Posts Tagged ‘theology’

The Challenge of Christmas

December 6, 2012

These are the sermon notes from December 2, 2012.

I.  Call to Repentance: Isaiah 1:16-17

Wash yourselves, make yourselves clean;
Put away the evil of your doings from before My eyes.
Cease to do evil,
17 Learn to do good;
Seek justice,
Rebuke the oppressor;
Defend the fatherless,
Plead for the widow.

These verses are a call to action.  We are not simply to feel bad about our shortcomings, we are to do something.  We should change our ways.

We are to cease doing evil.  The first step in ceasing to do evil is to be able to recognize what is evil.  God has given us His Word and His Holy Spirit.  By the Word and the Spirit we are able to learn to recognize evil.  Then the Holy Spirit will also give us the strength to change our ways.  Sometimes this change happens quickly, and sometimes it takes a while to learn new habits.  God understands, and is patient with us.

We are to learn to do good.  A new life is not just about not doing evil, it is learning to do good.  God is a just God, and is concerned with justice in our society.  We, as Christians, should also be concerned with justice.

There are two types of justice: criminal, and distributive.  As Christians we should use what influence we have in society to work towards justice for all.  Whether that means appropriate punishment for crimes, or protection from harassment for the innocent.  Distributive justice is the fair distribution of burdens and benefits.  We might not all agree about how to achieve distributive justice, or exactly what that would look like, but we should agree that it is important, and try to work toward that ideal.  We are to rebuke the oppressor, and take care of the needy.  It is also important as we work toward that goal, to treat one another with respect, recognizing that we may have honest disagreements about these important matters.

II.  Offer of Forgiveness: Isaiah 1:18-20

“Come now, and let us reason together,”
Says the Lord,
“Though your sins are like scarlet,
They shall be as white as snow;
Though they are red like crimson,
They shall be as wool.
19 If you are willing and obedient,
You shall eat the good of the land;
20 But if you refuse and rebel,
You shall be devoured by the sword”;
For the mouth of the Lord has spoken.

The message of Christmas is that Christ came to earth so that our sins might be forgiven.  Those who respond to the message of salvation are forgiven.  John 3:16-17 says  For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. 17 For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.”

Not all will listen to the message.  For them, there remains only judgement.  John 3:18-20 reads “He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. 19 And this is the condemnation, that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. 20 For everyone practicing evil hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed.”

III.  The Challenge of Christmas  III John 11

Beloved, do not imitate what is evil, but what is good. He who does good is of God, buthe who does evil has not seen God.

The message of the early church was simply put “Repent and believe the gospel.”  The Greek language was not real concerned with the order of words, and so it is acceptable for us to think of this as believe and repent.  We believe in Jesus and are called to repentance: to cease to do evil and learn to do good.  One of the best ways that we can learn to do good, is to imitate good.  The best one to imitate for good,  is to imitate Christ.  That would be the challenge of Christmas.  Christ came to earth to show us the Father, we are now called to imitate Christ.

The message of Christmas is that Christ has come.

The challenge of Christmas is to imitate Christ.

 

Advertisements

God Can Provide

July 3, 2012

Here are the sermon notes from July 1st, 2012

I.  Miraculous Provision 1.0

I Kings 17:1-7 And Elijah the Tishbite, of the inhabitants of Gilead, said to Ahab, “Asthe Lord God of Israel lives, before whom I stand, there shall not be dew nor rain these years, except at my word.”

Then the word of the Lord came to him, saying, “Get away from here and turn eastward, and hide by the Brook Cherith, which flows into the Jordan. And it will be that you shall drink from the brook, and I have commanded the ravens to feed you there.”

So he went and did according to the word of the Lord, for he went and stayed by the Brook Cherith, which flows into the Jordan. The ravens brought him bread and meat in the morning, and bread and meat in the evening; and he drank from the brook. And it happened after a while that the brook dried up, because there had been no rain in the land.

Elijah was faithful to say what God had sent him to proclaim.  It was not a popular message.  It was a sentence of judgement upon the land.  There was severe drought, followed by famine.  During this time God provided for Elijah in a very unusual way.  Have you ever thought about what this time was like for Elijah?  All alone, by a brook, ravens bringing him his food, only God as a companion.  It was undoubtably both strange, and precious.

II.  Miraculous Provision 2.0

I Kings 17: 8-16

Then the word of the Lord came to him, saying, “Arise, go to Zarephath, which belongs to Sidon, and dwell there. See, I have commanded a widow there to provide for you.” 10 So he arose and went to Zarephath. And when he came to the gate of the city, indeed a widow was there gathering sticks. And he called to her and said, “Please bring me a little water in a cup, that I may drink.” 11 And as she was going to get it, he called to her and said, “Please bring me a morsel of bread in your hand.”

12 So she said, “As the Lord your God lives, I do not have bread, only a handful of flour in a bin, and a little oil in a jar; and see, I am gathering a couple of sticks that I may go in and prepare it for myself and my son, that we may eat it, and die.”

13 And Elijah said to her, “Do not fear; go and do as you have said, but make me a small cake from it first, and bring it to me; and afterward make some for yourself and your son. 14 For thus says the Lord God of Israel: ‘The bin of flour shall not be used up, nor shall the jar of oil run dry, until the day the Lord sends rain on the earth.’”

15 So she went away and did according to the word of Elijah; and she and he and her household ate for many days. 16 The bin of flour was not used up, nor did the jar of oil run dry, according to the word of the Lord which He spoke by Elijah.

The brook dried up.  Circumstances changed, but God still provided.  The widow heard what Elijah said to her and acted in faith.  God rewarded that act of faithfulness by providing for Elijah and her family for the duration of the famine.  God blessed and used what she had to offer. 

III.  Miraculous Provision 3.0

II KIngs 4: 1-7

4 A certain woman of the wives of the sons of the prophets cried out to Elisha, saying, “Your servant my husband is dead, and you know that your servant feared the Lord. And the creditor is coming to take my two sons to be his slaves.”

So Elisha said to her, “What shall I do for you? Tell me, what do you have in the house?” And she said, “Your maidservant has nothing in the house but a jar of oil.”

Then he said, “Go, borrow vessels from everywhere, from all your neighbors—empty vessels; do not gather just a few. And when you have come in, you shall shut the door behind you and your sons; then pour it into all those vessels, and set aside the full ones.”

So she went from him and shut the door behind her and her sons, who brought the vessels to her; and she poured it out. Now it came to pass, when the vessels were full, that she said to her son, “Bring me another vessel.”

And he said to her, “There is not another vessel.” So the oil ceased. Then she came and told the man of God. And he said, “Go, sell the oil and pay your debt; and you and your sons live on the rest.”

Now Elijah’s disciple,  Elisha, is the prophet.  Again there is a widow who is in need of help.  She calls out to Elisha, believing that he can speak for God.  Elijah gives her direction and she is obedient to do as the prophet tell her.  God again uses what she has, and her family is provided for in their time of need. 

God is always able to provide.  It might not be what we expect, or in the way that we expect, but God is able.  God is faithful.  He expects us to both have faith and to faithfully live out our lives in obedience to Him.    He is our shepherd, we shall not want…

 

Who is Jesus?

June 25, 2012

A group of ministers and ministers-in-training were sitting around the other day discussing preaching themes and topics.  It just so happened that the next Sunday I was preaching on the most important topic.  I was preaching Christ.

Colossians 1:13-20

13 He has delivered us from the power of darkness and conveyed us into the kingdom of the Son of His love, 14 in whom we have redemption through His blood,[a] the forgiveness of sins.

15 He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. 16 For by Him all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers. All things were created through Him and for Him. 17 And He is before all things, and in Him all things consist. 18 And He is the head of the body, the church, who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in all things He may have the preeminence. 19 For it pleased the Father that in Him all the fullness should dwell, 20 and by Him to reconcile all things to Himself, by Him, whether things on earth or things in heaven, having made peace through the blood of His cross.

He, meaning God, has delivered us from darkness.  Some Christians, like myself, have grown up in the church.  This is a testimony of the power of God to keep His people in a relationship.  For all of us parents who have raised our children in the church it is comforting to know that we do not have to walk away from God.  For people with this experience, we do not have much knowledge of life in the dark.

Other people have spent many years living in the darkness, for them the contrast of life before Christ, and life after Christ is crystal clear.

Jesus is a king, but His kingdom is not of this earth.  His kingdom will never end and it is the kingdom of light, filled with the love of God.

Jesus is the redeemer.  We are able to become a part of this kingdom only through our faith in Jesus who redeemed us by His blood.   Jesus is the only means of salvation.  There is no other way to be a part of the kingdom of God.

Jesus is the image of the invisible God.  God revealed His character through Jesus.  Christ told His disciples “If you have seen me, you have seen the Father.”

Jesus is the firstborn over all creation.  Some people mistakenly interpret this to mean that Jesus was the first thing created.  It is better understood as a metaphor, referring to Jesus place as head over all creation.

Jesus is the creator.  At creation, the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, all took part in the creation of the world.

In Jesus, all things hold together.  This is particularly fascinating to me.  Science can explain only so much of the mechanics of our universe.  The force that holds everything together is Christ Himself.

Jesus is the head of the church.   There are human leaders, here on earth, but no one can usurp the unique place of Christ as supreme leader of all believers.

Jesus is the first-born from the dead.  There were people in both the Old and New Testaments who were raised from the dead.  These people later died a natural death and their lives on earth were over.  Jesus was the first to be raised from the dead and given His new body.  One day we too, will be raised and will be like Him.

Jesus was fully God.  Jesus was a human, but He was also fully God.  This is impossible in human reasoning, but not impossible with God.

Christ is the way, the only way to be reconciled with God.  Some people read verse 20 and believe that all creation will be saved; that even the devil will one day be reconciled to God.  If Colossians 1:20 were the only verse in the scriptures then we might continue to think that is true.  There are more scriptures.

Revelation 20:12-15

12 And I saw the dead, small and great, standing before God,[a] and books were opened. And another book was opened, which is the Book of Life. And the dead were judged according to their works, by the things which were written in the books. 13 The sea gave up the dead who were in it, and Death and Hades delivered up the dead who were in them. And they were judged, each one according to his works. 14 Then Death and Hades were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death.[b] 15 And anyone not found written in the Book of Life was cast into the lake of fire.

Clearly not all are saved.  Yet I believe that salvation is offered to all.  The problem is that not all receive salvation because they reject the offer of salvation in Christ and do not believe in the One who died for them.

John 3:16-19

For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. 17 For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.

18 “He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. 19 And this is the condemnation, that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil.

So Jesus is our King, our redeemer, the image of God, the firstborn over all creation, the creator, sustainer, the head of the church, the first-born from the dead, He is God-in-the-flesh.

His offer of salvation is offered to all, but will we accept His offer?

The Baptism in the Holy Spirit

March 5, 2012

Here are the notes from the sermon Sunday, March 4, 2012.

I.  Acts 3:19 Repentance

A,  The first and primary form of repentance is to turn away from sin and towards God through faith in Jesus.  Our initial salvation, being born again, is where we need to start.

B.  As we grow in the Lord, God will reveal areas in our life that we need to change.  As the Holy Spirit reveals things to us, we should repent, and change our behavior.  This is an ongoing process of the Word of God, and the Spirit of God in our lives.

C.  There are times when we are serving God faithfully, but we need the strength of the Lord to renew us in our innermost beings. We turn away from the cares and concerns of the world and focus our eyes on Jesus.

All of these times of repentance can be wonderful times of refreshing and renewal.  If we are in need of additional strength and power to live out our Christian lives, there is another avenue available to us.

II.  Acts 1:4-8  The Baptism of the Holy Spirit

The disciples are promised that they would receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon them.  The purpose of the power is the proclamation of the gospel.

III.  Acts 2:1-4  The Initial Outpouring

On the day of Pentecost the Holy Spirit is poured out.  There is the sound of a rushing, mighty wind, cloven tongues of fire, and they all begin to speak in tongues as the Spirit gives them utterance.

IV.  Acts 2:5-11 A Sign to Unbelievers.

On the day of initial outpouring, some of the disciples are speaking in foreign human languages that are understood by those who are in the vicinity.  This is a powerful sign to unbelievers of the power of God.

V.  Acts 2:38-41  The Promise is to All

Peter preaches a message and over three thousand are saved. He mentions that the gift of the Holy Spirit is for all.

VI.  Additional Accounts

A.  Acts 10: 44-48:  As the gospel is preached by Peter to the Gentiles for the very first time, the Holy Spirit is poured out and they speak in tongues even as Peter is still speaking.

B.  Acts 19:1-6:  Twelve men speak in tongues and prophecy after Paul tells them about faith in Jesus, lays hands on them and prays.

In these accounts there is no mention of either wind, or tongues of fire.

VII.  I Corinthians 14:1-5  Comparison of Tongues and Prophecy

Our focus today is on the gift of tongues.  There are three distinct gifts of tongues.  One is when a person speaks in a human language that they do not know, but is known by the people who hear the message.  This is a sign to unbelievers.  The second is when a message is given in tongues, and then an interpretation is also given.  This is for the strengthening of the faith of believers.  The third and most common is when we use the gift of tongues as a prayer language.  We speak to God without the barrier of human language.  The Holy Spirit prays with us, and through us.  This form is for the strengthening of the individual. People who have received the Baptism in the Holy Spirit should use their prayer language regularly. It is given to us to use, for our benefit. So that we may be strengthened to serve.

VIII.  Luke 11:9-13  Our Confidence is in our Heavenly Father

If we ask God for the Holy Spirit, He will not give us something that is bad instead.  We can trust that the experience is real, and from God.

You do not have to have the Baptism of the Holy Spirit in order to be saved.  No one will make you ask God for this gift.  It is not a requirement, but an opportunity, that is presented to all believers.  If you desire to seek this gift, you can ask your heavenly Father.  People receive this gift in a number of ways.  The experience of individuals seeking the gift may vary.  It may happen quickly, or it may tarry, but if we are open to the power of God, we too, may receive this gift.

Flesh and Spirit

January 10, 2012

In the beginning, God made Adam from the dust of the earth and breathed into him the breath of life.  (See Genesis 2:7)  The exact nature of the relationship of our flesh and our spirit has been puzzled over ever since by many people.

Then in the New Testament, another dimension is added.  The Holy Spirit comes within the believer as well.  (See John 3) So now, we have the flesh, our spirit, and the Holy Spirit.

What role does each of these components play in our lives?  How does the maintenance, or abuse, of my flesh; affect my spirit?  What role does my will play in what I do?  How does the Holy Spirit guide our decisions?  How doe we distinguish between our own thoughts, the promptings of the Holy Spirit, and if I dare add yet another dimension, the voice of demonic spirits?

I am sorry, but today I have more questions than answers.

I do believe that God is with us always.  That the Holy Spirit will guide us.  That in the end God will prevail in those who seek to serve Him.  However, in the day-to-day living of our lives there is some confusion, at least in my own thoughts.

It’s a good thing that I place my trust in God, not in my own ability to understand.

The Message in the Christmas Tree

December 27, 2011

Well, Christmas is over, but before you take down the Christmas tree, I wanted to share what we can see in the message of the Christmas tree.

The first thing that I notice is the lights.  They shine brightly and can be seen easily, not only by the people in the house, but by people outside, if the shades are open.

Jesus is the light that shines in the darkness.  He is at the heart of the Christmas message.  There are many lights on a Christmas tree because the light of Jesus shines through the lives of Christian people.  We need to open the shades of our lives, and let the light of Christ shine.

The tinsel that is draped all over the tree hangs in vertical lines.  These lines remind me of the prayers of the people of God as they lift their concerns to Him.  They also remind me of the answers that God gives to His people.    The tinsel ascends and descends, like the angels on Jacob’s ladder.

The garland is draped around the tree and is meant to give an appearance of continuity.  I am reminded of the passage of the faith through the ages.  Generation after generation sharing the message and the love of Jesus.

Ornaments of all kinds hang upon the tree.  These ornaments remind me that all good gifts come from God.  Our lives are filled with many people, objects, and events that add beauty and color to our existence.

As I sit on my couch and look at the tree I notice that not all is light and color.  There are patches of darkness that persist even with all the decorations.  This darkness reminds me that life does indeed have it times of testing, trial and tribulation.  There are times of sorrow and times of heaviness of heart.  We do not deny that these times exist, but we trust that God is with us always, even in the days of darkness.

As we look more closely we see not just the decorations, but the tree itself.  It is an evergreen, symbolic of eternal life.  Even as the leaves of an evergreen do not die, even so there is a part of human life that does not die, but is eternal.

Looking to the heart of the tree, we see the trunk, and are reminded that even though we are celebrating the birth of Jesus at Christmas, we must never forget the purpose for which He came.  He came to earth to die upon the cross for the sins of the world.  The trunk reminds us of the wood of the cross upon which Christ died.

Christmas colors are red and green.  This reminds me that the blood of Christ provides eternal life for those who believe in Him.

So, before you take the tree down, take one last look, and remember the message in the Christmas tree.

Are You True?

October 17, 2011

Here are the notes from Sunday’s sermon.

I.  Read Amos 5:14-15

Seek good and not evil.  In order to do that we need the guidance of the Word and of the Holy Spirit.  They will work together to help us identify what is good.

We should also seek justice.  There are two kinds of justice, criminal and distributive.  As Christians we should seek to influence society to be just for all.

II.  Read Amos 5:16-24

A.  The day of the Lord will be a day of judgment for many.

B.  God is not pleased with an appearance of godliness.  Empty religious expressions anger Him.

C.  Our faith in God should inspire righteousness and justice.

Far too often we are only concerned about justice for ourselves and quick to point out unrighteousness in others.  It should be the other way around.  We should seek for righteousness in our own lives and justice for others.

III.  Read Amos 7:7-9

A plumb line is a string with a weight attached.  It is used in construction to verify a true vertical ascent.  If God checks our lives, are we true, or are we starting to veer away from the ideal?

IV.  Read Revelations 3:1-6

In chapters two and three of Revelations, God writes to the churches.  In those letters are commendations for doing well, and warnings about things that need to change.  I would encourage you to read all of the letters and ask yourself what would God write to you?

V.  Read Matthew 16:24-27

Our relationship with God is not a get-out-of-hell-free card.  It is meant to be a new life, a life that we live for God, and with God.  Have we truly let go of the old life?  Have we taken up the life that God has for us?  Are we living for Him, or for ourselves?

What would God write to us?

That Your Joy Might Be Full

September 6, 2011

Here are the main points from the sermon I preached on Sunday.  Please take the time to look up the Bible verses.

I.  God is Faithful  Lamentations 3:22-26

The Lord is good to those who wait for Him.  That means both to spend time in His presence, but also to be willing to wait for His timing.

II. That Your Joy Might Be Full  I John 1:4

The purpose of this epistle is so that his readers joy may be full.  We may identify several keys to that end.

III.  Do Not Love The World  I John 2:15-17

Sometimes Christians allow the things of this world to be more important to them than God.  That is never good.  God wants to be our first love, our first priority.  If God is reduced to second, or third place in our lives, we can expect our joy to be diminished.

IV.  Trust God  I John 4:17-18

Fear is the opposite of trust.  You cannot be both afraid and joyful.  If we trust God we have nothing to fear.  If we truly love God, we will not be afraid, either of Him, or of anything.  We will recognize that “greater is He who is in us, than he who is in the world”.  (I John 4:4)

V.  Obey God  I John 5:1-5

The greatest commandment is to love God, the second is to love one another.  If our lives our filled with love, we will keep the commandments of God.  It won’t even be difficult because we are simply living out the love that is within.  A life filled with love is a life filled with joy.

Conclusion:  As Christians, if our joy has been diminished,  we should ask ourselves  three questions.  Is God first in our life?  Do we trust God fully, with all the details of our life?  Do we truly love God and is that love expressed by a life of obedience?

Is your joy full?

The Role of Faith

August 31, 2011

There are different aspects of faith.

I.  Saving Faith  Ephesians 2:8-10

We recognize that we are saved by grace through faith for good works.  We do not reach out to God.  God, by his grace has reached out to us.  We are able to respond to God’s grace by receiving it in faith, or rejecting it in unbelief.  If we have responded in faith, then the Spirit of God enters into our hearts and we are “born again’ in the Spirit.  If the Spirit of God dwells within us, then we will be changed.  We do not change so that we can be saved.  We are saved so that we can change.

II.   Growing Faith  II Corinthians 8:7

As we continue in our relationship with God our faith will grow.  The more that we see God at work in our lives, and in the lives of others, the deeper our faith will be established.  As time goes on, the various tests and trials of life will not shake our faith in the One who is with us always.

III.  Miraculous Faith

A.  Matthew 27:21  This verse, by itself, gives us the impression that we can ask for anything that we want, and that we will receive it, if only we have enough faith.

B.  James 4:3  This verse tells us that there are things that we ask for and do not receive, not because of a lack of faith, but rather because we have asked “amiss”.

C.  I John 5:14-15  this verse reveals the condition that if we ask anything “according to His will”  he hears us.  We recognize that we must be willing to pray, even as Jesus prayed,  “not my will, but thine, be done”.

D.  I Corinthians 12:7-11 reveals that miraculous faith is a gift of the Holy Spirit, distributed as He wills.  We all need saving faith.  We also all should have a faith that recognizes that God can do anything.  Miraculous faith is when God reveals to us , not that He can, but that He will, do something.

Sometimes people want something so badly, that they wrongly assume that their will is God’s will and then their  miraculous faith is in error.  This can be devastating.  It is caused by a lack of understanding that we are to submit to the will of God, even if we do not understand it.

E.  Philippians 4:6-7 We can bring our requests to God, knowing that He hears us and is able to help us.  We can know that whatever happens, His grace is sufficient for us, and so we can be at peace.

I hope that you will take the time to look up the verses that are listed.  They are powerful and important  in presenting the complete message.

Generational Curse

June 16, 2011

Over the more than twenty years that I have been in ministry, I have occasionally spoken with people who have been concerned about the presence of a “generational curse”.   The biblical foundation for this concept is found in the Old Testament.  Exodus 20: 5 says “…For I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children to the third and fourth generations of those who hate Me, ”  ( see also, Exodus 34:7, Numbers 14:18, & Deuteronomy 5:9)

The concern is that there may be a curse afflicting those whose parents were ungodly,  even after their offspring  have turned to Christ.

Exodus 20: 6 says “but showing mercy to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My commandments.”  I believe that when we come to Christ we are immediately set free from the spiritual implications of the “generational curse” .  “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation: old things have passed away: behold all things have become new. ”  (II Corinthians 5:17)  “Therefore if the Son makes you free, you  shall be free indeed.” (John 8:36)

It does take a while longer to be set free from what one minister called “generational consequences” .  As we grew up we may have learned behaviors that are not Christlike.  It can take a while to learn new behavior.  Our spirits are cleansed and reborn, now we must “cease to do evil, and learn to do good”.  It is a process of changing learned behavior.  By the grace of God, as we spend time in the Word, and in prayer, God will continue His work in us to remove the attitudes and actions that are displeasing to Him, and hurtful to us.