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Thursday, November 14, 2013

RVCC Sunday Message Reflections

It seems my life is up for another change. Monday, I began a new job. I am training to drive a school bus for the Medford school district. This will give us a little money to fill in the gaps that exist right now and hopefully a little extra. It will only be part time which I hope will leave time for other things where I want to be involved.
This week David started his message by asking how many of us liked to party. It seemed like a bit of an unusual question. Then he reminded us of the stories we had looked at last week; the lost sheep, followed by a celebration and then the lost coin followed by a celebration. And then we looked at the story of the lost son. (Luke 15:11-32)
In this story we see 2 sons of one man. One son, the younger, took his inheritance and left home. Then he wasted all of the money and found himself in a very low place. Today we might say he found himself in the sewer. The good thing is that “he came to himself” vs. 17.
What a wonderful thing! How many of us long for our children or a loved one to come to them self and see the true condition of their life. At that point they are truly ready to do what this son did. (my private rant)
He came to himself and said, “My father’s servants have food and clothing, I will go back home and ask to be made a servant.”
It didn’t work out like he thought. His father saw him coming and ran to meet him; he covered him with kisses and put new cloths on him then said we’re gonna have a party, my son who was lost is found! ( or something like that)
In both of the stories last week and in the story this week Jesus pointed out that there is more joy in heaven over one lost soul who finds the grace for repentance than over 99 righteous souls who need no repentance. When anyone comes to Jesus there is a party in heaven.
The question then was do we celebrate the things that they celebrate in heaven?
Sometimes I tend to be a critical of others and think they are being too interested in natural things instead of spiritual things. Jesus used 2 very natural examples and made no indication that there was any problem with that. I see that I need to learn to not be critical.
Another thing David mentioned is that mission without celebration is not really mission. He then pointed out how many celebrations there are in the Old Testament. God apparently wants His people to be a people who know how to enjoy a celebration. Actually one of the complaints that the religious leaders had about Jesus was that he was a winebibber and a glutton. (Luke 7:34)Apparently Jesus enjoyed a good time.
We tend to avoid celebrations and parties because of all that is wrong in the world. We tend to focus on the ones who are not following God and they become the reason we feel we cannot celebrate. Or we simply look at our own difficulties and think, “What do I have to celebrate?” Then we need to ask, are we looking to celebrate the things that are celebrated in Heaven or are we only looking for our own comfort or encouragement?
One of the life group questions is, how does celebrating more often and more wholeheartedly affect our lives? One of the members of our life group shared a challenge that someone had shared with her. The challenge is to think of at least one thing each day that you are truly thankful for and write it down in some kind of note book. She shared that it had had a very pleasant affect on her life. It made me think of the scripture in Philippians 4:8-9
Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things. Those things, which ye have both learned, and received, and heard, and seen in me, do: and the God of peace shall be with you.

I know that focusing on the negative things around me has no good affect. The word of God seems to promise a much better affect if I will give my attention to the good things that God has provided. I would encourage you to join me in taking some time each day to write one or more things that give you reason to be thankful for the next month. See if you can notice a difference in your attitude or even your health. Have a little party each day, eat a cookie or have a cup of tea in celebration, or whatever you choose, but make it a little party.
David also pointed out that when the older son found out about the party, he only wanted to complain and talk about what a good son he was. He sort of took the place of the religious leaders who were critical of Jesus for spending time with sinners. Let’s not be like them.
I also noticed that the father was watching for the lost son. Are we watching for the lost ones ready to welcome them back to the family of God with love and encouragement?
Walk with God this week and
Celebrate your blessings!

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Sacred Mysteries

Several years ago, I heard Jack Hayford  (the pastor of The Church on the Way, in VanNuys California) speak about mysteries. One thing he said was that mysteries involve things that are hidden and even when revealed, they remain mysteries. My wife is a reader. She enjoys reading mysteries. There are several mysteries by Agatha Christie that she has read several times, because even when she finds out who did it and how they did it the story is still a great mystery.
In God’s great dealings with men, I see that he reveals mysteries to us as we are ready to see them. The greatest is of course in Colossians 1:26-27.
“The mystery which has been hidden from ages and from generations, but has been revealed to His saints. for to them God would make known what are the riches of the glory of this mystery among the nations, which is Christ in you the hope of glory.”
This is The Great Mystery. In fact this is the mystery that we are exploring throughout this writing. The word Christ is a Greek word that is seldom translated in the different versions of the Bible. The word means; The anointed one. When kings and priests were inaugurated, the inaugurating officer would pour oil on his head to signifying a divine endorsement of the king or priest. in the case of Jesus, God truly did endorse him by giving Jesus His eternal Spirit. In the same way, God endorses his saints with an actual measure of His very Spirit. This is the very greatest mystery, and the more I learn of this mystery the greater it becomes.
In the communication of this Great Mystery, God has given us 3 lesser mysteries. Even so these mysteries are still far beyond our complete understanding. Marriage, Baptism and Communion (or The Lord’s Supper) are the 3 sacraments (or sacred rituals) of the church that God has given us to help us realize our potential as his children. These are sacred rituals, not because of some Church ruling, but because God established them.
The rest of this chapter is primarily my personal reflection about these mysteries. I am absolutely sure that I may be mistaken about much of what I will write here, but I am sharing the things that have been a help to me. So please weigh the following carefully and if you find things of value for your life give glory to God. If not pass on and leave these things for another time or abandon them altogether.
The first great mystery is marriage. Marriage was established by God in Genesis 2. In verse 18 God says, “...It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him an help meet for him.” And that is what he did. This is truly a miracle which is repeated when we marry in the Lord. Consider verse 2:24; “Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh.” Throughout the Bible story, marriage has been honored and considered very serious. God spoke to Joseph to encourage him to take Mary as his wife when she had been found to be pregnant with Jesus. Jesus first miracle took place at a marriage celebration. Then Jesus puts the seal on marriage when he says, “Wherefore they are no more two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let not man separate.”(Matthew 19:6) The Word of God says that marriage is a sacred union created by God. Later in Ephesians, Paul clarifies this a little when teaching about family relationships. He is speaking of the husbands place of sacrifice toward his wife; and then he quotes Genesis 2:24 immediately following with “This is a great mystery, but I speak concerning Christ and the Church.” (Ephesians 5:31-32)  It is impossible to explore all that marriage can show us, especially in this context, but please consider that marriage is a great mystery created and established by God.
The second great mystery that God has given the church is baptism. Baptism is another Greek word that has not been translated, but in stead re-spelled with our alphabet. The Greek word simply means to dip or immerse. Jesus validated baptism in what is called the great commission, when he said; “All authority is given to Me in Heaven and in earth. Therefore go and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things, whatever I commanded you. And, behold, I am with you all the days until the end of the world. Amen.”  (Matthew 28:18-20)
Later in the book of Acts in chapter 2, on the first day of Pentecost after Jesus’ resurrection, also called the birthday of the church, when the apostles of Jesus were filled with the Holy Spirit, Peter stood up in the Temple and spoke of the proof that Jesus is the Christ (anointed redeemer) of God.  When the people heard this message they were deeply moved and asked what they could do. Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ to remission of sins, and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” (Acts 2:14-38) As you read the book of Acts in many places, when people believed the gospel they were baptized. Refer to Acts 2:41,8:12, 8:36, 10:48, 16:15, 16:33. I have just listed the references to baptism, but take some time to read the whole story and see how people decided they should be baptized.
With baptism came the promise of the gift of the Holy Spirit. (ref.  Acts 2:38) This is at least part of the process of being born again. The great mystery of the new birth. Can I explain it? Do I understand it? No! Do I believe in it? Yes! with all my heart.
What can we learn from baptism? There are some clues in God’s word that I have found helpful. In Romans 6:1-5 Paul is talking about the change that should be happening when someone is born again. In verses 3-4 we can see this powerful illustration of the new birth in the sacrament of baptism.
 “...all we who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him through baptism unto death: that like as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we also might walk in newness of life.”
There is much to say about baptism, but primarily I hope that you can get a little idea that marriage and baptism are physical acts that we can participate in, that are directly linked to the miraculous work of redemption.
The final mystery that I will speak of at this time is Communion or The Lord’s Supper. After Abram rescued his nephew Lot, as he was returning to his home Melchizedek the king of Salem brought bread and wine and blessed Abram. This is the first reference to something that looks a lot like our communion (Genesis 14:18-20). Then in Exodus 12 we find the story of the children of Israel being delivered from bondage in Egypt. At this time God established the Passover feast. there was blood and there was unleavened bread. Because of the blood around the door, the angel of death passed over the houses of the Israelites. But in the houses of the Egyptians where the blood was not found the angel of death came in and killed the firstborn. Then the Egyptians drove the children of Israel from their land. That is how God delivered them.
On the night that Jesus was betrayed, he ate the Passover with his disciples.
And as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and blessed it, and brake it, and gave it to the disciples, and said, Take, eat; this is my body. And he took the cup, and gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, Drink ye all of it; For this is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins. (Matthew 26:26-28)
This event is also recorded in Luke 22:19-20 and in 1 Corinthians 11:23-26. Communion is an extremely great privilege. I do not think we can take it too seriously. PLEASE read these scripture verses carefully. Read them exactly. Then consider the instructions and warnings that follow in 1Corinthians 11:23-30.
God reveals himself in these sacred mysteries. Take time to read the references, think about what is said and ask God to show you what he wants you to see.

These things happen in the meeting of the Church. They belong to the church. They are for our encouragement and edification.