesh and made His dwelling among us.”

We read the words of:
Matthew 1:20—“an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, "Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. 21 She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins."

MT 1:22 All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: 23 "The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel" --which means, "God with us."

That sounds so nice, we can get so easily lost in the cuteness of it all. But I noticed something when looking back at that moment in Isaiah. Immanuel does not come for the nation of Israel in the calm of the night—Immanuel comes as the Deliverer, when all hope is lost, when the enemy is at the gates.

While Isaiah 7 is the well known introduction of the term Immanuel, ch. 8 describes the invasion of Assyria it this way. 8:8-10-- Its outspread wings will cover the breadth of your land, O Immanuel!"
8:9 Raise the war cry, you nations, and be shattered! Listen, all you distant lands.
Prepare for battle, and be shattered! Prepare for battle, and be shattered!
10 Devise your strategy, but it will be thwarted; propose your plan, but it will not stand, for God is with us.

The Arrival of Immanuel is a time of Battle—of the Victory of the Lord. It is the plan and salvation of Immanuel that will win the day.

True Restoration—True Freedom—True Rescue

To be what God had created you and me to be—not only enjoy walking beside us, but living within us. That little baby that we celebrate at Christmas is the Key to our Creator once again enjoying the closeness of the Garden, and that little baby is the Key to a Secure Future with our Creator that can never be broken or lost again.

He willingly laid aside all that He was and became a Flesh, became a Human Being in order to accomplish it all--

What exactly did God the Son, the Second Person of the Trinity lay aside?
Jesus laid aside Eternity, and He laid aside Omnipresence—being everywhere at the same moment and confined Himself to an infant body bound by time and space

He laid aside Omnipotence—All Power, and Omniscience—All Knowledge—and limited or emptied Himself into a body that didn’t have the power to feed itself, that couldn’t move from one place to another unless someone else carried him.

PHP 2:6 Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped,
PHP 2:7 but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.
PHP 2:8 And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death--even death on a cross!

Laid aside the “very Nature of God” which was already His and
Laid aside the right to be Served as King of Kings and Lord of Lords
Laid aside His immunity to death
He didn’t come fully formed ready for battle, He didn’t come with all the training, no big muscles, no advanced infantry training

God did not see fit to place Jesus among a team of highly trained operatives, not a military outfit that could train Him in the art of battle--but 2 young newlyweds, a few animal activists and a few animals. Instead the heart of God was moved to Initiate our rescue with Innocence, Holiness and Helplessness. “The foolishness of God is sure wiser than man’s wisdom

In spite of this helpless appearance, our Hero had—according to Colossians—“all the fullness of deity liv[ing] in bodily form.”

Even in that infant—there was power—there was Promise, there was Hope.

It doesn’t seem like the best way to mount a rescue, but for God—it was ideal because Jesus being born, gained something from this infiltration to the kingdom of darkness.

What did Jesus gain? Flesh and Blood untainted by sin—that’s what the Virgin Conception and Birth was for.

He gained an opportunity to walk among us without us running and hiding.
He gained an opportunity to share in our sufferings, endure every temptation, yet be without sin.
He gained the ability, not just to tell us about the love of God, but truly demonstrate it with action, by dying for us, dying in our place, receiving the punishment that we deserved.

The Mission was Accepted and Initiated and the Hero of the Human Race was born on that simple Christmas morning.

And it was and continues to be a moment worth praising God over.
Even God’s Mighty Warriors—the angels in all their glory—praised God over this:

“Glory to God in the Highest, and on earth—peace to men on whom His favor rests”

And when the shepherds went to Bethlehem to see what the angels announced—they too Praised God.

The Word—God Himself—was made Flesh—shared in our Humanity—walked among us and Restored the Possibility of a Journey and Walk of Faith—by holding to His mission of the Cross—By Demonstrating Victory in the Resurrection—

and so our Savior, born that first Christmas—is able “to save completely & forever those who come to God through Him”

When the time came—the baby was born to restore and make possible a life of faith and a close walk with God—the Mission was initiated to accomplish that.

Initiated not with Grandeur, posing or a show of force—but with simplicity and a show of love.

Luke 2:6—“While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, 7 and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.”

Monday, December 17, 2007

American Christianity--Part Time v. Full Time

Christian Post had an interesting article quoting, Rev. Dr. Samuel Kobia who is the Secretary General of the World Council of Churches.

I feel compelled to share and comment on this article despite 2 objections. First, the title of the article is misleading--he's not quoted as directly referring to America as suggested. Secondly, I'm typically not a big fan of the World Council of Churches.

However, the implications of Rev. Kobia's comments are something I (and others) have noticed for some time and I want to give him props for a correct observation--at least of the northern & Amero/Euro church.

Here is an important quote from the article--

"Religion is seen not as a part-time occupation, but it permeates the whole life,” WCC General Secretary Kobia answered. “There are many Africans therefore that think their future will be much more hopeful if they embrace the Gospel of Jesus Christ."

I'm afraid that too many Americans see church, even their faith as a part-time occupation. In reality, for some it's a 2 hour a week job--many others 1 hour or less--the service/liturgy/songs better not take time away from the pastor's message--and he should go no longer than 20-30 minutes(less if there's a game on). That's assuming that people feel the need to go to this part-time job on a weekly basis.

It's as if we no longer believe there's a benefit--there's no return on our time--it's not like we're getting paid--it's not like I'm getting anything out of it--it's not like I couldn't be more entertained doing something else.

Herein lies some of the problem--we want a perfect church that meets all our spiritual needs and can do it in less time than it takes to get through the drive thru at McDonald's.

Good luck finding one of those--good luck impacting the Kingdom of God that way. More and more we Americans see the church as a place where the believers get served like at the restaurants after church--someone listens to what we want, someone else prepares just what we want, someone else brings it to us and serves us, someone else cleans up afterwards.

Too many believers are coming to the church to be served rather than coming to the church to help serve--especially help serve the lost (non-members!!!! anyone but them!).

If you're wondering why the church is anemic--it just might be that we view everything else in life as Full-Time and we view God as Part-Time. God gets the extra, God gets the leftovers.

Strange how when God speaks of the tithe, he speaks of it as "First-fruits". The first, the best is to be given to Him--not the leftovers, not the extra, not after the bills are paid, not after I've paid for my vacation...

If you're wondering what will help the church get out of its anemic state--maybe we can start by making your life as a Disciple of Jesus Christ a Full-Time Privilege--you are allowed to work at your job while your on your Full-Time clock--you're able to go to school while still doing your Full-Time-Ambassadorship.

Are you a Full-Time or a Part-Time believer?

What do you think?

Sermon-- Mission In Progress-- 12-16-07

Most of the sermon below is just referencing various texts of Scripture used to make the overall point. I knew what I wanted to say and didn't write as much down this time. If you want the whole context, you'll have to listen to the sermon when it gets posted.

Check at www.ubcfellowship.com

Mission In Progress

We’ve been working backwards to Christmas and the incarnation—starting with the Return of Christ and the Mission Victorious—then last week, we looked at the Mission Accomplished—with Jesus’ work on the Cross.

Today, we’ll be looking at the Mission In Progress—what others thought His mission was supposed to be and how Jesus described His own mission.

1. Mission Imposed
a. Throughout Jesus ministry, people thought they knew what the Messiah should be about—they tried to tell Him what to do, how He was supposed to do it—who His friends were supposed to be—even who He should or shouldn’t be having dinner with—essentially—many people tried to impose their understanding upon Jesus—essentially—they were trying to tell Jesus how to do His job.

b. Here’s a Definition of an Armchair Quarterback-- a person who is not a quarterback, but offers opinions and criticism on the performance or decisions of those who are

c. There were many people who wanted to offer their opinion on what the Messiah should be, or offer their criticisms of Jesus performance as the Messiah.—and I thought patients commenting on a surgeon’s technique was bad.—or a drunk driver trying to tell a sober driver all the things they are doing wrong.

d. Miracle Worker— LK 4:23 Jesus said to them, "Surely you will quote this proverb to me: `Physician, heal yourself! Do here in your hometown what we have heard that you did in Capernaum.' "
LK 4:24 "I tell you the truth," he continued, "no prophet is accepted in his hometown.

e. Pharisees--MK 8:11 The Pharisees came and began to question Jesus. To test him, they asked him for a sign from heaven. 12 He sighed deeply and said, "Why does this generation ask for a miraculous sign? I tell you the truth, no sign will be given to it." 13 Then he left them, got back into the boat and crossed to the other side.

f. Herod-- LK 23:8 When Herod saw Jesus, he was greatly pleased, because for a long time he had been wanting to see him. From what he had heard about him, he hoped to see him perform some miracle. 9 He plied him with many questions, but Jesus gave him no answer.

g. Public Figure—John 7:1-- JN 7:1 After this, Jesus went around in Galilee, purposely staying away from Judea because the Jews there were waiting to take his life. 2 But when the Jewish Feast of Tabernacles was near, 3 Jesus' brothers said to him, "You ought to leave here and go to Judea, so that your disciples may see the miracles you do. 4 No one who wants to become a public figure acts in secret. Since you are doing these things, show yourself to the world."—stop hiding out here—you need to be in the Big City so you’ll get noticed

h. We Know Who Your Friends Should Be-- LK 5:27 After this, Jesus went out and saw a tax collector by the name of Levi sitting at his tax booth. "Follow me," Jesus said to him, 28 and Levi got up, left everything and followed him.

LK 5:29 Then Levi held a great banquet for Jesus at his house, and a large crowd of tax collectors and others were eating with them. 30 But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law who belonged to their sect complained to his disciples, "Why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and `sinners'?"

LK 5:31 Jesus answered them, "It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. 32 I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance."

i. MT 11:18 For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, `He has a demon.' 19 The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, `Here is a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and "sinners." ' But wisdom is proved right by her actions."

j. King by Force-- JN 6:14 After the people saw the miraculous sign that Jesus did, they began to say, "Surely this is the Prophet who is to come into the world." 15 Jesus, knowing that they intended to come and make him king by force, withdrew again to a mountain by himself.

k. Again, Jesus failed to have His mission imposed on Him. He refused to have His behavior Imposed on Him—He refused to have the “right people” imposed on Him—H refused to be made King by some other means, He refused even to do miracles in some places.

l. You and I have many expectations of Jesus—He’s one of the more talked about and misunderstood characters in history—we try to make Jesus into our own image—if I’m for it, or I’m doing it—then I’m sure Jesus is doing it or for it too. Jesus won’t care—not only does He love everybody, but He saves everybody.

2. Mission Explained
a. We want to let ourselves off the hook on so many things—saying the law of righteousness or the call to holiness by God no longer applies to us or it is outdated. We may not always understand what this means MT 5:17 "Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.

b. We think of Jesus as the cute and cuddly Savior—much like the Teddy Bear you received last Christmas—But Jesus describes Himself this way in the Sermon on the Mount---Matthew 10:34T 10:34 "Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword.” He wants people to make a decision about Him—and that decision will divide friendships, households, even nations.

c. So many want to make Jesus tolerant—never imposing His faith—never trying to tell someone else they are wrong----MK 1:38 Jesus replied, "Let us go somewhere else--to the nearby villages--so I can preach there also. That is why I have come." 39 So he traveled throughout Galilee, preaching in their synagogues and driving out demons.—for there to be Good News—there had to be Bad News—for there to be demons, there has to be evil—and He called it what it was—

d. John 10:10 The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.
JN 10:11 "I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.

e. JN 12:46 I have come into the world as a light, so that no one who believes in me should stay in darkness.
JN 12:47 "As for the person who hears my words but does not keep them, I do not judge him. For I did not come to judge the world, but to save it

f. Even today—we expect Jesus to come in and solve all our problems—if we just get Jesus back into our schools, if we just get Jesus back into our government—those expectations are not much different from the Jewish misunderstandings of what the Messiah was coming to do. But Jesus came to save people and change people and in so doing will change society. In describing His mission—Jesus, in visiting His hometown said this LK 4:16 He went to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, and on the Sabbath day he went into the synagogue, as was his custom. And he stood up to read. 17 The scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed to him. Unrolling it, he found the place where it is written:
LK 4:18 "The Spirit of the Lord is on me,
because he has anointed me
to preach good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners
and recovery of sight for the blind,
to release the oppressed,
to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor."
LK 4:20 Then he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant and sat down. The eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fastened on him, 21 and he began by saying to them, "Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing."

g. So much of what follows in the Gospels are moments when He feeds the hungry, frees those held in demonic bondage, restores sight to the blind, heals the sick.—He doesn’t go to the halls government—he goes to the hearts of people.

h. Since so many don’t like to hear that they are wrong, don’t like to hear that they are going down the wrong path—they have issues with the real Jesus--Luke 19:10-- 10 For the Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost."—if you’re lost—you need someone to find you , to put you on the right path

i. I would expect someone as important as Jesus to demand favorable treatment—superstar glamour--some big wigs before agreeing to a speaking engagement require a certain amount of money, certain hotel and food perks—but not Jesus Matt. 20:28-- 28 just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many."

j. Predictions of death & resurrection
i. MT 20:17 Now as Jesus was going up to Jerusalem, he took the twelve disciples aside and said to them, 18 "We are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be betrayed to the chief priests and the teachers of the law. They will condemn him to death 19 and will turn him over to the Gentiles to be mocked and flogged and crucified. On the third day he will be raised to life!"
ii. MT 26:1 When Jesus had finished saying all these things, he said to his disciples, 2 "As you know, the Passover is two days away--and the Son of Man will be handed over to be crucified."
3. Mission in Action
a. Jesus was all about reconnecting people with God
b. That’s why, when He saw the abuse at the Temple—He was willing to throw over tables, and drive people out who were cheating and taking advantage of the poor.

c. Rather than allow himself to be king—to be used as a political tool--even when the people tried to force the issue, Jesus would Slip away from being made king—even when Satan offered it all for a small price

d. Jesus Refusing to make Himself into a Public Figure by going to the feast with His brothers—but came silently and began to teach

e. Refusing to do miracles on queue—

f. Instead, Jesus Setting his face toward Jerusalem –on numerous occasions, Jesus’ determination to go to Jerusalem is described—nothing could alter His course—not even the begging of His disciples

g. Refusing to escape—Gethsemane—don’t you know I could call upon 10 legions of angels

h. Nothing could deter Jesus from fulfilling His mission. Every step of the way—when moments of temptation would come to take Him off the path—you need to know that your face flashed before His eyes—the ones He came to save—the ones He came to rescue from darkness and death.

i. Also consider the passion with which He fulfilled His mission—how nothing dissuade Him—not fear, not death, not embarrassment—all because of His love

j. Now consider that after fulfilling His mission—Jesus gave you and me a mission that we need to fulfill with the same undeterred passion that Jesus had. To share our light—to help rescue people from darkness. Nothing should deter us from the Mission that Christ Accomplished on the Cross and gave to us to share—not fear, not death, not embarrassment. Too often we do let those things and more stop us.

k. But our love for Jesus should compel us—it compels me to want to fulfill my mission—to see you fulfill your mission—to see the Kingdom of God grow in our hearts and our church and our city. So this Christmas—honor the birth of Christ by fulfilling the mission He gave you.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Sermon -- Christmas 2007--Mission Accomplished

Mission Accomplished

Kings leave their Throne Rooms for various reasons—self-indulgent vacation time, conquest of other territories, treasures—Great Kings, Great Leaders have a bigger vision--leave their throne on great quests—some noble or impossible mission

Why would a King such as Jesus leave His throne? Give up everything,
Lay Aside eternity and be bound by Time
Lay Aside Omnipresence—and be bound within a body
Lay aside Omnipotence—and be born as a powerless baby
Lay aside Invulnerability and become Vulnerable—able to experience death

Jesus had a reason for coming—He didn’t just look at this world as the best vacation spot for a life of relaxation—there was no territory for Him to conquer b/c it really already belonged to Him. Jesus had a greater Vision. He had a reason—we’ll see where He describes His Mission, more into that reason next week—when He speaks to those reasons Himself. But He hoped to accomplish something

Today we’ll be looking at that Mission and How it was Completed—how it was Accomplished—

Christmas is the beginning of the earthly mission of a great King—but it happens in a most unusual way.
A small child is born in a small town, to parents who won’t be recognized on the nightly news and who wouldn’t ever have a red carpet laid out for them. This Coming must be understood in light of where Jesus is going.

Crucifixion—Mission Inspired--The Plan of Old—Fulfillment of Prophecy
• One of the tv shows I used to watch—that has now attained societal cult like status—is McGyver—no matter what situation he found himself in—he could always improvise an explosive, a distraction or some other superior strategy using a pocket knife, a stick of gum still in the wrapper, a ball point pen, duct tape, soda, paperclips, household cleaning products—among other items you either have around the house or carry in your pocket on a regular basis.

• One of the lessons you can get from the program is that You can never plan for all contingencies—so be prepared to improvise with what you’ve got. Always have a backup plan.

• I am thankful that God does not take this approach. He doesn’t have to. Nothing in this world from eternity past, to creation, to any point until now has taken God by surprise. So even before the creation of humanity, God already knew that we were going to turn away from Him, but also knew exactly what it would take to restore us—the Sacrifice of His Son

• The Crucifixion of Jesus was not Plan B—it was not an Accident—God was never wringing His hands, looking around thinking—“what do I have to do to fix this—hmmm, let me see if I take one of these and a little bit of that and throw in Jesus—that way I’ll save humanity!”

• God’s plan was in motion from the beginning—in Genesis 3—God promised there would be One who’s heel the serpent would strike, but who would in turn crush the serpents head—

• The setting aside of a Chosen People—starting with Abraham—was for the purpose of bringing this Messiah into the world. Who Jesus is, and what Jesus had to endure was prophesied about hundreds of years before the events took place.
• During the lifetime of King David—the late 900’s BC--Psalm 22-describes what would happen to the Messiah-PS 22:15 My strength is dried up like a potsherd, and my tongue sticks to the roof of my mouth; you lay me in the dust of death.
16 Dogs have surrounded me; a band of evil men has encircled me, they have pierced my hands and my feet.
17 I can count all my bones; people stare and gloat over me.
PS 22:18 They divide my garments among them and cast lots for my clothing.

• During the lifetime of Isaiah—the 7 & 600’s BC, God revealed this about the Suffering Servant--Isaiah 534 Surely he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows, yet we considered him stricken by God, smitten by him, and afflicted.
5 But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed.
6 We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all.
10 Yet it was the LORD's will to crush him and cause him to suffer, and though the LORD makes his life a guilt offering, he will see his offspring and prolong his days, and the will of the LORD will prosper in his hand.

• These are but a small demonstration of the fact that the Crucifixion was a part of God’s plan from the beginning. All of it, according to 1 Corinthians 15 takes place, “according to the Scriptures”

• Galatians 4:4 says that “when the time had fully come, God sent His Son”--When the time had fully come means—when the time was right, when all the preparations had been made.

• Now, don’t take any of this to think that the Father knew what it would take but He had been holding out on Jesus, keeping Jesus in the dark—no

• Luke 9:22—“"The Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, chief priests and teachers of the law, and he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life."

• Luke 18:31-33—“Jesus took the Twelve aside and told them, "We are going up to Jerusalem, and everything that is written by the prophets about the Son of Man will be fulfilled. 32 He will be handed over to the Gentiles. They will mock him, insult him, spit on him, flog him and kill him. 33 On the third day he will rise again."

• For a Purpose—Died for our sins—1 Cor. 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

• Out of Love—John 3:16—“For God so loved the world that He gave or sent His only Son.”—This sending is a demonstration of just how much God seeks to reconcile and restore our relationship with Him

• John 15:13—“Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.

• Romans 5:8—“s

• The Crucifixion is About Accomplishing the Mission He had been sent for—From the Cross—Jesus said several things—

• Today You will be with Me in Paradise—apart from what Jesus was doing right then and there—it was impossible for that man to be in Paradise at all—paradise had been denied—humanity had been expelled—the presence of Holy God would not allow a sin stained individual before Him—and yet, because of the Cross—Paradise is Restored—it is now possible—

• Father, into Your hands, I commit My Spirit—Jesus felt the weight of sin and the separation it causes but you and I need to know that He was not rejected by God—Psalm 22:24 For he has not despised or disdained the suffering of the afflicted one; he has not hidden his face from him but has listened to his cry for help.”

• He says—“It is Finished”, to bring to a close, to finish, to end passed, finished to perform, execute, complete, fulfil, (so that the thing done corresponds to what has been said ordered or commanded)

• The Crucifixion is the moment of Mission Accomplished—for the Christmas Mission to earth

• And just in case there is any doubt about the Acceptability of the sacrifice—The Resurrection is Proof that the Mission Accomplished in Mission Accepted.

Resurrection—Mission Acceptable
• If the Mission ended in Dying—it’s doubtful I’d be talking about it today. It’s doubtful much of anything would have been written, it’s doubtful our western civilization would be anything like what we’ve got.

• If it ended in death—with Jesus still in the grave—there would be nothing for you and I to be here worshipping about—because ultimately, it would mean that what Jesus did was not good enough, was not acceptable—is of no significant help to you and me to reconcile us back to God.

• Hebrews 8:3—“Every high priest is appointed to offer both gifts and sacrifices, and so it was necessary for this one also to have something to offer.”

• Heb. 9:11-14-- 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. 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. 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!

• Demonstration of God’s Acceptance
• Romans 3:25-26-- God presented him as a sacrifice of atonement, through faith in his blood. He did this to demonstrate his justice, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished-- 26 he did it to demonstrate his justice at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus.
• 1 John 4:10—“ This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.”

• If the Sacrifice of Jesus was not enough, not good enough, not effective—then there would be no reason to resurrect Him. But by claiming resurrection—God is saying that the Mission was a Great Success

• Proof that sin & death were defeated
• Proof that we have been reconciled to God
• Proof that we have been rescued from the dominion of darkness—Colossians 1:13-14—“ For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, 14 in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.

• His eternal life is Proof of our eternal life—because He lives
• Mission accomplished

Acts 1:9
• Mission on earth completed, but it’s not like He’s doing nothing in the mean-time

• Mission in heaven continued—Jesus is continuing to get things ready for the Mission Victorious—the Second Coming.

• He is continuing to Call people to Him
• Continuing to intercede for us,
• Continuing to granting us access,
• Continuing to defend us from accusation when we are covered by the Blood
• The Mission Victorious is Waiting—awaiting the word from the Father to go and Finalize—vs. 10-11

• In the Meantime…the earthly mission can be described as

• Mission Delegated—Acts 1:7-8—“ He said to them: "It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority. 8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth."
• to You and Me—you will be my witnesses—go and make disciples.—go tell it on the mountain.
• Jesus Mission is Accomplished—accomplished by the Cross—it becomes real for you by receiving the forgiveness He Provides.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Sermon--Mission Victorious--Second Coming of Christ

The Christmas Season is One in which we Celebrate His first Coming. His Coming and everything about it is His Mission—Mission Initiated—I’m going to save that one until the 23rd.

As we’ve been going through the Letters to the Churches in Revelation—we wrapped up last week considering the Encouragements, the Corrections & the Promises that could be made to us today.

In fact, we’re going to be working backward—starting with the Mission Victorious

Warren Wiersbe tells a story of when he was a young man preaching on the last days with all the events of prophecy clearly laid out and perfectly planned. At the end of the service an older gentleman came up to him and whispered in his ear, “I used to have the Lord’s return planned out to the last detail, but years ago I moved from the planning committee to the welcoming committee.”

Mission Victorious—The Return of Christ is a much debated and Controversial topic.

What the World is Saying
If He’s Even Real—From Bertrand Russell, to the Jesus Seminar and philosophers from as far back as the 1800’s—more and more vocal and embittered scholars are attempting to make the case that Jesus never existed at all. In a lawsuit against the Vatican, the Church was accused of inventing the story of Jesus' existence. Although the case was thrown out of court in February, 2006, the plaintiff, Luigi Cascioli, has appealed.

The argument against Jesus' existence was made public on a national TV broadcast on CNN with the following startling statement: “Well, I’m here to give the reality point of view, I guess,” declared Ellen Johnson, president of American Atheists. “Because the reality is, there is not one shred of secular evidence there ever was a Jesus Christ.

In most circles such claims are not given much credibility—but it’s still being said in an increasing manner. If Jesus never existed, there’s no way He could ever Return.

As if He’s Even Alive—if Jesus did really exist then many more are unwilling to believe He’s still alive—within the last year—even famous movie director James Cameron tried to convince the world that a team of archaeologists had found the burial box of Jesus

As if He’ll Return— It’s been so long since the life of Jesus—that even more and more Christians are beginning to disbelieve the second coming. People are Scoffing
2 Peter 3:3-4—“First of all, you must understand that in the last days scoffers will come, scoffing and following their own evil desires. 4 They will say, "Where is this `coming' he promised? Ever since our fathers died, everything goes on as it has since the beginning of creation."

Several years ago Johnny Carson had Billy Graham as a guest on The Tonight Show. At one point there was a lull in the conversation and Johnny said, “You know what, Billy? I bet if Jesus ever came back to earth, we’d do Him in again!”

Billy Graham leaned forward in his seat, and said, “In the Bible we read that Jesus WILL someday return to earth again. The first time He came in love. The next time, He’ll come in power. And no one will do Him in!”

Scripture teaches the reality of the Second Coming—of the Mission Victorious
Even Angels Testify—Acts 1:10-11—“They were looking intently up into the sky as he was going, when suddenly two men dressed in white stood beside them. 11 "Men of Galilee," they said, "why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven."

What Jesus has Said
“I Will Come”—John 14:1-3—“"Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me. 2 In my Father's house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. 3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.
Mark 14:61-62-- Again the high priest asked him, "Are you the Christ, the Son of the Blessed One?" MK 14:62 "I am," said Jesus. "And you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One and coming on the clouds of heaven."

Revelation 22:7, 12, 20—“Behold, I Am Coming Soon”
Jesus speaks of a certainty—of an absolute fact.

He’s not coming back with His Messianic nature veiled but revealed. Jesus In Victory
To Forever do away with Sin & Death—they have been defeated by the Resurrection Power
To Restore All of Creation to it’s Intended State –Romans 8—“liberated from its bondage to decay”
To Establish His Kingdom—where Revelation 19 describes Him as the King of Kings and Lord of Lords
To Claim His Bride—the Bride, which is the Believing Church, which He died for
To Receive the Willing Worship of His People
In this coming there will be no possibility of doubt, no possibility of missing it, no denying it, no secret coming, no ignoring it—instead at the name of Jesus—“that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, PHP 2:11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”

This is the Victory that is in our Future!
What is He Waiting For? When Will His Mission be Established in Victory?

Mercy is Patient—2 Peter 3:9—“The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.

We are Waiting from a Word from the Father

“I Won’t Come Yet—not while there’s still more—more who need to hear—more who will believe.” When the last person has heard, when the last person has believed, when the last one who will ever make a decision to follow Jesus has made it—when the fields that are white to the harvest have been reaped—The Word Will Be Given!
When we as the People of God—ambassadors for Christ—foreign missionaries—every one of us—because this world is not our home—we have been sent—when We have fulfilled our Mission—taking the Good news to every Tribe & Tongue--Jesus will return to Finalize in Victory His Mission--

Matthew 24:14—“and this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.”
Mark 13:10—“And the gospel must first be preached to all nations.”

What Should We Be Saying?
EPH 6:19 Pray also for me, that whenever I open my mouth, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel, 20 for which I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I may declare it fearlessly, as I should.

It is my belief in and our love for the Second Coming that should keep us proclaiming the Name of Jesus—the forgiveness His death on the Cross purchased—the Hope that is ours in the Resurrection

Christmas is about Hope—if He came the first time—He’ll come a second time.

The Gospel, the Good News must be Proclaimed to those who so desperately need to hear it
Be His Witnesses

Live as If Christ died 3 days ago, Rose this Morning and is Coming Again Tomorrow—that is a life of victory.

invest your gift—fulfill your mission—love greatly—anticipate that Victorious Return.

Luke 21:28—“When these things begin to take place, stand up and lift up your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.”

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Revelation Wrap Up--What if a Letter was written to Us?

A few weeks ago, Vicky and I went to the IBSA Annual Conference and as much as I hate to admit it—in the middle of a rather unimpressive sermon, my mind caught on to a single verse that’s very relevant to the series on the churches from Revelation.

—2 Timothy 4:8-- Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day--and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing.

The question that came to my mind was
Do I Love His Appearing? Does the reality of the Return of Christ for His Bride Thrill me? Jesus was speaking to & through the Apostle John to a group of churches that were struggling to come to terms with their place in a world they were convinced would be over soon. They longed for Christ’s appearing b/c of the great injustices they were seeing, for the pain and torment they were feeling, for the anguish. The return of Christ was and is a Very Real Event—and Jesus knows this and He sends them these letters—He preserved them in Scripture so that we as this church might benefit.
We as the church examine ourselves in light of the letters in Revelation.

In essence--what if Jesus wrote a letter to our church like the ones that appear in Revelation? What would He say?

If you love His appearing you will:

1) Hear His Encouragements
a. Almost every letter begins with a word of encouragement. Jesus has something explicitly good to say about 5 of the 7 churches.

b. You know you Love His Appearing When:
i. Ephesus—Persevere in your Hard Work, you do not tolerate Wickedness, but test all teachers for truth
ii. Continue to Bear your Afflictions and remain faithful even when Lacking
iii. Remain True to His Name & you don’t Renounce your Faith
iv. Growing & Doing More than at First
v. Remember the faith that you Received & obey it
vi. Keep His Word & do Not Deny His Name
vii. Fulfill Your Purpose
c. He will tell you what you need to know
d. He will tell you what you need to do—be faithful, overcome, proclaim
e. He will tell you what you need to hear
f. He will tell you what you need to say
g. If you are doing what God has called you to do

h. A demonstration that you love His appearing is that you want to see more and more people ready for that appearing, more and more people looking forward to it, more and more people ready to

i. When you are struggling in the face of great opposition, when you are depressed and wondering if it’s worth it, if you are making a difference—know that Jesus sees and recognizes your faithfulness—no matter the appearances of success, if you are being faithful, not taking advantage, not being lazy, not taking for granted your calling then Hear His Encouragement.

j. If you are doing what God has called you to do… you’d better keep doing it.

k. I don’t care who tells you to stop, who tells you to be quiet, who tells you you’re not doing good enough, who tries to discourage you—opposition which may come from outside the church but can also come from within the church if you are Faithful to the calling of God—Hear His Encouragement—Keep Doing What You Are Doing—Keep Being Faithful—Hear His Well Done—His opinion is the only one that matter

l. If you have the Approval of God, you don’t need the Approval of Men.

m. God knows our situation and wants to encourage you and me in our situation. He knows your works and all that you have been doing to serve Him and make Him known. He knows the spiritual darkness of our community, the apathy, the indifference, the coldness, the hibernation toward the things of God of so many living in Macomb—and how you and I are called to be the light that shines into a dark place—that is our calling as the church—to be the light—to fulfill our Mission—and in fulfilling that mission as a church—each of you has an individual calling and gifting to strengthen the church to do what God has called us to do. So hear the encouragement—if you Love and Look forward to your calling, then:

n. Obey Your Calling With Passion
o. Obey Your Calling with Faithfulness
p. Obey Your Calling with Persistence & Endurance—don’t quit just because it gets hard or not everyone understands it.

What Would Jesus Encourage Us About?

2) Loving Fellowship—people are welcomed and there is a strong desire for a sense of family love & connection
3) Sound Doctrine—we are unified around the essentials of the faith without being uniformists—we exemplify the traditional Christian phrase—“in the essentials—unity, in the non-essentials—liberty, in all things—charity”
4) generosity—UBC is a very giving church—I know not everyone tithes, I know your bills scare you into holding back—but I also know that when someone is in need—you will be generous.
a. Hear His Encouragements but also…

5) Heed His Warnings
a. Why should we?

b. Because you do want to be ready—heed His warnings because you want to accomplish the task, the calling He has given you. if you’re not doing what God has called you to do then Heed the Warning—Be about His business, the Business of the Kingdom—

c. Also, heed His Warnings b/c there is no perfect church. There are many things for Jesus to be pleased with—but every single church this side of heaven will need some correction—Always remember, this warning, this rebuke is a proof of His love—those He loves, He rebukes and disciplines—according to 3:19. So the fact that He warns and rebukes is not a bad thing—it is proof that He wants more for us.

d. If you’re not doing what He has called you to do—watch out—Shape Up—Stop Drop & Roll
e. If you’re not doing what He has called you to do—heed the Warning b/c Jesus wants you to fulfill His calling!

f. Symptoms that you don’t love His appearing:
i. You have Forsaken Your First Love and have stopped doing what you did at first—prayer, bible study, sharing, service
ii. You are Compromising your faith in Belief & Behavior excusing yourself and becoming a stumbling block for other believers.
iii. You have a reputation of being alive, but you’re really going through the motions and are in need of CPR
iv. You are not fulfilling your purpose—neither hot nor cold—remember, being cold in this context is not a bad thing—just like it’s OK for you to not have every gift that some other believer has—if your purpose and function is being cold—then do it. A symptom that you don’t love His appearing is that you have a Gift, you have a Calling and you’re not doing it—you’re resisting it—you’re ignoring it—you’re afraid of it.

g. Remember your first love or your lampstand/church will die

h. Stop Compromising your faith in Belief or Behavior and becoming a stumbling block for other believers or Jesus will oppose us to defend the truly faithful

i. Stop tolerating sinful beliefs and behaviors—no matter someone’s reputation or position, stand for the truth or everyone who follows them will suffer.

j. WAKE UP—if you love His appearing—then you can’t be dead and indifferent. The more we are lukewarm, the more you compromise our beliefs and behaviors, tolerate the attitudes of this world—the less you love and are looking forward to His appearing

k. We are in danger having lost our first love—the energy, the passion with which this church was built needs to be restored—we have such generosity, but

l. Peter lets us know that it is our faith that is more important to God than anything. He wants to refine it, to make it pure, to ensure that you are the best disciple you can be—He doesn’t want to see us going down the wrong road—so He will warn, He will seek to restore our Love—has your love grown cold? Have you forgotten your first love?

What Would Jesus Warn Us About?
1. A Tight Christian Family —Group Dynamics—a tight group can quickly become a closed, self-serving group--can easily dampen the burden for the lost and hurting. Our sense of family must never make us a closed group to new people with new ways to serve—with real hurts and struggles
2. Financial generosity must never take the place of hands on ministry to advance the kingdom of God
3. don’t forget your first & most important love—do what you did at first with more mature motives Now than then.
4. We are in Danger of being Distracted from Our Mission—Missions is not something you have to go off to Africa or Asia to do—Missions happens when you walk across the street to talk to a neighbor, you can fulfill the mission of the church when you go to the store, get in a conversation—don’t make an appointment for someone else to –we exist as a church not to serve ourselves but to Magnify His Name—to Advance His Kingdom—to Make Disciples—to see that others Long for His Appearing

6) Hold On to His Promise—don’t lose sight of it.
a. To him who overcomes…
b. The Tree of Life that had once been denied will be yours. The paradise from which humanity was thrown out—you’ll once again be able to walk in.

c. The Provision of God—the sustaining manna—even in the driest, most depressing times in life, God promises to be all you need—more than that He will give you the White Stone—the All Access Pass to the Creator of the Universe

d. You will See the Great Reversal—all the things that are wrong in this world will be restored to their rightful place under the command and leadership of God. You are promised the Morning Star—which is Christ Himself.

e. You will have the opportunity to walk hand in hand with your Savior and be Announced and even Celebrated before the Father and all the Angels

f. You will be made into a Pillar in the Temple of God and you will never have to leave the Temple of God—you will be a part of raising up the Temple—opening up the temple for God’s Glory to fill

g. Hold on to the Promise that says the Throne of Authority and Royalty is yours.

h. All of that is promised in the Second Coming of Christ—there are rewards—a crown of righteousness in store for you and me.

7) Do you love His appearing?
a. I hope that you haven’t lost sight of the vision of Christ’s Return—
b. Do you have a Vision of His Appearing? What happens when a people loses their vision?
c. Proverbs 29:18—“Where there is no Vision, the people perish” —where the church has no vision of our Savior’s Appearing, no Vision of our Mission and How to Fulfill it—no love for either—then we will perish.
d. Confusion—With NO Vision we won’t know What we’re supposed to be doing until He comes?

8) be like the servants, who when given talents while the master is away—doubles what has been given to them—because they loved their master—don’t be the servant who so feared the master’s return that he buried his talent in the sand—unused, unproductive.
9) you were never meant to be unused—you were never meant to be unproductive—find your passion

a. This vision of His appearing will lead us directly into
b. If you are not saved, if Jesus is not your Savior and Lord of your life, if you have not had your sins forgiven, then there’s no way you can love His appearing—you will be and should be afraid of it. The book of Revelation should freak you out. If you are nervous about seeing the Face

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Gabriel's Baptism

These are pictures taken on November 11, 2007 during Gabriel's baptism. There are few things as a father that are more exciting and a greater blessing than to see your child declare their faith in baptism and pledge their lives to God. Praise God for this wonderful testimony.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Potentially Groundbreaking?

I found this Article in the Salt Lake Tribune about a wording change in the introduction to the Book of Mormon. It is a potentially groundbreaking change that has not happened in my adult lifetime. In many ways, I'm stunned and interested in the long term effect of this change in wording.

It opens the door for a shift in Mormon theology, by attempting to reconcile it to modern scientific theories. The significance of the change has to do with the ancestry of Native Americans--is that ancestry accurate as the Book of Mormon describes or has DNA and other archaeological evidence proven otherwise? The video below is about a 50 minute documentary of some of the difficulties for the history of America presented in the BoM.

The alternative of this kind of change that could prevent L-D-Saints from totally allegorizing the text, or totally abandoning it's historicity, or completely undermining the truthfulness of Joseph Smith.

To make a comparison, for me, it would be akin to all the archaeological, linguistic, and other evidences validating some Islamic claims that the Jews never occupied nor ever built a temple in Jerusalem--for that matter, ever lived in the territory called Palestine.

Like I said, it will be interesting to see how this plays out and how it affects the rank and file Mormon believer. If anyone reading this is Mormon, I would appreciate any insights into your thinking as well as encourage you to see the video.

Pursuing Answer to Questions of Faith & Life

Letter to Laodicea--Revelation 3:14-22

We’re coming to the last letter to the churches in Revelation—and in some ways, it might be the most challenging one yet because it carries a warning not just a church like UBC, but for all the churches in the United States, even all the churches in Western Civilization.

Laodicea was a very, very wealthy city, founded by Antiochus II and named after his wife Laodicea. The city was strategically located where three highways converged, thus it was highly commercial. It was well known for its banking industry, its manufacture of black wool and a medical school that produced eye ointment. The wealth in the city had been used to build theaters, a huge stadium, lavish public baths and fabulous shopping centers. Sound familiar? Sounds like any typical American city. So wealthy was this city that when an earthquake almost entirely destroyed it in 60 AD, its wealthy citizens refused help from Rome in rebuilding the city. They did it all themselves. If you were a real estate agent at the time it wouldn’t be hard to sell Laodicea. It was a great place to live. The land of opportunity. The only real negative about the place was its lack of an adequate water supply—and that will come into play later

READ Rev. 3:14-22

Jesus identifies Himself as the Amen—used at the beginning of a statement, it signifies that it is a statement of truth—used at the end—signifying Agreement—particularly in terms of Divine Truth, Action or Will--Jesus is the Amen—always agrees and is obedient to the Will of the Father ands o He is the Faithful and True Witness—testifyer in Word and Deed to the Rightness and Goodness and Glory of God. Jesus is the example of everything He has called us to be—faithful and true—in spite of suffering and difficulty—When we have seen Him—we have seen the Father—when we hear or read His words—we are hearing the words of God. He is the

Originator/Ruler/Source/Beginning of Creation of all creation—Colossians 1:16-- For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him.”

We take comfort in that b/c no matter how big and intimidating and threatening this world may be—Jesus is greater—creation is answerable to Him—so we have the privilege of going to the highest authority—and no matter what this world’s opinion of us may be—if He is pleased with us—we are truly blessed.

1. Jesus walks among us and takes our Temperature—

a. One of the things that I always hate about taking one of my kids to the doctor with because of a fever is because invariably—when we get into the office and they actually put the thing in their ear, they don’t have a fever. A fever is often times the only symptom to know that something is wrong—there is some sickness, some illness, some cold, flu, infection impacting the body.

b. Temperature has been recognized for most of human history as an indicator of health—too warm—you have a fever with any number of causes—too cold—you may be loosing blood, hypothermic, or dead. Jesus didn’t have to be the Divine Son of God to know that temperature is an indicator of health. But He would have had an even better understanding of it. And in this letter, He lets us know that temperature is also a way to assess Spiritual Health as well. Jesus walks among us and takes our Temperature to assess the health of each of us and the whole congregation.

c. He is using a local, well known problem relating to their water supply to relay a spiritual meaning. I told you we would eventually get to this. This is a sort of parable, if you will!
Laodicea, as rich as it was, had a serious water problem. The city’s water was “piped in” from six miles out. It came to them along an aqueduct. By the time it arrived it was lukewarm. The city of Hierapolis, just seven miles north of Laodicea, was famous for its hot springs. Colossea, less than ten miles away, was known for its cool water.

d. But they at Laodicea were neither—they were neither Hot, like the water pumped in from Hierapolis, nor Cold, like the water from Colossae.

e. Right now they were neither—essentially, they are not what they are supposed to be—they are not fulfilling their expected function—

f. Why would He rather they be cold or hot? I’ve always thought of being cold as a bad thing, and being on fire for God was a good thing.—He wouldn’t prefer us to be one or the other unless something more were going on. But I still cannot reconcile the idea that Jesus would “rather” us be cold” than warm.

g. Cold water is supposed to be cold—on a hot summer’s day when you’ve just finished mowing the lawn the last thing you want is a hot chocolate. You want an iced tea, a cold glass of lemonade. Hot water is supposed to be hot—with it you can make the hot tea, coffee, chocolate—you don’t want iced coffee when it’s 30 degrees outside.

h. They were a church that had a function, that had a role that was intended to fulfill their purpose—just like in your house—cold water has it’s place—hot water has it’s place. Being a faithful and true witness to the Glory of God and the Good News of Jesus Christ—

i. This church was either Not Doing the Right Things—i.e.—not fulfilling their purpose or What they were doing, they were doing for the wrong reason—the wrong motive—and so not fulfilling their Mission & Calling.

j. In this Case, when Jesus takes the Temperature of the Church—when He sticks the Thermometer in our mouth—He wants to get a reading—He gages our spiritual health by getting a reading—and having a fever is a good thing—because we would be fulfilling our intended purpose—having a cold temperature is a good thing—b/c we would be fulfilling our calling.

k. It’s the room temperature, it’s the average, it’s the blending in temperature that is problematic and not the church that is faithful and true.

l. Just keep doing what we’re doing, don’t draw attention to yourself, don’t cause a scene, don’t rock the boat, maybe they won’t notice you, maybe they’ll have a good opinion of you, maybe they’ll leave you alone, maybe they won’t harass you, maybe they’ll even like you.

m. Such an attitude of compromise in the individual Christian and the larger Church body both saddens and sickens the heart of God—we are not fulfilling our Calling. vs. 16—“Because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you/vomit you out of my mouth.”—This church had become distasteful, this church had become unpleasant, this church had become potentially

n. Causes of Lukewarmness

i. Distance from the Source—the further from the source spring, the more like the surrounding temperature it was.

That is a humbling proposition—that we can be lukewarm because in reality are hearts are far from Him. Isaiah 29:13--The Lord says: "These people come near to me with their mouth and honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me.”—when we are far from the source—the source of our power and strength—the ruler of God’s creation—we blend in—and that makes us distasteful

ii. Sitting Out W/Out being Used—perhaps we can be close to the source—but if we go unused for extended periods of time, then we become distasteful. I hate going to a restaurant, ordering a Coke only to have them bring me one that is flat—no bubbles. It’s no longer fresh—so it’s no longer fulfilling it’s purpose. I usually make them take it back and get me something else.

Think of all the things that when they get left out and sit around for a while or overnight that are no longer good for you or appealing—an ice cube tray, a gallon of milk, ice cream, coffee, leftovers

Think of all the skills and gifts and blessings God has given you that are untapped, unused.

iii. Scripture gives its own causes of Lukewarmness in vs. 17—not only does Jesus walk Among us and take our Temperature, but He also walks among us as our personal accountant—who knows our financial situation better than we do ourselves.

2. Jesus Walks Among us with a Calculator—vs. 17

a. Symptoms which make you lukewarm—I’m rich, I’m wealthy, I’ve got everything I need—life is good, so good that I’ve got nothing to worry about—I’ve got the best house, the best car, the best job, the best clothes—every symbol of the American Dream is mine--God was a convenience

b. Remember, this was a very wealthy city and maybe even congregation—they had refused help to rebuild. Imagine if New Orleans had said—No thanks to all the federal aid and assistance in rebuilding after Katrina.

c. They were the epitome of Self-Sufficiency—and it made them indifferent to the things of God—they thought they were Rich

d. But when Jesus calculated their wealth—He came up with different Numbers. They were ignorant of their real condition.

e. They lived like a superstar, demanded superstar/high roller treatment on a Minimum Wage Salary.

f. They thought they had it all—and were undoubtedly shocked to hear they had nothing of real value. They were the “Dot Com” or Enron investor who went to bed thinking they were a millionaire but overnight, woke up with nothing. They thought they were a Prince, when they were really a Pauper. They thought they were the #1 Draft Pick, when in reality, they were Mr. Irrelevant. They thought they were a part of God’s Best & Blessed, God’s Chosen

g. And when this Reality Check was put before them, when this mirror reflected the Truth, when this Faithful and True Accountant calculated their wealth—He came up with different numbers—and I guarantee it was a shock to hear.

h. This church thought things were great—they thought they were faithful—they thought things were going good—we’re rich—God must love us—we don’t need a thing b/c we’re not suffering, we’re not persecuted—so God must be pleased—NO—you’re ignorant of your true situation

i. You’ve got nothing—everything you’ve got is worthless—it’s fake, it’s virtual spirituality—you’re not rich you’re wretched & poor, you’re not well off—you’re pitiful, you aren’t seeing things clearly—you’re blind

j. Worldly wealth & comfort—misdiagnosis—the faithful and true witness says we are not as rich as we think we are, we are not as well off as we think we are, we are not doing so well as we like to think of ourselves.

k. Instead, we are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked—we are totally impoverished, we’ve been ravaged by war, famine, we’ve lost everything to a fire, hurricane and earthquake—we’ve got nothing

l. The church in Smyrna had nothing—they were suffering. Jesus described them this way in 2:9—I know your afflictions and your poverty—yet you are rich!”

m. The church in Western Civilization has it all—has peace and prosperity—the Church in America has more than anywhere else—we are rich—mostly self sufficient and it has made us largely cold and indifferent to the movement and the heart of God. The church in the West is overall Declining in numbers and influence. All while the fires of revival are raging in what we would call 3rd World or Developing Nations—the Christian population is shifting to Africa and Asia—they are beginning to send more and more missionaries to the very places that first brought the name of Jesus to them.

n. We are so wealthy, so self-sufficient, so self-indulgent, that we no longer rely on God for Power and so we rarely see the Holy Spirit at work. We have become Self-Deluding. We’re kidding ourselves, I’m kidding myself if I think I’m sold out for Christ—it costs me nothing, there is very little price for me to pay, very little threat to my life or livelihood. I blend in nicely

o. The standards Jesus calculates our wealth by is not gold or silver—He says (Matthew 6:19)—“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up fro yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”

p. According to Jesus we are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked. We can’t even afford clothes for ourselves. But thankfully,

3. Jesus Walks Among Us Providing Everything We Need

a. He advises us to get our wealth from Him. Their riches and wealth are not refined by Jesus—they will not survive the fire—what they have does not make them rich spiritually

b. Your house, as nice as it may be—is not nearly as good as the house Jesus is building and decorating for you. your clothes cannot cover your sinfulness, no matter how expensive or what brand—you are totally exposed unless you are covered by the clothes that Jesus gives.

c. Despite the best glasses, contacts, and laservision—you still cannot see clearly. Laodicea was famous for it’s eye ointment—but they were still blind and unable to See what was Really important. They were blind to the things of God, blind to the movement of God, blind to the heart of God, blind to the their own need, blind to the need of the lost around them, blind to the true remedy—their best homegrown remedy could not do it.

d. Jesus promise to heal our spiritual blindness—to make us hot—to make us cold—He desires to make us useful for His Kingdom’s sake He desires to shock us back to reality—He desires to step on our toes so hard that it causes us to cry out in pain, and jump up off our pews and fulfill our Mission and Our Calling—

e. One of these Sundays, I’m going to install a zapper into all of these pews that I can just press a button—and zap you—to get your attention—to wake you up

f. Vs. 19—He’s not saying all of this stuff to us because He doesn’t like us—b/c He’s done with us, given up or moved on. In reality, He is saying all this to us because He loves us—and hates seeing us so self-deluded—thinking we’re on fire when we’re not. Thinking we’re rich, when we’re poor and really so pitiful and weak, like sheep without a shepherd. He hates seeing us unwilling to come in under His wings. He hates seeing us poor, blind & Naked. He hates seeing us Lukewarm when we could be On Fire—when we Could be Hot Chocolate on a cold winter’s Day or a refreshing Iced Tea in the Summer’s heat. Instead, we are settling for mediocrity.

4. Jesus Walks Among Us as a Door-to-Door Revivalist—vs. 20

If you want to be amazed—if you are ready for a sobering encounter with Jesus—then answer this door. This Door Knocking is not for the Purpose of sharing the Good News with the Lost—this is for the Purpose of bringing a Reality Check to the Saved—of Bringing an Awakening of Passion for Jesus Christ—because it is so easy, in our comfort to be lukewarm.

There are a lot of people like that in the church today!
They come to church once in awhile but they aren’t enthusiastic about it.
They come to worship but they have little conviction.
They come to church but they aren’t interested in the church’s programs or projects.
They come to church but they give little or no support in finances or any other way.

Ask yourself these questions: (intimacy inventory)

1. Do my mind and mouth switch to auto-pilot during the song service?
2. Is my last answered prayer just a dim memory?
3. Do I feel guilty, angry or skeptical when I hear someone talk about what they got from their private devotional time w/ God?
4. Do I read my Bible because I’m supposed to, and not because I want to?
5. Do I find myself critiquing and criticizing the service, rather than growing from it?
6. During handshake time, do I wish everyone would just leave me alone?
7. Do those smiling and happy Christians get on my nerves?
8. Am I continually looking for ways of becoming less committed, rather than more committed? (quitting areas of service)

If you can answer yes to one or more of those questions, you may be drifting toward Room Temperature--in danger of losing your first love.

Those He loves –He corrects—He rebukes and disciplines. No discipline seems pleasant at the time—some of you may not like hearing these messages—it makes you uncomfortable—it makes me uncomfortable to have the magnifying glass of Scripture applied to my life. But it is supposed to reap a harvest of righteousness a greater and growing glory to the Kingdom of God.

Just like last week—there is a door—last week, Jesus told us that the doors He opens—they stay open—those He closes—they stay closed.

You have a door—while He is strong enough to overpower you and knock your door down—He knocks & waits for you to open it and invite Him in—then that door remains open

You are the host & He is the guest, usually that means that you provide the dinner—but not this time. I believe in this case, Jesus does, He serves you the best meal-a foretaste of the Marriage Banquet Feast that is in the Future of the Bride of Christ

When you overcome—remain faithful and true witnesses—following in the footsteps of Jesus. He gives you the right to sit on the Throne with Him, in a place of power and rule. Each of these churches may, when reading these overcoming statements be looking around at their situation and thinking—I just don’t see how it’s possible. The rest of Revelation is God’s answer to that concern—it is supposed to be a validation, an assurance, an encouragement to the churches that each of those statements will come to pass.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Sermon--Revelation 3:7-13-- Philiadelphia-- Access Granted

The ending gets a little ragged b/c it represents ideas that came up on Saturday night. So I hope it makes sense.

When visitors go to the White House, they cannot just wander around, they cannot go wherever they want to--they have to stay with the tour, there is limited access to the overall building—ZERO access to the President himself. But when you go into the Kingdom of God through Jesus Christ, you are given a VIP Access Pass—no one can stop you, no one can deny you entry, no one can prevent you from going straight in to the Holy Presence of God—you don’t have to make an appointment—you don’t have to sit down and wait at the receptionists’ desk. The Door is Open to You!

This Letter is about Promised Access

Here we come to a church that had much to be commended for even in the midst of disinformation and hardship. READ vs. 7-13

Philadelphia was a city strategically located on the road from Rome to the east, and was a strong fortress city. It was a city of major influence in the area and was located on the edge of a great volcanic plain which was fertile as a result and perfect for growing grapes. It was the centre of worship of the greek god Dionysius, the god of wine – no surprise really. It’s proximity to active volcanoes was a constant threat and the people in the most part lived outside of the city due to the threat from falling buildings within the city walls.

The church in this city had little strength—not great in numbers—but they had a great faith—a faith that was continuing to overcome hardship and difficulty. And in this Church

Jesus Walks Among Us In Righteousness & Authority

Jesus is holy & true—He is sinless, set apart from you and me—He is the Truth—and as He walks among us, He will not lie—about His love for us, about what He sees in our lives that are right, about what He sees in our life that is wrong—He is Holy—He is True—

Holds the Key of David—a very Jewish reference—it comes from Isaiah 22:20—The Key of David—is the Authority of the Messiah—the Promised King of the Line of David who will Restore the Kingdom of God—bring about the Promises of the Covenant.

Jesus is the one who has the authority in the Kingdom of God. Since He has the key—there is no blessing that is unavailable, no riches that are off limits to Him—only those who call upon Him will He allow to truly enjoy the benefits of the Kingdom. No one can just waltz in and go wherever they want—they must be given and granted access to the Covenant of God through the One who Holds the Master Key. Jesus is the One who holds, the one who Wields that Authority.

He has the authority to open and close all access. He is the Way, the Truth & the Life—no one comes to the Father except through Him. The Terms of the Covenant—the Terms of Relationship with the Father are set and determined by Jesus and His Death & Resurrection.

Jesus walks among us and He is not a “Yes Man”

Many companies, many colleges will hire an Outside consultant every few years to give a fresh evaluation of the company’s effectiveness. Sometimes, the findings are not welcome—as a result those that hired the consultants question their motives, question their qualifications—the more the outside consultant challenges or questions what you do or how you do it—what they’ve actually been called in to consult on—the LESS likely they are to be well received. In many cases, consultants are brought in with the expectation of “confirmation”—no you really are doing a good job—most things are fine—all the problems are minor.

We need to remember in our walk as the Church, that Jesus is not a consultant that we bring in every so often for an outside opinion. He is not a hireling, He does not wait to be invited in

He is the Owner & Founder, He is the CEO that takes a daily/weekly walkthrough to Inspect the Effectiveness of One of His Branch Offices/Departments/Productions

His assessment is Valid. His assessment in Unbiased. His assessment is Authoritative

What He opens cannot be shut—what He shuts cannot be opened. There is no one to appeal to; no one to overrule Him, not even a majority vote—His decisions are Final.

He has the Key, the authority of David as the Messiah. The One with this Authority is also the One who invites us to pray-- LK 11:9 "So I say to you: Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. 10 For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened.

Jesus Walks Among us and Knows Some Want to Close Doors—vs. 9

The Jewish Community wanted to

Close the Door to the Synagogue for any Jew who Believed Jesus Was the Messiah

Close the Door to the Covenant and Blessing of God because anyone who Believed in Jesus ceased being a Jew

Close the Door to the Love of God for anyone who received baptism in Jesus’ Name

Close the Door to Family & Friendships for their betrayal

Close the Door to a Relationship with God for any Gentile—that did not have the lineage of Abraham.

Just by accepting Jesus—a believer would suffer hardship and loss and only if they renounced their belief in Jesus would those doors be opened to them again.—they taught that God would shut them out, that God didn’t love them, that they were under the same curse that Jesus experienced. They had ceased being Jews anymore by claiming this false Messiah and for accepting Gentiles into the faith.

They claim to be Jews—with a true zeal for God--but in God’s Assessment, Faith in Jesus is the Determining Factor of someone being a Member of the Chosen People of God—Faith in Jesus makes you a part of the TRUE Covenant Community—not based on Lineage, Ethnicity or anything other than FAITH--Trusting Jesus brings you Under the Blessing of God and

Paul had to address this confusion Romans 2:28-29 --A man is not a Jew if he is only one outwardly, nor is circumcision merely outward and physical. 29 No, a man is a Jew if he is one inwardly; and circumcision is circumcision of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the written code. Such a man's praise is not from men, but from God.

Romans 9:6-8-- For not all who are descended from Israel are Israel. 7 Nor because they are his descendants are they all Abraham's children. On the contrary, "It is through Isaac that your offspring will be reckoned." 8 In other words, it is not the natural children who are God's children, but it is the children of the promise who are regarded as Abraham's offspring.

Some of you may be seeing some doors closed to you b/c of your faith in Christ. Some of you may have felt the sting of having doors closed, relationships ended, friendships denied or maligned. Be assured that Jesus knows all about it and He is encouraging you to stand with your faith.

In today’s world there are attempts to

Close Doors to Biblical Truth—the Bible is so old and outdated, you can’t possibly believe it anymore

Close the Doors of the Church—not to keep them out, but to keep us in and without influence--just keep your faith inside these walls and don’t bring it out—then we’ll accept you, then we’ll like you and let you

Close Doors to The Exclusivity of Jesus—it’s so arrogant of you to believe that Jesus is the only way to heaven—what about all the other beliefs out there—they are just as valid.

Close Doors to Evangelism—don’t try to tell me my beliefs are wrong

Close Doors to Public Expression of Faith—the mistaken notion that the First Amendment to the Constitution says the Gov’t has the responsibility to provide “freedom From religion” not “freedom of religion”

Close Doors to Friendship—your desire to live differently may cost you friends who want to live it up and don’t want to be reminded that there’s another way to live.

Close Doors to Business Partnerships or Jobs—such opportunities are a very real occurrence-openly in countries where Christianity is a minority, but even subtly here in America—where you’re expected to “tow the line”, be willing to fudge a little bit.

Many will try to close doors to you as a believer in Jesus Christ. But there is Promise-

Jesus Walks Among us and Holds the Door Open—vs. 8

They are commended for

Keeping His Word—meaning they were obeying and growing in their walk with Christ—they believed and tried to live out their faith and the teachings of Jesus

Not Denying His Name—even though there was great temptation and pressure to just stop talking about Jesus, to stop making decisions with your faith in mind, to just do things that the rest of the world is doing because it’s not a big deal anyway—when we compromise our faith, we are denying His name

Even with Limited Strength—

Keeping His Word and the Pressure to Deny our Faith are tiring—it wears you down. And yet Jesus commends these believers in Philadelphia. He does not focus on the nuts and bolts, the details of every little thing they do, He speaks generally of their deeds, but it is their heart, their obedience, their endurance which truly draws His attention. It’s not so much what they are doing as the faithfulness behind the deeds. They are Keeping True to the Teachings and Faith of Christ. They are Keeping True to Christ and not mixing their Christianity with other faiths, not being a Christian and a Pagan, a Christian and a Bhuddist, not a Christian and a Capitalism, Communist Christian—they were remaining true and faithful to Him.

They had little strength—few numbers, not a great amount of influence—but they were faithful in what they had been given.

And so there is an Open Door before them—a Door of Access.

Door of Salvation--door mentioned in scripture is the door of salvation For instance, in John 10:9, Jesus said: (John 10:9) I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved. He will come in and go out, and find pasture. Jesus was teaching the remarkable truth that he is the only way to salvation. Inside that door or gate, there is safety and everything we need.

Door Into the Presence of God-- HEB 10:19 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. 23 Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful.

Door to the Gentiles—Acts 14:27-- On arriving there, they gathered the church together and reported all that God had done through them and how he had opened the door of faith to the Gentiles”—There is a desire to Throw open the gates and let anyone who is willing to come in—not limited to a select few, not limited to a particular race or ethnic group—but open to anyone who believes.

There’s a another type of door mentioned in scripture that is still about accoess

Door of Opportunity--For instance, Paul says in Colossians 4:3: “and pray for us, too, that God may open a door for our message, so that we may proclaim the mystery of Christ, for which I am in chains”. This is a Door where God allows us to be at Work in His Kingdom—He’s Hiring—There are Job Openings to be had—access and employment in the Kingdom. God gives wonderful opportunities to Serve and Glorify Him—opportunities to share the gospel, opportunities of prepared hearts and lives to receive the VIP Access Granted through Jesus Christ.

Throughout history, people have found that God has a unique way of providing opportunities for fruitful service, and hearts ready to accept the gospel.


He has placed an open door—one that cannot be shut--For What?

For them to come in Before the King—no one can deny them entry—no one can block their way, no one can say—“No Philadelphian Christians Allowed”

No matter what anyone else tried to say—that they were Locked Out, Cut Off, Denied—Jesus is Saying ---NO-the Way is Open for You

The Great Promise is that Jesus Walks Among us With Reward—9b-13

The promise is that they will fall down by the “making” of Christ—they will then learn and know that He has truly loved them—where the Love of God for Christians was called into doubt, He will receive you and love you and shower His blessings upon you.

There will be a Great Reversal—the believers in Philadelphia may not be strong now, there may not be very many—but they will be glorified at the Coming of Jesus.

They have Kept the Command to Endure—to hold on to what they have and so Keep the Crown of Righteous Victory that is promised.

Jesus Walks Among Us With Instructions

Hold On to What You Have—Forgiveness & Salvation in Jesus Christ, A New Hope & Future, a Community of Believers—With Total and Complete VIP Access to God and His Blessing--Hold On to it-don’t Go Back, don’t Quit, no matter the opposition, no matter the closed doors.

He will make you into a Pillar in the Temple—you are not the foundation, but upon the foundation that has already been laid. In most cases, the foundation is not a highlight—we don’t typically see the foundation. But a pillar is supposed to open up the structure—it’s supposed to make it open and visible so the beauty put into the structure can be seen.—open for worship

Pillars let you build a large open space. Allows you to build higher

But there’s even more here. Most scholars believe Revelation was written in the 90’s AD—meaning that it is about 20 years after the Temple in Jerusalem had been Destroyed—so the idea of the Temple standing is a powerful promise—but they would all have heard just how the pillars of the Temple could be removed. And it wasn’t the first time.

1 Kings 7:15, 21—“ 1KI 7:15 He cast two bronze pillars, each eighteen cubits high and twelve cubits around, by line. 16 He also made two capitals of cast bronze to set on the tops of the pillars; each capital was five cubits high.-- 21 He erected the pillars at the portico of the temple. The pillar to the south he named Jakin and the one to the north Boaz.

2 Chronicles 3:17 – He erected the pillars in the front of the temple, one to the south and one to the north. The one to the south he named Jakin and the one to the north Boaz.

Jakin means—He Establishes

Boaz—means “In Him is Strength—but it was also the name of the Kinsman Redeemer from the book of Ruth

2 Kings 25:13-- The Babylonians broke up the bronze pillars, the movable stands and the bronze Sea that were at the temple of the LORD and they carried the bronze to Babylon.

25:18-- The commander of the guard took as prisoners Seraiah the chief priest, Zephaniah the priest next in rank and the three doorkeepers.” There were supposed to be 4 who controlled access to the Temple

Jeremiah 52—destruction of the Pillars

They had read about the Temple being destroyed and the Pillars carried off. They may very well had been lamenting the loss of Herod’s Temple—so the idea of a permanent place—permanent access to God was uncertain. But that is what Jesus promises they will be.

2 Corinthians 6:16— For we are the temple of the living God. As God has said: "I will live with them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they will be my people."

In describing the New Jerusalem—and the New Temple—Revelation later says:

Revelation 21:22-- I did not see a temple in the city, because the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple.

21:25-- On no day will its gates ever be shut, for there will be no night there.”

There will never be a time when Access to God will be closed off.

God’s Name will be written on our Heart—His Name name will be permanent—our citizenship, our membership is secure and irrevocable-

Jesus’ New Name will be written on us.

And we will never Leave the Temple—Never Leaving the Presence of God—is the hope and dream of this community—that there is no greater or better existence—no better way to spend the day than in the Presence of God surrounded by those who Praise Him. That is what Heaven will be like.

And how many of you are just counting the minutes until we get out of this building?

He is standing before us—walking among us—there are some doors that He has shut for us—but there are other doors that He is holding open—Doors of Opportunity that are before us that He wants us to walk through.