Sunday, September 25, 2011

"In the Beginning, Pt. II" Genesis 1,2 and 3

This is not an astronomy class.  I'm not a scientist or a science teacher.  If you are still in school do not quote me to your teacher or tell them I said the planets look like or do anything.  This is just an illustration.

This swimming pool will represent the sun.  Mercury is 36 million miles away from the sun.  Venus is 67 million.  Earth is 93.  Mars is 142.  Jupiter is 484.  Saturn is 891.  Uranus is 1.79 billion miles from the sun and Neptune is 2.8 billion.

If my model of Mercury is one foot away from my model of the sun then that would put Saturn outside the church and Neptune approximately in Portugal.

Isaiah 40:12 says, "Who has measured the waters in the hollow of his hand, or with the breadth of his hand marked off the heavens?"

I don't know about you but that makes me feel pretty small.  In fact, as I have continued to study the Book of Genesis, it makes me feel very insignificant at times.  And yet, if you put it all in context, it should make us all feel very significant.  Hopefully you will see what I mean as I continue.

Hopefully, you have your Bibles with you this morning.  You will need them.  I'm going to cover a lot of ground.  We talked about just the first 4 words last week.  Do you remember where the emphasis was placed in those words?  In the beginning, GOD.  In just those first 4 words, there is so much controversy, so many questions, so many books have been written.

In fact, there are huge libraries worth of books written on the first chapter.  Is it true or is it a myth?  Where does evolution fit in?  Where there dinosaurs with Adam and Eve?  How did God create light before He created the sun?  When did Satan fall?  Did God create sin?  If God created all plants to be good for food does that mean it's ok to smoke pot?

Some of these are better questions than others.  Some of them have good answers and on others you shouldn't waste your time.  I'm sorry we are not going to be able to cover every question you come up with.  Let me give you the reason why (or at least one of the reasons why) Genesis doesn't answer all of our questions. 

There are three basic world-views.  Hebrew, Greek and Roman.  If you drove your brand new 2012 Corvette up to a Greek, he would marvel at the aesthetics.  It's a beautiful color.  The leather seats are gorgeous.  Corinthian?  The lines are so swoopy and pleasing to the eye.  The Greeks were philosophers and poets and romantics.  The good looks would be all that interested them.

If you pulled up to a Roman he would say, "Pop the hood.  What size tires?  How does it work?"  The Romans were builders and architects.  They would be interested in each part and what it did to make the car move.

The Hebrew would say, "What's it do?  Get me from point A to point B?  Ok, can you take me to the store?"  They would just get in.  They didn't have to know how it worked nor what it looked like.  All the questions didn't have to be answered.  They just accepted it.  We need to be more like the Hebrews when it comes to reading through Genesis.  Just get in!

Let's all get in at chapter 1 verse 26-31 and then we will read 2:7-9 and then 15-25.

There are 3 things I want us to see in our passages today:  1)  How much God loves us.  2)  How much Satan hates us.  and 3)  How we should respond to both.

First let's look at how much God loves us.  I will, of course, start with a joke.

One day, Eve was walking in the garden with the Lord. She said, "Lord, the garden is wonderful, and the animals and birds provide such joy, but I am still lonely sometimes."

"No problem!" the Lord replied. "I will make you a man for a companion. He will desire to please you and to be with you. But I have to warn you, he won't be perfect. He'll have a difficult time understanding your feelings, will tend to think only of himself, and will stay out late with his bowling buddies."

"That's OK. I think I can handle this 'man'," Eve replied.

"Great, I'll get right to it!" God said, and started grabbing some mud and shaping it. Suddenly, the Lord stopped and said to Eve, "Oh, there's one other thing about this man I'm making for you."

"What's that?" asked Eve. "You'll have to tell him he was here first."

In verse 27 it says that God created man...We learned last Wednesday night in our Bible study that the word used here for created is only used for God.  Man can fashion, form or make and even clone but all the elements and materials are already present.

Even when we create something in our mind, it is just putting together experiences, knowledge and personality that was already present.  We don't create anything but God creates out of nothing.

We've seen that God created but who is this God?  The Hebrew word used here is not Yahweh but Elohim.  Elohim is a plural word.  It is written in the plural to give it greater presence or majesty.  A lot of Hebrew words are written in plural for that reason.  A cup of water is "water" but an ocean is "waters".

So, in verse 26 where it says, "Let us make man in our own image" it is written in the plural.  Some people think that is talking about the Trinity;  Father, Son, Spirit but the Hebrew people had no concept of the Trinity at this time.  This is not to say that the Trinity wasn't there it's just not to whom is being referred specifically.

Same thing in our earlier passage that said God marked off the Heavens with His hand.  Heavens is plural because they had no word for universe so to them heaven + earth = "heavens". 

So now I hope that give you a little different perspective on the first sentence.  In the beginning...When?  Who cares?  Elohim (plural to give Him majesty) created (out of nothing) the universe.

But then came what is called the crown of creation.  God made man in His own image and man could receive no greater honor.  God could have shown no greater love.  The human race is God's masterpiece - the object of His supreme love!

It wasn't enough that He gave us work to keep us fulfilled or the ability to communicate and to rule over all other creatures.  Unlike all other creatures we can show mercy and forgiveness.  We can want the best for others.  We can sympathize, we can show charity.  Like God, we can be holy.  Like God, we can have authority.  But while there is still an infinite difference between God and man, we, like Him, will live eternally.

Asking "why?" in the Book of Genesis can get you into trouble but we talked Wednesday about why, starting in 2:15, did God put a tree of the knowledge of good and evil in the Garden?  Bill answered correctly when he said God put it there to give man a choice.  God didn't want to have a relationship with a bunch of robots.  He loved you so much he gave you the choice to obey or not.

So, we have seen how much God loves us.  Now I want to tell you about what came next for Adam and Eve and to warn all of us about what to expect next.

Read 3:1-13.

Now if any of you have any questions about what we have gone over so far, I urge you not to ask me but to ask your nearest 4 or 5 year old.  I say that because I learned quite a bit from them a few years ago when I was at another church and helping out in that class on a Wednesday night as they were going over Adam and Eve.

According to that class, God made Adam out of dust but then realized that Adam couldn't have babies.  So God took a rib from Adam and gave it to Eve.  Then he took another rib and gave it to somebody else.  Then they had a lot of babies, one of whom was Abraham Lincoln.

Honestly, it's not a whole lot different than what some adults think.  Is that really any more ridiculous than evolution?  Is that any funnier than the belief that we came from monkeys?  Or that the universe was created by a Big Bang?  Do you know where ideas like that come from?  When somebody finds it hard to believe what the Bible says or it's too inconveniencing to their lifestyle they try to explain it away the best they can.

I've told you before that everybody wants to know the truth.  They may not be able to believe it or live it but deep-down everybody wants to know.  That hunger for truth is another gift God gave to man.  God wants you to seek out and find the truth.

1 Corinthians 1:21 says, "..the world in its wisdom did not know [God.]"

The world explains things to their best understanding but Acts 17:26-28 says, "From one man he made every nation of men, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he determined the times set for them and the exact places where they should live. God did this so that men would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from each one of us."

But what is Satan's ultimate goal for us?  To devour us.  And when he can't just kill us he often settles for confusing us or distracting us.  Look at what he does to Adam and Eve.  He doesn't waste any time.  They are hardly settled in when the serpent comes to Eve and says "Did God really say you musn't eat from the tree?"  He just plants some doubt in her mind.

What does she say?  Verse 2.  God didn't say they couldn't touch it.  Now she's confused.  Now the serpent has made God look mean and makes you question the truth.  When you start questioning the truth of God's word it starts to affect how you live your life and instead of being blessed for your obedience you start to suffer the consequences of disobedience.  And Satan puts a mark in the "Win" column.

When we start to question whether God's truth includes all of the 10 Commandments, Satan wins.  When we start to live our lives according to what is more comfortable than what is truth, Satan wins.  When we question if God's truth includes tithing, church attendance every week, telling others about Jesus, (when was the last time we said His name outside these walls???).  When we don't think holiness applies to us if nobody is looking then Satan wins.

So, what's going to be your response?  We have seen how much God loves us and how much Satan hates us.  Now it's time for a response and I'm sure most of you are ready for me to say that you can respond in one of two ways.  You can be obedient to God or you can follow Satan.  And those are two ways but I propose to you a third way.

There is at least one other way to respond.  It is to respond by saying that you are going to start trying real hard to be better.  You are going to turn over a new leaf.  You are going to start trying to cuss less and go to church more.  You are going to start tithing a little bit and stop beating your wife so much.  You are going to work hard to be better at this and that.

You know what that is?  That is Satan's last little twist to make you miss the mark.  When he can't kill you or confuse you he will allow you to work real hard at something you can never do.  We learned in our study of the fruit of the Spirit that when we need more of that fruit that we don't ask God for more love, joy, peace, or patience.  We ask God for more of Himself in our lives.  It's the same thing we have to do here.

It's time for all of us to respond to God as He wants us to respond and that is by saying, "God, I can't do it.  I don't want to go to church, I can't afford to tithe and I don't even like the guy at the end of the row much less love him.  So, God, I need you to do it through me.  I want to be so close to you, God, that I lean completely on you with all my heart and not on my own understanding.  I will acknowledge you in all my ways knowing you will make my paths straight."

God loves you so much that He gave His only Son for you.  How will you respond today?

Sunday, September 18, 2011

"In the Beginning" Genesis 1:1

From here to Amarillo there is not much to see.  From Amarillo to southern Colorado there is even less.  As I drove through there a while back I told the Lord that I didn't want to be a smart-alec but I wasn't impressed.  All I saw was scrub brush about waist high as far as I could see.  God told me to just wait.

As I got into central Colorado things started to change and as I got closer to the Rocky Mountains things began to change drastically.  I was going up a mountain headed to Estes Park.  Huge mountain cliffs on both sides.  Flowers, trees, birds, beautiful sky, even a sweet, clean smell.  As I topped the mountain all at once I see Estes Park below and the flowers were just incredible.  There were 3 buffalo running full speed across a prairie way off to my right.  An eagle flew across the sky right in front of a beautiful rainbow!  No kidding!  I told God I was impressed.

When I recovered, the thought crossed my mind that I wondered how God could be so busy with all this and still have any time for me?  Then on the flip side of that, how could He be so busy in my life and still have time for everything going on in nature?  I guess that's part of what makes Him God. 

Nothing proves to me that God exists any more than nature.  When I hear about someone who is an Atheist, I think they must just be blind!  How else can you explain the Rocky Mountains, the Grand Canyon or Chico?  I met a man in Yellowstone Park who was not sure if there was a God.  I picked up a little flower next to the bench we were sitting on and told him that if I had made this one flower I would be rich and famous and yet there were so many around us we walked across them.  If it has been created, there has to be a creator.

Nothing proves to me there is a God more than nature and yet nothing  provokes more questions in the Bible than the creation.  It is just too hard for us to imagine that God spoke matter into existence.  We can't understand it or prove it and yet here we are in the middle of it and it continues to baffle and bewilder scientists who try so hard to prove or disprove theories on how it happened.

Romans 1:20 says, For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse.

As you have probably realized by now we are going to start a study of the Book of Genesis.  Personally, I am excited about it.  Now, you may be thinking this is going to be fun, that we are going to talk about all those fun stories we learned about in school like Adam and Eve, the Tower of Babel and Noah's Ark.  But as I have been studying it I have come to realize that it is not fun.  In fact, anything in Genesis should only be discussed very seriously, with furrowed brow and only by very smart people with letters after their name.

But since we don't have any of those guys we are going to dive in anyway and hopefully we will all learn something beneficial and have a good time with it as well.  The phrase "dive in" is appropriate since I told you Wednesday that Genesis has been compared to a pool shallow enough for a child to wade and yet deep enough for an elephant to drown. 

It's also appropriate to study Genesis at this time because as I have said lately, I believe our church is going through a new beginning, not just because I'm new here but also because there has been a new and improved wind blowing through our church, a sense of excitement and freshness from God that I see motivating y'all to have even more of a passion for Jesus and a passion for other people.

Believe it or not we will get to the passage in just a second but I first have to warn you of something.  What do you think the devil thinks when he sees a church like ours with a new sense of excitement and freshness about serving God?  Do you think he says, "Oh those guys in Runaway Bay are just too much for me.  I'm just going to give up!"

No, he's going to ratchet up the problems, distractions and temptations.  He's going to be very convincing that you are not being treated right by your spouse, your church, your friends and your boss and that you deserve to live a little.  He's going to attack your marriage and your family.  He's going to put doubts in your head about Genesis and when that doesn't work he is going to distract you with worthless controversy and questions.  So don't fall for it.

If you haven't already, please turn to the very front of your Bible and let's read just a few words.  Read 1:1.  "In the beginning God..."

Stop righ there.  That's enough for now.  In fact that's enough to fill volumes and volumes of literature.  Thousands of books have been written about just those four words.  And if you have a problem with those 4 words then you will have a problem through to the end of Revelation.  Genesis is nothing if not controversial.  It is generally accepted that Moses is the author of Genesis but even that will start an argument in some circles.

The first 11 chapters are especially controversial.  We are going to purposefully avoid some of the controversy that is not necessary but we are purposefully going to dive into some of the controversy that is necessary. 

Some of you may know that my favorite question is, "Why?".  It's caused problems for me before and it makes Genesis a problem sometimes.  I want to know why things happened or didn't happen and the Bible doesn't always tell us.  I have to keep reminding myself that I'm not reading a novel.  Genesis especially doesn't always tell us why or how or when.  But it does tell us what we need to know, what is important or necessary.

We don't have always know why or how.  We just have to know who.  And that's why I stopped right there to stress the importance of who.  Another thing we need to remember is that Genesis is an ancient book answering ancient questions.  A lot of the directions we try to take it (esp. ch. 1-11) represent attempts to mold the passage to questions we want answered.

Some people think Genesis is just a book of history.  It is definitely a book with history and history is very important but it is also much more.  I hear what you are saying.  You say you have real problems in today's world.  How can an ancient book help me?  Ron says he has some important decisions to make and needs wisdom.  Genesis will be relevent.

Jerry says he is having some relationship problems and doesn't know how to handle them.  Genesis will be relevent.

Mary wants to know how she can be bold in her witness.  Genesis will be relevent.

Belinda just wants to know more about Jesus.  Surely Genesis can't help her!  Stick around.

In this brief introduction to the book I want us to realize one thing:  this passage is not talking about when.  It is talking about who.  This was originall written in Hebrew and English translations try to smooth it out.  There is no definite article in Hebrew which means chronological order.  The emphasis is not on "In the beginning".  It's on "God".

A good way to think about it is that God has always been and there came a point where creation originated under the authorship of Him.  The focus is on God, as it should be.  This is the same God who Moses asked in Exodus 3, "Who shall I say sent me?" and God answered Moses "I AM WHO I AM. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: 'I AM has sent me to you."

He's the same God who lead the Israelites out of slavery when there was no human way to get out.

He's the same God who revealed Himself to Elijah in a still small voice when Elijah needed some encouragement. 

The same God who told Joseph, "I AM with you whether you are in the pit or the palace."

The same God who gave to Job and then took it all away but in the end said, "I AM angry with your friends, Job, who have spoken of me incorrectly."

The same God who came to earth as a man and said you will know that I AM [the one I claim to be] and that I do nothing on my own but speak just what the Father has taught me.

Jesus also said "I tell you the truth, before Abraham was born, I AM!"

"I AM the Alpha and the Omega," says the Lord God, "who is, and who was, and who is to come, the Almighty."

This is the same God who also wants to have a relationship with you.  The same God who created the heavens and the earth created you to have a relationship with Him.  You hear me talk a lot about relationship around here.  That's what God wants.

Why?  I honestly have no idea.  Why does the great I AM want to have a relationship with us?  I don't know but like the rest of the book of Genesis, I take it on faith.

In closing, I want to read something that I read earlier this week that sums up how our statement of faith should read in regards to creation:

I believe that out of His infinite wisdom and deep, natural love, God created every element of this universe at a time when there was God and God alone and He did this by speaking it all into existence.  I believe nothing more is necessary for our faith and any science that contradicts this is man's feeble attempt to explain something he has no capacity to understand.

Monday, September 12, 2011

New and Improved--A letter to the congregation

It's a term that gets used way too much by anyone wanting to sell something but I can't help but think that it is appropriate to say that our church just feels "new and improved". It is nothing I have done but I have seen first-hand a change in people around here. It seemed to reach a high point yesterday and maybe it was just worshiping in the small building and having the ordinance of baptism but I felt an enthusiasm and a closeness to a degree I don't think I had felt before.

After our lunch in the big building, I just sat there and watched people as they laughed and ate and had a good time but I also saw over and over again people helping other people; some fixed hamburgers, some cleaned up, many times I saw somebody take somebody else's empty plate to the kitchen. I also saw a few people take their own empty plate to the kitchen and bring it back full again but that's ok especially since we had plenty. But what I saw time and time again was people just being servants.

It's Biblical to be servants but I've noticed in my life that it never happens without a change of heart. You can't fake it for very long and I saw true servants at our church Sunday and it made me excited! I normally send out a Friday email but since I missed this past Friday I just wanted to share these observances with you in the hopes of encouraging you today. If it's been a typical Monday you probably need some encouragement and you will need some more in a few days. May I recommend (read this in your best announcer voice) FBC Runaway Bay? It's new and improved!

I love you all, Todd

Sunday, September 11, 2011

"All Things?" Romans 8:28

It's been a great and powerful service so far this morning and I wouldn't want to be anywhere else!  In fact, why don't we just stop right now, go next door and eat and then go home?  I mean you can get too much of a good thing, right?  We could stop right now and call it a good day in the Lord's house.  Should I go ahead and preach?  I don't want to over-do it.

I used to work with an old man who was constantly complaining about how bad he felt.  He would try anything to get out of work.  One day he was passing through the shop looking like he was about to fall over.  I asked him what was wrong and he said his blood sugar was too low and he was feeling faint.  I told him to go to the office and get a coke and some candy in there and that would would make him feel better.  He came back through a few minutes later carrying a can of Diet Coke.  I said George, that doesn't have any sugar in it.  He looked at it and said, "Well, I don't want to build up too fast."  True story. 

Today I don't want to build anybody up too fast so I will start out slow.  We can slowly think about all the things we have to be thankful for.  Our church building, with a baptistry, God's grace, mercy, forgiveness, peace, joy, I could go on and on.  For what are you especially thankful this morning?  I'm thankful for all of these plus friends, family and country.

I hate to shift gears and kill such a festive mood but one would have to live under a pretty big rock not to know what the date is today and what it means to our country.  Not just that but one would have to be pretty blind not to notice that, even though we have so much to be thankful for, we have a lot of people right around us that are hurting.  In fact, it could very well be some of us here today that are suffering physically, mentally or spiritually. 

You don't have to read very far through a newspaper to see people that are hurt, abused, even killed, sometimes right in our neighborhoods.  I often wonder what kind of person could do such a thing to another human when even animals don't treat each other so cruelly.  How many times have you said, "What's this world coming to?"

I'll shift gears again and say what many of you have probably thought at one time or another.  "How can God allow things like this to happen?"  "Where is God when all of this occurs?"  Even, "Who does God think He is to cause such heartache?"  How could God allow or even cause the terrorist attacks on 9/11?  How could God allow Uncle Joe to get cancer?  I thought God hated divorce and yet my wife left me for another man.

Another gear finds us wondering about the hipocricy of Christians who quote the Bible as saying that God makes all things to work out good!  How can that possibly be true in our lives today?  How can the events on 9/11 ever be spinned to look "good"?  How can it be good that children are abused or starve to death?  What kind of God would allow such things?  Surely the Bible can't be trusted. 

We learned in our Wednesday evening Bible Study up here why that happens and that is because we serve a God of wrath.  Psalm 76, 21 and 78:  Surely your wrath against men brings you praise, and the survivors of your wrath are restrained.  He unleashed against them his hot anger, his wrath, indignation and hostility--a band of destroying angels.  At the time of your appearing you will make them like a fiery furnace. In his wrath the LORD will swallow them up, and his fire will consume them.

Is this why bad things happen?  Is God punishing the United States for our disobedience?

Those are valid and natural questions.  Some of which even have answers.  I hope to answer some of those for us today the only way I would ever be able to and that is to turn to God's word and let it speak.  Turn to Romans 8:28.

A little Scottish boy got in trouble for not eating his prunes so his mother sent him up to his room and said, "God is angry at you!"  Soon after the boy went to his room a violent storm erupted with thunder, lightning, heavy rain and even hail hitting the house very hard.  The little boy looked up toward the sky and said, "Gee, God, seems like a lot of fuss for a few prunes!"

We probably have all thought at one time or another that God was being harsh with us.  We know we're not perfect, but good grief!  Especially when Romans says everything will turn out good.  Well, that's were I want to start this morning by  looking at what this passage really says instead of what we think it says or what we want it to say.

It's interesting the way Paul starts this verse by saying that, "we know...".  To whom is he referring when he says "we"?  I'm sure Paul was talking about himself and the recipients of his letter but I also wonder if he might have been thinking about that "great cloud of witnesses" in Hebrews 12.  All of those in the faith hall of fame who went before Paul and are looking on as he writes this saying,"Yes, we know!" Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Daniel and David all know without a shadow a doubt what paul is saying here to be true.

But maybe you are thinking that was all a long time ago and things have changed since then.  It worked for Paul back then but how do we truly know today?  Let me go over a couple other things that Paul and also John wrote that they knew and see if you believe these.

We know whom we have believed.

We know that we are of God.

We know that the Son of God has come.

We know that we have passed from death unto life.

We know that He abides with us.

We know that He hears us.

We know that we shall appear with Him in glory.

We know that when He appears we shall be like Him.

We know that if our earthly house were dissolved that we shall have a building of God eternal in the heavens.

So if you can believe all those you can believe what Paul is telling us in Romans 8:28.  But wait a minute.  I've lost my place.  I can't find the one where Paul says he knows that God will make us healthy.  You know, the one right next to where Paul says we know that we will all make a lot of money and always be happy.  Oh, well.  I'll try to find that later but right now let's go on to what it is that Paul and John and Abe and Dave and all of us actually know.

"In all things God works for the good..."  All things, not most things or all good things or all things that He causes but in all things God works for the good...

Nowhere is definition any more important than right here.  What is Paul really saying?  What does the word "good" mean and also who is it for?  Without understanding these one could misunderstand what Paul is saying and that's important because this verse is not for everybody nor is it saying what most people want it to say.

We can understand that the "good" that Paul is referring to here means spiritually good because if you read the verse in context, just a few verses later Paul mentions that we will go through trouble, hardship, persecution, famine, nakedness, danger and sword.  Are those good things as the world would define it?  Of course not.  So, when Paul says God works all things for our good he is talking about our spiritual good or making us more like Jesus.

Now, when I say that some of you are probably thinking, "Oh great.  I don't care about spiritual good.  I want worldly good.  I need some relief in this life."  And that's understandable except for the fact that this world is not our home.  We can expect to be mistreated here.  We can expect horrible things to happen because the king of this world is Satan himself and what does Satan prowl around looking to do?  Destroy you!

I mentioned earlier that this is not a promise for everyone.  In fact, it's not even a promise for all Christians as we see in the next phrase.  "...for the (spiritual) good of those who love Him".  Well, Todd how can you say that it's not a promise for all Christians?  Christians, by definition, love God, right?  Again, I defer to what the Bible says about that. 

John writes in 1 Jn. 5:3 – “This is love for God: to obey his commands.”

Jesus says in Jn. 14:15 – “If you love me, you will obey what I command.”

Oh, great!  Here we go again with obedience!  Yes, here we go again and I'm going to quit apologizing for talking about it.  The Bible talks about it all the time so I'm going by what it says and so if some Sunday I don't talk about obedience then maybe you better find out why.

That's the definition of loving God.  Not being a Christian.  Not being baptized.  Not coming to church or living a good life.  Are you being obedient?  What is God telling you to do today?  It may be big or small, crazy or boring but God expects you to be obedient even though you don't know how it is going to end or even what the next step is going to be.  But if we are not obedient, this promise is not for us.

"Those who are called according to His purpose" are those who have become followers of Jesus. 2 Tim. 2:8-9a – “So do not be ashamed to testify about our Lord, or ashamed of me his prisoner. But join with me in suffering for the gospel, by the power of God, who has saved us and called us to a holy life—not because of anything we have done but because of his own purpose and grace.”

That leaves out a lot of people. It may leave you out. It leaves out the person you work with who has no interest in spiritual things but just found out she had her third miscarriage. God loves her, yes. God has a preferred future for her if and when she turns to Jesus. But Rom. 8:28 has nothing to say to her present heartache.

These conditions also leave out the really nice guy who lives next door to you, who you’ve been trying to witness to and been inviting to church, who lost his job several months ago and may be facing foreclosure on his house. When you tell him that God must have something better for him, it might make him and you fell better, but it’s wishful thinking. God doesn’t hold this promise forth to those who aren’t followers of Jesus, no matter how nice they are.

These statements might be surprising to you. But here is something that might surprise you more. Some Christians are even left out of this promise. If you’re living in deliberate disobedience to God in some area of your life, God doesn’t promise that he’s going to step in and fix the mess that your disobedience has created.

Just ask David and Bathsheba. Sure, David was forgiven. Sure, he was used by God to write Scripture after his sin. And yes, God brought some good out of their union in an amazing son named Solomon. But all in all, it would have been far better if David had never laid eyes on Bathsheba. Their firstborn died in infancy. David spent the rest of his life at war. His family was a dysfunctional mess. None of which qualifies as God’s wonderful plan for his life.

The beauty and promise in Romans 8 is not that the bad things will eventually prove to be a good thing. The beauty and promise of this section of Romans 8 is that no matter how bad things may get, God’s ultimate and eternal purpose in the lives of those who love Him and are called according to His purpose won’t be foiled.

Job says in 14:1, "Man born of woman is of few days and full of trouble."  That's good news and bad news.  The bad news is we will have trouble.  Good news is we have but a few days on this nasty old earth.  While we are here we can expect to have trouble.  Those of you that know me know that I am not a pessimist.  I'm not trying to bum you out and make you feel bad.  In fact, just the opposite.  Because I have the ultimate Good News and the only bad news is if you don't accept it.

There were nearly 3500 people who died in the terror attacks on 9/11 if you include the 19 cowards who hijacked the planes and there is nothing I can say to bring back a single one.  No scripture will rewind that day.  But for obedient believers God is working to make even those events work out to our good.  We may never see it this side of Heaven but when we get there God will welcome you with a "Well done good and faithful and obedient servant.  Now let me show you what I was doing in your life during that time."
Tim Keller gives us some insight. He points to the tomb of Lazarus. Jesus is standing there with tears rolling down his face. Jesus isn’t smiling. He’s angry. He’s upset. Why? Because death is a bad thing.
Keller says, “Jesus wasn't thinking, They think that this is a tragedy, but no harm done! I'm about to raise him from the dead. This looks like a bad thing, but it's not. It's really a good thing! It's a way for me to show my glory.”
Keller points out that there is no place in the Bible that teaches us that bad things are really blessings in disguise or that every cloud has a silver lining. Jesus is upset because he hates death. He hates loneliness, alienation, pain, and suffering. But Keller says, “Jesus hates it all so much that he was willing to come into this world and experience it all himself, so that eventually he could destroy it [death] without destroying us.”
Here is my favorite statement by Keller on this issue. He said, “Jesus Christ did not suffer so that you would not suffer. He suffered so that when you suffer, you'll become like him.”

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

September 11, 2011

This coming Sunday September 11, will be a very special time of worship for FBC Runaway Bay.  It will be a time of both remembrance and celebration with the ordinances of baptism and the Lord's Supper observed.  We will also have a special sermon and music and will end with a good old-fashioned dinner on the grounds.  All are invited.  Bring a friend and come on!

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Juicy Fruit, Self-Control - Galatians 5:22

I have some questions for you but I don't want you to answer, don't raise your hands.  Just think about them.  You will understand why.  I want you to think about certain aspects of your life.  Do you get enough sleep every night?  Do you always eat the food you are supposed to?  Do you get enough exercise?  Do you have bad habits that you just can't stop?  Do you spend money you shouldn't?  How about your spiritual life?  Do you have a quiet time every day?  Do you pray and read your Bible like you should?  Do you always tithe?  Do you always come to church?

Ouch!  I'm not preaching, now I'm meddling.  Right?  There aren't many of us that can answer all of those questions positively.  In fact, we could all use some work in probably all of those areas.  But I would dare say that most of us are right where we want to be in most of those areas.  Let me use my fat self for an example.  I would like to be about 30 pounds slimmer.  But do you know how bad I want to be 30 pounds slimmer?  This bad.

See, I understand what it takes to lose weight.  I know that I need fewer calories going in and more calories going out.  I know I need to exercise more.  I know I should eat salads without all the cheese and ranch dressing.  I know I should never again see the inside of Dos Chiles.  But just knowing how to fix the problem doesn't fix the problem.  It takes self-control and that's where I am lacking.  You can probably relate in some area of your life and so today we are all going to learn what it means when Paul said that the fruit of the Spirit is self-control.

Read Galatians 5:22

In his devotional book, Walk with God, author Chris Tiegreen says that self-control is one of the most confusing of all of the fruit of the Spirit.  How can it involve the self and the Spirit at the same time?  If it's self-control how can it be Spirit-control?  It can't.  But contrary to popular teaching, the Bible never tells us to be controlled by the Spirit, at least not in the sense that we lose our personality and will.

We are to be born of the Spirit, filled with the Spirit, led by the Spirit, inspired by the Spirit and sealed by the Spirit but we are not controlled by the Spirit.  The Spirit enables us to have self-control. 

As usual, I want to try to define the word and then we will look at examples and then see how to put it into practice in our lives.  The King James Version says “temperance” which is a good rendering but not a word we usually use.  It describes the rigid discipline to which athletes subject themselves in their quest to winning the race and gaining the prize.

And that is the very example Paul uses in
1 Cor. 9:24-27, “
24 Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. 25 Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. 26 Therefore I do not run like someone running aimlessly; I do not fight like a boxer beating the air. 27 No, I strike a blow to my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.”

I’m not big on watching most sports on TV but I have to admit I enjoy watching those World’s Strongest Man competitions.  Have you ever seen those on ESPN?  Those guys are huge!  Crazy strong!  They lift these huge boulders, tractor tires, even cars and carry them around like I carry a cheeseburger.  They train all year around for this one competition for the title of the World’s Strongest Man.  They have to have great self-control, just like most athletes.

Do you remember who the original World’s Strongest Man was?  Not one of those guys on TV.  This was a few years before tv came out.  Way back in the Old Testament, in the Book of Judges, you might remember, there was a man named Sampson.  He would have dominated the competition on TV because he was extremely self-controlled most all of his life.  Before he was born, his mother received instructions from an angel that Sampson was never to eat or drink anything unclean nor was he to ever get a haircut.

That would have been difficult to do but it never says that Sampson was ever really tempted to do those things.  He was literally holy.  He was different, set apart for use by God.  The problem was that while he had great self-control in most areas of his life, it was his lack of self-control that was ultimately his downfall.  I’m sure Sampson was proud of the fact that he had never broken his vows but I also know that Satan loves to use that pride to be the thing that destroys a person.

I Peter 5:8 says, “Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.”  And that is just what happened to big ol’ Sampson.  He was self-controlled in some areas but he had no self-control when it came to women and Satan used that lack of control to devour him.

I Cor. 10:12 says, “So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don't fall!”

There is something that we all need to admit if we are going to allow the fruit of the Spirit to ripen and mature in our lives and that is that Satan is smarter than us.  He is.  He’s not smarter than God.  He’s not more powerful than God but we come in a distant third in this contest.  He’s more powerful than us on our own.  He’s smarter than us on our own and he has been around longer and has more experience than us on our own.

That’s why when we lack any of these fruit we don’t need to ask God for more fruit.  We need to ask God for more of His Spirit.  We need to say, “God, I can’t do this.  I need you to do it through me.”  When it comes to self-control, Satan is going to tell you that you should be proud of how self-controlled you are.  You’ve been self-controlled all of your life.  You deserve a break.  You deserve to live a little.  All the cool kids are doing it.  Your neighbor is doing it and he’s doing just fine.  A little bit never hurt anybody.  Ease up.

But the Bible says in John 8:44 that Satan is a liar and the father of lies.  He told the same thing to Sampson.  That’s what he told Saul.  He told Solomon that just a few foreign wives wouldn’t hurt anything.  He told Eve that one little bite won’t hurt anything.  He told Ananias and Sapphira to just hang on to a little bit of the money and nobody will ever know.  And all of them were devoured.  Not just hurt or bruised but dead and gone in sin and shame.  That’s Satan’s plan for you.

And that was Satan’s plan for Jesus in Luke chapter 4.  Turn there, put a book mark there and then just listen for now.  Then later, go back and read it. 

Read Luke 4:1-3.

Satan tells Jesus, “Hey, you have been so good lately, so self-controlled.  It’s time for a little break.  Be proud of what you have done but cut yourself a little slack.  Nobody will ever know.”  He tells Jesus 3 different times to satisfy himself, gratify himself and to glorify himself.  But it says that Jesus was full of the Holy Spirit.  We see in several other places that Jesus was self-controlled enough that He got by Himself and prayed.  He had studied the scriptures since He was a child and that was proven as He quoted scripture 3 times to Satan until Satan finally just left Him.

He was self-controlled and empowered by the Holy Spirit.  And as usual, that’s our model.  Not just in the fruit of self-control but also in love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, and gentleness.

Whatever you struggle with today, whether it is food, drink, lust, anger, guilt or the pride of not having these things, let’s all take those things to the Lord right now in prayer, admitting to Him that we are no match for these problems, no match for Satan and that we need His Spirit desperately.