Thursday, August 25, 2011

The House of God

A few weeks ago a man told me that they don’t serve communion very often in their church. When I asked him why not, he said, “We’ve done it so often it’s kind of lost its meaning. After all,” he said, “how many times do you have to eat some wafers and drink some juice before you figure it out?” What would you have said to him?
Through the history of the church there have been three major theological perspectives on communion. There have been a multitude of opinions on the frequency of serving communion. Of all the topics of biblical and theological inquiry throughout the past 2000 years, few rival communion in the amount of ink dedicated to discussing it. But what’s striking to me in all of it is how little attention the contemporary Christian church pays to the precise context in which Jesus Christ instituted it. Think of it. It’s Passover week. It’s the Passover meal. Instead of celebrating the feast with biological family members Jesus earnestly desires to eat the meal with His own disciples, even Judas! In fact Jesus orchestrates the whole event. In all of the Gospels only the triumphal entry rivals the last supper as a “Jesus-planned event.” Have you ever wondered why? What precise point is Jesus making to these eleven disciples that will inform their ministries after the resurrection and the ascension? What lessons do they learn in that upper room that night that they will carry with them as they execute the charge of Jesus in Matthew 28? And more importantly for us, what should we learn from it? (In fact, I would submit that the lessons of the Upper Room are the perfect answer to the man’s question cited above.)
This Sunday we will travel to a town 24 miles south of Ephesus to see in strikingly clear terms the essence of communion. The texts for the morning are I Peter 2:1-6 and I Corinthians 3:16-17 where Peter and Paul are talking about the nature of the church and its principle purpose in the world. All the time I hear people say, “I don’t need to go to church to be a Christian” or “I don’t need ‘organized religion’ to have contact with God.” Well, Peter and Paul would beg to differ. In fact, they would be so bold as to say that’s bovine scatology. The fact is that the church of Jesus Christ is essential to both being a Christian and having contact with God. And you know what proves it? Communion!
When the church of Jesus Christ exploded through Asia Minor not long after the Ascension, the evidence of the lessons of the Upper Room learned with the head and the heart were vividly apparent. Rather than capitulating to Greek culture the church established itself as a defiant antithesis to the common practices of the day. The church of Jesus Christ was a powerful alternative to the common convictions of every Gentile and every Jew. And the truth is that today’s church, Hebron Church, should be that same striking alternative in our culture. May we all see it and desire it, and may God grant it.
As the message, “Lessons from Legion” was a “warm-up” to our new fall series, so is Sunday’s message, “The House of God.” In preparation for Sunday, you may wish to consider the following:
God’s words to ancient Israel in Isaiah 51:1-3
The history of Priene
What was Alexander the Great’s role in Priene?
What was the significance of the Temple of Athena to the lives of those in and around Priene?
What relevance do the words of Peter and Paul in Sunday’s text have on the people of Priene?
How did the church begin to fulfill the role of the temple?
How does the Upper Room table compare to the role of the tabernacle and temple in Israel?
Why did the Prienians stop going to the Temple of Athena and head to the church?
How do the words of Jesus in the Upper Room fulfill the words of His Father concerning the tabernacle and the temple?
What “first love” is Jesus referring to in Revelation 2:4? How does that relate to communion?

See you Sunday at the table.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Ancient of Days

“Older than dirt” can be REVERENTLY said of God. He made the ground and everything else. “How old is God” someone might ask? Since God is beyond the limits of time as we know it with no “starting point” we can’t say that God is a certain age. However, in the book of Daniel, God is represented by the title “Ancient of Days”. Many believe He is just as powerful as He ever was and always will be!
I am looking forward to us joining together to exult and glorify the “Ancient of Days”!
See you Sunday.

1. Job’s friend, Elihu, sums up the challenge of understanding God’s eternality. Job 36:26
2. What other name of God is indicative of His eternality? Exodus 3:13-15; John 8:58
3. As you study the Daniel passage do you think the title “Ancient of Days” is particularly linked to a certain person in the Trinity?
4. “Ancient” can convey the idea of wisdom as we read Paul’s doxology in Romans 11:33-36.
5. Notice the difference between God’s wisdom and this world’s wisdom. I Corinthians 1:18-21
6. The Israelites were taught to respect their elders Leviticus 19:32. How do we show respect to those who are older?
7. Notice the color worn by the “Ancient of Days”. Would you say that color is dominant in Heaven? Revelation 4:4; 6:11; 7:9
8. Do you know any hymns of spiritual songs with the phrase of praise “Ancient of Days”?

Friday, August 5, 2011

Redefining Marriage

Summer is the time for lots of wedding services for Tim and me. I think between us we will perform more than twenty this year! That’s a lot of time dedicated to meeting with couples and trying to help them launch successful, growing, godly unions.

For me, this summer has been particularly focused on the essence of biblical marriage with our denomination’s penchant for living in the weeds and a brother-in-law who’s doggedly determined to know the mind of God when it comes to marriage and re-marriage. (He’s one of many who have an uncanny ability to ask a question while formulating his next one.)

So what’s the Bible say about marriage? The Pharisees asked Jesus about it. But their intention was not to get an answer. Moses, David, Solomon, and Paul all wrote about it, but there’s a wide divergence of opinion on what they really had to say. Nearly every couple I marry selects a Scripture or two from one of these authors, and yet so often I feel that it’s the flow of the words rather than the content of the message that strikes their fancy.

Today, throughout the Christian church there is a wide continuum of opinion on godly gender roles and marital duties. You listen to some Bible-believing evangelical Christians’ views of biblical marriage and they sound like members of a male chauvinist convention. You listen to other Christians and they sound like clones of Betty Friedan. So what is it? What’s the Bible really have to say about marriage?

That’s the topic this week. The text is Ephesians 5:22-33. In this text Paul gives an eleven verse excursus into the roles and duties of godly marriage. And yet when you examine these words you find that they have a particular context. In fact when you really dig into them you find that Paul has a much broader view of Christian marriage than most think. In fact Paul’s message to the Ephesians in Chapter 5 is contingent upon everything he’s said up to that point, as well as the words in Genesis 2.

So as you prepare for Sunday’s message, think about the following points and questions.

1. How many times do the words of Genesis 2:24 appear in the New Testament?

2. Why does Paul go back to this creation account to instruct the Ephesians in Christian marriage?

3. What is the predominant view of gender roles in the first century Asia Minor?

4. How do Paul’s words in verse 1 and 2 square with Aristotle’s code of household duties and the mores of orthodox Jewry of his day?

5. How does Paul redefine marriage based on the creation account of Genesis 2?

6. What significance is there to the fact that he places his instructions regarding marriage in the imperative section of his letter, rather than in the indicative section?

7. How does Paul treat “mystery”?

8. What is the mystery that is revealed in Christian marriage?

9. How does Paul understand God’s words in Genesis 2:18 as relevant to marriage?

10. How do Paul’s words in Galatians 3:28 relate?

11. How is the marital relationship a picture of divine redemption?

12. What is the chief purpose of Christian marriage as seen in Ephesians 5?

See you Sunday.