Tuesday, June 14, 2011

My Witnesses in Jerusalem

Acts: My Witnesses in Jerusalem 6-12-11
John 4:21-24, Acts 2:1-14, 15-41

Today, is Pentecost, the Birthday of the church.

The church is made of believers in Jesus Christ, the Lord and Savior.
Jesus dies, rises, ascends. Before he ascends, he tells the disciples, you will be my witnesses.
In Jerusalem, in the Holy City
In Judea and Samaria, the surrounding villages and area
To the Ends of the Earth.

I remember reading that it is Seattle that is the farthest city in the world from Jerusalem. So the United States is really a fruition of the Lord’s promise that the gospel would go to the ends of the earth.

Before the ends of the earth, before the good news went to Judea & Samaria, it was in one city: Jerusalem.

Jerusalem had been the center of the Jewish faith. It was the home of the Temple, the dwelling place of God. Jesus came to Jerusalem, to die and to work the miracle of salvation. After he rose, he gathered with his disciples. As he ascended, he promised his disciples, that in a few days, the Holy Spirit would come.

Jesus had talked before his death and resurrection about the coming of the Holy Spirit, with the Samaritan Women at the well. He told this women, an outcast of society some amazing things about God.

  • A time is coming where one holy mountain won’t claim sole worship (the competition between Jerusalem and Samaria for the presence of God)

  • True worshippers will worship God the Father in spirit and in truth.

  • God the Father seeks worshippers in spirit and in truth, for God is Spirit and God is the truth.

Spirit: breath, an animating or vital principle held to give life
Christians believe in the Holy Spirit, God’s breath, God’s vital and animating life-giving force.

Spiritual: relating to sacred matters & matters that affect the spirit

After Jesus ascends, the disciples know that the coming of the Holy Spirit is near…they don’t know how it will look, or when it will come, but that it will come.

The Bible Starts in a Garden and ends in a city. Before the final Holy City, there was a major turning point in the story that happens in the city. The church is born in Jerusalem. God comes by Holy Spirit, powerful and unpredictable. People speak in tongues they have not known. People are asking: What is going on? For the Feast of Pentecost had gathered Jewish believers into Jerusalem from all over the world: Libya and Rome, Iraq and Saudi Arabia. Before peoples from many nations, Peter stands up to say this is the Spirit promised by Jesus. This Spirit is here to empower us to proclaim the Lordship of Christ. This Spirit calls us to repent and believe the good news of the gospel. And this Spirit calls us together, to be witnesses in the world, for the world, by the power of God.

We are a long way from Jerusalem, but I hope we are not a long way from what happened in Jerusalem the day the church was born. Acts 2:42-47 describes some of the amazing things that happened to the church when it was close to the Spirit of Pentecost.

What Does It Mean to be Saved?

What does it mean to be saved?
Isaiah 43:1-13, John 4:39-42, Titus 3:3-8

What does it mean to be saved?
I think I have bit off more than I can chew for this sermon.

Part of our answer is found in what PREPOSITION you use.

for eternal life
from our sin and its effects
by the grace of God
in Christ
for good works
by the power of God
through the power of the Holy Spirit
among peoples from every race, tribe and nation

Is it an experience? Or is it a relationship? Or can it be both?

Can I be saved if I cannot point to a conversion experience. Yes--salvation belongs to God.

Must I be converted? Yes, but the Lord is the one who converts. And conversion doesn’t have to happen suddenly and drastically.

John: The Word Gets Out
because of the woman's testimony many believed
because of the words of Jesus teaching, many believed
the people believed because of the the testimony from the woman and by their own experience.
After hearing and seeing Jesus, we know this man really is the Savior of the world.
The word “world”: from a samaritan point of view (exile)

Titus: Fleshing Out the Answer
What does it mean to be saved?
acknowledges that without God, we are foolish, disobedient, deceived, enslaved, and display malice, envy and hatred.

what does it mean to be saved?
the kindness and love of God our Savior appears, he saved us.
salvation is not the righteous acts we have done.
Salvation is the mercy of God.
Salvation is the washing of rebirth
salvation is the renewal by the Holy Spirit (poured out onto us through Christ our Savior)
salvation is being justified by God's grace
salvation is being called a heir of the hope of eternal life

What does it mean to be saved?
it means to be careful to devote yourselves to doing good: in response to that kindness of God.
it means that what is excellent and helpful and beneficial to everyone comes into the world.

Story of the Rich Young Man:
The Disciples asked: Who then can be saved?
For humanity this is impossible, but nothing is impossible with God

Isaiah: The God of all power and love
With us in troubles:
Fire, waters, floods, For I am God, Your Savior
With us, his chosen ones:
Everyone who is called by my name, whom I created for my glory whom I formed and made
Apart from God there is no Savior.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

The Story of Scripture: Do I Have a Story for You!

The Story of Scripture: Do I Have a Story for You! 5/27/11
II Peter 1:16-21, Matthew 13:1-23, Matthew 20:1-16

Rod Stewart sang that Every picture tells a story.
Stories are all around us.
--the shirt you have on your back has a story. It was made, it came from somewhere, the person that made it has a story, there was a story involved with you buying it…it might not be memorable, but there is a story.
--I went to a website called great stories.com. Admittedly, I am not sure if they were great stories or not, but I will read to the congregation one that I found interesting.

God says to us: Do I have a story for you!!!
God has a story for us: It is the gospel story: which means, Good news. The way the gospel story makes its way into our story is called the journey of discipleship. It is filled with grace.

We are a story ourselves: our lives tell a story. They are lived and interact alongside other stories.

We often tell stories, they capture the imagination.

There are true stories, and made up stories. Some stories are filled with intricate details, and in other stories, details are negotiable, and can be stretched.

Faith, though, is not a made up story and doesn’t need any details to be stretched. Peter writes, “When we told you about Jesus, we didn’t make up a clever story…we saw it ourselves…and we told it to you.

This story that he and the other disciples saw, he advises his readers: You will do well to pay attention to it! If you saw a light in a dark place, you would pay attention, right? If you saw a bright star on your journey in the black of night, you would pay attention!

In our year long story of Scripture, the Easter season marked the arrival of Jesus in the story. We have focused on him during the 7 weeks of Easter.
Jesus: Fully God and human, teacher, healer, miracle worker, story teller.

Matthew 20:1-16
We have all heard of the Roman Catholic idea of the 7 Deadly Sins:
Lust, gluttony, greed, sloth, wrath, envy, pride
This story presents 7 Graceless Errors
Assumption: “they expected to receive more” v10
Complaint “When they received it they began to grumble” v11
Comparison “You have made them equal to us who have borne” v12
Forgetting one’s agreement “Friend, I am not being unfair to you” v13
Inappropriate Meddling “Don’t I have the right” v14
Jealousy “Are you envious because I am generous?” v15
Entitlement “So the last will be first and the first last” v16

Fascinating thing about stories: we identify with characters…when Jesus tells parables, it is to stretch our imaginations. We are not the worker hired in the first hour, we are 11th hour workers. In the prodigal son, we are not the elder son who has been diligent, we are the younger son who has wasted.

Matthew 13:1-23
In Jesus Christ, we have the image of the God of grace.

· The knowledge of the kingdom of heaven secrets has been given v11
· Whoever has will be given more (the context is knowledge) v12
· Left to ourselves, we are hearing, but not understanding, seeing, but not perceiving, hardened hearts, closed off to God v14-15
· We are blessed by God, for our eyes can see and our ears can hear the gospel v16
· Generations before Christ had longed to experience the Messiah, to see and know, and we that live after his coming, we can have eyes of faith and grace to know. V17
· TODAY: sown seed doesn’t have to fall on rocky soil, shallow soil, weed-filled soil. Our hearts today can be good soil. Crops 100, 60, 30 fold can grow. We can be fruitful.

All of these things speak to the grace of God. We don’t deserve them. With honor, dignity and integrity, we live before God and experience the grace that has been given to us.

Memorial Day Weekend
We are Christians, that is our most important title. We are also spouses, Fathers, mothers, siblings, nieces/nephews, friends and neighbors. These are incredibly important titles. This weekend, we also remember that another name we call ourselves is American.

In the midst of celebrations tomorrow, what can you do to honor the intent of Memorial day?
Prayer for leadership
Peace with Neighbor
Priorities as citizens

God speaks to each one of us today, and proclaims, Do I have a story for you!
The question is: Am I open to being a character in that story?

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Do You Believe in Miracles?

The Story of Scripture: Do You Believe in Miracles? 5/22/11
II Kings 4:1-7, John 14:1-14, Hebrews 2:1-4

Last week, my daughter saw me heating up a hot cross bun in the microwave. What is that Daddy? She asked. When I told her what it was, she then shared that 'she didn't like that'. For the record, she had never seen a hot cross bun in her life.

Upon opening the microwave door, she decided that maybe the basic equivalent to a warm doughnut would be a likeable proposition. "Can I have one Daddy?", that was the next question.

Upon answering in the affirmative, I was invited to sit next to her on the dining room bench.

Ah, the miracle happened. I was invited into the inner circle.

This miracle provided me with great satisfaction. In life, I do not need miracles like the
parting waters, sun standing still, fire devouring false prophets, being rescued from lions...
but that is part of our story of faith.

the definition of a miracle: the extraordinary entering human history, with its laws & consequences, cause and effects.

Latin: marvelous event that causes wonder
An event that causes people to think beyond natural forces, to the supernatural, to a superhuman power.

The natural, ‘everyday miracles’, is really called the providence of God. These miracles, they are simply God’s goodness displayed. For believers, they are a daily reminder of the glory of God.

part of the story of Scripture:
Jesus as God/human, teacher, healer, miracle worker

what not to do with a miracle?
explain it: it is not natural or rational
justify it: only God has to answer for it, and God doesn’t answer to anyone
compare it: it is God’s answer to a particular event

what to do?
enjoy it. glory and amaze in it.

Hebrews: God’s gifts to the church
Passage: to pay careful attention to what we have heard, and to not drift away
Consequences of the Law, given by angels…how much more, so great a salvation

· Salvation, announced by the Lord, confirmed by his followers
· Signs
· Wonders
· Various miracles
· Gifts of the Holy Spirit, distributed according to God’s will

Do you believe in miracles?
(al Michaels, famous phrase)

Yes? no? Maybe? Not sure?

The answer doesn't matter.
It is more important, do you believe in the one who can do miracles?

John: Jesus is the Miracle
The one who is preparing a place: to not gloss over this, preparing a place for you, many rooms. We can be where Jesus is. That is a miracle.
The One who is the way: how do we get there? A universal question we wonder about, "follow me, I am the way", that we even have an answer, that is a miracle
The One who is the image of God: what I am doing, God the Father is doing, we are working together. Do you believe that I am in, and my father is in me? If you do, that is a miracle.
The One who showed the image of God to people: believe, and if you can't believe, at least look at the miracles. That deed accompanied word, that is a miracle.

The One who says 'ask anything'.

What would you ask of God?
Money, fame, other shallowness of requests.
How would you like to bring glory to God this day?

If you really need a miracle today, then ask for it. but statistically speaking, we probably don't. Yes, we might think we do,

Sophie: I wouldn't have thought to ask God for a great big laugh regarding a hot cross bun...it wasn't in my creative radar...but I am sure glad God thought of it...and that my friends, is a miracle.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Be Healed

The Story of Scripture: Be Healed 5/15/11
Jeremiah 8:15-22, Mark 2:1-12, Mark 7:24-30

Healing is difficult topic:
1. There is a randomness to healing/not being healed.
2. God is God, and moves in his ways
3. In a purely human sense, all of us are mortal, and we go to the grave.
4. Technological advancements that blur quality of life dynamics.

Great faith/receive requests Great faith/do not receive request

Little faith/receive requests Little faith/do not receive requests

Different Types of Healing
Physical Healing:
Mental Healing: peace of mind
Emotional Healing: from bitterness, anger
Relational Healing: from conflict, from distance
Spiritual Healing: with God, in one’s spirit

Jeremiah: Sometimes, there is no healing.
We had hoped for peace and healing, but it did not come
--the imminent judgment from Babylon
Isn’t the Lord in Zion? Is her king on the throne?
Summer is past, and we are not saved
Isn’t there a balm in Gilead? Why is there no healing for my people?

Mark 2: Sometimes, Jesus heals.
Give ourselves a moment to imagine this stunning scene
--the sounds of the men climbing on the roof
--ceiling falling around as they dug…people looking up
--Jesus must have had a smile on his face: What he was seeing from
the fully God/fully human perspective.
--did the people help the man on the mat as he was closer to ground?
--I don’t think the religious leaders lifted a finger.
--what was their look when Jesus read through their soul & thought?
--imagine the man, lying on the floor, helpless, when Jesus is discussing with the religious leaders: So that you might know that the Son of Man has authority to forgive sin, I tell you…
--get up, take your mat, and go home…AND HE DID JUST THAT
--ultimately, Jesus is interested in the healing of spirit. For that is how we live forever.

Mark 7: Sometimes, we give reason for healing.
A shepherd to the lost sheep of Israel
Impressed by the logic and wisdom of the woman

Always wonder about the people who hear Jesus saying go, it is done. They have to leave, believing, they have to wonder as they go home, they have to have sweaty palms as they open the door to their home, to look at their loved one, to see if what this holy man had said came true.

Paul: II Corinthians 12: God’s strength is made complete in our dependence and weakness.

Jesus: Fully God/Fully Human

Today, if we need healing, and we find it praise God.
If we need healing, and we do not find it, pray to God.
In all situations trust God.
In Jesus, we see the healer was also the teacher.
God is teaching the world through us about his grace. We are part of the story, therefore, let us never travel far from the master storyteller. He is the way, the truth, and the life.

Christ is Risen!
He has risen indeed!

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

The Story of Scripture: Just Like I Said
Deuteronomy 6:1-9, I John 1:5-2:14, John 6:60-69

Parenting brings a completely new and different self-understanding regarding our relationship with God.

Sometimes, and possibly for some of you, I am conjecturing here, might say to yourself, when the screams are loud and the tears are flowing and the legs are kicking and the body is quivering over such audacious requests as ‘time to come to the table’ or ‘we’ll finish watching the tv show later’…in those moments, we might, just might, ask God…

Could we really be this stubborn? This self-focused? Could we really have this short of an attention span? This close to falling off the spiritual equivalent of steps and beds and couches?

At the same time, there are also multiple moments when we also look at children and think of God and wonder…

Could we really be this loved? Could we really bring this much joy and delight to God? Are we really this beautiful?

In short, the answer is yes.

Because we are fully loved by God, and because we can be clueless, we need Jesus to be our teacher. We need him to show us the way.

Jesus is fully God and fully human. He is perfectly qualified to be our teacher. He came to speak and live God’s righteousness and goodness.

In Christ, we find the a heaven-sent teacher, whose substance speaks to the very source of everlasting life.

Teaching the Greatest Commandment: Deuteronomy
In our first passage, Moses is preparing the people to finally enter the land that was promised a generation before. Remember, the people disobey God after the Exodus and have the equivalent of a 40 year time-out. But now they are ready. Moses has gathered them and gotten them ready for their new set of rules for their new home. These rules came from God, for the people. They are rules to be taught, for they are God’s commandments, to be applied in the nation’s daily life.

Why be taught?
--you, your children and grandchildren may fear the Lord God
by keeping the commandments
--and so that you may enjoy long life.

What is God’s commandment?
HEAR: Israel, God is One. Hear that. Listen and embrace that.
OBEY: be careful to obey. Don’t be stubborn, if you follow, there
is a lot of blessing to be had.
LOVE: the greatest commandment in the Bible: Love. Love God
with all your heart, soul and strength.

What do we do with the commandments?
IMPRESS: Impress them upon your children TALK: when you sit at home and walk along the road.

(If I may interject one thought for how this verse applies to our modern living, I would like to say this, which is my personal opinion. It is good to use your eating and travel time to talk together as a family. I know there are a plethora of entertainment options. I’m not saying it is wrong to have a special night where you eat pizza in front of the TV watching a family movie, or that you blare the radio while driving. But, there is a lot of time in meal and travel time that can be used for talk, and important talk, and, from a parental perspective, teaching talk. It is a discipline of time. It is an investment of time, energy and focus. But, it is also an investment with biblical support.)

TIE/BIND/WRITE: There were specific Jewish traditions that
emerge out of this verse. But there are also spiritual value in our day
to having a meaningful verse or saying near you, or displayed for
people to see what your values are.

Teaching the Difficult Commandment: John
This Easter season, we will focus on the Story of Scripture’s central figure: Jesus Christ. Last week, we learned of Jesus as fully God and fully human. This week, we are focusing on Jesus as teacher. The Gospels tell of Jesus’ first teaching: Repent for the kingdom of heaven is near. They also speak of Jesus gathering large crowds and amazing his audiences with wisdom, insight and his power of words. Today’s reading sheds light on a different side of Jesus’ teaching: his words can be difficult to hear and obey.

Jesus was giving a discourse on being the bread of God. The bread from God, not unlike human bread, was to be eaten, and digested.
Jesus told his disciples that ‘He is the body and blood of God, and
the one who wants to live must take his body and blood’

The reaction to this teaching is that many of the disciples grumble. There were more than 12 disciples who followed Jesus. At this point in his ministry, he was wildly popular, and many followed him. But upon hearing a difficult concept, one that stretched and challenged the hearers, the people react much like we might expect. The reaction to a difficult teaching is to recoil, for it challenges our comfortable standard of living we have created for ourselves. This is hard, who can accept this?

It is the end of the first week of training camp
It is the final few days of an extended business trip.
It is the third week of a diet.
This is hard, is it worth it? The disciples ask themselves.

In addition, Jesus hears the complaint, “Are you offended?”
It is Just as I said, “no one can come to me unless the Father has enabled him..

What is the reaction? Many disciples leave. They turn their back on Jesus and no longer follow him.

What a tragic end to a story. This is more than giving up the corner office or fast track career, or benefits of club membership. This is being face to face with the One sent by God. This is eating and listening and working alongside the Son of God, and then saying, NO THANKS. This is a big deal.

Out of this shocking turn in the story, Jesus turns to the twelve. With an astounding confidence, devotion to his mission, and self-awareness, Jesus says: how about you? Are you in or are you out?

Peter, the one who often would put his foot in his mouth, he got it. Where else would we go? Seriously, there is no other place on earth that I’d rather be than the road that leads to heaven (SCC). Jesus, I’m in. You have the words of eternal life. They may be difficult, they may challenge every fiber of my being. But I can’t stay away. I can’t stay away from you.

We like to tame Jesus, keep him in a cage and bring him out at our convenience, showing him off like something we own. But the Scripture describes Jesus in a different light. Some descriptions include the Lion from Judah. He is the bread that gives eternal life. He is the bright morning star. He shines in darkness. I am the beginning and the end. I am A through Z. I am the great shepherd who kills the wolves that seek my sheep. I am the one who speaks to demons and commands them to be quiet. Jesus is our teacher. And he is God’s teacher, saying what God wanted to be said. Convenient or not.

Jesus is not neutral. His teachings are not neutral. Sometimes, his teachings are difficult. But they are always good and for our good, and they lead to everlasting life.

Teaching the New Commandment: I John
John, one of those twelve disciples, who would later write to the larger church, includes amazingly profound but simple sayings in his first letter to the church.

--God is light, and in him there is no darkness at all
--If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is
not in us
--If we walk in the light, we have fellowship with one another
--We know that we have come to know him if we obey his commands
--Whoever claims to live in him must walk as Jesus did.

These are beautiful and true sayings. In our grey world, they sort of shock our system. There must be some wiggle room in these verses, we rationalize. But in many of John’s words, it is exactly what he says it is.

In the rules of interpretion, rule number one is that the plain and simple reading is correct.

There is a new commandment:

You can’t hate your brother (or sister)
When you love your brother (or sister), you live in the light, and nothing is going to make you stumble.

John includes a poem that has been open to some debate, especially when you look at the greek words that he used. In Koine Greek, there was often multiple ways to say what modern languages have one word for. But generally speaking, this is a poem that speaks to the life cycle, and to spiritual phases that we all go through.

If I may bring a scripture from another part of the Bible, the Apostle Paul is reviewing his life in his letter to Timothy, he tells his disciple: I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith” (II Tim. 4:7)

--Your sins have been forgiven
--You have known the Father

Young Adults:
--You have overcome the evil one
--You are strong, and the word of God lives in you

--You have known him who is from the beginning

Today, on Mother’s Day, we have a family stand up for baptism. In fact, a father and his son both receive the sacrament this day. This child's parents will learn to teach, to teach the truth and to teach what is just and right. And believe it or not, as he grows older, the child might question you. (I know, I know, this is shocking). But you stick to your message. You teach. You teach about one who is greater than you or I. And when he gets it, and when God stands by his promise, you get to say something very gratifying to your child: It is just like I said.

And the reason it is gratifying is not because you win in that moment. It is not because you have emerged for one moment, triumphant in the long game we call parenthood. It is because in that moment, we understand a little bit about what God is like: For God has taught us, and when we have listened, we look to God, like a child looks to his or her parent, looking for that approval, and God’s response is the same: Just like I said.

Today, let us be taught, let us teach, and let us learn from the One whose promise is good, whose performance is faithful and whose perfection brings us to glory.

Whoever claims to live in Christ must walk as Jesus did. And when you obey Christ’s word, God’s love is truly made complete in you.

Just as he said.

Christ is Risen.
He is risen indeed.

Monday, May 2, 2011

The Story of Scripture

The Story of Scripture: Leaving It All With All You Have 5/1/11
Isaiah 9:6-7, John 1:1-18, Philippians 2:1-11

Once upon a time, there was a king who ruled the most successful kingdom in the whole wide world. He drank out of golden goblets, the finest chefs prepared the tastiest and healthiest meals imaginable, what he said was law, in fact, he was the law and the rule. He lived in the finest palace and was well liked by everyone. The people thought he could do no wrong, hard for a someone in government to accomplish. Oh yeah, did I mention the weather was always 70 degrees and sunny?

And one day, the king got up from his elaborate bedroom, ready for another day of policy-making and luxury living. He looked outside his palace and decided that he should give it all up. And he did. He got dressed, and walked out the door. He found a humble dwelling near the edge of town, and asked to stay there in exchange for his 12 hours a day of hard manual labor. The king went on to live like this for the next three decades, and then he died.

Quite a story, isn’t it?

It is a story not unlike the story of our King: The King of kings.

During Lent, we focused on the prophets, and their message of repentance and return to the Lord. During Easter, as part of our year long study of the story of Scripture, we will look at Jesus Christ.

Our focus will be on Jesus and the roles he filled during his time in Israel: Jesus was God and human, Teacher, healer, miracle worker, story teller, Lord and Savior.

What Jesus did was like an episode of Undercover Boss, only his reward was to bring the sons and daughters back into the presence of God and grant everlasting life. Jesus said, “Here I am, and the children God has given me”.

Jesus: Left it all
Jesus: with all he was, continued in God’s service.

Jesus becomes the mystery: God and human.

I was trying to think of a way for us to wrap our minds around this concept. And I think I found one in the ballpark. I’ll give you three clues to whom I am referencing:

1. Faster than a speeding bullet
2. more powerful than a locomotive
3. able to leap tall buildings in a single bound.

Is it a bird? A Plane? No, it’s Ubermensch!

Came from a far away place to earth (Kansas)
Taken in and raised by human parents
He was human and super-human (Clark Kent and Superman)
Strong morality for the purpose of bettering humanity
Man of Steel and Man of Tomorrow are nicknames that could fit Jesus.
Sought to right wrongs of the era’s they lived
Ubermensch is coined by Frederick Nietzsche, who envisioned a
perfect man beyond moral codes, where Superman and Jesus, live
within morality and culture.
Fought social injustice, tyranny, racism
Emerge out of Great Depressions as Hero’s to the masses
Yet as immigrants, they seek to balance living between two cultures
Men of Peace (original Superman wasn’t, but he takes a vow not to kill)
Superman’s Kryptonite name: Kal-El (Hebrew, voice of God)
Powers caused loneliness on earth
Die and later come back to life

Superman a fictional character
Superman’s appearance is distinctive
Extraordinary feats of strength that break the laws of nature
Batman: admonished Superman for being too human
Commentary: “Only a man with superpowers can survive in this world”

No longer an American citizen, he joined citizen non-violent protestors in Iran, urging for a change in the government, the Iranian government viewed this as an act of war, and the United States National Security Advisor sits Superman down to talk, upon which Superman decides it is better to fight injustice from a global perspective.

(I’m not making this up—supermanhomepage.com)

Ultimately, Superman gets our imagination working, and our minds exercising, so that we can pursue a deeper knowledge of Jesus. But like all human examples, it does fall short. Scripture provides our best guide.

The Prophet Isaiah, 800 years before Christ is born, is predicting what the future Messiah will be. What does he say about the Messiah embracing deity and humanity?
Wonderful Counselor: with wisdom and knowledge straight from God
Mighty God: remember, the Jewish perception was the Messiah would be a human, and yet here, for the first time, is also referenced as deity
Everlasting Father: eternal
Prince of Peace over David’s Throne, ruling with justice and righteousness

With God, was God, was with God in the beginning
In the world, but the world didn’t recognize him
Word became flesh, and dwelt among us
Embodied grace and truth
God has made him known

Being in the very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped
Made himself nothing, and took on the nature of a servant
Made in human likeness and appearance as a man

For you and I: we are called to follow this Christ with all of our heart, strength, soul, spirit and heart.

We are called to leave all that hinders us from Christ behind, and to follow the Lord with all we have.

We are not God, but Scripture does provide descriptions of how we should become: godly, Christ-like, Spirit-filled. We are not to be like the world, we are to leave that behind. We are to be like Christ, going after that with all of our might.

And we do not do this alone: alongside others we become like-minded, having one love, being one in spirit and purpose. We do not live out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but we take on humility. We consider others better than ourselves. We look out for other people and their interests. We take the attitude of Jesus Christ.

The end goal of being Christ-like is eternal life. In Christ is light, the light that shines before all. We all will bow, but it is better to bow with Christ’s life within us, rather than the forces of darkness.

God exalted Christ to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every other name. That at the name of Jesus, every knee should bow in heaven, and earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

Christ is Risen! He has risen indeed.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Hurray! Jesus is here

The Story of Scripture: Hurray! Jesus is Here
Genesis 2:15-17, Matthew 1:18-25, Matthew 28:1-10

It is a special day, one of the most cherished days on the church and world’s calendar, celebrated by hundreds of millions of people. It was a day that changed everything. The world was never the same because of the events that are celebrated. There is magic in the air centered around the joy and happiness people feel. The day inspires us to feel and act in a more caring and loving way. The spirit we feel is because of a miracle. And yes, the season also brings any grief we might feel to the surface, because the event brings us face to face with the solution to mortality. In the church, this day is so special that we take more than just one day to celebrate it. It is such a beautiful day because it reminds us of the reality that Jesus is here.

Of course, this special day I am talking about is…Christmas.

Yes, you heard me correctly.

Christmas? On Easter? What is going on?

When we mapped out our year long study of the Story of Scripture, God, in his great kindness, allowed our schedule of the end of the Hebrew Scriptures and the beginning of the Gospels to fall on today: Easter Sunday. How fantastic is that? For both Christmas and Easter have the same message for the bookends of birth and resurrection: Jesus is here!

Genesis 2:15-17

Reviewing our yearlong story of Scripture, we remember one of our early readings. The story of the Garden of Eden gave humanity its destiny. This destiny was from God, and it was for our good. It contained promise, permission and one prohibition.

Promise. Work the Garden and take care of it.
Permission. You are free to eat of any tree in the garden.
Prohibition. Do not eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.

Yet the people disobeyed the one command. And they got what they wanted. We can know. We can know good. We can know evil. Humanity brought upon itself blessing and curse. When we know evil, it separates people from their Holy God.

Matthew 1:18-25

Relying on the destiny of humankind, given by God, as one of promise, permission and prohibition, we continued on through the story of Scripture. We heard of Abraham and Israel, Joseph and Moses, slavery in Egypt and Let my people go. We heard of wilderness wandering and law for the covenant community. What was Israel’s job? To be God’s people in the world, and eventually give birth to a Messiah.

As the story goes on, the people do not always follow God, they demand earthly leadership, and turn to kings. The kings often do not bring people closer to God. Eventually the people forsake God and turn to idols, and are judged by world empires Assyria, Babylon and Persia. And finally, during the Persian Empire, the people are allowed to return to their land. Through all the ups and downs, prophets guide the people. We looked at some of these prophets during Lent.

The last prophet in Hebrew Scripture was someone named Malachi. He tells that one is coming who will announce the coming of the Messiah. 400 years later, John the Baptist announces Jesus Christ and his public ministry.

We were in slavery under the basic principles of the world. At just the right time, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under law, to redeem those under law, that we might receive the full rights of being children of God. Because you are God’s children, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, “Father, Father”. So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and since you are a son, God has made you an heir
--Galatians 4:4-6

But before Jesus became a public minister of his Heavenly Father, there was that miracle: Birth, as a baby. The Messiah would surely come in triumph and military power. He came as a baby, weak and dependant.

Mary took care of him. Mary had him inside her, and grew him and gave birth to him, and cared for him and raised him. And Joseph partnered with Mary, at first skeptical of this holy miracle, announced by an angel, Joseph seeks to be honorable. But honor was staying with Mary, and raising this child, who had come from the heavens.

Mary and Joseph, this child…you should name him Jesus, because he is the savior! He will rescue the people from their sins.

Do you remember the prophet Isaiah: He said long ago, that the virgin would be with child and that child would be Immanuel. God is with us!

It all seemed like a dream to Joseph, because, quite frankly, it was. But dreams do come true. And this one did. Not in a comfortable home, but in a barn, for there was no room at the inn. The sheep and cows joined God’s chosen parents, in welcoming a little child. This little child would grow up to be Savior. But in the beginning, I imagine Mary and Joseph only had one thought when they looked into that baby’s eyes:

Hurray! Jesus is here.

Matthew 28:1-10
Last Sunday we observed Palm Sunday, the story includes praise to the King, as Jesus triumphantly entered Jerusalem. The story ended well.

No, he died. You didn’t hear. The whole city knows about it. He died. Jesus died.

That is what is great about stories. There is a point when challenge questions a hopeful outcome, when it is dark, when it doesn’t look good. Jesus had died. What did the disciples talk about when they were locked up in their rooms, hiding out of fear of Roman authorities? Did doubt seep in?

After the Sabbath, the day where rest was commanded, but also the day after Jesus had died, and there was so much to do, as soon as Mary and Mary were able, they went to look at the tomb.

What were they looking for?

An earthquake violently erupts. And Angel of the LORD comes down from heaven. The angel goes to the tomb and Rolls back the stone…and sits on it. Upon seeing this angel, whose appearance was like lightning and bright like snow, the guards charged with keeping the tomb shook, almost dying.

Mary, the angel says. Don’t be afraid. I know you are looking for Jesus. He was crucified. But he is not here. He is not here in this gravesite. He has risen. Do you remember, that is what he said he was going to do! Go ahead, look inside. Look for yourselves. And after you do that, go quickly and tell those disciples (who aren’t here), he has risen from the dead. And he is going to Galilee. That is where you’ll get to see him.

And the angel said what the angel needed to say.

The women, they are so nervous, so filled with excitement and anxiety, they run. They run to get those disciples. And then Jesus met them.

Greetings, Jesus said.

There he was. There was Jesus. Right before the women. They fell down to worship. They held on. He was there. It was him.

And Jesus repeats the angel’s message: Do not be afraid. Go tell my brothers, go to Galilee and we will see each other.

Hurray! Jesus is here.

The message of Christmas is the same message of Easter. Hurray! Jesus is here.

Christ is risen.

Friday, April 22, 2011

I Remember

I Remember

Isaiah 52:13-53:12, the passion story

“As we face the cross, we can say to ourselves both ‘I did it, my sins sent him there’ and ‘he did it, his love took him there’” John Stott

I was reading this week about the golden era of the Greek Empire. It was an era in history where the written word was slowly replacing the spoken word as the way of preserving the past. Poets were the stars of the day. They had written down clever and helpful ways of telling the stories of the past, and these written ways were then dramatically proclaimed to the gathered crowd in the amphitheatre. Some ancient amphitheaters held up to 17,000 people at one time. And they were there to hear a story told and unfold. They were there to hear how their story mingled with the universal themes of being human. Their stories were of gods and men, fate and destiny, tragedy and triumph. Their stories spoke to the heart and captivated the mind. Their stories were told in community and were a reason to gather, they were an event.

In the story of the cross, humans encounter the most dramatic and shocking story ever told. It is a story of me, and how my sin caused God to leave the heavens. It is a story of God, and how his love caused him to come and rescue the sons and daughters of Adam.

Who was watching this divine drama as it actually happened?

Who were the people watching, and their reasons for doing so:
· The religious council of priests and teachers watched: watching every word of Jesus, hoping he would slip up, ready to pounce upon him
· Pilate watched, interrupted, being political
· Herod watched, looking for a magic show, and not getting one
· Simon the Cyrene watched, a visitor to town pausing to look at a procession passing before him, he is brought onto the stage
· The weeping women watched: shocked and saddened at the injustice of the whole situation
· Two criminals watched, they woke up that day to find it was the last day of their life. Did they know they would meet God before going to meet God?
· Soldiers watched, doing their job, making a difficult finish to those punished by the state. Were they able to see innocence as they looked upon the suffering Jesus?
· Creation: becoming dark, it was the only appropriate response
· Centurion: surely this was a righteous man. How did he say this? Was he angry at what he just saw? Did he realize the error of the situation part way through the crucifixion
· The gathered crowd SAW, beat their breasts and walked away. What else could one do?
· Those who knew him (and who had followed him), stood at a distance, WATCHING these things. Did eyes of faith know that the story was not finished? Or hope? Or pray?
· Joseph: he was waiting for the kingdom of God. Was his wait nearly finished? Or did it seem farther than ever after this event?
· The women preparing for burial: bringing dignity, tradition and honor to a difficult situation.
· Ultimately, God and heaven. A Father watched his only Son die. Heaven sees the eternal worshipped one meet an earthly end.

Surely the story wasn’t supposed to be like this. But it was. Once sin entered, this was the only solution. God’s love sent Jesus.

What did the people watch? And you and I, what do we watch through the reading and listening of this story? What do we do with this story? In a word, we “remember”.

We remember the human plea, the divine pleasure and the new promise.

We remember THE HUMAN PLEA

Jesus remember me: The thief says
Here is a wise man.
He understood his time had come.
He understood his just sentence.
He encounters someone who is innocent and defends him.
He sees by faith who this person was.

Jesus remember me: you and I say
We sing the words of the Scripture, and they act as a plea to the Holy
God of the universe.
We are more like the thief than we are like Jesus.
And so we ask for mercy from the one that we have come to know as
good and true, Jesus, remember me.


Jesus remembers the thief: Today you will be with me in paradise.
This is an astonishing statement. Two men dying next to one another. This story was not going to end well. Jesus looks to this man, in the midst of a horrible situation, and says Today. Today, we are going to paradise.

Jesus remembers you and I:
Isaiah wrote, “After the suffering of his soul, he will see the light
of life and be satisfied.”
Jesus remembers you and I.
In his god-ness, he remembered you and I while suffering on a cross.

It pleases the Lord to save. That is why Jesus died, to save. To bring back the sons and daughters of Adam into the presence of God. When we come, it pleases God. It is another fulfillment toward the divine desire, the divine pleasure, that we might have eternal life, forgiven and freed.

God kicked humans out of the garden. If we would have eaten from the tree of life in our fallen states, we would live forever marred by sin.

God was pleased to send Jesus. Finding him, we find eternal life, one that triumphs over the enemies of sin, death and devil. An eternal life lived in the presence of God; pure beauty, abundant life, divine holiness, friendship with the living God. That is God’s pleasure.


The new promise we make: I remember Jesus:
Lent calls us to repentance. The Holy Week events bring us face to face with Jesus and his sacrificial work. We remember as we look to Jesus. We take part in the amphitheater of life, looking at the true and real divine tragedy, and we see Jesus. It is Jesus that we remember. I remember Jesus.

‘I remember’ Jesus says.
The punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed. Proclaimed the prophet Isaiah.
Jesus won the victory. The resurrection was the proof that death could not bind the perfect Son of God. Resurrection validates the cross, but we get ahead of ourselves.

The cross is where Jesus remembered you and me.
Only God and his Son can say “I remember”, and do so perfectly.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Someone's Calling

Someone’s Calling
Malachi 4, Matthew 3:1-13, Matthew 21:1-11

Someone’s Calling: The Story of Scripture
God: to creation: out of nothing, creation bursts forth
God: in the garden, to humankind, “Where are you?
God: to Cain, “Where is your brother Abel?”
God: to Noah, “Go and build and Ark” (the scripture says up until that time it had not rained)
God: to Abraham, “I will make you into a great nation” (Abraham and Sarah were barren)
God: to Abraham, “I need your one and only son” That was everything to Abraham, but he acknowledged “God will provide”
God: to Jacob, who was aware, “Surely God was in this place and I did not know it”
God: to Jacob, “I am giving you a new name”
Pharaoh: to Joseph, prepare the land for a famine
God: to Moses, “Moses! Moses!” (by name), “I am your God”, “Go to Pharaoh and say, ‘Let my people go!’”
Moses: to the Israelites through law, “Thou shalt not have any gods before
the LORD.
God: To Joshua, Get ready to cross the Jordan and enter the land I promised you.
(Isaiah had said, when you pass through the deep waters, I will be with you)
God: To Samuel, “Go and Tell Eli” (a youth called to confront a powerful yet unjust priest)
God: To Elijah, “What are you doing here? There are 7000 that have not bowed the knee to false gods”
God: To Isaiah, Who shall go for me? Whom shall I send? Tell them…
God: To Jeremiah, “Before I formed you, I knew you”
God: to Habakkuk, “Write this down, you won’t believe it”
Nebuchadnezzar: to Daniel, “Come out from the den if God has rescued you”
Artaxerxes: To Nehemiah, Return to your land
Malachi: to the people, Revere the name of God, and the sun of righteousness will rise up with healing in its wings.
Tell the people; Elijah is coming, and he will announce the Lord’s coming. He’ll turn the hearts of the fathers back to their children and the children back to their fathers. Or else.

(the understanding that Elijah was going to return and announce the coming of the Messiah. Jesus states that if the people could accept it, John the Baptist was the Elijah to come)

John the Baptist: to the crowds
Repent for the kingdom of heaven is near.
Produce fruit in keeping with repentance
Don’t rely on your past merits and your titles
God will raise up children from these stones, don’t feel entitlement
I am baptizing with water, but one is coming after me, who will
baptize with the Holy Spirit.
The crowds: to Jesus
Praise the Lord. Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord. Praise the Lord!
Jesus: to the skeptics: If the people stay quiet, the stones will cry out.

Someone’s Calling: TO YOU & TO ME
Common Responses to Call:
Fear: fear of the unknown
Anxiety: change can be challenging
Wonder: the heart begins to expand
Adventure: we respond to the invitation
Getting to work: obey and follow Jesus.
Faith: what keeps us going.

Fear and Anxiety are the negative extreme. Wonder and adventure are the positive extreme. But much of life is lived in the middle. The middle and center of life is work, and faith.

The One Who calls is Faithful
May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. The One who calls you is faithful, and he will do it.
(II Thessalonians 5:23-4)

Someone’s Calling: TODAY

We have journeyed through Lent.
We have arrived at Holy Week.

Our God speaks to us today through the events that we remember, and are about to remember. These events are shocking, were unexpected in their day, contrasted the way of the world. And yet they also brought resurrection from the dead, the answer to the problem of sin and death and the devil.

Someone is calling: That someone is God. God calls us to have faith. And faith works.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Daniel: On Being Different

Daniel: On Being Different 4/3/11 Daniel 3 & 6, Matthew 5:13-16 I found a gift this past Wednesday Night, Listening to poetry I found delight. I opened my ears to the power of a word. Listening to Poet Ray Brown, beautiful images I heard. I realized that throughout history Words have allowed the imagination to see. And we have lost some depth to be When only picture images we see On a day when my sermon is about being different We are looking at the life of Daniel the prophet I have taken some time to rhyme. I’m not a poet, and I know it. But it will now become evident, that this sermon, if nothing else, is different. 3 Wise Men Let me tell a tale of three wise men, Who at first I sought to kill. For they did not listen then To follow and obey my will. I had made an idol of myself. It rose 90 feet to the sky. In full sight from the Plain of Dura To all who would pass by. All who stood before my image must bow Especially when the trumpet blare Or else to the furnace they would go I punish without a care. One day my wise men came to me, Ultimately to tattle tale On 3 foolish men who would not bow To my image large in scale. Furious with rage, get these men here To answer for their foolishness My friends is it not better to bow What god can save from furnace We do not need to defend ourselves If God wills, then he will save And if he does not, we still won’t serve An image you have made Upon these words my attitude changed My anger and furnace hotter seven fold Soldiers died taking these men To punishment for not bowing before the mold But wait my eyes play tricks on me. For there are four, and not just three. And the fourth I see looks like a son of the gods As he walks around the fire free Come out! Come here! I call into flames And to these men I demand That they approach me with an answer To my just reprimand The wise satraps gather around To hear the story of these men once warned they speak with hair that is not singed Nor are their robes scorned Praise be to your God You defied me but listened to him And would give your life Rather than bow to a false god on a whim This God be praised and honored By people of every nation And you, O Three Wise Men Have earned yourselves a promotion. Honor In One’s Word I Darius have ruled the land, 120 Satraps before me stand With 3 administrators lending hand. Daniel is one of those three He does his job diligently Without corruption, full of integrity The Satraps seek to accuse They use their power to abuse Through his God’s law, Daniel will lose May unchangeable law throughout the land be sown 30 Days of prayers to King Darius alone Or else to the lions one will be thrown Daniel reads the kings edict and sees Yet to his God he bows his knees And to this God alone offers thanks and pleas While Daniel is praying, his adversaries see O King Darius, did you not publish a decree This Daniel does not follow thee The Decree must be honored, no exceptions it withstands And did you know this Daniel is not from our land Though Darius is sad, the judgment he must hand Now the king had made his choice To let the rules of men be his voice Darius has one long joyless, restless night Because of his choice, his anxiety feels very tight. With the light of dawn Darius raises his voice without calm And asks God if he has played his saving song O King, Live forever, Daniel’s voice shouts without blame Throughout the night, God’s angel to me came O King, those false accusations are quite lame A new law is written to Daniel’s God all praise And to him alone my voice does raise God’s power is strong and from heaven God saves. Daniel prospered throughout the reign of Darius before his God Daniel’s life did bless Continuing on throughout the reign of King Cyrus On Being Different Jesus talked about being different. Different can be good, we come to find When thinking about being different, salt came to mind. What does salt do? In days of old Salt preserved food to eat, strengthening people to their feet That’s one thing salt can do, will you find strength in God’s food for you? In modern days and northern cities Salt melts away the snow so we can get where we need to go. That’s one thing salt can do, will you melt away what’s stopping you? In days of old and modern days, Salt adds flavor to food, delighting our meal and mood That’s one thing salt can do, will you let God’s flavor bring delight to you? Jesus talked about being different. Different can be good, we come to find. When talking about being different, cities came to mind What can cities do? Throughout time, Cities light up the sky for those who find themselves passing by. That’s one thing that cities do, will you be a light for travelers too? Especially in days of old, Cities welcomed those weary, those whose travels made them dreary That’s one thing that cities do, will you make the dreary new? In our days, Cities exude energy and life, calling people beyond their strife That’s one thing that cities do, will you be Christ for people to view? Jesus talked about being different. Different can be good, we come to find. When talking about being different, lamps came to mind What can lamps do? I often walk at dusk throughout our town, The streets are quiet as a mouse, yet light shines out from every house. That’s one thing that lamps do, in darkness they let light shine through In my life one thing I’ve learned And this I know, lamps don’t shine hidden under a bowl That’s one thing that lamps can’t do, I hope you don’t hide your light from view.

Thursday, March 31, 2011

MLB 2011

Yes folks, this morning starts a glorious day in the year: the baseball season. And because I cannot sleep, I will now make my baseball predictions for the year. As always, we will check in after the regular season to see how I did. And this year, if I am terribly wrong, i can blame the lack of sleep. The hot pick this year is some version of the Red Sox and Phillies, which happen to be the teams my wife and I, respectively, root for. I predicted them last year to meet, and it didn't happen, so I hope the hot picks are correct this year. As for me, last year I picked the Sox, because I thought they had the deeper pitching staff. But can you say "Cliff Lee"? National League East Phils 96-66, pitching wins despite the offense aging Braves 92-70, just a notch below Mets 81-81, I don't think they are as bad as others do Marlins 81-81, They should be better than this, just a hunch Nats 70-92, They shouldn't be better than this, just a hunch Central Reds 89-73, nice nucleus of talent Brewers 88-74, a little unsure of pitching, unlike many Cards 84-78, sure, why not? Cubs 83-79, like I need an exciting division race to watch Baseball Tonight? Astros 66-96, not feeling it Pirates 63-99, not feeling it, then add a "really" before the sentence West Giants 90-72, champs until dethroned Rockies 89-73, i hope to not see them in September Dodgers 79-81, too much drama Padres 77-85, too little drama D-backs 68-94, too little talent Playoffs: Giants over Braves (again) Phils over Reds (again) Phils over Giants (I wish I could write, again) American League East Boston 92-70, East is more balanced this year, Don't see the extremes in records Yanks 89-73, will trade for a pitcher before deadline. Rays 85-77, good, solid season, despite losing free agents Jay 82-80, little weak in pitching Orioles 77-85, improving under Showalter, but how do they break into top 3? Central Twins 90-72, always seem solid Tigers 90-72, why not another Tigers/Twins epic finish? Sox 81-81, I really don't know Royals, 66-96, the LA CLippers of baseball Indians 64-98, I don't see the talent West Rangers 83-79, win by default A's 81-81, I'm not as excited as everyone else Angels 80-82, a second year of Angels struggling? wow! M's 75-87, a second year of M's struggling? { } ( don't put wow! in { } ) Playoffs Sox beat the Tigers (in a battle of my two favorite American League teams) Twins beat the Rangers (finally get past the first round) Sox beat the Twins World Series Phils beat Sox in 7. Because the World Series and 7 games go perfect together. Enjoy!

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Ezekiel: Seeing Things

Ezekiel: Seeing Things Ezekiel 33:1-20, 37:1-14, Matthew 5:1-12 What do you see? I asked this of the congregation as we gathered on Sunday. There were a variety of interesting responses. It is an interesting question that can be intepreted a few different ways? What do you see? Ezekiel was the prophet whose ministry was one of seeing things for God. He was a Prophet and priest, the only prophet to have both offices. He prophesied in part during the exile He used 4 modes: oracles, visions, symbolic actions and prophesy His visions included: the Opening chariot scene, a trip to Jerusalem, the valley of dry bones, a restored temple Ezekiel is famous for his Symbolic actions: Eating the scroll, shaving his head The book is divided into three sections: Judgment Upon Israel 1-24 Ezekiel called The Day of the Lord God’s glory departs the temple Judgment and how it looks Judgment Upon the World 25-32 Restoration of Israel 33-48 Hope for Israel A New Temple There are several Paradoxes, as identified by Bullock in Old Testament Prophetic Books: God turns his face from his people, he will not hide his face anymore (7:22, 39:29) God’s glory leaves the temple, a new temple is described Land will be judged, land will be reclaimed by people Israel breaks covenant, an everlasting covenant established Bad shepherds/the Good Shepherd Judgment Upon Israel: found in 33:1-20 Two things that stand out in this passage are the demand of God's call upon the watchmen, and the warning to not rest on your laurels. Hope for Israel: 37:1-14 “Yet when they could hear and when the prophet could speak, the word of salvation was as graciously astonishing as the word of judgment had been terrifyingly devastating” They shall know that I am the Lord. Matthew: Shows us How People Know the Lord through Christ's teaching. What did Jesus see? the beatitudes Ezekiel’s Message for You & I We need to be careful and remember Ezekiel's words: Judgment upon Israel, world and hope for Israel. This message should not be ignored by believers today. Definition of judgment: a formal opinion by careful weighing of matters and testing of premises. The Bible warns us against judging others. The definition helps us in this warning. Why are we not to judge? Because we don't have all the information to test the premises. Judging is basically an uncareful weighing of matters without testing of premises. But God is able to judge justly and correctly, because God knows everything. He is holy, powerful, and careful (as well as caring). What do you see? Today, I hope you see justice, peace and love. And if you see injustice, chaos and hate, that you work to overcome it in the power of Jesus.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Jeremiah: the Weeping Prophet

Jeremiah: The Weeping Prophet 3/20/11
1:4-19, Lamentations 3:13-33, John 3:1-17

We all know the power of words. A Prophet is one who speaks and proclaims the Word of God. Yes, they live and act out the parable of faith through their daily life, and their living becomes an illustration for the people of faith. But mostly, it is their words that are remembered. Their powerful words change us even today.

Story of Scripture:
Last week, the prophets and their books are introduced: there are 17 prophetic books. Isaiah: Works Back to the Future.
Jeremiah: The past gives birth to the present.

God’s Call:
--Chosen before created
--Set apart before birth
--Prophet to the Nations

Jeremiah’s Response:
--I do not know how to speak
--I am only a boy

God’s Answer:
--Don’t say “I am only a boy” (if your going to give God and excuse, at least come up with a good one)
--Go where I say and say what I command
--Don’t be afraid of people
--I will protect you

God’s Action:
--touches Jeremiah’s mouth: I am putting words into you
--You are in charge of nations
--Pull up, tear down, destroy, overthrow, build up and plant
God’s Picture:
--Almond Tree: a sign of spring, especially in the dark days of winter
--Boiling Water: as impending judgment

How Judgment Looks:
--foreign thrones established around the city
--walls, gates and cities torn down
--evil was turning away from God
--evil was offering sacrifices to other gods

End of the Conversation Brings Us Back to God’s Call

God’s Call:
1. Get Ready
2. Stand up and tell everything God says
3. Don’t be afraid of people (or God will make you afraid of people)
4. I will make you strong
5. You will stand before everyone
6. They will fight you but not defeat you
7. Because I am with you.

Is this not also our call?


--great faithfulness of God emerges out of great difficulty
--good to work out your salvation: quietly, diligently, alone at times, and with humility

John: What Would Jesus Say?
· New Birth for a New Kingdom
· New Birth is a spiritual act (of the Holy Spirit)
· Faith and believe for what: everlasting life
· Encounter the great love of God shown in Jesus Christ

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Isaiah: Back to the Future

Isaiah: Back to the Future
Isaiah 35, Isaiah 65:17-25, Matthew 4:12-17

America was witness to a prophetic voice and figure within its past fifty years: Martin Luther King. He spoke to the powers of the United States when there was momentum on his side (the Civil Rights movement), and after he had gotten power and leverage, gave it up to speak against the Vietnam War.

He believed so strongly that what he represented was right, that he believed those who opposed him, knew deep down, they were wrong. What power!

Story of Scripture: Israel called to birth the Messiah. Rescued from slavery in Egypt, cross through the Red Sea, wander wilderness, establish law and enter promised land. They want a king, when God does not want that for them. After a series of bad kings, and the people not turning from their ways to follow the Lord, the people are exiled, and then return to the Land 70 years later.

Today, we transition to highlight a religious office in Israel that held the powers that be in balance: The prophet.

Common perception of a prophet is a future-teller. And parts of the prophetic books of the Bible, do tell about the future, and about specific events that would unfold, such as the destruction of the Babylonian empire, or the suffering that would come upon the Messiah. But generally speaking, a prophet is a messenger of the Lord, called to speak the Word of God.

Prophets would speak to kings. Prophets would speak to the religious establishment. Prophets would speak to everyday people.

Prophets would talk about the past. Prophets would talk about the present. Prophets would talk about the future.

Prophets would speak God’s message. Prophets would act out God’s message, through living parables. Prophets would take on a way of life, to model God’s message.

Donald Leggett in Loving God and Disturbing Men
1. keep God as central
2. portray evil realistically
3. call for change
4. give a hope-filled perspective on history
5. are socially relevant (speak to social order)

A prophet wakes us up from our sleepy complacency so that we see the great and stunning drama that is our existence, and then pushes us onto the stage playing our parts whether we think we are ready or not.
–E. Pederson, Run with Horses

Isaiah: Back to the Future

730-681 BC, Northern Israel falls during his prophesying.
Isaiah encounters the presence of God: chapter 6

General themes of Isaiah’s teachings (Bullock)
--Ruin and rebirth
--Divine Judgment
--Oracles against the nations
--suffering and salvation
--faithfulness and unfaithfulness
--the wicked and the righteous

The future as the End.
Looking at the End through the eyes of faith.
In message of salvation, the future is the beginning.
Looking at the End (goal) as to move from where you are to where you should be or where you would like to be. In doing this, you work your way back to the future.

Isaiah’s picture words for how the future looks…
Chapter 35:
v.1 parched land and wildnerness blooming: JOY and GLADNESS
v.2 beautiful spots will see the glory of God.
v.3-6 broken body parts will work again with new life.
v. 7 water will gush in the desert, burning sands will become pools,
thirsty ground becomes bubbling springs.
v.8 a highway of holiness that is safe and purposeful
v.10 entrance into the holy city with everlasting joy crowning their
heads, singing. Sorrow and sighing fleeing away.

Chapter 65:
God’s promise: I will create new heavens and new earth.
The former not remembered, nor come to mind.
Be glad and rejoice forever in what God creates.

Life at length.
Houses enjoyed
Fruit eaten that is grown
Pleasure in work
The real animal kingdom
The Holy Mountain overlooking
The people will be a people blessed by the Lord.

Jesus: Coming Back for the Future
From the smallest areas comes the biggest light.
Jesus is aware of what the prophet had seen for the future.
Jesus is the light for a dark world.
The people will see this light.
The light will shine on the people.
Jesus’ message: repent, for the kingdom of heaven has arrived (or, is near)

Lent: Repenting
Listening to and obeying the Word of God.
Being close to God and Jesus

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

The Story of Scripture: Here is the Matter

Here is the Matter
Proverbs 3, Ecclesiastes 12, John 6:60-69

The title of my sermon is “Here is the Matter”. But first, we must talk about a recent phenomenon of cosmic proportions. A force so omnipresent and powerful it has been part of us the past two weeks almost non-stop: What force is this?
Charlie Sheen:

I saw him on the Piers Morgan show, gave it 5 minutes of viewing time, because I had heard of recent struggles and tv postponement.

Then I heard of 2 other national TV appearances and I wondered to myself, why the campaign?

Then I saw an article on Yahoo which was entitled, very loosely, “Why all the sudden Charlie Sheen appearances”.

And then I read two things that interested me greatly in an article I read. First, the article stated that Charlie Sheen was living in his “L.A. manse”. I thought, wow, Charlie Sheen lives in a manse.
And then I saw that he joined twitter and got a million followers in 15 hours.

My personal opinion: the last time I saw him, he looked old. I hope for him to find his way and to find lasting happiness and fulfillment, deep joy and peace.

Old combined with folly is not a good combination.

As we get older, the ideal is that we will mature.

Today’s theme in the story of Scripture is Wisdom. There are books of the Bible called Wisdom books. They address universal human issues, not just Israel’s covenant with God. There is
Job: suffering
Proverbs: wisdom
Ecclesiastes: purpose and meaning (& meaninglessness)
Song of Solomon: Human sexuality and love

Wisdom is defined as the ability to discern inner qualities and relationships. It is insight, good sense and sound judgment.

Ecclesiastes: Here is the matter--Fear God and keep his commandments.

Ecclesiastes: Remember your Creator in the days of your youth. Because aging, and the physical struggles in the passage come to people. To have a foundation built upon God, that is the important matter.

Here is the conclusion of the matter: Fear God and keep his commandments. This is the conclusion of the individual history generally attributes as one of the smartest people ever.

Background of Ecclesiastes
Story line: The author starts with a statement, ‘meaningless, meaningless’, everything is meaningless. And then he starts to hash out the truth of this statement.
Wisdom, pleasure, folly, work, time, friendship, riches. They all at some point, feel empty.
The writer looks at the end of these endeavors, and sees a common destiny for all, and earthly end visits everyone.
But does that mean hopelessness?

The author in our morning passage has bookends to the chapter:
Remember your creator in the days of your youth.
Fear God and keep his commandments.

Proverbs: Here is the matter—Trust in the Lord’s wisdom.
Trust in the Lord and do not lean on your own understanding.
What does God require? Wisdom.

Background of proverbs
Proverbs are sayings, contrast and comparison statements, or questions on morality. In Biblical literature, they were mostly written by Solomon, though others authored the proverbs found in the scripture. There are over 3,000 proverbs in the Bible.

Two highlights from Proverbs 3 include:
Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge God, and he will make your paths straight.


Do not withhold good when it is in your power to act.

John: Here is the matter--Jesus had the words of eternal life.
Where would we go? You have the words of eternal life.
The verse before today’s passage begins: I am the bread that will let you live forever.

Today, at the Lord’s Table: we meet the same Jesus Christ.
--He is the bread of life that gives eternal life.
--He does challenge his followers with hard teachings.
--The one whose word is spirit and life.
--The One who has the audacity to say come to God through me.
--The One who doesn’t deny he is the holy one with the words of

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

The Songbook of Faith

The Story of Scripture: The Songbook of Faith
Psalm 42, Psalm 126, Matthew 27:32-50

Songs stay with us and become part of our story. How is it that you can go years without hearing a song, and then you hear it once, and you remember every word?

For me, some songs that have that type of power:

--Lee Andrews & the Hearts, bringing me back to returning in the family car from grandma's house, listening to WOGL, the Sunday night doo wop show.

--Grover Washington: Just the Two of Us, remembering the first concert my dad took me to.
And even when I hear the inferior Will Smith version, it points me back to the original.

--Just the Way You Are, if Aurie and I have a song, this would be it.

--I’ll Stand By You: Sophie loved this song when she was two, and would be the only song on the CD she would 'allow' to be played.

There are songs that tell of pain, songs that tell of triumph, there are songs that make the hands clap, the feet stomp, the fists pump, the body dance. And there are also songs that make the body sway, the eyes cry, the back slouch and the hands go over our mouths.

There is song and music for every emotion

Is this also true for the songs of our faith? In the Bible, the Psalms are the songbook of faith.
What is in the songbook of Faith?

Thinking about our first Psalm, Sad Songs (Say So Much), by Elton John, came into my mind. It led me down a 30 minute rabbit trail about other Elton John songs that describe the types of Psalms.

For example,
The Psalms about affliction: Don’t go breaking my heart
The Psalms that are Penitential: sorry seems to be the hardest word
The Psalms that are Imprecatory: Saturday Nights All right (for fighting)

There are other types of Psalms:
Didactic Historical Intercessional
Messianic Praise Prophetic
Thanksgiving Ascent (pilgrimage) Royal
Enthronement wisdom

These songs address the experience of being human. Like a romance, there are two faces that turn to each other to speak. In this songbook of faith, God speaks to us, and we speak to God. God’s words strengthen us. Past human words to God are shared by all on the journey of faith.

Psalm 42: The heartfelt song for God
A modern example of a sad song would be “nobody knows the trouble’s I’ve seen”

Where can I go to meet with God?
--when taunts surround “men say all day where is your God”
--when tears abound “tears are my food”
--when life gets you down “Why are you downcast? Why are you
so disturbed within me?”

What comes from meeting with God?
--Remembering one’s joy “I used to go with the group, leading the
procession into the house of God. There were shouts of joy and thanksgiving among the festive throng”

--Affirming one’s goal “Put your hope in God for I will yet still
praise him”

--Observing from the heights “I will remember from the heights of hermon,
Mt. Mizar”

--The call of the deep “deep calls to deep in the roar of your waterfalls, all your waves and breakers have swept over me”

--Day and night “The Lord directs his love by day and his
song is with me at night”

Psalm 126
Elton John would entitle this psalm: I’m Still Standing

A Song of Ascents: Approaching the Temple & God in worship.
If Psalm 42 was written in Exile, Psalm 126 is written on the other side.
It is written after the struggle was endured, and completed. We made it. And not only did we make it, we are thriving.

We have dreamed.
We have laughed.
We have sung song of joy.
We have born witness to the nations.
We have been restored.
We have sown and reaped with songs of joy.
We have gone out and returned carrying sheaves of joy.

We are still standing. All praise to God.

The Crucifixion: The Psalms Speak Throughout the Story

If the Exodus is the central event for the Israelites where God breaks into history and rescues a people, the Cross is that history-breaking event for the world. And Jesus, in the midst of his ultimate sacrifice, remembers the songbook of faith.

· I am worn out calling for help, my throat is parched. Ps 69:1
· They put gall in my food and gave me vinegar for my thirst. Ps 69:21
· I can count all my bones Psalm 22:17
· They divide my garments among them and cast lots for my clothing Psalm 22:18
· A band of evil men has encircled me, they have pierced my hands and my feet. Ps 22:16
· All who see me mock me, they hurl insults, sharking their heads: ‘He trusts in the LORD; let the LORD rescue him. Let him deliver him, since he delights in him.’ Ps 22:7-8
· My God, My God, why have you forsaken me. Ps 22:1

The Songbook told God’s story to the people. Jesus lived the songbook. He lived the faith perfectly. And in doing so, has become the songbook of our faith.

What are we to do with the Songbook of faith?
1. Shape our worship. (the Psalter)
2. Help us identify our spiritual journey.
3. Help us connect with the larger family of God.

Sad songs say so much. The Songbook reminds us: We are still standing. And we stand because of our Lord Jesus Christ. He came to live and be the one whom we believe in. He is our song and our story.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

The Story of Scripture: Where is God?

Where is God? 2/20/11
Esther 2:12-17, Job 6:1-16, Matthew 5:43-48

How do we possibly answer the question: Where is God?

On the one side of the spectrum is our feelings. On the other side of the spectrum is the reality of God. In between is the murky, muddy land of “perception”.

Our feelings are real: we feel them. They are part of who we are. They don’t have to be accurate to be real. They are real precisely because we feel them.

God is real. If every human being stood together and screamed at the top of their lungs: God is not real. It wouldn’t make one iota difference. God is real, whether we choose to believe it or not.

So in between is the murk and mud. The problem is perception. Sometimes our perception is right, and sometimes it is not. It is said perception is reality, but even that statement is not entirely accurate. If everyone said my robe was orange, that wouldn’t make it orange.

Sometimes our perceptions are connected to reality, and sometimes they are not.

We feel our feelings, we are sometimes accurate in our assessment of reality, and God continues to exist. But sometimes, we still ask: Where is God?

Story of Scripture:
God’s destiny for humankind: promise, permission, prohibition.
Creation & Fall
Israel created to produce a Messiah.
Enslaved in Egypt, called out through God’s saving event: the Exodus.
Through wilderness, a law is given by God and people enter the promised land. Do not forget God, they are warned.
Prophets come when the people fall astray. And Israel wants to be like the other nations, having a king.
There are good kings and bad, and after a series of bad kings, Israel is taken out of its land, by the Babylonian Empire. For 70 years, the people live in Exile. Last week, we see that Persian overtakes Babylon, and some people make their way back. But at this point, not everyone returns to the promised land.

Including two key figures: Mordecai, and his cousin Esther. They stay and struggle and thrive in the Persian capital of Susa. And before them arises the greatest potential harm that they could imagine: annihilation.

Where is God?

Today’s theme in the story of Scripture highlights two different books that seek to answer the same question. Where is God?

In our reading from the Book of Esther, the central idea that arises is this:”Who knows, perhaps for this reason you are here”

Have you ever wondered that about yourself? You look around you, you see the circumstances, the evidence, the opportunities, and you try to figure out how you related to what you see, and the answer that you dig deep and find for yourself is: Maybe that is why I am here.

Maybe I am supposed to listen to that person who wants my time.
Maybe I am supposed to offer my talents to that community group.
Maybe I am to tell that person I am praying for them.
Maybe I am supposed to fix this problem that is weighing us down.
Maybe I am supposed to share that idea that came to me.
Maybe I am part of the solution.

Let us look at the story of Esther to see how this question came into being.

One word missing in the book: God.
Where is God? Not in story of Esther. At least, not by name in Esther. But God is there, orchestrating justice and deliverance out of a very dark and harsh circumstance.

King Xerxes makes alliances with a man named Haman. When Haman is announced in the King’s presence, everyone bows. Everyone that is, except for one man: Mordecai. He was a Jew living in the capital, and Haman is furious that Mordecai does not show respect. A plan is put into place by Haman that Mordecai’s people must be eliminated. A day is determined by the casting of lots, announced, somehow tolerated and endorsed by the King, and sent out into the kingdom, which extended from Southern Egypt to India.

This announcement causes understandable panic among the Jews, and brings Mordecai to prayer and tears. But Mordecai has one hope: His cousin Esther. Mordecai had raised her after Esther’s parents had died, and in a series of providential events, Esther had become one of the favored Queens of King Xerxes. So Mordecai talks to Esther, by way of messengers. A Jew in sackcloth would not have been invited into the presence of royalty.

Esther’s first hesitation is that no one, not even the Queen may enter the King’s presence unannounced. The penalty would be death.

But the time is getting short. The day of extermination tolerated by the King is approaching. So Mordecai urges Esther to think bigger.

“You will not survive the King’s edict” Your family and you will perish. It won’t matter that you live in a palace. You will not escape this plan of genocide.”

Silence is not an option. Mordecai predicts that one way or another, that deliverance will come. But Esther, because of you, it doesn’t have to be ‘another’. You are the way. You are here. It is time for you to stand up and act boldly. In fact, perhaps that is exactly why you were made queen in the first place. Who knows?

When life was harsh, and darkness threatened survival, and the squirming for a solution produced little hope, people surely wondered: Where is God?

In this case, Esther accepts the call to action. She had Mordecai and the people pray and fast for her. And when she offers herself to find a solution, one comes. Mordecai had been helpful in a stopping an assassination attempt on the King. Esther says to the king: Did you ever honor that person who helped save your life? The King answers no. Haman, the King says, go and honor the person who had saved my life. And so Haman, leads a parade for Mordecai, the very person who would not bow to him. Haman is so furious, he plays his cards incorrectly, and is exposed before the King. The threat is identified, and a proclamation goes out that allows the Jewish people to protect themselves.

In the darkest moment, it was asked “Where is God?” The Book of Esther shows us, sometimes we might ask that question, and sometimes we might not know the answer. But by faith, we use our resources, and find a solution. Along the way, God will show himself in the details of the story.

It reminds me of the old Portuguese proverb I have shared with you: In the end, it will all be ok, so if it isn’t ok, then it isn’t the end yet.

Our second story is very different from Esther, but seeks to answer the same question.

Job: Where is God?

For Job, the question of where is God stems from an almost unbearable amount of tragedy that comes upon his life.

The story of Job is much older book, with references to the times of the patriarchs, like Abraham. It is not in chronological order because of the type of literature it is: it is called wisdom literature. Job’s problems become symposium on the problem of evil and suffering, and how it relates to a God who is good and caring.

The background of the story is that Job is a highly successful man: in business, friendship and family. He is a pillar of the community and incredibly religious. He would offer sacrifices after the family parties for each of his children, in case they might have done something wrong.

The story switches to the heavenly scene, in which God is challenged by Satan. Satan suggests that Job is a holy man because everything is good for him. Satan is then allowed by God to test Job, which results in Job losing all his possessions, farm animals, family members and health. Job loses everything.

Where is God?

Maybe you and I haven’t lost everything, but there may be events or days or seasons where it seems like it. Where is God we ask, in the midst of our struggle and test.

There are some phrases in the early parts of Job that have become familiar to the people of faith and culture:
· The Lord gives and the Lord takes away.
· Are you still holding on to your integrity?
· Shall we accept good from God, and not trouble?
· Job cursed the day of his birth.

Job seeks to entrust himself to God after his suffering, not seeking to curse the name of God, and therefore sin.

Job is visited by three of his friends, who upon coming to Job, see a suffering so great they do not say anything for a week, but sit alongside of Job.

The majority of the book is a series of conversations between Job and his friends. The friends eventually start digging deep to find the reason for Job’s suffering. In fact, they find reason to blame Job. The Book of Job is interesting to read, but we have to be careful. Job is not a book that you can pick out a verse here or there to quote. Much of the content of the book is not theologically accurate: it contains the words of friends who ultimately lack in their answers for the question Where is God? Why do you suffer?

Job also is working out his understanding of why this has come to him. It contains many authentic feelings, such as the passage that was read this morning. You and I might have the same feelings that Job feels:

Job says:
If only my anguish could be weighted and my misery be placed on scales: it would be heavier than the sand on the seashores.

We might say:
Our burdens are too heavy to handle.

Job says:
The arrows of God are in me, and my spirit has drunk their poison. We might

We might say:
God is out to get me.

Job says:
Grant what I hope for, that God would be willing to crush me to let loose his hand and cut me off!

We might say:
Just take me God, it is too much.

Job says:
What strength do I have, that I should still hope? What prospects, that I should be patient? Do I have any power to help myself now that success has been driven from me?

We might say:
What do I have to live for? What is the purpose? How can I make it back to what I once had?

Job says;
My brothers are as undependable as intermittent streams that overflow when darkened by thawing ice.

We might say:
I feel all alone.

All of these questions and cries point to a common question: Where is God?

The story of Job has its climax in Job having an encounter with God. All throughout the book, Job states his questions, and God never answers them. But at the end of the book, God questions Job, and Job cannot answer the questions. Job bows before God and acknowledges that God alone is the Holy and Almighty. And that yes, he was there.

Sometimes it is hard to see. But there are signs. Jesus said that God causes the sun to shine on the just and unjust. God sends the rain on the just and the unjust. God is present. Though we cannot see him, we can believe in him. And our questions and doubts can be asked by faith. If God is not there, then why do we talk and why do some wrestle?

Where is God? The Scripture affirms God’s presence. What are some of the Biblical answers to the question, Where is God?

1. Everywhere.
Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? If I go up to heaven, you are there, and if I make my bed in the depths, you are there. --Psalm 139

2. In our neighbor
Whatever you have done to the least of these, you have done unto me --Matthew 25:40

3. In Jesus
For in Christ, all the fullness of the deity lives in bodily form
--Colossians 2:9

4. In the midst of worshippers
When two or three are gathered in my name, I am in the midst of them. --Matthew 18:20

5. When we go out to into the world in mission
Baptize in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, and I will be with you always, even to the end of the age.
--Matthew 28:20

6. In bread, juice and water.
Take and eat, and drink, this is my body --Matthew 26:26

As many of you as were baptized into Christ have clothed yourself with Christ --Galatians 3:28

At times people going through tragedy, or looking at the world, will have despair, Where is God? It is asked. Look around. Where is God? What a mess.

People of faith: it is the same question and same answer. We also ask, Where is God? We also answer: Look around. But the answer means something very different.

With eyes of faith, let us behold the glory of the Lord.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Rebuilding: The Story of Scripture

Nehemiah 2:11-20, Nehemiah 6:1-16, John 2:12-25

The worst destruction I’ve ever witnessed: Katrina
The saddest destruction I’ve ever watched: Thailand, Haiti, when what little people had is destroyed.

Out of the ashes, hope rises.
Out of the broken wood and crushed concrete, new buildings and villages and new life will emerge.

Powerful stories occur when community is formed for the task of rebuilding. For example, the Amish and barn-raising.

The Story of Scripture:
Exile & Return are part of the Story of Scripture:
Genesis: Humanity’s destiny is found in Promise, Permission, Prohibition
We see God choosing a people, who will birth the Messiah. Very human figures, with seasons of great faith are part of the story: Abraham, Joseph, Moses, Samuel, Elijah. We have God’s saving event: the exodus. Called out of slavery, through the waters, through the wilderness, to embrace promised land. But once the people enter the promised land, they must remember the Lord their God. And if they don’t, God will not keep them in the land. Hence, exile. God’s second chance is found in return.

Today, we read from Nehemiah, which is a story about a man who had a vision from God planted in his heart. He loved Jerusalem, the city of God. And when he heard it was in ruins, he planned to rebuild the gates, the walls and the city itself. He was a re-former. What had been formed was broken. Now it was time for re-forming.

The passages today remind us that Nehemiah did not have smooth sailing. The vision was from God and therefore, justified. But the path toward completion had resistance. This resistance reminds us of God’s faithfulness.

When God Puts Something In Your Heart…
When God puts something in your heart, it is not unlike a basic model of building something: you need a blue print, the power to stay the course when problems arise, and tools.

The Blue Print: Nehemiah 2
Nehemiah 1: He hears the news that Jerusalem was broken. He weeps for many days. There should be some staying power when it comes to what God puts in our heart. Jesus said it was a fool who started a project before calculating the cost. Nehemiah’s focus is kept on his goal: rebuilding the city of God.

Nehemiah 2: Nehemiah goes before his ‘boss’, or ‘employer’, the King. With trepidation, he asks what he wants, because he had earned trust. He has a specific plan in place, which the King and Queen can visualize.

And as soon as the man with the plan arrives, there are antagonists; Sanballat, Tobiah, “very much disturbed that someone had come to promote the welfare of the Israelites”.

11—At first, He kept plans close to his heart.
13--He explored with his own eyes the situation.
17—He announces the plan to those around him.
18—He gives the theology and background
18—His plan is affirmed by those ready to work
19—ridicule arise from the antagonists, with a serious charge (are you rebelling against the king?)
20—He answers with theological reality (God will give us success), stated certainty (we will start rebuilding) and historical rational (you have no claim or historic right to this city)

Resistance and the Games It Plays:
Demolition threats: Nehemiah 6

1. Game: Meetings for distraction Sake (2)
“come let us meet in one of the villages, in the plain of Ono”

Strategy for overcome: Consistent answer for staying on focus (3-4)
‘I have work to do. Why should it be interrupted?’
4 times they sent the message, “and each time I gave them the same answer”

2. Game: The Unsealed Letter and its contents (5-7)
Unsealed: disrespectful at the time
“and Geshem says its true”, so it must be?
Lies and fabrications

Strategy: State the truth (8) “Nothing like what you have said is true”

3. Game: Intimidation: (9)
Strategy: But I prayed, Now strengthen my hands (9)

4. Game: The last ditch effort: We are concerned for you (10)
Sounds caring and supportive
Could sound intimidating manipulative
Either way, it was forced, as the man was hired.

Strategy: Stand up and own your work (11)
The attempt to discredit had no weight.

The end result:
The job gets done (in 52 days)
The resistance were afraid and lost their self-confidence
Why? This work had been done with the help of God.

Tools for building or tearing down walls: Jesus Clears the Temple
1. Passion
2. Purity
3. Purpose

1. Passion (vs 13-16)
The idea of righteous anger.

2. Purity (vs 17)
Zeal consumed him.

3. Purpose (vs 18-25)
Jesus told the people his ultimate purpose of resurrection.
Jesus kept doing what God had sent him to do.
Jesus’ self-understanding “he did not need man’s testimony”

Rebuilding? Have a plan.
Stay the Course.
Use Your Tools and work together.