Pursuing Answers to Questions of Faith & Life

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Sermon--When Jesus Walks Among Us--Revelation 2

For the last few months, we’ve been looking at Joshua and the Vision of Victory that he was given and the faith to Cross over and do it. With all of that in mind, I want to shift to another vision—a vision that was written to believers in Christ, a vision that was written to churches. Turn in your Bibles to the book of Revelation.

Revelation 1:10-11

Remember every church was to read the whole book including the messages to each church. So presumably, there are warnings and thoughts that each church could benefit from. It is preserved in Scripture for us to read and benefit from even 2000 years later. So rather than take the attitude, “I’m glad that’s not written about us”, let’s look and see what it has to say to us.

The first letter went to the church at Ephesus.

Ephesus was a crossroads of civilization. Politically, it had become the de facto capital of the province, known as Supreme Metropolis of Asia. The Roman governor resided there. It was a "free" city, i.e., self-governed. Located on the western coast of Asia Minor, at the convergence of three great highways, from the north, east, and south, Ephesus was the trade center of the area. The temple with its statue of Artemis was one of the wonders of the ancient world. Thousands of priests and priestesses were involved in her service. Many of the priestesses were dedicated to cult prostitution. Paul spent several years in Ephesus, as did Timothy and many of these Gentiles came to believe.

This church grew, struggling, but Thriving. And it is the church in this city, the first of 7 churches, that John sees a vision about.

Jesus Walks Among us and Knows our Strengths—2:1-3

The Messenger is Held in His Right Hand—the place a scepter of power and authority would usually go. I have no power on my own, but only what is given to me in fulfilling my calling to be UBC’s pastor. I want Him to be holding me and keeping me accountable to Him.

He walks among the golden lampstands—just like He walked among His children in the Garden of Eden, He walks among us today—that relationship, that closeness is restored in Christ.

They are golden because they are valuable, holy and set apart because of His presence to be used for His glory. Golden lampstands were used in the Temple. He walks among us, meaning He is near, He is close. It is a matter love and a desire to be close--but also Protection and Inspection.

By walking among His Lampstand, His Church, He knows our Strengths and the Good we have done.

For the church in Ephesus, in the heart of a pagan city, where the worshippers of Artemis caused a riot, where the darkness and deception is visible on every street, Jesus sees many strengths in His church. He sees their…

Deeds—the things done in faith—we are saved unto good works—James argues that if you claim to have faith, you should be able to show it by what you do, how you live—should be changed. When people are hurting or struggling you reach out to them, you pray for them, you minister to them—not in just words, but in action. Those deeds done in faith can easily be seen as inconvenient or…

Hard work—not all things done in the name of Christ are easy or comfortable—and yet the church is commended for doing them anyway. We must not be consumed with the idea that it’s only worth doing if it’s easy. Many times this hard work makes us uncomfortable, they take effort and commitment, they may even give us a bad opinion in the world’s eyes—but we should still be willing to do them. Which requires…

Perseverance—the ability to continue on in spite of opposition or difficulty. It’s not the world’s opinion or approval that matters—its Jesus’ opinion and approval that matters. He walks among us—don’t ever think that what you do, the contributions you make to the cause of Christ don’t ever think they go unnoticed. Humanly speaking, we, I, may not see it, know it, or recognize you for it—but you have a Savior who walks among us who will. Jesus recognizes and honors

He Sees Our Stand for Truth--Cannot tolerate wicked men

From v. 6—hate the practices of the Nicolatians— One of the problems many early churches were facing was the fact that many of the converts to the faith were not abandoning their pagan beliefs and practices.

These were those who wanted to mix Christian faith with idolatry and cult prostitution. The Church at Ephesus showed their maturity in rejecting this.

Tested those who claim to be apostles and found them false—so they didn’t just accept anyone who came claiming to represent and teach of Christ. Whether they were just passing through or whether they appeared on TV, they knew to test the spirits—something John had already warned them about in 1 John, they knew to check the Scriptures, to not accept another gospel.

They had Persevered, Endured many hardships for His Name, and they had Not grown weary—not quit, not given up, not abandoned their faith in Christ, but had, in spite of all their difficulty, been True to His Name and His Calling.

I pray, that as Christ walks among us this day, He would see these things as strengths in you and me.

Jesus Walks Among Us and Sees our Hearts and True Motivation—He Knows What Where We Must Grow –2:4

But notice the length of the list of things Jesus holds against this church at Ephesus—the part of their lives and fellowship that must grow—there is only one thing that draws His saddened eye. Of all the good things, of all the perseverance, of all the willingness to stand for good and correct doctrine, all of that pales before His greater concern, all those strengths are shrouded, tainted and veiled because--

You have Forsaken your first love.

Forsaken—you have Left, the word is used to abandon, leave destitute, to disregard, or even more harshly—of a husband who is divorcing his wife—walked away from and left something important behind.

Jesus is to be our First Love—that which is primary, most important. The most important thing they were to Love, their love of God had diminished from how they started.

Do you realize that apart from Christ—we don’t know what love is? The only way we truly love is b/c Jesus first loved us and gave His life for us. “we love b/c He first loved us.” O sure, the world has a concept of love—but it usually revolves around emotions or around sex—but Jesus teaches us that Love is really about Sacrifice—the other John 3:16—1 John 3:16—puts it this way—“This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down His life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers.”

Inner devotion to Christ that characterized their earlier commitment, like the love of a newly wedded bride for her husband. Loving devotion to Christ can be lost in the midst of active service.

It is this criticism, that even in the midst of doing a lot of good things, even in standing for correct doctrine, even in the midst of enduring persecution—if you have forsaken your first love you are doing them for the wrong reasons.

Paul says in 1 Corinthians 15:17—“ And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins.” In the same way, if you go through the religious motions, all the activities but have forsaken your first love, you are wearing yourself out when you don’t really love Him.

If you stand for correct doctrine but have forsaken your first love, then you are fighting for the Letter of the Law rather than the Spirit of the Law, you desire sacrifice more than mercy, you are more interested in Uniformity than Unity—and your stand is hurt b/c of the divisive spirit in which you stand for it.

If you have forsaken your first love, but still endure persecution, you are suffering for a Savior that brings you no joy—and you should be pitied above all men. If love is not your bases for enduring, for overcoming pain and suffering, then your suffering is hardship.

If in our walk and our service to Christ as an individual believer, as the larger Body of Christ—if we don’t love Him with all our heart, soul, mind and strength—He sees it—and it is so glaring to Jesus that it overshadows everything else we may be doing.

He is to be our First Love—we’re not supposed to love football more than Him, we’re not supposed to love our jobs more than Him, we’re not supposed to love anything more than Him.

There’s nothing wrong with a single thing Jesus mentioned as their strength—it was their heart that decreased His glory.

Jesus Walks Among Us as Our Great Physician and has a Cure—2:5

The First part of the Cure we need is Remembrance—REMEMBER the height from which you have fallen. Two Angles of Looking—the most common way of seeing this height is how you must remember what your life apart from Christ would be. What would my life be like If Christ were Never a Part of it?

I’m not saying you have to remember what your life was like before you became a Christian—for some, who were older, that might be helpful—but some of you were so young you don’t remember anything else. This remedy is about remembering or taking a good look at where you would be if you never asked Jesus for forgiveness, never asked Him to be Lord of your life, never gave God a second thought but lived as if He did not exist.

Since that realization dawned on me—the thought of my life apart from Christ both saddens and terrifies me. My life would be radically different. It’s easy to say, I would not be your pastor today. I would not be married to Vicky, nor have my 2 wonderful kids. With all the ways that I know God delivered me, all the things He steered me away from, protected me, I wonder if I would be in jail, doped up, or alive at all.

The Second way is to ask What was my life like when I first believed and took my faith seriously?

REMEMBER the Height of Love, the Height of Devotion and Dedication, the Height of Joy, Excitement and Amazement that was yours when Faith truly awakened in you for the first time. When it finally clicked, when you finally took it seriously—maybe the first time you knew the Power of God was flowing through you as you gained insight into the Word of God, or as you prayed, or as you were sharing Jesus with a friend. Do you Remember that Spiritual Height? How long has it been since you’ve been there? REMEMBER it, desire it, don’t be satisfied without it—HUNGER and THIRST for Righteousness and you will be filled.

The Second part of the Cure is REPENTANCE—Turn Around, Change Your Mind and go back to the Heights you have fallen off of—at first, when I first took my faith seriously, I devoured the Word of God, I prayed about anything and everything and everybody, I shared with my friends when I didn’t have a clue and had little fear about it.

If I prove unwilling to do this, if We prove unwilling to remember, unwilling to repent—then we must be willing to face the consequence. “if you do not repent, I will come to you and remove your lampstand.”

The very church that the Ephesians were a part of would lose its light—be replaced with darkness. It is so easy to get wrapped up in Doing Right, Believing Right, that we Forget Who we are doing it for—we can even forget the Why—the Mission we have been given to fulfill.

Without Love--We can get so bogged down that we make even our faith a Burden—the light we shine dims and will eventually go out. Unless we Re-Awaken our Spirits—unless our Light Shines—Unless our Actions and Beliefs Reflect our Love—our future is darkened.

A Church that is not built upon love for Jesus Christ will wither and die—choked off from the vine—self-strangulation.

Jesus Walks Among Us and Gives Generously to those who Hear, Respond and Persevere—2:7

This letter to the Ephesians is not just written for this one church, it was also written to ours. We are just as in danger of forsaking our first love as they were. I hope you hear Him! I hope you desire to overcome what He may be holding against us. Because the Promise is the Restoration of what was lost all the way back in Genesis 3--I hope you desire to see His promise fulfilled in you and me.

When Jesus walks among us—and I assure you that He is here—among one of His Lampstands in Macomb, what does He see? When He walks beside you, what do He see? Are you one of the lights on His Lampstand?

If we as UBC have forsaken our first love—then all our efforts, are overshadowed; everything we do is tarnished. How can we have Victory in the Name of Jesus Christ when we love doing things more than we love Him? Sometimes it is better to sit at the Master’s feet and worship Him, and hang on every word He says than to be so busy that we can’t hear Him at all.

Have you forsaken your fist love? There is Promise when you respond to His call to Remember and Repent. I believe we as a church need to do that today.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Paul's Testimony and Mark's Ending

In response to a review of a book on Kevin Bussey's blog, here, I thought I should address some of the concerns added by one known as AskAnAtheist, who has a very enjoyable and reasonable contrasting perspective. The first that I addressed was Paul's use (or lack thereof) of his personal experience with Christ on the Damascus road in his epistles. AAA claimed that Paul didn't really believe this experience was real but used it as an "in" to gain access to the church that would otherwise resist his teachings. If he really believed it, he would have mentioned it more often.

The second issue was one that I enjoyed talking to Charlie about this very morning--the ending of Mark's Gospel. A3 claimed the long ending is not original--a claim I agree with. The why is a question that I address. I have not seen his response on Kevin's site yet, but he's welcome to post it here as well. Edits to my post on Kevin's site appear in [ ].

Here is my response.


Just like our political spectrum [with a] Left/Liberal-------Right/Traditional

that spectrum exists in the theological/historical realm as well

I'm teaching an introduction to World Religions class at a community college and just informed the class of that. The text we're using (not my choice) is very much on the theo left end while I let them know I'm closer to the r/t end.

With that said, each side can find someone to bolster their own ideas. I'm just more uncomfortable with the foundational assumptions that are made on the left (ex.--anti-supernatural bias)

As to your ideas about Paul and his testimony. I'm not surprised he didn't mention it in most of his letters. That's the kind of testimony usually reserved for a face to face [meeting]. He only mentioned it in Acts 22 b/c of the riot he was the center of--a face to face if you will. He mentions his "abnormal birth" in 1 Cor. 15 as if his readers already know the account. He refers to the events immediately following his conversion in Damascus in 2 Cor. 11:32-33 with those who question his apostleship. He referred to it again in Galatians 1:13-24. I feel like I'm leaving one out but I think you get the point. Specific challenges get a specific response but he doesn't have to rehash the same things over and over again. People knew who he was and his story--even he thinks it's silly when he starts touting his credentials [I'm out of my mind for talking like this, Paul says]. At least he didn't go 3rd person!!!

As to the ending in Mark, I agree with you that what appears in most Bibles is not the original ending. It's out of character, uses different words and is just a different style. Mine notes that (NIV Study Bible). I'm more and more convinced that the "they were afraid" ending was the original ending, for a specific reason. It's a perfect cliffhanger ending.

I always hated Season Finales of shows b/c they always did something to make you wait and anticipate next season. Star Trek--NG's Borg ending drove me nuts b/c I knew I would have to wait a couple months to see the resolve.

I'm of the mind that Mark was written especially to a Greek audience that wanted to hear a faster and exciting story, which is why it uses so many words like "immediately" and stories of power, while including the mystery and "[Messianic] secret" that the [demons know], the audience gets to hear but the characters don't know . This also explains why it's shorter. So the reader would have created a great tension in his audience who wants to know the resolve, how it ends, do they figure it out, etc.

When it ends there, with the cliffhanger ending, it is the perfect opening for an eyewitness to stand up and tell them exactly what they saw and heard--tell them the resolve, tell them that they did figure it out. Considering that Mark is generally understood to be the companion of Peter, it would be a perfect intro for Peter to then stand up and speak and reveal the Resurrection.

If that is true, then I surmise that someone later was uncomfortable with the ending and tagged a resolve on the end.

Your thoughts on this?

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Romans 15 and Paul's Prayer for Unity

Tonight’s Wednesday night lesson was something I needed to hear. We’ve been looking at the prayers of Paul found in the New Testament, those moments that the Holy Spirit inspired Paul to write down what he thanks God for, or what his concerns or prayers for his readers are. Because the Spirit inspired him to write them down in those contexts, I believe we are able to see an idea of what God wants to be thankful for in our lives, or what His concerns are for our situations even though our exact circumstances may be different.

Tonight, we were looking at the prayers found in Romans 15. I am proud to say that over the course of a 35 minute discussion, we managed to answer question 1 on my study guide. I forced us to answer # 2 quickly, only partially because it was an important question, but also b/c I wanted to say we at least got through more than one!!!!

The verse we looked at tonight was Romans 15:5-6—“ May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you a spirit of unity among yourselves as you follow Christ Jesus, 6 so that with one heart and mouth you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

Actually, we only got through the first part of vs. 5. My opening question was, “Why does Paul pray for them to have a spirit of unity?” That lead us back to ch. 14 and all the various ways they had been divided—over whether to eat certain foods, over recognizing certain days, over drinking, etc. That lead into several discussions about doctrinal distinctives (like baptism, alcohol), how do we maintain them without being divisive. Paul in 14 charged his readers with both permissive snobbery and legalistic judgment in their dealings with each other over “disputable matters”, i.e. matters in which believing Christians can come to differing convictions, i.e. disagreeing without being disagreeable or breaking fellowship. Matters of Conviction should not become Matters of Mandate by which we judge other believers and their “rightness” before God. They are His servant, and they will answer to Him, not to you or me.

It was a good and fruitful conversation as well as a helpful one considering some things that had come up during the course of the day. It ministered to my spirit and confronted my attitudes.

Before we closed for the evening, I forced us to answer at least one more question—“ Why do we need a reminder of our source of Endurance and Encouragement when speaking of unity and division?”

The basic answer is that unity and true fellowship is HARD!!! Every single one of us is weird in some way—we have differing backgrounds, histories, struggles, experiences, ethnicities, languages, you name it—and we are still called to come under the “roof” of the Church—unite under One Lord, One Faith, One Baptism. With that and our sin nature, we still hurt and injure one another, we still irritate and frustrate one another. We need endurance to maintain a “spirit of unity among [ourselves] as [we] follow Christ Jesus.”

And the purpose of this unity is so that we can with one heart, and with one loud and unified voice, all of us weird people can glorify God with boldness and clarity in the hope that more will become a part of the Bride of Christ.

Unity is hard—it requires the work of the Spirit in us—it requires a movement of forgiveness, of laying aside hurts, of seeking reconciliation, and toleration of those whose faith may be weaker and more needy. That requires endurance and hard work. We must be encouraged to continue doing it even when we feel like not trying.

Lord Jesus, Spirit of the Living God, may you give me the Spirit of unity with my fellow believers. Grant me the endurance to continue even when it is hard, encourage me to go the extra mile. Amen.

Did you Know...Smurfs are Communists

I know I'm not the only one who thinks this , but my friends and I thought it through when we were in Jr. High and these are the reasons why we thought so.

The Smurfs represent a utopian communist society

1. They own no property—they all have the same homes, communal farming

2. They use no money—not even a bartering system, all things are distributed equally, possessions are largely meaningless and coveting of others stuff is non-existent

3. Everyone works for the benefit of the community and not for their own profit or advancement

4. Everyone is known by their trade/function within the community

5. Everyone is a Smurf—used much like Comrade6. Papa Smurf’s favorite color is Red

7. Put a picture of Papa Smurf up next to the famous picture of Karl Marx—coincidence???

8. The Evil Gargamel originally wanted to turn the smurfs into gold—he represents the evil capitalist, exploiter who wants to destroy the hard working smurf (comrade) for his own personal wealth and greed

9. I don’t remember any type of faith other than the community, there wasn’t even a Father Smurf or Pastor Smurf—I guess we don’t contribute anything meaningful to the community!

10. I wasn’t old enough to remember, understand or notice at the time but were there any anti-semitic insinuations in the actions or depictions of Gargamel? Thinking back, there might be.

So basically, the Smurfs were a subversive tool to soften the hearts and minds of our children to the ideals of a communists utopia. I’m of the mind that fallen human nature will never allow such a system to exist (which is also why I tend to scoff at Star Trek’s depiction of the future of the planet—no money, no greed, total equality and harmony). So, as one of those children during that time, thanks to the fact that I mercilessly made fun of the Smurfs and other cartoons (especially the ones that didn’t obliterate and destroy some object during the show—but those too)—it didn’t work! My friends and I caught on to this little scheme—your attempts at brainwashing were foiled in spite of all that cute, blue innocence! Nice try—No Soup for You!

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Sermon 9-9-07--Retreating from Victory

The audio of this sermon will have more. Some of this was practically outline.

Imagine if after discovering America in 1492, Christopher Columbus never told anyone about it and never wanted to go back. Would we even know his name? Would we even be here?

Imagine Ben Franklin never doing anything with his experiment with the kite and key, much less telling anyone about it?

Imagine the fighting forces of the Allies in WWII landing on the beaches of Normandy, sacrificing all they had to get a foothold on Europe, then deciding to pack it up and go home.

Imagine for a 16th Birthday a kid receives a brand new Ferrari and after driving it around the block, never getting over 10 miles an hour, he wants to give it back and keep the Yugo he’s had for the last few years.

Imagine you’re a contestant on the Let’s Make a Deal show. Just for showing up you’re given a prize worth $1,000.00. Then the host makes an unusual proposition. “We’re going to skip ahead to the big prize of the night—a $100,000.00 cash prize. It’s behind one of these four doors. Now, here’s the deal—I’m going to tell you which 3 doors the prize is not behind and all you have to do is choose the remaining door. So, do you want to keep your $1,000.00 or do you want to choose the guaranteed $100,000.00?

“I’ll keep the $1,000.00”

Can you imagine walking away from $100,000.00 because you thought $1000.00 was enough?

What in the world would be going on if all of that came to pass?

What kind of reasons would you have to do that?

· Chris Col—it was too hard to get there the first time

· Ben Franklin—I was too shocked by the experience

· WWII—we showed em what we can do—they’ll give up

· Kid with the Ferarri—it gets too bad of gas mileage

· You expect the IRS to take about 99,000.00 of it anyway so you’ll probably end up about even.
You don’t believe the host when he tells you about which doors to avoid
You think the 1000.00 is good enough or all you’ll ever need.
You miss your family and just want to get the show over with as soon as possible?

Over the course of Joshua’s leadership, they had come out of the desert, they had seen the Vision of Victory, they had Crossed Over into the Promised Land, been a part of the Rescue at Jericho, and seen numerous victories.

There is something about where God had brought them--this land—there is something about this territory that God had in mind for Abraham and his descendents. It was so important in the mind of God that He was willing to take a man and his family from southern Iraq north along the course of the Euphrates River into southern Turkey, south approaching the Mediterranean Sea and into the land of Canaan.

This was the land of God’s Promise—the Land of Blessing, the Land where they would fulfill their calling to be a Holy Nation—meant to be a light on the hill for the rest of the world.

And some of the Israelites had no intention of staying in it—they planned on crossing back over the Jordan River, essentially leaving the Promise behind.

To Sum Up—

Joshua 21:43-45

The Land was given to Possess and Settle

The were Given Rest on Every Side

Their Enemies were Defeated

All of the LORD’s Promises were Fulfilled

This is one of those moments that can be summed up by saying—“It doesn’t get any better than this.” After a situation like that—you’d think that everyone would want to stay a part of it.

But that is not what you see. READ 22:6-9

Joshua 22 Eastern Tribes Return Home

Faithfulness in help—they had done a good job—they had seen God do all of this—the blessing of God was before them, any hesitation or uncertainty had been disproved—and they were still going to walk away from it all and go back across the Jordan River. They were willing to walk away from God’s Best and settle for something less

It all stems from their own request while Moses was still alive.

Numbers 32:1-6, 16

They had some good reasons for wanting to stay over on the eastern side—good land for their crops, and their wives and children would be safer.

The Blessing and the Victory was ahead of them, but they were already making plans and excuses to show up late, essentially, show up late, and avoid the Challenge, avoid the

This land is good enough

This far, no farther

We’re satisfied with this

We haven’t been over there for 40 years what if it’s not good enough for our herds.

I know God promised that to us, but it didn’t work out last time, this is already done,

Moses’ Response is Telling, He was concerned about several things. Moses’ biggest fear was that this action, this behavior, was a statement of their trust of God and the effect that it may have on the others, after all, there’s more fighting to be done

You want benefits without the greater sacrifice

Vs. 7 Causing discouragement—just like the 10 spies

If you stop—more will want to stop and we’ll never faithfully follow God

Vs. 10, 14—Don’t make the same mistake they did in the past

Sign of not following the LORD wholeheartedly

Is this the same for you?

Refusing to go into the Promise

Vs. 15 All may suffer as before because of your unwillingness

Good reasons to stay

Good land for livestock

Keep women & Children Safe

But deep down—I believe Moses was right—they just weren’t sure that where they were going was going to be all it was cracked up to be—get what you can when you can.

But can’t we come up with all kinds of reasons why we settle for less than God’s Best?

It’s time to let younger people do it.

I’m pretty comfortable where I am

What can I learn from that?

We’ve never done it that way before.

If new people keep coming, then I won’t know everyone anymore.

We have been promised a life that is abundant and free. We have been promised a Comforter that will give us peace in the storms of life. We have been promised that Fear has been destroyed by the work of Christ. We have been promised that He will be with us wherever we go. We have been promised that in moments of need or persecution or evangelism, we will be given the words to say.

Reluctantly will go with them as a fighting force

We must be warned from Walking away from God’s Victory.

Joshua 22 Warning for Distance—distance creates a tendency to stray—vs. 5

Outside the promise

Miss the full benefits

Forget God’s Blessing and Faithfulness

Resent those in the Land and Second Guess own decision

Follow other gods

Paul Dealt with Going Back from God’s Best in the New Testament

Galatians 4:8-11—“Formerly, when you did not know God, you were slaves to those who by nature are not gods. 9 But now that you know God--or rather are known by God--how is it that you are turning back to those weak and miserable principles? Do you wish to be enslaved by them all over again? 10 You are observing special days and months and seasons and years! 11 I fear for you, that somehow I have wasted my efforts on you.

They had been delivered into a saving knowledge of God based upon the finished work of Christ and not a Righteousness that they earn or have to work for. Yet they were tempted to go back to a life of legalism, when they were trying only to please God by ritual and not by faith, to go back to an uncertainty of—Have I been good enough?

And a life lived in trying to earn God’s favor is a life of torture—of walking away from the abundant life—of walking away from the throne of Grace that we can approach with confidence and replacing it with only fear.

It is my belief that God is leading us to cross over into Victory and part of that means awakening a heart for Him in the heart of Macomb. He is leading us to victory to better things

God Has Demonstrated Victory Behind Us—Just in the last few months He has brought us visitors whom we have welcomed into our fellowship. Just in the last few weeks we’ve had almost 50 women sign up and actually participate in various Bible studies and book clubs. We’ve got almost 10 men involved in coming to a study at 6:15 AM for the first time in at least several years. And just this past Wednesday, as we were praying about this week’s worship services—we hadn’t been able to find anyone to play or lead the music, and yet I knew that somehow, God would work it out. So in just about 10 minutes, in walked a college student no one had ever met before and this morning, he’s been serving God faithfully, despite being new. God has Demonstrated Victory Behind us.

God Has Promised Victory Before Us—part of the vision God has given me for our congregation is the reality of the walls that are surrounding us, the barriers to faith the exist here in Macomb in the hearts of our neighbors and friends. The apathy, the self-indulgence and entertainment, the comfortability that distracts people from focusing on the spiritual. And we have to be so careful that we don’t get comfortable with those walls—that we walk around the walls so much that we get used to seeing them there, then we begin to not care whether they come down or not. May it never be!

I believe part of the vision from God that He is calling us to is awakening a heart for Him in the heart of Macomb—that He will begin tearing down the walls that surround us and people will be rescued and freed. I believe it has already begun in us and around us—we must not walk away from that.

Let us Not Walk Away from His Promise and His Victory—let us not be satisfied with the Eastern side of the Jordan. Let us press on to the Victory and live in the Promise.

Saturday, September 08, 2007

Audio Sermons Online

BTW, if you want to hear any of these sermons that I post, go here. They are always a little different, usually a little more. I'd suggest going to Jericho: The Rescue

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Help me figure this out...

A relatively obscure group of Christians, Friends of Jesus, many of them lawyers, have brought court proceeding to the forefront in Kenya in order to declare that Jesus was never truly convicted, that the proceedings of His trial and crucifixion were illegal. Read the article here.

This is a quote from the article:

They want "the court to declare Jesus's trial null and void ... because the (ancient) court that convicted him was not properly constituted, the prosecutors violated the law of the time and the trial was a sham", Mr Indindis said.

All laughter aside, and laying aside questions of Jurisdiction, Statute of Limitations/Time, etc. What would this group hope to accomplish in this effort? Any ideas?

It may have something to do with these lines.

"We need the court to clarify, for the record, that Jesus was not a criminal. He advocated for the rule of law,'' one member said.

"Do you mean to worship a convicted criminal?''

Why would they be concerned about this attitude?

The religious demographics of the country according to one site says:

Religions: Protestant (45%), Roman Catholic (33%), indingenous beliefs (10%), Muslim (10%), other (2%)

The Muslim population here is relatively small in Kenya, as compared to the rest of Africa (40%).

Sunday, September 02, 2007

Sermon-9/w/07--Preserving the Vision for Victory

The passage of time kills many dreams. But not always.

In one household their evening started just like most others. Mom and Dad at home with their son, Jimmy playing after dinner. Mom and Dad were absorbed with jobs and did not notice the time. It was a full moon and some of the light seeped through the windows. Finally, Mom glanced at the clock. "Jimmy, it's time to go to bed. Go up now and I'll come and settle you later."

Unlike usual, Jimmy went straight upstairs to his room. An hour or so later his mother came up to check if all was well, and to her astonishment found that her son was staring quietly out of his window at the moonlit scenery. "What are you doing, Jimmy?" "I'm looking at the moon, Mommy." "Well, it's time to go to bed now." As one reluctant boy settled down, he said, "Mommy, you know one day I'm going to walk on the moon."

Who could have known that the boy in whom the dream was planted that night would survive a near fatal motorbike crash which broke almost every bone in his body, and would bring to fruition this dream 32 years later when James Irwin stepped on the moon's surface, just one of the 12 representatives of the human race to have done so?

A Dream or a Vision is hard to maintain—every once in a while you hear an account like this that reminds you how it is possible. I know that after just a few minutes of being awake, most of my dreams are forgotten. As we’ve been looking at the life of Joshua and the Vision God had given him of the Victory that was to be had—I’m beginning to understand that Vision is something that must be held on to, must not be forgotten, must be anticipated in order to be seen and come to pass—because it is so easily lost and forgotten.

Bob Logan--Vision: the capacity to create a compelling picture of the desired state of affairs that inspires people to respond; that which is desirable, which could be, should be; that which is attainable. A godly vision is right for the times, right for the church, and right for the people. A godly vision promotes faith rather than fear. A godly vision motivates people to action. A godly vision requires risk-taking. A godly vision glorifies God, not people.

George Barna--Vision is the ability to understand the history, the present condition, and the potential of the church, and to conceive a plan for action that will maximize the ministry potential. More often than not, vision is a result of having spent much time absorbing the facts about the community, knowing the resources upon which the church can call (people, funding, facilities, equipment, etc.), and devising sound but creative strategies for moving forward. Vision always entails progress: it is never satisfied with the status quo. , How to Find Your Church, p. 104.

In Joshua 14 Israel had been in the Promised Land from between 5-7 years. They had already seen some major battles—the fulfillment of God’s Promise was well on its way. They had fought a Southern Campaign and a Northern Campaign—they had defeated many cities and their kings. While there were still battles in front of them, they were now at the point when they could start considering actually settling the territory. So here in Joshua 14, they began to divide the territory by tribe using lots—it was considered their inheritance.

But the Dream and Vision was not Over. One of the first ones to speak up had been waiting a long time. The dream, the vision for Israel… he’d been waiting to see it fulfilled just as much as Joshua had. In fact, he was the only one who had been waiting as long as Joshua. Caleb also was allowed to live long enough to see God fulfill His promises.

Their partnership had begun when Moses had sent them with 10 other men to spy out the land of Canaan some 45 years earlier.

1. Caleb’s Life of Vision—vs. 6-9

a. 40 years old when he saw how good the land was.

b. He reported “according to [his] convictions”—a report that only Joshua shared, but 10 others spoke against. Caleb believed and looked at what God could do and not at what the rest were so afraid of—the cities, the people. The 10 saw themselves as grasshoppers, while Joshua and Caleb saw themselves as God’s Chosen People.

c. This is just a reminder that it is so important to Live according to your convictions—even when everyone else around you says you’re a fool—when you are given a vision from God—speak, live and do not be afraid to stand for your convictions. But not just any conviction is worth standing for—it is the relationship with God and the vision He gives that is worth standing for.

d. Follow the Lord Wholeheartedly—that is a testimony of a life well lived. No matter what happened to Caleb, no matter what difficulties he faced, he was willing to follow the LORD wholeheartedly—fully, completely.

e. There is Blessing in a Life Lived for God—because of his faithfulness, Moses promised Caleb a special inheritance. It is because of his faithfulness that he was going to receive a blessing.

f. It is important for you and me to Never Lose sight of the Vision God gives despite what anyone else says. If we wish to receive a great blessing and a great victory—we must stand with our convictions and follow the LORD wholeheartedly in order to see that vision come to fruition.

2. Preserving the Vision of Victory—vs. 10

a. 45 years later, Caleb is now 85 years old

b. It’s a long time to wait for something

c. It’s a long time to easily forget something

d. It’s a long time for passion or energy to fade

e. 45 years is a long time for doubt to set in

f. Can you imagine waiting 45 years for something?

g. The Federal Government has processed your Tax Return and we’re pleased to let you know that you will begin receiving your return no later, but no earlier than 2052.

h. “Son, I know I promised that when you got your driver’s license—I’d buy you a car—well, how about I combine that promise with your 60th Birthday Present?”

i. I can hear one of the college guys now—“whoo hoo, I just got engaged! Right now we’re taking it slow—but we’re looking at a date in 2052—do you think the church will be available then?

j. Vs. 11-12—Caleb is now 85 years old—these are not the words of someone who has forgotten. This is not someone who has lost his passion, who has doubted all these years. He has successfully Preserved the Vision for Victory after all these years.

k. What’s amazing about this in Caleb’s life is that in a time when we would be looking at hanging it up—Caleb is looking to start something newto see completely the fulfillment of the Promise. He believed he would live to see it. He is still strong—still vigorous and ready for battle. He’s not ready to quit.

l. How would you feel about starting a challenge like this at the age of 85?

m. Now before you start thinking that kind of stuff doesn’t happen anymore, listen to this.

n. Lifetime jogger, John Farrell, began taking to the road to warm up for the 13th World Veterans' Athletics Championships opening in England. A retired gas meter reader, Mr Farrell is one of Britain's oldest athletes and has entered for the 800, 1,500 and 5,000-metre races. –age 90

o. Zionsville, Indiana resident Mary Miller is one of the strongest 65-year-old women in the world. The petite grandmother of five set a world record in the bench press for her age and weight class, lifting 115.5 pounds in a World Association of Bench Pressers and Deadlifters competition in Lansing, Mich., last month. The previous record was 95 pounds. She's now gearing up for the world championships in Anaheim, Calif., in November, where she hopes to hoist up 120 pounds. She did not begin weight training until after age 50.

ALPINE, Texas - Mike Flynt returned to Sul Ross State this month, 37 years after he left and six years before he goes on Medicare. His comeback peaked Wednesday with the coach saying he's made the Division III team's roster. Flynt's position is still being determined, but he used to play linebacker. Wherever he lines up, he'll likely become the oldest player in college football history. Neither the NCAA or NAIA keeps such a statistic, but research hasn't turned up anyone older than their mid-40s. And even those are rare, for obvious reasons. A devout Christian, Flynt sees many religious undertones to his story.

History records that many people made some of their greatest contributions to society after the age of 65. The Earl of Halsburg, for example, was 90 when he began preparing a 20- volume revision of English law. Goethe wrote Faust at 82. Galileo made his greatest discovery when he was 73. At 69, Hudson Taylor was still vigorously working on the mission field, opening up new territories in Indochina.

At 85 Caleb was holding on to the Vision that God had given him. I love Caleb’s speech.

1. I am still strong—I am just as ready to do what God has called us to do—don’t discount me b/c I’m old—don’t you think for a moment that I want to kick back and take it easy. Time has not weakened my resolve—doubt has not crept in. Age hasn’t in any way diminished my heart’s desire to Follow the LORD my God wholeheartedly.

I am finally getting to see God do what I always knew He would do and I want to be a part of it—you cannot hold me back. I’m jus as vigorous to go out to battle now as I was then.

In fact—whatever is the tough job—I want it. Whatever task is making all these young whippersnappers quake in their boots, whatever battle they are avoiding—give it to me—I’ll show them what a heart devoted to God to do—I’ll show them—give me the high country!

I don’t care what giants are before me, I’m not interested in avoidance and excuses. Don’t tell me we can’t whip the Anakites with their large and fortified cities, I’ve seen the walls of Jericho fall—but before than—I saw the Red Sea part, I saw Egypt bow to my Almighty God. Give me the High country—with the LORD helping me, I will drive them out just as He said!

2. That is vision—after 45 years of waiting—Caleb’s dream had not faded—his vision for what God was going to do was still clear in his mind—and he wanted to see it happen—he wanted to be a part of bringing it to pass.

3. have you given up hope of seeing a vision of God fulfilled?

4. His Strength was not based on his own body—but upon the strength of God. His vigor came from the empowerment of God and the hope of seeing him glorified. His readiness for battle didn’t come because he loves fighting, but b/c he knew the Battle Belonged to the Lord.

5. Our strength and courage cannot come from within ourselves, it must come from God. He is our strength, He is our power. Today we don’t even have to fight the same kind of battle Caleb did—our struggle, our fight is not against flesh and blood—the lost are not the enemy—it is against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.

6. We should be just as ready and eager as Caleb to enter into this battle—even moreso—b/c it’s not about killing people, but about Saving them. Our battle today is not about destroying, but about bringing to life. That is the kind of battle I want to be a part of, the kind worth giving my life for.

7. That is the kind of Dream, the kind of Vision that we need to sustain no matter how long it takes—the Lost coming to a saving relationship with Jesus, our Worship truly leading us into the Presence of Almighty God. Our lives and our testimonies truly giving all glory and honor and praise to Almighty God.

8. That is part of my dream for UBC. And I want to have the same kind of Steadfastness to that Vision that Caleb had. I hope you have a dream for UBC. I trust that God given you a vision of what He wants to do in you and through this church and I hope you won’t let me forget.

9. Some of you have been here from almost the beginning. Has your dream and vision faded over the years? If you are older and you have faith, your heart is wholeheartedly devoted to God—you can be an inspiration to those younger. If I or they are hesitant to do the things of God—beat down the door to show em how it’s done.

Don’t look at the Setbacks or the Obstacles—Remember the Promise

Don’t Look at the Delay or the Wait—Anticipate the Outcome

Don’t Give Up Thinking the Fulfillment has Passed You By—God Never Retires

saying, “Not in My Lifetime”

Don’t Pass Off the Vision and miss the Blessing

Let Someone Else Do it for You or Take your Place

I’m too Old, let the Younger ones do it