Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Stop the Babble!

Genesis 11:1-9
The Tower of Babel
11 Now the whole world had one language and a common speech. 2 As people moved eastward,[a] they found a plain in Shinar and settled there.

3 They said to each other, “Come, let’s make bricks and bake them thoroughly.” They used brick instead of stone, and tar for mortar. 4 Then they said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city, with a tower that reaches to the heavens, so that we may make a name for ourselves; otherwise we will be scattered over the face of the whole earth.”

5 But the Lord came down to see the city and the tower the people were building. 6 The Lord said, “If as one people speaking the same language they have begun to do this, then nothing they plan to do will be impossible for them. 7 Come, let us go down and confuse their language so they will not understand each other.”

8 So the Lord scattered them from there over all the earth, and they stopped building the city. 9 That is why it was called Babel because there the Lord confused the language of the whole world. From there the Lord scattered them over the face of the whole earth.

On Sunday, the Day of Pentecost, we read of the disciples who waited in Jerusalem for the Promised Holy Spirit. And when the Holy Spirit blew into the house they were at, they began to speak in different tongues/languages. Since there were different nations assembled there for the last of 3 public festivals, it was the perfect time for them to hear the Gospel in their own language. The church was planted in these people groups, and as they went back to their native lands, the Gospel was rooted and grew all over the world. For one day there was no confusion, and everyone was on the same page. There were no denominations, no hierarchies, just the organic mission of God to reach all people with the Good News.

In today's reading it is almost as if we see the exact opposite thing happening. At the start of the story, there is one people with the same language. As they settled, their goal became to make a name for themselves, so they built a tower hoping to reach all the way up to heaven. God realized how this was a vain attempt for the creature to become the Creator, so he confused their languages, and they were scattered all over the earth.

So in one case God caused confusion to stop a movement, where man wanted to be like God. And on Pentecost, God came down in the Holy Spirit, so that all people might know of His love for Him in Christ. For a moment, all the people gathered heard the message with no barriers with crystal clarity. Babble turned into a cohesive message that everyone could understand and accept and be united in faith.

And so the question for the day would be in what ways are we unified in our message to the world? What are the barriers that cause confusion in the people we seek to reach? Are our different languages for the purpose of building our own towers, or God's glory? Since many cities are becoming more and more diverse like the one I am in, I think next movement of God will be fueled by churches that make the message intentionally geared to all people. Removing the cultural barriers to allow the Holy Spirit to grow the church and make disciples of all nation.

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Are You Thirsty?

John 7:37-39
37 On the last and greatest day of the festival, Jesus stood and said in a loud voice, “Let anyone who is thirsty come to me and drink. 38 Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them." 39 By this he meant the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were later to receive. Up to that time the Spirit had not been given, since Jesus had not yet been glorified.

It is good to know the background of the third Jewush festival, which was celebrated in the Fall after the harvest. The feast was 7 days long, and each family would set up booths to celebrate God's blessing with each other. It was called the "feast of booths" or the "feast of tabernacles". In the New Testament the priests each day would go to the pool of Siloam, and fill up large ceremonial jugs with water. This would be a reminder of how the Israelites were delivered from the water, and how Moses struck the rock and the water came out, as part of. God's provision for them. This was also a foreshadowing of the Messiah, and how one day God would pour out water from heaven.

So now we can see how significant it is when Jesus says, "Let anyone who is thirsty come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scriptures has said, rivers of living watsr will flow from within them." Then the passage says this is related to how the disciples would receive the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. If you didn't know tomorrow is the day of Pentecost, where we celebrate when the Holy Spirit was poured out on the disciples. They spoke in tongues by the Spirit's power, so that all who were gathered for this feast heard the Good News in their own language. So we can see the many connections for this day, and when Jesus says the living water will flow through him to everyone who believes.

Sometimes we shy away from talking about the Holy Spirit. As I will say tomorrow in the sermon, sometimes the Holy Spirit is the "worst kept secret in the church". But today we see it is a celebration of the Spirit of Jesus, who flows in and through us with living water. Of course water evokes the idea of being thirsty. We all know how good a tall, cool glass of water tastes on a hot day. Jesus uses this analogy to talk about his relationship with those who are thirsty and come to him to quench their spiritual thirst.

Are you thirsty? Come to the living water, and as Jesus promises, you will never thirst again!

Friday, May 22, 2015

Where is Your True Security???

I remember when I was younger the talk about the arms race between the United States and the Soviet Union, specifically for nuclear weapons. Wikipedia describes an "arms race" as:

An arms race, in its original usage, is a competition between two or more parties to have the best armed forces. Each party competes to produce larger numbers of weapons, greater armies, or superior military technology in a technological escalation. International conflict specialist Alex Upton, defines the term as "the participation of two or more nation-states in apparently competitive or interactive increases in quantity or quality of war material and/or persons under arms."

In today's passage the psalmist says, "No King is saved by the size of his army; no warrior escapes by his great strength. A horse is a vain hope for deliverance; despite its great strength, it cannot save." I'm not against having a military defense to protect the freedoms we cherish so deeply. But if we don't realize ultimate security can only come from Almighty God, we are relying on something other than Him. And ultimately today's passage says God's eyes are on those who fear Him, and on those whose hope is in his unfailing love. So this tells us God is intimately involved in the lives of those who trust in Him. Because ultimately your God is who you trust in. If you trust in something else for your ultimate security, that I would say is your God!

So although this passage is talking about who Israel trusts in, by application I think we could ask each other when it comes down to it, who or what do we truly trust in? When you are in trouble where do you turn? When life throws you a curve ball is your first thought, how can God help me and eventually turn this into good? I would challenge you this morning to think of something that causes you fear or anxiety, either externally or internally. First, realize that God's eyes are on His chosen ones, those who are called by His name. Second turn to Your God, realizing all else is in vain. God promises to deliver you in His way and in His time!

Psalm 33:12-22
12 Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord,
the people he chose for his inheritance.
13 From heaven the Lord looks down
and sees all mankind;
14 from his dwelling place he watches
all who live on earth—
15 he who forms the hearts of all,
who considers everything they do.
16 No king is saved by the size of his army;
no warrior escapes by his great strength.
17 A horse is a vain hope for deliverance;
despite all its great strength it cannot save.
18 But the eyes of the Lord are on those who fear him,
on those whose hope is in his unfailing love,
19 to deliver them from death
and keep them alive in famine.
20 We wait in hope for the Lord;
he is our help and our shield.
21 In him our hearts rejoice,
for we trust in his holy name.
22 May your unfailing love be with us, Lord,
even as we put our hope in you.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

What Will We Look Like In Heaven??

So often we try to figure out what heaven will be like? What does it look like? What will God and Jesus look like? Will they be One or separate? And finally what will we look like? Will we basically be the same, or a rejuvenated, better version of our previous bodies. Will we be the same age as when we died, or go back to our invincible youth with a full head of hair. I am particularly interested in that question. Finally, how can today's passage help to answer these questions or not?

I think the first thing we could deduce is that our resurrected body will be different from what we experience here. He says we will not have a natural body but a new spiritual body. What does that mean? I am not sure. When I think of spiritual I think of something you cannot see. Like the Holy Spirit. It blows where it wills and you feel its power but He cannot be seen. Or maybe since the Holy Spirit is a person, we will see him too.

I am reminded of Jesus when he appeared to his disciples and he said, "do not hold on to me because I have not yet ascended to my Father". It would seem like there was something different from his body after the resurrection. Jesus also said he would come back in great and promised glory. So it says today we are sown in dishonor but raised in glory. Maybe there is another clue in what Paul says to the Romans, "And if the Spirit of Him whose raised Jesus from the dead is living inside of you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies because of His Spirit who lives in you."

So what we will look like in heaven will certainly have to do with the Holy Spirit, who will raise us from the dead when we die. Yet, despite all of these ideas, at the end of the day we really don't know exactly what we will look like in heaven. All we know is that we are going to be there a long time so I am sure God has something planned better than we could ask or imagine.

1 Corinthians 15:42-49
42 So will it be with the resurrection of the dead. The body that is sown is perishable, it is raised imperishable; 43 it is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory; it is sown in weakness, it is raised in power; 44 it is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body.

If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body. 45 So it is written: “The first man Adam became a living being”; the last Adam, a life-giving spirit. 46 The spiritual did not come first, but the natural, and after that the spiritual. 47 The first man was of the dust of the earth; the second man is of heaven. 48 As was the earthly man, so are those who are of the earth; and as is the heavenly man, so also are those who are of heaven. 49 And just as we have borne the image of the earthly man, so shall we[b] bear the image of the heavenly man.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

How Can Grief Turn To Joy?

As Jesus prepares his disciples for his departure he says, "in a little while you will see me no more, and then after a little while you will see me." It is easy for us to look back and know that he is referring to his death and subsequent resurrection. But the disciples were befuddled and talked among themselves trying to figure what he was saying. Jesus knew what they were talking about so he tries to explain the meaning to them using some analogies.

He uses the example of childbirth as an illustration of something very painful but leads to joy and new life. Pain turns into gladness. And grief into joy. Jesus will go through death on the cross on Friday, and will be raised to new life on Sunday. Their will be new life and much rejoicing.

So the question for you today might be where is there pain in your life? How can God use this suffering and turn it into joy despite the circumstances? James responds to us saying to not be surprised when we face many kinds of trials. But these trials help us to mature in faith and rely on God in new ways. Just like pain in childbirth brings new life, as we die to sin, we find new life. Through the death of self comes freedom to serve and love.

Jesus' resurrection power is not just something we remember on Easter, but it is available every day that we are willing to lay down our lives and rise to newness of life. Sometimes it is hard to let go of control and trust God when we cannot see what He is doing. But this is when the very power of God is with us, helping us to do what we could not do for ourselves.

The Disciples’ Grief Will Turn to Joy
16 Jesus went on to say, “In a little while you will see me no more, and then after a little while you will see me.”

17 At this, some of his disciples said to one another, “What does he mean by saying, ‘In a little while you will see me no more, and then after a little while you will see me,’ and ‘Because I am going to the Father’?” 18 They kept asking, “What does he mean by ‘a little while’? We don’t understand what he is saying.”

19 Jesus saw that they wanted to ask him about this, so he said to them, “Are you asking one another what I meant when I said, ‘In a little while you will see me no more, and then after a little while you will see me’? 20 Very truly I tell you, you will weep and mourn while the world rejoices. You will grieve, but your grief will turn to joy. 21 A woman giving birth to a child has pain because her time has come; but when her baby is born she forgets the anguish because of her joy that a child is born into the world. 22 So with you: Now is your time of grief, but I will see you again and you will rejoice, and no one will take away your joy. 23 In that day you will no longer ask me anything. Very truly I tell you, my Father will give you whatever you ask in my name. 24 Until now you have not asked for anything in my name. Ask and you will receive, and your joy will be complete.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

What Does a Church Leader Look Like?

As someone has said, "As the leaders go, so goes the church." Simply put in every Christ centered and thriving church, you will find godly leaders. You will find true shepherds who watch over their flock not eager for gain, but willing to lay down their lives for them. You will find servant leaders, who don't look out for their own interests but to the interests of others. And of course, this is all modeled after The Lord Jesus Christ, the Good Shepherd, who laid down his life for the sheep whom he had called.

So today when Paul writes to Titus, his brother in the faith, he has in mind this crucial issue of godly leaders. The New Testament has a couple words for these leaders. One is elder, who exercises spiritual oversight of the congregation. He is also called an overseer for the same reason. Finally, this person is also sometimes called a bishop or presbyter. Bottom line is that these were the men who led the churches. They preached and taught and oversaw the spiritual formation of the members of the church.

You can see the laundry list of qualifications in the passage below. One might be tempted to say, "if these are the qualifications, who could possibly live up to them?" But if you look at the list there is nothing particularly daunting in each of the qualifications. It seems like the basics for any Christian. Important is character, but also the content of their teaching which must hold firmly to the Gospel they have been entrusted. So not only is their life important but their doctrine too. As Paul said, "watch your life and doctrine too!"

Bottom line is there are high expectations for leaders as they represents the bride of Christ, the Church. A leader must not take lightly their call and how their life speaks as loudly as their words. Pray for your leaders that Christ might help them to fulfilling their calling in Christ!

Appointing Elders Who Love What Is Good
5 The reason I left you in Crete was that you might put in order what was left unfinished and appoint[a] elders in every town, as I directed you. 6 An elder must be blameless, faithful to his wife, a man whose children believe[b] and are not open to the charge of being wild and disobedient. 7 Since an overseer manages God’s household, he must be blameless—not overbearing, not quick-tempered, not given to drunkenness, not violent, not pursuing dishonest gain. 8 Rather, he must be hospitable, one who loves what is good, who is self-controlled, upright, holy and disciplined. 9 He must hold firmly to the trustworthy message as it has been taught, so that he can encourage others by sound doctrine and refute those who oppose it.

Monday, May 18, 2015

How to Come Into God's Presence!

As God appointed Aaron as the High Priest, who came into God's presence as an intermediary for the Israelites, we see a foreshadowing of the ministry of Christ, the Great High priest. The various items Aaron put on his body point to Jesus' role in mediation between God and man.

1. Breastplate with the names of the sons of Israel. - Jesus was the breastplate of righteousness, who wrote down all of his sons and daughter's names in the book of life.

2. The Urim and Thummin. These were put into the breastplate and traditionally used as a source of divination. They could mean "yes" or "no", and similar to casting lots, they were used in decision making. Also, they were used to determine who was a sinner in their midst. We know Jesus was the wisdom of God, and judged the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. In a similar way, the Holy Spirit plays this role in a believer's life.

3. The robe with gold bells and pomegranates. They signify the covering over the high priest to ensure he would not die. The robe was also seen as a covering God gave him to protect him when he was in His presence. In the same way believers are given white robes in Revelation as a symbol that they have been washed by the Lamb of God. Though their sins are like scarlet, Jesus has made them as white as snow.

4. The gold plate on Aaron's turban/forehead. It has a seal engraved on it which says, "holy to The Lord". This will be used to bear the guilt when the people make sacrifices, so they are acceptable to The Lord. When we baptize children and adults, we mark them with the sign of the cross and say, "you are a child of God marked by the cross of Christ and sealed by the Holy Spirit forever."

We can see how all of the details of how God brought the Israelites into relationship with Himself reach their fulfillment in Christ. We can now come into God's through Jesus, in the power of the Holy Spirit. This is an experience the Jews would have have found unacceptable and unimaginable. But shows God desire to be in relationship with us by sending His only Son. Amen.

Exodus 28:29-38
29 “Whenever Aaron enters the Holy Place, he will bear the names of the sons of Israel over his heart on the breastpiece of decision as a continuing memorial before the Lord. 30 Also put the Urim and the Thummim in the breastpiece, so they may be over Aaron’s heart whenever he enters the presence of the Lord. Thus Aaron will always bear the means of making decisions for the Israelites over his heart before the Lord.

Other Priestly Garments
31 “Make the robe of the ephod entirely of blue cloth, 32 with an opening for the head in its center. There shall be a woven edge like a collar[a] around this opening, so that it will not tear. 33 Make pomegranates of blue, purple and scarlet yarn around the hem of the robe, with gold bells between them. 34 The gold bells and the pomegranates are to alternate around the hem of the robe. 35 Aaron must wear it when he ministers. The sound of the bells will be heard when he enters the Holy Place before the Lord and when he comes out, so that he will not die.

36 “Make a plate of pure gold and engrave on it as on a seal: holy to the Lord. 37 Fasten a blue cord to it to attach it to the turban; it is to be on the front of the turban. 38 It will be on Aaron’s forehead, and he will bear the guilt involved in the sacred gifts the Israelites consecrate, whatever their gifts may be. It will be on Aaron’s forehead continually so that they will be acceptable to the Lord.