Pursuing Answers to Questions of Faith & Life

Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Jesus' Tomb--Striking Similarities...

Recent headlines in the news have spoken of the tomb or burial box of Jesus being found. James Cameron, the director of “Titanic” among others, has put together a documentary about the discovery and its significance.

You can read several samples of various articles, here, here, and here.

What’s interesting about this tale is that it closely mirrors a book back in 1994 called, “A Skeleton In God’s Closet” by Paul L. Meier in which the body of Jesus is reportedly found and all the evidence suggesting it’s validity.

It’s a good “who done it?” that breaks down many of the archaeological tests such a discovery goes through. It’s a little dated, and you have to put up with a cheesy romance, but it does a good job.

What was really effective in the book is the discussion such a discovery would have on the world, from the religious, to the skeptics, to even the political and economic.

Here is a link to Paul Meier’s, “A Skeleton In God’s Closet” on Amazon. I would suggest picking it up and comparing it to current events.

First, what would such a “discovery” really do to the heart of Christianity? How important is the resurrection?

What kind of reactions do you think the world will have? Who wants it to be true and why? Who wants it to be false and why?

What would the consequences be if such a “discovery” if “proven” true, given that western civilization is built on Christianity?

Lastly, do you believe this is true? Why or Why Not?

Do you not believe this is true? Why or Why Not?

Pursuing Answers to Questions of Faith & Life,


P.S.--To read my review of the Da Vinci Code movie, see this post.

Monday, February 26, 2007

Sermon-2-25-07--Got Milk? Faith's Call to Hunger

Lessons from the Got Milk Ads...

Drinking Milk will either make you dress up in really strange clothes or make you short and green.

Which is worse?

1 Peter 2:2-3

Faith Calls to Hunger

Several people we know have recently or will recently have children. It is a joyous and wonderful thing. We just sang the song—“In the Secret” and something jumped out at me recently about the stages that a baby goes through in its experience of the world outside the womb. The chorus says

I want to know You

I want to hear Your voice

I want to know You more

I want to touch You

I want to see Your face

I want to know You more

A baby in the womb is very limited on what he or she can experience of the outside world. The first things a baby notices from the outside world are voices. Experts say the baby recognizes a father’s voice even better than the mother’s because his is more directly going to the baby. If a doctor and a father are standing on opposite sides of the crib, the baby will most often turn its head toward the voice it recognizes best. The first taste of the outside world is hearing.

The baby’s next experience of the outside world is touch. They usually come out kicking and screaming—eyes shut. The first thing they feel is the cold air, the hands that are holding her, the towel around him, and the body that is holding her close. Those first few moments of touch communicate love, care, and a sense of belonging and safety.

It is tragically hard for both moms and babies to be unable to touch and hold due to complications or other difficulties. But before a baby even opens his eyes, he is experiencing the world through touch.

Then, ideally, as the baby is being held close to her mother, she begins to open her eyes and look around. Everything is blurry—experts say that a baby’s eyes can only focus on things 20-30 cm in front. That is just about the distance the mother’s face is from the baby the first time she holds her; arm brought up, head leaning over, crooning and crying. The first real glimpse we have of the outside world is the face of the one who gave us birth. Babies are designed to be fascinated by faces, looking from eyes to nose to mouth. That’s why today when you look at a door or wood panel with all the growth rings you see eyes and a mouth. Your mind interprets the pattern of a face even when no face is there.

As Christians we first hear the voice of God—the voice of the Spirit calling to our hearts to embrace Christ and seek His forgiveness. It’s often muffled by our pride and sin in our lives, but it gets through and we begin to recognize and comprehend it. And when we begin to turn to voice we recognize, when we give our lives to that voice, we experience His touch. We experience His closeness, the change He creates in us. The touch of God communicates His love, His care and our safety and security. When we respond to His voice, we begin to feel His touch. And then our eyes open up to the Glory of God. We begin to see His face, see His hand in every moment of life.

Only after we have heard, only after we have been touched can we “see” the face of God. It means we are brought close to Him, held in His arms. What was once far away and blurry has been brought close so we could see it, and recognize it. Eph. 2:13—“in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near through the blood of Christ”

For new parents, then the other things begin. The changing of diapers, the crying, the sleepless nights. One of the dominating forces in a baby’s thinking is hunger. Hunger causes them to cry, to want attention, to misbehave, to wake up in the middle of the night. Hunger is one of the dominating factors in their lives that they spend most of their time trying to satisfy. There are few motives in life more basic than hunger. We can live a few minutes without breathing, a few days without water and a baby only a week or two without food. Satisfying hunger is an immediate need.

Peter calls for us to have a hunger in our spiritual life; a basic need that must be satisfied. He compares us to babies. 1 Peter 2:2. And we must seek to satisfy this hunger with the same demanding, “I must have it now” attitude that an infant has. Babies are demanding because they are completely dependent on someone else to provide for them. Faith Calls us to Hunger—a spiritual hunger.

Hunger for the Word

Crave Pure Spiritual Milk—I know they can be powerful motivators. Nothing else will satisfy, nothing else seems right.

That is how we should describe our desire and craving for the essentials of the Faith. nothing fancy, just the basics—the simple, less difficult truths. This is a call to fully understand and articulate the essentials of the faith.

You’re not a better Christian if you can chart out all the angelic ranks, or if you know all the demonic strongholds and their names.

I know the latest end times timetables and the books you’ll be seeing shortly on the Iran/Russia alliance are interesting, but you’ll still be saved even if you don’t know this.

It’s great if you want to know the difference between a premillenialist, a post-millenialist, an amillenialist, or a preterist.

If you want to explore the mysteries of the Trinity and examine every analogy to see whether it is monarchian, modalistic or tritheistic. Great. But don’t desire these above the foundations of our faith—the things that are essential for saving knowledge—the things you will most need to share with someone who is lost apart from God.

We need to concentrate on the Basics, Salvation, our daily walk with God, what has our Savior provided for us, how should we live in response to His work,

The NASB points our that the source of this pure, unadulterated spiritual milk is the Word of God—“like newborn babies, long for the pure spiritual milk of the word.”

The Word for you and me is the most basic nutrition any baby needs.

Psalm 119 is the longest chapter in the Bible. Here is just a sample of how it deals with the Word of God.

Psalm 119:9—“PS 119:11 I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you.

Ps 119:43—“PS 119:43 Do not snatch the word of truth from my mouth, for I have put my hope in your laws.

Ps. 119:105—“ PS 119:105 Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path.

119:169—“PS 119:169 May my cry come before you, O LORD; give me understanding according to your word.

Jeremiah 31:33—“"I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people

Colossians 3:16—“16 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God.

The Word of God was never meant to be on the outside, never meant to be a book that sits on the shelf. The Word of God was intended to be on the Inside—working to change us from the inside out—to provide encouragement in times of distress—to confront our selfishness--to reveal the character and heart of God. So we must crave it, hunger for it so we will consume it like a piece of your favorite pie.

The Bible is the clearest and most direct means God has for communicating with us today. It is the basic nutrition, the formula that we need. Our experiences, hopes and dreams as believers today must be evaluated, compared and understood by what Scripture teaches. Experiences today will not contradict the Word. All other beliefs that are foundational to our faith, are known only because God chooses to reveal it to us in Scripture. One of the primary teaching and growing roles of the Holy Spirit today is to open up, or illumine the Scriptures for us to understand and apply.

The Word of God is Pure Spiritual Milk—

Other basics are these--Worship—Worship is nourishing to the Soul. Imagine only eating once a week. That’s what some of you are doing if you worship only on Sunday mornings and expect it to sustain you all week. Worship is acknowledging God for who He is—it is devotion—it is allowing your spirit to be moved by His presence—
music doesn’t have to be a part of it, but music is a powerful means of worship.

Fellowship is another basic—uniting around others of faith as often as possible—the early church met together daily and we complain about twice on Sundays and once on Wednesday

The great cloud of witnesses also exists in this room from which we draw strength. While we are not perfect, true growth requires interaction with other believers—it is not good for you and I to be alone—we need each other united together as one body in Christ.

Prayer is Pure Spiritual Milk as we not only give a list of needs, but lay out our concerns for each other, as we go into the spiritual battle, as we also take the time to listen to His voice to give us direction.

Ministry and serving is pure spiritual milk—because it is not living for yourself only, but using the gifts and abilities God has given you. Rocky Balboa can drink all the raw eggs he wants but if he never works and exercises his muscles, he’d still be weak.

If you never use your spiritual muscles to serve others, you are missing out on some of the basic nourishment, the vitamins that God has in mind for your steady diet of spiritual growth. God did not give you your talents & abilities only to be used @ work, as a job or just to make money. Part of my role as pastor is to get to know you and your gifts and make sure you have the opportunity to use them for the Kingdom of God.

These things are the basics, the vitamins and minerals we must have in our daily diet of spiritual fitness. When we crave the pure spiritual milk, the basics and have a hunger for the WoG, we will be able to have a…

Hunger for Growth

It is by this hunger for the basics, the pure spiritual milk—the WoG, prayer, fellowship, and ministry-- that allows us to grow—not growing physically, but growing spiritually. You are called to “grow up in your salvation”. In other words, you weren’t meant to stay where you are, content to be saved. Faith calls you to grow in your understanding and relationship with God.

We know that babies who never grow are sick in some way. You and I grow through the WoG and the ministry of the Holy Spirit and the sharpening that comes through discipleship, mentoring and accountability to each other in community.

There are far too many believers who don’t have a hunger for growth—are you one of those? Content with where you are?
Do you think there’s no passage you haven’t studied, no sermon with anything new, so you’ve seen it all and have nothing more to learn. If you don’t believe you have any more growing to do, then you won’t hunger for it. .

More than this is the lie that you’re doing fine—that you don’t need the Bible study, you don’t need to pray or come together or that you won’t get anything out of coming.

It’s no wonder that when I am sick, one of the first things to be wrong is that I lose my appetite. My appetite is also one of the last things that returns to normal after I’ve gotten better.

A lacking hunger for growth is really a sign of spiritual immaturity. Likewise, spiritual maturity is not dependent on age but on one’s walk with the Lord and time spent with the WoG.

That’s why Paul could say to Timothy with confidence not to let anyone “look down on [him] because [he was] young” (1 Tim. 4:12). God will bless your desire and hunger for growth. And a young believer with a hunger for the Word and for God and for Growth is more useful to God than an old believer that has their craving satisfied.

The flipside is also true—an older believer who is hungry for spiritual growth is more useful to God than someone young who is apathetic and content. A true hunger for the WoG and for Growth will then create a Hunger for Righteousness.

Hunger for Righteousness

Matt. 5:6—“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.” When Jesus said these words, He meant them. “Hunger and thirst” suggests a deep, profound, even painful desire that increases to the point of desperation until it is fed. That kind of thirst you get after mowing the lawn on a hot afternoon. Or the way your stomach rumbles after missing breakfast and lunch.

But this hunger for righteousness should not be satisfied with a single drink or meal. As long as we are growing as Believers, our appetite for righteousness should always keep growing. When we lose our appetite for the Lord and His kingdom, when we’re just as content with the world’s junk food as we are with the Word of God, that’s when we know that something is wrong.

That’s why Peter after commending his readers in 1:22--for purifying themselves “by obeying the truth” and developing a “sincere love for your brothers—from the heart”. After that he asks them to do even more.

In order for that love to continue to grow—that unity of the fellowship to remain strong—they must not only have a hunger for the good things, they must have a distaste for the bad things 2:1—“Therefore, rid yourselves of all malice and all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and slander of every kind.”

Malice—which is a desire to injure,

Deceit—where you are decoying—directing attention to something else or Stealth which is hiding ,

Hypocrisy—which is impersonation or like stage acting an expected role,

Envy—wanting or being jealous of what others have, and

slander—which is speaking evil of someone

These things are incompatible with deep and genuine love. If you have a hunger for righteousness you will not want these things a part of your life.

Titus 2:11-12—“For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men. 12 It teaches us to say "No" to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age,

We must hunger to be free from sin, hunger to be free from the power of sin, free from the desire for sin and because those things cause hurt and division.

You should be hungry for Righteousness, and have a Distaste for all those things that hurt and hinder relationships. Instead we should hunger to be controlled by the Spirit which shows itself in true love and forgiveness and patience with each other. We must have a true hunger for the LORD.

Hunger for the Lord

No other relationship can be as important to you as your relationship with God. Anything that hinders you, anything that distracts you, anything that comes between you and living for God must be removed and discarded.

This world offers many things to try and give satisfaction out of life, like relationships, alcohol, drugs, soap operas, your favorite TV shows, sports, activities—many of them ar good and fine, but they should not replace your walk with God.

Commercials constantly claim their product will satisfy your hunger or thirst. Politicians claim that they are what the nation needs, but rather than satisfying our hunger, they are depriving us of what we need the most.

Satan tries to make many things look and taste good, but when we actually try and live on his deceptions and lies, we slowly begin to realize the emptiness, the pain, the worthlessness of them. Some realize it sooner than others, some never learn until it is too late.

Diet Coke has only 1 calorie—some argue it tastes good—but what does it contribute to your nutrition? Nothing.

There are people who are surrounded by food they won’t eat or won’t let themselves digest—we say they have an eating disorder—anorexia, bulimia—very serious medical issues.

You and I are surrounded by spiritual nourishment in the Bible we carry with us, in the brothers and sisters around us—we are surrounded by opportunities to feast and fellowship around a banquet of spiritual nourishment and yet so many refuse to eat, refuse to partake.

As a result, you’re walking around spiritually under-fed and malnourished. If you’re not taking the opportunity to feast on the pure spiritual milk, you are spiritually anorexic. If you not allowing yourself to digest what you hear—allow it to feed, nourish and change you, then you are spiritually bulimic.

If you wonder why you’re struggling with deceit, envy, anger, slander, restlessness, worry—it’s very likely because you are spiritually starving for lack of the essential nutrients of the faith—these things are often symptoms of your spiritual condition.

Wouldn’t it be better to have a spiritual obesity problem? Where you are feasting on the choice and best spiritual food—tasting and knowing that the Lord is good.

Our problem may very well be that some of you believe that the Lord is Good, but that He or what He provides tastes bad, you don’t trust Him to provide what is best for you or that other things are better, more important or more worthwhile.

As a believer in Christ, you are invited to the Wedding feast of the Lamb—and don’t think for a minute that He is going to be serving scraps of that table—that He’ll be providing 2nd rate food. Jesus is extravagant in the feast and nourishment He provides—He gives generously. Think about it—if Jesus provided the best wine at Cana for someone else’s wedding, imagine what He will be serving at His own, for His bride!

We have tasted the goodness and blessing of the Lord—starting with Salvation.

We should know that He is not only the best for us, but He is the most satisfying, the most worthwhile, the only thing that has an eternal value.

Only God can truly satisfy our greatest hunger and needs. If you don’t look to Him for them, you won’t grow like you should.

Some of you may not be growing up in your salvation and faith because you are underfed. It’s hard to grow when you’re always hungry. Some have not grown up because even though you’ve been born again, though you’ve made the decision to accept Christ—you’ve never told anyone about your decision, never made that decision public—you’ve got some growing to do that can start right here, right now

Some of you have not grown up b/c you’ve never followed Christ’s command to be baptized now that you do believe—you’ve never, by your own volition and will deliberately pledged your life to Him by that demonstration of your dying to yourself and being raised to live a new life fully and completely devoted to Him. It is hard to grow an obedient faith when you disobey one of the first things we are called to do. You’ve got some growing to do by following in Baptism

Some you you are not growing because you have not united in fellowship with a church body where you take responsibility for the spiritual direction of the church and allow the church to take some responsibility, accountability and support for you. You may have some growing to do if God is calling you to join with this fellowship.

Some of you may not be growing because you have not committed yourself to a discipleship process. Some of you may not be growing because you have lost your hunger and thirst—you no longer crave the things of the Spirit, the Word of God, prayer—surround yourself with those who love Him and seek that refreshment and renewal together.

Some of you are not growing and will not grow because you’ve never been born—spiritually born again into the family of God. You may have entered into this world kicking and screaming in your physical body, but until you turn away from your self—turn to Christ and receive the free gift of forgiveness—you will continue to go through life missing the most important thing.

Do you want to know God? To Hear His Voice, to Feel His Touch and See His Face?

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Vision v. Control

Vicky and I were talking the other night and the question was asked:

Where is the line between providing leadership and vision for a church and "trying to control too much"?

How do you know where that line is?

What are the signs that you've crossed it?

I definitely need to hear from you on this one.


Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Monotheistic Pharaoh

A tomb has been found in Egypt of an official during the reign of Akhenaten (1379-1362)--the heretic Pharaoh. Read the brief article, here.

After doing a little reading, the worship of Aten has a bit more history, so it's more complicated (not surprising), but here are some thoughts I wrote about the subject.

If you don't know, Akhenaten is famous for trying to make Egypt worship only one god, the Sun-disk-Aten. He threw out the old religious system and tried to reinvent the faith of the Kingdom. His reforms didn't go over very well as the old-guard was pretty powerful.

What I've wondered is, why would an Egyptian leader want to suddenly embrace a monotheistic faith after centuries in the old system?

Perhaps the answer can be found in the Bible and the inability of the Egyptian deities to withstand the power of Israel's, one God, YHWH.

There is a great debate in biblical history surrounding the dating of the Exodus. When did it happen? Two dates are typically proposed, the "late" date is the one featured in the classic movies and the Prince of Egypt, with Rameses as Pharaoh, about 1290 BC. There is some sound arguments for this date which I won't go into.

The other "early" date proposes 1446 BC and comes from readings of 1 Kings 6:1 and Judges.
There are some sound arguments for this date as well.

The greater miracle is the truth that these events happened, so I'm not trying to start a which date is accurate debate.

But the presence of Akhenaten in my mind provides some support for the 1446 date. The rise of a monotheistic leader, I would think, would only come because of a powerful display like the plagues and exodus. Many Egyptians left with the Israelites, others, who stayed, would have remembered the humbling of their deities before the One God of Moses.

Akhenaten came to power a mere 67 years after this proposed date. I believe he moved this way because, either he witnessed himself the plagues (sorry, I don't know his age when he came to power) or was raised by or around those who did. Can you imagine the trauma the Egyptians must have experienced in the wake of the Exodus? All of their major deities were humiliated before Moses: the Nile, Hathor with the plague on livestock, darkness-against Re the sun God, among others. From this demonstration that their gods could not provide or protect or withstand this One God of the Israelites, I believe Akhenaten and others would have been influenced to consider and embrace a monotheistic faith. After all, Exodus records that many officials of Pharaoh "feared the word of the LORD [and] hurried to bring their slaves and their livestock inside."--Ex. 9:20

Now, I realize that the reverse argument could be made--that this monotheistic reform influenced Moses and the Israelites, after all, they would have been in captivity during this time with the 1290 date. However, this seems unlikely to me. First, the Israelites already came in with a monotheistic faith. Second, any influence Egypt's theology had over the 400 years of their captivity would have driven them to polytheism, not the other way around. Third, these reforms were too short lived--17 years to have a great influence. The reforms were quickly reversed.

If the "early" date is accurate, then for a time Egypt's religious world was shaken. That, to me, is consistent with the biblical teaching of the Exodus.


Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Snow Days!

Well, it's snowing again. So far we've got 4 inches maybe more, but it's hard to tell as the wind is blowing it around. WIU has closed down for the second time this winter and last time it was the first in about 20 years. Maybe we'll be able to get out in it in a while. I've always wanted to be around more snow!

Monday, February 12, 2007

Vince Young

If I haven’t mentioned it already, I’m a graduate of the University of Texas at Austin and therefore a huge Longhorn fan. I was a member of the Longhorn Band for 5 years and got a nice set of longhorns which now hang in my office (banished there b/c my wife doesn't want them in the house, but that's another story). As a result, I’ve been keeping up with the Horns for a number of years.

One of the greatest Horns in recent memory is Vince Young, now QB for the Tennessee Titans. He just became the first rookie to play QB in the Pro Bowl in Hawaii.

Many times, you hear about the premadonna nature of athletes, but I wanted to share a Vince Young article that highlights his taking care of his family. Read the article here.

It is a powerful testimony of a young man willing to be a man even when he had little example of it growing up.

Friday, February 09, 2007

Special Guest in Church--Selepri Amachree

This week, University Baptist Church is welcoming Selepri Amachree to our Sunday morning services. He is a minister and musician that God has brought a long way. I look forward to fully hearing his testimony.

You can see Selepri's testimony and hear his music at his website, here.

With all the spiritual battles that have been going on the last couple of weeks, I expect that God is going to do something in us during this service. So often, the harder the battle, the greater the victory. I pray God does something great this Sunday and sends a wave of refreshing and wonder at His goodness.


Monday, February 05, 2007

A Growing Problem in Europe--Abandoning Christianity

Al Mohler, president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary has a hair-raising article about the state of Christianity in Europe. Read the entry here. The original Newsweek article can be read here.

One of the most disturbing aspects of the article is that most of the commitment to Christianity in Europe has been lost within this past century. That would be maybe 2 generations. When there is an abandonment of the essence of Christian teaching and doctrine, it's no wonder that people reject it as a waste of time. But if the true claims of Who Jesus is, What He came to do, How it impacts our lives, are truly taught, then life change can truly happen and passion can be reunited.

Another concern is the truth that with the decline of Christian influence and belief, the reality is that it will be replaced by something. We are too spiritually oriented to wholesale reject belief in God (except in minor percentages). Our God-given, spiritual hunger will drive us to believe in something. In Europe's case, the increasing alternative will be Islam, due largely to immigration. I wonder what the "native" Europeans will be turning to in the future?

Given that last week British polls revealed that upwards of 40+% of young muslims favor and want to impose Sharia law, I wonder how much longer anyone will have much choice. The free and tolerant society that Christianity eventually allowed to exist, is in great danger of having that freedom used against itself and subsequently taken.

This needs to be a wake up call to the church in America and our heart for missions as well.

Sermon--Faith's Call to Strangeness

1 Peter 1:17-

A Call to Strangeness

There are many examples of strangeness in our nation today. Watch MTV or many other TV programs for a little while and you’ll see strange Hairstyles and clothes, strange body piercings, strange life-styles, and the occasional strange music.

For much of today’s pop-culture, the stranger something is, the better. Even news channels love to highlight local novelties like the Astroturf covered car, the bottle-cap house, or the man who hasn’t cut his fingernails in 5 years.

People are still drawn to the strange stories of Bigfoot, the Loch Ness Monster, the Bermuda Triangle. Circuses love to have the “freak show”. Something about our nature desires to see the unusual, the weird or the strange. We’re drawn with a morbid curiosity to these things. Strange is something that doesn’t fit, doesn’t belong, and you’re not sure why it’s there at all.

Most of us in the church criticize the strangeness we see. We do the double-take, our mouths pop open, we may get a disgusted look on our face, shoo our children away and think—“what is the world coming to?”

Do you realize that God has called you and me to strangeness and that He intends strangeness to be an evangelism strategy? He intends to make and grow His church with strangeness. The problem is, there is not enough strangeness in the church that warrants the TV crews showing up every week.

Ours is a world where we are often lured into being near carbon copies of our culture. We’re rewarded with the world’s acceptance when our tastes and standards look more like the prevailing norms and less like the Word of God.

You Must Be Strange. Live as Strangers

1 Pet. 1:17--Since you call on a Father who judges each man's work impartially, live your lives as strangers here in reverent fear.

And if you address as Father the One who judges impartially based on each one's work, you are to conduct yourselves in reverence during this time of temporary residence.

And remember that the heavenly Father to whom you pray has no favorites when he judges. He will judge or reward you according to what you do. So you must live in reverent fear of him during your time as foreigners here on earth

A stranger could also be translated as a “foreigner” or “sojourner”. A foreigner is a person whose citizenship and loyalty belong to a different country. The sojourner belonged to another nation; but, unlike the foreigner, he came to live (or sojourn) for a period of time away from his home country.

This is how Peter describes his readers in vs. 1—“To God’s elect, strangers in the world, scattered throughout…”

When the foreigner or sojourner comes to a new country—they bring with them a different culture, a different faith, a different way of life, of thinking. Strange Strangers may look different, talk different, eat different, dress different. From our study last week, this strangeness is the Holiness that is supposed to be the mark of our lives. It is that our lives are set apart for service to God and it is a contrast to the rest of the world who do not live dedicated to Him.

Because we are God’s Elect, His chosen and adopted children, this world is not our home—we’re just a passing through.

How many of you consider Macomb to be your Permanent home—you plan on staying here for the rest of your life? For others, how many of you know this is only temporary?

Our home country is not Illinois, it is not the United States of America, it is not even planet earth. Our home country is the Kingdom of God and the place He has prepared for us. He speaks a language that is not always easy to understand, He does things in ways and for reasons that don’t always make sense to us. He is the essence of character and integrity

Since we are to be Strangers with a different way of life—a holy life, if we are truly calling on the Father with all our lives and hearts, then we Christians should be the ones getting the second looks, we should be the ones that stand out in a crowd because we look different, we sound different, and we act different.

When we move into a new home, how long is it going to take for everyone to figure out that you are a Believer in Christ? If a new person was to move next door, will they see something different about you? Will they think you are strange in the way you talk, in how you treat your spouses and children, in how you refuse to gossip, in how you spend or manage your money, in how you prioritize your life?

Faith in Christ should affect all these areas and more. It should make you strange to non-Christians. Our strangeness is one of those things that make the Fellowship of Believers even more important and vital. Our strangeness is one of those things that God uses to draw attention to the Gospel of Christ. The way we live and treat each other reflects the character of the God we serve.

We are designed to display God’s righteousness and praise and that causes our Witness to shine through. It creates a desire in the hearts of others. Zechariah 8:22-23—“Let us go with you, for we have heard that God is with you”

If you remember the study on Empowering Kingdom Growth, we are called to be strange in this world by Embracing His Mission—Embodying His Name—and Obeying His Word.

The Reverent Fear and awe of God should be a moment by moment reality for us. There is nothing or no one more powerful than God, no one more worthy of Praise, Honor and Glory.

The great people of faith understood they were strangers.

Hebrews 11:13-16—“All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance. And they admitted that they were aliens and strangers on earth. 14 People who say such things show that they are looking for a country of their own. 15 If they had been thinking of the country they had left, they would have had opportunity to return. 16 Instead, they were longing for a better country--a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them”

Why Should we be Strange?

God Judges Impartially—He doesn’t play favorites. Everybody’s work gets the exact same pronouncement—NOT GOOD ENOUGH. Believers are no better than anyone else and our works are just the same. What makes the difference in our lives is God. God is the one that gives our works an eternal value.

The one work that gains reward is Accepting what God did for us and receiving His gift of eternal life.

Our Strangeness is because of our relationship with Him. We will not be condemned by His judgment, but our lives will thoroughly examined. And if the righteousness of Christ is found covering our sin, we will live. But because the difference is not us, but God’s work in us, we must let Him change us and make us strangers so other people can be strangers too.

You have permission to be strange. Being strange is an expectation of God. We are strangers to the death of this world—and citizens of the Kingdom of Heaven.

We had an empty way of life. While all those that fit in and belong in the world think they are living it up, enjoying their lives they are really empty.

When alcoholism gets passed on from father to son—it’s empty, when indifference to the things of God gets passed on for generations—it’s an empty life of work and sleep. But that is fitting in with the world.

That’s why people are desperate for entertainment, for boating, for sports—anything that will prevent them from thinking and dwelling on what their life is all about, why they exist at all.

All of that changed the moment we came to Christ. You no longer have an empty life. Part of what makes you strange as a Christian is that you are given a purpose, you are given a reason for living now and a future hope and expectation.

Fulfilling God’s Purposes, Growing His Kingdom. You may not know all of the details right now, but you can find your reason for being in the WoG and when you listen to the Spirit of God.

We should also be Strange because Our Redemption did not come cheap. The cost to move us from citizens of this world to citizens of heaven was a pricey one, gold or silver or works did not make it happen it was the Precious Blood of Christ (v. 19) the perfect Lamb of God

READ 17-21--For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your forefathers, 19 but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect. 20 He was chosen before the creation of the world, but was revealed in these last times for your sake. 21 Through him you believe in God, who raised him from the dead and glorified him, and so your faith and hope are in God.

Peter goes on to reveal how Jesus was Chosen in Eternity—Revealed in History—and Changing Lives Today. It is through Christ we are even able to believe (vs. 21).

Nothing else makes you strange in this world but your faith. Every strange bit of clothing, music, tattoos or piercing is the normal expression of this world. What makes you strange, what makes you truly different is whether you have placed your faith in Christ. Have you done that? Have you accepted the call to be strange? I know I have, I’m thankful many others in this room and around the world have chosen to be strange. Faith calls you to strangeness.

Are you strange enough to be considered from another country?