Sunday, July 24, 2011

The Lord Reigns

Presenting the mid-week summer series on Ray Vander Laan’s “That the World May Know” sessions titled “God Heard Their Cry” has brought to light the parallel of the Israelites leaving bondage (slaves to Pharaoh) and the Egyptians worldview, redeemed and saved by God in the miraculous Red Sea crossing and becoming a free people of God, with today’s bondage to sin and God’s redemption and salvation through Jesus Christ to become a Child of God in the kingdom of Heaven. What an awesome and challenging lesson. It leaves me saying: "Praise be to God!"

Exodus 15:2 & 18 “The LORD is my strength and my song, and he has become my salvation; this is my God, and I will praise him, my father’s God, and I will exalt him.18 The LORD will reign forever and ever.”

What God had accomplished in the Hebrews hearts and minds was no less dramatic and powerful than his redeeming acts in the crossing of the sea, and the Hebrews knew it, standing safely on the far side of the sea. Their sovereign, all-powerful, one-and-only God had watched over them and redeemed them from Egypt. As the Israelites danced and sang praises to the God who had redeemed them, they had no idea what great journey they had just begun. From that point on, their lives and their culture would never be the same. Their commitment to God’s lordship required them to participate obediently in his ongoing redemptive story. He had called them to bring shalom into the chaos of a sinful world, to be like Him to other people, and to learn by His grace to obey His will. Although the expression “kingdom of heaven is not found in the (Old Testament) Hebrew text, a kingdom exists whenever a king reigns. So the Hebrews sang their commitment to the God who delivered them. There was no uncertainty that He was their reigning King. They did not know the ending, but God did, and does today.

John 8:36 “If the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.”

The good news of God’s kingdom that Jesus proclaimed was rooted in and shaped by the exodus experience. If we stand with the Israelites and seek to understand and celebrate their deliverance as they experienced it, we will appreciate more fully the grace-filled message and work of Jesus the Messiah. We also will be more responsive to the challenges, responsibilities, and privileges of being disciples of Jesus who are eager participants in God’s amazing story and are committed to obey His will.

Ephesians 2:8-9 For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.

And when the people see the finger of God, the result is a dance of celebration on the shore of the sea, saying: “He is King!” But God is asking to us, “I am blessed that you would call me King, but I want to know if I am your King?” “Do I rule in your life?” “You call me King, but do I reign?” “Am I in charge in your life?” Is the kingdom “active” in your life, because you obey God as your King? Good questions.

God of the Universe reigns forever and ever. The Lord is reigning.

In Christ, Brian

Sunday, July 17, 2011

The Un-Social Network

1 John 2:15 "Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him."

I saw a commercial of the Television a week or two ago, where a young lady made a statement that older people were becoming more and more Un-social, based on the growing number of parents and grandparents getting fed-up with the current trends of immediate and constant communication; turning them off, discontinue using or disconnecting, some or all, completely. Of course, the commercial was scripted and the actor just speaking lines, but there was a message there. A quick look at some numbers off the internet shows that there are 20 million MySpace users, 156 million Bloggers, 200 million Twitter users, 750 million Facebook users, 1 billion Smart Phone users, 1.4 billion e-mail users, 2 billion Internet users, there are 3.9 million YouTube subscribers & 4.6 cell Phone users with texting. Sounds like we’re pretty social, or are we just obsessed with these latest crazes? What was intended to shame those not embracing the social network may actually be a call to evaluate what is going on in our society today, and if things have gone too far, too fast and created addictive behavior, then step back to a balanced & healthy position in life.

In the parabol of the Sower from Mark 4:18-20, the Lord Jesus explains the principle that worldly cares and desires, when the focus, become unfruitful distractions in godly instructions and affairs. "And others (seeds) are the ones sown among thorns. They are those who hear the word, 19but the cares of the world and the deceitfulness of riches and the desires for other things enter in and choke the word, and it proves unfruitful. 20But those that were sown on the good soil are the ones who hear the word and accept it and bear fruit, thirtyfold and sixtyfold and a hundredfold." It’s not the social network that is the problem. I’m blogging right now and use most of these services. There are many good and godly things happening, but there are also some behaviors of concern. It’s disturbing to hear some say that they feel ‘naked” if they leave home without their cell phone. There is a great example of the root problem in 1 Timothy 6:10 saying that it is the “love of money” that corrupts because of the obsession. Then that which was intended for positive becomes a negative. You don’t even have to know the biblical references to understand this lesson, because we see and experience it in our world daily. You have taken good things too far and make them bad. Remember, money isn’t bad, in and of itself. It’s just an item of commence. We need money to function in society to purchase of goods and services in everyday life. But greed of money can lead to gratifying the sin nature of the flesh and needs to be kept in check by “walking in the Spirit” (Galatians 16-24). Let’s remember the keep our eye on the race set before us, our priority. Keep the “right” thing, the “right” thing. Let nothing come before the Lord.

1 Corinthians 9:24-26 “Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it. 25Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. 26So I do not run aimlessly.”
In Christ, Brian

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Eyes That See

Romans 1:28-32 And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a debased mind, to do those things which are not fitting; being filled with all unrighteousness, sexual immorality, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, evil-mindedness; they are whisperers, backbiters, haters of God, violent, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, undiscerning, untrustworthy, unloving, unforgiving, unmerciful; who, knowing the righteous judgment of God, that those who practice such things are deserving of death, not only do the same but also approve of those who practice them.

Secularity (adjective form secular) is the state of being separate from religion. Of or pertaining to worldly things or to things that are not regarded as religious, spiritual, or sacred; temporal Not bound by biblical restrictions, especially not belonging to a religious order. Worldly rather than spiritual. From Latin, “of an age” (existential – living for today). The belief that there is no God, Creator of Heaven and earth, who sets the standards of what is “right” and “wrong”, has given us the law of nature and the law of the Holy Scripture to live by, and that we are accountable to. Secularism is an assertion or belief that religious issues should not be the basis of politics, and it is a movement that promotes those ideas (or an ideology) which hold that religion has no place in public life. As Judges 21:25 says, In those days Israel had no king; all the people did whatever seemed right in their own eyes.

John 3:1-7 There was a man named Nicodemus, a Jewish religious leader who was a Pharisee. After dark one evening, he came to speak with Jesus. “Rabbi,” he said, “we all know that God has sent you to teach us. Your miraculous signs are evidence that God is with you.” Jesus replied, “I tell you the truth, unless you are born again, you cannot see the Kingdom of God.” “What do you mean?” exclaimed Nicodemus. “How can an old man go back into his mother’s womb and be born again?” Jesus replied, “I assure you, no one can enter the Kingdom of God without being born of water and the Spirit. Humans can reproduce only human life, but the Holy Spirit gives birth to spiritual life. So don’t be surprised when I say, ‘You must be born again.’

But that is not the end of the message, just the identification of the problem. There are two world views and drive two world beliefs. The unbeliever is spiritually blind of the things of heaven. 2 Corinthians 5:7 says that we walk by faith, not by sight. And Hebrews 11:1 tells us that faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. Just because we don’t see something, doesn’t mean that it doesn’t exist, physically and spiritually. God made us to live in a physical world in relationship we our Creator. Sin broke that connection, so our Heavenly Father sent Jesus (from unseen heaven to physical earth), “God amongst us” & “God incarnate”, to pay and restore that spiritual sight, relationship and life. Jesus came to open the eyes of the spiritually blind and spoke it.

Jesus goes on to develop the next point in John 3:8-15 The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear the sound of it, but cannot tell where it comes from and where it goes. So is everyone who is born of the Spirit.” Nicodemus answered and said to Him, “How can these things be?” I don’t physically see the wind, but I believe that wind exists, because I see the affects of the wind blowing things. I don’t physically see gravity, but I believe that gravity exists, because I see the affects of gravity. I believe in God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit, though I can not see them physically, but I see the affects of God and heaven in my life and the lives of others. It’s called faith and an assured hope only because this is a life of justification that begins when we are “born again” in belief in God’s plan of salvation and restoration in Christ that regenerates our spirit and opens our spiritual eyes, is lived out for God’s purposes in a life of sanctification that walks in the Spirit and grows into the likeness of our Lord & Savior, then finally steps through the doorway to eternal life in the life of glorification in the kingdom of God that we finally see face to face.

This secular world system (though it is not pleasant with its egocentric drama and dreaded rejection of God) is not doom and gloom for the Christian because we know that (1) God is totally in control and (2) Jesus opens our eyes to full life and (3) this world is a not the end – Heaven is just ahead. So secularism is just a ministry opportunity for us followers and students of Jesus to reach the unsaved with the TRUTH. Jesus gets to the conclusion of his teaching message to Nick in John 3:14-16 saying “as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life. 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.”

Let’s lift up the name of Jesus Christ in this secular world that they may come to the foot of the Cross, to come to a “saving” knowledge of the Savior of the world, to be “born again of water and the Spirit, have their hearts regenerated and their eyes opened to both physical and spiritual reality of the infinite, eternal Creator and His love.

In Christ, Brian