Generation to Generation

Posted by on October 28, 2007 under Sermons

Thesis: God’s vision of the kingdom is multi-generational. There is a place for all ages and the Holy Spirit is poured out on all.
There is a wisdom of the world that separates us not into generations, but demographics. I am soon to enter into a new demographic. The subtle implication is that I am very different those younger or older than me.

Next week I will be forced to leave the demographic that has been my home for the last 21 years – Male 18-39. Even at 39 it was kind of inspiring to think that I had something in common with 18 year olds. After Wednesday [October 31] I will join the group of 40-62. Hooray! I can look forward to Senior Discounts.

According to their definitions, generation suggests a continuation while allowing for differences. A demographic is a division, slicing up group by certain criteria and making comparisons.
If we are going to be the people of God – the continuation of ancient Israel and the heirs of Pentecost – then we need to have a generational mindset rather than a demographic mindset. By a generational mindset I mean a perspective and vision that views all ages of people from God’s point of view and not from our limited point of view.

However, it is difficult to overcome the limiting “demographic” perspective. One of the typical ways we limit ourselves is we play the age card – I am too old or I am too young.

What’s the Right Age?

    I’m too old … Noah; Abraham & Sarah; Moses; John; Anna & Simeon; Elizabeth
    I’m too young … Samuel; David; Jeremiah; Josiah; Mary; Jesus

    God intends to use people of every age …
    If I were to come before you and say, “Some of you are just too old. You need to retire and get out of the way.” You would be offended. But some of you say that very thing about yourselves! Why are you offended if I say it, but it is justified for you to say so?
    If I were to come before you and say, “You younger ones need to keep out of the way and stay out of trouble. Stop demanding all the attention, you are young and you need to just wait until you get older.” Not only would you be offended, but many adults would be too. But how is it that everyone would be offended if I say those things, but some of you and some of the adults often say “Well he or she is just too young for that.”

    At every point in your life you are either going to be able to say you are too old or too young. God’s spirit rests on the young and old, on men and women empowering them all to serve

    • Joel 2 and Acts 2 – God intends all generations to serve him and to serve one another.
    • The Cloud of Witnesses – Hebrews 11 – We complete the faith of the witnesses.

Institutional view of church orients us to think demographically – it limits us.
Family view makes us think generationally – it creates options that God works in.

    I thank God for Wilma Chase at the West-Side Church in Russellville. She taught the 2-year-olds. When she was in her 70’s and widowed she was teaching our 2-year-old son. Demographically, she ought to have stopped. That is something for younger people. But generationally, she was a great teacher with every year.
    She would often say, “Why don’t more people my age teach? They have nothing else to do.”

Legacy …

    “Little Christians are not growing up to be big Christians.” Why? Because we don’t see our faith as a legacy – something handed down to us and that we hand down to another. Too often we see faith as something we have and those older or younger than us don’t.
    The notion of a personal faith is limited. Yes, each of us has to own faith – but if that faith is going to have substance it has to be part of something larger than us.
    Deuteronomy 6 – Invites the older generation to respond to this you language with we language. They recount the faith narrative in a way that incorporates each new generation into the story. And those who told the story, received the story from those before them.
    Telling the story in that way challenges the younger generation to a heroic form of faith. It invites them to see the link of past present and future rather than the selfishness of a single generation (their own or the older one – note that the response in Dt. 6 is not, “Well, back in my day we knew everything from an early age.” That kind of response distances the generations and eliminates common ground and story.)


    This was also a first century problem and Titus (who was mentored by Paul) was an evangelist on the Island of Crete – a place that suffered a breakdown in the family. Paul’s advice to Titus was to bring the generations together in nurture and mentoring [Titus 2:1-7].


    This mentoring was ancient wisdom among the people of God centuries before Paul. [Numbers 8:23-26] – The Levites tradition of mentoring.

    When is the last time you took an interest in someone outside your generational group? To mentor them or to be mentored – those of us who are younger need to be asking the older ones. Those who are older need to respond and be available.

    Interpretation of the Cord of Three Strands – Who is your mentor, Who is your peer, Who do you mentor?
    Paul – Gamaliel, Silas, Timothy and Titus

    Let the older ones make the first move … We must enter into their world of another generation incarnationally. We have to be ourselves, but we can still reach out to the younger ones (whether that means teens or middle-aged). If I can do it, you can too. We cannot fear being rejected – Christ didn’t.

Connections and Consideration/Respect

    Randy Harris’ vision – the old and the young hating but deferring to each others’ worship styles … Could we do that? Why wouldn’t we? How would we be blessed if we did?

Honor Father and Mother

Posted by on under Sermons

The fifth word to live by is not simply a rule to keep children in check. This word to live by, just like all the others, is directed to believers of every age. So, the charge to honor our mother and father is aimed at adults also.

What does it mean to honor our mother and father?
To honor means more than demonstrating sentimental feelings. The word “honor” literally means to give weight or heaviness. To honor someone then means that we take them seriously.

That sort of honor may run against the grain in our culture. We find it easier to not take parents seriously. We laugh at parents. We lampoon parents. [Simpsons comic.] Marketing to teens and adults contributes to the myth that the older generation doesn’t understand. Or that older people are cranky and crabby. [Maxine comic.] The jesting and the marketing isn’t malicious, it just silliness. No one is supposed to be hurt by it. No one is supposed to take it seriously … and there is the problem.

A little jesting and silliness isn’t the only way to dishonor mother and father by not treating them seriously. Locked up in our cultural mindset are certain stereotypical assumptions about what parents or grandparents ought to be. These are flat, simplistic assumptions. Sentimental concepts of “mom and dad” are a way of disregarding the fact that our parents, of any age, are real unique individuals with their own histories and needs. The danger of these assumptions is that they could become an unrealistic expectation. Likewise, to be overly sentimental can lead adult children to patronize their aging parents. It’s good to take parents as they age, but to pat them on the back as kindly old folks who mean well but have outlived their usefulness is dishonor.

When, for any reason, we fail to take our parents seriously, we dishonor them. And that becomes a problem not simply for our parents, but it infects our culture and community with some very negative values …

The Brothers Grimm – There was once a very old man, whose eyes had become dim, his ears dull of hearing, his knees trembled, and when he sat at table he could hardly hold the spoon, and spilt the broth upon the table-cloth or let it run out of his mouth. His son and his son’s wife were disgusted at this, so the old grandfather at last had to sit in the corner behind the stove, and they gave him his food in an earthenware bowl, and not even enough of it. And he used to look towards the table with his eyes full of tears. Once, too, his trembling hands could not hold the bowl, and it fell to the ground and broke. The young wife scolded him, but he said nothing and only sighed. Then they bought him a wooden bowl for a few half-pence, out of which he had to eat.
They were once sitting thus when the little grandson of four years old began to gather together some bits of wood upon the ground. “What are you doing there?” asked the father. “I am making a little trough,” answered the child, “for father and mother to eat out of when I am big.”
The man and his wife looked at each other for a while, and presently began to cry. Then they took the old grandfather to the table, and henceforth always let him eat with them, and likewise said nothing if he did spill a little of anything.

We can teach our children how to honor us by the way we honor our parents. The fifth word to live by is foundational to teaching us how to live as a community of believers. The remaining words tell us how to live with one another. The foundation of all these words is the first word about God. The next layer of the foundation is the word to honor our parents.

Learning to live as a community with generations side by side is not easy for us. The way we structure our social life and our home life doesn’t encourage our sense of legacy and community. Politics and marketing tends to pit the needs of one generation against another. [I recall having a conversation with a elderly man years ago. I was delighted to see interest rates falling because it meant that my young family could begin to think about buying a house at a reasonable rate. But the older man was disappointed and worried because it meant that his savings and investments that represented his life’s work were barely earning enough to sustain him.] And those sort of imbalances are see-saw options are what we have in a society in which we see ourselves first and foremost as individuals.
When we regard ourselves ultimately as individuals and do not take our connections to others and other generations seriously, then we may see ourselves as members of a group, but we don’t find it very difficult to disconnect, withdraw, neglect, or push away others.

It is because this fifth word has implication for all of the community that we do not get a pass on honoring parents because they are not very honorable. A word of caution here – we do not want to interpret this word as saying too much – it is not a bludgeon for parents to use to demand authoritarian obedience, neither is there a loophole for those whose parents are bad parents. Honoring parents – that is treating them respectfully and seriously – is how we learn to be community – even when that isn’t easy …

Honoring our parents teaches us that we are vitally connected to one another in bonds of community that are not so easily cut. For instance, it is a fact that you cannot divorce your parents. You can disagree with parents, you can reject them, neglect them, disown them, ignore them, but you cannot divorce them. I have a friend who has such bitterness toward his father that when we married he left behind his father’s family name and adopted the name of his wife’s family. I don’t criticize him for that, it was something I am sure he needed to do. And even though their relationship may change, his father is still his father and changing his name doesn’t alter that reality. There are all sorts of difficulties that come up between the generations, between children and parents. Our interactions within the home are where we first learn how to interact with community. The sooner we learn to take one another seriously and honor one another the better we will be able to live as community.

God spoke these ten words to live by and attached a promise to this fifth one. Honor your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the LORD your God is giving you. God’s timeless vision sees his community of people across time as well as space. This fifth word just gives us a glimpse of how we can see things across the generations. We need that sort of vision. It would serve us much better than our narrow focus as individuals on the here and now. Our limited vision convinces us that the crisis and anxiety of today is the way it always has been and the way it always will be. When both old and young have that sort of view we turn inward and get selfish and don’t think of the ability that God has given us to bless one another across the ages.

[Story attributed to Paul J. Meyer] – Once upon a time long, long ago there was an old country chapel that had been a part of the community forever. The worship house had been built by the community over 200 years ago. But now the roof began to leak and was the beams were starting to collapse. Many feared that they would have to take down the old chapel. They didn’t want to. They loved it. But they didn’t know how they could repair it. Then one day, the original plans for the chapel were found. They included instructions on repairs. But more than that, the plans included a detailed note and a map explaining that a forest had been planted nearby. In this forest the future generation would find a specific type of tree now matured that the original designers recommend for fashioning new support beams. The people who followed the map found the trees planted there in neat rows just for them by a generation that had lived 200 years before them. They set about repairing the chapel – not for themselves, but to honor their fathers and mothers.

Listen To Know? Listen To Do?

Posted by on October 25, 2007 under Bulletin Articles

Therefore you have no excuse, everyone of you who passes judgment, for in that which you judge another, you condemn yourself; for you who judge practice the same things. And we know that the judgment of God rightly falls upon those who practice such things. But do you suppose this, O man, when you pass judgment on those who practice such things and do the same yourself, that you will escape the judgment of God? Or do you think lightly of the riches of His kindness and tolerance and patience, not knowing that the kindness of God leads you to repentance? But because of your stubbornness and unrepentant heart you are storing up wrath for yourself in the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God, who WILL RENDER TO EACH PERSON ACCORDING TO HIS DEEDS: ? (Romans 2:1-6)


In grief-filled fascination, I realize the American Restoration Movement began about 1800 as a unity movement. In time, the movement transitioned to a defensive movement. In less time it transitioned to an isolationist movement. Now it is fragmented. One large fragment seeks to understand God’s purposes with scripture as the source. Another large fragment identifies “the right to exist” with a desire to declare everyone’s error inside or outside the movement.

It is difficult to learn from others’ mistakes. Jesus said to a Jewish audience in Palestine, “Do not listen for the wrong reason. Listening to learn what is wrong with people you resent is the wrong reason. Listen to transform your lives. Life is full of moral and ethical floods. The real issue: ?Will your life stand after your floods come?’ Do not listen for others. Listen for yourself. Listen to act. Listen to change yourself rather than listening to discover what is wrong with others.”

Paul was upset with the Jewish people who thought they were experts in knowing others’ errors. He was concerned because these self-appointed judges were as ethically deficient as those they condemned. People who were supposed to be God’s people were a significant factor in idol worshippers not considering the living God seriously. Thus, one of God’s obstacles was the misimpression created by those who claimed to represent Him. Evidently, Paul often had to teach godless people about God by dismissing the example of those who declared “I am who I am because of God.”

Do you find Jesus’ and Paul’s declarations frightening? Why?

Keeping It Holy

Posted by on October 21, 2007 under Sermons

Sabbath Rules

  • Shabbath Goyim
    • Gentile that does prohibited work on Sabbath
  • Eruv
    • Boundaries that allow for travel and to carry objects from place to place

Jesus on Sabbath

  • The Sabbath was made for humankind. Humankind was not made for the Sabbath.
  • Mark 2:23-3:6
  • The Principles of the Sabbath are located in its origin

Origin of Sabbath

  • God makes it Holy (Genesis 2:2-3)
  • Commandments (Ex. 20, Deuteronomy 5)
  • Sabbath Day, Year, Jubilee (Leviticus 25)

Exodus and Deuteronomy
For in six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day. Therefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.

Remember that you were slaves in Egypt and that the LORD your God brought you out of there with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm. Therefore the LORD your God has commanded you to observe the Sabbath day.

Principles of Sabbath

  1. Remembrance of God
  2. Harmony in Created Order
  3. Respect of Humanity

Christian Sabbath Options

  1. Sabbath = Saturday. Christians obligated to keep it.
  2. Sabbath = Sunday. Christians obligated to keep it now.
  3. Christians are free from Ceremonial observance, but there is wisdom in regarding the Lord’s Day as special

  1. Seventh-Day
    • The Decalogue is part of God’s Moral Law. It was not “cancelled out” by Christ
    • Keeping the Seventh-Day is a test of the faithful who do not follow the apostasy
    • 7th Day Adventist, 7th Day Baptist, Worldwide Church of God, Messianic Jews

  2. Sabbath Transfer
    • Sabbath is every seven days, not necessarily the seventh day of week
    • Rest is for Worship. Sets up a worship/work cycle.
    • Very little Biblical basis for the transference.
    • Rationale for “blue laws”

  3. The Lord’s Day
    • Inclusion of Gentiles magnifies importance of Lord’s Day (Acts 20:7)
    • Eighth Day rationale (John 20:26)
    • Sabbath is not a binding ceremony (Acts 15, Romans 14)
    • The Lord is the focus of true “rest” (Hebrews 4:11)

The Lord’s Day

  • Celebration of Lord’s Supper had special meaning on Lord’s Day (Acts 20:7 – 11, 1 Cor 16:1-2)
  • Appearance of Jesus on Lord’s Day (John 20:26, Revelation 1:10)
  • Late first century and Second century witness to special observances of the Lord’s Day


  • The early church does emphasize the Lord’s Day over the seventh day
  • This is not the result of a specific rule or change
  • Some scripture is reinterpreted in light of Christ
  • Sabbath and Lord’s Day are community events

Keep the Sabbath Holy

Posted by on under Sermons

God spoke these words to live by …
Exodus 20:8-11 — “Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. 9 Six days you shall labor and do all your work, 10 but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the LORD your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your manservant or maidservant, nor your animals, nor the alien within your gates. 11 For in six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day. Therefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.”

Years after the time God spoke these words, Moses recalled them saying to the people: “Observe the Sabbath day by keeping it holy, as the LORD your God has commanded you. 13 Six days you shall labor and do all your work, 14 but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the LORD your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your manservant or maidservant, nor your ox, your donkey or any of your animals, nor the alien within your gates, so that your manservant and maidservant may rest, as you do. 15 Remember that you were slaves in Egypt and that the LORD your God brought you out of there with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm. Therefore the LORD your God has commanded you to observe the Sabbath day.” (Deuteronomy 5)

The first four words to live by focus on our relationship with God. If the first three are a three course meal, then this fourth word is the table setting. The first three words reveal to us who God is and who he isn’t, but the fourth word creates the environment for the relationship with the God who delivers, the God who cannot be manipulated or made into our image. We are to keep the Sabbath by keeping it holy. A special day for the whole community.

It seems so ancient and meaningless, this command to set aside a special day. Hasn’t this command been repealed? Isn’t this the command that hasn’t been repeated or carried over into the NT? We typically think of Jesus as the one who emphasized the enduring significance of the Ten Words. Here’s what Jesus had to say about the Sabbath …

    Mark 2:23 – 3:6

    1. Jesus did not respect the legalistic observance of the Sabbath that ignored the needs of people. The Pharisees were maintaining a religious system that attempted to sanctify a 24 hour period, but it ignored real issues such as hunger and health. Jesus does not support their legalistic system …
    2. But Jesus is not against the Sabbath. He contends that if they understood that “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath,” then would understand the principle of the Sabbath.
    3. Of all the words to live by, this is the one that especially calls us to understand the principles that are embodied in the keeping of this commandment …

Principle 1: The Principle of Remembering [Honoring God, listening, holiness]

  • Our lives can get so busy that we lose the ability to reflect and refresh. “Be Still and Know that I am God” is a song we need to sing more often. Too often the song we sing is “Get busy and think that you are God.” Being still and quiet reminds us that He is God and we are not.
  • Remembering and Holiness allows us to experience true rest: We are overwhelmed with leisure. Our play is sometimes a lot of work.
  • “The apostles gathered around Jesus and reported to him all they had done and taught. Then, because so many people were coming and going that they did not even have a chance to eat, he said to them, ?Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.'” (Mark 6:30-31). True rest is rest with God.
  • The Sabbath is about respecting ourselves and connecting with our Creator God.

Principle 2: The Principle of Trust [Created Order – Exodus 20]

  • The rationale for the Sabbath in Exodus is found in the created order. Cycles and patterns are part of the created order. “God created the world in six days and rested on the seventh.” The seventh day is not unimportant. It has real meaning. The seventh day is a day in which God enjoys his work. The seventh day is when God created satisfaction, tranquility, peace.
  • God’s created order teaches us how life is supposed to be lived, and if we understand the principle of Sabbath Trust, then we can reflect on how we tune our lives to the rhythms of the created order: Night and day, inhaling and exhaling, animals and plants.
  • The created order is an interconnected system and the observances of holy periods of rest are for the best. Learning to trust God’s wisdom in the created order rather becoming so proud that we do whatever we want. [The Dust Bowl in the 1930’s was the result of overproduction and a severe drought in the west. Cotton was a cash crop but it also dried up the soil. The land was taxed beyond its limits and it dried up so bad that nothing could be grown on the land.]
  • But our tendency is to trust in our work. The Sabbath corrects that. In Israel, the Sabbath was also the seventh year and not just the seventh day … In the Sabbath year. … “You may ask, ?What will we eat in the seventh year if we do not plant or harvest our crops?’ I will send you such a blessing in the sixth year that the land will yield enough for three years.” (Lev. 25:20-21) Could we trust God this much?
  • The Sabbath is about respecting the world God made – the land and resources — rather than overusing it and abusing it.

Principle 3: The Principle of Humanity/Spirituality [Justice – Deuteronomy 5]

  • The rationale for the Sabbath as it is mentioned in Deuteronomy is a sense of justice. The Sabbath was a way of keeping God’s people from relapsing into slavery. The power of Pharaoh had dehumanized and demeaned the people through the overwork of slavery.
  • So, the Sabbath declares to all that “We are not slaves.” This is more than private time. This is a public feature of the community. Notice that the Sabbath wasn’t simply for the wealthy or the true members of Israel. It was communal and it even extended to servants and foreigners living among them. Since the Sabbath principle of being human rather than slave is communal and public, no one is taken advantage of.
  • This principle of Sabbath keeps us from serving the wrong master. But the concept of shutting everything down for a day is very counter-intuitive. Our work ethic supports excess. Rather than a Sabbath ethic (which is Biblical and supported by Jesus) we are more influenced by a Puritan Work ethic (which is not Biblical and originated with Calvinism). Unfortunately, the Puritan work ethic (which encourages constant labor) leads to becoming dehumanized or it leads to enslavement. The Sabbath ethic is humanitarian and leads to spirituality.
  • Can our institutions really respect this? Chick-Fil-A is a rarity in the world of business. Every Chick-fil-a store is closed on Sunday. The only rationale is that it honors God and it honors employees. The founder of Chick-Fil-A has been told countless times about the profit he is losing by being closed on Sunday. But Truett Cathy seems to recognize a principle greater than profit. What if our institutions respected people as humans rather than workers.
  • The Sabbath is about respecting human beings rather than abusing, using, or enslaving them.

Learning to Think Like God

Posted by on October 18, 2007 under Sermons

Quite often when we are driving, we will see a yellow or orange sign that says, "CAUTION." We know immediately by the color of the sign and the word used that we are being warned. Though only one word and one color appear on the sign, we understand that we are being warned of possible danger, and we are being told to exercise special vigilance. If we have an accident because we ignore the sign, few people will sympathize with us. The attitude likely will be, "You were warned. Why did you not pay attention to the warning?"

This lesson is intended as a warning. The warning does not come from me. It comes from my understanding of what God said. The source of the warning is God, not me. To "steal" God’s warning by "hiding His caution sign" would not be a harmless prank. It would mean the potential death of people.

Ironically, most Christian are convinced they think like God thinks. That has never been the case! The reason we study scripture is to learn to think like God thinks. Long before Jesus Christ came to earth or Christianity existed, God said through one of the prophets:

Isaiah 55:6-9 "Seek the Lord while He may be found; Call upon Him while He is near. Let the wicked forsake his way And the unrighteous man his thoughts; And let him return to the Lord, And He will have compassion on him, And to our God, For He will abundantly pardon. ‘For My thoughts are not your thoughts, Nor are your ways My ways,’ declares the Lord. ‘For as the heavens are higher than the earth, So are My ways higher than your ways And My thoughts than your thoughts.’"

Isaiah revealed many harsh realities to Judah and Jerusalem. (See Isaiah 1:4-9 as an example.) There were some who understood his warnings. They basically reacted by saying, "It is too late. Too much evil has occurred." Isaiah basically said, "You do not understand how to think like God thinks. He does not think like you think."

Jesus once told the Pharisees, "But if you had known what this means, ?I desire compassion, and not a sacrifice,’ you would not have condemned the innocent (Matthew 12:7)." The Pharisees were recognized in first century Jewish society as the "official conservative interpreters of scripture." Jesus quoted Hosea 6:6, and said they did not know what God meant by that statement. He said if they understood what God meant in that statement, they would not have condemned the innocent. They did not know how God thought.

  1. Because a person is immersed in Christ does not mean he or she automatically thinks like God thinks.
    1. Because a Christian reads the Bible regularly (which is a wonderful thing to do) does not mean he or she automatically thinks like God thinks.
      1. Such reading can lead you closer to God’s thinking if some things are true.
        1. You listen as you read.
        2. You carefully refuse to force your desires on God’s revelations.
        3. You are willing to grow as you increase your understanding.
        4. Your are willing for God to change your thoughts and understandings.
      2. If the Pharisees (who were recognized as experts in scripture) could fail to understand how God thinks, so can we.
    2. Because a person goes to church, listens to the preacher, and follows the direction of their elders does not mean he or she automatically thinks like God thinks.
      1. Going to church does not carry an automatic guarantee that your thoughts will be God’s thoughts.
      2. Listening to the preacher is an important help if his thinking is in tune with God’s thinking.
      3. The same is true for elders.
      4. Because of one’s position in a congregation, we must not assume the person is spiritually mature.
  2. Consider an example.
    1. Let’s begin with an incident in Luke 22:24-30.
      And there arose also a dispute among them as to which one of them was regarded to be greatest. And He said to them, “The kings of the Gentiles lord it over them; and those who have authority over them are called ?Benefactors.’ But it is not this way with you, but the one who is the greatest among you must become like the youngest, and the leader like the servant. For who is greater, the one who reclines at the table or the one who serves? Is it not the one who reclines at the table? But I am among you as the one who serves. You are those who have stood by Me in My trials; and just as My Father has granted Me a kingdom, I grant you that you may eat and drink at My table in My kingdom, and you will sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel.
      1. This incident occurred just after Jesus gave them the Lord’s Supper.
        1. That means the twelve were with him his entire earthly ministry, yet they still did not "get it."
        2. Jesus said his kingdom was not like all the kingdoms they knew–those kingdoms were power based.
        3. Those who occupied positions of authority liked the power of position and loved the designation of the person of power.
        4. It would not be like that with the twelve.
          1. Greatness would be like being the youngest person (the least influential person) and like being a servant.
          2. Yet in Jesus’ kingdom he would turn things upside down–the server would be greater than the served.
          3. The 12 were given positions in Jesus’ kingdom, but as servants.
      2. That is not the way things were done then and is not the way things are done now.
        1. People are still power-based (it is who I know or what I have).
        2. We want our significance to be declared by our position over others.
        3. Jesus said in his kingdom that was not the way it worked.
    2. Consider an extension of the example in Mark 9:33-37:
      They came to Capernaum; and when He was in the house, He began to question them, “What were you discussing on the way?” But they kept silent, for on the way they had discussed with one another which of them was the greatest. Sitting down, He called the twelve and *said to them, “If anyone wants to be first, he shall be last of all and servant of all.” Taking a child, He set him before them, and taking him in His arms, He said to them, Whoever receives one child like this in My name receives Me; and whoever receives Me does not receive Me, but Him who sent Me."
      1. The 12 had an argument among themselves about who would be the most significant in Jesus’ administration when Jesus ruled in his kingdom.
      2. When they reached their destination, Jesus asked them what they were discussing as they traveled.
      3. They did not respond because Jesus had made himself clear on this matter before.
      4. He told them in his kingdom the path to greatness was the path of servitude.
      5. He illustrated his point by taking a child in his arms and stating that receiving a child meant receiving him and God.
    3. Frankly, it just does not work that way in anybody’s world in any age.
      1. Servitude is a matter of behavior, not a matter of words and claims.
      2. Nobody wants to be a servant.
      3. Everybody wants to be served.
      4. However, Jesus said greatness (not the path to greatness) was achieved in his kingdom by serving.
      5. You have to really listen to God to learn to think like He thinks.
        1. To save us, God served–that is the only reason we have grace, mercy, and compassion.
        2. To give us a Savior, Jesus served–all the way to and including death on a cross.
        3. The 12 became our servants.
        4. The apostle to the gentiles was a servant.
        5. Paul told the Christians at Philippi in Philippians 2:3:
          Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves;…
      6. There is no way you would ever learn to think that way if you did not listen to God–people just do not think of being great in connection with serving rather than being served.
  3. Consider Jesus’ statement give in a prayer shortly before his death.
    John 17:20-23–"I do not ask on behalf of these alone, but for those also who believe in Me through their word; that they may all be one; even as You, Father, are in Me and I in You, that they also may be in Us, so that the world may believe that You sent Me. The glory which You have given Me I have given to them, that they may be one, just as We are one; I in them and You in Me, that they may be perfected in unity, so that the world may know that You sent Me, and loved them, even as You have loved Me.
    1. Just as Jesus was about to give the ultimate sacrifice of self in suffering and death, he prayed for the oneness of all who believed in him.
      1. He not only prayed for our oneness as believers, but that our oneness would reflect the oneness he had with God the Father.
      2. His prayer was that he be so thoroughly in us that we would reflect his presence in the oneness we share with each other.
      3. It is by sharing this oneness that we cause the world to believe three things:
        1. That God sent Jesus.
        2. That God loves those who follow Jesus.
        3. That God loved Jesus even though He permitted Jesus to die on a cross.
    2. In his request, Jesus forever gave proof that oneness can exist even when there is great differences (something we have been very slow to learn).
      1. Jesus was flesh; God was not.
      2. Jesus could and would die; God could not die.
      3. Jesus was temptable and about to face his greatest temptation; God is not temptable.
      4. Jesus could physically suffer and know physical pain; God could not.
      5. Jesus could actually experience human emotions that could threaten his commitment; God could not and does not experience those emotions.
      6. As different as they were, Jesus the Son being human and God the Father being divine, they were one.
    3. And we struggle with each other because we do not agree on every detail.
      1. In Jesus and God’s value system, oneness ranks high on the list of important things.
      2. Does it on ours?
      3. Or do we reason that to preserve unity we need to divide and place "me" in control?
      4. Do we really know how to think like God thinks?

Learning to allow God to teach us how to think is a huge, never-ending challenge if we aspire to spiritual maturity. It takes enormous courage to allow God to change your thinking. When a person allows that to occur, he or she increasingly becomes behavior- centered in his of her life. It is more than what he or she affirms to be correct. It is allowing conviction held to become behavior practiced. It is a faith in Jesus that increasingly becomes focused on "me" instead of a faith focused on others.

What’s In a Name?

Posted by on October 14, 2007 under Sermons

Have you searched for your name with Google?

Rumplestiltskin – The princess had to guess his name to gain power over him.

Unlike Rumplestiltskin, God can give out his name freely. He has no problem revealing his name as he cannot be controlled.But the people who receive his name must treat the name with respect …

God reveals himself through his name. This is part of the Exodus story

Exodus 3

  • Moses asks: “Who Am I and Who are You?” (3:11-13)
  • “I AM” sent me to you
  • The Name by which I am known (3:15)

Exodus 6:3

  • God appeared to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob
  • But he was not known by his name “YHWH”

Exodus 34:6-7
“The LORD, the LORD, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin. Yet he does not leave the guilty unpunished; he punishes the children and their children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation.”

Seven Divine Names
2. El (God)
3. Elohim (God)
4. Adonai (The Lord)
5. Ehyeh-Asher-Ehyeh (I Am Who I Am)
6. Shaddai (Almighty)
7. Tzevaot (Lord of Hosts)

There is an urban legend that circulates about the FCC wanting to remove the name of God from TV in every single way. Maybe that wouldn’t be such a bad thing.

  • Pious Talk Making Claims in God’s Name
  • Political and Religious Overuse of God’s Name
  • “Oh, my God!”

Respect and Holiness -vs- Throw Away Casuality
We are a throw away culture. Things used to last generations they were passed on. They were made with the greatest of care

Words are just as meaningless in a throw away culture.
The word written and spoken litters our landscape.


“YHWH” → JeHoVaH

The Name

  • YHWH did not withhold his name
  • He cannot be controlled
  • He can reveal his character and nature to the extent that his people can stand it.

Don’t Misuse God’s Name

Posted by on under Sermons

This is the third word that God spoke. This is the third word to live by. We typically think of this as the command against cussing. Well, that’s a start. In fact – just notice from reading Exodus 20:7 – this is about so much more than “cussing.”

What does it mean to misuse God’s name? Why does God take it so seriously?

Since the Exodus, God was known among the Israelites as Ha-shem, which means “The Name.” The people knew God’s name, but God is so holy that even his name is holy. Sinful people like us should not mention that name without preparation and serious intent.
To the ancients, names have power – they are not merely words. Of course words have power and names are even more powerful for with a name you have a handle on something. You can manipulate it. You can define it. And so, if God has a name there is a temptation to define him – to use that name for influence, power, and protection.

What a burden to know God’s name in a world that puts so much stock in words and especially in names! What was God thinking in revealing his name?

If you know God’s name then you know exactly what he was thinking. God reveals his name to Moses through the burning bush (Exodus 3). Moses needs a tag, a label, a handle to get a grip on this God who wants him to go to Egypt and demand the release of the captives. That’s a huge and daring task and he wants to know if he is going to have the power to back up these claims. Besides that, these suffering Israelites aren’t just going to accept the wild claims of some old goat-herder. He had better have a business card, some credentials to make his case.

But there’s a risk in God giving out his name! What if Moses or anyone else wants to steal God’s identity. Anyone can go around speaking in the name of the Lord. Anyone can use God’s “PIN Code” of a name to open up the vaults of heaven. What was God thinking in revealing his name?

If you know God’s name then you know exactly what he was thinking. God’s name is “I WILL BE WHO I WILL BE.” God is telling Moses (and everyone else who hears his name) that you cannot use this name to manipulate me. You cannot use this name to reduce me, to define me, to summon me, to dismiss me or to control me in any way. So there is no risk to God in revealing his name.

But there is a risk to the people who know the name. Although God is not tamed by his name, the name is a holy and powerful name. It is still the name of a God who is greater than idols and has the power to define not only himself but also the created order.

The name of God tells us that in our relationship with “the one who will be what he will be” that He is always present and we must come to know him not through a magic formula, or a theological statement, or a pious poem, but through his character.

He reveals that character in these Ten Words:

  • He is jealous. There is no room for other Gods in the relationship.
  • He holds generations accountable for the sins of those who reject his ways. That seems so harsh, but it is reminder that our poor choices and bad behavior remain among our children for a very long time.
  • He is faithful and kind to thousands of generations of the ones who are devoted to him. God saved Israel because of a promise he made to Abraham. You and I are blessed by the devotion of saints who lived long before us. God blesses us because of their faithfulness to him.

If the character of God is so untamed, then certainly it means something to speak his name. Yes, we ought to take care to how we drop his name and how we hand out his business card. Its no risk to God – after all he will be who he is. And yet that’s just the problem, when we blithely bring God into a situation we invite the one whom we cannot control. How then should we use and not use this Holy Name?

Thankfully, Jesus taught us what this third word to live by really means. There’s a certain danger of misuse when it involves swearing by God’s name. Telling the truth and verifying trust often depends on people swearing by the name of a god or a holy thing. Jesus teaches us to simply speak the truth. If your Yes is Yes and your No is No all the time then you have the character of God and are not simply dropping his name to make your point. (Matthew 5:33-37) If you don’t normally speak the truth, don’t bring God’s name up to prove you are not lying. You may want God there when you speak truthfully, but the “I AM” was also there when you were lying and bending the truth.

I am glad that Jesus taught us what this third word to live by really means. There is a certain danger of misusing God’s name to punish and curse people. After all, if he really does hold people and their offspring accountable for three or four generations, then suddenly the name of God is a powerful weapon against the people who irritate us and abuse us. So we go through life like a bunch of magicians out of a Harry Potter tale invoking God’s name in our curses. We might use words like “damn or hell” – that’s elementary. But when we are advance, we simply take a self-righteous stance and use God as an excuse for retaliation or exclusion.
Jesus did not teach us that. He taught us to love our enemies. He taught us to use God’s name in prayer for those who do us wrong. (Matthew 5:43-48) Paul, who persecuted Christian families, understood what Jesus was teaching when he wrote “Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse.” (Romans 12:14)
Jesus taught us to make things right with a brother or sister before we come before God and try to worship him on our moral high ground. According to Jesus, God is better praised in valley of humility and reconciliation rather than the lofty high ground of personal offense or religious principle. If we love even our enemies and settle matters quickly with each other before they grow into feuds and grudges, then we have the character of God – we are perfect even as he is perfect. If you need to get something right with another person, don’t bring God’s into it by asking him to take care of something he expects you to deal with. You may want God to show up when you put on your Sunday best, but the I AM was there when you were nursing your grudge.

God takes it seriously when we invoke his name. The Name of God is the beginning of holiness. When Jesus taught us to pray he taught us that the first thing to say is “Our father who is in heaven, holy is your name.” Learning to respect God’s name is the first step to respecting that which is holy – things like the soul and the image of God in other people. The name of God is not a handle that we use to manage God; it is a handle we use to manage ourselves. That’s why he puts his name on us when we are born into Christ. Live up to your family name and live out the character of the God who will be who he will be.

God Has More Than One Side

Posted by on October 11, 2007 under Bulletin Articles

For God is not unjust so as to forget your work and the love which you have shown toward His name, in having ministered and in still ministering to the saints (Hebrews 6:10).

One of many things that amazes me about people is this: People who should find comfort in God are scared to death of Him, and people who should be scared to death of Him ignore Him altogether.

Consider the two statements above. The first, “God gave them over,” is repeated three times in Romans 1. Paul said people must not place confidence in wrong things. People easily placed confidence in “who they were” rather than “how they behaved.” People placed confidence in their heritage instead of their behavior-“I am a Jew,” or “I am a Roman.”

Paul said no matter “who you are,” heritage does not guarantee relationship with God. Many Romans resented the presence of “foreign gods” in Rome. They felt superior in their gods. They were confident that people who worshipped foreign gods worshipped things inferior to the Roman gods.

Paul declared Romans could not vindicate themselves just by saying, “We are Romans.” Comparing the Creator God to things that die or to things human in origin insult the Creator God.

To stress the seriousness of making God’s creation a god, Paul said God abandoned such people. People belonging to the living God behave like people who belong to the living God. The result of abandoning God, for a creature, is being abandoned by God.

However, in the second statement, the Hebrews statement, God does not abandon those in Christ who struggle. God remembers godly behavior, even if His child is in the midst of difficult times. The issue in Christ always is our rejecting God, not God rejecting us.

The godless person living a godless lifestyle will be abandoned to himself or herself. The struggling person in Christ will never be abandoned by God. In one situation there is divine wrath. In the other situation, there is comfort in the midst of struggle.

If you are in Christ, you will struggle. Never take your struggles as evidence you are no longer in Christ. Take them for what they are-the opposition of Satan. Then take great comfort in the fact that you are in Christ. Behave like a person who belongs to God. Let the way you act reflect the fact that you belong to God. Take comfort in His compassion for you. He who let His son die for you is not about to abandon you to His enemy. God’s wrath is for those who defy Him, not for those who belong to Him.

God vs. The Gods

Posted by on October 7, 2007 under Sermons

Different traditions number the Ten Commandments differently …

Are the first two commandments one or two?

Two or One?

  • No other Gods
  • Do Not make Idols
  • Are these saying the same thing?
  • Are they two different points?

Among the Gods

  • Exodus 15:11
  • Exodus 18:11
  • Joshua 23 – 24
  • Psalm 86:8-10

Battle of the Gods

  • Exodus 12:12
    – “I will bring judgment on all the gods of Egypt. I am the LORD.”

Household Gods

  • Genesis 31
    – The God of my Father (v. 5)
    – Laban’s household gods (v.19)
    – Jacob respects Laban’s gods (vv. 31-32)

Buried Gods

  • Jacob wrestles with God – Gen. 32
  • Conflict with Shechem – Gen. 33-34
  • Throwing Away Foreign Gods – Gen. 35

Dumb Idols

  • Isaiah 44:13-20
    – An idol is a worthless, powerless thing
    – Its maker is mortal
  • Psalm 115:2-4

Two Concerns

  1. You must not have other gods
    • Other “powers” may exist
    • GOD is the only divine power worthy of our worship
    • God is “Jealous”
  2. You must not make graven images
    • The Character of GOD cannot be captured in an image
    • An image is not God