Wednesday, July 18, 2012

The Blessing of Redemption

There are times when I sit quietly to pray and can think of no words to utter to God.  I am sometimes plagued by the thought that everything I say is only a selfish request or spoken for selfish purposes.  Thankfully, the Bible provides us with language for prayer.  Language that is God-focused instead of self-focused.  I am learning to pray these words as the chief of my prayers.  Along with the Shema in Deuteronomy 6:4-5 (the passage Jesus pointed to as the Greatest Commandment), I have been praying the words of Exodus 15:11,13, and 18 known to the Jews as the Blessing of Redemption (Birkat Geulah).  Here are the words from the New Revised Standard Version of the Bible.

Vs. 11 - Who is like you, O Lord, among the gods?  Who is like you, majestic in holiness, awesome in splendor, doing wonders?

Vs. 13 - In your steadfast love you led the people whom you redeemed; you guided them by your strength to your holy abode.

Vs. 18 - The Lord will reign forever and ever.

Take some time in your daily devotion to pray these words slowly again and again.  This blessing will help shape your prayers into those that are God-focused instead of self-focused.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Sermon Outline for February 12, 2012

Worship That Pleases God
Exodus 35:20-35

What makes the church the church?
A. Our confession of Jesus Christ. Matthew 16:15-18
B. Our worship of the living Lord. Matthew 28:18-20
1. The church is a worshipping community.
2. The Confirmation Class and their retreat.
C. God's people have always been a worshipping people.
1. The latter part of Exodus and the early portion
of Leviticus are all about worship.
2. They worshipped in a tent in the wilderness.
a. It's not about the building.
b. Natalie's comment on church.
c. My coach's comment on where we could play football.
D. What does God teach the Israelites about worship that can help us in our worship?
E. How do we worship in a way that pleases God?

II. We worship God with a willing heart. Exodus 35:21-22, 26, 29
A. What God desires is our willingness...
B. ...willingness to offer ourselves to God.
C. Leviticus 7:37 - worship is what we offer God because of who
God is.
D. Romans 12:1
1. Come to worship to offer what you have.
2. Worship is not a spectator sport.
3. My middle school dance.
4. For Barnabas, it was encouragement. Acts 11:22-24

III. We worship God in the power of the Holy Spirit. Exodus 35:30-33
A. Worship comes from a transformed heart attuned to God.
B. Through the Spirit, we worship with our "eyes" fixed on Jesus.

IV. The stages of worship in my life: endurance/survival, back row fellowship, peeked interest, excitement, preaching/leadership, gratitude and praise from deep within.
A. What stage of worship are you in?
B. What stage of worship are we in?
C. Worship is the greatest privilege of our lives.

Responding to God's Word: worship the Father in spirit and truth. (John 4:23)

Tuesday, January 03, 2012

Revenge: The Earliest Sign of Sin

As we begin reading through the Bible in one year, already we see connections in Genesis with the story and teachings of the Bible as a whole. In Genesis 3, Adam and Eve enter a life of sin and so does their offspring. Their first son, Cain, is jealous of his brother, Abel, and of the favor God shows to Abel. Cain is warned by God that "sin crouches at (his) door and desires to have him (Genesis 4:7)." Nevertheless, Cain, overcome by jealousy, ignores the warning and kills his brother Abel. From the earliest chapters of the Bible, we begin to see signs of sin in humanity that we wrestle with today - jealousy, pride, anger, and revenge.

The great-great grandson of Cain, Lamech, continues the family tradition and is even proud of the fact that he is a vengeful man. In Genesis 4:24, he boasts to his wives, "If Cain is avenged seven times, then Lamech seventy-seven times (or seventy times seven)." Here, we see a connection with the story of the Bible as a whole and with the teachings of Jesus in the Gospels. In Matthew 18, Jesus is asked by Peter how many times he is to forgive his brother. Peter asks in verse 21, "up to seven times?" Jesus replies in verse 22, "I tell you, not seven times, but seventy seven times (or seventy times seven)."

Jesus, in his teaching, hearkens back to the beginning of our human story and tells his followers that God desires for us to be a people of forgiveness rather than a people of revenge. This thread of teaching is found throughout the Old Testament, the Gospels and the New Testament. Note the following verses from the New International Version.

Leviticus 19:18 - "Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against one of your people, but love your neighbor as yourself. I am the Lord."

Proverbs 24:29 - "Do not say, 'I'll do to him as he has done to me; I'll pay that man back for what he did.'"

Matthew 5:43-44 - "You have heard that it was said, 'Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.' But I tell you: 'Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.'"

Romans 12:14, 17-19 - "Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone."

1 Thessalonians 5:15 - "Make sure that nobody pays back wrong for wrong, but always try to be kind to each other and to everyone else."

1 Peter 3:9 - "Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult, but with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing."

The connections we see throughout the Bible are wonderful to recognize. But most important to us is how we apply what we learn to our daily living. Today's lesson: Do not seek revenge, but seek to bless others - even those who curse or persecute you. Whereas revenge is a sign of our sin and brokenness, blessing (through love and prayer) is a sign of becoming a new creation through Jesus Christ.