The Road Less Traveled… A Love That Let’s Go-May 11, 2014-Mother’s Day

The Road Less Traveled… A Love That Let’s Go-May 11, 2014-Mother’s Day

I Samuel 1:9-11, 20, 24-28

Hannah and her husband Elkanah had no children but Elkanah also had a second wife Peninnah.  Peninnah would tease and provoke Hannah year after year. Hannah was very sad and became discouraged because she could not have a son, a child, and she was ridiculed by her rival.

It would be bad enough to have the desire to have a child and be unable to do so, but to make it worse a member of your own household would ridicule you for it. This is bullying on a whole new level.

She was in bitterness of soul pouring her heart out to God and weeping. She was up at the door of the place of worship and Hannah makes a vow to the Lord, “O Lord if you look down on your servants misery and give her a son, then I will give him to the Lord.”

This reminds me of my father-in-law speaking of his own children said, “They are a gift given to me by God. I am thankful that God chose to give me two sweet children, but they are really God’s always have and always will be. I am the one who has been blessed to love them in this world.”

What would you do, if you had received one of the greatest gifts you could receive, would you be willing to give that gift back to God? Hannah asked God to bless her with a child and when God did she gave him to the Lord. We cannot hold on to them forever, they are His and we can trust Him. Do we love God enough to let go of our claim on their lives that they can become what He wills? Do you have ha love that can let go?

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We Are One-May 7, 2014

We Are One-May 7, 2014

Galatians 3

v. 1-5

Did you receive the Spirit by Observing the Law, or by believing what you heard?

You started with the Spirit and now are trying to attain your goal through human effort?

Have you suffered so much for nothing, or was it really nothing?

Does God give you his Spirit and work miracles because you observe the law or believe what you have heard?

OBSERVING OR BELIEVING

v. 6-9

So Abraham believed and it was credited to him as righteousness. Then those who believe are children of Abraham. The Scripture foresaw that God would justify or save the Gentiles by faith and announced ahead of time what God was going to do to and through Abraham. “All nations will be blessed through you.” Those who have faith are blessed along with the man of faith.

v. 10-14

The law = works and if one relies on the law they are under a curse because that is what they have chosen to live under.

Paul then quotes Habakkuk that “the righteous will live by faith.”

The law is not based on faith; on the contrary, “The man who does these things will live by them.”

Christ redeemed us from the curse by becoming curse for us.

He redeemed us that the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles through Christ Jesus, so that by faith we might receive the promise of the Spirit.

v. 15-18

Paul makes a distinction between the seed of Abraham (Christ) and the seeds meaning many. That the promise God made to and through Abraham did not need to law to complete it, but rather that God always makes good on God’s promises. If the inheritance offered in the promise could be attained through the law then the promise is useless.

v. 19-25

The law came because of transgressions until the Christ of promise had come.

Is the law opposed to the promises of God? No way

If a law had been given that could impart life, then righteousness would have certainly come by the law. (Only life gives birth to life)

Because the who world is in sin, the gift did not come through that same law that condemned but fulfilling the promise came through faith in Jesus by those who would believe.

v. 26-29

Before faith came, we were held as prisoners of the law, locked up until faith should be revealed. So the law was put in charge to lead us to Christ that we might be justified by faith. I heard it put plainly one time the law is here to shut us up and point us up. The law points out how far we are in our dealings with God and one another. It demonstrates our inability to do it on our own and our need of another way, and that way that does not depend on my observation or attempted observation of the law.

Now that faith has come, we are no longer under the supervision of the law.

Sons of God-We are sons of God through faith in Christ. Those who were baptized into Christ have clothed themselves with Christ. Because we are in Him we are one and there is no human distinction that gives privilege to the shared identity we have in Christ. To belong to Christ then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs of the same promise. This has not come to us through birthright of many but through the sacrifice of the seed Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior. No one can claim special status.

The Road Less Traveled…to Emmaus-May 4, 2014

The Road Less Traveled…to Emmaus-May 4, 2014

Luke 24:13-35

This month’s theme is The Road Less Traveled I borrowed the idea from the Poem by Robert Frost.

The Road Not Taken

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,

And sorry I could not travel both

And be one traveler, long I stood

And looked down one as far as I could

To where it bent in the undergrowth;

 

Then took the other, as just as fair,

And having perhaps the better claim,

Because it was grassy and wanted wear;

Though as for the passing there

Had worn them really about them same,

 

And both that morning equally lay

In leaves no steps had trodden black.

Oh, I kept the first for another day!

Yet knowing how what leads on to way,

I doubted if I should ever come back.

 

I shall be telling this with a sigh

Somewhere ages and ages hence:

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I-

I took the one less traveled by,

And that has made all the difference.

 

In the television show Undercover Boss the boss dresses in up and enters the day-to-day operations of the company to see how things are going on a ground level. Sometimes what the boss finds is that some things are better than what they expected and in other cases there is room for improvement. Our story today on the Road to Emmaus is very similar to this television show. The Boss (Jesus) shows up unexpectedly in the midst of their day-to-day life and is trying to see how they are doing. These guys do not do so well at first. Jesus is right in front of them and they do not recognize him. Sometimes the Road Less Traveled is not about position (where we are on the road), but about our perspective (how do we understand what we see).

 

If we follow Jesus He will always put us in the position to see what He needs us to see. I call this G.P.S. (God’s Positioning System). God moves us in the right positions to see things in a new way, God’s way. On the way the two men could not see Jesus for who He was and they tell Jesus about all the things that had happened the last few days. So far so good, but then they finished with the expression of hopeless ness. We had hoped that He was the Messiah the deliver they said. Jesus begins to teach them again the truth of God throughout all the scriptures and then when the men stop for the night, He acts as if He will continue on. The men urge Jesus to stay with them. He then does something very familiar to them He blesses the bread and then breaks it. It is in that moment that they recognize Jesus is alive. It is in that moment they are filled with hope and run all the way back to town seven miles away. Hope was restored, although it should have never left. Often we need a change of perspective more than a change of direction. I think this is captured so well in the song Here I Am to Worship

 

Light of the world, you stepped down into darkness

Opened my eyes, let me see

Beauty that made this heart adore You

Hope of a life spent with You

 

Here I am to worship, here I am to bow down

Here I am to say that You’re my God

You’re altogether lovely, altogether worthy

Altogether wonderful to me.

 

When we see Christ for who He is we will be filled with hope and come to worship Christ because of His wonderful love and sacrifice for us.

Do You See the Flowers?

Do You See the Flowers?

April showers bring May Flowers. When I hear that statement each year I think it reminds us of that we are people who often look at where we are now, and despite the place that we are in now, we seem to always be looking forward. Sometimes we look forward with excitement and anticipation, and others with sorrow or apprehension. Where are you and I in our walk right now? Do we look forward to the future and see promise, or hopelessness.

While many of us look ahead, most of the days ahead are filled with opportunities to see those days as either hopeful or harmful. The days themselves are given meaning to us and often we find what it is we are looking for. Many experience these feelings at the same time. As the old question goes, “is the glass half full or half empty?” Answer any way you wish because there is no wrong answer but the answer may reveal more about our perspectives towards positive or negative outlooks.

Whether we look ahead at a special day or holiday, or we look at our next day, the truth is we do not know what they day holds. So we should hold on to the one who holds each day, the one who is holding on to us, Jesus Christ. There will always be circumstances in life that will challenge us, how we handle those circumstances as people of faith define and reveal how we see, understand, trust, and believe in God. Many times as Christians we do not allow our faith to shape understanding of the circumstances around us rather we let those circumstances shape our faith.

This reminds me of Jesus walking on the water to the boat at first the disciples were afraid and thought Jesus was a ghost. They were in the midst of a bad storm where the wind was causing waves to rock the boat. “Lord, if it’s you,” Peter replied, “tell me to come to you on the water.” “Come,” he said. Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus. But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and beginning to sink, cried out, “Lord, save me!” Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. “You of little faith,” he said, “why did you doubt?” Matthew 14:28-31

Peter looks around and sees the wind and the waves and begins to sink. Peter took his eyes and heart off of Christ and began to sink, and began to have doubts. Peter let his view of the circumstances around him shape his faith. He did not believe he could do this, what about these waves and this wind? Christ had called him to come and he responded so faithful in getting out of the boat and walking on water too, until he took inventory of his circumstances. What if it had happened this way…Peter gets out of the boat and begins to walk toward Jesus and sees the waves and wind, but keeps his focus on Jesus remembering what is possible with Christ?

We to have the choice each day to look at the circumstances around us trust Jesus and celebrate His grace and victory, or we can allow the circumstances of life to shape our faith causing us to lose faith in Christ. Will we see our daily circumstances through the eyes of faith giving us hope and victory, or will we allow them to shape our lives. Many still look at their daily circumstances with no hope for tomorrow and no hope for today. Some can’t see the flowers for all the rain. April showers bring May flowers…do you see the flowers? It’s my prayer that we look for the flowers.

Is There an Identity Crisis in the Church?-April 30, 2014

Is There an Identity Crisis in the Church?-April 30, 2014

Galatians 2

Paul mentions in the first chapter of Galatians that he did not go to Jerusalem right away but waited three years, and was received in favor by the leadership there. Now some fourteen years later Paul finds need to go back to Jerusalem. Paul goes back in response to a revelation. Paul does not make clear what this revelation is but the next few verses seem to provide a clue to the issue at hand. Whether we realize it or not this is a very critical point for the early church. This issue is one that would determine if there would be one or two churches. Whether there would be one Jewish Christian Church and one Gentile Christian church or is Christ the unifying central reality for this new community of faith.

Paul says he had a private meeting with the acknowledged leadership of the church and shared with them again the message of the gospel that he was sharing with the Gentiles. He did this to make sure that they who did walk with Jesus had any dispute about what he was teaching as the gospel to the Gentiles and that it was in agreement with that same gospel being presented to the Jewish community as well. It is also important to note that this is not just right after the time of Jesus’ death and resurrection. It has been at least 17 years since Paul started preaching and so there has been time for some difference to occur but also some continuity within the body of believers.

Paul mentions that Titus a Greek who was with him and that while there in the presence of the leadership no one asked or tried to compel him to be circumcised into the custom of the law. Paul calls those who have been coming among them “false believers” secretly brought in to spy. What were they looking for? They were looking for the freedoms or liberties this group had in Christ and wanted to hold them to the standard of the old law in circumcision. This is an issue in the early church because during that time the Jews distinguished themselves as different and apart from the pagan culture through this outward sign of circumcision.

In Christ we are set free from the law. These spies wanted the Gentile believers to look Jewish and follow the old forms. If we follow Paul’s argument to be set free in Christ and to insist on the tenants of the law then are we doing what is counter-productive to what Christ came to accomplish? Paul said when this group came they did not submit to their direction or give in to them for a moment so that all would know the freedom of the gospel of Christ.

Paul also is trying to say here that he is no respecter of persons. He also mentions that they extended to them the hand of fellowship and that they were called to both share the same gospel but to different groups of people. They early church leaders only asked that the poor be remembered which is what Paul was more than happy to do.

Then Paul talks about a confrontation he had with Peter because for Peter it was o.k. to eat with Gentiles but when certain people came from James Peter began to act differently and withdrew from the Gentile believers. He separated himself for fear of the legalistic circumcision faction. It was doubly bad because others followed Peter’s lead in withdrawing from eating with the Gentiles. He confronts Peter that he is a Jew but has been living like and dining with Gentiles and not like a Jew, then how can you ask the Gentiles to do something you yourself are not doing. He is not living that what so to insist upon that only when others are around. He then tries to insist that others do the same. His actions are betraying his words, and are in direct contradiction to the way he has been living and acting.

He reminds them that the Jews accepted the same salvation in Christ through faith. It is not of works or outward expressions of devotion but in our faith in Jesus Christ. And we have come to believe in Jesus Christ, so that we might be justified by faith in Christ, and not by doing the works of the law, because no one will be justified by the works of the law. Why try to bring back or restore that which Christ gave his very life to set us free from.

The fine point here is that the law required death for sin, “for through the law I died to the law, so that I might live to God. In dying to the law with and through Christ the requirements of the law are met and now we have a resurrection/new life in Christ. “I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but it is Christ who lives in me. The life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” Paul goes on to say, “I do not nullify the grace of God; for is justification comes through the law, then Christ died for nothing.”

The extended thoughts, Peter pulls away from the table with the Gentiles, so is there one table or two. Is there a table for those that believe that they are superior in relationship to God because of past action or present attempts to justify ourselves? We are already justified in Christ. There is freedom in Christ. The question of the day both in Paul’s time and now is…is there an identity in the church? Often we want to accept Jesus but want Him in addition to tradition, or personal preference, or trying to work out way to justification. There is no justification for only the penalty of death and the payment of that penalty through the shed blood of Jesus Christ. Our identity is that we are justified by grace through faith in Jesus Christ. Anything else, while it may be good does not define who we are as a church unless it is Christ.

The Road to Redemption…Begins by Following Jesus-April 27, 2014

The Road to Redemption…Begins by Following Jesus-April 27, 2014

John 21:15-25

The invitation to follow Christ begins with love. His love creating the way and His love inviting us to come to Him find redemption. We are also invited to live out His love because of our love for Him. Lifetime relationships are sustained because of love. It has to be mutual love if it is going to last.

The living out of love is sharing and providing those things that give life. Feeding sheep, helping them to live, grow, and mature. Help them to do these things until they can learn to trust God for provisions. Love them and help them to grow into disciples because that is what the great commission was about, disciples making disciples. This was particularly important because Jesus had disciple them and the very next thing He asked them to do was to disciple others. Jesus was returning to the Father and the disciples too would have their own struggles in this world, and most would die for their faith.

Jesus even describes to Peter the kind of death he would face and if this first generation if the disciples did not feed the sheep, love the sheep, care for the sheep, and disciple the sheep the movement of Christ would have most likely died with this first generation of disciples. The message of hope found in Christ would have likely died out too.

The question itself is revealing when we then hear the instructions that follow. Jesus asks Peter, “Do you love me more than these?” Love is demonstrated in action, so each time Jesus asks Peter to do something, tend the flock, feed them, and follow Jesus. Some scholars indicate that these things area mentioned as a way of restoring Peter, and I would also argue, restoring us all. The tending idea goes back to the Garden of Eden, but in today’s meaning things such as visits and helping out during times of crisis. Feeding happens in multiple ways from personal, small group, and corporately. Feeding is for growth and maturity. Following is about being obedient to Christ, but also living out His reality in the world today.

The question for Simon Peter and us is, “What is the cost of discipleship?” Once we know what that cost is, “Is it worth the cost?” Discipleship is costly, but it is always something you can live with. Following Christ is the path that leads to life. He said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life.” Even if the cost is our life on this earth we have eternal life through Christ. It is always something we can live with.

Peter tries to avoid Jesus a little bit by asking a question about John. Jesus’ response is great, well what about him, I’m talking to you. These men were brothers in Christ, yet in the process of directly being told something by Jesus, Peter pulls the old, “what about him” card. The problem is when we look around and try to compare we also do what is distracting to what God wants to accomplish through us. We do not need to know God’s will for another person, but we certainly need to allow Christ to work in and through our lives. It is amazing that it took one word to get Peter out of the boat, “Come,” two words to get him to respond at the beginning, “follow me,” and now Jesus makes it person and direct, “You Follow Me.”

What would it take for you and I to respond to those same words of Christ “You Follow Me?” It might cost us greatly, but is it always something we can live with. The question is can we really live without him? Follow Him today!

Our Identity Is Found in the Gospel-April 23, 2014

Our Identity Is Found in the Gospel-Galatians Chapter 1-April 23, 2014

Paul begins his letter to the church in Galatia by reminding them of what Christ did for him, and all believers. He reminds all believers of the power of Christ to change lives through His grace. Paul reminds all believers of their identity in Christ because of the power of the gospel.

Galatians begins with some powerful words in even the initial greeting. Paul starts by referring to himself as an apostle. An apostle is “one who is sent” and therefore he clarifies that he has been sent by Jesus Christ and God the Father, who raised Him from the dead. He was not sent from, by, or for man because of their desires, but was sent of God. We almost take for granted today that Paul was an apostle, but in the early days of his preaching ministry, it would not be too hard to understand the difficulty people would have had in seeing Paul this way. Two main reasons that we will come back to are that Paul used to persecute the followers of Christ and that one would have had to have known Jesus while He was here on earth to have been sent.

Paul extends grace and peace to the believers from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. What makes Jesus Lord? He gave himself for our sins to rescue us from the present evil age, and according to the will of our God and Father, to who be the glory forever and ever. Amen. Jesus living out the will of God in the flesh paid the penalty for our sin by dying for us. He did this to rescue us from the present evil age. God’s purposed to rescue us. If His purpose in doing so was for the present age should that not also remind us that salvation is not just about what happens to us after we die and for eternity but is also for how we live now. If it was God’s purpose to save us in this life, then God also has a purpose for our lives here on earth. This is the beauty of the gospel.

Paul then contends that there is no other gospel. He expresses his surprise how quickly the church in Galatia began deserting the one who called you by the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel-which is really no gospel at all. What might be some other gospels today? Some are not so direct but rather alter the gospel of Jesus Christ to make it easier to digest, more user-friendly, or benefiting of self. Asking God to bless our mess is not about discipleship, it is not about conforming to His will, but asking God to approve of and bless ours. Paul in other places says things very plainly, there are no other God’s only idols, they have no life, no breath, no power to save, no victory over death, and no freedom for life now. This is also true of the gospel. A gospel without Christ offers now lasting good news and does not have the power to save and transform life and that is really not go news after all. For us to speak of God, means that there can be no other, because then God would have and equal and be less than or equally to, God by definition is always greater than. For us to speak of the gospel is to acknowledge that there really is none other.

There will always be people who are trying to confuse the masses by perverting the gospel of Christ. Paul contends that anyone who preaches a gospel other than Christ let him be eternally condemned. It will be far worse for those who are deceiving others away from Christ. Paul asks, “Am I trying to please men?” If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a servant of Christ.

Paul tells them the gospel he is preaching did not come from man, nor was he taught it; rather, he received it by revelation from Jesus Christ. This is how Saul now Paul considers himself an apostle because he was given direct revelation from Jesus Christ. Paul basically says you’ve heard of the way I used to live and it wasn’t good for believers in Jesus. My previous way of life in Judaism, how intensely I persecuted the church of God and tried to destroy it. I was advancing in Judaism beyond many Jews of my own age and was extremely zealous for the traditions of my fathers. Paul is saying this is the life I used to live and I was correct in all my understanding of the doctrine as had been taught in my tradition. He also mentions that he was advanced beyond his years in knowledge of the traditions and in zeal for carrying them out.

This is the great part of the story in verse fifteen Paul starts with “But when God.” What happens when God reveals Himself to us in a very real and powerful way? I know in Paul’s case there was a dramatic life change. But when God reveals Himself to us, shouldn’t there be a life change. Life should be different. Perhaps we do not have a story like Saul (persecutor of the church) becomes Paul missionary to the Gentiles. But even if we want to think we are good people, the reason for doing such things is because Christ is at the center. To put it simply Christ changes lives.

But when God, who set me apart from birth and called me by his grace, was pleased to reveal his Son in me so that I might preach him among the Gentiles, I did not consult any man, nor did I go up to Jerusalem to see those who were apostles before I was, but I went immediately into Arabia and later returned to Damascus. Paul is saying it is all God. It is God who sets apart, and God who calls by his grace. It was God who revealed His Son in Paul so that he might preach among the Gentiles. It was all God that took a man who was steeped in tradition and looking to advanced his tradition to the point of putting to death those whom he saw as false and allow that same man to become the mouthpiece and missionary to the world outside that same tradition he loved. To think that a zealous Jewish Pharisee who once persecuted the followers of Christ was now an advocate for those he would have previously thought were too far away for God and didn’t deserve God.

Paul begins his work immediately not waiting for approval of any man, because he was confident in God’s direction. Furthermore it demonstrated that he was not looking for the easy way out by gaining the approval of the leaders on his words, but chose instead to draw others to Christ because of his change of life. He mentions that he does go later and met Peter and James the brother of Jesus. He describes that his journey extended to other churches of Christ in Judea that he had not prior connection with, but only the testimony of his changed life in Christ. At the point the smaller group of leadership did not instruct Paul to stop and so approved of his work, and he was accepted by this larger group of churches he knew nothing about and did not help start. It is tempting to think that he may have had a little influence in the churches he started but the others that had been started previously were by their acceptance acknowledging Paul’s preaching of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

The scripture says: they only head the report: “The man who formerly persecuted us is now preaching the faith he once tried to destroy.” And they praised God because of me. The life he once lived was one of hatred toward Christ and His church. Now through the power of grace in that same Christ Paul took that same gospel to the Gentiles. The people praised God because of it. How about us? Does the grace of God upon our lives change us in such a way that others would praise God because of Christ in us?