Here’s a Trustworthy Saying, part 3

Posted by on February 28, 2010 under Sermons

further studies in I Timothy

Blameless Leaders

  • Trustworthy Saying 2 – Whoever aspires to be an overseer desires a noble task (3:1)
  • Family and Character
  • Deacons: Worthy of Respect
  • Deaconess or Wives (I Timothy 3:11)?
  • Romans 16:1

Deaconess or Wife?

  • We know that Phoebe was a deacon (Romans 16:1)
  • The word in I Timothy 3:11 is “wife” or “woman”
  • Ordination is not the issue – faithfulness is the issue
  • Verse 12 continues profile of deacons

Why Leaders Like This?

  • “… you will know how people ought to conduct themselves in God’s household” – 3:14-15
  • “… in the last times some will turn away from the true faith …” – 4:1


  • Hypocrisy is alluring because it carries the title of God and gets applause from others
  • It does not produce godliness
    – Why bother?
    – Can’t be perfect
    – Focus on outward discipline


  • Trustworthy Saying 3 – 4:8 or 4:10
  • 4:8 – Godliness
  • 4:10 – Hope and Salvation
  • Our trust (faith) is in the living God who saves us all


  1. Reject silly myths – don’t encourage senseless prattle
  2. Train for godliness – current and eternal benefits
  3. Teach and be an example
  4. Do not neglect spiritual gifts

Now and Then

Posted by on under Sermons

Right now, many of us are thinking about what we want to be doing an hour from now. Here we are in the now – but we are focused on then.
Right now, the sermon is starting, but THEN I will be in live at the restaurant.
Right now, the sermon is starting, but THEN I will be heading to the golf course.
Right now, the sermon is starting, but THEN I will be settling into my recliner and looking for something on TV that will make me take a nap.
Right now, the sermon is starting, but THEN I have a meeting to attend and some shopping to finish before ministry tonight.
Right now, the sermon is starting, but THEN I will be driving the van back after taking others home.
Right now, the sermon is starting, but THEN we will still be chatting with friends.

This may seem like a ploy to get your attention. It is. But the message isn’t that good Christians don’t let their minds wander. No. In fact I want to encourage you to use the ability to think about NOW and THEN – just like Jesus does in his parables.

Matthew 13:44-46 “The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field. Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant looking for fine pearls. When he found one of great value, he went away and sold everything he had and bought it.”

Make up two words: Now-ness and Then-ness. Now-ness is everything about the present reality of the kingdom. Then-ness is everything we know about the future reality of the kingdom.

We need to live in and think about the NOW-ness of the Kingdom of Heaven and the THEN-ness of it.
We need to live in and think about how the THEN of the kingdom has to do with the NOW.

We are conditioned to think about how the NOW shapes THEN. The future is today. The choices you make today determine the sort of person you will be. But this parable says that the THEN determines the NOW. The treasure is found and then the man buys the field. The pearl is discovered and then the man sells all that he has.

Unfortunately, the Kingdom is usually a THEN subject and we have not always related it to NOW. We know the treasure is buried in the field and one day we hope to own it, but we aren’t making the connection with how the THEN needs to shape NOW.

Unfortunately, we don’t always connect church to the Kingdom of Heaven as we should. And this is going to sound strange, but one of the problems is that we focus too much on “getting to heaven.” (Afterlife thinking – It’s all about THEN, with no thought for NOW.)

Go for the Gold – There is Doubt about victory. 2/100 of a second may keep one from winning gold [at the Winter Olympics]. But what if we went into a sport knowing that we would win? Would we still play? Would we play to win? Would we play like we already were winners? (The concentration camp prisoners knew that they were liberated even before they were freed.)

The good news is that you have been given the treasure. You have found the pearl.

Getting to Heaven

  • This is how some of you became a Christian: You wanted to get to heaven and didn’t want to go to hell.
  • If this is where you are at today, then I have good news: It is simple. Jesus has secured your entry into heaven. “But you don’t know what I have done.” Maybe I don’t but God does and the blood of Christ and the Love of God has covered over that sin and brokenness. All we have to do is accept it. When you are baptized into Christ you are united with Christ in his death (and dead to the power of sin) and you will be united with him in his resurrection. Why complicate this? It’s that simple.
  • For the rest of us who have been baptized because we wanted to get to heaven – why is it that we still fret and wonder if we are going to get to heaven THEN? Why do we still talk about it as if there is something else we are supposed to do NOW to get to heaven THEN other than trust God? Why do we still depend on ourselves? Why do we think that there is some work we have to do NOW if we want to get to heaven THEN?
  • And what is the point of all the energy and effort we expend on managing the church and laboring in God’s service is getting to heaven THEN isn’t dependent on what we do NOW other than trust Jesus? Sometimes we don’t seem to be able to understand how receiving the Kingdom in full THEN has anything at all to do with NOW – other than stay out of trouble.

I think this is because we have NOW and THEN unbalanced.

We want to get to heaven THEN, but we don’t know how to talk about the kingdom of heaven NOW.

Bad Ideas from Imbalance:

  1. Faith and religion is something like fire insurance – Don’t we sometimes make our faith into something we take care of now so that when this is over then we are okay. Beyond this obligation we can do whatever else we want with our life as long as we don’t upset God. Simplistic and visionless view. A bad investment in a NOW that has no connection to God’s THEN.
  2. This life and this world is just a waiting room. We are supposed to get the word out because God isn’t doing anything about it. (This is an exaggeration, I understand but do we notice that?) NOW is unimportant. THEN is all that matters.
  3. NOW and THEN are disconnected. Church is a project or product that God has given to us to keep us busy. It is something we have to maintain or build.
    • (But scripture never says that we are responsible for building the kingdom of heaven. We can build up each other but God is building the Kingdom. We can purify ourselves, but God purifies the church).
    • We give kids things to keep them busy to pass the time. Meaningless diversion. If the THEN is all that matters, then church (which is NOW) is not very important. How does it fit?

Better Idea:

  • Church is much more than a project or something we have to maintain.
  • There is a THEN of the Kingdom that breaks into the NOW – (Little green signs outside – those little green signs indicate to us that the NOW of the field is not its THEN. It’s NOW is effected by its THEN)
  • God has a building project. He has put little green signs all over our world. The rightful owner of this world is going to do much more with the world around us then we might imagine.
  • Our salvation is going on right now. God is turning over the soil and filing the papers to renovate this world. “The present form of this world is passing away.” (1 Corinthians 7:31)
  • The church is not a meanwhile project, it is the first sign of the reconstruction project. We are the field with the buried treasure. We are the man reinvesting his property in hidden treasure.
  • We are about more than “Getting to Heaven,” the Kingdom of Heaven is breaking into our NOW and we are living in it and living up to it.
  • We are a people who treat the NOW based on the THEN that we trust is coming our way.

Mistakes and God

Posted by on under Bulletin Articles

Christians make mistakes-even when they try hard, even when they try harder, even when they keep on trying harder! Hopefully, maturity in Christ produces fewer mistakes, but mistakes still exist. We do not live in Christ because we have no mistakes, but because we are forgiven of all mistakes. Our perfection does not save us, but God’s mercy demonstrated in forgiveness saves us. We are not one because we all agree -our mistakes always “get in the way”-we are one because we all stand in God’s forgiveness in Christ. The church is composed of appreciative forgiven people, not perfect people.

Often our personal problems as Christians arise from (1) our inability to be honest with ourselves about ourselves and (2) our inability to forgive self of known mistakes. Often our problems as Christ’s church arise from (1) our inability to be honest with ourselves about ourselves and (2) our inability to forgive others in Christ as God has forgiven us.

Commonly, I find that the most committed Christians are composed of those who “have been there and done that.” Why? In such people there is a blend of humility, appreciation, and gratitude that often is missing in Christians who are convinced that they always have “had it together” and “do favors for God.” Simply, those who know how they were forgiven are more likely to know how to forgive.

Jesus said that He came to call sinners (Mark 2:17). Paul said the foundation of all Jesus’ efforts was saving sinners (1 Timothy 1:15). No matter what Christ’s church does, no matter how “correct” Christians aspire to be, if the gospel message is not based on the practice of forgiveness, those in sin will never hear God’s call in Christ.

Can a movement based on God’s forgiveness in Christ advance on the conviction that “I committed the unpardonable sin,” “God could never forgive me,” or “Christ’s church is only for good people”? A movement that is God-based is forgiveness-based.

Here’s a Trustworthy Saying, part 2

Posted by on February 21, 2010 under Sermons

further studies in I Timothy


  • Trustworthy Saying 1 – Christ came into the world to save sinners
  • But some have shipwrecked their faith
  • Exclusive, sectarian, legalist
    • Anti-Gentile
    • Anti-grace

The “Certain Ones”

  • putting value on controversy: myths and endless genealogies which amount to speculation (1:4);
  • engaging in empty discussion (1:6);
  • responding to deceitful spirits and doctrines of demons (4:1);
  • guided by the hypocrisy of liars (4:2);
  • forbidding marriage and promoting abstinence from foods (4:3);
  • emphasis on godless and silly myths (4:7);
  • desire for controversy and disputes about words (6:4);
  • believing godliness is a means for gain (6:5)

Conduct of the Saved

  • Pray for everyone without exclusion (2:1)
  • Peaceful lives, quiet, godly, holy (2:2)
    1. It pleases God who wants all to be saved
    2. The work of the one mediator (Christ) gave himself as a ransom for all
    3. Paul’s mission was to proclaim this to all, not a select few

Conduct in God’s Household

  • I am writing you these instructions so that, if I am delayed, you will know how people ought to conduct themselves in God’s household – I Timothy 3:14-15


  • Disputes, controversies
  • Hatred, gossip
  • Immodesty, trouble-making
  • Disruption of households
  • Shame in families and community

Men, Women, Salvation

  • Men: Lift hands in prayer, not anger
  • Women: Dress modestly, not gaudy and extravagant
  • Let women learn in quiet and submission [See I Timothy 2:2, 1 Thessalonians 4:11, 1 Peter 3:4, Titus 2:2, 2 Thessalonians 3:12]
  • Order of creation argument

Genesis and 1 Timothy

  • Genesis 4 – Anger and violence
  • Genesis 3 – Deception and shame
  • Saved through (the) child-bearing
  • Poetic Statement: Eve brought Adam down, but through Eve, Adam is ultimately saved

What’s Wrong With the Women?

  • Artemis Cult
  • Women influenced by disruptive teachers
  • Self-indulgent (5:6)
  • Gossiping (5:13)
  • Some follow Satan (5:16)

Blameless Leaders

  • Trustworthy Saying 2 – Whoever aspires to be an overseer desires a noble task (3:1)
  • Family and Character
  • Deacons: Worthy of Respect
  • Deaconess or Wives?


Posted by on under Sermons

In his book, Pray Always, Tony Ash tells of his experience as a young man when he was a something of a legalist. To get back at him, some friends asked him if public prayers were a part of his congregation’s practice. When he said that they were, his friends asked how he and his people could claim to adhere strictly to the Bible when Jesus taught us to pray in private (Matthew 6:6). Tony says that he was caught out and desperate and fled to his minister for an answer.

I have to admit that I have wondered that myself. Are we violating Jesus’ teaching each time we lead a public prayer? When we encourage one another to flock to their shepherds for prayer, is Jesus displeased? Have you ever wondered about this? Are you wondering now that I have brought it up?

I could point out to you that Jesus is making three statements to his disciples about righteousness that have the same point – don’t strive to be righteous just to gain favor with others. Don’t pray like hypocrites who draw attention to themselves. Likewise don’t give gifts or fast just to draw attention to ourselves. Jesus doesn’t exclude prayer, giving, or fasting. And to make his instruction to be secret literal to the point that secrecy and privacy become the goal is just as much a distraction from God.

I could also point out that if Jesus literally wanted us to all pray in secret, then his followers would seem to have ignored him. For there are important examples of community prayer in the New Testament. No, I don’t think they ignored Jesus. Rather I think they understood his point in the Sermon quite well and they also listened when he taught them to pray by saying “Our Father …”

  • So we see Jesus himself encouraging the people to bring him their children so that he might pray for them (Matthew 19:13)
  • We hear Jesus teaching us that when two or three of us agree, he is in our midst (Matthew 18)
  • We notice that Jesus was upset because greedy people had turned the temple into a den of thieves instead of letting it be the house of prayer that it was supposed to be (Mark 11:17)
  • We see Jesus inviting Peter, James, and John to join him in prayer (Luke 9:28)
  • After Jesus ascended to heaven, the disciples gathered in homes to pray, and they prayed together to ask God to choose one to take Judas’ place (Acts 1)
  • Those early disciples often did what Jesus did, they went to the temple to pray (Acts 3)
  • They also gathered together to pray and give thanks (Acts 4)
  • And the apostles wouldn’t wait on tables because they didn’t want to be distracted from the ministry of prayer (Act 6) and when they found seven others to lead, they put their hands on them and prayed over them (Acts 6)
  • Peter and John prayed for the Samaritans so that they would receive the Holy Spirit (Acts 8)
  • God himself sent Ananias to lay hands on Paul so that he might be restored (Acts 9)
  • When Peter was in prison, the church gather at Mary’s house to pray for him (Acts 12)
  • When Paul and Barnabas were sent out to preach the gospel, the church in Antioch prayed over them (Acts 13)
  • Paul himself envisioned churches devoted to prayers – prayers of all kinds. Men and women praying for one another.
  • James urges those who are in trouble to pray. He urges the sick to call upon the elders so that they might pray and anoint the sick person with oil. He urges us to confess our sins to one another and pray for one another (James 5)

I believe that Jesus’ followers understood what he was teaching about prayer. And I think they understood from Jesus that pray includes our private petitions to God, but that it also involves our communal and public behavior and the way we express unity and our trust in God’s power. I think they understood that prayer is ministry and that healing and encouragement and forgiveness of sins come through prayer. What else can God’s people do other than speak to their father? I think they knew that prayer was the way that they asked for God’s spirit. They did not presume to command God’s spirit like magicians, but they could ask like servants.

So if Jesus’ early followers knew this, can we? I believe that we can. I believe that we should. I believe that we must.

So let’s overcome the unnecessary reduction of prayer to a secret mental exercise. Prayer is just as embodied as the Lord’s Supper, we don’t reduce it to a picture of a cracker and juice. Prayer can be meaningful when it takes place in time, space, and with others. I am sure that when we are sick we want people to pray for us and we are cheered up to know that they are, but when they come visit and hold our hand or lay a hand on our shoulder or even anoint us with oil, we experience prayer in our body, mind, heart and soul.

  • Prayer is more than just mental – it is an embodied and spiritual practice. Kneeling, bowing, raising hands – whatever is done is a way that we participate in God’s life.
  • We are not Gnostics. Such focus on the internal that the external is denied. The Gnostics were the first virtual community. Why don’t we all just agree to get online – read a prayer, listen to a sermon, think about the right things and that’s it?

And let’s also know that prayer is about God’s power and his spirit. Prayer is not something to add a little religion to our life. It isn’t just invocation. It isn’t the greeting card, preamble, email instruction, wish list that it is often reduced to:

  • I admit that I struggle with this when I am asked to “carve out” prayers for special occasions. Why am I asked to do this? Probably because there is some sense that people have that we ought to have a little show of religion, or an invoking of the divine before congress does its work or before people graduate or before two sports teams knock each other around for no real reason. I don’t mind bringing a word of blessing to people who always seem to appreciate and eager for more … but where is the more?
  • Let’s be the more church. We, the church, cannot settle for little carved out blessing prayers. We need to let our shepherds and ministers lead us in prayer – I mean more than just saying the words. Let them lead us in the ministry of prayer.
  • For prayer is appealing to God that he will work among us …

And that being the case, let’s overcome this proud notion that we don’t need prayers. Let’s do away with the idea that prayers are reserved for those who identify as sick or sinners. We have important work to do, we have a mission. The first work of that mission is prayer in everything. How dare we send out missionaries and ministers without praying over them? How dare we let shepherds and ministers do their work without being prayed for!

But we often miss the opportunity because we don’t want to be showy. We must pray for them because we aren’t putting our faith in them, but in God. Who would want a surgeon to show up with dirt in his fingernails and liquor on his breath and have him describe how he’s going to cut us open? We would insist that he sober up and wash his hands (or we would ask for another surgeon). Who accept it if our pilot showed up and said to the passengers, “I’ve been awake for three days straight.” We would insist he get some rest and we wouldn’t buy it if he said “No, I’m good. The technology does all the work.”

You should insist that your ministers and elders have been sufficiently prayed over. Ask them, “Who has prayed for you today – and then pray for them.”

God at work among us – What’s the first work of evangelism? PRAYER (Matthew 9)

Our growth: Love one another, Support Leaders, Prayer MINISTRY

So let our prayers be like Jesus – He was man and he was God. Jesus is not the reduction of God. He is the fullness of God. The gospel is not a slogan. It is a person who came with power. When we pray in Jesus’ name we are reaching out and touching a power that cannot be limited to our mental or emotional experience. Just as Jesus was real, so is the spirit of God that we touch in prayer.

(Invite down people to be prayed for …)

Wisdom Does Not Change

Posted by on under Bulletin Articles

Why? How can anything so old be relevant? What possible insight from 3,000 years ago could be relevant to life now? How could a 3,000-year-old insight be applicable to life now? How could an insight declared verbally in a tiny nation that had no printing, no electricity, no sanitation department, no asphalt roads, no airplanes, no computers, and no cell phones be helpful to people who live in a shrinking world with numberless regulations and resources that can communicate worldwide instantly?

Wisdom focuses on two basic things. (1) A healthy relationship with God. (2) Healthy people-to-people relationships. Those two realties remain unchanged in every age. Material changes do not alter those realities. World War I was fought to end all wars. War continues. Penicillin would open the gates to ending disease. Germs, bacteria, viruses, and their relatives adapted. Our “War on Poverty” did not end poverty.

Greed is greed in any age. Only the goals of greed change. Deceit is deceit in any age. Only the goals of deceit change. Indulgence is indulgence in any age. Only the goals of personal pleasure change. Exploitation is exploitation in any age. Only the goals of using other people change. Manipulation is manipulation in any age. Only the goals of using deity or people change. Thus self-deception is always self-deception, and wasting life is always wasting life. It will do you no good to covet age 25 when you are 70-nothing will bring back 25!

Try telling God after you die, “You do not exist because I told You long ago You did not exist.” Try telling people you use how much you love and respect them. Considering the importance of God and people when most of your life is gone is often too late.

It is shocking to see how age changes your priorities! Suddenly what was very important and urgent when you were young becomes extremely unimportant. “Remember also your Creator in the days of your youth before the evil days come and the years draw near when you will say, ?I have no delight in them'” is ancient! (Ecclesiastes 12:1)

Here’s a Trustworthy Saying

Posted by on February 14, 2010 under Sermons

map showing location of Ephesus in Asia MinorWelcome to Ephesus

  • Prominent First Century church
  • Acts 18 – Paul and Apollos started in synagogue
  • Need for the Spirit
  • Jews and Greeks
  • Acts 20 – Wolves and Shepherds
  • Revelation 2:1-7 – The later Ephesians had been through internal strife

Timothy’s Mission

  • Paul leaves Timothy in Ephesus
  • I Timothy 1:3-4 – Timothy is to promote God’s work and refute “other teaching.”
  • Misuse of the law
  • God’s work vs pointless controversy

Paul’s Testimony

  • Trustworthy Saying 1 – Christ came into the world to save sinners
  • He makes Paul faithful and shows mercy
  • Faith and love of Jesus
  • I am the worst sinner
  • I was a blasphemer, persecutor, violent
  • I acted out of ignorance and “unfaith”


The “Certain Ones”

  • putting value on controversy: myths and endless genealogies which amount to speculation (1:4);
  • engaging in empty discussion (1:6);
  • responding to deceitful spirits and doctrines of demons (4:1);
  • guided by the hypocrisy of liars (4:2);
  • forbidding marriage and promoting abstinence from foods (4:3);
  • emphasis on godless and silly myths (4:7);
  • desire for controversy and disputes about words (6:4);
  • believing godliness is a means for gain (6:5)

Cling to Your Faith

  • Includes more than just doctrine
  • Includes conscience
  • Others have shipwrecked their “faith”
  • Hymenaeus and Alexander were thrown to Satan so that they would learn not to blaspheme!
  • Fight the good fight = Keep this charge

Healthy Teaching

  • … or who do anything else that contradicts the healthy teaching that comes from the glorious Good News entrusted to me by our blessed God. (1 Timothy 1:10-11)
  • Some people may contradict our teaching, but these are the healthy teachings of the Lord Jesus Christ. These teachings promote a godly life. (1 Timothy 6:3)

My thanks to Dr. Eugene Peterson (Professor Emeritus of Spiritual Theology at Regent College, Vancouver, British Columbia) for helping me with a portion of this lesson. This good article by Dr. Peterson is useful for anyone in ministry.

“God is Love” or “The Love God”

Posted by on under Sermons

The confusing origin of Valentine’s Day …

Long ago there was a miracle working monk in the city of Rome, or was it Terni, Italy? Whichever … this monk aided those in prison and built a cathedral and restored sight to the jailer’s daughter, which got him released from jail. But unfortunately the monk was martyred. He was thrown into prison by the prefect. His name was Valentine.

He conducted a mass wedding for all the young men and women because birds are married on February 14. Or at least that’s what they thought. But one young man loved a girl who didn’t love him back, so the miracle working monk named Valentine conjured up a box of chocolates. (Chocolate comes from the Greek word for love, or maybe someone just said that.) … Anyway, Valentine said, “Yea Verily” (because people in those days said that a lot) – He said, “Yea Verily, you mayest eat of these assorted chocolates everyone of you, but of the chocolate that is filled with stuff tasting like Styrofoam thou mayest not eat – for lo, it is an abomination.”

Try and find a decent description for the origin of Valentine’s Day and all you will find is confusion …

This is a good description of Valentine’s Day – because we remain as confused, troubled, and comforted by love as anyone. There is a lot of good associated with Valentine’s Day …

  • It wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world for some of us to show affection to our spouses.
  • It wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world to buy a box of chocolate for a friend.
  • It might help the economy, as long it doesn’t break your budget, to buy a diamond.
  • It is about time that some people finally got engaged and got married.
  • It is good to share love and friendship. (Our Sweetheart Luncheon today brings together generations as friends.)

There’s also a lot associated with Valentine’s Day that isn’t so good …

  • Loneliness is magnified on Valentine’s Day.
  • Valentine’s Day reinforces the notion that we are only complete in a relationship with another person.
  • Love is equated with sex. Sex has its place in God’s creation, but love is much more than just sex.
  • Too many marriages will attempt all the “magic” that the world has to offer to bring back the spark and rekindle the romance. Too many will be frustrated when it doesn’t work.
  • A price tag is placed on love and it is up to you to show your lover just how much he/she is WORTH to you.

I don’t mean to ruin Valentine’s Day. Enjoy it. Have fun. Really, Valentine’s Day is no different than any other day. Any day of the calendar we can demonstrate our confusion about love. It shouldn’t surprise us that we make a mess out of love. That’s to be expected. The problem is when we substitute our best ideas for love with God’s love. That’s a problem because we may accept the “Love-God” for the God who is Love.

Acts 17 – The apostle looked around Athens and he saw many gods on display. We are more subtle about the display of our gods nevertheless they are around. We worship Vesta the goddess of the home without shame. We worship Venus and Eros the gods of marital love and sexuality. We worship whatever gods of the state come to us dressed in red white and blue and call upon our allegiance and love of country. God, country, and family — Do we understand that GOD will not go up on the shelf easily with our other loves? Or do we stew them together and make a sort of heavenly hash out of our many loves? Maybe we even love church or the bible? We can love these tangible things more easily than we can an invisible god and they are good things yes? But they are not God, they only reflect his love.

C.S. Lewis in The Four Loves says that “love ceases to be a demon only when he ceases to be God.” Or “Love begins to be a Demon the moment he begins to be a god”

God is love does not say the same thing as love is god.
For starters, the Love-God takes many shapes: Love of family. Erotic love. Love of country. Love of self. Things that are not really wrong and rarely seen as bad. But warped and imbalanced they are toxic to love of God. For we can begin to hear our loves as the voice of god.

  • We can love our country so much that whatever favors the USA becomes in our heart the same thing as God’s will.
  • We can love our children so much that whatever they want or what we want for them becomes in our hearts the will of God.
  • We can love our church so much that whatever promotes or preserves our comfort, our power, our preferences and conclusions can become in our hearts the will of God.

Ironically, this happens when these loves are at their best not their worst.

    Lust is hidden because in the open it becomes ugly. Lust cannot change a nation of a people, but patriotism might. Patriotism dresses up well and can be good for it has in it elements of self-sacrificing love … but if we never stop to realize the source, then the result becomes the god.

    Marriage and family can become our mission. These are such good things. They are foundational, but if we exalt the family, we fail to exalt the God who blesses family and more so community.

The more that our earthly loves resemble God, the more likely we are to confuse them for God.

When we give our earthly loves the unconditional singular allegiance that we owe only to God then those loves can become gods and when our loves do not worship God, they become in turn demons. If you have trouble with demons, then understand it as Powers that destroy us and themselves in the process.

Our earthly loves should be no less than reflections of God’s love, but they should not be anything more that reflections of God’s love.

1 John 4:7-21 – Here is what reflected love looks like. We love because he first loved us.

1 Corinthians 13 – This is more than the wedding text. It is a prescription for a hurting, broken church. Beyond fine-tuning their worship or establishing rank or practicing the rules, they needed to love more – with God’s love.

  • This is a prescription for us. As a congregation we need to get serious about some fundamentals so that we can keep focused on the mission God gave us.
  • We need to support our leaders – that was last week.
  • We need to love one another – we need to cast out fear.
  • We need to focus on God’s love for us and how that love works in us – This is more important than being right or getting it right (which are all good) but we can strive for duty and excellence and do it lovelessly. If you strive for greater love (in word and deed) then we become more godly!
  • Why did the apostle say, “Love covers over a multitude of sins?”

[Evangelism – John 13 – Everyone will know you are my disciples if you love one another.]

End the Confusion: You and I will not figure this out in twenty minutes. We won’t have it mastered by the end of Valentine’s Day. But in knowing the God who is the ultimate definition and standard of love, then we may be made more like him every day as his power saves us by making us more like Christ.

What do you love today? Would you like to redeem that love by loving God with all your heart soul strength and mind?

Following God Is Never Easy

Posted by on under Bulletin Articles

The myth: if we follow God by placing trust in Jesus Christ, everything physically will be as we like IN THIS LIFE. The CERTAIN WAY to health or wealth is to let God in Christ pull us to our physical dreams. The gospel is all about ME and WHAT I WANT.

The reality: godly people endure and suffer the physically undesirables. Godly people have accidents, wear out, get sick, have diseases, encounter injustices, suffer reverses they did not cause, and physically die.

The why: In this world good and evil are at war. In some way, all that occurs is related to that war. Events are not so simply understood as undesirable things are caused by evil and desirable things are caused by good. Much that occurs in life is beyond our grasp. Blaming God for the highly subjective “I do not like or want” involves a too simplistic understanding of God, power, or Satan.

The understanding: While this world is centered on the war between good and evil, God’s world is centered on good in the complete absence of evil. Thus, life is a choice and an investment that leads to existence in God’s world. By learning God’s priorities, values, characteristics, and human behaviors consistent with Jesus, we are prepared for existence in God’s world. By understanding that God’s purposes are bigger than us, we are strengthened and sustained by His mercy and grace.

“… If Christ has not been raised, your faith is worthless; you are still in your sins.” 1 Corinthians 15:17

Supporting Our Shepherds

Posted by on February 7, 2010 under Sermons

Read Exodus 17:1-7.

The people of God had just left the wilderness of Sin. They were tired. They were hungry. They were thirsty. And so they began to fight. They fought each other. They quarreled. They said stupid things like, “Why did you bring us out of Egypt?” [Which means, why don’t we just go back to being slaves.]

They blamed their leader. They became angry at Moses. And why not? He’s driving. It’s his fault. Maybe it’s time for a new leader. And the best way to get rid of Moses is to destroy him. We will hurl stones at him and call it a religious execution. It will seem more biblical that way. Yes?

Their leader, their shepherd, Moses does his best – “Hey, I know there’s no water. What do you want me to do about it? I am just as thirsty as you are? What do you want me to say? What do you want me to do? I can tell you that the only we are getting through this is with God’s help, but why do you people insist on testing God? Why the grumbling and quarreling?”

Moses, not knowing what else to do, has a little talk with God. After all, it was God that got him into this in the first place. He was happy leading sheep that didn’t quarrel and grumble. Now he is leading the kind that can hurl insults and stones. “What am I going to do about this people?” He asks God. “They want to kill me.” Moses is asking, “How do you lead a people who do not respect you, worse yet how do you lead a people who want to harm you?” Moses cannot even help them because they will not listen past their own grumbling.

Notice how God responds:

  1. Go out ahead of the people. God is saying, “Lead them.” God will meet Moses and the people “out there” at the rock of Horeb. God is ahead of them. Moses is to lead the people to God and lead them away from fussing and fighting.
  2. Take some of the elders with you … the wisest in the community who could put a stop to the grumbling. Those who could silence the grumblers. Let them see what God is going to do and they will pass the story along.
  3. Take your staff and strike the rock … not just any staff, but the one that led them past the Nile. There is memory and meaning in this staff. Why would God save you from Egypt just to bring you out in the desert to die?
  4. And so Moses names the place “Fussing and Fighting.” Okay, so most of our notes translate it as testing and quarreling, but I think this is a fair translation. Quarreling is fighting. And the fussing and groaning of God’s people provokes his wrath. It tests the Lord. It tries him. (Do we get that?)

It is at the corner of Fussing and Fighting that God in his mercy gives us water. But it doesn’t just spring up by itself, he wants us to go there with our leaders – our shepherds and remember God’s saving power.

Besides, there are other battles to fight – not each other. Isn’t it interesting that the enemy of God’s people takes this opportunity to attack. After they’ve wandered through the Valley of Sin. When they are weak, hungry, tired. When they are fussing and fighting each other, that’s when the old foe attacks.

Read Exodus 17:8-16.

Notice how the people respond:

  1. They are led by their leaders. Moses stretches out his arms, with that staff again, toward God’s throne. Joshua can lead the Army, but Moses will lead the “Prayer Force.”
  2. God’s divine will is done in this battle, but his people participate in it. The sight of Moses represents and mediates God’s power and God’s will. It matters. It is spiritual. When Moses is out there on that cliff with his arms held high, then the people are showing their confidence and trust in the Lord. (Yes, it is symbolic, but it isn’t “just symbolic” – it means something).
  3. When the people see Moses with his arms lifted high, they advance. But when his arms falter, they retreat. So what do the people do? They support Moses. They literally support him. They move a rock so that he can sit on it. Moses needs to stay out on the cliff, so bring the rock to him. Aaron and Hur, elders of Israel, lift Moses’ arms. They rally to God’s leaders. (Who knows that they weren’t the first to grumble?)

God in his mercy gives us victory, but it doesn’t just spring up on its own. He wants us to go out there with our leaders. He wants us to support them, to lift their arms up to God’s Throne.

And he wants us to remember! Take those symbols, like that staff, and lift it high. Remember what it means. Name this place, name this time. Remember that the Lord is your Banner! He is the symbol of your victory. He is the standard that you raise. Remember, that those who raise their fists against God’s throne will be defeated, but those who lift holy hands will be saved.

Hebrews 13:17 – Obey your spiritual leaders, and do what they say. Their work is to watch over your souls, and they are accountable to God. Give them reason to do this with joy and not with sorrow. That would certainly not be for your benefit.
[Therefore, strengthen your feeble arms and weak knees. – Hebrews 12:12]

[Ask our current seven shepherds (and their wives) to stand where they are at.]
Today, let’s lift their arms. Let’s support them. Would you gather around them now. Stand up, move out. Just sit where you are. Put a hand on a shoulder. Lift up a hand toward them. The shepherds stand among the sheep and we want to support them. Not just for their sake, but for our sake! (Hebrews 13).