WARNING - Work in Progress

WARNING - Work in Progress
WARNING - Work in Progress

Sunday, January 28, 2018

The Rules of Christianity – 1/28/2018


When God redeemed and saved the Israelites from their slavery in Egypt, He promised to take them from Egypt and give them a land of their own (i.e. the land of Canaan).  In the process of them traveling to their new home God had to do a lot of work teaching them to how to live as His children.  We often find the laws boring to read through in our Bibles, but these laws were quite necessary.  And it only makes sense doesn’t it?  The Israelites had lived some 400 hundred years in Egypt as slaves.  They were Egyptian; their culture, their spirituality, their world-view, their practices, everything they had ever known in this world was Egyptian.  So when God led them off into the world, they had to be re-taught how to think and act because the world God was leading them to, was nothing like the Egypt they had always known.

Deuteronomy 18:14-16

14 The nations you will dispossess listen to those who practice sorcery or divination. But as for you, the Lord your God has not permitted you to do so. 15 The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among you, from your fellow Israelites. You must listen to him. 16 For this is what you asked of the Lord your God at Horeb on the day of the assembly when you said, “Let us not hear the voice of the Lord our God nor see this great fire anymore, or we will die.”

Priests, Holy Men, Shamans, and the like all used methods of the dark spiritual arts to guide people; this is just the way it was done in the world, but God had redeemed the Israelites and was showing them a new way of living from what they had always known.  Instead of having someone who used sorcery or divination to guide people through the spiritual life, God would put his spirit into a Prophet that would have the very words of God to direct the people with.

In our present lives, it is quite the same.  When Jesus redeemed us from our lives of sin and death, He is now leading us toward our own Promised Land and teaching us how to live sanctified lives in Him.  All the rules and regulations that we feel that are put on the Christian are nothing more than re-teaching us how to live.

·         * Instead of living for own benefit, we have died with Christ and now live for the benefit of others.

·         * Instead of living in drunken reverie, we have died with Christ and now live a sober life to honor Him.

·         * Instead of living in sexual deviancy, we have died with Christ and now live to honor Christ with our bodies.

·         * Instead of living as a religious person, we have died with Christ and now live lives of faith through the Spirit of Him who lives in us.

While justification[1] in Christ is not about our morality, our sanctification [2]most definitely is.  Don’t avoid Jesus because of the rules, but understand that rules are necessary to retrain us to live in the Kingdom of Christ.

[1] Justification is a fancy word that means that we are redeemed by Jesus because of His act on the cross.  God considers you and I redeemed because of Jesus, not because of our right understanding or actions.  Therefore, redemption and salvation in Christ is not YOU but about Jesus: the rules are not the point. (See 1 Corinthians 6:12-17)
[2] Sanctification is a fancy word that means a follower of Jesus is making his actions holy as He is holy.  Here the rules matter, the problem is figuring out which rules actually matter to God.  Man is very good at making rules in the church that sound right but have nothing at all to do with actually being sanctified before Christ. (See Mark 8:28-31)

Sunday, January 21, 2018

The Belly of the Fish – 1/21/2018


Jonah 3:1-10
3 Then the word of the Lord came to Jonah a second time: “Go to the great city of Nineveh and proclaim to it the message I give you.”

Jonah obeyed the word of the Lord and went to Nineveh. Now Nineveh was a very large city; it took three days to go through it. Jonah began by going a day’s journey into the city, proclaiming, “Forty more days and Nineveh will be overthrown.” The Ninevites believed God. A fast was proclaimed, and all of them, from the greatest to the least, put on sackcloth.
When Jonah’s warning reached the king of Nineveh, he rose from his throne, took off his royal robes, covered himself with sackcloth and sat down in the dust. This is the proclamation he issued in Nineveh: “By the decree of the king and his nobles: Do not let people or animals, herds or flocks, taste anything; do not let them eat or drink. But let people and animals be covered with sackcloth. Let everyone call urgently on God. Let them give up their evil ways and their violence. Who knows? God may yet relent and with compassion turn from his fierce anger so that we will not perish.”

10 When God saw what they did and how they turned from their evil ways, he relented and did not bring on them the destruction he had threatened.

Most people know the Jonah’s story…

In chapter 1 verse 1, God called Jonah to go to Nineveh and preach to that city because its wickedness had come to His attention.  In the very next sentence (verse 2) we are told that Jonah ran away from God and went in the other direction.  Jonah ran because God wanted to forgive that city’s sins, and that’s exactly what he did – God forgave them.

Jonah 4:1
But to Jonah this seemed very wrong, and he became angry. He prayed to the Lord, “Isn’t this what I said, Lord, when I was still at home? That is what I tried to forestall by fleeing to Tarshish. I knew that you are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abounding in love, a God who relents from sending calamity.

Nineveh was a wicked city and their cruelty is legendary.  When they conquered a people, they didn’t just kill them and leave they cruelly killed them and enslaved them.  Jonah new of them and in his estimation the world was a better place if they just didn’t exist.  So when God called him to go to Nineveh, he ran hoping that they would burn like Sodom and Gomorrah.

Who is that person or people group that you think would make the world a better place if they were dead.  Who do you pray that God would totally destroy and wipe from the earth?  Does it surprise you to learn that God loves even that person, or persons, and desires desperately that they will hear the grace of Jesus Blood and turn from their sin and wicked ways?  Further, does it surprise you that God is calling you to be the person to tell them about Jesus blood and the forgiveness of God?  I know, this isn’t a popular thought but it’s just the way the faith works.

So how about it, are you ready to go to your Nineveh or are you happy traveling through life in the belly of a great fish?

Jonah 4:4 & 11
But the Lord replied, “Is it right for you to be angry?”  11 …should I not have concern for the great city of Nineveh, in which there are more than a hundred and twenty thousand people who cannot tell their right hand from their left—and also many animals?”

When we understand the cross of Jesus and truly what we were before we were saved, we will have compassion on even our enemies.  However, Jonah didn’t quite get it and neither did the majority of the Jews when Jesus taught them.

Matthew 5:43-45
43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 that you may be children of your Father in heaven.

Do you get it?  Sometimes I do but honestly, there are times that I hang out in the belly of the whale for far too long.  Let’s all spend time at the foot of the cross that we might understand ourselves in order to love others – even our enemies.

Saturday, January 20, 2018

United Congregational Church of Christ - Sermon Notes: 1/14/2018

SERMON – United Congregational Church of Christ (Armada, MI)

“Who Are We?”

·         1 Samuel 3:1-10 [11-20]
·         Psalm 139:1-6, 13-18
·         1 Corinthians 6:12-20
·         John 1:43-51

This morning, the lectionary gives us four scripture passages.  I generally try to evaluate each passage individually and then pray asking God to lead me toward a unified understanding of them so that I might be able to proclaim the Gospel of Jesus most effectively.  This morning is no different and I pray that what God has given me I might pass on to you in some meaningful way.

We’ve begun the service with the Call To Worship as we read our Psalm 139 passage.  (Read highlights from the Bulletin Call to Worship.)

We begin by acknowledging that God is our Creator and that He knows us unreservedly and completely.
·         Does it make you nervous to know that God knows your every thought?
o   Mabey not – or maybe it should.
o   I personally have an issue with my thought life.  I say things in my head that I would never dream of saying out loud.
§  I think things that I would never tell someone else because I am supposed to be a minister of the Gospel, and spiritually beyond all that.
§  Often I struggle with myself because I have a pretty big expectation for myself than what I actually demonstrate.

God knows our every thought, whether good or bad, but despite that he calls us anyway. 

Our second and third scriptures this morning are from 1 Samuel 3 and John 1; the calling of Samuel the Prophet and Philip the Apostle.

In 1 Samuel 3, the child Samuel is established as one of God’s greatest Prophets.  He was trained by Eli who was the temple priest of God. 

·         Eli and his sons performed the duties of the priesthood where the Ark rested in the House of the Lord.

·         Eli was OK, but his sons were corrupt and evil in the eyes of God

o   The sons kept the choicest meat for themselves rather than giving it rightly to the people, thus treating the sacrifice of God as contemptible

o   They even slept with the women who served at the entrance of the tent of meeting.  (Sexual-harassment is not something that is new in our world.)

·         And so it was that Eli knew about the sins of his sons but he did not put a stop to it and so God put the boys to death and took Eli’s entire family-line out of His service as priests.

While Samuel was an exemplary man, he too was just a man, like all of us, and I am betting that he had his thoughts that he too struggled with.  And the point is that God called him and had him do great things for His Glory despite those struggles that he had.

I believe the difference between the sons of Eli and Samuel was the struggle.  The sons of Eli rationalized that their deeds were above reproach and so did not struggle with them, where Eli was humble and fought with his inner demons.

·         I think this is because I am more apt to be sympathetic to someone who struggles because they know something is wrong than I am with someone who has rationalized their bad actions and no longer struggles with them but just lives out the wrong action as though it were right.

·         This is the problem that we all have with Adolf Hitler and the Germans during WWII.  Somewhere along the way they convinced themselves that the atrocities they committed against the Jews were right, and they easily performed mass executions and enslavement of many thousands and millions of Jews.

·         And In America today, we have many Christians who believe that many acts are OK because it’s popular in our culture to believe it, but often we are not honoring God with those actions, but actually dis-honoring Him without any internal struggle to the contrary.

Then in John 1

Jesus met with Philip and told him to “Follow me”, he did so knowing that Philip was completely human, completely flawed, and a total sinner.  But despite those attributes Jesus still called him to “follow me.”  Philip demonstrated that he struggled within himself, for he was there with John the Baptist when many Israelites came out and were baptized responding to John’s message of repentance.

So, I see the message of God knowing mankind intimately and calling us into His service despite ourselves is dominant in our texts. So long as there is the struggle.

Do you have the struggle in yourself this morning?  Do you want to do what is right but struggle with the desire to do what is sin?

ROMANS 7:21-25a

“I find this law at work: Although I want to do good, evil is right there with me. 22 For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; 23 but I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me. 24 What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? 25 Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!”

Our final scripture passage is from 1 Corinthians 6:12-20

Paul uses the arguments the Corinthian church is using to justify their actions.  They understood that the Grace of Jesus completely made them free to live without law and restriction in relation to God.

·         “I have the right to do anything,” you say—but not everything is beneficial.

·         “I have the right to do anything”—but I will not be mastered by anything.

·         You say, “Food for the stomach and the stomach for food, and God will destroy them both.” The body, however, is not meant for sexual immorality but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body.

To be sure this entire sixth chapter is a good one to use when discussing morality but at the very end I believe it shows that it is just as much about identity as it is about morality, and so I want to spend our remaining time together to discuss Who We Are as Christians and the Church.


ROMANS 7:19-20
19 Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; 20 you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies.