WARNING - Work in Progress

WARNING - Work in Progress
WARNING - Work in Progress

Thursday, April 12, 2018

His Unfailing Love – 4/15/2018


Psalm 13
How long, Lord? Will you forget me forever?
    How long will you hide your face from me?
How long must I wrestle with my thoughts
    and day after day have sorrow in my heart?
    How long will my enemy triumph over me?
Look on me and answer, Lord my God.
    Give light to my eyes, or I will sleep in death,
and my enemy will say, “I have overcome him,”
    and my foes will rejoice when I fall.
But I trust in your unfailing love;
    my heart rejoices in your salvation.
I will sing the Lord’s praise,
    for he has been good to me.

As I get older I feel like the time is flying by (there just aren’t enough hours in the month!) however there have been times when the seconds seem like they take forever to tick by.  As a kid on Christmas Eve night waiting for the morning to come is one such time or when waiting for dad to get home from work when your mother has promised you his wrath is another.  I also remember sitting in detention at school watching the second hand of the clock roll around and feeling like the hour would never end.

In Psalm 13 David knew this feeling well as he was waiting on God to show-up in the midst of his life.  David was agonizing and wrestling in his soul and desperately wanting God to make an appearance and to get him through his inner turmoil.  

Do you too know the feeling of agonizing while the time seems to sit still and praying that God will come to the rescue?  I think everyone does.  Notice then what David writes in verse 5, “But I trust in your unfailing love…”  His unfailing love: most of us non-jews are ignorant to the depth and richness of God’s unfailing love.

In His unfailing love God rescued Abraham’s children from their slavery in Egypt and to them a land that wasn’t their own, in His unfailing love God taught the Israelite’s how to live and be a blessing to the nations, and in His unfailing love, when they messed it all up and repeatedly turned toward other gods He provided to them the Messiah, Jesus of Nazareth, to die on the Cross for them and redeem the children of Abraham anyway.

Today, we too can trust in God’s unfailing love for us as we too hold onto the promise of Abraham that we might be a blessing to the world.

Romans 9:8
… it is not the children by physical descent who are God’s children, but it is the children of the promise who are regarded as Abraham’s offspring.

Sunday, April 1, 2018

The Empty Tomb – 4/01/2018


No Joke, the tomb is empty!  (See what I did there?  Witty right?)

While every Easter sermon this year will begin the same exact way as I began above, I am going to veer here from my contemporaries by proclaiming "yes" that the tomb was indeed empty, but that did not lessen the confusion of the disciples.  (See my Good Friday post about the confusion of the disciples)

When the realization that Jesus was not dead, but alive, worked its way through the community of his disciples, they were confused and doubtful.  The men would not even believe the women who came from the tomb and announced that the angels told them that Jesus was in deed alive.  And don’t be too cross with the men, for believing that a man that you knew to be dead but now alive was not something that is easily believed by anyone.  The turning point came for them when Jesus appeared to them.  When they saw him alive they accepted the reality, but still they were confused; none of it made any sense.

But there was a time when Jesus made it clear to them.  Do you remember when that was? 

John 20:19-23
19 On the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jewish leaders, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” 20 After he said this, he showed them his hands and side. The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord.  21 Again Jesus said, “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.” 22 And with that he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit. 23 If you forgive anyone’s sins, their sins are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.”

Do you see it?  Look at verse 22. 

At this point all the Pentecostals in the room are shouting amens at their computer screens; as well we all should.  But we shouldn’t accept this passage without also reading its fellow verse.

Luke 24:45
45 Then he opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures.

Now all the Sessationsits are shouting amens.  (I had a friend once who told me that the Pentecostals often forget that there is a Bible and the Sessationists forget that there is a Holy Spirit.  That’s a discussion for another day though.)

Anyhow, the point is that Jesus appeared to the disciples and breathed on them the Holy Spirit so that they could understand the Scriptures about what had just happened.  The Jewish disciples knew the Jewish Scriptures but like pieces of a puzzle, their knowledge of those scriptures were all jumbled and still in the box.  When Jesus gave them the Spirit and opened their minds to the Scriptures, they could see for the first time the whole picture and what those puzzle pieces actually formed. 
So yes, the tomb is empty but the blessing was in the breath of Jesus and the Spirit’s opening of the mind to the Scriptures that explained God’s Messiah.  In other words, the blessing was in knowing and understanding Jesus as God’s fulfillment of his own promise to Israel. An empty tomb is great but the confusion about the Messiah is cast out with the Holy Spirit miracle of having our minds opened by God’s Spirit; today just as it was then.

Who says that God’s miraculous Holy Spirit doesn’t intercede supernaturally today?

I don’t have time to detail the story of God through the promise of Abram from the scripture to the day of Messiah’s resurrection in this post, but if you want to know why they called it Gospel good news then you will need to understand what Jesus revealed to the disciples about their scriptures.  Until that happens, the tomb is indeed empty and that is a sign that you need to listen-up and seek to have him breath on you the Spirit while you begin reading those Scriptures as well.

Friday, March 30, 2018

Good Friday – 3/30/2018


Luke 23:44-46
44 It was now about noon, and darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon, 45 for the sun stopped shining. And the curtain of the temple was torn in two. 46 Jesus called out with a loud voice, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.” When he had said this, he breathed his last.

Does “Good Friday” confuse you a little?  Children often ask how a man is executed on a cross and we can call it “good.”  Of course I answer with the standard Easter message and all the theological wisdom I have been taught.  But if I want to experience Good Friday, along with the original disciples, I’m going to allow myself to be completely confused.

Peter denied our lord three times during the trial of Jesus.  Don’t be hard on him, you would have done the same.  It is said that Peter denied knowing him because he was afraid that the Romans would come after him next.  While this was true, I suspect that Peter also denied Jesus for the same reason Judas did; because all Jews knew that Messiah could not hung on a tree (Galatians 3:13),  and the way that the trial was going, it looked like this was where he was headed.  Now none of the disciples could be sure that they ever really knew him at all.

Messiah was supposed to come and destroy the oppressors of the Israelites (Rome) in the fashion of King David – but here he was executed by the Romans.

Messiah was supposed to redeem the Israelites like God had done when he redeemed them from Egypt back in the days of Moses – but a dead messiah cannot possibly do that.

Messiah was supposed to be God’s approved Man of God – but certainly Jesus was not Messiah because he was dead.

It must have been terrible to see Jesus die.  The disappointment they must have felt when they realized that they had given up everything to follow him for three years only to realize that he was dead must have been horrific.  They must have thought more than once that they wished they could just wake up and have it be simply a terrible nightmare.  

But this was “Good Friday” and the terrible confusion would torment them for the next agonizingly long three days.

Matthew 18:3
And he said: “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.

Friday, March 16, 2018

The Jewish Me – 3/18/2018


Jeremiah 31:31-34 (NIV)
31 “The days are coming,” declares the Lord, when I will make a new covenant
with the people of Israel and with the people of Judah. 32 It will not be like the covenant I made with their ancestors when I took them by the hand to lead them out of Egypt, because they broke my covenant, though I was a husband to them,” declares the Lord.

33 “This is the covenant I will make with the people of Israel after that time,” declares the Lord.  ”I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people. 34 No longer will they teach their neighbor, or say to one another, ‘Know the Lord,’ because they will all know me, from the least of them to the greatest,” declares the Lord. “For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more.”
I have listed all the sermons in Acts below in a chart (I stole this from a website that in turn stole it from a book).  What is interesting in all of these sermons is that it does not sound a bit like what I hear at my church (and I say “my church” meaning the protestant church in general).  As I peruse the themes below I realize something that is missing, can you tell what it is?  What’s missing is the class on the authority of the Scriptures.  While the authority of the Scripture is indeed an important class the early church did not start there – if ever they went there. 

I’ve been reading a book by N.T. Wright called Paul, A Biography[1] (Buy it here! http://a.co/7CdwKpl) and I was alerted to the fact that the Apostle Paul was a first century Jewish man who understood the Gospel of Jesus differently than I do as a twenty-first century Christian.

Well Duh that makes absolute sense!  That explains why Paul doesn’t write with an Enlightenment world view nor with a dominant Reformed perspective.  Dr. Wright is correct when he states that if this is how we read our New Testaments then we are misreading it.

Now to Jeremiah, the passage above.

This proclamation by the Prophet is the promise of God.  It is the promise of God from all the way back in the beginning in Genesis 12 when God promised Abram that He would make him into a great nation so that he could be a blessing to the nations.  For the Jews, this was the Gospel (the Good News), that God had at long last fulfilled His promise and redeemed the Israelites through the Messiah – Jesus Christ! 

The reason however that there was so much issue from the Jewish community was that the Jews did not believe that God would use a crucified Messiah to redeem them, many (most) would not believe that it would be through shame and weakness that God would restore Israel.  I guess they expected to have a little less egg on their faces when God “defeated” the nations.  But for the Apostles and Jesus it was a gospel of how the Kingdom of God had come, and was here, and for Paul, the fulfillment of God’s promise was about how He has used Israel to usher in the blessing to the Gentiles through their Crucified Messiah.

As I read Dr. Wright’s book I am becoming aware of how completely Enlightened and reformed I am in my thinking and I’m considering that I need to take a course in how to think Jewish.  I have been grafted into the Jewish family of Abraham (Romans 11:11-31) and I have been adopted (Ephesians 1:5) into the very family of God – even though I am a Gentile!  (And you are too unless you are Jewish: then no, not you.)
This changes everything for me.  Instead of a Gospel that asks if you are “going to heaven when you die?”  The question is now “are you a part of the Kingdom of God while you live?”  For indeed Jesus was crucified on the Cross to destroy the sin and death of Adam and gives you new life that you might live and be a blessing to the nations!  The gospel I am used to is self-focused where this gospel saves me so that I will be a blessing.  I like it! I think I’ll preach it.
Back in the Garden Adam and Eve ate the fruit of a tree that brought them death.  Now, through the crucified Messiah we are brought to a tree that gives us life.  

John 15:5
“I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.

Major Sermons and Preaching in the Book of Acts
Peter to Crowds at Pentecost
Peter’s Explanation of Pentecost
Acts 2:14-40
Peter to Crowds at the Temple
The Jewish People should repent for crucifying the Messiah
Acts 3:12-26
Peter to the Sanhedrin
Testimony that a helpless man was healed by the power of Jesus
Acts 4:5-12
Stephen to the Sanhedrin
Stephen reviews Jewish history, accusing the Jews of killing the Messiah
Acts 7
Philip to the Samaritans
Philip flees Jerusalem after the stoning of Stephen and begins to preach to the Samaritans
Acts 8:5
Peter to Gentiles
Gentiles can be saved in the same manner as Jews
Acts 10:28-47
Peter to church at Jerusalem
Peter’s Testimony of his experiences at Joppa and a defense of this ministry to the Gentiles
Acts 11:4-18
Paul to Synagogue at Antioch
Jesus was the Messiah in fulfillment of Old Testament prophecies
Acts 13:16-41
Paul and Barnabus at Iconium
Paul and Barnabus spoke boldly in Iconium’s Jewish Synagogue, causing many to believe and disbelievers to stir up opposition
Acts 14:3-7
Peter to Jerusalem Council
Salvation by grace available to all
Acts 15:7-11
James to Jerusalem Council
Gentile converts do not require circumcision
Acts 15:13-21
Paul and Silas in Prison
Paul and Silas preach to the prison guard after a terrible earthquake
Acts 16:31
Paul in Athens at the Areopagus
Paul preaches the Gospel in the Athenian culture that has no knowledge of the God of Judaism
Acts 17:22-35
Paul to Ephesian Elders
Remain faithful in spite of false teachers and persecution
Acts 20:17-35
Paul to crowd at Jerusalem
Paul’s statement of his conversion and his mission to the Gentiles
Acts 22:1-21
Paul to Sanhedrin
Paul’s defense declaring himself a Pharisee and Roman Citizen
Acts 23:1-6
Paul’s defense before Felix in Caesarea
Paul proclaims his righteousness and judgment to come
Acts 24:10-21
Paul to King Agrippa
Paul’s statement of his conversion and zeal for the Gospel
Acts 26:2-23
Paul to Jewish leaders at Rome
Paul’s statement about his Jewish Heritage
Acts 28:17-20[2]

[1] Paul, A Biography, 2018: N.T. Wright.  http://a.co/7CdwKpl
[2] https://www.leadershipresources.org/blog/list-of-sermons-in-acts/