And not only this, but we also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope; and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us. For while we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. (Rom 5:3-6)

Let not those who hope in you be put to shame through me, O Lord GOD of hosts; let not those who seek you be brought to dishonor through me, O God of Israel. (Psalm 69:6)

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Genesis 1 God Created Therefore We Have a Purpose

Below are the rough draft sermon notes for Sunday August 18th.

Genesis 1 God Created

As we are Christians, we are also theologians.  Theology is the study of God.  Every person within creation has some philosophy of theology.  Some are better than others, some may not ever think of God.  But ask anyone how they live and you will ultimately gain an understanding of the theology they hold to.

In theology, the study of God, we find that God is considered, “The first cause.”  This means that He is the one who began all.
All man does is in a sequence of what God has begun.
The scientist, artist, musician, businessman, farmer, doctor, lawyer, parent, spouse, child, all live in their capacity in response to God; whether they acknowledge Him or not.
Kepler said, that science is “Thinking the thoughts of God after Him.”

Simply, God is our starting point, “In the Beginning God created the heavens and the earth.”
God in this verse is plural.  He is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  We read that Jesus was there creating, we see that the Holy Spirit hovered over the waters.  When we think of God we can think of Him in unified pluralistic ways.  He is not a savage or pagan multi personality.  Rather, in His holiness, he can be three persons and so unified.  At some point, a sermon investigating this wonder will be necessary.  Let is suffice to say, the creation of the heavens and the earth are a Trinitarian experience.

My goal today is to place us upon a track of a God centered worldview in absolutely everything we do.
God is not distant that He begins the world, or a life, and then allows that life to proceed on its own.  The God that knit you in the womb is also the omniscient and omnipresent God that says. “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself, take up His cross, and follow me.”
Jesus also added, “If anyone abides in Me they will bear much fruit.” These are just two verses of a call to “Come and follow Him.”

As the scripture of Genesis 1:1 begins, so do we, God is the Alpha and Omega, or beginning and ending point, not only of life, but of all events, thoughts, experiences, and existence.

ByTheWay: we speak often of glory.  Glory is attributing the appropriate awe of worship to the rightful source.

The Bible is God’s revelation of Himself to man.
Have you ever considered why God would create “the heavens and the earth?”
Man operates with purpose just as God does.
            God has a purpose and plan in creation.
I agree with Jonathan Edwards, that God created because it was the right thing to do.
            God’s holiness must be expressed.
Expression is often necessary-and in this case I say just.
Good news must be shared, and in the holiness of God worship is required.
·         “We know the Heavens declare your glory above the earth” Psalm 57:5 & 11
·         In all that you do, do unto the glory of God.
·         Sin is intrinsically giving glory to something or someone other than God.
To have good news that is beneficial and right and to not express it would be sin.
            A war over, a patient healed, a love birthed, to withhold good from being conveyed is wrong.
            Thus God created the Heavens and the earth.
            When God makes His glory known He is not prideful or sinful in its demonstration, rather He is benefitting man.  When we glorify God, that is acknowledging in a God centered worship, He is worshipped and we receive joy.  That joy comes from the embracement of love.

Does your worldview center upon God?
Again He is first cause.  That is He began by His own initiative the creation of everything and God never acts without purpose.

When we talk of a God centered worldview, we talk of the authority that God has in our lives.
If God is removed from the creative authority, then man ultimately loses his purpose and value.
            “Philosophers and scientists like to ask, “Where did we come from?”  Though there may be an interest in origins, the ultimate purpose in our origins answers questions of order, law, and morality. 
            When God created the heavens and earth it placed Him as the authority over all.  Without God as Father, man loses his value and purpose as morality and law is reduces to the opinion of the masses and the greater might.  Therefore, truth becomes subjective to the whims of opinion and fad.  It is this type of thinking that led to the rise of Hitler and the Third Reich.  It is the essence of communism and socialism.  These are the end result of man living by his own rules rather than God’s.

God therefore defines who man is.
            For a man to have a fulfilled worth and purpose, he needs God.

So why would God create?
            It is God’s glory to make Himself known.  It is our joy to fulfill that design and we call it worship. 
            You were created to glorify God and to enjoy Him forever.
·         God creates to reveal glory
·         Sin destroys twisting glory.
·         Redemption is the return to glory.
This begs a question, “Why would God then ever allow sin which rejects His glory?”
·         Difficult to answer.
·         What can be known is that against the backdrop of sin God is ever so gloriously displayed. Like a jewler’s diamond against black velvet and under bright lights.

In creation there was a plan with order, a purpose to express His glory, and the authority of doing what is just and right.
Creation is the expression of God’s glory.
Creation is the revelation of the heart of God.
            Romans 1 reveals further that man ought to seek the glory of God by being in awe of creation, knowing within that God must exist.

God created in Genesis 1:1 Ex Nihlo, that means “Out of Nothing.”
Therefore, He truly is God, the first cause and the authority over all.
·         Man’s gods are often flawed super-humans or super-heros. 
·         God however, is beyond man’s imagination.  We limit God in our efforts to be gods ourselves, But God is limitless.

Applying this to our lives and worldview
·         If God is God and we are not, then opposition to Him in His holiness makes uf offensive to all that is right.
·         If we limit God’s involvement in our lives we are hurting ourselves in the end.  For we are investing in that which cannot last for it is corrupted by sin and destined for destruction.
·         Surrender unto God through repentance and faith meets the conditions God has set forth for forgiveness and redemption.  Therefore, thought flawed, we can have hope based on the God of such promises. 
·         Stated otherwise, our works, without God, are futile efforts.
·         God can be trusted, for if He were to violate His own word He would cease to be God.
·         Thus our lives can have hope as He is truth, and truth does not change.  For truth to be truth it must not be subjective or moving in relation to the things around it, but rather truth is the cornerstone of all that follows.
·         Thus if we have truth in God, we can have hope, certainty, and love.

To think about God is to gain a truthful perspective on life.  We become…
·         Passionate in love for God
·         Redemptive in nature
·         Hopeful, as God is sovereign
·         Holy as He is holy
·         Orderly, wise, and driven with excellence.

God centered thinking, is a God centered worldview therefore by default removes worry, fear, and folly.  It leads us to a fulfillment of worshipping God and glorifying Him.  Therefore, joy, hope, and love permeate all that the Christian experiences.

Therefore, you can trust in God, for God is the only one who can make sense of a lost world, and His message of redemption, which we carry, is a just and right response to the cross and creation.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Genesis 3 and Sin

Below you will find the rough draft notes for the SUnday morning sermon of August 11, 2013.  I hope that these will help you to review the sermon in your study of God's word throughout the week.

Genesis 3 and Sin
We learn in James 1 that sin is not from God, but each one by their own sinful nature struggles and is tempted by their own desires.
We also learn in Job, 1 Peter, and 1 Thessalonians that Satan is a tempter.
Thus, we are tempted internally, “each one is tempted by their own desires” and externally, just as Satan enticed Eve we too are tempted. (Colossians)
And we praise God for 1 Corinthians 10:13 that tells us where to turn to overcome temptation.

In order to deal with sin, we turn today to Genesis 3 to study the fall of man.
Read Genesis 3:1-13

Romans 6:23 states the wages of sin is death.
            We read that Satan is crafty.
            He talks to Eve.
            Satan tempts us in two ways, (he is known as the tempter, the father of lies)
·         He tempts us to doubt God’s word
·         He tempts us to doubt God’s goodness/character.
Thus, an attack on our faith and our love for God.

God is concerned for His word, for it is the revelation of who He is.  This is why Jesus is called The Word.
God is concerned for His Name, for it too is the essence of who He is. Holiness, Love, Wrath, Judge, Giver of Mercy and Grace, just to name a few.

An attack on God’s Word.
            (1) “Did God actually say…not eat any tree?)
·         he calls into question whether or not this was clearly defined.  He tries to blur the lines and question intent.
·         He uses leading questions to confuse and arouse doubt.
Eve responds, but does not utilize God’s actual words.
In clearly defined commands it is obedience, not legalism to adhere to the directives of God.
      Ie you shall not commit adultery, you shall worship God only.
An example of a not clearly defined command would be the ownership of family photos and music, some offshoots of Christianity forbid music, photos, and such things from homes or churches.
            In the temptation of Jesus in the wilderness, Matthew 4, we see the same techniques, doubt God’s word, doubt His goodness.
            Satan tempts Jesus with a question of God’s word and taking the easy way out.  Satan propositions interpretations of God’s design that offer shortcuts and “improvements” to the mission.
            A helpful question is not “What is wrong with it, but does it glorify God?”

So Satan begin his attack on the nature of God
(4) “you will not die” satan calls her to doubt the motives and thus character of God..
            Satan mixes truth with lies.
            Truth-your eyes will be opened. (Highlights the benefits)
            Lie- you shall not die. (Diminishes the consequences)

(6) Eve toys with the idea presented to her.
God gives us tools to overcome temptation
Scripture is given to us to help.
Prayer and our relationship guard us from questioning God’s word and intents.
Worship is to turn our hearts toward God.
Do not fault Eve, unless you have never sinned.  She walked closer to God than any of us have, and she sinned.  Take this as a warning as to how crafty satan is and how corrupt sin works its power.
Eve looks beyond the deception as she plays with temptation.
·         “Saw it was good for food.”  Yes, but there were God ordained alternatives.
·         “Delight to the eyes.”  Not all beauty is to be shared.
·         “Make one wise.” But at what cost would this knowledge come?  How would it forever corrupt her worldview?
Again, Eve began asking “What is wrong with it”, rather than “Does this glorify God?”

Eve took, ate, and gave to Adam.
She pondered, believed, and acted
She received, consumed, and responded
She embraced, used, and affected.
She touched, tasted, shared.
She thought, dabbled, accepted.
All these words could be used to describe how litely we take sin.  Yes, it was just an apple, rather a piece of fruit.  However, much more was at stake, it was her relationship to God.  The trust, faith, and love of God was challenged.

Mind you, Adam is there.  He does not love her by protecting her from spiritual falsehood.  They are not protecting one another.
We do not read of Adam’s temptation, he simply gave into what was going on. He followed the crowd.

Their eyes were opened- they knew nakedness (shame/humiliation)- they desired to cover up.  We sin and have guilt, guilt is the spiritual nervous system that something is wrong.  Most people choose to deal with it by hiding guilt (they self-medicate, shift blame, ignore, accept false theologies, and pursue interests that will keep them from having to deal with the reality of sin)
The intimacy with God was destroyed, both with each other and with God.

(9) and they heard the sound of God in the garden.
            So they hid
            There are many ways to hide
·         Self Medicate- alcohol, drugs, anger, depression, solitude,
·         Blame shift- anger, pride, accuse,
·         Ignore- Atheism, Entertainment, Live in a fantasy, harden their heart.
·         False doctrines-“I  am a good person”, “It isn’t that bad”, “Everyone does it”, atheism, penance, attempt to make deals with God.
·         Pursue mind occupying interests-Entertainment, movies, TV, Sports, Music, Vacations, Move from place to place,
            Adam and Eve physically hid with fig leaves and behind bushes.
But ultimately there is judgment.

God is a just God, and a graceful God.  He confronted Adam, Eve, and Satan.

(9) “Where are you?”
Adam responds, “I was naked.” (Aware of guilt) (Plays the victim)
“That woman You gave me.” (Blameshifting)
She did this, 1,2,&3. “I ate because of her.”
But Adam is guilty- We are not responsible for what happens to us, we are responsible for our response.

God’s holiness is offended.  This leads to judgment, which leads to the only right and just thing to do, bring forth wrath.  Yet it is the grace of God that is our only hope.  Because God does love, He shows His glory by forgiving those who would repent.  He does not act unjustly by ignoring the sin, but rather, He illustrates His holiness by wrathfully avenging His name against sin, by sending Christ to take the full penalty against sin upon the cross.  Anything less than this would make God unjust, and that is not in His word or character.  The cross is the great demonstration of revelation of who God really is.  Holy, just, loving, graceful, and a myriad of other attributes make Him the only one worthy of worship.

The rest of the chapter sets the stage for the rest of the Bible.  Satan is cursed for destruction, and Man is given an opportunity to be redeemed.

My question this morning is the same as God’s “Where are you?”  Where are you in relationship with God?  Are you guilty?  Have you some sin separating you from God, the one who allowed His Son to pay for your sins?  How are you dealing with sins past, present, and future?  According to the scriptures there is only one way to deal with our guilt, to come by faith to Jesus and accept Him as your Savior, Lord, and Love.
Savior- you need your sins dealt with and only He can do so. You must repent.
Lord- You need in repentance to follow Christ, deny self, take up your cross daily and follow Him.  It is not a “Try harder” religion, but a relationship of abiding in Hid Lordship.
Love- to be a Christian is to love God, it is a love that is not Jesus and the world, but a hatred of the world.  IT is worldliness that has corrupted your life, it is Christ who saves.  You cannot love God and the world.  You must choose to love God.

Friday, August 9, 2013

Encouragement by God through a Disabled Friend

With my new pastorate I am finding myself captivated with meeting many wonderful people.  This church has already shown an overwhelming spirit of love toward me and my family.  In the last seven days our doorbell has rung with people sharing warm smiles and armloads of garden delights.  Tomatoes, melons, berries, and the like are only a few of the tangible expression of love that we are experiencing.  Not a day goes by without several people offering help, providing service, and assuring us of assistance in the upcoming move of our belongings.  When I look at these folks, I find that I need them.  I am to be their pastor, and a church needs a pastor, but God has shown His hand in the blessing that as much as they need me I need them. 

Therefore, my thoughts today have been about how the church is always the people. My Bible study and prayer time this morning had me in great thankfulness for all the folks past and present that have been a part of my life.  Looking through a few photos recently taken, one person in particular has come to mind.

When I first became the pastor at Holiday Shores Baptist God placed me in a friendship with a man, who to this day still encourages me greatly.  Mark came by on the second day I was in the office to help me learn the lay of the land.  We climbed in his immaculate Dodge Ram truck well stocked with ice cold cokes.  Everything about Mark was particular.  Whether it was his endless lists or pegboard garage walls, everything has a place and purpose.

That day Mark drove me around for eight hours, from one end of the county to the other.  He pointed out history, stores, and his favorite: restaurants. I learned about Fast Eddy’s, the River Road, the Innkeeper, Red’s BBQ, and where to buy a good boat.  He told me of fishing holes and places to take the family.  He helped me to find hospitals and churches in the association. 

Often, Mark would come up to the church to piddle.  He seemed to love any opportunity to change light bulbs, paint walls, and clean out closets.  His service was extremely heartwarming.  Never complaining, he simply served in silence.

I remember opportunities Mark created for us to go fishing together, to eat out, and to simply send a card of encouragement in the mail.

Then on day Mark took ill.  The illness was very serious.  It would forever change his marriage to Patsi.  He nearly died on several occasions.  He was hospitalized in ICU for several weeks, and it would be months before he could be transferred to a nursing and rehab home.  All his hopes and dreams for retirement, his big plans to take his beloved wife on a special trip all changed in a matter of hours.  In his condition his mind is often foggy, his speech impaired. This brings upon me a heavy heart of sorrow.

Two weeks ago, I attended Mark and Patsi’s 40th wedding anniversary party.  It was a great joy.  Patsi’s willingness to love on Mark despite his infirmities is an inspiration.  She is a rock of strength, though she would never ever admit it.  She emanates unconditional love for a man whom need constant care and can provide little response.  She looks at what was and is with great thankfulness to her Savior.  Without dwelling on what could have been, she presses on giving glory to God.

An ambulance from the nursing home brought Mark to the party at church.  He was wheeled in and Patsy immediately took his side.  I was quite overwhelmed at this scene, loving wife and husband, still together.  Then in the style that Mark always displayed in our friendship, his eyes met mine, he grinned with his amazing smile, and simply said “Hey Wes.”  

That simple action has reminded me of how our great God is so good.  How we can delight in Him despite our circumstances.  Mark’s simple hello brought a flood of warmth and encouragement to me through the memories of our better days together.  Mark’s “hey Wes” reminded me that our circumstances are always in the hand of God.  Looking forward, there are better days ahead.  This illness is passing.  I have confidence that one day Mark will be physically whole again in Heaven.  Till that day comes, Patsi will be loving her husband and I will hold to the hope that is in Jesus as He still works through the saints.  God is still using Mark, to encourage Patsi, myself, and those who call upon the name of the Lord.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Sunday Sermon: The Woman at the Well in John 4, Living Well Water

Below are my rough notes for this sermon on August 4, 2013.  These have not been edited but are simply shared to help the members of our congregation review the teaching for their own benefit.

Living Well Water  John 4:1-26

John 4 is a narrative story- principles, not prescription
            Samaria- reputation/culture  not completely knowledgeable of Old Testament, mixture of cultures and traditions.
Sychar-Jacob’s well (Not mentioned elsewhere but we can find passages that relate to Jacob’s inheritance.)
Jesus is seeking to help this woman, If we really want to help people, we will do so with the gospel.

Read John 4:7-24

How do you make them drink living water?  Feed them salt, open them up to thirsting for what really satisfies.
(Need a passion for God above all else)

7. Came with a purpose “to drink water” need/impulse/routine

9. “A male Jew asking a female Samaritan for a drink?”
            Crossing social and religious norms (tension here, yet an openness)
            She recognized the oddity and responds (the oddity of love?)
            He was willing to drink from her “unclean cup”
            Perceptions were challenged
            Jesus is showing love by breaking through boundaries and relieving tensions
                        Boundaries we face: Racial boundaries, religious boundaries, economic, cultural, social, fear of the unknown, fear of failure, visual differences, and cultural taboos.
                        Common ground for bridging differences: families, childhood experiences, pets, weather, government, holiday traditions,  loss, pain, death, financial needs, recreation.

10. Living Water
            Motive of His life- Glorifying God through the redemptive power to overcome sin with an abundant life.  (Not just getting by)
            Jesus saw people in relation to their need to know the Father.

11.  “Where do you get this water?”
            She was looking for a work, or an experience that would change her life.
            She was seeking to obtain “that one thing” that would change her circumstances
            She was looking for HOW she would gain this change.
            Often, folks do not recognize the nature of the root of the problem.  We get caught up in the symptoms; rather we should be dealing with the heart.
            People, often due to a large variety of reasons, fail to see their helplessness.  Sin blinds us to our insufficiency.  Too often, the gospel is thought of as Jesus and my efforts will gain me salvation.
12. She brings up her religion and beliefs- even if she does not believe it beyond intellectual ascent or has ever acted upon.
            Some folks believe in “luck” or “rabbits feet” to get them by.
Distractions to seeing our real needs
13.  Jesus points out the failings of false hopes and solutions.  Some folks need help seeing the limits of worldly pursuits.  Thus we need to ask questions that will help them recognize the thirst they have for the gospel.
            Why do people have false hopes?
·         Asking the wrong questions of life
·         Wrong goals
·         Believing lies about God and Judgment (PCUSA will not allow their new hymnal to carry “In Christ Alone” as it talks of God’s wrath.)
·         Never thought about it
·         Living by other’s beliefs-failure to investigate
·         Traditions/Upbringings
·         Love of sin drives them to ignore truth
We have the truth that sets them free
            When dealing with failures and false hopes, move to the truth that sets them free.

14. Not one and done but abiding in Jesus
            Cover the gospel as an abiding relationship
            Jesus says “I will give” 2 times
            When received, it becomes a spring of water=ETERNAL LIFE
Jesus is the source- it is He welling up and providing- internally for eternity

The proper message is needed for proper results, thus hope is in Christ.

15.  She wants water- but does not fully understand.  She is thinking the experience of “water” will set her free.
Help us understand, help others along-but let God do the work.

          You can’t deal with sin unless you deal with sin.
16.  Jesus relates to her lifestyle-thus Gospel need to have direct life application.
“go call your husband”
“I have no husband”- “Right, you have 5”
Hope is not your efforts plus Jesus, it is Jesus alone.
Jesus confronts her sin, but does not remain there, He moves to solutions keeping the focus on what the Water does, the Water for Life. G.R.A.C.E.
The solution is Jesus, not Jesus and______________.

19. “I perceive you are a prophet”- He has her attention.
            Work out the elements thus far in getting attention

20. Questions about worship
She brings out her buffet of theologies.  Worldly worship is man centered. 

22 “Hour is coming”- the cross will fulfill the needs of men to worship- the new covenant is emerging. Giving People Hope-In Jesus
MESSIAH= Christos, “anointed”  the anointed one.- supreme deliverer of the promise, the fulfillment of God’s redeeming plan.

23-24 True worshippers will worship in spirit and in truth. (love and zeal & order and doctrine)  God centered living
SPIRIT- the principal of life regarding man. (essence- life beyond the body)  seat of affections and emotions., thinking, zeal.

TRUTH- reality, facts, beyond mere appearances, verifiable, free of falsehood, verity, true doctrine, constant, established, integrity.

Jesus leads the woman to an opportunity to decide.  No one can decide for you.  He has given her a clear understanding of what it is to be filled with Living Water.  No longer with she thirst and be seeking satisfaction from the world’s short term solutions.  She can follow Christ.

Where are you in this story?
Jesus- sharing Truth
Disciples- needing to grow
The Woman- in need of a Savior?