While I was growing up at Hebron, we would end the fall term of Youth Club by caroling around the neighborhood. It was always a fun time, as we would walk around the block, stopping at houses of people we knew, knock on their door and 15 of us would sing off-key Christmas songs. No one ever invited us in for yule log or wassail. (I'm beginning to think those things were made up.) As we walked from house to house, Jerry would always tell us to walk with him - not in front, not behind, but with. After spending many more years with Jerry, I've learned that his favorite English word is "with." (His favorite word is in German, "kartoffelsalat.")
As I've been studying to prepare for this sermon, I've wanted to take the rabbit trails the Scripture has given me, but know I need to stay on task. One of those rabbit trails is to study the timeline of God's presence with man. How has man's relationship, fellowship, and community with God evolved from the time man was created, to now, and what will it be like when the presence is complete? What does "God with us" mean?
Instead, I've learned a lot about the tabernacle, and the who, the with what, and the why to build it. You might even be pleased to know that I've even found out there is a numerical significance to the amount of materials God called for. The Exodus might have been 3300 years ago but God's request of taking up an offering to build the tabernacle still applies to us today...except the tabernacle has changed.
To help you prepare, for Sunday's sermon, I suggest reading the whole book of Exodus. I love this historical narrative of redemption. But if you are studying your own thing, and want just one chapter to read which will help you Sunday, I would love for that to be Exodus 12.
We will be reading Exodus 25:1-9 as we gather on Sunday morning. God has already given the 10 commandments and is now telling Moses who, with what, and why He wants to build the tabernacle. I'm really excited about how what God has shown me through my study, and I hope to see you at 8:15, 9:15 or 10:45.
For some extra credit, watch this, I'll refer to it Sunday.
Tuesday, April 18, 2017
One of the great tragedies of western culture is that we have made accomplishment and the acquisition of things matters of primary importance. I don’t think it is a stretch to say that they are the gods of our civilization. Not only do we worship easily and naturally at the altars of these gods, we teach our children to do the same. From the earliest age we seek to get them into the finest schools we can and strive to give them every advantage so they get into the best colleges and land the best paying and most prestigious jobs. It is our desire that our children be successful. There is nothing wrong with that. The problem is with the standard we use to measure their success. The nearly universal measurement of success today is the job you have and the recognition we receive from it, the homes we are able to purchase and the cars we are able to drive. Of course the details of this great pursuit vary, but the desires/goals of success are pretty much standard. A successful life is a prosperous life.
Is this, however, the measure of success for a follower of Jesus? Is the common pursuit of our culture consistent with God’s will for our lives? You don’t have to dig too deeply into the Bible to see that the answer to these questions is a resounding, NO! The Bible clearly teaches that there is nothing inherently wrong with wealth and success, but it also clearly teaches that these are not the primary pursuits of the follower of Jesus! Jesus himself said; “Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you as well.” So in kingdom culture, what is of primary importance? What is to be our primary pursuit? It is character. It is a head and heart that is given wholly to God that translates into a life that is lived for His glory. So when we think about the will of God for our lives, our primary thoughts should not be about success or things, but about our relationship with God and how our lives reflect his Spirit that lives within us.
In Sunday’s sermon from 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18, Paul without hesitation declares that he knows God’s will for our lives. Read these verses and reflect on the following questions:
- Do these things characterize my life on a daily basis?
- Which of these things do your struggle with the most?
- What life priorities do you have that are at odds with God’s stated will for your life?
- How can you change these priorities?
- God always responds to his children when they ask for help. Ask God to do whatever is necessary to conform your life to his will.
Wednesday, April 12, 2017
The whole of Christianity rests on one fact: “Christ has been raised from the dead.” Indeed, Paul labors this fact in many of his letters, but nowhere more clearly than in his first letter to the Corinthians, chapter 15. There he says, “If Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith; you are still in your sins.” But that’s not all Paul says about the essential reality of Jesus’ resurrection.
In Romans 1, Paul notes that Christ’s divinity finds its surest proof in His resurrection since He was “through the Spirit of holiness declared with power to be the Son of God by His resurrection from the dead.” Therefore, it would not be unreasonable to doubt His Deity if He had not risen.
In Romans 14 Paul notes that Christ’s sovereignty depends upon His resurrection. “For this very reason, Christ died and returned to life so that He might be Lord of both the dead and the living.”
In Romans 4 Paul argues that Christ’s resurrection assures us of our justification; the choicest blessing of the covenant of grace. Listen to what Paul says, “He was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification.”
In I Peter another apostle gets into the act of pointing out the blessings of every believer when he links our regeneration to the resurrection of Jesus. Listen to what Peter says, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to His great mercy, He has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.”
Finally, Paul maintains in Romans 8 that our ultimate resurrection rests on the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Listen to how he puts it, “And if the Spirit of Him who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit, who lives in you.”
Thus, the golden thread of the resurrection runs through ever grace bestowed on every believer, from regeneration to our eternal glory, and binds us together with one another in Christ.
It’s hard to over-estimate the importance of the resurrection. Listen to Paul again, “His incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is like the working of His mighty strength, which He exerted in Christ when He raised Him from the dead.”
The resurrection of Jesus Christ is our subject this Easter Sunday. We will begin with its veracity and then move to consider Jesus’ clearest teaching on it in John 14:1-7.
In preparation for Sunday’s message you may wish to consider the following:
- Who is Jesus talking to in John 14 and why are they scared?
- This is one of only two places in the Gospels where Jesus speaks in imperative tense. What does that mean?
- Where else does He use the imperative tense?
- On what grounds is Jesus angry with His disciples?
- What are His arguments for them to trust Him?
- In verses 2 and 3 Jesus uses the word “place”. What does he mean by “place”?
- How does His statement in verse 3 correspond to His statement to Mary in John 20:17?
- How does the resurrection give unassailable credibility to His words in verse 6?
- What’s the implication of His statement in verse 7?
- How credible is the resurrection of Jesus Christ in our modern, rational, and scientific age?
Tuesday, April 4, 2017
Here’s a riddle for you. Where in Paul’s letter to the Galatians does he mirror Jesus’ clearest depictions of His Father? Hint: It’s his use of the “B” word.
Here’s another riddle for you – Why is grace so much more difficult for Christians to fully embrace and dispense than the law? It’s an amazing thing. Paul uses the word “grace” eighty-seven times in his writings and each time he uses it his desire is that everyone who hears his words might come to apprehend grace in the same measure he has received it.
Years ago I read the profound words of one of my favorite Bible expositors – A.W. Pink. He was writing of divine grace when he said, “The grace every Christian has received from God in Christ is more than ‘unmerited favor’ (the common definition used by many Christians). To feed a tramp who calls on us for food is unmerited favor. But suppose after feeding him he robs and beats you, and you feed him again. That’s grace. It’s more than unmerited favor. It’s favor shown in the face of absolute demerit. That’s the grace you and I have received on the Cross.” And it’s that grace that causes such consternation.
One of the reasons I wanted to preach through Galatians again (after fifteen years) was because I believe I apprehend it far more today than I did back then. But another reason I wanted to preach it again was because I believed it was exactly the message Hebron needed to hear at this time. Though I’m often wrong, I couldn’t have been more right this time. What I’ve seen since September 4th has been classic, biblical evidence of the proclamation of the unvarnished grace of God in Jesus Christ – the full range of emotion from unspeakable, overwhelming joy - to anger, judgment, and hostility. What a ride!
As Paul thought back to the final parable of the three Jesus tells in Luke 15 he must have shook his head and said, “That’s always the way grace always plays out. Some are overwhelmed and transformed. Others are angry and point fingers. But look what the Father does. He never stops dispensing grace to both, just like His Son!”
In preparation for Sunday’s message – “Marked by Jesus” from Galatians 6:11-18– you may wish to consider the following:
- Which brother do you more often resemble, the younger or the older?
- How about the false teachers?
- What was the trigger for Jesus telling these three parables?
- What are some ways in which religion is the antithesis of the Gospel?
- How is religion focused on the externals while the Gospel is focused on the internal?
- What marks is Paul referring to in verse 17?
- How do they differ from the mark of circumcision?
- How do you define “grace”?
- What rule is Paul alluding to in verse 16?
- How is Paul in verse 18 just like the father in Luke 15?