This is the story of a collection of people who follow Jesus. We live in Littleton. We encounter people in the name of Jesus, we allow Jesus to turn us into disciples, we gather often, and we equip people to love and serve other people better.
Sunday, January 30, 2011
We now return you to LIFE...
The Return to Nazareth
19 After Herod died, an angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt 20 and said, “Get up, take the child and his mother and go to the land of Israel, for those who were trying to take the child’s life are dead.”
21 So he got up, took the child and his mother and went to the land of Israel. 22 But when he heard that Archelaus was reigning in Judea in place of his father Herod, he was afraid to go there. Having been warned in a dream, he withdrew to the district of Galilee, 23 and he went and lived in a town called Nazareth. So was fulfilled what was said through the prophets, that he would be called a Nazarene.
1) There is no verse in the OT that says the messiah will be "called a Nazarene."
a) One must understand that our standard for quotation and the ancient world standard for quotation are completely different. There are no quotation marks in Greek. In a primarily oral culture it is more about getting the general sense of what is said, as opposed to a high def. digital age, that expects exact words. This does no make the words less true. A impressionistic painting is not less true than a photograph. (In this case the beauty is seen by observing an obscure reference to living in an obscure place).
b) The word for "branch" and the word for "Nazarene" are pretty close, and thus Matthew may be referring the many references by the OT prophets that the Messiah would be a branch from the tree of David.
c) In Matthew's day, the town of Nazareth had a very bad reputation, as a town with low moral standards. So to be from Nazareth was to be despised. There are several occasions in the OT where the messiah is said to be hated by men. In this case, Matthew may simply be saying that just like the prophets of old said, Jesus would grow up despised by men.
2) The broader context of chpt 2. We are missing the broader context in the five verses we are looking at today, and I think it is important to see what is going on. In the telling of this story, there are three characters in this episode. The wise men play one role, Herod and his son play a second role, and the young child, Jesus plays the third.
a) The wise men - they are the gentile seekers that go looking and eventually find the child, and worship him.
b) The King (Herod/his son) is the unrepentant hard hearted sinner. He is given the opportunity of a million life times, to go see the Messiah and to worship with the wise men. He is even able to give good information to the men as to where to find the Messiah. He gets that information from a whole room full of seminary professors. But all of them sit on their butts rather than going to worship the true King. And to be very honest, this is the picture of sin, original sin. Soaked into our bones, undeniable, bound for Hell, SIN. And there is no cure. Or I should say there was no cure, until Jesus.
c) The final character in this episode is Jesus. He is about 2 when they leave for Egypt, and he is an elementary school kid when they return from Egypt. In this story he is beginning his mission. He is doing what must be done in order to ascend to David's throne. In his trip to Egypt and back he is reliving the exile of the children of Abraham in Egypt. He has assumed his role. And he will play it perfectly. Complete obedience, complete submission to the will of his Father. In these final verses of Chpt 2, Jesus travels into obscurity. Joseph does not take him to the temple. The family does not travel to Rome. There is no indication that Jesus travels to America to teach Native Americans about the Great Spirit. No, he is raised in a small town, a town so little, when the historians of the day made maps, they often did not include it in the list.
d) Significance of this triad. The wise men seek the child. Herod at first ignores the child, then tries to kill the child. And Jesus, makes his way in OBSCURITY through our world on a singular mission to save the world. And as he does we have a choice. Will we respond as the Wise men or as Herod?
3) I think it is important to see how Joseph makes decisions.
a) He is told in a dream to go home, and he does.
b) He gets to Israel, looks a the facts, finds out who is in power and decides not to go back to Bethlehem.
c) His observations are confirmed by a dream, which he again obeys and moves his family to Nazareth.
d) Joseph's decision is later confirmed by Matthew's book to be the will of God, as proclaimed by the prophets.
4) How does this relate to the Vision Sunday at the EDGE. I would say it all relates. I wish I could say I planned this. I did not. But lets move backwards through our thoughts today.
a) We like Joseph must make decisions based on God's revelation and our observation of the facts.
b) We must tell the story of chpt 2 over and over again...When the child appears, our hearts are exposed. God is looking for Magi, and he will judge Herod. We must chose to worship Jesus, and to obediently do the will of God - regardless of the outcome.
c) A Nazarene? A Nazarene? Are we as a church willing to become Nazarenes? What does that mean? Well, what did it mean? To become despised by men. To set out of the lime light. To live among the least of these, in order to show God's radical love in radical ways? Are we willing to become obscure?
Saturday, January 29, 2011
Friday, January 28, 2011
Monday, January 24, 2011
Saturday, January 15, 2011
Today we are turning to a set of verses often used to anchor the health and wealth gospel teaching one might hear on television today.
6 “I the LORD do not change. So you, the descendants of Jacob, are not destroyed. 7 Ever since the time of your ancestors you have turned away from my decrees and have not kept them. Return to me, and I will return to you,” says the LORD Almighty.
“But you ask, ‘How are we to return?’
8 “Will a mere mortal rob God? Yet you rob me.
“But you ask, ‘How are we robbing you?’
“In tithes and offerings. 9 You are under a curse—your whole nation—because you are robbing me. 10 Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this,” says the LORD Almighty, “and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that there will not be room enough to store it. 11 I will prevent pests from devouring your crops, and the vines in your fields will not drop their fruit before it is ripe,” says the LORD Almighty. 12 “Then all the nations will call you blessed, for yours will be a delightful land,” says the LORD Almighty.
1) This is a "nation" based thing, not an individual thing. If you bring the tithe, your nation will be blessed.
2) Return to God - this is what God wants. The nation has turned away from God, and God want them to return. What will show that the nation has returned? When the nation gives the full tithe to God.
3) The question is: What kind of blessing are we talking about.
Health and Wealth gospel:
John Piper video:
How do we balance these two ideas.
Here is a passage that promises that if we give the tithe, we will be blessed beyond our ability to store it, and yet here his a video from John Piper saying that the prosperity gospel is poison being spread by ministries in America around the world.
God wants Israel to return to him.
They ask, how are we to return.
He says, for starters, you can stop robbing me.
The tithe belongs to God.
If we say, well we will work towards that goal, its like saying, last year I robbed six convenience stores. This year, I am only going to rob three.
If we continue to give less than 10 percent, it is like being a Fedex delivery man, who takes ten packages from you. Delivers three of them, and keeps the other seven for himself. Those packages were never intended for the delivery man, they were to be given to the person they were sent to.
If on the other hand, we will give to God, it is a way of "transmuting" our ordinary money into eternal currency.
A.W Tozer quote
“As base a thing as money is, it can be transmuted into everlasting treasure. It can be converted to food for the hungry and clothing for the poor. It can keep a missionary actively winning lost men to the light of the Gospel and thus transmute itself into heavenly values. Any temporal treasure can be transmuted into everlasting wealth. Whatever is given to Christ is immediately touched with immortality.” ~ A. W. Tozer
Jesus teaches us to give (and not to neglect the more important stuff)
Matthew 23:23 (New International Version, ©2010)
23 “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices—mint, dill and cumin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law—justice, mercy and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former.
Where is grace in this matter?
Grace is the sole reason for our salvation. You are saved by grace through faith, not works lest any one should boast.
If we are saved by grace, should we then continue to sin that grace might abound? no
Is it a sin to not give 10 percent? Actually this is a tough question. And historically Christians have been all over the map on this one.
Without going into great detail, there are some that would argue that the OT law on tithing was one of the things that Jesus came to free us from, and that now we are to be guided by Paul's words to give as you are lead to give.
Some would argue that God would not expect less of those living under the new covenant, instead he would raise the bar. So 10 percent is the starting point. And we will probably be able to give much more as God blesses our obedience to him. I think this makes more sense of the whole teaching of the Bible.
I would like to close today by making an observation. Our giving has been very good this month, and I have noticed a change in the mood in the room. I expected that once I started teaching on money, people would get cranky and angry. I have watched the opposite. There is more joy in the room. There is more laughter. I believe that we are discovering the reason we call our box in the back the JOY BOX. I have discovered it in my own life. When I give, it brings joy to my heart. And the more I am able to give, the greater the joy. The greater the satisfaction.
I believe this is the true meaning of this passage in Malachi. If we will live obedient lives, our lives will be blessed. We will discover that God is truly all that we need, and that a life lived with Him at the center is a life lived with greater purpose, greater meaning, and greater joy.
Sunday, January 09, 2011
Sermon January 9, 2011 We are going to return to Malachi 1 this morning. 6 “A son honors his father, and a slave his master. If I am a father, where is the honor due me? If I am a master, where is the respect due me?” says the LORD Almighty. “It is you priests who show contempt for my name. “But you ask, ‘How have we shown contempt for your name?’ 7 “By offering defiled food on my altar. “But you ask, ‘How have we defiled you?’ “By saying that the LORD’s table is contemptible. 8 When you offer blind animals for sacrifice, is that not wrong? When you sacrifice lame or diseased animals, is that not wrong? Try offering them to your governor! Would he be pleased with you? Would he accept you?” says the LORD Almighty. 9 “Now plead with God to be gracious to us. With such offerings from your hands, will he accept you?”—says the LORD Almighty. 10 “Oh, that one of you would shut the temple doors, so that you would not light useless fires on my altar! I am not pleased with you,” says the LORD Almighty, “and I will accept no offering from your hands. 11 My name will be great among the nations, from where the sun rises to where it sets. In every place incense and pure offerings will be brought to me, because my name will be great among the nations,” says the LORD Almighty. 12 “But you profane it by saying, ‘The Lord’s table is defiled,’ and, ‘Its food is contemptible.’ 13 And you say, ‘What a burden!’ and you sniff at it contemptuously,” says the LORD Almighty. “When you bring injured, lame or diseased animals and offer them as sacrifices, should I accept them from your hands?” says the LORD. 14 “Cursed is the cheat who has an acceptable male in his flock and vows to give it, but then sacrifices a blemished animal to the Lord. For I am a great king,” says the LORD Almighty, “and my name is to be feared among the nations. I want us to look once again at this passage, but this time I want us to focus in on verse 11. 11 My name will be great among the nations, from where the sun rises to where it sets. In every place incense and pure offerings will be brought to me, because my name will be great among the nations,” says the LORD Almighty. How will this be accomplished? From where the sun rises to where it sets - that is the whole world. How will His Name become great? It begins with honor - Consider for a minute the 10 commandments - the first four are all about honoring God. 2 “I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery. 3 “You shall have no other gods before me. 4 “You shall not make for yourself an image in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. 5 You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, 6 but showing love to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commandments. 7 “You shall not misuse the name of the LORD your God, for the LORD will not hold anyone guiltless who misuses his name. 8 “Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. 9 Six days you shall labor and do all your work, 10 but the seventh day is a sabbath to the LORD your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your male or female servant, nor your animals, nor any foreigner residing in your towns. 11 For in six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day. Therefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy. Two specific things that I want us to see here. 1) The name of the LORD is a big deal. And to think otherwise is sin. 2) God loves math. He wants you to count your days. And every seventh day, he wants you to behave differently. --------------------- Now lets return to Malachi. Why is the incense and pure offering brought? Because His name will be great among the nations. So what connection is there between the gift to God, and the Name of God? Perhaps it is not such a hard question, but in our world today we do not connect necessarily connect money spent on something with the honor it deserves. At least not in those words. The only example I can think of is "vanity products." Buy this because you deserve it. - purfume, luxury cars, and nice clothes. But typically, money is spent in a more pragmatic way. A roof over our heads, food on the table, electricity, phones, water...the BILLS. Now if I were to ask you which category giving to God goes into, which would you respond? Most of us would put it into the second category. This is something I have to do. Why? Well, if you want to stay on God's good side, you have to give him some money. The next question in this line of thinking - really? How much do you have to give him? Well, in the Old Testament he asked for the first fruit, and he asked for 10 percent. Leviticus 27:30 “‘A tithe of everything from the land, whether grain from the soil or fruit from the trees, belongs to the LORD; it is holy to the LORD. But we live in an age of grace, not law, so its basically whatever you want to give him. Oh, I see, so how much to you want to give him? Well, my budget is written up so that I give him ten percent, but things sometimes come up, and on months like that, I just give what I can. You know...maybe a hundred bucks. Ok...lets end this line of thinking before we get too convicted. I would like to suggest that giving to God actually goes in the other category. It is not something we do because we have to, its something we do BECAUSE HE IS WORTH IT. It is a vanity gift.
Tuesday, January 04, 2011
Monday, January 03, 2011
Saturday, January 01, 2011
Happy New Year.
I have one goal. To bring greater glory to God this year than last.
This is a two step goal. 1) Do more things that bring him glory. 2) Do fewer things that rob him of glory.
This second one is the more obvious. What do I do that robs God of glory?
a) I worry that God will not take care of me.
b) I sometimes believe that God has forgotten about me.
c) Two attitudes develop in this "water." Bitterness, and apathy.
In Malachi, the prophet offers two reminders. God is in control. And God loves us.
He then moves quickly to the application: Give God the honor due his name.
The prophet speaks specifically to the priest, and at the high point, or should we say low point of the first chapter actually asks that the door of the temple be shut so that people would not light useless fires on the alter.
I want to use all of this as introduction to present a question that we will consider for a few weeks here in January. Where is the honor God deserves? (See Malachi 1:6)
Breaking Covenant Through Blemished Sacrifices
6 “A son honors his father, and a slave his master. If I am a father, where is the honor due me? If I am a master, where is the respect due me?” says the LORD Almighty.
“It is you priests who show contempt for my name.
“But you ask, ‘How have we shown contempt for your name?’
7 “By offering defiled food on my altar.
“But you ask, ‘How have we defiled you?’
“By saying that the LORD’s table is contemptible. 8 When you offer blind animals for sacrifice, is that not wrong? When you sacrifice lame or diseased animals, is that not wrong? Try offering them to your governor! Would he be pleased with you? Would he accept you?” says the LORD Almighty.
9 “Now plead with God to be gracious to us. With such offerings from your hands, will he accept you?”—says the LORD Almighty.
10 “Oh, that one of you would shut the temple doors, so that you would not light useless fires on my altar! I am not pleased with you,” says the LORD Almighty, “and I will accept no offering from your hands. 11 My name will be great among the nations, from where the sun rises to where it sets. In every place incense and pure offerings will be brought to me, because my name will be great among the nations,” says the LORD Almighty.
What does God require of us? And today, I intend to show you that God requires our best! We can not give him our scraps and expect him to be pleased.
This point is made very clearly in verse 8. Imagine if you paid your taxes with the regularity with which you give to the church? Imagine saying to the US Government, "Well, we have had kind of a tight year, so we are going to just pay a little bit." While this might work in the short term, eventually it will get you in big trouble.
This is where I find an interesting parallel. The historical timing of Malachi. The people have returned from Babylon. They have rebuilt the walls and the temple. On a whole it is better than it could be, but it is also worse then it should be. The times are hard. And people are starting to doubt whether or not God loves them. They are wondering if he has abandoned them. And as a result doubts rise, and people begin to grow apathetic towards worship.
And clearly the prophet is getting up in the face of the priests about the lack luster effort being given to the worship of Almighty God. But I think it is important to notice both what is and what is not being said here.
1) What is being said, "God deserves better. In fact, he deserves our best.
2) What is not being said. "God wants cult like obedience to outer standards-in short "Behave better.""
The Bible is clear that what God wants is our hearts, not rote behavior, absent of passion. But, our behavior is indicative of the fact that our hearts are not in it.
Here is a test I would propose for January. I would like you to take a few minutes to calculate what 10 percent of your income for January will be. I would like you to consider giving that to the church.
Give God your best. It is what he deserves.