Archive for August, 2013

Syrian Involvement

August 29, 2013

I am gravely concerned about the action that our country may take in response to the use of chemical weapons in Syria.  Earlier this year, I read a newspaper report that Russia believed, as a result of the chemical analysis of the earlier attack, that the rebels had used gas in an attempt to provoke the US into joining the fight.  They had reached this conclusion because the analysis showed that the chemicals used were of an inferior quality than what the Syrian’s have in their arsenal.    I consider this to be a very real possibility.  The rebels have much to gain by American involvement.  There may be someone among the rebels who has the capability to manufacture and to use gas, and who could justify this action to their own satisfaction.

I am very concerned that military action on our part will have grave consequences for us.   I am concerned that it is a cost that we cannot afford.  I am concerned that we may find ourselves backing a group that we will later regret backing.  I am concerned about what response Russia, and the Muslim community,  will make to our involvement.

This is not our fight.  It is a civil war.  It does not involve us.  Neither party is innocent.  I believe that we should stay out of this conflict.  I do not believe that we should be supporting either side in any way.

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Our Labor in Christ

August 26, 2013

Here are the notes from 8/25/13.

I.  The Crucified Christ:  I Corinthians 1:18-25

For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. 19 For it is written:

“I will destroy the wisdom of the wise,
And bring to nothing the understanding of the prudent.”

20 Where is the wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the disputer of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of this world? 21 For since, in the wisdom of God, the world through wisdom did not know God, it pleased God through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe. 22 For Jews request a sign, and Greeks seek after wisdom; 23 but we preach Christ crucified, to the Jews a stumbling block and to the Greeks foolishness, 24 but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. 25 Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.

Some people want to be able to reason their way into believing.  God has ordained that we cannot know God through reason.  Reason can serve faith, but it cannot produce faith.  Other people want to physically demonstrate the reality of God’s existence, but God exists outside of the material realm, therefore empirical proofs do not work.  God has established our existence in such a way that we must come into a relationship with Him on His terms.  He requires faith, and faith not in a generic god, but in the crucified Christ.

II.  Christ the Foundation:  I Corinthians 3:6-15

I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the increase. So then neither he who plants is anything, nor he who waters, but God who gives the increase. Now he who plants and he who waters are one, and each one will receive his own reward according to his own labor.

For we are God’s fellow workers; you are God’s field, you are God’s building. 10 According to the grace of God which was given to me, as a wise master builder I have laid the foundation, and another builds on it. But let each one take heed how he builds on it. 11 For no other foundation can anyone lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. 12 Now if anyone builds on this foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, 13 each one’s work will become clear; for the Day will declare it, because it will be revealed by fire; and the fire will test each one’s work, of what sort it is. 14 If anyone’s work which he has built on it endures, he will receive a reward. 15 If anyone’s work is burned, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire.

Christ is the foundation.  The starting point of our faith and our lives.  Our lives are to be spent in service to God.  “Only one life, will soon be past, only what is done for Christ will last.”  I am not sure where I first heard that saying, but it is a good saying.  It does not mean that we can never have a moment of rest or relaxation, but it certainly does imply that we should carefully consider how we use the resources of our life in serving God.

I also appreciate the realization that it is God who gives the increase.  We are responsible to do our part.  God is responsible for the results.  We are called to be faithful servants.  We do not have to measure our success in the same way that the world would measure us.

III.  Our Hope in Christ:  I Corinthians 15:50-54

Now this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; nor does corruption inherit incorruption. 51 Behold, I tell you a mystery: We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed— 52 in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. 53 For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. 54 So when this corruptible has put on incorruption, and this mortal has put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written: “Death is swallowed up in victory.”

Our greatest hope is not in this life, but in the life to come.  If God blesses us in this life, then we should take to heart “to whom much is given, much will be required”.  We are to be good stewards of all that God gives to us, recognizing that our true reward is not in the things of this world, but the promise of the life to come.

IV.  Our Labor for Christ: I Corinthians 15:58

Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord.

Our labor for Christ is not in vain.  Sometimes we may become discouraged because we do not see the fruit of our labor.  It may seem as if nothing is happening in our work for Christ.  We can take heart, even if we are not seeing the results with our own eyes, that our labor is not in vain.

Be steadfast, don’t give up.  Continue your work for Christ.  It is not in vain.

Strong and Courageous

August 12, 2013

Here are the sermon notes from 8/11.

I.  Joshua:  Joshua 1:1-9

After the death of Moses the servant of the Lord, it came to pass that the Lord spoke to Joshua the son of Nun, Moses’ assistant, saying: “Moses My servant is dead. Now therefore, arise, go over this Jordan, you and all this people, to the land which I am giving to them—the children of Israel. Every place that the sole of your foot will tread upon I have given you, as I said to Moses. From the wilderness and this Lebanon as far as the great river, the River Euphrates, all the land of the Hittites, and to the Great Sea toward the going down of the sun, shall be your territory. No man shall be able to stand before you all the days of your life; as I was with Moses, so I will be with you. I will not leave you nor forsake you. Be strong and of good courage, for to this people you shall divide as an inheritance the land which I swore to their fathers to give them. Only be strong and very courageous, that you may observe to do according to all the law which Moses My servant commanded you; do not turn from it to the right hand or to the left, that you may prosper wherever you go. This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate in it day and night, that you may observe to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success. Have I not commanded you? Be strong and of good courage; do not be afraid, nor be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”

We remember Joshua for a number of reasons.  He was one of the twelve men who had been sent into the promised land to spy it out shortly after Israel had been delivered from Egypt.  All of the spies agreed that it was a rich land, but that it had numerous strong people, fortified cities, and even giants.  Joshua was one of the two men that believed that Israel should invade, the other ten said that they should not invade, the people would be too strong for them.   Israel believed the report of the ten and God punished them by making them to wander in the wilderness for forty years while that generation died off.

In these verses he is charged with leading the children of Israel in conquest of the promised land.  He is told three times to be strong and courageous.  The Hebrew word that is translated as strong here is sometimes used to mean encouragement, or sometimes obstinate.  I believe that it is a reference to our attitude.   We are not to give up in the face of difficulty.  We are to forge ahead with what God has charged us to accomplish.

The same word translated as strong is used in the name Hezekiah, which means strengthened by the Lord.  This is important because the source of Joshua’s strength was not his own ability but the fact that God was with him.

Joshua is promised that the Lord would be with him.  That was the source of his strength, and why he could be strong and courageous.  This promise should sound familiar to Christians because Jesus told His disciples that he would be with them always, even to the end of the age.  (Matthew 28: 20)  In Hebrews the author quotes from Joshua when writing to Christians that God will not leave them or forsake them.  As Christians, we can claim the promise that God will be with us, and by that promise we too can be strengthened and take courage.

We should recognize that even Joshua, as close as he was to God was still told to remain in the Word, to meditate on the law and to be obedient to the law.  That God’s blessing was connected to obedience.  As Christians we have been set free from the Mosaic law, but not from the moral commandments of the Word of God.  We cannot rightfully claim the promises of the blessings of God if we are knowingly living in disobedience to the Word or Spirit of God.

II.  Caleb: Joshua 14: 6-14

Then the children of Judah came to Joshua in Gilgal. And Caleb the son of Jephunneh the Kenizzite said to him: “You know the word which the Lord said to Moses the man of God concerning you and me in Kadesh Barnea. I was forty years old when Moses the servant of the Lord sent me from Kadesh Barnea to spy out the land, and I brought back word to him as it was in my heart. Nevertheless my brethren who went up with me made the heart of the people melt, but I wholly followed the Lord my God. So Moses swore on that day, saying, ‘Surely the land where your foot has trodden shall be your inheritance and your children’s forever, because you have wholly followed the Lord my God.’ 10 And now, behold, the Lord has kept me alive, as He said, these forty-five years, ever since the Lord spoke this word to Moses while Israel wandered in the wilderness; and now, here I am this day, eighty-five years old. 11 As yet I am as strong this day as on the day that Moses sent me; just as my strength was then, so now is my strength for war, both for going out and for coming in. 12 Now therefore, give me this mountain of which the Lord spoke in that day; for you heard in that day how the Anakim were there, and that the cities were great and fortified. It may be that the Lord will be with me, and I shall be able to drive them out as the Lord said.”

13 And Joshua blessed him, and gave Hebron to Caleb the son of Jephunneh as an inheritance. 14 Hebron therefore became the inheritance of Caleb the son of Jephunneh the Kenizzite to this day, because he wholly followed the Lord God of Israel.

Caleb was the second spy who had been faithful to believe God.  God had rewarded him by preserving both his life and his strength.  Here it is, forty five years later, and he was still ready to take the mountain.  He believed that if God was with him, then he can do it.  God rewarded his faithfulness and blessed his actions.

Some dreams may take a long time to fulfill.  We are to continue to be strong and courageous, doing what God has called us to do.  We may retire from our regular employment, but there is no retirement from our service to God.  The nature of our service may change, our work may become less physical and more spiritual, but we continue to serve.  As long as we are upon this earth, God has a reason for us to be here.

Be strong and courageous and fulfill the mission that God has for you.

A Living Sacrifice

August 5, 2013

Here are the notes from the sermon 8/4/13.

I.  A Living Sacrifice: Romans 12:1-2

I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.

We should offer ourselves to God as His servants, willing to live our lives for Him.  In contrast, dying for Christ only takes a moment, living for Christ takes a lifetime.

We are called to not conform to the world.  I am sometimes concerned about whether our desire to be relevant can lead to compromise on our standards of holiness.  We are not to conform to the world, but to be transformed by the ongoing work of the Word and the Spirit in our lives.

As we mature in Christ, we will begin by being able to tell right from wrong, acceptable, from unacceptable.  As we grow we will be able to distinguish not just what is acceptable, but what is good, and eventually what is perfect.

II.  Overcome Evil with Good:  Romans 12:17-21

Repay no one evil for evil. Have regard for good things in the sight of all men. 18 If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men. 19 Beloved, do not avenge yourselves, but rather give place to wrath; for it is written, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,” says the Lord. 20 Therefore

“If your enemy is hungry, feed him;
If he is thirsty, give him a drink;
For in so doing you will heap coals of fire on his head.”

21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

We are not to repay evil for evil.  This requires a denial of our fleshly urge to avenge ourselves.  We need to leave the person who has wronged us in the hands of God.  We need to show  people the love and mercy of God, which we have first received ourselves, and so can share with others.  As much as possible we should live at peace with all people.  This is not easy.

III.  More Than Conquerors:  Romans 8:35-39

Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? 36 As it is written:

“For Your sake we are killed all day long;
We are accounted as sheep for the slaughter.”[a]

37 Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. 38 For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, 39 nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

We have offered our lives to God as a living sacrifice.  There will be tests, trials and temptations that will come our way.  We are able to be be victorious in all of these because of the the grace. love and mercy of God. The love of God has been poured into our hearts, and the love of God can sustain us in the days of difficulty.  We can be the people that God wants us to be, because we do not do it in our own power, but by the power of God.

IV.  It’s All For Good:  Romans 8:28

And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.

We can reassure ourselves in the days of trouble, that God is able to use, not just some things, but all things ultimately for good for His people.  We do not have to be able to understand the how or the why to be comforted, we only have to believe that it is true.

 

If we truly want to be victorious, to know the love of God, offer your whole life to God.

Live your life for Christ.

 

Blessed or Cursed?

August 1, 2013

Here are the sermon notes from 7/28/13.

I.  Blessing or Curse:  Deuteronomy 11:26-28

 “Behold, I set before you today a blessing and a curse: 27 the blessing, if you obey the commandments of the Lord your God which I command you today; 28 and the curse, if you do not obey the commandments of the Lord your God, but turn aside from the way which I command you today, to go after other gods which you have not known.

Over and over throughout scripture we are presented with a choice of action.  We can choose to follow God, or reject God. Here, we are told plainly that to obey God brings blessings, to be disobedient brings a curse.  First, we need to know what commandments God wants us to obey.  We recognize that we are no longer expected to follow the Mosaic law, so what commandments are we to obey?  This question is answered by careful, consistent reading of God’s Word.  Secondly, we must believe that God is sincere about the promise of blessing and the threat of a curse.  Although these words were spoken to the children of Israel long ago, as the people of God today, we can claim these words for ourselves.  Finally, once we have identified the commands we are to obey, and believed the promise of God, we must actually live out our lives in obedience.  This does not mean that we will not have any problems.  There will still be the tests and trials of our faith that are a normal part of the Christian experience.  However, even in the midst of the storms of life.  we will be able to recognize in our lives the presence of the blessings of God.

II.  Beware!  Deuteronomy 17:14-20

“When you come to the land which the Lord your God is giving you, and possess it and dwell in it, and say, ‘I will set a king over me like all the nations that are around me,’ 15 you shall surely set a king over you whom the Lord your God chooses; one from among your brethren you shall set as king over you; you may not set a foreigner over you, who is not your brother. 16 But he shall not multiply horses for himself, nor cause the people to return to Egypt to multiply horses, for the Lord has said to you, ‘You shall not return that way again.’ 17 Neither shall he multiply wives for himself, lest his heart turn away; nor shall he greatly multiply silver and gold for himself.

18 “Also it shall be, when he sits on the throne of his kingdom, that he shall write for himself a copy of this law in a book, from the one before the priests, the Levites. 19 And it shall be with him, and he shall read it all the days of his life, that he may learn to fear the Lord his God and be careful to observe all the words of this law and these statutes, 20 that his heart may not be lifted above his brethren, that he may not turn aside from the commandment to the right hand or to the left, and that he may prolong his days in his kingdom, he and his children in the midst of Israel.

Solomon should have heeded this warning.  He multiplied horses, wives, and gold; and in the end his heart was turned away from God.

Today, we do not need to be concerned about multiplying horses, but we do need to be concerned about an unhealthy pursuit of power.  Many people today desire to be powerful, whether it is in business, politics, or even in the church.  We should be careful about the pursuit of power.  We are called to be servants, not to acquire them.

We cannot legally multiply wives today, at least not in most countries, but there is a major problem with sex.  Premarital sex, adultery, homosexual activity, pornography, and divorce are prevalent in our culture.  Christians are called to purity.  Sex is meant to be shared between a husband and wife, meaning a man and a woman, joined together in holy matrimony until death do they part.

We may not trade in gold and silver, but certainly the desire to be rich has not changed.  We are warned that the “love of money is the root of all kinds of evil” but do we take it to heart?  Or do we continue to feverishly pursue the almighty dollar?  We need to be careful to have the right attitude towards wealth.

We need to guard against pride.  Sometimes Christians develop an attitude of self-righteousness.  This is extremely bad.  We must never forget that we can only become the children of God, by the grace of God.

III.  The Law

In the verses we have read from Deuteronomy 17 we are told that the king was to write a copy of the law, and to read it daily.  It is not necessary for us to make a hand-written copy. (Although that might be a truly wonderful experience!)  We should, however, read from the Word daily.  We should continue to respect God and to be obedient to His Word.

We are faced with a choice.  We should choose to live our lives according to God’s Word and receive the blessings He has for us.