Covenant Connections: A Series for Lent

Through the next 5 weeks we will be looking at texts from the Old and New Testaments (also called covenants) and the connections that bring the reality of God’s promises to life.  The word covenant means to be bound to, connected, or shackled to, will each of us be shackled to the promises of God?  We can trust that the Word of God is true and we can hold on to the promises of God for everyday living.  The culmination of these promises which we will find in the New Covenant in the blood of Christ that saves and redeems us.  The Series will begin Sunday, February 26, 2012.

From Here to Eternity-Feb. 19, 2012

“You Are For Me” by Kari Jobe was our message in music before the sermon.  It is a beautiful song and was beautifully done.  The basic message of the song comes from Romans 8:31, ” What, then, shall we say in response to this?  If God is for us, who can be against us?”  It is in this knowledge that we can find hope day-to-day as we seek him.

The disciples needed this same hope as they hear from Jesus that he is going to die.  Imagine if you can the difficulty of hearing from the person themselves that they are going to die and that to follow him they may also be facing death.  Mark 9:2-9 reports six days later, confused and bewildered, Jesus took Peter, James, and John with them up on a high mountain where they were alone.

In this alone time with Jesus he was transfigured before them, becoming dazzling white beyond anything on this earth.  These weary disciples after hearing the horrible news that Jesus, their master, would have to die they are allowed to see him in all his glory.  The glory that he left to enter this world and the glory to which he would return.  Also appearing with him were Moses and Elijah.  He was talking with them.  These exalted men of faith had been dead for many years are now talking with Jesus as if they know him.  They do because Jesus was before they were, he is God in the flesh.

The men were a little scared and Peter says, “it is good for us to be here.  Let us put up three shelters-one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah.”  Peter in the fear and wonder of the moment recognizes it is good to be where Jesus is, but we can not always remain on the mountain top and build houses to Jesus and the great men of faith.  It is in those moments that we are refreshed and reminded of the power of God in Christ.

The a cloud appeared and enveloped them and a voice saying, “This is my Son, whom I love. Listen to Him!”  It is good and appropriate to worship Jesus, but in our worship often we forget that worship begins in recognizing Christ for who he is and then forming an obedient response.  The voice of God, like at Jesus’ baptism, confirms that Jesus is God’s Son, whom he loves, and that he should be listened to and obeyed.

In today’s society those who profess believe want to do so by building a place to come and “worship” Christ, and separate the rest of our lives from this place of worship.  As Peter acknowledges, rightly so, it is good for us to be here, it is not intended that we always remain here.  The command of God was to listen.

What is it then the Jesus is saying?  John 14:1-14 Jesus knows that what is about to happen is difficult for his disciples to take in.  So he offers them comfort, and tells them he will prayer a place for them, not vice versa as in passage in Mark.  “Do not let your hearts be troubled.  Trust in God, trust also in me.”  Don’t be trouble, trust God who on the mount of transfiguration confirmed who just was and instructed them to listen and trust Jesus.

Jesus then tells them that it is he who will be preparing a place, not for himself, but for those who know him, and love him.  That he will prepare this place and return and take them to be with him.  He tells them they know the way.  Thomas said they didn’t know where he was going so they couldn’t know the way.  Jesus tells them, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”  There is only one way to the Father and that is through Jesus.

Philip said, “Lord, show us the Father and that will be enough for us.”  We are often like Philip just wanting a little more proof and wanting to see the Father and missing the reality of Jesus and the Father as one.  Jesus then says, “Believe me when I say that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; or at least believe on the evidence of the miracles themselves.”  In this moment we are reminded of the words of God, this is my Son, listen to him.  Believe me, as almost the same as saying listen to me, trust what I am saying, and at the least trust what you have seen.  This seeing is proof but faith is about maturing to the point of trusting Jesus before the proof, based on his faithfulness and proof in the past.  Little faith is required if the burden of proof must be met before trust or belief can occur.

It is this crisis of belief that could cripple these effective witness of these disciples.  If they can’t trust Jesus is who he says and have faith that he is God, and that he and the Father are one.  How then will they be able to ask, in faith not proof, for God to work in a situation if they do not have faith that he can or will.  This is of the utmost importance because of what Jesus says next to them.

He tells them that anyone who has faith in him will be doing what he Jesus himself had been doing.  It is impossible without faith.  Jesus tells them he will do whatever they ask in his name, so that the Son may bring glory to the Father.  This is not a blank check to ask for anything and it be done.  It is understood that those who know him, will be seeking and asking for things that would bring glory to the Father, as he says, so that the Son may bring glory to the Father.

In our time of need we can know that God is for us, we can trust his word, and we can trust his Son.  When life gets tough we look to the glorified risen Jesus for hope.  We can worship him in all things.  We do not need to build a place for him, because he already resides in our hearts, rather we need to listen to and obey him.  We can find comfort in Jesus and hope for tomorrow, for he is preparing a place for us rather than us for him.  In that place we will be with him.  What a glorious hope we have in him.  In the time that we have on this earth, until we find ourselves with Christ in that place, we need to be living as he did trusting the power of God at work in his life, and living to bring glory to God in all that we do.

That We May Be Clean-Feb. 12, 2012

A quick trip to a grocery store a person would find many products for cleaning.  Products that would clean your dishes, laundry, hair, body, teeth, and hands.  There are so many products that they are often not found on just one place.  The question for the day is, “what can we do to clean out the sin in our lives?”  The answer may be found in many of our hymns such as Nothing but the Blood.  Some of the hymn lyrics read, “what can wash away my sin?  Nothing but the blood of Jesus.”  We must trust in Jesus for our cleansing and salvation.

The Scripture text is 2 Kings 5 and in that text we find the story of a foreign military leader who has come down with leprosy,  his name was Naaman.  In battle the Army Commander can look his enemy in the face and fight, but now he has an enemy he cannot fight, this disease.  There was a young girl from Israel who was a servant to Naaman’s wife told her that there is a prophet in Israel that can cure her husband of leprosy.  Naaman is pleased to hear this information and goes to his king and shares the news.  The King of Aram sends Naaman with a letter to the King of Israel along with gifts.  It is important to note here that the people in positions of “power” think that power must flow through those channels.  There is a role for them to play but the governments and kingdoms of this world can’t take care of every need or solve every problem.

When Naaman and his note reach the King of Israel he becomes distraught.  The problem is his logic is right but his faith is weak and short-sighted.  He acknowledges that he cannot do this only God can bring back to life.  The logic part is good, then there is a  pity party wondering if the other king is trying to pick a fight.  In the letter being addressed to the King of Israel, the king looses sight of God’s prophet and the power of God that works through him.

Word of the meeting reached the house of the prophet Elisha.  He sends word to the king not to despair but send the visitor to him that he will know that there is a prophet in Israel.  Elisha has full confidence in the power of God to restore and knows that God can use this opportunity to reveal his glory.  When Naaman and his group arrive Elisha sends out his servant Gehazi to give Naaman instructions to go wash in the Jordan seven times then his flesh will be restored and clean like that of a young boy.

Naaman at first is upset that the prophet didn’t come out and touch him or place his hand on him, or some other healing gesture, instead asks him to go into the Jordan, which was not considered by Naaman a clean river compared to the ones in his native land.  Then his servants reasoned with him, that if the prophet had asked him to do a great task or challenge he would have, so why not try this thing that has been asked.

Naaman enters the waters and finds after the seventh time the he is clean and his flesh has been restored like that of a young boy.  Excited Naaman goes back to the home of the prophet and this time meets with him and makes a bold statement about God, “Now I know that there is no God in all the world except in Israel.”  Then he offers gifts to Elisha.  Elisha refuses them  Naaman asks to take some soil that he may set up for himself a private place of worship and asks for forgiveness for when his civic duty makes him bow.  Elisha sends him on in peace.

Now Elisha’s servant Gehazi wanted the gifts and tries to sneak of and tell Naaman a story to get some of the gifts.  Naaman gladly gives them, and Gehazi returns and hides them.  After doing so Elisha asks him where he has been.  Gehazi tries to dodge the question but Elisha knows and because of the disobedience Gehazi received the leprosy of Naaman.

This was a longer passage but several points to the sermon.  The bravery of the servant girl to seek what was best for Naaman.  Naaman going to his king to get a leave of absence to seek healing.  The king believes that the power is in the position and sends a note to the King of Israel.  The King of Israel recognizes he doesn’t have that power it belongs to God but looses sight of God’s presence and power working through the life of the prophet.  The power of God can work through whoever he chooses but the power of God is not limited to a place or government or ruler.  In that day, nothing short of a miracle could save someone from leprosy.  It is not referred to a healing but a restoration and cleansing.

Naaman’s arriving at the home of Elisha was a key point, because Naaman expected the man of God to doing some religious posturing and restore his skin and instead he sends his servant.  If Elisha goes out, it may be understood by some that it was Elisha that had the power apart from God.  Then Naaman goes to what he considers to be a “dirty” river to be cleansed.  Again, it is not about the river, if a man declared unclean by his disease gets into a dirty river seven times and comes out clean that is truly about the power of God, not the prophet through whom God spoke, or either of the kings, or even the servant girl but about the power of the real God to change and cleanse our lives.  If God can do that on the outside through his Son Jesus he certainly can cleanse us from the inside out.

Elisha will not take any of the gifts because God is not a commodity and God’s grace is just that grace.  It can’t be bought or sold or bargained for.  It is this same principle that Gehazi learns the hard way.

This was also a communion Sunday.  May the blood of Christ cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

On Eagle’s Wings-Feb. 5, 2012

Our sermon this morning dealt with Isaiah 40:21-31.  We looked at the larger context that these verses appear.  Chapter 39 Isaiah has just informed King Hezekiah that Babylon with overtake the kingdom.  In chapter 40:1-20 Isaiah states that this will not last forever and that there will be a time of restoration and begins to speak of the greatness of God.  Mentioning God as creator and asking us to look at the greatness of God displayed in creation.  The reason I believe that Isaiah mentions these things is that for us to find our comfort, hope, and victory in God we must daily remember how worthy he is of worship.

Worship is not a Sunday event but rather a daily awareness of who God is in light of who we are and the circumstances we find ourselves in.  Worship is truly about whether we believe that God is who he says he is, and not just how I feel about my circumstances in the moment.  So it is about our faith not feelings, our feelings will from time to time fail us, be he is true and trusted always.  Isaiah points to the larger creation, the waters in his palm, measuring out galaxies by using his hand.  In light of the greatness of God and his perspective is there anything that is beyond the ability of God?  No. 

The summarizing thought of the sermon and the scripture is that there will be things that we all have to deal with.  Days when we will be tired or weary and cannot find the strength to move on or see a way out.  Psalm 127 reminds us that unless the Lord builds it, he who builds labors in vain.  Even good things done in our power and not relying on the Lord will wear us out.  For those who are weary and tired trust him and find rest.  Verse 28 reminds us that he won’t grow tired or weary, and there is no one that knows as much as God. Verses 29-30  states that he gives strength to the weary and power to the weak, and it doesn’t matter how young or strong you think you are, no one can supply strength like the Lord.

The last two verses assure us that those how hope in(abide in, trust in, dwell in) the Lord will renew their strength.  Doesn’t it make sense that the give of life is also the sustainer.  We can trust him with our lives.  When we first learn to worship daily, and remember that he is the source and sustainer of our lives, can we soar on wings like eagles.  The eagle has great endurance and great perspective.  Soaring like an eagle would allow us to look back at the problems of this life and see them in a better perspective which in most cases smaller.  Then we can not just endure these days, but can run with perseverance the race set out before us in Christ, not becoming weary or faint. 

It’s my prayer that your life be filled with daily worshipping the Lord, trusting his plan, and learning to soar on eagle’s wings.

What We Do Matters-Jan. 29, 2012

Many Christians may go about their daily lives wondering if what they do really makes a difference?  I believe God’s word is clear that it does not just for the individual Christian believer but also the body of Christ his church.

Our sermon for the day focused on 1 Corinthians 8:1-13 & 1 Corinthian 9:19-23.  The scripture texts themselves focus on a divisive issue of that day, whether it was alright to eat food that had been offered to idols?  Paul contends that since really there are no other “gods” this should not be an issue, however what is an issue both then and now is how do our actions affect the faith of others?  Our actions do matter and can have effects on believers and unbelievers alike.

Although we are individuals Christians God intends for us to be members of the body of Christ.  The body of Christ is there to encourage as we seek to live out Christ in our world. As Christians we each have a unique opportunity and responsibility to share Christ with others who do not know Him and to build up one another in Christ.  One great set back to sharing Christ with the outside world is that many believers do not have the fullness of Christ that comes from the unity of the body.  There are no “Lone Ranger” Christians, we need to be connected with the body of Christ.

“It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, to prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.”  Ephesians 4:11-13

It is hard to be full of Christ while still full of ourselves so first we must give ourselves daily to Christ as individuals. Next to live out our unique lives and gifts in the body of Christ.  It is as Paul tells the church at Ephesus prepare God’s people for works of service, and the reason is that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in faith and mature in Christ, and attain the fullness of Christ.

Unity does not mean uniformity.  The members of the body will not all look the same or have the same gifts or functions within the body.  The head (Christ) is where we pursue unity.  Although it is not outwardly expressed it is certainly implied that to build up, there must be a trust among members of the body because not all can be a hand or a foot, but we must trust the calling and gifts God has placed on each members life that these gifts be used for the edification of the body and the glory of Christ in the community.

We as members of the body of Christ, should serve generously in the capacity God has gifted us, pray for, encourage, and build up the  members of the body.   Allowing Christ to be our focus drawing our hearts to unity in our pursuit of the fullness of Christ.  May we find a place of encouragement in the body of Christ, and seek to draw others to him.  What we do, really does matter!