Monday, August 8, 2011

Why Church - Part 7

Finally, we're caught up!

This week we looked at the Table of Shewbread in the Tabernacle.

You know, when we want to get to know someone better we like to dine together. We go to lunch or have have people over for dinner. God is the same. He desires to dine with His people. When we dine together we strengthen relationships with one another and with God.

When we come into God's house we are actually coming to eat together. It is not so much about what the Pastor has to say. It is about what God has to say. I cannot tell you how many times someone in the congregation comes up to me after service to tell me they enjoyed my message on love. The funny thing is that my message was not about love.

When you come to God's house to eat He makes sure you get what you need to eat.

So we have this Table of Shewbread. Let's look at the table itself. It was made of acacia wood and the top and trim were covered in pure gold. The legs had pure gold rings on them that gold covered acacia wood poles were put through to carry the table (remember the tabernacle had to move with the people as they traveled to the Promised Land). The cups and plates were made of pure gold as well.

The bread itself was made of the finest of flours. The bread had to have no unevenness, lumps or coarseness. it was very nourishing bread as well -- unlike the enriched white emptiness we call bread today.

There were 12 loaves set on the table. Each of them was exactly the same. These represented the 12 tribes of Israel. The Israelite people were made up of 12 tribes. These tribes descended from the 12 sons on Jacob -- of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob fame. One of the sons -- Levi -- was not the head of a tribe, but the head of the priestly order. Another of the sons -- Joseph -- had two sons who each made up on of the tribes.

As Gods people set up camp at the Tabernacle during the journey, they were to encamp in a particular form. there were three tribes encamped on each side of the Tabernacle. The tribes on the west side numbered about 108,000 men, those on the north about 151,000, those on the south about 157,000 and those on the east about 186,000. If you were to view their camp from up in the sky, what you would see is the shape of a cross going from east to west (see Part 5 for more significance to this).

They also encamped facing the Tabernacle -- in constant reminder of the fellowship with God of the Tabernacle.

In the church age of today we reflect upon this as we take communion. 1 Corinthians 10:6 tells us that when we partake in communion we are participating in what Christ did -- in fulfilling all the requirement to go into the Holy of Holies.

In 1 Corinthians 11 we see Paul's description of the Lord's Supper. We are admonished not to take communion in an unworthy manner. This does not imply you must be without sin -- for then none would be worthy. Paul was addressing a situation that was happening in Corinth at Agape Feasts which had turned into huge parties where they also took communion. They were not honoring or considering what the communion represented.

When we take communion and reflect upon what it truly represents we take it in a worthy manner. This Sunday we received communion together to remember the importance not only of the communion itself, but the importance of receiving it together.

Why Church - Part 6

This week we begin looking at the significance and meaning of the Bronze Laver in the Tabernacle.

So, what is a laver? It is a basin where, after sacrificing at the altar, you would wash and cleanse your hands and feet for preparation to enter the Holy Place.

The water represents the Word of God in its purpose to cleanse us. In Ephesians 5 Paul talks about husbands and wives, but is using the picture of Christ and His bride (us, the church). He says that we are being washed by the water of the Word -- to cleanse us and make us perfect before the eyes of God.

The Word of God, according to Hebrews 4:12, is supposed to judge us and reveal the intents of our heart. You see, the bronze that was used to make the laver was not just any bronze. In Exodus 38:8 we find that it was polished bronze that the women used for mirrors.

The Word of God, like Hebrews 4:12 told us, acts as a mirror in our lives. It is a truth mirror. It reveals the truth about us. We see the junk in our lives that needs to be dealt with. We see our weaknesses and our sin. But we also see the truth of who we really are -- how God sees us. He does not see us as weak. He sees us as more than a conqueror.

The Word will continually divide those things, teaching us and showing us truth. It continually cleanses us.

Allow the Word to cleanse you -- and to do it continually. We all find that when we remove dirt it often only reveals more dirt. But, that's OK, let's keep at it. Keep washing!

Why Church - Part 5

In this part we begin looking at the design and purpose of the church by examining how God commanded Moses to build the Tabernacle in the wilderness.

In Exodus 25 God tells Moses to build this tabernacle so that He may dwell with His people. It is important to note that He did not tell Moses to instruct the people to build an altar in their tent where he would visit them. His desire was to dwell with His people together.

God instructs Moses to gather from the people gold, silver, bronze, acacia wood, goat hair, fine linens and more. It was for the building of His house. Where did all of the stuff come from? Remember when the Israelites left Egypt they had all the wealth of Egypt.

The tent of meeting that enclosed the tabernacle was about 150 feet long by 75 feet wide. There was only one entrance -- about 30 feet wide on the east end of the tent. There is a theme that runs throughout the Word that shows that God moves east to west.

It began in the Garden of Eden. I know a most of us think the Garden was in the east of Eden. But when you you read the scriptures carefully we find it does not say this. First, Moses wrote Genesis. From where he lived, Eden was to the east. He says "in the east, in the Garden of Eden." Then, in Genesis 3, when God seals man from the Tree of Life, it says the gate guarded by the cherubim with a flaming sword was on the east of the garden -- not that the garden was in the east.

Now, it does not say that the Garden was in the west of Eden, but when we look at the rest of the Word we can conclude that it was highly likely. When God created a separation between the Tree of Life and the rest of Eden He was creating the first "Holy of Holies." The Holy of Holies -- which was separated from man in the Tabernacle and the Temple was always on the west and the only entrance was on the east end.

Then we see that the Israelites cross the Jordan River from the east to the west in order to enter the Promised Land. Of course our sun moves through the sky from east to west.

Inside the Tabernacle, God instructs Moses to build specific furnishings out of specific materials. We will get into all of them int he remaining parts of this series. However, if we look at a diagram of all of the items and their placement, we see they are arranged in the form of a cross -- going from east to west.

Now, we mentioned that there was only one entrance into the Tabernacle. We know that there is only one way to enter into fellowship with God -- through His Son, Christ Jesus.

Once inside the entry, the first item is the bronze altar. On this altar were made sacrifices. One such sacrifice was the sin offering. At the Passover perfect, spotless lambs were sacrificed (Jesus: The Lamb of God). The blood was sprinkled on the Mercy Seat in the Holy of Holies (more on that in a later part).

This picture shows us that the first step of entering in to fellowship with God and becoming part of His bride is to enter into the forgiveness represented by Christ's shed blood.

The altar was made of bronze. Bronze is a soft and pliable metal -- which is what God desires for us to be. It is also a very impure and dirty metal. This is also symbolic of us. God knows that we are not perfect. However, if we enter into that sacrifice that was made for our imperfections, we can be used by God. We can also dwell in His presence.

In later parts we will look more at the shedding of blood and the process of our cleansing in order to dwell in God's presence -- to boldly go into the Holy of Holies.

Why Church - Part 4

In this part we began looking at some of the purpose of the church -- by God's design.

We do a lot of things at church that can be construed as entertainment. There's nothing wrong with doing things that appeal to people to get them into the church. And we definitely believe there is nothing wrong with having fun at church. We actually try to give people stuff to talk about... "you'll never believe what they did at my church."

However, the entertainment is never going to change your life. It may help get you here or keep you engaged, but it is only the Word of God that will change you. There must ALWAYS be Word (food) in His house to nourish.

Part of God's design for the church is to have dedicated time with His people. He started with putting Adam and Eve in a garden to dwell in His presence (together). Then he tells Moses to build a Tabernacle so He may dwell with his people (not person). Later Solomon builds the Temple for the same purpose. And today we have the church.

Certainly you can be in God's presence at any time and any place. But God also desired to have a dedicated time and place to dwell with the people -- together. The entire church is the "bride of Christ." As a bride in waiting, our groom wants to spend time with us and allow us to know Him more deeply.

Love is about serving one another. When we come into God's house we serve Him and He serves us. Jesus said that he came not to be served, but to serve. We serve Him because He first served us. As He first serves us, He demonstrates true love and service.

According to John 10:10, Jesus came to bring life and life more abundant. However, the enemy comes to steal, kill and destroy. He is out to steal from you and bring death and destruction. He does this in many ways. One of his favorites is to get you disconnected from the church. If he can get you "serving" the world or yourself instead of serving God in His house he can steal from you all of the benefit of being part of the bride of Christ.

If we are the bride of the King of kings, our life ought to be about abundance. But, if we choose to not be a part of the bride of Christ we can live a life of stealing, killing and destruction.

When we come together as the bride of Christ in His house to serve, the gates of hell cannot prevail against us!

Why Church - Part 3

Still plugging away at getting this series up-to-date...

In part three we looked more in-depth at Psalm 92. We have been using verse 13 as a foundational scripture to this series -- that those who are planted in the house of the Lord will flourish.

Let's look at what it says in verse 12, "The righteous will flourish like a palm tree..." Have you ever had a palm tree blow over in one of our monsoon storms. It is not likely you have. I had a mesquite tree in my yard that would blow over in almost every light breeze that came through. But the palm trees can bend and sway through the storms of life.

When you are grounded in God's house you can bend and sway when the storms come, but you won't be knocked over. You survive the storms!

Some people approach the church as a potted plant. They believe they are rooted in their "own" belief in God and go to church when they want to or hop from church to church following this "move" or that "move." When we had a major wind storm come through last month I had a potted plant in the back yard. It ain't there any more. It may still be in it's nice little pot, but it may be in Albuquerque by now.

Verse 14 says that those planted will bear fruit in their old age. Once I turned 40 I became more interested in scriptures like this one. We are seeing that living a long and fulfilling life into our later years is connected to our being planted in God's house. It helps keep a sense of purpose.

In Luke 2 we find that Jesus, as a child, was missing. His family had come to Jerusalem for the Feast of Passover. While Mary and Joseph are on their way home they notice that they forgot Jesus! So they come back to Jerusalem to look for him. They find him in the temple "confounding" the people there -- at 12 years old!

When they confront him he responds by saying, "Didn't you know I had to be in my Father's house?" Where would Jesus be except at church?

If you remember the movie "City Slickers" you may remember Curly's advice to find your "one thing." King David tells us about his one thing in Psalm 27:4 when he says, "One thing I ask of the Lord, this is what I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life."

He understood that the best thing he could desire would to be in God's house. He wanted to dwell in the "sanctuary." We call the auditorium a sanctuary because that is what it should be for us -- a place to go and feel safe, be lifted up and recharged.

May we all have that same desire to dwell in God's house.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Why Church - Part 2

Wow, I didn't realize how long I had gone without updating this blog. My apologies. Let's try to get us up to date...

In Why Church? Part 2 (July 4th weekend) we discussed the significance of the church in the founding of this nation. From Jonestown in 1607 through the American Revolution of the late 18th century, the church played an integral role in the establishment and growth of this nation.

Many of our state charters stated that their purpose was to spread the Gospel. Great universities like Harvard, Yale and Princeton began as either Christian institutions or at least operated by churches.

Our nation's founders has deep spiritual beliefs in the significance of what was happening in the establishment of the United States. Benjamin Rush (a signer of the Declaration of Independence) was a doctor and a teacher. During the 1793 outbreak of yellow fever in Philadelphia, when most other physicians fled for their own lives, he and a team of dedicated students remained to save the lives of others because it was the Christian thing to do.

John Adams (another signer as well as our second President) was an attorney. While a committed patriot in the rebellion against Britain, defended British soldiers falsely accused during the Boston Massacre because it was the Christian thing to do. Because it was what was right, he did not lose the respect of his peers.

John Jay, the first chief justice of the Supreme Court stated that we would be wise to elect only Christians to public office. Could you imaging the uproar if Justice John Roberts suggested such a thing today? We'd have Senate hearings and force him to resign.

The education system in America was founded by the church an the Bible was the primary textbook -- as the church saw the value in people being able to read the Bible.

The church was a great source of recruiting for soldiers during the revolution based on the Spiritual significance of England's crimes.

Benjamin Franklin, who was not widely considered a religious man, suggested our nations motto should be, "Rebellion to tyrants is obedience to God." It was on his suggestion for our nation's seal.

A common refrain during the Revolution was, "No king but King Jesus."

In the years leading up to the Revolution the church brought about a tremendous revival. It saw that, in the rapid growth and expansion without a full infrastructure, that many cities had no churches. So they worked from 1740 to 1765 on a massive revival of the church -- which was instrumental in preparing this nation to fight for its independence.

The church saw the same problem in the 1830's when it brought about the Second Spiritual Awakening during the initial drive westward into Kentucky, Tennessee and Ohio. This is where "Sunday School" was born. They were literally schools on Sunday where people were taught to read so that they could read the Bible.

The church has always been a part of identifying and fixing our nation's problems and needs to be once again!

Monday, June 27, 2011

Why Church? - Part 1

This week we began a new series called, "Why Church?" It seems that there is always a movement, and one that seems to be increasingly aggressive in recent years, to marginalize church attendance. Books get written by Christians to convince other Christians that there is no longer a need for the local church -- that it is no longer relevant.

While I firmly believe that the method and structure to how we "do" church continually changes to remain relevant, church itself is always relevant. The purpose behind the church is always an important part of what God does.

I realize the Bible does not give us an outline for what our church service is supposed to look like... do 2 fast songs, a slow song, pray, receive an offering, teach, do announcements and dismiss. It does, however make it clear that the church is the Bride of Christ. So, it will always be relevant. There is indeed personal salvation, but God's Word speaks to the church. Paul's letters (the epistles) were written to and for churches -- not individuals. Even Timothy and Titus were pastors and Paul wrote to them to encourage them in running their churches.

Some people think they can read the Bible and pray, listen to worship music in their car or watch Christian television (which are all good things, of course) and THAT is church for them. After all, we live in a day and age of busy schedules and micromanaged time (except when we spend hours in front of the TV or Facebook). There's simply not time for church anymore. So the people working 16 hours a day in the fields who went to church every time the doors were opened, weren't busy and went to church because they had nothing else to do (read with sarcasm)? Did God not foresee that people would be busy one day when He told His people to be plugged into church?

Psalm 92:13 tells us that those who are planted in the house of the Lord will flourish. So many people are doing a lot of good things but not getting the expected results because they are not planted in the house of the Lord. They attend once in a while (when there is time). Maybe they hop from church to church following the latest "move" of God. Maybe they think they are not being fed and move to another church -- continually uprooting.

When we were building the Mesa campus, the land was a citrus grove. The city required us to keep a couple rows of citrus trees on the perimeter of the property. We had to remove some of the trees during construction. When we finished the building we had some mature trees planted to replace the ones that had to be removed. A few years later we found that the trees on the back of the property that had never been moved were producing abundant fruit. The transplants were not producing any fruit. It took another couple years before they began producing. A tree expert told us that this was completely normal. An uprooted and re-planted tree will take 3-5 years to begin producing fruit again (if it even survives).

So many people are hopping from church to church because they think it is not producing fruit in their lives. The real problem is that they are not getting PLANTED in the house of the Lord. They keep uprooting and moving again -- all the while blaming the churches for their lack of fruit.

Matthew 16:18 says that the gates of hell cannot prevail against the CHURCH -- not YOU, but the church. Being connected to God's church gives us the safety in numbers. Being a lone wolf makes you the easy prey for the enemy.

I gave this example at the close of my message yesterday...

Based on 300 million people living in the U.S. and the fact that polls say 80% call themselves Christian (but we'll go with 2/3 for easier math)...

300,000,000 Americans
200,000,000 Christians
50,000,000 Christian Households
$50,000 Average Household Income in U.S.
10% Tithe = $5000 per year, per household
$5000 X 50,000,000 = $250,000,000,000 per year

So... if all Christians were tithing to a local church, the church would have about $250 billion every year to impact and influence the world with -- without receiving any "special offerings" or fundraising programs. The church could be doing what the church is called to do -- like feeding the hungry and clothing the poor instead of needing the government to do it (very poorly and inefficiently at that). So, God knew what He was doing when He wanted us all in church and tithing :)

Next Sunday, when we reflect upon Independence Day and the American Revolution we will examine the place of the church in the fiber of this nation and how it is the strong church that will restore the parts of the fiber that are wearing a bit thin these days. As the church has allowed itself to become marginalized it has also lost its ability to influence the direction of this nation.

See you next week!

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Greatest Story Ever Told - Part 7

Well, today was the final part of The Greatest Story Ever Told. I decided it was time to move on before this series turned into the LONGEST story ever told.

We looked at the last of the seven signs, or miracles, that are described in the Gospel of John. The seventh sign is the raising of Lazarus from the dead on John Chapter 11. The story begins with word coming to Jesus that "the one he loved" had become very ill. We get the impression that Lazarus was more than just an acquaintance or relative of someone close to Jesus. Keep in mind that he is referred to as the one Jesus loved; it will be important later.

Jesus then says in verse 4 that this has happened to bring glory to God. Just as we discussed last week when Jesus used similar wording in regard to the blind man -- it is important not to read into this phrase words that are not there. Jesus does not say that God made Lazarus ill (and eventually dead) for some purpose. The enemy is the one who brings sickness and disease. However, God knows the beginning from the end and will take whatever the enemy means for harm and make it into something good for those who will believe.

Then Jesus also say that this will not end in death. But we know that Lazarus does, in fact, die. Jesus promised that death was not going to be the end.

Let's put this situation and Jesus' words in the context of "the story" we have been discussing. The story is about restoration of what was lost in the Garden. It comes to completion in Revelation 21 and 22, but the process truly begins at the resurrection of Christ.

To put it into the proper context we need to spend a little bit of time in Genesis 3. Just because the story does not begin there, doesn't mean that what happens there is not important. We do not focus on sin, but we must understand it if we are going to defeat it.

Satan tempts Eve to eat of the forbidden fruit. He is only able to do so because Eve did not understand the Word from God concerning it. This is how the enemy likes to attack believers. If we do not understand the Word, he will twist it and use it against us.

God is not legalistic. He is always looking at the hearts of men. He is not standing by waiting to curse you or withhold His blessing when we do not obey the letter of the law. However, this is how the enemy likes to work. He is like a slimy lawyer (not all lawyers are slimy -- in fact a member who happens to be a lawyer pointed out to me this morning that there are also slimy pastors, touche). He is looking for a technicality to give him permission to operate in your life. Since we will never FULLY understand all of the Word it seems we are at a disadvantage. However, we have Christ Jesus who has already paid the price for all of our sin. When the accuser speaks and accuses us before the Father, Jesus immediately inserts, "Objection! That statement is irrelevant and therefore inadmissible. I already paid for that sin."

Eve succumbed to the enemy's temptation. Of course, Adam was not innocent. He was right there and, as the head of the household, should have stopped Eve from eating. Instead he eats as well. Then he blames God for giving him that woman. When this happens, a spiritual death took place. Man had been made to be a spirit that lived in the body. When Adam and Eve chose to "know" evil (intimately know -- like a husband knows his wife) they chose to be ruled by the flesh. So, the result of the sin entering the world brought about death.

But, remember, Jesus says that this (the story) will not end in death. For Jesus paid the price to overcome death, hell and the grave. He overcame the sin that caused the death.

Remember that Jesus began that process in J0hn 11 by acknowledging that the "one he loved" was ill. We are the ones that God loves -- the ones He so loved that He gave His only Son for (John 3:16).

Why did Jesus wait until Lazarus had been dead for four days to raise him? There are a lot of interesting theories. One of the things that I believe plays a role is the four day themselves. There are places in the Word that imply a day can represent 1000 years. There were 4000 years between Adam's spiritual death and the resurrection of Jesus that brought the spiritual rebirth.

Of course, Jesus does raise Lazarus from the dead. Just like every other miracle He does, it required someone to have faith. He needed Martha to believe that Jesus could raise him. At that point Jesus spoke and Lazarus was back among the living.

Now, all along I have been saying that these seven signs in the first 11 chapters of John illustrate what was to spiritually take place in the second half of the book of John. You will also remember that we have been saying that this entire series has been about pointing out the purpose of God' actions being restoration of the shalom that existed in the Garden of Eden at creation.

So, if we go over to John 20:15 we see a really remarkable thing that jumps out at us with the choice of one single word. I've read this scripture so many times and had never noticed this before. Mary Magdelene goes to the tomb on the resurrection morning to look for Jesus. She sees a person and asks them what happened to Jesus' body. She does not realize it is Jesus. But what is amazing is the act that it says she did not know it was Him because she mistook him for a gardener... a GARDENER!

Adam was the first gardener. He was to tend and keep the perfect garden God had created. We know, of course, that he failed. Jesus comes as the second Adam. He takes back the garden and immediately after resurrecting in victory is mistaken for a gardener! He begins the process of restoring the Garden. He becomes fruitful and multiplies (though all of us, His bride) and begins building the CITY that we read of at the end of the story in Revelation 21 and 22. How cool is that!

Join us next week as we celebrate Dad! It will be so much fun. It'll be a day designed for men with free beef jerky, cool cars, fun music and my desert racing video. You won't want miss it. Then I will be starting a new series on the 26th. See you at church. I LOVE MY CHURCH!

Monday, June 6, 2011

Greatest Story Ever Told - Part 6

This week we looked at the 6th of the "signs" accounted by the Apostle John. This is the account of the healing of a blind man in John Chapter 9.

The story began with Jesus seeing a man who had been blind since birth. His disciples ask Him if it was the man or his parents who had sinned. You see, it was commonly believed that, if a person had this sort of defect, that he or she must have sinned -- or his or her parents were in such terrible sin that they passed the curse down to their child. Some of the Pharisees even taught that it was possible for a baby to sin in utero, causing a birth defect. Certainly there is generational sin that gets passed on, but Jesus points out that this is not the case with this man.

Sure, all sickness, disease and general lack of "shalom" is due to some type of sin. Some of the problems we deal with are certainly because of our own sin. However, some things happen simply because we live in a sinful and messed up world. We become affected by the physical environment that our flesh lives in.

Understand that, while living under the Law, sin was defined and magnified. So, everything was thought to be related to sin. In this series, we have been talking about how religiousness looks at life in this type of context -- a Genesis 3 beginning context. Instead, we should look at life in a Genesis 1 begnning context. Life is more about restoring the shalom peace that was in the Garden and will exist again according to Revelation 21 and 22 than it is about controlling sin. We earnestly desire to control sin; we work at it with all our might, but it is not the real issue.

Jesus tells the disciples that neither the man nor his parents' sin caused the blindness. Instead, He says that it "happened" for the glory of God. Now, be careful not add a few words that are not there. Jesus did not say that God made the man born blind to bring Himself glory at this later time. He said it happened. God knows every move of the enemy and will take what he meant for harm and make it into something good.

This is also one of the few times where we see a miracle done where the person did not approach Jesus and ask to be healed. Jesus saw a need and acted. However, the completion of the miracle still required the man's decision to accept and obey the Word. He was not healed until he went and did what Jesus told him to do. God's power works through man's obedience.

After the man is healed, the Pharisees summon him to explain what had happened. You see, they were all upset because Jesus healed on the Sabbath. Some argued that, in order to heal, He must be of God. Still others argued that working on the Sabbath proved He must be a sinner.

They even questioned whether the miracle even took place. They called the man's parents in to verify that the man healed was their son and that he had indeed been blind since birth. They verified this and refused to offer any more information -- for declaring a belief that Jesus was the Christ was cause for excommunication.

They call the formerly blind man back in for another round of questioning. At the end of this set of questions, the "sinner" (defined by them because of his blindness), schooled the Pharisees. He pointed out their hypocrisy and stated his belief in Jesus as being from God. He is promptly excommunicated.

The next conversation he has is with Jesus who heard about the situation. Jesus gives him the opportunity to accept Him as the Christ and the man does.

This story illustrated the blindness that Jesus came to remove. In fact, throughout the book of Isaiah -- particularly in chapter 61, healing of blindness is a Messianic sign. Jesus Himself quotes it in Luke 4:18. The healing of physical blindness is actually a picture of the spiritual blindness that Jesus came to destroy. The Pharisees were spiritually blind. They were so concerned with sin and the Law that they refused to see the truth of the Messiah in front of them.

Oh, and they did not call Jesus to answer for this apparent infraction of the Law. Though He answered this question back in John 7:21. He pointed out to them that they were hypocritical in their questioning. They wanted to know why He would heal on the Sabbath. He pointed out that they perform circumcision on the Sabbath because the Law states that the circumcision is to occur on the 8th day -- which will sometimes fall on a Sabbath. However, Jesus (according to Isaiah 61 and Luke 4) is called to preach good news to the poor, set captives free and to bring recovery of sight to the blind. By healing on the Sabbath He was doing the same as them circumcising on the Sabbath.

Next week we will look at the 7th sign -- the raising of Lazarus from the dead -- and will wrap up this series. We will have a special message on Father's Day and will begin a new series on June 26th. See you at church! I Love my Church!

Monday, May 23, 2011

Greatest Story Ever Told - Part 4

This week we continued our series, "The Greatest Story Ever Told." When we look at the Word of God and our Christian walk we need to remember to look at the whole story.

Religiousness tends to look at life as a mission to control sin. We should work with all that is within us (which includes Christ) to eliminate sin. However, that is not what the Word is really about.

When God created the earth as accounted in Genesis 1 and 2 and placed Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, they lived in complete peace -- or "shalom" peace as it is called in Hebrew. Shalom peace is more than a warm fuzzy feeling inside or the hope of a possible future deliverance from this sinful world. Some think of peace as a quiet acceptance of the circumstances of life. True shalom peace is far different than that. It means "nothing missing and nothing broken."

That would describe life in the Garden. Then we look at the final two chapters in the Bible, Revelation 21 and 22, and find that, in the end, God completely restores that shalom. At the end, it is the form of a great city. So, the garden was "fruitful and multiplied" into a city -- but the peace is the same.

The problem is that from Genesis 3 to Revelation 20, we see the result of sin in the world and the process of returning to that shalom. You see, the Word of God is not as much about eliminating sin, but restoring shalom. Until the final judgment comes we will not truly see that shalom. There is still sin and corruption in the world. But, when Jesus rose from the grave, that was the true beginning of the restoration. While we cannot experience perfect shalom peace yet, we should be moving closer and closer to it.

We have spent time looking at a number of stories within the story that paint this picture for us. Over the last two weeks we have been looking at the seven "signs" accounted by John.

A week ago we looked at the first three signs -- Jesus turning water into wine, Jesus healing a nobleman's son and Jesus healing the man at the pool of Bethesda. This week we looked at Jesus' feeding of 5000.

Jesus sees that there is a large crowd coming to see him because of his reputation as a miracle worker. He recognizes that they are not only spiritually hungry but they would be physically hungry. It is interesting that this is the only of the seven signs in the Gospel of John that is mentioned in all four Gospels. It is also interesting that none of the writers implied that they could not afford to feed all of the people. The only questions were should we go buy food and where can we buy food.

I am not saying that Jesus was living the "high life" but that there was no lack in relation to accomplishing his purpose. Whatever God calls us to, He provides the resources. Jesus never had to beg for money for his ministry. They could have fed the 5000, but Jesus felt it was better to just use his faith instead of his money.

One of the disciples points out that 8 months wages would have been enough to buy enough bread for everyone to have a "bite." However, Jesus' miracle provided enough for everyone to have as much as they want.

Of course, we also know that there was so much left over that they collected 12 baskets after everyone had as much as they wanted. They then collected it so that it would not be wasted. God may be about abundance, but He is not about waste!

This miracle shows us that Jesus came to demonstrate that God provides for His children. Whatever He calls you to, He will make provision. He does not starve His children. It also makes us reflect upon the idea that Jesus is the Bread of Life. He was the Word made flesh. He told us we must eat of his body -- meaning we must eat Gods word.

Not only must we eat the Word - but we must eat it daily. When the Israelites were in the wilderness on their way to God's promised land, God rained down manna from Heaven every morning. The manna was the Old Testament picture of the Bread of Life. It had to be consumed each day and it could not be kept for a future day. It had to be collected and consumed every day.

Jesus is the Bread of Life that came down from Heaven. He was the Word made flesh. We must eat of it every day if we are to live a successful Christian life.

Next week we will look at Jesus' walking on the water and what it tell us about the nature of God and how it illustrates part of the "story."

Saturday, May 21, 2011

I Love My Church! - Part 1

Here at Living Word we have created a campaign called, "I Love My Church." We have t-shirts and bumper stickers and all sorts of paraphernalia. Last Sunday morning someone posed an interesting question. It was related to me by one of our volunteer staff, so I do not know what the "tone" of the question was. But here is what was asked... Shouldn't we be saying. "I Love my God?"

I paused for a moment, thinking about the question. Certainly our focus for this program is to raise awareness about the church. Are we too caught up with marketing that we lost focus of the real object of our affection?

Then I realized that, if we are to live out the Christian walk, people should KNOW we love God without us advertising it. Our love for God is far more than slogans on t-shirts or stickers on the backs of our cars. We demonstrate our love for God, not by keeping religious rules and mandates, but by loving one another.

We live in a nation in which 70-80% of people call themselves Christians - yet less than 20% regularly attend church. People have lots of reasons why they don't attend church. Many are based on negative perceptions or experiences. Some are based on the simple idea that church is boring or it's a chore. If people view church as a chore they will only attend for so long.

We want people to know that there are others, as weird as it sounds, that LOVE to go to church.. and not just "holy rollers" -- but people just like them who go to church because they get something out of it and have a group of others who are like family to them.

Whatever church you attend, you should love your church. In fact, Jesus loved the church so much that he laid down his life for her. So, I think it is good thing to love your church!