Pursuing Answers to Questions of Faith & Life

Friday, March 30, 2007

What do you see?

I' ve always loved these pictures. What do you see?I hope you see 2 deer in that picture above.

Sometimes they are quite beautiful.
Sometimes they are quite simple.
Our brains process things differently. Usually, unless we've seen the pictures before, we see one of the images first. Then we have to teach our brain to see the second image. It does not come as naturally. In the above picture, I always see the younger woman naturally and I have to remind myself how to see the old woman. You do see her don't you?

Or maybe you see the opposite and have a harder time seeing the other. Sometimes the illusion is so good that you cannot see the other at all and you think the other person is pulling a fast one on you. But sometimes your friend can merely see something you cannot. Then, it gets really frustrating when they are trying to point out to you something important, something right there and you cannot see it.

I was never good at these kinds of illusions.
Supposedly, there is a cross hidden in this picture, but I have never seen it or one in any picture like it. I've always found that irritating that people can see things I cannot.

It works the same for us spiritually. There are some people I'm comfortable talking with about spiritual issues and there are some people that sometimes make me uncomfortable. See, I have a certain way of thinking, I have a certain way of interpreting passages, a certain way of applying things. But others have the ability to see the same thing from a different perspective or a different application.

We're looking at the same thing, but they see something that doesn't come naturally for me to see. My brain needs to be retrained. Until then, I often resent the messenger, as if it's their fault. In the course of a discussion, things are going along smoothly, and suddenly the messenger speaks and shifts perspective--it's like a wrench in the cogs.

Like this picture below. How tall is the obelisk in relation to the church? Equal, 3/4's, 1/2 as tall? From here it's pretty obvious it rivals the church and someone saying differently must be crazy.
When someone brings a different perspective, we typically respond by getting defensive, taking a position, holding at arms length, rolling our eyes. or getting frustrated that they see something we don't. In my experience, this situation is often a level of insight or depth that I cannot get to. It points to my inadequacy, my spiritual immaturity or ability to connect an issue. When so often they can see a perspective my spirit does not see naturally.
What can we do instead of get defensive, roll our eyes, hold at arms length or say, "there they go again...". Maybe, though it may be difficult, we can listen, try to hear, then try to perceive, then maybe ask questions to help see what they see.

As a minister, sometimes I cause this. It's easy for me to be someone's buddy and friend. But it's something else to be someone's minister--trying to take a church member to a direction they cannot see or even may not want to go. And yet it is my calling as a minister to do this--to lead or help grow a person or even a church.

Sometimes people see only good in some things and fail to see the evil. Many things appear innocent and harmless when they really are not. I've been known to point something out and been laughed at. So I see something they cannot or will not--maybe more out of want than ability. It's hard to say.

Has that ever happened to you--you pointing out something to someone else, or them pointing it out to you? Have you ever seen evil in something when someone else only sees the good?
Sometimes we see the good, but fail to see the evil.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Sermon--the Nature of Heroes--3-25-07--Countdown to the Resurrection

This is the first sermon in the Countdown to the Resurrection--given on Sunday morning. The second one is below and was given Sunday night.

The Nature of Heroes

Who is your favorite Superhero?

How did you choose?

Maybe you like their cool toys

You like their Super Strength

You like their Cool and Comfortable Costume

They wear your favorite color

You like their super speed

You Like their bracelets and headgear

They can do the Impossible

They are Really Cute

Real Heroes Are Different

Like the young couple with a newborn who in the middle of a thunderstorm heard the tornado sirens and didn’t have time to take shelter, covered their baby with their bodies—and only the baby survived.

This wasn’t planned, these parents weren’t looking for the opportunity to be heroes or give their life for their child. I’m sure if they could have avoided the situation entirely, they would have—any other way for them all to survive. But since there was none, when the tornado came down on them, they willingly gave their lives.

If you look back in history, you’ll there are many amazing accounts of sacrifice, where one person gives their life so that another might live. Some of you may have experienced such a moment first hand—accounts of a parent running back into a burning building,

a soldier throwing himself on top of a grenade in order to save other men, or rescue an innocent person.

More recently—firement—celebrated by the Post Office and in various newspapers

So, who is your favorite hero?

All of these are amazing reminders of the heroic nature that people are capable of.

Real Heroes

Are Normal People

Have No Super Powers

Do not plan their heroics

Would rather avoid the situation

But most of these people that gave their lives to save others, would have avoided it if they could, if there was some other way. “If only, we had built a storm-shelter”, “I was at the wrong place at the wrong time.”

None of them would have made a list of their day saying, “today I’m going to jump on a grenade”, “today I’m going to find a burning building that I can pull someone out of.” The heroic impulse is usually a moment of courage, a reaction to circumstances. Training like a soldier or police officer receives can help, but the moment of courage is not a planned event.

I am thankful that God doesn’t think like we do.

I am thankful that God looked for the opportunity to be my hero.

I am thankful that God planned a day and marked it on His calendar when He would sacrifice Himself so we could live.

He went looking for the opportunity to save us. He had a plan to substitute His life from the beginning, He had a plan for the Cross. He was planning the Crucifixion before He made Adam and Eve. This planning for the crucifixion is the first step towards the resurrection that we will be celebrating in just a few weeks.

Planning of the Crucifixion—OT texts

1. God Planned the Crucifixion b/c Our Sin did not Surprise Him—Genesis 3:15-16.

Our sin did not surprise God--. He is the Alpha and Omega—the view from eternity saw the beginning and the end.

Before the Fall, God was prepared.

The moment they fell, God already had a plan to redeem us. From the “offspring of the woman” would come one who would crush Satan’s head but have his heel struck. Satan would deliver a short-term injury while the Messiah would deliver a crushing, permanent blow to our enemy. That is just one clue.

2. God Revealed the Crucifixion

to His Chosen Leaders and Prophets

When Abraham was about to sacrifice Isaac on top of Mt. Moriah in Genesis 22, God stopped him and provided a lamb to sacrifice in Isaac’s place. READ Gen. 22:13--“Abraham looked up and there in a thicket he saw a ram caught by its horns. He went over and took the ram and sacrificed it as a burnt offering instead of his son. 14 So Abraham called that place The LORD Will Provide.”

That location was the future site of the Temple, but God was showing that only He could provide a suitable sacrifice for our sins. The LORD is the one who provided the substitute for us.

Psalm 22—Jesus calls our attention to this Psalm by quoting it from the Cross. “My God My God, why have you forsaken me?” A good Jewish person standing there that morning would have been able to quote this Psalm. As they went through it in their mind, they would have been able to look up and see it for themselves.

vs. 7-8—“All who see me mock me; they hurl insults, shaking their heads: ‘He trusts in the LORD; let the LORD rescue him.’” Matthew 27:39, 43—“Those who passed by hurled insults at him, shaking their heads… He trusts in God. Let God rescue him now if he wants him.”

When we examine what crucifixion does to the human body, we see things like Jesus’ suffering severe thirst and dehydration because of the loss of blood and crying out, “I thirst”, His arms were likely pulled out of the shoulder socket, , his hands and feet were pierced by cruel nails, and the soldiers gambled for His clothes. None of these things surprised God, none of them were unknown to Jesus when He agreed to give His life for ours—READ vs. 14-18. Jesus knowingly went into a situation that He knew would demand His suffering and death, and He did it for you and for me.

Look at John 19:33-36—this lets us know that none of Jesus’ bones were broken and that this was also a fulfillment of prophecy. There was a reason why none of His bones would be broken. It was part of God’s plan that He portrayed in the Passover Lamb. This lamb’s blood was put over the door posts so the final plague of Egypt would not enter their house. This sacrifice was recreated every year in Jewish life.

Exodus 12:46 says that it was to be “eaten inside one house; take none of the meat outside the house. Do not break any of the bones”. In Psalm 34:20—God gave another indication by saying of the righteous man that—“he protects all his bones, not one of them will be broken.” Jesus is the greatest Passover Lamb, and His blood takes away our sins. So one thing Jesus could count on was that none of His bones would be broken.

Isn’t that encouraging! That’s like saying to the firefighter who pulled 3 people out of the fire but was burned over 40% of his body—“Hey, just wanted to let you know that your hearing is just fine”.

So many of the Scriptures were written pointing forward to this event, not only we could look back on fulfilled prophecy, but so that we could be amazed at God’s commitment to saving us.

Few of them speak so clearly as the 53 chapter of Isaiah, that Jesus would have read as a boy.

As the first step toward the Resurrection, the Crucifixion was no accident, it was not a mistake, it was a deliberate act by a loving God to pay the debt of our sin that we could not pay. Jesus knew exactly where He was going and what was going to happen to Him in order to save our eternity.—READ 53:4-12

God’s plan was for Jesus to be pierced, to be crushed, to be punished for our peace. The iniquity of us all was put on His shoulders. Jesus did not open His mouth (7) to avoid it. he was assigned a grave with 2 thieves but buried with a rich man’s tomb (9). Vs. 10—all this was part of the LORD’s will. All of what we will be celebrating was His idea—it wasn’t an accident, it wasn’t just a heroic moment.

We can see it most clearly in the Lord’s Supper.

Luke 22:15—“and He said to them, “I have earnestly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer.”

22:19—“This is My body; which is given [broken] for you; do this in remembrance of Me.”

22:20—“This cup which is poured out for you is the New Covenant in My blood.”

3. God Planned to Give His all

to Save You and Me. Galatians 4:4—“But when the time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under law, 5 to redeem those under law, that we might receive the full rights of sons.” When the time had fully come means when God’s plans were ready to be fulfilled. When all of His preparations were made, Jesus stepped forward and took the plunge into humanity that Christmas morning to a specific girl of a specific family, at the appointed time, in the exact place, to be our Messiah.

God Gave His All, His Best

So as you are looking forward to Easter in the next few weeks, study what you see in the Gospels, but don’t stop there. Turn back to the pages of the OT and see how God had been planning it all along.

All the while He was planning His own sacrifice, anticipating the pain and suffering of giving His life for ours, He was thinking of you and me—You and I are His Pearl of Great Price that He was willing to give everything for.

Jesus is our True Hero

Jesus actually planned His heroicspp—He had many opportunities to avoid the Crucifixion.

Are You willing to give your all for God?

Is Jesus your Pearl of Great Price?

If He has such a great plan to save us, imagine the plan and purpose He has for you when you come to Him in Faith, when you turn away from trying to pay for your own sin and accept the Substitutionary Lamb He provided for you on the Cross.

Imagine His plan to use you when you fully embrace His calling with Joy. This is one treasure we do not hoard to ourselves

O How He Loves You and Me.

Sermon 3-25-07--The Willingness of the Sacrifice--Lent Service

This message was given at the Macomb Assembly of God during the Lenten Community Services. I thank everyone at Macomb Assembly for the opportunity to come in and share with them as well as those from UBC who supported me there.

The Willingness of the Sacrifice

We all know the phrase—“God loves a cheerful giver.” It has to do with the heart, it has to do with the willingness of the giver to give.

When there is no love, giving leads to bitterness. Example:

A Tampa chiropractor had paid alimony to his former wife for a long time. In 1994 he came to his final alimony payment of $182. He didn’t just want to send his money; he wanted to send a message. So in large scale he drew a check on the back of a pinstripe shirt. On the memo line of his shirt-check, he wrote, “Here it is—the shirt off my back!” The bank cashed it.

Givers can be divided into three types:

the flint-- to get anything out of it, you must hammer it, and even then you only get chips and sparks

the sponge-- to get anything out of a sponge you must squeeze it and squeeze it hard, because the more you squeeze a sponge, the more you get

the honeycomb--. They are the ones who just overflows with their own sweetness and eagerness.

The Bible contrasts the offerings of a poor widow to those who had an abundance. The amount that the widow gave wasn’t as important as the heart behind her giving.

In taking a collection for the churches in Jerusalem, Paul wrote to the Corinthians--2 Cor. 8:12—“ For if the willingness is there, the gift is acceptable according to what one has, not according to what he does not have.”

Have you ever wondered what type of Giver is Jesus? Is He someone you have to hang-up by His ankles to shake the coins out of His pockets?

Is Jesus someone who’s arm you have to twist? Or does He willingly give His all? Does He hold anything back from you and me?

Of course not. When the soldiers were gambling for the shirt off His back—He was saying—“Father forgive them”. He had every justification to blame, to resent what they had done while He was innocent. And that is one of the beautiful pictures of Christ’s love and sacrifice for us.

It wouldn’t have been hard for Jesus to turn aside—to do anything else—all He had to do was leave Jerusalem. One sin would have mad Him unfit to be the Messiah, one moment of wanting to put His will above the Father’s will, and it would have been over.

An important step to the Resurrection is the Willingness of the Sacrifice.

The Willingness of the Sacrifice can be seen in…

Jesus’ Baptism

In Matthew 3:13—Jesus came to John the Baptist in order to be baptized, not for sins, but to fulfill all righteousness and to identify to John and the world who He really was. Some time after baptizing Jesus, John sees Jesus again in John 1:29 and declares—“Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!”

Jesus was and is the Lamb of God—the Perfect sacrifice and Passover lamb that covers our sins, and turns away God’s judgment. His Baptism was a Pledge of Commitment, a demonstration of His willingness to fulfill the Father’s plan—to give His life as a ransom for many.

Jesus was fully aware of where the Father’s will would take Him, He knew what was coming. The plan for our salvation was set in eternity—the date of the Crucifixion was circled on God’s calendar. He knew where He was going and what would happen and yet He was still willing to go to the Cross.

Our Sacrifice didn’t have to be dragged kicking and screaming to the Cross. He was not forced; He was willing and embraced His cross.

John 10:14, 15, 17-18—“14 "I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me-- 15 just as the Father knows me and I know the Father--and I lay down my life for the sheep.
17 The reason my Father loves me is that I lay down my life--only to take it up again. 18 No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again.”

Jesus is the One with the authority to lay down His life and no one takes it from Him. The High Priest did not have authority over Jesus, Pilate did not have authority over Jesus except what was given to them from above. Giving His life is a demonstration of His love.

His life was not given for show,

Or a dose of guilt

or out of an overdeveloped Duty

or out of Demand—we could never make God do anything, and at the same time I don’t think we were we particularly asking.

The gift of Jesus is willing and based on His love for you and me. It was all His idea from the beginning

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

The Sacrificial Lamb was willing to give His life for those He loved and cared for. And Jesus loves and cares for some strange people—myself included. But that also includes people that you or I might not think twice of, people we may think are too far beyond God’s ability to reach or forgive.

Romans 5:7-8—“Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die. 8 But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

Jesus knew His destination and He went anyway so that we could live. And every step of the way was full of temptation. Every step was an opportunity

After Jesus was tempted for 40 days in the wilderness, Satan “left him until the next opportunity came” --NLT. Every step was a part of the next opportunity. In fact, according to Hebrews 4:15—Jesus “is able to sympathize with our weaknesses [b/c He] was tempted in every way, just as we are—yet without sin.” Jesus was tempted to leave the purpose of God, He was tempted to take shortcuts, try and be the Messiah without the suffering and not be our Willing Sacrifice—yet He resisted those options and remained committed to the Pledge He had made to the Father. He faithfully gave His life for us in the most gruesome way possible.

In fact, something about that suffering was necessary. By suffering as we often suffer, Jesus was made an even better Savior. Hebrews 2:10 tells us that “it was fitting that God… should make the author of [our] salvation perfect through suffering.”

It was because of His temptation, because of His suffering on the Cross, that He was exactly the sacrifice we needed.

His willingness to endure through all of that made Him the “Author of our Faith” or the “Captain” or “Pioneer” or “Trailblazer” of our faith, the Living Bible calls Him the “Perfect Leader”.

No other point in His life shows this willingness better than the Garden of Gethsemane. While he went over to pray, the disciples were sleeping. It was just Him and God (This was probably another one of those opportune times), and so He asks, like any one of us would ask, “If there is any other way, a way that won’t involve my suffering and death, I’m willing to do it. But don’t change Your plan on My account—they need salvation too much.”

This was a battle for Jesus—to be obedient unto death or to find some other way. It was such a battle that Luke tells us Jesus received strengthening from an angel, but even with that, knowing what was coming, He was so anguished that He sweat drops of blood.

His willingness to endure the suffering demonstrated just “how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ.” —His willingness to endure this pain, to endure this humiliation on our behalf, to take the punishment for sin that we deserved, showed His love.

1 John 4:9-10—“This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. 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.”

Do you realize that He was willing to endure such pain and suffering all for the hope that you will spend eternity with Him? He did it for you, He did it for me. No one had to twist His arm, no one had to bribe Him.

Our Sacrifice willingly crawled onto the altar and into the fire to atone for our sins. He made the choice to save your and my life.

He was willing to die for you. Are you willing to live for Him?

Friday, March 23, 2007

Time Share Tomb

Time Share Tomb

Do you know how a time-share vacation home works? Several people, maybe up to 5, I don't really know, buy a property or vacation house and pay for the right to stay there at various times of the year, maybe 2 weeks.

In the Bible, 3 people bought a timeshare together and signed the contract. The vacation spot was the Tomb on the beaches of Death. Sounds like a popular spot doesn't it?

Ø Satan was the first signee—he gave the least to the project—He gave lies and deception. He is allowed to live in the tomb most of all because he is the one who “holds the power of death”—Hebrews 2:14

Ø Sin promised the most but delivered very little—he earns time on the beach and could stay as much as he wants for those are his wages. But instead, he leads people to the Tomb on even more promises (the wages of sin is death—Rom. 6:23, James 1: 14-15). Sin immediately leaves his “guests” at the Tomb in order to bring more guests to the “party”. Lots of people get in on the vacation spot this way.

Ø Jesus—wanted this time-share the least, but He gave the most for it and agreed to the shortest stay—3 Days. Of course, after His stay, He gained sole possession of the property, quickly condemned it and put up warning signs that the property would be closed and demolished as soon as the proper permission was granted by the governing Authority

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

This is a different sermon for me so the text may not read as well as usual. During the service, the 3 main sections were broken up with additional singing and activities. Overall, the message helped people and the format did too.

Part 1--The World of Cursing

The World is a rough place—fighting and conflict are commonplace and have many causes—financial, religious, greed, insult. Most conflicts are not global but are local and personal.

Insults, Injuries—in many cultures these produce feuds between people, neighbors or families that last for years, even generations.

In some cultures there are very specific ways and rituals to get back at the one who has offended you. These kinds of conflicts causes some to seek even supernatural means. It was typically called Cursing.

Cursing in the ancient world was the calling upon the name or power of a god to punish or inflict harm on another.

Goliath cursed David by his gods—1 Sam. 17:43—“He said to David, "Am I a dog, that you come at me with sticks?" And the Philistine cursed David by his gods.”

Later, David was Cursed by Shimei, a member of the former King Saul’s family

in 2 Samuel 16:5—“As King David approached Bahurim, a man from the same clan as Saul's family came out from there. His name was Shimei son of Gera, and he cursed as he came out.”

In America, it’s not so ritualized or complicated, but there are still remnants. Who can tell me what these are?

Voodoo Dolls—things that are supposed to influence, control or inflict pain

Many Islamic cultures or countries fear what is known as the Evil Eye—the fundamental concept of the evil eye is that precious persons or things are constantly vulnerable to hurt or destruction caused by other people’s desire to inflict hurt or hardship due to envy, insult, feud. These desires to inflict injury are conveyed through the eye—a mere look is enough to bring down harm upon someone or their family.—and protective measures are sold as jewelry such as these.

It even makes it on to some airplanes in Turkey—it’s the new anti-terror, anti-missile system.

This is the way the world works. It makes sense to the world’s wisdom that if you get hurt, you hurt back. If you’re insulted, you insult back and you hold on to it until you have a chance to get back at them.

We call it REVENGE, Retribution, Settling Scores, Payback, Reprisal, Justice—WHAT ELSE?

When you think back to your reactions over the past week, you’ll probably notice that the biggest reactions you had were probably caused by someone who upset you or did something to make you angry or upset. It is easy for us to want to lash out in response to these upsets.

There are many incidents in modern life that could inspire anger or a desire to lash out at something or somebody.

Maybe it was with a moment like this

Road Rage from seeing too many younger drivers like this…

Maybe you have a Bad Boss—

Or Computer Problems like I’ve had this week

Maybe these are the speaking terms between you and your neighbor


“Repay Evil with Evil and Insult for Insult”

The World wants us to return evil for evil and insult to injury

How many of you have had the opportunity or been tempted just this week to hurt with your words, to say just that one thing that would injure the most?

We exist in a world that returns evil for evil and insult for insult. But that is not how we are called to live—we are called to bless.

Part 2--The Power of Blessing

Bless—to invoke God’s name or call upon the power of God for someone’s benefit or good.

There is power in Blessing—knowing that someone is calling upon God’s goodness in their life—whether they really know Him or understand Him or believe in Him or not—is a comforting and encouraging thing.

Most people you come in contact with will not refuse your offer to pray for them.

Num. 6:23 "Tell Aaron and his sons, `This is how you are to bless the Israelites. Say to them:

NU 6:24 " ` "The LORD bless you and keep you;

NU 6:25 the LORD make his face shine upon you and be gracious to you;

NU 6:26 the LORD turn his face toward you and give you peace." '

NU 6:27 "So they will put my name on the Israelites, and I will bless them."

One of the best examples of the power of blessing can be seen in Jacob & Esau

GE 27:37 Isaac answered Esau, "I have made him lord over you and have made all his relatives his servants, and I have sustained him with grain and new wine. So what can I possibly do for you, my son?"

GE 27:38 Esau said to his father, "Do you have only one blessing, my father? Bless me too, my father!" Then Esau wept aloud.

Jacob’s blessing had influence of the kind of future the two brothers were going to have. One foretold great closeness and relationship with God, the other foretold violence and bitterness.

Jacob & Esau--HEB 11:20 By faith Isaac blessed Jacob and Esau in regard to their future.

Some of the effects of blessings over 3000 years ago, we are still living in today.

Galatians 3:14 He redeemed us in order that the blessing given to Abraham might come to the Gentiles through Christ Jesus, so that by faith we might receive the promise of the Spirit.

Jesus made blessing a part of His ministry.

Mark 10:14 When Jesus saw this, he was indignant. He said to them, "Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. 15 I tell you the truth, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it." 16 And he took the children in his arms, put his hands on them and blessed them.

The world wants us to be stingy with our blessings. The world thinks there is greater power in cursing, but that power is destructive, self-centered, self-seeking, and only causes pain in your life and the life of others.

Yet we are called to Bless—because we have an awesome and a wonderful God who Changes us.

Part 3--Called to Be a Blessing in Returning Good instead of Evil

David chose not to retaliate against Shimei—he chose not to repay evil with evil or insult with insult. David had the power, he had the authority to injure back—as creative a writer as David was, I have no doubt that he could have thought of some good zingers to say back to Shimei. Some in his party wanted to go and kill Shimei, but David refrained and trusted himself to God.

An even better example is Jesus, Himself. At His arrest, trial and crucifixion, He did not open His mouth in defense, retaliation or injury. He could have—He could have brought down legions of angels to smite those who were hurting Him. He could have told the whole world the secret sins of every man coming against Him. His curses would have had the creative power of the universe behind them. Instead, Jesus lived out His own words.

LK 6:27 "But I tell you who hear me: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, 28 bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.

He demonstrated it again on the Cross when Jesus said—“Father, forgive them, for they don’t know what they’re doing.”

Paul put this call to love and bless this way.

RO 12:9 Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. 10 Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Honor one another above yourselves. 11 Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. 12 Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. 13 Share with God's people who are in need. Practice hospitality.

RO 12:14 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse.

RO 12:17 Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody. 18 If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. 19 Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God's wrath, for it is written: "It is mine to avenge; I will repay," says the Lord. 20 On the contrary:

"If your enemy is hungry, feed him;

if he is thirsty, give him something to drink.

In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head."

RO 12:21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

In describing his own situation, Paul put it this way.

1 Corinthians 4:9 For it seems to me that God has put us apostles on display at the end of the procession, like men condemned to die in the arena. We have been made a spectacle to the whole universe, to angels as well as to men. 10 We are fools for Christ, but you are so wise in Christ! We are weak, but you are strong! You are honored, we are dishonored! 11 To this very hour we go hungry and thirsty, we are in rags, we are brutally treated, we are homeless. 12 We work hard with our own hands. When we are cursed, we bless; when we are persecuted, we endure it; 13 when we are slandered, we answer kindly. Up to this moment we have become the scum of the earth, the refuse of the world.

He was a spectacle before the whole universe because he knew the world was watching his actions and listening to his words.

More than being told what NOT TO DO, Peter gives us instruction on how we should live.

How we live and treat each other, our relationships are supposed to be changed by our faith. Faith Changes our relationships—and how you act toward them and respond to them. Last week we looked at how your relationship with Jesus should change the way you relate to the government, to your work, and within your marriage. Now, Peter being led by the Holy Spirit, covers our relationships in general, with our neighbors, with our fellow believers, even in times our struggle.

READ 1 Peter 3:8-12

We are Called to Bless by Living In

1. Harmony—

a. There is little more important in the world of music than a clear and powerful melody. The great composers and songwriters know this. However, there is little more beautiful in the world of music than a clear and powerful harmony. The Barbershop Soloist was never as popular as the Barbershop Quartet. Mozart’s Violin concerto’s has got to have a harmonizing orchestra in the background. Effective Harmony doesn’t work against the Melody. Effective Harmony doesn’t try to replace the Melody. Effective Harmony is Complimentary, works with the Melody not against it, and makes the entire production more beautiful and engaging.

b. V. 8—no one is left out of this command. If you claim the name of Christ, then you must allow the Spirit of Christ to change you so that you can live in “harmony with one another.” This means you should attempt with all diligence to avoid strife and discord, to compliment each other rather than work against each other.

c. Can you see how vital this is for the church family? A church where the people are living in harmony with each other is one that will be encouraging each other to greater lives of faith and create a beautiful witness to the community. If we are living in harmony with one another, then the church will be creating a music together that draws crowds to listen and join in.

d. You can’t live in harmony without sympathy—doing your best to understand the concerns and emotions of others. Romans 12:15—“Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn.”—1 Cor. 12:26—“If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it.” Sympathy takes your attention off of yourself and on to others.

e. Compassion goes closely with sympathy. When you have sympathy for someone’s situation, then you must be willing and motivated to do whatever you can about it. You will rejoice with them, you will mourn with them, you will suffer with them. God had sympathy for our sinful condition, but His sympathy, coupled with His compassion motivated Him to do something about it. To come down from heaven, to put aside His glory, and come in the person of Jesus. So when our brothers and sisters in Christ, or our neighbors and friends are in need, don’t just feel bad for them, but be willing to reach out with your love, your resources

f. Love as brothers—and not the kind of brother that locks your sibling in the closet, and humility—don’t think more highly of yourself than you ought.

g. “In the worlds way of thinking, if a person does not hit back, it is because he is a coward. But in the Spirit’s way of thinking, the evidence of Jesus’ Power is if he does not hit back… A blow or personal insult becomes an opportunity for a Believer to reveal the incredible greatness & gentleness of the Lord Jesus… the teaching of the Sermon on the Mount is not, “Do Your Duty,” but is, in effect, “Do what is not your duty.” It is not your duty to go the second mile, or to turn the other cheek, but Jesus said that if we are His disciples, we will always do these things.”

Instead be a blessing—and be blessed—be a blessing to others because of your relationship to Christ.

You were called to be and give blessings and it affects your eternal inheritance.

Who should we bless?

Our family—when you pray for each other. Ask specifically for God’s blessing upon them. Demonstrate blessing by serving them, by forgiving them, by putting their needs above yours

Bless that cousin who cheated you

Bless that child who looks up to you

Bless that husband, or wife who had a hard day at work

Our Neighbors

Our Co-Workers

Our Community—the cashier at the store

The waiter or waitress at the restaurant

Our Enemies and others who give us a hard time in life. When was the last time you prayed for God’s blessing on Osama Bin Laden? The pouring out of God’s blessing would be for someone to share with him the love of Christ and he would embrace His forgiveness and redemption.

The real meaning behind the question, “Who is my neighbor that Jesus was asked was really—“Who do I have to be nice to, and who can I ignore in this world?”

In response to this Jesus told the parable of the Good Samaritan. Jesus’ meaning was not to detail who you can leave out in being a faithful person, but how you are called to be that person to anyone and everyone you come across.

HOW Do we Bless?

Is it just the laying on of hands and making a powerful religious prayer? How can we bless and be a blessing in people’s lives? Responses from people.

Bless the Lord

In blessing others, you are also blessing God in who’s Name you are acting. As you have done to the least of these, we do unto Him.

The greatest Blessing is sharing the love and forgiveness in Christ.