WARNING - Work in Progress

WARNING - Work in Progress
WARNING - Work in Progress

Sunday, November 27, 2016

First Week of Advent: 2016 - 11/27/2016


The symbolism of Advent is a time of expectation for us.  It is the time of year, leading up to Christmas Day when we expectantly await the celebration of Christ’s birth.  For the four Sundays leading up to Christmas Day we light a candle on the Advent wreath and focus on a particular aspect of the meaning of the Messiah who was born.


The first candle of the wreath to be lit is a purple one and it represents Hope.  For the Jewish person of Mary’s day, there was a great expectant hope in the coming of Messiah, the Messiah was to be the restoration of the Nation of Israel.  The Messiah was going to be the rightful King of Israel from the direct line of King David of old.  The hope was that the king would free the people from Roman rule and establish the new reign and kingdom of Israel.  

Of course, that was not the case for Jesus and so he was executed on the Cross as a blasphemer.  Today, the Christian has the gift of hind sight, and we recognize that the Cross was the fulfillment of the Law and the beginning of the new Kingdom of Heaven.

However, today we do share in Israel’s story as we too are wondering in this dark world without hope.  The message of the gospel is that we humans need to escape the coming judgement of God, the great and terrible Day when God will judge the living and the dead according to sin.  But that the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus shows us that the consequences of sin has been destroyed, and all who repent and trust in Jesus by faith are given the grace of deliverance and eternal life.

This is the hope that we celebrate today, that the child, who is born in the manger on Christmas morning, is God’s life boat to us as people who were without hope.  But in faith, we may claim his Cross as our salvation and celebrate His coming into our dark world.

Our hope is in faith in the Christ of God and we begin the celebration of hope with the promise of the birth of the Christ child.

Luke 1:29-33
29 Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. 30 But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favor with God. 31 You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus. 32 He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, 33 and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; his kingdom will never end.”

Matthew 1:20-21
20 But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. 21 She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus,[f] because he will save his people from their sins.”
22 All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: 23 “The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel” (which means “God with us”).

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Eternity and Cremation - 11/20/2016


I shouldn’t be writing this right now, I just drank a bottle of wine.  Ok, not really a bottle, my wife nursed a half-glass.  It wasn’t anywhere near 11% ABV or I would have went to sleep a half bottle ago, but I’m relaxed enough to not care if anyone knows that I’ve been imbibing.

I did a funeral today.  It was my first Romanian Orthodox funeral.  They called on me because the woman was cremated, and so her Romanian Orthodox church would not do her funeral.  It was fun because I got to do the service of the Colac bread before the memorial meal.  It was a nice ceremony but I’m off point.

The point I am trying to make is that there is not a problem about being cremated.  I am positive that those who disagree with me will supply a number of bible passages that prove otherwise, so I will provide my reasoning and let you decide.

Jesus died on the Cross for us while we were yet sinners.  (Romans 5:8)

This means Jesus died for us…  He took the shame of the Cross upon Himself, for you and me, and He had nails pounded into His hands or wrists and feet, voluntarily, in order to set us free from the curse of sin and death.  But since He did this I do not now believe that He has become so particular that the remains of our earthly bodies’ actually matter. 

When He died for us, He died while we were in a state of unrepentant sin.  We were actively in the hood or in the bar and living our lives ignorant and separate of Him.  We were looking at the stars and our horoscopes expecting the world to work according to common knowledge of the pagan traditions and the ruler of the air.  But Jesus went to the Cross, in order to redeem us all from the death and sin that originally separated us from our Creator.

God went to great lengths to set us free, even sacrificing His own Son, Himself Emmanuel, on the Cross.

And since He did this, are we now to believe that He would be so petty as to reject those of us who have been cremated?  That everyone who has ever been lost at sea, everyone who did not get out of the burning home in time, and everyone who has been destroyed in the myriad of other human tragedies is now rejected by the blood that Jesus shed in order to redeem mankind?

Some may decide that God really is that petty, but I cannot believe that this is true.  I cannot believe for a moment that the sacrifice of Jesus, and the shedding of His blood, is not so eternal that it doesn't overcomes every human tragedy and instance of human destruction.

The blood of Jesus covers over the spiritual sin of mankind, and so it also must cover the entire physical tragedy of humanity as well.  The tipping point for me is the question between the power of the blood vs the power of this physical realm.

I guess the point is that I am confident in the blood and not the doctrines of men.  And I would encourage you to know the Savior who died, was buried, and resurrected from the grave, so that you may have His confidence as well. 

I could be wrong in this, but I am at total peace having hope in the blood that my Savior so graciously shed for me. 

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Who Did You Vote For? - 11/13/2016


1 Samuel 8:7b

“It is not you they have rejected, but they have rejected me as their king.

The Children of Israel used to be governed by God though the direction of Judges and Prophets.  But they decided they wanted to be like the other nations around them and demanded that the prophet appoint a king to rule over them.  The prophet Samuel was not happy about this but God said to him to not fret it because it was not him that the people rejected, but rather it was God Himself.

During this past presidential election cycle, I have heard many people claim this person or that was God’s chosen person to lead America,  I have heard the rhetoric that God specifically loves America, because America is God’s new chosen people, and I have heard that no matter what, whomever the person is that sits in the White House , that God is actually the one in control.  While I am not seeking debate on any of these points, I am pointing out that God’s intention was for Himself to directly rule his people, but we men had rejected that.

Then I am reminded of Jesus’s words when the Pharisees came to test him about the issue of divorce in Mark 19.  They wanted to know if divorce was legal.

Mark 19:7-8

“Why then,” they asked, “did Moses command that a man give his wife a certificate of divorce and send her away?”

Jesus replied, “Moses permitted you to divorce your wives because your hearts were hard. But it was not this way from the beginning.

It seems to me that if we American’s experience any despair or extreme comfort because of the results of the presidential election, then we are forgetting that our current system is not exactly as it should have been, or should be.  God might have allowed our political system to be, but originally it is not as it ought to be.

And the words of Samuel that echo in my head the most are the words that he spoke after he warned the people exactly what would happen when a King would rule over them and they still wanted one anyway.

1 Samuel 8:18

”When that day comes, you will cry out for relief from the king you have chosen, but the Lord will not answer you in that day.”

Please don’t think I am trying to force the ancient texts into being a direct response to the current American experience, I'm not, I am simply trying to point out that sometimes God will give us exactly what we want.  And sometimes there are very real consequences for getting what we want.

And in the spirit of full disclosure, it is important to state that I did vote, and no I’m not going to disclose for whom I voted.  And I trust that no matter the results of elections, that I may keep God on His throne all the days of my life, even if I am subject to other rulers and authorities.

Sunday, November 6, 2016

Why Were You Formed? - 11/6/2016


Jeremiah 1:4b-9

The word of the Lord came to me, saying,
“Before I formed you in the womb I knew [chose] you,
    before you were born I set you apart;
    I appointed you as a prophet to the nations.”
“Alas, Sovereign Lord,” I said, “I do not know how to speak; I am too young.”
But the Lord said to me, “Do not say, ‘I am too young.’ You must go to everyone I send you to and say whatever I command you. Do not be afraid of them, for I am with you and will rescue you,” declares the Lord.
Then the Lord reached out his hand and touched my mouth and said to me, “I have put my words in your mouth. 10 See, today I appoint you over nations and kingdoms to uproot and tear down, to destroy and overthrow, to build and to plant.”

It’s common for Pro-Life Christians to use this verse as a rationalization that every human has been formed in the mother’s womb by God Himself, and they do this as to say that murdering a baby is destroying what God is actively creating.  While I am UN-apologetically on the side of the unborn life of a baby over the supposed “rights” of the mother, I do not think it is correct to infer this very specific discussion from God to His chosen Prophet, Jeremiah, on our own lives today.  Not specifically anyway.

When God speaks to Jeremiah here, He is doing so as He is commissioning Jeremiah to the very specific task of being His prophet among Israel and the nations.  God’s words here are not to emphasize his general creation of babies in the mother’s womb, but rather God is emphasizing that He had chosen Jeremiah for the specific task of being His mouthpiece.  

And so it seems disingenuous to me to force this verse to be a specific generality for all of mankind.  However, I do not think it is wrong to use this passage as a general way in which we can learn about God – and ourselves.

Quite simply, this verse tells me that God chooses those whom he wills for His own purposes.   

And then, we read some thousand years later, the Apostle Paul wrote in his letter to the Church in Ephesus.

Ephesian 1:4-9

For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will— to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace that he lavished on us. With all wisdom and understanding, he made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ, 10 to be put into effect when the times reach their fulfillment—to bring unity to all things in heaven and on earth under Christ.

Paul is writing to the Church; the congregation of the Baptized, the assembly of the faithful, the gathering of the Christ followers, and He tells them that God has chosen them from the beginning of Creation.  That God has predestined their assembly to be adopted as His sons.

Paul’s words to this Church in Ephesus seem to parallel the words of God to Jeremiah; they are specific to the person or the group.  However, unlike God’s specific language to the Jeremiah personally, the words of Paul are to the Church as a whole, of which when we become part of the congregation of the Baptized, the assembly of the faithful, and the gathering of the Christ followers then we are retroactively counted among the children of God for we have been “adopted into sonship through Jesus Christ.” 

I heard a quote the other day that said that we humans spend too much time defining ourselves by who we are not rather than focusing on who were are.  I agree with that, I think we Christians do spend too much time talking about who we are NOT and spend too little time knowing who we are.  If you are a follower of Jesus then YOU ARE a son of the living God, and I believe that it isn’t a stretch to believe that just as God touched the lips of Jeremiah for His purposes, that we too, as the church, have been touched by God to accomplish His purposes upon our communities here today.

So, don't be afraid today for God is with us and for us and it is He who rescues us in our times of trouble.  Be blessed this week and don’t fret about who you aren’t, but rather, take a moment and know who you are by faith in Jesus.