The Loving Father

October is a season of harvest, a time of cooler and shorter days.  Many families have reunions or gatherings.  Reunions are important.  They give us the opportunity to gather together from both far and near, to fellowship and to eat, and to be thankful that we are family.  Family isn’t defined by proximity but by the blood that runs through our veins.  If you ever take time at these gatherings to listen, and look you can see the family resemblances and hear the personalities come out.  There are stories of tragedy, of hope, of love, and belonging.

There is a similar story in the bible of a loving father and two sons.  One son left home and lived the way he wanted, and thought better of it, and returns home.  His Father sees him a long way off and runs to meet him and to embrace him.  The son thinks he is now longer a part of the family and his father shows him this is far from the truth.

The man also had another son.  The second son stayed home and hoped that he would be favored because he stayed nearby, but all along he had near in proximity but was not at home in his heart.  Both sons erred, because they did not understand the love of their father.  One lived under the roof of the father and neglected his love, the other left rejecting his love.  Both have a home because the father is loving and they are brothers because they have the same father.

We gather each October as the family of God for Homecoming.  Whether we are close by or have come from a distance we gather at home.  May we look, listen, and celebrate that we have a loving Father in Heaven and it is his blood that makes us family.  Will we see Christ in our brothers and sisters, will we hear the personality of Christ coming through each one?  Will we share our stories of tragedy, hope, love, and belonging with one another because we belong to Him?  We are family whether near or far because he is our Father.  We pray you will join us for our Family of Faith Reunion or Homecoming at Antioch on October 9, 2016.  I look forward to seeing each of you in the family.

A Call to Serve-September 25, 2016

Acts 6:1-7

The first seven were chosen to handle practical ministry of the body, freeing the disciples up for prayer and the ministry of the word.

They were chosen by the people from among the people to serve the people.

A Deacon is a position of service through which they lead the members as ministry in the body in serving in the body and in the community around.

They laid hands on them, setting them aside for this ministry.

The word of God spread, and the number of the disciples increased rapidly.  This only happens when we all are doing our part for the Kingdom of God.

A Charge to Deacon Candidates:

  • Be assistants to the pastor
  • Be servants to the church
  • Be witnesses to the world

A Charge to the Church:

  • To pray for them
  • To encourage them
  • To follow them

September 21, 2016-John 3:1-8

Points v.1-2

Now there was a Pharisee named Nicodemus and he tells Jesus what he “thinks” he knows about Jesus.

First you are a teacher from God, because no one could perform the signs you are doing if God were not with him.  Also interesting there has been only one identifiable sign in John’s gospel.  Why does John come in the middle of the night?  Does what we know about Jesus cause us to have more questions?  Should it?

Points v.3-8

Jesus tells him no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again.  What does this mean?  What is being born again?  Or Nicodemus’ question, “How can someone be born when they are old?  They can’t be born of the womb a second time.  Seeing things with earthly eyes, we cannot understand many of these things.

No one can enter the kingdom of God unless they are born of the water and the Spirit.  Still this resembles a natural birth in some ways.  Flesh gives birth to flesh, and the spirit to the spirit.  In other words, we cannot achieve or get to the spiritual by remaining in the flesh.  We shouldn’t be surprised.  Just because we cannot always see God or God’s direct movement, does not mean that we do not see the result of God’s Spirit at work in the world today.  Where do we look for the movement of the Spirit of God?  It is by faith not by sight.

Make It Count-September 18, 2016

“Be very careful, then, how you live-not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil.  Therefore, do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is.”  Ephesians 5:15-17

These verses are sandwiched right in the middles of a call to be imitators of Christ and the relationship of Christ to the church.  In imitating Christ, we do so in our relationships with others in the world and through our relationship with one another in Christ.  The earlier part of the chapter shares about how we were once far from Christ and now after giving our lives to follow him, will we follow him anywhere?

Will we follow Christ out of the church and into the world?  Often we might believe that everyone has heard about Jesus, or have they heard me talk about Jesus, so they will ask me if they want to know.  This just doesn’t really meet reality.  So what are we to do?  What is Christ’s charge to us?

First, and thankfully, Christ doesn’t just teach us, he shows us and Paul reminds us we are to be imitators of Christ.  So then we have the best example possible in Christ, what then was the ministry and mission, and patterns and rhythms of Jesus’ life?  He lived in a way that honored God, he walked in love, and gave himself as an offering and sacrifice for all mankind.  Jesus did not sin but yet dwelt among the people of the day, not the religious peace of the day.  Jesus’ greatest mission was not in the church but to those outside the church.  The majority of the time he spent was being among everyday people and sometimes people of questionable character.  Jesus was fussed at for “eating with sinners and tax collectors.”  The question for us is where do we spend our time?  How can it have the greatest impact?  With who and where do we spend our time?

As Children of light; walk in the light of the Lord.  The fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness and righteousness and truth.  Fruit does not grow without light.  Darkness doesn’t go away by ignoring it.  Darkness is overcome by the presence of light.

Wake up!  Wake up sleepers, rise up from the dead and Christ shall give thee light.  When we get woken up in the morning sometimes it is abrupt, like turning on of a light.  Waking us up and calling us to live as light.

Be careful how you “live” not just how you “believe.”  Our be-living should represent our believing.

Make the most of every opportunity…redeeming the time for the days are “evil.”

Missions like a ministry is not just about dollars that support a cause, but is about lifestyle stewardship.  Money, time, and life.

In the stewardship of our lives (all parts) we are called to manage wisely freeing up more of those resources, money, and time, and life to help others in service to God when and where he calls.

We sleep in the darkness but when light has dawned it is time to get up, go, and make the most of the time, for our time on this earth and the world’s time is limited.

How then do we take our time shared, to eternity?  That is more than redeeming the time, the days they may be or seem evil but nothing is beyond God.

How do you live out your identity and have influence, not just in your personal life but in your public life?

We all have the ability to talk to someone.  How will you live out that calling?

Pray:  “You call us, God.  How do we make our time here count?  How do we use our influence?”

– Aaron Graham

What are you doing to make your life count in your home, in your town, in your city, in your state, in this world for the sake of Christ and His Kingdom?

What influences and opportunities are we missing out on?

You have one life, make it count for the Kingdom.

 

September 14, 2016-John 2:12-25

2:12-14

Jesus expressed displeasure with the church and what it had become as opposed to what it scripture said it should be “a house of prayer for all the nations” (Isaiah 56:7)

2:15-17

This is the only gospel that talks about Jesus making a whip out of cords, the only one to mention the more expensive animals like cattle and sheep. Only one to mention he drove out the merchants.  The merchants were fleecing the worshipers for their own personal gain and transformed the temple from a place of worship into a merchant shop, and Jesus would not allow them to continue.

Jesus’ actions would provoke backlash and they did.

How about the church of today?

As you attend church this Sunday, consider how your church might appear to a first-time guest.

  • Notice the building itself and how it makes you feel
  • Be sensitive to how the greeters welcome you
  • Note the actions and words spoken in your Bible study class
  • Pay attention to everything that is said and done in the worship service
  • When you get home, make a list of things you can to do make your church more conducive to worship and more inviting to guests
  • Share your list with your class or leaders

They misunderstand Jesus talk about the temple being destroyed and rebuilt in three days.

What is the church?  According to the story in our text, the church is a group of people who create an environment that is conducive to worship and inviting to those who want to worship.  How does our church fit that profile-an environment of worship and inviting?  If Jesus were to attend this week, what would he see?

Fifteen Years After Tragedy-September 11, 2016

Fifteen years ago on a Tuesday morning I had forgotten something on my way to the office and doubled back to get it.  My phone was ringing and I heard a friend on the other end of the line tell me that someone had flown a plane into one of the world trade center towers.  At first I thought maybe it had been an accident.  So I turn on the T.V. and watch as the story unfolds.  Moments later we all saw a live, a second plane square up and flown right into the second tower.  It was horrible and it was raw.

With other similar acts of terror in the past as a nation we perhaps only saw the aftermath, or security camera footage, or edited images after the fact.  This was different, we saw it and it was an intentional act, seeing it play out as we sat in horror, learning that another attack struck our Pentagon, and then there is the brave passengers that brought down the plane in the Pennsylvania field, sacrificing themselves to save many more.

The moments were intense as our President was in one of the Air Force One planes with military escort.  We were not sure where he was once he left the school where he was visiting.  The date was September 11, 2001.  The symbolism of our emergency service we are to dial 911.

In the next few moments I was able to pull myself away from the T.V. and went out to the church I was serving.  I sat on the front steps looking across the calm blue sky in front of me, knowing that we who had experienced that day would be different because of it.  Seeing the peace in front of me, while the horror was going on in other places in our country, and because of the scale and ongoing nature of the events of that day, I was for once very uncertain of much.

In the days that followed there was a heightened sense of alarm.  There was shock, numbness, depression, as people also saw uninterrupted hours of this on the news.  There came a heightened sense or need for people to return to the Lord or at least return to the church.  There was also a different sentiment that comes from grief…anger.  People began to lash out at others at others that looked different.  People would talk of killing other from that region.  People were hurt and scared, and rather than dealing with it they lashed out, many did so in the name of nationalism.  The language of nationalism for many became hate or revenge.

These terrorists believed their faith was worth dying for and so do I, where we are different is the killing of others.  In the days, months, and years that have followed there have been many mistakes, in war, policy, and decency in the name of this event.  Crisis brings out both the best and worst in people.  More true is that it brings out what is most central in our lives, and the core of our hearts.  When squeezed to do fruits of bitterness and hate rule, or do the fruits of the spirit, love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control?

We are now 15 years removed from this event, what is our language of nationalism?  What is our response as followers of Christ?

This is a reminder that God is still on the throne and in control.  We may feel out of control but that doesn’t mean God is not.

Most of us over a certain age know what we were doing on September 11, 2001.  It was a very visible and raw tragedy.  Because of the delay between multiple planes we saw a lot that day.  Much like the Kennedy assassination a generation before.

We are a people hurting, confused, depressed, and angry.  All of these emotions are part of grief but none are healthy if we dwell in them too long.  Our national language had become one of resilience, determination, and revenge.  Those who did this to us are going get what’s coming to them.

Language helps to create culture, so what culture was that creating in our country?  It was a heightened level of anxiety for a long time after that.  It appears to me that in the light of this hurt and uncertainty anger and revenge became more prevalent.  What language informs the Christian?  God speaks a word to us about suffering, love, forgiveness, and trust.

As believers we put our mind and eyes on things above where God is seated on His throne and Christ at His right hand.  No matter what is going on in the world today and we feel out of control…God is still in control.

We need to be people of thoughtful prayer and intentional action.  In other words, are we people who react or respond?  Reacting is a gut level, fight or flight, feels good in the moment type of thing.  A response has thought and intention, engaging heart, mind, soul, and strength.  Just like the “reaction” of many would have been to run away from those buildings but the “response” of men and women like our police and fire fighters was to run towards trouble to help others.

Our reactions don’t demonstrate control but helplessness.  Our responses reveal our character.  Don’t react, respond!  Every person will experience difficult things and how we deal with them will say a lot about who we are and who we trust.

We must be full of Christ instead of full of ourselves to have the peace that passes all understanding.  If you want to be uplifted don’t look around but look up.  To be in Christ is to be intentional, and a response is intentional, a reaction is not.  I am forgiving not because of myself, but because Christ forgave me.

It may not be right in the world, but it can be well with my soul.  It may not be right in the world, but it can be well with soul.  IT MAY NOT BE RIGHT IN THE WORLD, BUT IT IS WELL WITH MY SOUL.

Here is a Response …

The Prayer of St. Francis

“Lord, make me an instrument of thy peace.
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
Where there is injury, pardon;
Where there is doubt, faith;
Where there is despair, hope;
Where there is darkness, light;
Where there is sadness, joy.

O divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek
To be consoled as to console,
To be understood as to understand,
To be loved as to love;
For it is in giving that we receive;
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
It is in dying to self that we are born to eternal life.”

September 7, 2016-End John 1, 7 Signs in John-Chart, and Beginning of Chapter 2:1-11

Chapter 1

Points in 43-51

The next day, Jesus leaves for Galilee.  He finds Philip and said to him, “follow me.”  Philip finds Nathanael to tell him the news of the Messiah and Nathanael’s response is about where Jesus is from.  “Nazareth!  Can anything good come from there?”

Sometimes we are too quick to judge where a person comes from, or their place or position in the world.  In doing so we make judgements with dimmed eyes and cloudy hearts looking not at God’s love, intention, calling, and purpose upon their lives.  When we view people this was we often do not see Christ in them, we see them through the eyes of the world and often as a commodity.

Philip just says see for yourself.  When Jesus sees him coming he sees Nathanael’s heart, and it prompts Nathanael to ask, “How do you know me?”  He knows us as only God can, because he is God’s Son and is God.  Jesus responds with where he was at when Philip came to get him.  A place that he was not able to see with his earthly eyes, but know because of who he was.

Upon this encounter, he immediately acknowledges that Jesus is God’s Son, and the king of Israel.  Amazing that once Jesus saw to his heart that it didn’t matter anymore what village or town Jesus came from, it only matter who he was.

Do we worry more about the earthly things that who someone really is?

Jesus tells him, that he believed because of his sharing a personal intimate detail, and Jesus basically says, just wait you ain’t seen nothing yet.

The gospel is for all, but it is personal in nature, in its calling out, and in our response.  The beginning of our walk with Jesus is just that, the beginning.  Greater things are yet to come.

                                THE SEVEN SIGNS IN JOHN
SIGN REFERENCE CENTRAL TRUTH
1.  Changing water to wine 2:1-11 Points to Jesus as the Source of all the blessings
of God’s future (see Isa. 25:6-8; Jer. 31:11-12;
Amos 9:13-14)
2.  Healing the official’s son 4:43-54 Points to Jesus as the Giver of life
3.  Healing the invalid at Bethesda 5:1-15 Points to Jesus as the Father’s Coworker
4.  Feeding the five thousand 6:1-15, 25-29 Points to Jesus as the life-giving Bread from
heaven
5.  Walking on water 6:16-21 Points to Jesus as the divine I AM
6.  Healing the man born blind 9:1-41 Points to Jesus as the Giver of spiritual sight
7.  Raising Lazarus 11:1-44 Points to Jesus as the Resurrection and the Life
*1-7 Taken from Holman Book of Biblical Charts, Maps, and Reconstructions
8.  The Resurrection of Jesus? 20 Points to Jesus’ resurrection as the new beginning
*8 Theme idea from Love Wins, by Rob Bell

The First Sign-Water to Wine-John 2:1-11

The changing of the water to wine is considered the first of Jesus’ miraculous signs.  We will also over the weeks ahead will take a look at the rest of these as we consider what each of these signs mean in their own context, and what they reveal about Jesus.  In a broader sense what they say about God’s plan for us.

In one way the miracles affirm something of who Christ is.  Jesus was at a wedding feast, a time of celebration for those that were beginning their married life together.  In this time of celebration, the supplies run short and there are not enough provisions.  Jesus’ mother comes to him for assistance.  Who better to know what Jesus was capable of than his own mother?  Mary was chosen to be the mother of Jesus our Lord in a miraculous way.  She knows who he is and what he is capable of.

She has full confidence that he will help, and she tells the servants do whatever he tells you to do.  I am not so certain that his instructions were what they expected.  There were nearby six stone jars, used for ceremonial washing, about 20-30 gallons each.  He asks the servants to fill the jars with water.  They did as Jesus asked, and then Jesus told them to draw some out and take it to the master of the banquet.  I think these men had great faith and/or were very brave.  They just filled the ceremonial washing pots full of water, and now are to take the wash pot water to the master of the party to taste.  I am not so sure that I would have been so courageous.

They did take it and he did taste, but the water had been turned to wine.  The master did not realize where it has come from, even though the servants knew.  It seems like often times in Jesus’ life that these signs are not for the high and mighty.  Perhaps Jesus sending the servants was because he expressed earlier that his time had not come.  The master of the banquet calls the groom aside and says most people bring the good stuff out first and the cheaper stuff after no one cares.  Thinking it was the grooms doing he said, but you have saved the best for last.

There is some irony that this was the first miracle, and because the master knows not who did it, he thinks the best has been saved for last.  However, with Jesus there is no less than the best every time.  He is able always to supply for our needs, he is able to heal our hurts, and He is able to save through His blood.  This same water that was turned to wine also foreshadows Christ using the wine as a symbol of His shed blood for us.

It is said in scripture that this is the first of his miraculous signs.  It is expressed in John 2:11 that in doing so Jesus revealed his glory and his disciples put their faith in him.  When God reveals his glory through Jesus, his disciples put their faith in him.  When we look for the glory of God to be revealed, we will find the faith we so greatly need.  The faith of the few disciples that spread the good news of Jesus and changed our world forever.

2:1-3

John was not just trying to provide information about Jesus but transformation through Jesus.

2:4-8

She perceived the problem through the lens of material need:  more wine.  Jesus reflected on the problem through the through the lens of spiritual priorities:  the need to establish God’s kingdom on earth.

2:9-11

Two levels of the story seem to reveal the practical need to provide for and also the abundance with which Christ would provide through his sacrifice.