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!