The Life I Live in Faith-July 7, 2013

The Life I Live in Faith-July 7, 2013

Galatians 2:15-21

There was a man who went hiking in the mountains.  The way was longer than the man had expected.  Darkness was moving in and he was still a far from the trail head.  He also had not brought the needed supplies to camp for the night.  The man kept pushing forward hoping to be able to see well enough by the moonlight to make it out.  There was plenty of opportunity for something to go wrong, and then it happened the man had gotten too close to the edge.  The man was falling off the side of the mountain and managed somehow to grasp a weak little branch growing out of the side.  The good thing was that he was safe for the moment the bad this was that he was still a long ways from the top.  He screamed for what seemed like forever to him for help, but it was no use the trail did not have anyone else walking on it for the night.  Then he began to pray…even out loud…Lord please help me save me, I am in deep trouble.  Then as audible as any voice he could have heard came this response, “just let go and everything will be alright.”  The man then says is there anyone else up there.  Finally the little branch gave out and the man fell…18 inches to a ledge and remained there safe the rest of the night.

Many of us are the same way we cry out to God for direction, for help, for so many things, but then too often we don’t want to trust His answer.  When we consider who we are and whose we are as believers it is important to consider the life that we live in faith.  We who are believers know that a man is not justified by observing the law, but by faith in Jesus Christ.  Often times we want to trust God’s answer if it is easy and we understand it, or if it doesn’t require extreme trust or sacrifice.  But to live in faith is to let go of the branch not because its safe but because we trust God.

In observing the law none will be justified, we are rather in bondage to the law.  The law invites judgement into our lives, and show that we are unable to live by the standards of a holy God, to embrace the law is to embrace death.  There are two kinds of death there is the law of death that leads to judgement, and the death of ourselves to Christ that leads to justification.  The contrast is judgment/justification and rules/relationship.  Trying to live a perfectly is like trying to embrace our efforts and God grace.

Grace is God’s unmerited favor.  It cannot be earned and that is what truly makes it amazing.  The law is not about helping us to be free but rather helping us to see a shift in thought and faith.  Even with all these laws the people were unable to be justified or made righteous.  Grace is God’s to give and not mine to earn.  We do not get a sticker for keeping the law, we instead find that we cannot keep the law which puts us finding righteousness another way, which is the only way, Christ.

The problem with many people then and now is that we want to accept grace and still trust ourselves.  We believe in theory that it is too easy (or too hard) to just trust Jesus for everything and that He will justify us.  The answer is it is not easy.  It is simple but not easy.  We must die with Christ because it is in that death that we are free from the penalty of law.  It is in that death that we can let loose of our grip on the law and its grip on us to embrace fully the new life offered in Christ.  If we came thinking it would be easy, you have been mislead.  Life is Christ is simple but it is never easy.

Crucifixion and death are not easy.  Being crucified with Christ  is not easy.  The result of which is the death of me but also the resurrections power of Christ live in me.  The life I now have in the flesh, I live by faith in God’s Son, because is was His Son who loved me and died in my place.  There is no comparison if I set aside God’s grace for the law, then I am saying God was wrong and Christ died for nothing.   What we are asked to do when we receive the grace of God in Jesus is simple but it is never easy, will you trust Him today and let go?

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July 3-No Services

On July 3 there were no services so families could celebrate the holiday together.

Community-July 1

Community-July 1

The struggle to forge a new nation was more than just gaining independence from Great Britain but it was also in learning to be dependent on one another.  Arguments began to come up over what this new republic should look like.  The smaller states had concerns if the power was divided based on size alone that their voice may not be heard, and the larger states argued that equal representation would put them at risk because often they had more resources and money with less say in the matter.  It was truly a struggle for how to allow each state some identity and freedom but with enough structure as well to have a common identity as a new republic, the United States.

Similar struggles also face the church in every generation as well.  How to bless the individual gifts and willingness to serve with the need for a common identity as a people?  Many there are those that are strict traditionalists that want to preserve a certain aspect of that tradition without taking into account the changing cultural climate, on the other hand there are also those that want to forge such divergent path toward newness that it negates the richness of that tradition.  The questions that are asked and struggled with are one at the core of the identity of the church.

I believe that a healthy, honest, and grace filled discussion can and should take place in the global church as well as in the local parish.  It is needed because the church in each generation and time will face age-old questions that can be affirmed time and again through our tradition, whereas on the other hand there are also issue arising in our world today that need to be addressed that were not addressed specifically by previous generations.  The struggle is not really as much about practice, perspective, but rather about identity.

Who will we be as the people of God?  I think of the word community the idea of common unity that is a part of all healthy churches.  It is the understanding of what is common among us that binds us together and carries the message of hope in Jesus Christ through the ages.  It can be hard work to pray for one another and common ground that gives an anchoring place of hope for all people of faith to connect and at the same time with respect and love acknowledge that there may be differences.

When we look at the founding principles of our country we also see that there was room for grace and change if necessary.  The Constitution is a breathable document that has had amendments made to it through the years to address some problems the founding fathers did not anticipate.  We too must take the integrity of God’s Word and communicate that timeless truth into this day and time in fresh ways to help others to experience is for themselves.  The world in which we live needs thoughtful, prayerful dialogue that will help to bring the truth and clarity of God’s Word into their ever-changing lives to provide a common identity, a common hope, a common love, from an uncommon extraordinary God.

Do not grow weary of doing good to, with, and for one another and the world around us.  Continue to seek and struggle for our common identity in Christ.  We need to find our common identity in Christ so that we can bring the message of hope to the world that so desperately needs it.  It is Christ that compels us and in this common identity we can reach our world in every generation.

Where Can I Go and Meet with God?-Jun. 30, 2013

Where Can I Go and Meet with God?-June 30, 2013

Scripture:  Psalm 42:1-2, 11; 1 Kings 19:1-15a

Most of us have had life experiences where we trust that God is in control of our lives and we are living happy, victorious, and blessed and then in the next moment the world seems to crashing in around us.  It is tempting to begin to think or believe that God has either somehow forgotten us, no longer hears us, or worse has abandoned us.

This victory came for Elijah as he sets up a contest between the prophets of Baal and Yahweh to reveal who is the real God.  The real god should be worshiped if he consumes the offering with fire.  Elijah lets the prophets of Baal pick first and go first.  He taunts the prophets of Baal too telling them to shout a little louder for if he is a real god he hears you, maybe he is asleep, or the original language suggests in the bathroom.  They begin cutting themselves to appeal to Baal.

After this Elijah then prepares for the sacrifice to the Lord, and asks the people to dig a trench around it and pour water all over it until it fills the trench.  He prays to God and immediately the fire comes and consumes the offering, the altar, the rocks,  and the water leaving nothing but a scorched spot on the ground.  Elijah then rallies the people to put to death the prophets of Baal (which may have been easier after all the blood loss from the cutting a few hours before) and this is a great victory.  Then after the victory comes a battle or a moment of weakness that we did not anticipate.  Queen Jezebel hears what has happened and threatens to have Elijah killed and he runs.

Our story picks up in chapter 19 with Elijah on the run for his life.  He trusted God so much just a little while before.  It is tempting many times to celebrate a victory and forget that there will always be other battles or difficulties in life.  It is in these moments that we need to draw close to God and trust Him more.  Jesus after performing a miracle then takes time to be alone with God and to be strengthened by Him.  We often spend too much time celebrating while Satan is ready to knock us off our feet.

Elijah is being persecuted for doing the Lord’s work: his life threatened.  Duly warned, he is frightened  and flees for his life.  He goes into the desert to complain rather than to be filled.  He even asks God to let him die, because it is too much for him and he is alone.  Only part of that is true, trying to do God’s work apart from God will always be too much for us and we must trust Him, but neither Elijah or us are alone.

The Lord hears and the Lord also provides.  The Lord instructs Elijah to get up and eat and drink for it is a long journey.  The food is on “hot coals” this usage of the words are rare in the Bible and only appear again at the commissioning of Isaiah.  Perhaps God is trying to help Elijah to understand that there is work to be done yet.  Elijah goes to sleep again and is encouraged to wake up and eat and drink.  This is also not the first time God has provided in miraculous way for Elijah.

The journey is forty days and nights echoing Moses and Elijah’s encounter could be at the same place where the Lord passed by with Moses.  The are the sounds of natural phenomena that accompany the Lord in several places in the Bible.  These events are a rainstorm, an earthquake, and fire are usually associated with the power of God.  Yet, in each case now Elijah discovers that the Lord is not present despite the “familiar” signs.

Finally, after the fire, there is an eerie calm, literally “a sound of fine silence” like the calm that comes after a storm.  Upon hearing this silence (sound), Elijah covers his face with his mantle, a gesture that suggests that he is, indeed, encountering the presence in that stillness.  He hears what appears to be another sound, or perhaps the same sound within the silence.  In any case, this time the sound is clearly a personal voice, and the reader knows from the query the voice poses that it is the voice of the Lord.

And the Word of the Lord came to him:  “What are you doing here, Elijah?”  He responds with; I have been zealous for you but the people broke your covenant, and altars, and killed all your prophets except me.  I am the only one left and they want to kill me too…so I ran.  This goes back and forth in the same manner.  Elijah offering a prepared response that is more like a pity party.  Elijah didn’t see a way out and thought He was the only one.  God instructs Elijah to return and do a few more things one of which is to anoint his successor, and then the Lord tells him that there is a remnant of 7,000 who have not bowed to Baal.

After a victory often comes a battle.  Don’t grow weary or complacent.  Continue to trust God.  After almost every major miracle Jesus spent time with God.  Elijah had won a great victory for the Lord and then became worried about a threat.  Elijah runs away, and sometimes we run too or busy ourselves and try to put it out of our minds.  As Elijah ran God sustained him in the desert and then passed by the mouth of the cave, speaking out of a deafening silence.  God can, will, and does take care of us and speaks to us if we will quit running, or being too busy to notice the blessings, and altogether trying to avoid the situation or even God.

It is tempting to celebrate victories and move all to quickly into despair. Be encouraged.  Do not run from problems but rather to Him.  Don’t allow His voice to grow weak in the noise of daily life.  Be alert!  Be ready for His call and move when He does, because the One who calls is the Way.

Becoming A Healthier Church: Communion- Jun. 26, 2013

Becoming A Healthier Church: Communion June 26, 2013

Hebrews 13:8

Over the last three months we have been looking at becoming a healthier church we have talked about becoming mature in Christ.  Christ is the foundation of any healthy church is built upon.  We also learned that we need to clear the fear that can stunt the growth of any healthy church.  It can be fear that the past will be lost, the future is uncertain, and we are frozen in the present.

We also looked at walls.  What are walls for (both good and bad) and what happens if they are uneven or too inward or outwardly focused?  What should the blueprints look like for a healthy church?  If they church is healthy with even and plumb walls it should properly up lift Christ, in much the same way that a structurally sound sanctuary uplifts the steeple with the cross of Christ on top.  A healthy church with six walls should have three inward leaning and three outward leaning walls.  The three inward leaning walls are worship, discipleship, and ministry whereas the three outward leaning walls are fellowship, evangelism, and mission.

The wall of worship leans inward as we respond to God’s revealing of Himself.  It has both a corporate and individual sense and if foundational to the rest of the structure.  If our worship is misguided or misplaced, then anything else that comes after will be out-of-place as well.  Fellowship is begins inwardly but is outward leaning.  Fellowship is the connection point with the body of believers.  Remember our Lego blocks.

Discipleship is more inward leaning but will be the springboard toward evangelism.  The Great Commission speaks of making disciples for Jesus and as disciples mature they too become disciple makers.  It is in this next step that evangelism takes shape.  Evangelism is sharing the good news as you live out your daily life.  If Christ is the center of your life, if so then all you do can be done to bring Him glory and share Him with others.

Ministry is the responsibility of all believers to share in practical ministry within the life of the committed.  It is in this place that we will begin the life of service to one another that will be the springboard for missions.    Mission is not our work but is grounded in who God the relational sending of the God the Son (Jesus) and God the Holy Spirit, and later on the believers of Christ.  The mission is God’s mission it is the work of God that we are both a part of and participants in.

In taking these few minutes to look back there is one thing that we are reminded of that brings us full circle and that is the centrality of Christ.  Any growth that comes from being healthy will begin by being a Spirit-centered church and not self-centered or church-centered.  It is not by looking at the past days of glory for the church past but looking much farther back to Jesus Christ.  It is in Him that the church has its foundation, it is in Him that the church has its identity; it is in Him that the church finds purpose; it is in Him that the church finds its mission, and it is in Him that we may be made healthy.  It is in this that the church will glorify Him, and look back to Christ who is the same yesterday, today, and forever.  It is in this that the church will come together around a common identity, in communion union, with a common purpose to glorify Him, and a common future for the Kingdom of God.

We then received the Lord’s Supper.

Set Free-Jun. 23, 2013

Set Free-June 23, 2013

Scripture:  Luke 8:26-39

In our sermon today I would like to offer ten quick points that could inform our lives:

1-The man had literal demons but we too have our own “personal” demons

2-Society tried to contain these demons with chains, and today society tries to either ignore or institutionalize those with “personal” demons.

3-When these demons are persecuted they will try to pull us away from those who might try to help to “solitary” places.

4-How bad must the “Abyss” be if even the demons do not want to go there?

5-Jesus has power to set people free from real demons or “personal” demons.  The demons asked for permission to go into the pigs.  The demons knew that Jesus was Lord and they would have to do whatever He said.  (James 2:19, the demons believe and shudder)

6-The keepers of the pigs reported what they saw, and the towns people became afraid.  It is possible that they think Jesus is Satan (Matt. 12:27) or they could have been worried about their own property, or now that the man with actual demons was cured that Jesus also could see their own “personal” demons.  It is interesting that it was in seeing the man in his right mind and clothed that made the afraid, not the naked, chained, living in a graveyard man.

7-Jesus didn’t seek to contain the man but to cure the man and set him free and that’s what He also wants to do for our “personal” demons.

8-Jesus was asked to leave and the man wanted to come with Jesus.

9-Jesus asked the man to remain because He was asked to leave the man’s witness was needed there and what a powerful witness indeed.

10-He was set free from his demons, set free to follow Jesus, and set free to give witness to the power of Jesus to save and cure lives.  What “personal” demons are we holding on to?  What has He already set you free from that you need to give witness for Him?

Becoming A Healthier Church-Mission-Jun. 19, 2013

Building a Healthier Church:  Mission-June 19, 2013

When we think of mission today we must rightly understand God in order to understand mission.  Mission originates from God and moves eventually to include all those who believe.  Often the zeal of missions has spread the Word of God throughout the world.  The origination of the mission is not the same as where it takes us from or leads us to.

“If your conception of God is radically false, then the more devout you are, the worse it will be for you.  You are opening your soul to be molded by something else.  You had much better be and atheist.”   ~William Temple

If we have a false understanding of God and are devout or zealous for that misconception we are hurting ourselves and those to whom we are sent.  It all starts with God and the relationship of the Trinity.

Mission just like ministry is not just understood in the terms of vocation but rather the calling and identity of the people of God.  Although there are vocational missionaries it does not remove the responsibility of God’s people to participate in His mission.  The idea that somehow mission and church are disconnected realities is not really in the Bible.  The very idea of mission begins in the identity of God and the relationship of the Trinity.  The mission is not the mission of the church but it is God’s mission.

 

Matthew 9:38

 

Mission was understood as being derived from the very nature of God.  It was thus put in the context of the doctrine of the Trinity, not of ecclesiology (doctrine of the church) or soteriology (doctrine of salvation).  The classical doctrine on the missio Dei as God the Father sending the Son, and God the Father and the Son sending the Spirit was expanded to include yet another “movement”:  Father, Son, and Holy Spirit sending the church into the world.  As far as missionary thinking was concerned, this linking with the doctrine of Trinity constituted an important innovation.  The image of mission was mission as participating in the sending of God.  Our mission has not life of its own:  only in the hands of the sending God can it truly be called mission, not at least since the missionary initiative comes from God alone.  (Bosch 390)

John 16:5-7

In the new image mission is not primarily an activity of the church, but and attribute of God.  God is a missionary God.  “It is not the church that has a mission of salvation to fulfill in the world; it is the mission of the Son and Spirit through the Father that includes the church” (Moltmann 1977:64).  Mission is thereby seen as a movement from God to the world; the church is viewed as an instrument for that mission.  There is church because there is a mission, not vice versa.  To participate in mission is to participate in the movement of God’s love toward people, since God is a fountain of sending love.  (Bosch 390)

John 20:21-22

In understanding mission another way we get our purpose from our King.  Our mission flows out of the relationship of the Trinity.  We are both a part of that mission and participants in it.  Mission is the missio Dei God the Father, sent God the Son, who sends God the Spirit, and also sends all believers.  It is in this that we also begin to understand unity in the outpouring of each part of the Trinity.  In so doing we also learn about the love and unity God wants to be a part of those who would be His.  If not then our image of Him may be false and the harder we work for a false image will only hurt us more and distort that image in the world.

Matthew 28:18-20

It is in ministry that we begin to understand mission in a practical sense.  Ministry is a mission in the sense of calling and purpose.  In the most practical sense very few will serve well on mission in the world if they do not first begin to understand and live out that reality in the life of the body of believers.  It is in ministry that we also begin to understand better the purposes and will of God and begin to move from the safety of the body to the far reaches of the world.  It is not something we do alone but rather we are participation in the mission of God and He is there with us.  To step out with Christ in mission can be a scary and blessed place to be.  For each of us I will pray for courage to trust God’s mission and in that mission we will come to trust more His provisions, His presence, and receive His blessing.

1-William Temple (1881-1944) was the Archbishop of Canterbury from 1942 till his death in 1944.

2-Transforming Mission:  Paradigm Shifts in Theology of Mission, David J. Bosch, Orbis Books, 1991, page 390