11/12 - For The Coming Generations

November 16th, 2017

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 For The Coming Generations

Psalm 78:1-8

  • It Makes a Difference

    • My Dad was a soldier

      • Paratrooper, purple heart recipient
      • Didn't talk much about it; only shared a few stories
      • But he handed down to me a fundamental respect for soldiers, for their struggles, for why they fought
      • And having received this from him, and having seen my father's service respected at his funeral, it is almost painful to see the American flag held in contempt...
    • That connection is becoming more rare
      • Recent statistics show just one-half of one percent of American adults have served on active duty at any given time. Fewer that one-third of those under 30 have immediate family members who served. 
      • And if you look at the difference between those who live in the big cities and those from the rural areas, the differences get larger.
    • And with the loss of that connection comes a loss in understanding, respect, and common values. That happens when the important things are not passed on to the next generation...
  • So it is with our Faith, and its Foundations
    • Remember that push years go to "not force our kids into our faith?" Against this today's scripture says: " We will not hide them from their children; we will tell to the coming generation the glorious deeds of the Lord, and his might, and the wonders that he has done. "
    • How well do you think we've done?
      • Noah, Jonah, Moses, Sampson...ok
      • Do they know the story of David and Jonathan? Or David and Absalom?
      • Do they know that a prostitute named Rahab became the ancestor of Jesus?
      • How Elisha prayed so his servant could see God's armies defending them, and he saw the hillside surrounded with "chariots of fire?"
      • They know the 23rd Psalm; do they know that the 22nd Psalm was the cry of Jesus on the cross?
      • For that matter, have we told them of our personal struggles with faith, when God delivered us, or gave us strength to carry on?
    • These are the foundations of our shared faith, mutual understanding, common values...
      • Are our foundations solid? Will "the children yet unborn,... set their hope in God, and not forget the works of God, but keep his commandments;... that they should not be like their ancestors, a stubborn and rebellious generation, a generation whose heart was not steadfast, whose spirit was not faithful to God"?
      • (God's church is there to equip you and support you in this calling; this is something God's church and God's families do together. But the church can never take your place.)
    • Beyond the Foundations, we must Build Well
      • But even if we get that RIGHT, that is only the first step!
      • Do you think the Pharisees had a strong biblical foundation?   And yet they put Jesus to death...
        • Of all the national instances of violence in the last few months, only one was (possibly) seeking fame. The others killed, at least in part, because they thought they were in the right... just like the Pharisees when they had Jesus killed.
      • The foundations must be solid, yet Christ-like love is the mortar that holds them together...
        • Every story we share is told in the light of Jesus' love, sacrifice, and resurrection... done so ALL may come to Him
      • Please consider this well...
        • God has given us infinite grace, but in this world we have a limited amount of time

          • We know (hopefully) that our faith has made us "better," in how we handle the trials of life, how we reach out to others...
          • But bringing it down to that limited resource of time, please consider this question: What practical difference has it made in my family's life that we identify as Christians, excluding all church-based activities? And should I be satisfied with the answer?
            • Maybe there should be more time with my spouse, with my kids, sharing the stories, talking about the faith, praying for the hurting and lost?

11/05 - On That Great Day

November 7th, 2017

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On That Great Day

1st Thessalonians 4:13-18

  • Those Who Have No Hope

    • Hope is in retreat in a world "too sophisticated" for faith

      • There was an inscription in Thessalonica which read: “After death, no reviving, after the grave, no meeting again.”
      • A typical inscription on a grave: ‘I was not, [then] I became, [now] I am not, [and] I care not.’
      • Is that so different from today?
    • The members of the church at Thessalonica were surrounded by this, had grown up hearing this, and their hearts were troubled by this.
  • The Gospel of Hope
    • Against this, Paul offered them Hope in Christ

      • Paul, who proclaimed to the Athenians in Acts 7:31 that the proof of the Gospel was the resurrection of Jesus.
      • That is worth our consideration: Mohammed is in his tomb, as is the Buda, but not Jesus of Nazareth, for His tomb is empty
    • Paul told the Christians at Thessalonica that he did not want them to be uninformed, and "grieve as others do who have no hope."
      • He is not saying "do not grieve." Jesus wept at the tomb of Lazarus! He is saying that our grief should be mingled with HOPE.  And that hope is of reunion!
    • On That Great Day!
      • Verses 14-17: The Rapture verses

        • Books have been written, movies have been made, but while the method of our reunion is important, Paul tells us the reason even mentions it in verse 18: "encourage one another with these words."
      • The Dead in Christ are Resurrected
        • Elsewhere Paul had said that to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord.
        • In verse 14, "through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have died," those who have been "absent from the body."
        • And in verse 16, "For the Lord himself... will descend from heaven, and the dead in Christ will rise first." At that moment the promise is fulfilled, that what was sown perishable, is raised imperishable, never to die again.
      • Those Living in Christ are Changed
        • Verse 17: "Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up in the clouds together with them..."
        • "Listen, I will tell you a mystery! We will not all die, but we will all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed." - 1 Corinthians 15:51-52
      • A Completed Reunion!
        • Verse 17: "Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up in the clouds together with them to meet the Lord in the air; and so we will be with the Lord forever."
        • No more tears of reunion in Heaven while tears of parting on Earth. The Shadows are over.  Now comes the Morning!
      • Let no one steal your Hope
        • Let us give the last word to Peter (which no doubt would have made him happy)

          • Does this sound at all familiar? "I want to remind you that in the last days scoffers will come, mocking the truth and following their own desires. They will say, “What happened to the promise that Jesus is coming again? From before the times of our ancestors, everything has remained the same since the world was first created.” 2 Peter 3:3b-4 (NLT)
          • "But you must not forget this one thing, dear friends: A day is like a thousand years to the Lord, and a thousand years is like a day. The Lord isn’t really being slow about his promise, as some people think. No, he is being patient for your sake. He does not want anyone to be destroyed, but wants everyone to repent. " 2 Peter 3:8-9 (NLT) Less than two days since Jesus arose?  Yes, we still have our sure and certain hope!

10/29 - Reformation Day

November 2nd, 2017

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Reformation Day

Romans 3:19-28

  • Happy Anniversary Protestants!

    • You can't know where you're going until you know where you've been.
    • In 1517, Martin Luther started the Reformation
      • The New World was barely known
      • John Wesley, the Methodist Movement, and the American Revolution were still 200 years in the future
      • Perhaps most significantly, their image of Jesus was not one of joy, but of fear...
    • Christianity in the World of Martin Luther
      • Christians had faced on/off persecution until the mid 300's and emperor Constantine, who united east and west under a Christian banner

        • But Constantine had a problem, and he solved it by delaying his baptism until it became evident that he was dying
        • The problem? Christians still sinned after becoming Christians!
      • The Sin Conundrum
        • Their baptism imagery was "died in Christ, raised a new creature, sins washed away" so you could now enter righteously into heaven!
        • But how do you wash away the sins you will commit tomorrow?
          • The guilt is forgiven in Christ. They thought the "stain" of sin had to be balanced out, washed away by works of righteousness
        • "Solutions:"
          • I still have sinned! Receive forgiveness in Christ, delay entrance into heaven, the sin stains are "purged" in the fires or purgatory
          • The saints have more righteousness than they need. The Pope can distribute that righteousness as he sees fit, and can delegate that distribution to those under him.  So, if you do something nice, like give money to the building fund, you can have your accounts balanced, your sin debt reduced.  You earned an "indulgence."  By the 1500s, indulgences were for sale...
        • AND their image of Jesus had become "Righteous Judge" rather than "Blessed Redeemer"
      • Martin Luther...
        • NOT from a well-to-do German family. Going to become a lawyer, until a lightning storm set him on the path of being a monk

          • He cried (through St Ann) "God save me!" And took his vow seriously...
        • He became a monk, professor of theology, composer, priest...
          • Scandalized by the corruption he saw in the church in the sale of indulgences
          • Also terrified by the sin he kept uncovering in his own heart
            • Like Wesley, he struggled with finding peace!
          • On 31 October 1517, Luther wrote to his bishop protesting the sale of indulgences, with a copy of his "Disputation of Martin Luther on the Power and Efficacy of Indulgences", which came to be known as the Ninety-five Theses. As the story goes, Luther nailed his Ninety-five Theses to the door of All Saints' Church in Wittenberg on 31 October.  And it went viral...
            • Quotes as saying, "Here I stand. I can do no other. May God help me"
          • His great insight? Luther, along with his contemporaries, viewed the righteousness of God as that which separated even the committed Christian from God, for we could never be that  He knew, because he had tried, over and over again. That the righteousness of God was given as a gift through faith, that in Christ we were clothed in God's righteousness, that was the great engine of the Reformation, and perhaps its greatest recovery of Christian truth.
            • Recovering the image of Christ as Blessed Redeemer
          • Lessons from the Unfamiliar
            • Perhaps the biggest change from then to now is the lessening of our anguish over sin.

              • They obsessed over it; they monetized the washing away of it, all to feel secure. If on All Saints Day you visited the list of relics and holy sites it was possible to receive over a million years off of your time in purgatory, which means it had to be possible to get a million year sentence!
              • We have almost done away with the word, except for Sunday. Small sins are mistakes, the tendency to sin is "being human," we blame our behavior on our parents or our genetics, and when we feel worthless we shore it up with a healthy self-esteem. 
                • There are many examples... I'll give you one of mine...
                • What about you? What have you done this week, this day, that you regret, or feel guilty about, or know you really should have done differently?  What if that's not just "being human?"  What if it's the buildup of "little things" like that which are separating you from God?
              • The insight of the Reformation was that we are not saved by doing; we are saved by Jesus. But that doesn't mean "go out and paint the town red!"
                • Remember Luther had this conviction, the conviction that John Wesley had, that the publican had in the parable, that Paul had when he thought of all his good works and qualifications and called them refuse compared to God's holiness: we are sinful creatures who break God's heart by our wounding of ourselves and others, sometimes without even trying, sometimes (God forgive us) with malicious glee.  If we shrug that off without dealing with it, without weeping over it, and then try to say, "but God forgives me"...  that's not the Gospel.  That's us fooling ourselves.
                • But thank God Luther also had this insight, the insight John Wesley had upon hearing Luther's preface to Romans being read, the insight taught through Jesus' parable of the "publican", the realization that we do not have to cower before the unattainable righteousness of God, for what we cannot attain has been given to us...

10/22 - New Wine

October 26th, 2017

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New Wine

Luke 5:33-39

  • Change is hard...

    • Even if the old is worse, the old is familiar, maybe even comfortable
    • In matters of faith, maybe even harder...
      • Jesus was asked why He and His disciples did not "look" like the others that had come before, why their practice or "forms" had changed. He used it as an opportunity to communicate that in Him, the New had come...

        • #1: The Wedding Party - A celebration is not a time for fasting; also linked up to His references to the bridegroom coming to take the bride away...
        • #2: Patching Old Clothing - New material has yet to shrink in the wash, so patch made of it would pull away and rip an old cloth when washed. Purely about form it seems, and an image for those who thought Jesus had come to put a new "shine" on the old ways.
        • #3: Wine and Wineskins - New, still fermenting, wine needs a container that can be stretched... it needs a new flexible wineskin. This was about the change in form needed by the change in the covenant.
      • Wine in the New Testament (literally, "New Covenant")
        • Wine is Jesus' "blood of the new covenant" in communion
        • Wine was featured in Jesus' first miracle, the wedding at Cana (wedding imagery again)
        • Acts 2:13 " But others mocked them and said, "They are drunk on new wine!"" Luke (who wrote Acts) includes this intentionally, linking the Spirit back to Jesus' new wine parable...
      • What does this have to do with us?
        • We shouldn't expect that ANYTHING is included in the New Testament simply as a record of what Jesus taught others, with no claims upon us!

        • #1: We are still in love with old forms...
          • We don't like change, even when that change is necessary!
          • In every age's and every place's receiving of the Gospel (the New Wine), the forms have changed, though the Gospel remains the same
            • If we get too stuck on the way we worship rather than the God we worship, we're in danger of making a mess of things.
            • : Once upon a time, the pipe organ was considered a disruptive innovation in worship, and people DIED to give us the Bible in anything other than Latin
          • #2: In this modern age, we are too easily distracted and disconnected from the Vine, the New Wine, Christ, the Holy Spirit...
            • We neglect our relationship with God yet expect to remain "OK"
            • Imagine a new wineskin filled with old wine, alongside one filled with the new: As fermentation happens the skin with new wine is stretched, grows, firms up, while the one with old wine remains limp and unstretched. Soon the difference becomes obvious.
          • So the questions of the day:
            • Lord, have I become more in love with "doing church" than I am in love with you? Has it been too long since I humbled myself before you, and let your will be done in me and through me?  Have I started to substitute my judgment for an honest seeking after yours?
            • Lord, am I just going through the motions? Have I started to replace our relationship with other things, maybe even good things, but things which will leave me dry and exhausted?  Am I trying so hard to be this person that I know you desire me to be, but feel like I'm running in place? 
            • Lord, am I willing to dust off my Bible, renew my prayer time, avoid that which draws me further from you and sours my spirit, cling to that which renews me and fills me with your love?

10/15 - Laity Sunday 2017

October 19th, 2017

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The sermon for Laity Sunday was delivered by our youth director Mark Stich, speaking about true happiness. Thanks Mark; well done!

10/08 - Where Is This Coming From?

October 19th, 2017

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Where Is This Coming From?

Mark 7:14-23

  • And yet again this past week, we've dealt with horrible news...

    • The Shooter (I will not use his name)
    • Two Questions:
      • HOW can we prevent it?
      • WHY did it happen?
        • Some would say because we haven't prevented the HOW
        • But the reason...?
      • The topic of Evil is once again in our minds...
    • The Ever-Present WHY
      • Woke "coincidentally" this morning to the song The Hurt & The Healer by MercyMe which starts off, "Why? The question that is never far away..."
      • Basically why do bad things happen to the good?
        • We've seen disasters and asked: why did God allow it?
        • The Bible has answered, because sin has entered the world and broken it
        • Others have answered that we encourage people to take risks through regulatory incentives, but the truth is that we believe that people have a right to be foolish if they want, and if the consequences are theirs alone. "Foolish" for me and for you might be different...
        • But that has to do with disasters and tragedies; Las Vegas was a perpetration of violence, and so we ask...
      • Why did he do it? How could he have done such a thing? 
        • We wish to make it comprehensible, we then feel safer
        • We hope he had a mental break, for that would mitigate his responsibility
          • (and we can convince ourselves that we would seek medical help if we find ourselves at risk)
        • We alternatively hope he was a hidden monster, for that would make him other than us
      • We want, maybe without admitting it to ourselves, reassurance that we would never become like this, perpetrators of evil
      • That is why studying Nazi Germany, or Communist Russia is such a challenge:
        • We cannot lie to ourselves that they are not people like us
      • 4 Kinds of Evil (one of MANY models)
        • The Ends Justify the Means

          • An Example: Romans 3:7-8
          • To lie, cheat, steal, use others all for yourself
          • An Antidote: "Love your neighbor as yourself..."
        • Blind Idealism
          • Two Examples: 1 John 4:1; Matthew 7:15-18a
          • Noncombatants killed: 12 million by Nazi Germany, 9 million by Stalin's Russia, 30+ million by Mao's China... all in service to their "ideals"
          • Leonard Lyons in “The Washington Post:” "In the days when Stalin was Commissar of Munitions, a meeting was held... One official arose and made a speech about ... the tragedy of millions of people dying of hunger.… Stalin interrupted him to say: “If only one man dies of hunger, that is a tragedy. If millions die, that’s only statistics.”"
          • THE Antidote: The Gospel, wherein God asks us to come and "reason together" with Him
        • Vengeance
          • An Example: Romans 12:19-20
          • A response to being threatened or harmed, physically or otherwise
          • But are we content with "an eye for an eye?"
          • An Antidote: Romans 12:19-20
        • Sadism
          • The true monsters: Those who were born without connection to others, or who have followed the above paths, to the extent that harming others becomes "fun."
          • The Antidote: Don't start down these paths...
        • Leaving the "Why" in God's hands
          • We may never know why, in this case (and in others)
          • At some point we have to trust God, and move forward, and not get "stuck" in the moments of darkness that mar our lives
          • At some point we say, "As for me, I will call upon God; and the Lord shall save me. Evening, and morning, and at noon, will I pray, and cry aloud: and He shall hear my voice."
            – Psalm 55:16-17

10/01 - You Are Gifted

October 19th, 2017

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You Are Gifted

1 Peter 4:7-11

 

  • The End is Near!

    • But it wasn't fulfilled on the 23rd...
    • The end is near in the same way that:
      • A nervous young man is just about to call that special girl for hours
      • Our personal end is only a few missed heartbeats away
    • Strangely, every writer in the New testament sees that as a call to action, not inaction!
  • You are gifted for this "just about" time!
    • Gifted with communion with God
    • Gifted with Love for one another
    • Gifted with the talents and resources to enable your calling, which is ultimately the sharing of God's Grace in this time and place:
      • a time when many face an uncertain future, and a meaningless present
      • a place that is 3 miles south of 1-20, which is America's #1 highway for human trafficking (part of an $150 billion industry that FAR surpasses in shear numbers the historical estimates of the pre-Civil War slave trade)
      • Our mission: to make disciples of Jesus Christ, so that their lives, their worlds, and THE world, may be transformed through the presence of God's grace!

UMW Meeting with Gisela Mann - 10/4

October 13th, 2017

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 UMW MEETING

Our UMW was excited to have a special guest for our October meeting.  Ms Gisela Mann, whose family survived the Holocaust, is now a hospice chaplain and a dynamic speaker.  She spoke to our group on Wednesday, October 4th.  

09/24 - Jonah: Refusing God’s Call

September 27th, 2017

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Wrong Turn:

Jonah - Refusing God’s Call

Jonah 1:1-4, 12-17

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  • The Story of Jonah: the biggest "fish story" ever?

    • Difficult for the modern mind...

      • BUT for those who believe that the God of the universe was born 2,000 years ago in a small Jewish town, this is small potatoes!
      • ...AND Jesus did say, "For as Jonah was in the belly of the great fish for three days and three nights, so will the Son of Man be in the heart of the earth for three days and three nights." - Matthew 12:40
    • The Sequence:
      • God calls Jonah to proclaim judgment to Nineveh, the capital of an enemy nation
      • Instead Jonah runs away and winds up in the belly of a fish
      • Jonah cries out to God and is spit up on land
      • Jonah preaches to the people of Nineveh
      • The rulers, people, and animals of Nineveh repent, and God spares them
      • Jonah is petulant, set up a shelter to watch what he hopes will be Nineveh's eventual destruction
      • God had a bush to grow to give Jonah shade, then a worm to come to kill the bush; Jonah is more upset and basically says "kill me now!"
      • God replies in Jonah 4:10-11; and the book ends on His question...

 

 

 

 

  • Interpretation

    • So tempting to say, "Do what God says or you'll wind up in the belly of a fish!" But no, this story is about...
    • The wideness of the mercy of God
      • Jesus refers back to this no doubt because God is showing mercy to the Gentile people who were declared enemies of Israel
      • Jonah wanted them dead for the sake of his people; God wanted them brought out of spiritual darkness
    • How we deal with the call of God upon our lives that we disagree..
      • Do we run? Do we ignore it?

        • Some may say, "If God speaks to me then I'll certainly do it!" God does speak to us, through His word, in prayer, sometimes even through the "coincidences" of our lives and in the stillness of our hearts
        • Do we make a habit of listening?
      • Do we grudgingly act? Then complain?
        • Jonah's story was intentionally left on a question: Shouldn't God feel compassion for those in spiritual darkness?  And shouldn't we?
        • This was as much about Jonah's spiritual development as Nineveh's, yet we know Nineveh How do you think Jonah answered the question?

"Well yes, Lord, BUT..."  I think this was his answer, because it has often been my answer.  Maybe it's often been yours as well.  But doesn't the Lord deserve more than our resistance?

09/10 - Alone in the Dark?

September 15th, 2017

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Alone In The Dark

Daniel 6:1-23

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  • Didn't we just do this?

    • Shadrack, Meshack, and Abednego and "Even If"
    • Differences:
      • Different king

        • The list: King Nebuchadnezzar II of Babylon, to Belshazzar the co-regent of Babylon, to King Darius I of Persia, and Cyrus king of Persia
        • Also manipulated by politics
      • Closer to other Biblical images
        • More reminiscent of depression
      • Depression?
        • Finding someplace to hide might sound good right now...

          • Two BIG hurricanes
          • 1 magnitude earthquake in Mexico (90 dead)
          • North Korea has an H-bomb!
          • Scripture does acknowledge these times
            • people hide in caves, BUT in that scenario, caves mean safety
            • we're looking at when the "caves" are traps
          • Biblical Examples:
            • Jonah in the fish, under the tree
            • Elijah in the cave
            • Jesus in the Garden
              • "My soul is weary, even unto death."
            • Situational Examples:
              • Two churches on HWY..
              • Chris calling attention to how "hip-hop artist Logic performed his suicide prevention track “1-800-273-8255” on the MTV’s VMA stage, bringing many in the audience to tears."
              • Deaths for 15 to 34 year olds, leading causes:
                • 1st is accidental death
                • 2nd is suicide...
              • Over-spiritualizing this scene?
                • Don't forget that this was written by a people in captivity to a people in captivity...
                • Also never underestimate the cleverness of Scripture:
                  • There are two people alone in the dark in this story, reflecting the complexity of life: Daniel and Darius...
                • But what is the advice, the prescription?
                  • Trust in God... Can it really be that simple?

                    • But is it simple? You have to:

                      • Believe there is a God
                      • Believe He is aware of you and cares for you
                      • Believe you find your purpose in Him
                      • Believe He will bring light into the darkness, if not for you, then through you
                    • The entirety of Scripture in one sense is a constant call to TRUST IN GOD
                      • And the fullness of God's revelation in the Gospel is that we can only trust in God, not in ourselves
                      • We were not created to live in the "existential angst" of the modern age; we were never meant to be alone in the dark
                    • If you are dealing with this, then a part of your self-care should be a series of reminders:
                      • God is real. He is here. He is aware of me and of my hurt. He cares deeply for me, and loves me.  My life finds its meaning in Him, in offering all that I am for Him to live through.  He will bring light into my darkness.  But even if He doesn't bring it to me, He will assuredly bring it through me!  I can trust Him, and let my fear in the darkness go.

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