For Love or Money

Posted by on July 30, 2006 under Sermons

Philanthropy –
What do you think of when you hear the word “philanthropy?” What comes to mind if I mention that someone is a philanthropist? (The connotation of the word)

  • Perhaps what comes to mind are good deeds and great gifts. We think of all the good things that have been done because a philanthropist donated money. Andrew Carnegie is the most famous philanthropist. He gave away his fortune so that others might benefit. Recently Warren Buffett made a very large donation to the Bill and Melinda Gates foundation.
  • Of course what might also come to mind is that philanthropy is what wealthy people and celebrities do with their money. Maybe so they don’t feel guilty – or it gives them good press. And I suppose that celebrities and the wealthy need a big word for giving gifts. After all they write big checks – those really large “Price Is Right” checkbook checks that show up very well in photos. (We can criticize motives, but of course many of us benefit)…

What’s interesting about the word philanthropy is that the idea of money doesn’t even come into the word. The etymology of the word means love for humanity. Why does a philanthropist give? Why give gifts? For a true philanthropist, it is more about love than money …

  1. Love of humanity
    • It is a recognition that we have what we have because of what someone else gave.
    • We have the myth of the self-made man, the self-made, strike it rich entrepreneur – but these are myths! They have what they have because someone else left them a gift, a legacy. We are not isolated.
    • You have accomplished nothing on your own (We all thank others for our benefits) None of us can claim we have done it all
    • And when we appreciate their gift we understand that it is more about love than money.
    • And even if someone could claim to be totally self-sufficient …
    • We all participate in the grace of God.
  2. Love of God …
    • We need a word that also includes Love for God. Giving and Tithing is also love of God
    • 2 Corinthians 8 & 9 – The example of the Macedonians – they loved others and they loved God.
      • It was more about love than money.
      • (Because in the Macedonians case, they didn’t actually have much – but Paul praised them for their outpouring of love.)
    • Examples of Grace-filled Philanthropy exist all around us …
    • And these are not just monetary gifts, because IT IS MORE ABOUT LOVE THAN MONEY (Philanthropy)

The purpose of this sermon is to preface all other sermons and teachings about giving:

  • Tonight at family meeting we are going to talk about some of the good ministries we’ve started – these are ministries that help the poor, extend the good news, strengthen the young, reach out to neighbors. They all participate in the work that God is doing among us.
  • Like Paul told the Corinthian churches, he wants to spare them from sob stories and arm twisting.
  • We aren’t asking you to give to a budget. We don’t pay dues to be members of the church body. Budgets are simply spending plans. You will hear from our Business Management Team tonight. They are going to deal you the facts:
    • The good news is that Spending is down this year.
    • The bad news is that Contributions are also less than what is needed to balance the budget – the spending plan.
    • Alright, that’s just a financial issue, but alongside it is a question about what we want to do with our resources. As Paul asked the Corinthians, do we want to finish the good works we started?
  • There’s a thousand and one different ways to explain the current financial situation – how we got here, why it is this way.
    • We all know what a gallon of gas costs.
    • We know what the stock market is doing.
    • We don’t know what you and your family are dealing with.
    • We want to be helpful if you are in need and we certainly don’t want to place a burden on anyone.
    • We could discuss all of this for a long time, but here’s some basic points that should preface every discussion about giving and money …
  1. Many of you probably didn’t know that our congregation has a financial deficit. The first step in overcoming a problem is just to be aware of it. The BMT will always be available to give you the details – that’s their ministry. There’s no secrets around here. But if no one ever told you – I am telling you now. Now let’s just see what we can do about this.
  2. (2 Corinthians 8:5) A deficit keeps us from doing everything God might have us do. As long as we are just trying to tread water we cannot swim. The goal is not simply to find ways to save a dime – we need to trust that God provides all the dimes – not just as a church but as families. What does he want us to do with what he gives? Not just the 10%, but the 90% too. To sum up, we need to deal with this issue in creative and faithful ways so that we can move on to the immeasurably more that God can do. So that we can participate in the grace of giving. When we are in a deficit we tend to focus more on the money problem and less on demonstrating love – so let’s get rid of the roadblock. After all it’s more about love than money.
  3. This congregation is generous. This congregation is more about love than money. When there’s a need, we give. We have raised money for worldwide disasters and for families in need. Every week our people, young and old – our smallest kids – put just a little money in the baskets that Ron and Richard bring around to the classrooms. (About how much do they collect each week?) That “little” effort makes a huge difference because it is more about love than money.
  4. Everyone should find a way to participate in the gracious ministry of giving. We are always assuming that it takes a few large gifts to make a big difference. I disagree. Paul praises the Macedonians because they gave when it was hard to give. And he encouraged the Corinthians to give what they could – not what they couldn’t. We sometimes give up because we think we cannot give.
    • Why does everyone need to be involved? God is involved in all of this and so it isn’t about our capabilities or our limitations. Neither of those are the issue and to view our giving from that perspective isn’t very spiritual. It’s about money more than it is about love.
  5. We are not going to trade in guilt. Paul refused to make the Corinthians feel guilty. He testified that the Macedonians gave of their own free will. That’s important. They gave at a time when no one at all would expect them to give. Paul knows that if the Corinthians are going to participate in what God’s doing they need to do it eagerly, freely, and cheerfully. I suppose someone could say, “Yeah, but he really laid it on thick with his story about the Macedonians – how could they not feel guilty.” If any of the Corinthians felt guilty or ashamed after Paul’s letter that was their fault not his! Paul doesn’t want shame and guilt to enter into it. That gets in the way of demonstrating love. You cannot show love is you are trying to deal with guilt or shame. Paul wanted the Corinthians to focus on what they could give rather than what they couldn’t give.
    • Likewise, the leaders of this church don’t aim to shame you. I won’t do it. And I hope you don’t do it to yourself. If you feel like you have to give out of shame or guilt or pressure then let’s work together on that. Talk to someone who ministers to you about that. Why? Because this is about love more than money.
  6. Finally, I don’t know if I have said this yet, but giving (Christian philanthropy) is more about love than money. Have I said that yet?

We’ll be talking more about what we can all do to participate in the gracious ministry of giving. Tonight we will discuss it with details and practical examples and not just general concepts. In the near future we will return to this teaching and I hope you now know where I am coming from on this.

But let’s put it all into context … It’s about love more than it is about money and that’s because it all begins with what Christ did for us – he loved humanity. (2 Corinthians 8:9)

Where Is the Hole?

Posted by on July 27, 2006 under Bulletin Articles

Every person at some time in his or her life has dropped a stone in water. It may have been throwing rocks in a pond. It may have been skipping a rock on a river. It may have been dropping pebbles in a mud hole. The end result is always the same: the rock sinks, small or large waves radiate in a circle from the point of the rock sinking, and then in a few minutes all is calm and smooth again. It is as though the stone was never there.

Consider one other interesting observance in this fascinating phenomena: there is no visible hole. Unless it is a huge rock and a big splash, most people see no hole. Quickly, virtually instantly, water closes over the rock, and it is as though the rock never entered the water. You can see the rings of waves circling the entry point of the rock. You can, with a high degree of ease, guess the entry point of the rock. Yet, there is no hole!

When a death occurs, relatives and close friends may grieve a long time. There is a hole in their lives that cannot be filled. To them, there is an emptiness, a sense of loss that is visible every day. However, it is not so to people in general. Life, like water, quickly fills the void. Suddenly, to everyone else, there is no “hole.”

There are only waves moving away from the life that ceased a physical existence. If the waves are high enough, there can be disaster or healing in them. The waves Jesus’ death made are still rolling strong 2,000 years after he died. In those waves are hope-the hope of redemption, the hope of an existence that death cannot touch.

Years ago three friends shared much in their lives. One day one of the three suddenly, unexpectedly, died. The next morning one of the living friends drove down the street and past the home of the dead friend. When he reached his office, he called the other living friend and said in a sober voice, “Nothing has changed!” A life disappeared. A huge hole was left in two friends’ hearts. Yet, life, unchanged, continued on.

All of us will die. Except for the few who were close to us, life quickly will cover us and move on. As time passes, most will forget we lived, rarely recalling our name. There is little most of us can do about that truth.

Yet, there is one thing. May the waves you leave behind give hope and not despair. May they bring abundance of purpose to others and not a meaningless existence. May people be blessed because you were.

In Christ, that is a possibility for all of us-no matter how big or small this world considers us to be. Make your life of lasting meaning to you and others by belonging to Christ!

Making All Things New

Posted by on July 23, 2006 under Sermons

        Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”
        He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” Then he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.”
        He said to me: “It is done. I am the A and the Z, the Beginning and the End. To him who is thirsty I will give to drink without cost from the spring of the water of life. He who overcomes will inherit all this, and I will be his God and he will be my son. But the cowardly, the unbelieving, the vile, the murderers, the sexually immoral, those who practice magic arts, the idolaters and all liars-their place will be in the fiery lake of burning sulfur. This is the second death.”
        One of the seven angels who had the seven bowls full of the seven last plagues came and said to me, “Come, I will show you the bride, the wife of the Lamb.” And he carried me away in the Spirit to a mountain great and high, and showed me the Holy City, Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God. It shone with the glory of God, and its brilliance was like that of a very precious jewel, like a jasper, clear as crystal. It had a great, high wall with twelve gates, and with twelve angels at the gates. On the gates were written the names of the twelve tribes of Israel. There were three gates on the east, three on the north, three on the south and three on the west. The wall of the city had twelve foundations, and on them were the names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb.
        The Angel speaking with me had a gold measuring stick to measure the City, its gates, and its wall. The City was laid out in a perfect square. He measured the City with the measuring stick: twelve thousand stadia, its length, width, and height all equal. Using the standard measure, the Angel measured the thickness of its wall: 144 cubits. The wall was jasper, the color of Glory, and the City was pure gold, translucent as glass. The foundations of the City walls were garnished with every precious gem imaginable: the first foundation jasper, the second sapphire, the third agate, the fourth emerald, the fifth onyx, the sixth carnelian, the seventh chrysolite, the eighth beryl, the ninth topaz, the tenth chrysoprase, the eleventh jacinth, the twelfth amethyst. The twelve gates were twelve pearls, each gate a single pearl.
        I did not see a temple in the city, because the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple. The city does not need the sun or the moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and the Lamb is its lamp. The nations will walk by its light, and the kings of the earth will bring their splendor into it. On no day will its gates ever be shut, for there will be no night there. The glory and honor of the nations will be brought into it. Nothing impure will ever enter it, nor will anyone who does what is shameful or deceitful, but only those whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life.
        Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, as clear as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb down the middle of the great street of the city. On each side of the river stood the tree of life, bearing twelve crops of fruit, yielding its fruit every month. And the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations. No longer will there be any curse. The throne of God and of the Lamb will be in the city, and his servants will serve him. They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. There will be no more night. They will not need the light of a lamp or the light of the sun, for the Lord God will give them light. And they will reign for ever and ever. The angel said to me, “These words are trustworthy and true. The Lord, the God of the spirits of the prophets, sent his angel to show his servants the things that must soon take place.”

Not all of Revelation is a vision of what is to come. Much of Revelation describes what is and what has been. But this last vision is truly a preview of what is to come. We might say that this is a vision of heaven, but to be accurate that might be too limiting. John has described heaven already. He described the throne room of God and the drama of the Lamb opening the scrolls. That was his glimpse through the open door to heaven. Heaven, according to John, is where God is at. And this final vision is a vision of a new heaven and a new earth. A new city. A new reality! God is there – and so are the saints. God and us together as he always intended it.

… the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. 3And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God.

Here is the second to last proclamation of the book. It is a vision intended to inspire hope and encouragement. There’s even a brief architectural survey of the new city complete with engineering notes on the type of materials used in construction. But don’t let that grab all your attention. Notice what’s different about this new heaven and new earth age. …

There will be no more death, no more mourning, no more crying, no more pain …

Did you notice that the new reality is described in negative terms? We are even told that there will be no more sea and no more night. Sea and night for the ancients represented fear and terror, also separation and loneliness. Notice then that this inspiring, hopeful, encouraging vision is described by telling us what it is NOT. And as good as that is, when you think about it you realize that we are still in the old order and we do indeed know that THERE IS …

Loneliness, separation, fear, terror, pain, crying, mourning, and death.

Why remind us of that? It seems cruel to remind us of the pain and suffering of the old order. Why remind us that we are afraid, lonely, hurting, crying, sad, and dying – or hurting because of the death of those we love? How is this hope? How is this encouragement? Why am I bringing this up? Isn’t the sermon supposed to lift us up?

I want to bring in a ten dollar word: eschatology. Eschatology is a fancy term for “the end.” Our eschatology is our view of the future. How it all ends. Everyone has some sort of eschatology even if they don’t believe in God. We have a need to know how things will end. We seek closure.

Christians need to know their eschatology. That’s why the Revelation is given: not just to give us a sense of where we’ve been and how we got here, and why bad things are happening, but also to give us a sense of where it’s all going — eschatology!

Unfortunately, our eschatology has not always been what it should to be. We live in a here and now culture that lives for the pleasure of the moment. And when it comes to our spiritual future, Americans are heirs of the revivals of the great frontier that has rooted within us an eschatology that amounts to little more than “turn or burn.”

“Turn or burn” isn’t invalid, it is just so unfortunately incomplete. There’s more to eschatology, the end, than escaping the big trap door that leads to hell. I know it is difficult to challenge this since it is so strong in our culture and our spiritual DNA. Better people than me have preached on this for ages, it’s what we’ve always heard, and I am certainly not denying that there is hell and punishment awaiting the wicked and sinful who will not repent (Revelation says something about that too) … but I just want to point out that God has a bit of an opinion on how things are going to end up and I think we ought to listen to his “two cents.”

You see, just when we think we have reached our limit with the hell on earth that comes in the form of fear, loss, pain, crying, mourning, and death, … right as we begin to question God and ask him why this is happening (and there’s nothing wrong with that). God speaks. It’s only one of two times in Revelation that God himself speaks. [The other time is 1:8 and God gives us his credentials – “I am the A and Z [alpha and omega], the beginning and the end, the one who was, and is, and is to come, I am the Almighty.”] God told us who he is, now he tells us what he is doing …

“I am making everything new!”

Really, you can sum up everything we need to know about eschatology in this single phrase.

How is it hope and encouragement to remind us of the old order? To remind us that there is death, mourning, crying, pain? To remind us that we still live in a world with the darkness of night and the turmoil and separation of the sea?

It is hope when we see that our life now is just a letter in the alphabet. But God who was with us at A is waiting for us at Z. And hasn’t left us along the way, but he is teaching us our alphabet. He is making all things new. He knows that we are afraid, he knows that we are sad, he knows that we mourn, he knows that we hurt, and he knows that we are fragile and we die – but if he has anything to say about it – this will not be the last word!

God will wipe away the tears. God will cast out the darkness with the light. God will raise the dead. God will make everything – all things – new! Those who overcome the old order of things will inherit this new order. He will be our God and we will be his children.

But all of this is the second to the last word in Revelation, because we need one final encouragement to give us the courage and the hope to make it through the old order. “Behold, I am coming soon! Blessed is he who keeps the words of the prophecy in this book.”

When you know that there’s something new waiting on us we can endure the old. But there’s even more than that – When you know that God is on his way, you can be hopeful and be comforted. When a parent teaches a child to walk they stand ahead of them and beckon. “Come to me! Come to Daddy, Come to Mommy!” But as soon as that child stumbles and gets scared the parent reacts immediately and says, “I’m coming!”

        12“Behold, I am coming soon! My reward is with me, and I will give to everyone according to what he has done. 13I am the A and the Z, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End.
        16“I, Jesus, have sent my angel to give you this testimony for the churches. I am the Root and the Offspring of David, and the bright Morning Star.”
        17The Spirit and the bride say, “Come!” And let him who hears say, “Come!” Whoever is thirsty, let him come; and whoever wishes, let him take the free gift of the water of life.
        20He who testifies to these things says, “Yes, I am coming soon.” Amen. Come, Lord Jesus.
        21The grace of the Lord Jesus be with God’s people. Amen.

Can You See Too Much?

Posted by on July 20, 2006 under Bulletin Articles

The context of the above statement is fascinating. Jesus called the Pharisees and the scribes’ attention to the fact that their positions nullified one of God’s Ten Commandments given to Israel in Exodus 20. The Pharisees and scribes’ reasoning seemed to be this. God commanded us to take care of our elderly parents. However, the temple is a national institution built to honor God. It is more important [spiritual] to support the temple that serves God through sacrificial worship and prayer than it is to take care of parents. Thus if you commit something to support the temple that should be used to meet your parents’ need, you are excused from caring for your parents.

Jesus made this statement to illustrate they actually did what they accused him of doing by violating the tradition of the Jewish elders. Jesus also declared their hearts did not belong to God and their worship was useless.

Please remember the Pharisees and scribes existed as a significant spiritual influence and scriptural authority in Israel. Even to Jesus’ disciples, the Pharisees and scribes’ feelings mattered. At that moment, the disciples could not fathom Jesus’ insensitivity to the Pharisees and scribes’ feelings and reactions.

This is the point to note now: Jesus “saw” a reality that not even the twelve “saw.” In fact, the only person who “saw” this reality was Jesus. What Jesus “saw” was a fairly simple truth: we honor God by valuing what He values, not by honoring what we value.

It was Israel that considered the temple as more significant than parents. It was Israel that regarded worship at the national temple as more significant than a command from God Himself. Do you give God the greatest honor by offering a sacrifice at the temple, or by obeying God?

Was what Jesus “saw” true? Yes! Was what he “saw” significant? Absolutely! Did what he “saw” direct people away from God? Certainly! Did what he “saw” cause spiritual people to substitute their values for God’s values? Without question! Did what Jesus “saw” make him popular or appreciated? No!

As we spiritually mature, we “see” things we never “saw” before. More times than not, those around us do not “see” what we “see.” Blessed is the Christian who refuses to stop “seeing” because he/she develops spiritually. Blessed is the Christian who leads as he or she “sees” rather than destroys as he or she “sees.” Read Matthew 15:13-20.

Matthew 12:7 “But if you had known what this means, ?I desire compassion, and not a sacrifice,’ you would not have condemned the innocent.”

Rider on the White Horse

Posted by on July 16, 2006 under Sermons

[As the congregation sang “I Will Call Upon the Lord,” children were asked to come up to the stage to “help out” with the sermon.]

Q & A with children …

  1. Name a hero.

  2. Why is ________ a hero?

[“I Will Call Upon the Lord” was again sung while the children walked to Children’s Worship.]

Heroes aren’t just for kids. We may not want to admit it, but we need heroes too. We need heroic stories. Why?

Maybe it’s because heroes protect us and save us from evil. They slay dragons. They defeat the evildoers.

Maybe it’s because heroes remind us of what really matters. They are noble. They do the right thing even when it is difficult.

Maybe it’s because heroes make us believe that good does win out over evil; because if evil wins, then none of us win. But when the hero wins we are all saved.

Maybe we need heroic stories because they draw us closer to God. Yes, they do. God is good. God is love. And God is heroic. Our God is on a mission to overcome sin and evil and restore his creation. All of the people we consider “heroes” of the Bible aren’t the main heroes — God is!

When we come together in worship we remember and celebrate a heroic story – the gospel. It is the story of God’s son. He came to save us and he came to show us the way to the Father. But the enemy – the Dragon – was threatened by the son of God and he and his beastly followers killed the hero. Not because they were more powerful, but because our hero, the son of God, allowed it. He died for us.

And sometimes we end the story there: a noble sacrifice. And so we come every Sunday to a memorial for a fallen hero. But the noble and loving sacrifice of Jesus is only half the story. It is an important half, but it is only half. Sometimes when we gather around the table we assume that the focus is on death. Death is there, but that’s not all that’s there. Sometimes when we are baptized we think that it is all about death. Death is there, but that’s not all that’s there. The gospel is good news. It’s a heroic story. Death is swallowed up in victory. Death is taken captive and made to serve the hero, not the enemy.

Christ is not a fallen hero. He is Lord of Lord and King of Kings. And the fact that he still lives and rules with power makes a huge difference for all of us. You see, the story isn’t over yet. You and I are living in it and we are waiting for the final act when the hero who sacrificed himself nobly returns. You get a taste of his heroic return in Revelation 19. [Read Revelation 19:11f]

The beast will be taken down. The dragon will be defeated. The hero will come riding in on his white horse. And while we meditate on this image of the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, here’s some heroic thoughts for us …

  1. Heroes are often known for their “weapons.” It often tells you what sort of hero they are. Luke Skywalker wields a lightsaber. Thor carries a hammer. Indiana Jones has a whip. King Arthur has Excalibur. But that’s just fantasy. Well, Jonas Salk had a vaccine. Thomas Jefferson had a declaration. Abraham Lincoln had a proclamation. Martin Luther King had a dream. They had their weapons, too. The Rider on the White Horse doesn’t have a gun, or a bomb, not even a sword – well not one like most knights. His sword is his word. With his words and with the truth he defeats the enemies of God. Violence isn’t going to win this war. Superior firepower isn’t going to give us any advantage in the real struggles of the world. What will make a difference is the truth. “Faithfulness and Truth” won the battle of the cross. It will win the war also.
    1. Words can be weapons of mass destruction. They can create pain and suffering. They can be quite violent. But words of truth spoken in love are words that only the enemy should fear. The words of Christ convict and save.
    2. We do not fight with our own words – rather we trust in the power of the words of Christ. He is faithful and true. He has won the battle with his own right arm. The help of his faithful followers is not needed to win the war. Like a true hero, he saves the day all by himself!

  2. The world seems to be at the mercy of the Dragon and the Beast every day. There’s a lot of tension in the world. Whenever Israel goes to war there’s always a bit of concern. The fact that the Jews are going to war in the Holy Land seems to magnify the conflict beyond politics and culture and make it religious and spiritual at the same time. It seems very modern but also very “biblical” for some reason. The war in the Holy Land is spiritual. Heaven is paying attention to that war. It’s bad. But it’s just as bad as the injustices and evil embodied in wars and conflicts in other, less “biblical” locations: God view of the world is not limited to the Middle East. He sees the atrocities in Sudan and the conflicts in Indonesia. Even the smaller injustices and fighting that don’t make it on the news. Turmoil in Central America, or open fighting on the streets of our cities.
    1. All of these stir God to action. His wrath against evil is building up and the Rider on the White Horse is the one who treads the winepress of God’s wrath. As far back as Isaiah, the winepress is a symbol of God’s vengeance against evil. God is patient and merciful, but his justice demands that he do something about the evil and sin that hurts people.
    2. Swing the sickle, for the harvest is ripe. Come, trample the grapes, for the winepress is full and the vats overflow- so great is their wickedness!” (Joel 3:13)To understand why God waits, the prophets used the image of the winepress. When the grapes are ripe, they are harvested and crushed. It is not an outburst of anger, but a final solution to evil and injustice.
    3. Our hero is the one who executes God’s final judgment. He alone treads the winepress of God’s wrath. How often do you have the same feeling that the prophet expressed? The vats of the winepress are overflowing as the wickedness of humanity heaps up. How long until the Lord makes the enemy drink the fermented wine of wickedness?
    4. This calls for endurance on the part of the saints, but be assured that the day of the Lord is coming. There will be a great banquet on that day. A feast! Are you ready for the banquet? Have you responded to the hero’s invitation to his wedding supper?

The Goodness of God

Posted by on July 13, 2006 under Bulletin Articles

God is to be accepted and praised rather than measured by human values and understanding. When Paul wrote the letter to Christians in Rome [we know as the book of Romans in the New Testament], he wrote to Jewish Christians who questioned gentile Christian procedures, and gentile Christians who resented Jewish Christians. He wrote to a situation that harbored more brotherly resentment than brotherly love!

Gentile Christians resented the arrogance of Jewish Christians, and Jewish Christians questioned the legitimacy of the gentiles’ salvation. In the presence of all this ill will in the Christian community at Rome, Paul discussed some astounding principles in salvation. He discussed the fact that Abraham was justified by faith just as we are (4:1-5). He used David to prove there was a relationship with God in which God ignores sin (4:6-8). He declared the Christian can be at peace with God because of the trust he/she places in God (5:1). He said the Christian deliberately died to sin [rather than continuing to do sinful things] in order to be alive to God through Christ (6). He said the Christian chose to live in the release of God’s Spirit rather than the defeating slavery of legalistic human behavior (7, 8). He declared God could pursue His own purposes without being unjust even if humans did not grasp His choices (9:14-33). He affirmed that God was not trying to destroy the Jewish people in offering salvation to gentile people (11).

Jewish Christians could have easily reacted by saying, “God would not pursue salvation in that manner!” Gentile Christians could have easily reacted by saying, “God loves us more than He loves you!” Paul said to both groups, “Do not go there! If you do, you miss the primary point of God’s salvation!” As Paul explained in 12-15, appreciation of God’s salvation is to be seen in Christian behavior, not in a human evaluation of God’s actions.

Paul ended his inspired insights into God’s work in salvation with our opening scripture. In essence, Paul declared, “When I consider all God did for us in our salvation through Jesus Christ, I am overwhelmed! I want to praise the God deserving of all glory! I want to declare He is beyond our understanding and worthy of our glorification! God is God-and we will never be His equal!”

Does your life declare every day that God is God and we are not? Is your life a continuing worship of God? When you gather with others in Christ, are you filled with a desire to praise and glorify God in appreciation for all He has done in making forgiveness and relationship with Him possible? Does your faith depend on your understanding, or does your understanding depend on your faith?

In No Way Could God Be At Work In This!

Posted by on July 11, 2006 under Sermons

Life is often confusing. We are constantly trying to figure life out. Quite often we think we have succeeded. About the time we think we have life figured out, something occurs that makes us realize we still do not have life figured out.

God is often confusing. We are constantly trying to figure God out. On occasion we conclude that we have succeeded in figuring God out. Just as we come to that conclusion, something occurs that makes us realize we have not even come close to figuring God out.

Consider some thoughts today that hopefully will challenge you to realize that this confusion is not new and will never be resolved.

  1. "Please let me introduce myself: my name is Thomas.
  1. "When I walked with Jesus as one of the twelve, many people called me Didymus, my Greek name which means Twin (John 11:16).
  1. "I became one of the select twelve men to follow Jesus when, up on a mountain, he called us out from a larger group of disciples (Mark 3:13-19).
  2. "We were supposed to be with him daily to follow him and teach/preach with him.
  3. "Eleven of us were Jesus’ apostles after Jesus’ crucifixion.
  4. "Only Judas was not with us following Jesus’ crucifixion–he was so overcome with guilt because he betrayed Jesus that he committed suicide (Matthew 27:3-5)
  5. "But, I am getting ahead of myself.

  1. "It is humanly impossible for me to get you to feel what we twelve felt as we lived with Jesus every day.
  1. "The multitudes that followed Jesus made the most popular athlete and the most recognized movie star look unpopular.
  2. "Everywhere Jesus went there was an excitement, an expectation, an awe that was so real you could sense it as it overwhelmed you.
  3. "That man was so popular and created so much reaction that he could not even hide to find some private time!
  1. "If he went into a uninhabited area, if just one person saw him, soon there would be a crowd around him.
  2. "Where he was going did not matter–people followed even if they had no food and water and the area was wilderness area.
  3. "They would even carry physically sick people of every kind of sickness on mats (even paralyzed people!) in the mere hope Jesus would heal them.
  4. "For miles and miles, for hours and hours people would carry those deathly sick or helpless as they searched for Jesus.
  1. "You cannot believe what I saw with my own eyes and experienced in person!
  1. "I was in a boat in a storm as waves created by the wind were flooding the boat (Matthew 8:23-27; Mark 4:36-41).
  1. "The wind was howling and the waves white-capping!
  2. "The boat was on the verge of sinking!
  3. "All of us were terrified as we were certain we were going to drown!
  4. "I saw Jesus stand up in that rolling boat knee deep in water and verbally rebuke the wind and the waves.
  5. "I saw the Sea of Galilee become calm without a breath of wind blowing.
  1. "I was in the boat the night when we spent most of the night rowing in a storm (John 6:16-21).
  1. "I guarantee you that trying to row a large boat on a churning sea in the dark is one scary ordeal!
  2. "I was there when we saw this strange figure walking on the waves!
  3. "All of us were scared to death!
  4. "But it was Jesus walking on the waves telling us not to be afraid!
  5. "I saw that with my own eyes and heard it with my own ears!
  1. "Day after day I watched Jesus heal hundred and hundreds of people of every kind of disease–even those caused by spiritual forces!
  1. "There was never one kind of disease he could not heal!
  2. "I watched him heal all types of sickness!
  3. "I even saw him raise people from the dead!
  1. "There were certain things all twelve of us knew.
  1. "We all knew the kingdom God promised Israel for hundreds of years was on the verge of coming.
  2. "We all knew the great Messiah God promised was on earth right then.
  3. "We knew Jesus was the Messiah.
  4. "We knew Jesus would rule from a throne in Israel and we would be part of his new government.
  5. "We knew at last Israel would be restored to her past glory!
  1. "However, some very powerful people in Israel were afraid that would happen.
    1. "Most of these people were in the current religious government of Israel.
  1. "Most of these people lived in Jerusalem; Jerusalem was their power base.
  2. "When Jesus’ popularity kept growing, they become increasing aggressive and hostile.
  3. "In time everything became quite tense when Jesus visited Jerusalem.
    1. "Every time he came (near the time of his death), people expected a confrontation.
    2. "The hostility and anger were enormous–Jesus’ presence divided the city every time he was there.
  1. "When Jesus preached his ‘bread of life’ sermon, the situation became dangerous (John 6:22-7:1).
  1. "Even all Jesus’ disciples, except for us twelve, were so upset they left never to return.
  2. "He even asked us if we also were going to leave him.
  3. "When we went back to Galilee, he refused to return to Judea because he knew the powerful people would kill him.
  1. "Later, at the Feast of Tabernacles, Jesus secretly returned to Jerusalem (John 7).
  1. "After he arrived, he went to the temple area and began to publicly preach.
  2. "The religious leaders who controlled the city and temple area sent some officers to arrest him.
    1. "The officers returned without him.
    2. "When asked why, the officers responded, ‘We never heard a man speak as he does.’"
  3. "Later in the same visit, Jesus preached that God was his Father and was at work in him (John 8).
    1. "Those who rejected his identity picked up stones to throw at him.
    2. "Jesus hid, and slipped out of the temple area.
  1. "Still later on a visit at the Feast of Dedication, Jesus’ enemies openly challenged him in a manner designed to turn people against him (John 10:22-42).
    1. "They said, ‘Don’t keep us in suspense any longer; tell us plainly if you are the Christ.
    2. "Jesus said he had told them, and they did not believe.
    3. "Again, he declared God was his Father.
    4. "Again, they picked up rocks to stone him.
    5. "When they tried to seize him, Jesus slipped away through the crowd.
    6. "This time things were so tense we had to go across the Jordan River into the wilderness area where John the baptizer began his work.

  1. "From the day that Peter confessed Jesus was the Christ, the son of the living God, Jesus told us often that the rulers in Jerusalem would have him killed (Matthew 16:13-21).

  1. "We regarded what he predicted as unthinkable and impossible if he just used a little common sense.
    1. "The only place he had powerful enemies was in Jerusalem.
    2. "The only people who were determined to kill him were in Jerusalem.
  2. "With his popularity in Galilee combined with the power he possessed, he could not be killed if he just stayed out of Jerusalem until his enemies lost power and influence.
    1. "Given his power even to raise the dead,
    2. "Given his enormous popularity in many places,
    3. "His enemies were sure to lose power and influence in time.

  1. "While we were hiding across the Jordan River, a messenger came to tell Jesus that his friend Lazarus was sick (He loved Lazarus and his sisters Mary and Martha very much).

  1. "They lived in Bethany about a mile and a half from Jerusalem on the road to Jericho (John 11:1-16).
  1. "For Jesus, visiting Bethany was extremely dangerous.
  2. "The message simply read, ‘The one you love is sick.’
  3. "All of us knew that was a request for Jesus to come heal Lazarus.
  4. "We all were really scared Jesus would go back to the Jerusalem area because he really loved these people.
  5. "However, he said, ‘This sickness is not for his death, but to glorify God and His son.’
  6. "We breathed a sigh of relief and stayed there two more days.
  1. "The third day Jesus said that it was time to go back to Judea.
  1. "We all said, ‘Lord, your enemies are just looking for opportunity to kill you.
  2. "Jesus said, ‘Lazarus is asleep, and I must go wake him up.’
  3. "We said that if Lazarus was asleep he will be okay.
  4. "Jesus responded, ‘Lazarus is dead.’
  1. "Nothing made sense about this whole situation.
  1. "In this climate a body began to decompose in a day or less–that is why people buried on the day of the death.
  2. "Jesus had resurrected people who had just died, but we had never witnessed him raise a decomposed body!
  3. "If Jesus went back to visit his friends, his enemies would surely know it and catch him.
  4. "You could have cut our gloom with a butter knife!
  5. "Finally I said, ‘Let’s all go back with Jesus and die together.’

  1. "Unless you were there, you cannot possibly imagine what happened!

  1. "First, Jesus actually raised Lazarus from the dead after Lazarus was dead for four days and you could smell the decay.
  1. "All Jerusalem went wild for Jesus!
    1. "Absolutely everyone was talking about the resurrection!
    2. "Lazarus was living, talking proof of Jesus’ incredible power (John 12:12-19)
    3. "The largest Jerusalem multitude to assemble welcomed Jesus into the city just as the kings of ancient times were welcomed.
    4. "He was more popular than he had ever been!
    5. "For a week, Jesus owned Jerusalem!
  2. "We knew this was the moment!
    1. "There was no way Jesus’ enemies were going to kill him now!
    2. "Because he had the momentum, the nation and the throne was his!
    3. "Nobody could stop him now!
  1. "Then the worst living nightmare, the worst form of hell on earth broke loose.
    1. "With none of us suspecting him, Judas left our last meal together to betray Jesus (John 13:21-30).
    2. "Jesus gave us this last set of instructions which we found confusing.
    3. "He told us he was going somewhere and we could not go with him.
    4. "He even said we knew where he was going, so I asked, "How do we get there?
    5. "All he said was, ‘I am the way, the truth, and the life.’
  1. "Though we were confused, it did not matter!
  1. "We knew God was at work!
  2. "We knew Jesus owned Jerusalem!
  3. "We knew the nation wanted Jesus to be king!
  4. "We knew nothing could stop God and Jesus now!
  1. "However, Jesus grew more and more troubled.
  1. "He went to pray, and asked us to go with him.
  2. "All of us had drunk the Passover wine, felt confident, were relaxed, and went to sleep when we tried to pray.
  3. "After Jesus prayed, Judas showed up with Roman troops and temple guards all of whom had torches and weapons (John 18:3).
  4. "In confusion and fear, we fled!
  5. "Then there were the horrible Jewish trials.
  6. "Those were followed by the horrible hearings before Pilate.
  7. "The mob was screaming for blood, there was the unbelievable scourging, and the awful mocking!
  1. "Then there was the horrible crucifixion!
  1. "There was so much hate there!
  2. "And there were those sobbing, helpless women!
  1. "I do not know how to describe how I felt.
  1. "My mind screamed, ‘God, where are You!’
  1. "What was happening simply could not be God’s plan!
  2. "All I could see was Satan at work!
  1. "I knew it was over.
  1. "There would be no kingdom.
  2. "Jesus would not be king!
  3. "The golden age of Israel would not be restored!
  1. "We eleven were so defeated, so terrified!
  1. "We expected them to kill us next!
  2. "While I was out in the night, Jesus appeared to the others.
  3. "When they excitedly told me, I replied that I would not believe it unless I felt the nail holes and the sword wound.
  4. "Eight days later when I was with everyone, the resurrected Jesus came to us, looked me straight in the eye, and told me to feel the holes.
  5. "All I could feel and say was, ‘My Lord and My God.’
  1. "Only then did I realize that God had been at work all the time."

Life will give all of us disappointments. There will be times when we see only evil at work. There will be times when it seems as if evil has won. But we must learn for ourselves that God is always there, always working.

Nothing was more evil and vile than Jesus’ crucifixion. Yet, God was not only there working–He won!

Jesus says to us as he said to Thomas, "Believe; don’t doubt!"

Stand Your Ground

Posted by on July 9, 2006 under Sermons

With pride and a heavy hand the Roman Empire had brought peace to the world. It wasn’t freedom or happiness, but simply peace meaning the absence of war. Of course there was no war. Who would dare challenge the power of mighty Rome? Who would dare take on an empire whose supreme ruler was also a supreme being? All around the empire there were reminders of the emperor’s divine authority. Even coins served as propaganda reminding the people of the empire that the Roman emperor was Lord and God. He wielded the thunderbolts of Jupiter and was the son of Isis.

In the city of Ephesus, where the apostle John had shepherded the congregation of Christians, the Emperor Domitian built his temple. His statue, over 20ft tall, was on display in the temple. His priests made sure that the people of Ephesus all came to show reverence to the Emperor. And why not? After all, they had peace through the strength of the Roman Empire. There was no war … or was there?

In his vision, the apostle John tells Christians that there is a war. In fact, there has been a war going on for a long, long time. He doesn’t let them in on his vision in order to terrify them or scare them with scenes of a horrifying future. In fact he reveals to them what has happened so that they might understand what is happening now. They want to know why this bold and arrogant emperor who claims the honor that only God is due is able to continue his assault against the people of God. Why hasn’t God done something? Why is the world like this? John reveals that there was a war in heaven and it spread to earth …

Read Revelation 12 – 13

I am sure that if John had known about football he would have said that “It is the fourth quarter and Satan is behind by 1000 points. He has definitely lost the game but he has decided to hurt as many of his opponents as he can.” And John introduces us to some of Satan’s “team mates.” The unholy trinity of the Dragon and the Two Beasts.

The first Beast is the Dragon’s “man on earth.” This is the ruler who inspires such terror and awe among the people of earth. “Who can stand up to the Beast? Who can fight him?” John’s little flock understood that the Beast was Domitian. Some of the older ones remember the stories of Nero. Domitian was a later-day Nero in their minds. A powerful and oppressive ruler inspires such fear and anxiety in people that they always fear he might return – even from death. There are many in Iraq today who still remain loyal to Saddam Hussein for fear he will regain power.

The second Beast is part of that fear. The second Beast is the spokesman, or prophet, for the first beast. He isn’t just a single person – he stands in for all the agents of the Dragon and Beast who persuade us to worship the power and strength of the first Beast and the Dragon. Through trickery and gossip they promote stories of Domitian and his divine power. They animated the statue in Ephesus to fool people into thinking that it can speak. Why? So that the influence and fear of the Emperor would reach even to the outermost edges of the empire.

Domitian and his cult are long gone and dead. The Dragon has lost, but the clock on the fourth quarter is still ticking. The Dragon is able to recruit other Beasts – and he has. I am not talking about an Anti-christ. (Notice that the term Anti-Christ doesn’t even appear in these chapters in Revelation). I am not even talking about individuals, but the Beast remains among us as a representation of powers. Those powers that fill us with obedience rooted in fear and oppression. The arrogant boasting and posturing of any authority that demands our absolute allegiance. This is the Beast.

And this Beast is always served by another Beast – not just individuals but institutions – that convince us that the Beast is worthy of our worship. That no one should dare take a stand against the Beast. The worship of the Beast is worship of power, strength, might, and superiority. And like the late first century Christians we sometimes don’t see the harm in going along with it all because the Beast can look like a lamb.

John’s vision reveals what is really going on. It exposes the powers of this age and let’s us know that there is a war that started on heaven. He shows us the few, the 144,000, who did not stain themselves by worshipping the Beast and his power. They stood their ground. They died for it. They suffered for it, but their suffering did not last forever. They are with the Lamb. They have won. “Blessed are those who die in the Lord from now on: how blessed to die that way!”

John is opening our eyes to the world as heaven sees it. He encourages us first: “Don’t get duped into fighting the Beast on his own terms.” Those who kill with the sward will be killed by the sword. John says this (13:9) in a near repeat of what Jesus told Peter. We are always in danger of becoming like the enemy or worse than the enemy when we are motivated by fear of the enemy. The church in Ephesus is praised by the risen Christ for taking a stand against the false prophets among them. But in the process they became so paranoid and suspicious in their stance against wickedness that they lost their capacity to love.

John also encourages us not to worship the Beast. It is so tempting to put our faith in the security that power and strength represent. But John says that during the time the Beast is in power the saints of God will need to endure and be patient. Because the faith and security that the powers of the beast offer will never last. Stand your ground, says John. Like the 144,000 – stand your ground. Don’t fight – don’t give back – but don’t give in!

We worship a different kind of power and strength. In our baptism we connect with the blood of the Lamb who did not give back but did not give in. In our baptism we join Christ in his death, burial and resurrection. We place our security in God who has the power to give new life. In the Lord’s Supper we worship sacrifice. The sacrifice of Jesus who did not try to secure his own life but surrendered it for us. When we eat his flesh and drink his blood how can we do anything else than become sacrificial in our love? How can we refuse to follow the Lamb and keep his commandments to love each other – and even our enemies?

But that’s hard isn’t it. And I know that some of us have bowed down before the power of the enemy. It is tempting. But surrender yourself to God. Be washed in the blood of Lamb.

The Trail Blazers

Posted by on July 6, 2006 under Bulletin Articles

Someone always has to be the first! I remember driving out West and seeing a sign that read, “20 miles to the world’s tallest bridge.” We were driving on a very flat plain. In the distance to the right were some mountains. I thought the road would abruptly turn to the mountains–where else would a tall bridge be located?

The road did not turn, and in a few minutes I saw a sign that said, “1 Mile to the world’s tallest bridge.” Skeptically I said to myself, “Sure! Out here in the middle of nowhere on a flat, flat plain!” Suddenly, there the bridge was on the flat, flat plain. How unimpressive the bridge looked as we approached it, but the bottom of a narrow canyon was hundreds of feet below it.

The canyon was like a huge crack in the plain with that same level plain continuing on the other side of this short bridge. Unbelievable! It was the world’s tallest bridge [at least when it was built] simply because ?the bottom fell out’ of a level plain, not because the bridge was high in the mountains spanning some small, deep valley.

I wondered about the first person who saw this crack. I wondered if an adventurer going west happened upon it and said, “Oops! Where do we go now?” I wondered if some Indian guide said, “Do not travel what looks to be the easy way!” I wondered how many looked at the canyon from the west side and said, “Whew! Thanks!”

We owe a special debt to those brave enough to blaze trails for us to follow. The blazed trail for reasons says silently, “Go this way! It may be difficult, but it avoids the dangers and disappointments of the other way.” It also occurs to me that trail blazing always came at a price.

Thank you, Jesus, for trail blazing for us the way to God in the wilderness of an evil existence! Thank you for knowing the dangers of futile ways, having the courage to pay the price, and showing us the safe and certain way to the Father. Without your trail blazing, how lost we would be! How wasted our efforts would be! How quickly our dreams would become hopelessness! How futile a wasted life would be!

John 14:6,10 Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me. … Do you not believe that I am in the Father, and the Father is in Me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on My own initiative, but the Father abiding in Me does His works.”

As a Lamb Slain

Posted by on July 2, 2006 under Sermons

Call To Worship

In the Revelation, John saw a door in heaven that stands open. A voice invited him to come and witness heaven’s interest in earth. That door remains open even today. God is not closed off to us; rather the way to his throne is open. Though God is praised and worshipped with all the majesty of heaven that John witnessed on the other side of that door, the prayers and worship of believers on earth rise up to heaven like a sweet incense that is pleasing to God. The worship on earth is linked to the worship in heaven.
So, let us take as our call to worship the words that John wrote when he witnessed the worship in heaven. This will be a responsive reading in order to remind us that our worship here coincides with the worship in heaven. If you will follow the reading on the screen as I read, the part that you read will be in gold type. After our reading, we will continue our praises with singing, “All Hail the Power of Jesus Name.” …

Revelation 4 (Leader)
  After this I looked, and there before me was a door standing open in heaven. And the voice I had first heard speaking to me like a trumpet said, “Come up here, and I will show you what must take place after this.”
  At once I was in the Spirit, and there before me was a throne in heaven with someone sitting on it. And the one who sat there had the appearance of jasper and carnelian. A rainbow, resembling an emerald, encircled the throne. Surrounding the throne were twenty-four other thrones, and seated on them were twenty-four elders. They were dressed in white and had crowns of gold on their heads.
  From the throne came flashes of lightning, rumblings and peals of thunder. Before the throne, seven lamps were blazing. These are the seven spirits of God.
  Also before the throne there was what looked like a sea of glass, clear as crystal. In the center, around the throne, were four living creatures, and they were covered with eyes, in front and in back. The first living creature was like a lion, the second was like an ox, the third had a face like a man, the fourth was like a flying eagle. Each of the four living creatures had six wings and was covered with eyes all around, even under his wings. Day and night they never stop saying:

Revelation 4 (Church)
“Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty, who was, and is, and is to come.”

Revelation 4 (Leader)
  Whenever the living creatures give glory, honor and thanks to him who sits on the throne and who lives for ever and ever, … the twenty-four elders fall down before him who sits on the throne, and worship him who lives for ever and ever. They lay their crowns before the throne and say:

Revelation 4 (Church)
“You are worthy, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they were created and have their being.”


Words fall short of describing the full majesty of God enthroned in heaven. John uses what he knows – he uses what we know – to describe the glory of God. He appeals to our imagination. He mentions the brilliance and gleam of gemstones to describe the holiness of God and the justice of God that burns against evil. He also uses the symbol of the rainbow to remind us of God’s mercy.

Other old scriptures are called into service to remind us of God’s power. The thunder and lightning accompanied God when he descended on Mt. Sinai. And so did the pavement of glass.

God is honored in heaven. John uses words to describe 24 elders – men of wisdom and honor – decked out in their authority with thrones and crowns. But they do not sit on their thrones because they are on their knees and they have cast their crowns before the only one who is worthy of honor.

John uses words and appeals to our imagination to describe the awesome creatures that surround the throne. These are the cherubim that the prophets Ezekiel and Isaiah witnessed in their visions of the throne of heaven. Cherubim are not cuddly babies. They are more like God’s special forces among angels. They are God’s agents who extend his almighty rule over all the earth. They cover the four directions of the earth. They are equipped with wings and are full of eyes, so they see everything and they can move quickly. They resemble creatures of earth who are the noblest, the strongest, the wisest, and the swiftest of all creatures. They represent the eternal power and glory of the one who was, and is, and is to come.

And in heaven there is constant worship before God as the cherubim and elders declare his praises – not because they have to, but because God is worthy of it and they can do nothing else in the presence of the holy creator.

This is the setting and now John unfolds the drama … There is a scroll in the hand of the one who sits on the throne. This is his decree, an edict to be carried out. It is the will of God. It has seven official seals on it. Seven – when John uses that number he means that something is complete. There won’t be an eighth. So the decree of God is truly sealed. Only one who is truly worthy can open the decree and put it into action. But who? The 24 elders? No. Perhaps God’s special agents, the cherubim? No.

Can you see why John weeps? There is God in all of his majesty and glory – all of his eternal power. And there is no one worthy of putting his will into action! Who can enact his will on earth as it is in heaven?

The Messiah! The Lion of the Tribe of Judah. There’s our hero. He is the root of David. We have waited so long for our hero king to stride onto the stage of history. And we wait for the Lion to roar … but all we get is a lamb. And a lamb that looks like it has been slain.

We would be disappointed except that the lamb slain is able to take the scroll and open it. He is worthy. And John again appeals to our imagination to inform us that this is no ordinary lamb – it has seven horns and seven eyes. He may be slain, but he has complete strength and authority. Nothing escapes his sight. Doesn’t this remind us of the vision of the Risen Christ – who was dead and yet still lives. Whose eyes shine like fire and who feet are like burnished bronze. He is worthy to enact the will of God and the praise that belongs to God is also due to the lamb that was slain.

What is being said? John presses our spiritual imagination into service to encourage Christians – especially those who may be fearful or disappointed. We might expect a mighty champion who comes like a roaring lion, but instead we get a lamb that looks as if it had been slain. What is being said?

First, the will of God is not carried out through violence. We live in a world that labors under the illusion of redemptive violence. If you strike us, we will strike you – but harder. In fact, we may just do unto you before you do unto us. But didn’t God in the OT allow for an “eye for an eye.” Sure! And that was an attempt to put a limit on violence because God knew how bad we tend to escalate violence. We take a life for an eye. Cain killed his brother because of an argument in worship. The will of God is carried out through sacrificial love.

Second, the one who is worthy to carry out God’s will is not just the strongest guy on the block. Rather, it is the one who is so obedient to God that he will go to his death before forsaking God’s will. Humanity used its greatest power – the power to create death, in an attempt to resist God’s power to save. Why, because we wanted to be God. (It’s the problem that created this whole mess). But God used his great power to create life. To create, to sustain, and to resurrect.

Third, Jesus Christ is the Messiah, the Lion of the Tribe of Judah, the Root of David – but he is also the Lamb that was Slain. And yet he lives. He does not hurt other, but he takes upon himself the hurt of others. He suffers with those who resist violence and remain obedient to God though it costs them dearly.

The way of violence and force can only make people fear enough not to disobey, but it cannot make people obey to the point that they would lay down their lives in love. The way of violence and force only creates rebels and more violence, but the way of the Lamb, the will of God, redeems us and calls us to live our lives for God. The way of violence and force creates borders and makes enemies of people. But the way of the Lamb, the will of God, is that people from every tribe and nation should become one in his kingdom. People everywhere are united by the blood of the lamb to be priests who serve God. Whoever you are, wherever you are from, the Lamb, Jesus Christ, has purchased your redemption with his blood.

You are invited to join with the chorus in heaven that sings the new song: “To the one seated on the throne and to the Lamb be blessing and honor and glory and might forever and ever!”