Sermon Leftovers - John 20:23

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In the message this last Sunday from John 20:19-29 we didn’t unpack one of the more interesting and misunderstood statements that Jesus makes. Take a look at verses 21-23 below.

 21 Again Jesus said, “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.” 22 And with that he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit. 23 If you forgive anyone's sins, their sins are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.”

 That last line might cause you to pause a minute and ask a couple of questions.
- Is Jesus saying WE have the power to forgive people of their sins?
- Is Jesus saying WE have the power to not forgive people?

 There are two things at play here.
First, we need to remember the context. Those who believe in Jesus are commissioned to spread God’s message on the Earth (v.21). This message is that Jesus is God, who came and died for our sins so that we could be forgiven and free. This connects with what Jesus says earlier in John’s Gospel, I told you that you would die in your sins; if you do not believe that I am he, you will indeed die in your sins (John 8:23).”

Second, Jesus has made it clear that he is now going to be with us through the Holy Spirit . This mean His presence is with us and empowering us to share this very message.

 So in light of this context it’s not that we or the church are forgiving or not forgiving sins it’s that we, by the power of the Holy Spirit, are to be messengers of Jesus forgiveness of sin, and in delivering the message we will recognize when people have accepted that message and are forgiven or they have rejected it and are not. This is actually pretty amazing! It means that we get to partner with Jesus in proclaiming the good news. Our response to this should be to ask and pray.

 Ask for more opportunities to share the life changing message and pray that those who hear it will respond and receive the forgiveness of Jesus.

Easter Continues

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By Pastor Andrew

He said it again.
I mentioned in my Easter message how my youngest son asked if he could have a Birthday more than once a year. Well, after a fantastic Easter day gathering with our church family in the morning and friends and family in the afternoon, my son asked the same question. “Papa, can we have Easter again tomorrow?” This time my answer was different though, I said, ‘Yes!’ Easter is different than a Birthday. Sure we celebrate it once a year but the promises that came with Jesus resurrection began on that day but they continue to this day.

Have you ever thought that real and lasting fulfillment (happiness, contentment) is waiting on the backside of some sort of accomplishment but once you got there it wasn’t? I’m raising my hand here. I’ve thought this hundreds of times about a job, relationship, or personal accomplishment. As we talked about on Easter Sunday, the world offers lots of promises of fulfillment but they all fail.

Jesus resurrection was both a finished work and an everlasting one. When he took our sin on himself and died, it lost all of its power over our lives. It could no longer separate us from God. It was finished. Now there is a new way for all of humanity, made possible by Jesus forgiveness of our sin. When Jesus rose from the dead he made this way known in the most dramatic way possible and on the backside of the resurrection is the promise of a fulfilled life. This promise is true and it lasts forever!

So celebrate Easter again today, and tomorrow. When you wrestle with sin, celebrate Easter because sin no longer has power of your eternity. When you look for fulfillment apart from Jesus and are let down once again, come back and celebrate Easter and be reminded of Jesus finished work. Easter is every day!

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade. This inheritance is kept in heaven for you,  who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time.

1 Peter 1:3-5

 

Palm Sunday

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This Sunday commemorates Jesus triumphal entry into Jerusalem and is called Palm or Passion Sunday depending on your tradition. All four gospels record this significant and prophetic event and I highly recommend you read them for yourself. You can find them in Matthew 21:1-11; Mark 11:1-11; Luke 19:28-44; and John 12:12-19. As I reread each account myself here are four things that stick out about this historic event that we still commemorate today.

Jesus fulfilled prophecy.
Not only was Jesus the long awaited King that the Jews had been longing for but his very entry into Jerusalem was just how it had been prophesied.
Zechariah 9:9 says, “Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout aloud, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your king is coming to you; righteous and having salvation is he, humble and mounted on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.” 
I can imagine that Jewish theologians had been trying to reconcile their picture of a King (think David or Solomon) with the idea that he would ride in on a little colt, his feet barely off the ground. Yet here he was, having given his disciples an awkward command on how to get the colt, fulfilling prophecy that had been written centuries earlier. This was a plot twist that I don’t think even Hollywood could dream up.

What’s with the Palms?
The imagery of palms was a part of the Jewish culture and often reflected honor and nobility. 1 Kings  chapter 6 and 7 record how Solomon had them as part of the sacred carvings of the temple. In Mark’s account of Jesus entry, people are spreading palm branches out on the ground along with their cloaks in what I imagine would be a sort of ancient red carpet that probably helped keep the dust down.

The significance of this honor paid to Jesus also foreshadows what is to come. In Revelation 7:9 there’s an incredible description of worship that – you guessed it – includes palm branches. So we see here Jesus is fulfilling the prophecy of Zechariah and also pointing forward to an even greater scene of worship that is to come.

Hosanna
The chances are pretty good that at some point you’ve sung a song at church with the word ‘Hosanna’ in it. As Jesus made his entry there was definitely some worship going on but what does Hosanna actually mean? It was a desperate cry from an oppressed people living under Roman rule that means ‘Oh save’ or ‘Save us now’.  He would certainly save them but not quite how they imagined.

Where’s the victory?
The Jews had been waiting and their King was finally here! Sure he was riding on a baby donkey and didn’t have a sword, armor, or an army but he was there none the less. As the shouts of Hosanna went out, everyone anticipated what this long awaited Kings next move would be. How would he save them? Would he be like David and his mighty men? Would he be like Solomon with wisdom and riches? “Save us now”, they cried!

One week later, many of these same people who had shouted ‘Hosanna’ would be shouting ‘Barabbas’ . They would trade their long awaited King for a thief and a murderer. He hadn’t fulfilled their image of a King or brought about their idea of salvation and so they turned on him.

But God in his sovereign grace had a plan that included a vastly different idea of what salvation was to look like, one that we’ll be celebrating this coming week. I’ll leave you with these words from Revelation 7:9-10.
“After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, " Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!"

That’s my King!

 

Like A Father

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A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows, is God in his holy dwelling.
- Psalm 68:5

No, the Father himself loves you because you have loved me and have believed that I came from God. I came from the Father and entered the world; now I am leaving the world and going back to the Father.
- John 16:27-28

See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!
- 1 John 3:1

God has the heart of a father.
It’s unavoidable.

The verses above are just three of the many passages that specifically reference God’s father heart. From the beginning of time, God’s father heart is displayed. Like a good dad, he gave Eve in marriage to Adam. Like a loving father, he adopted a people (Israel) as his own and changed the name of Abram to Abraham as a sign of his new relationship/covenant with him. Time and again, we see God’s heart on display. We rebel, he forgives. We forget, he remembers.

Eventually God has enough of this horribly broken, impossibly dysfunctional relationship, so he sends his son. Jesus – God in the flesh – lives, dies, and rises again so that we can all be adopted into God’s family. Through faith in Jesus we can be heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ – his children.  

God is our Father.
But this can be a problem.

Since we all have a father, we can’t help but transpose our relationship with our dads onto God. It’s almost impossible not to.
Was your dad distant? That’s probably how God feels.
Did you only get love from your dad when you did the right things? That must be how God is.
Did you only see your dad on the weekends or holidays? God’s really only present at church on Sunday.
Did you even know your Dad? God can’t really be known.

This is the problem we all face. If God is like a father, we naturally assume he’s like our own dad - for better or worse. Satan knows this, too. So he tells us things like, “God doesn’t really love you” or “You’re not doing enough for God to love you.” And we believe it, because it feels true.

But it’s not true. Not even close.

The father’s love that God displays is found in how Jesus acts and what the Bible says about his character. His is a perfect love, present in an imperfect world.

The truth is that “God demonstrates his own love for us – this way – while were still sinners Jesus died for us. “ (Romans 5:8) And God “…gives generously without finding fault.” (James 1:5) It’s never God who withdraws from us when we sin. We’re the ones that run from him. He’s not Santa Claus checking his list to see if you’ve been naughty or nice. He went looking for Adam and Eve in the garden and he was the loving father welcoming the prodigal home. And someday he’ll be the one that welcomes us into his amazing presence.

In order to fully walk out in the plans, purposes, and mission that God has for us, we have to know his heart. God has a perfect father’s heart that loves us unconditionally. It changes our identity and causes us to live like we are a part of his family. This kind of love causes us to run toward God, not away.

Further reflection:

How has your picture of the father heart of God informed your faith and impacted your relationship with him? What passage of scripture has illustrated this for you?

Trusting God In Uncertain Times

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If God really cares about injustice, why isn’t he doing something?
God may be hearing my prayers but he sure isn’t responding.
If God is actually doing something, I sure don’t understand it.
 
If you’ve ever had thoughts or questions similar to these, you’re not alone. The Old Testament prophet Habakkuk is recorded as saying and thinking things just like this. Unlike other prophets that spoke for God to the people, Habakkuk vented to God about what he saw. This may be one of those books you’ve read once in your lifetime or maybe have skipped over entirely, but it’s one that provides a perspective on God and the world we live in that is essential to understand. Over the next three weeks, starting this Sunday, we’ll be exploring the themes of Habakkuk together and I trust that what happened with Habakkuk in his conversation with God will also happen with us. Please plan on joining us for all three weeks and even inviting someone to come with you!

Sermon Leftovers - Men or gods?

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Our passage from this last Sunday wrapped up a section of the Gospel of John 8:12- 10:42 where Jesus has essentially been put on public trial by many of the religious leaders. Each time he has healed someone or appeared at a festival and taught, the response has been mixed. Some people have placed their faith in him and others have wanted him dead. This last Sunday we asked the question that seemed to be a core issue then just as it is today; Can we receive Jesus as Messiah (Christ) or will we keep looking to make someone or something else be our savior?  (If you missed it you can listen here.)

The passage Sunday in John 10:22-42 is a continuing declaration by Jesus of his identity as being one with God the Father. In the middle of this passage there is one thing we looked at closely as it relates to our hope and security in Jesus (v. 28-29) and one thing we didn’t (v. 34-35) and the latter could be a bit confusing. So, in this blog I want to answer the question, What did Jesus mean when he was talking about people being called ‘gods’?

Here’s the passage in question:
34 Jesus answered them, “Is it not written in your Law, ‘I have said you are “gods”? 35 If he called them ‘gods,’ to whom the word of God came—and Scripture cannot be set aside— 36 what about the one whom the Father set apart as his very own and sent into the world? Why then do you accuse me of blasphemy because I said, ‘I am God’s Son’?

 The first question is what Law is Jesus referencing here?
God fearing Jews would immediately have recognized that Jesus was quoting Psalm 82:5-6

5“The ‘gods’ know nothing, they understand nothing.
They walk about in darkness;
all the foundations of the earth are shaken.

6 “I said, ‘You are “gods”;
you are all sons of the Most High.’

So now there are two contexts we need to be aware of. The first is the more ancient context of what the writer of Psalms 82 was talking about and the second is the still ancient context of what was happening with Jesus that he would quote this Psalm.

Psalm 82

It’s important to remember that the Psalms fall into a poetic genre of literature. That means they often employ imagery that are meant to illustrate truth but not necessarily in a technical way. Psalm 82 is an indictment on those whom God has given authority to carry out judgement and justice on the earth but are failing to do so. Here, when men are referenced as ‘gods’ this term is designed to illustrate the designated authority from the one true arbiter of judgement, God himself. They have been given the right to speak and act as one with a god given authority…but they are failing in a big way.  

John 10:34-36

Jesus point in referencing Psalm 82 is to point out that they are being hypocritical in being ok with the Psalms language and not ok about him identifying himself as ‘God’s Son’. Especially because he has already demonstrated he is!

The Tough Questions Series

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The Bible is not a Lego manual for life. There are no step by step instructions on what to do in any and every situation you might face in your lifetime. Turn to page three for what to do when your child brings home an F. Turn to page 54 if you have an annoying neighbor.
The Bible is however a collection of God inspired writings that include different literary genres such as; history, narrative, poetry, prophecy, and letters. And as you’ve probably heard said in our Sunday gatherings, the Bible was not written to you but it was written for you. The Bible tells one big amazing story about God’s redemption of humanity and as 2 Timothy 3:16-17 says, All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.

Is the Bible relevant?

I’m glad you asked! If you only approach your understanding of the Bible and by extension your faith, as pertaining to the spiritual (unseen) things of life then it’s easy to think that the Bible has little real relevancy for our lives. However, the Bible makes it clear that the physical (seen) and spiritual (unseen) are inherently connected with each other. The Bible actually does have a LOT to say about how we’re to live as Christians in the 21st century.

Tough Questions?

Of all the places in our culture that we should be able to wrestle with our doubt and ask hard questions, it should be the internet. I’m kidding, that’s actually the worst place. We should be able to ask tough questions in the Church! A HUGE part of Jesus ministry was answering and asking tough questions. In doing so he pushed people to take a look at their own hearts and to really contemplate the truth. Enter the Tough Questions series…
We wanted to intentionally create space to address the relevant and sometimes tough issues of our day. The Tough Questions Series on the 2nd and 4th Tuesdays of the month are a time to examine why we believe what we believe and a forum for learning, conversation, and grappling with the truth. We would love to have you join us and even submit one of your own questions for an upcoming Tuesday. You can find out about upcoming topics by clicking here.