|(Slide 1 up) I am thinking of something that everyone has and that we often receive it during the same time period each day. It can bring pleasure or pain or uncertainty when we receive it. What it is?
(Slide 1a) It is a dream! We all have dreams and most of the time we have them during the night when we sleep (although some people work during the night.) Some dreams bring pleasure; some cause us to wake up upset or afraid. But we all have dreams.
The Bible speaks of dreams and some of dreams or visions that Biblical characters had are recorded. There is Jacob and his ladder to heaven; there is Paul and his dream in which he was caught up to the third heaven (whatever that means); there was John with his heavenly vision or dream that we read of in Revelation; and there was Joseph’s dreams that are a part of our text this morning.
In fact, I would suggest that dreams played a very prominent role in Joseph’s story. He had dreams and he interpreted dreams.
Dreams are the subject of much discussion and are a field of study within the field of psychology itself. What they mean is open to interpretation and while some people take dreams seriously others believe them to be insignificant.
(Slide 2) But Joseph took his dreams seriously. I would even suggest that Joseph dreams were God’s dreams of deliverance.
Let’s quickly review Joseph’s story.
Joseph is one of several sons born to Jacob, who was the son of Isaac who was the son of Abraham that we heard about last week. So Joseph was Abraham’s great-grandson.
Now according to Genesis 37:3, Jacob ‘loved Joseph more than any of his other children because Joseph had been born to him in his old age.’ The passage goes on to say, ‘his brothers hated Joseph because of their father’s partiality. They couldn’t say a kind word to him.’ (I hear the Smothers’ Brothers right now. ‘Mom liked you best!’) Some of us here understand the issue of favorites, don’t we?
Well in short order Joseph has two dreams which appear to his family as setting Joseph (the youngest) above the rest of them. Although, as Genesis 37:11 says, dad gave some thought to what Joseph dreamed.
But the brothers had enough and they sought to rid themselves of this brother they had become extremely jealous of. They were going to kill him but two of them (probably because they were having a change of heart) stopped the rest from doing so.
Instead, they sold him as a slave.
Well off Joseph went to Egypt while the brothers, went home to lie about Joseph’s ‘departure.’
Joseph now begins a life in Egypt first as a household servant that is sexually harassed and then wrongly accused of rape by his master’s wife which causes him to be unjustly thrown into prison.
Then in prison he meets two of Pharaoh’s, the Egyptian king, servants, the cupbearer and the chief baker. Both have dreams and share their dreams with Joseph who makes an interesting statement to them as we read in Genesis 40:8, ‘Interpreting dreams is God’s business.’
Joseph interprets the baker’s dream as a dream about his death. He interprets the cupbearer’s dream as a dream about his restoration. He correctly interprets both dreams.
So now Joseph becomes a dream interpreter. Joseph asks to be remembered by the men when they are released back to the King but he is forgotten, for two years, until Pharaoh has a couple of dreams that no one could interpret.
Then the cupbearer remembers Joseph and Joseph is brought before Pharaoh and correctly interprets his dreams as a forewarning about a coming famine and the need to stockpile food before the famine hits. Joseph’s success creates the condition for his selection as Pharaoh’s number two man in the entire nation and the head of the national Egyptian food bank.
Then when the famine hits, 7 years later, Joseph finds himself face to face with his brothers over whom he has the power to provide food and therefore life or death. Joseph’s wrestling with what I believe is his anger and his conscience is one of the most intense situations in the Bible. Eventually he and his brothers are reconciled and his family is spared starvation.
Both to the cup bearer and baker as well as to Pharaoh, Joseph makes it clear that he is not the one interpreting the dreams that they had but it is God who is doing that work through him. Joseph is also a wonderful illustration of how faithfulness to God pays off over the long term.
But what is it about Joseph’s dreams that should matter to us today? Why should this story be important for us right now at this time and place in our lives?
Joseph’s dreams were God’s dreams. They were one way that God spoke to Joseph. In and through them God revealed His plans and purposes to Joseph. But there are some things about God’s dreams we need to understand because His dreams, His plans and purposes for us, are larger than our dreams for us and others are.
(Slide 3) God’s dreams can create tension.
We see this illustrated in Joseph’s story. Joseph’s brothers were furious with him as he shared his dream. As we read in Genesis 37, they get the meaning of the dreams right away. ‘So you are going to be our king, are you?’ they tauntingly asked when he shares his first dream.
Then when he shares his second dream his father asks, “What do you mean?” … “Will your mother, your brothers, and I actually come and bow before you?”
Mocking someone else’s dream is not uncommon. Think with me for a moment about some of the dreamers of our recent history who envisioned products like the personal computer and the telephone or the airplane. Many scoffed at the Wright Brothers, Thomas Edison, Alexander Graham Bell, and others who had a vision for creating things, like the telephone and incandescent light that we take for granted today.
In Ephesians 6 we are reminded that the opposition that we face as we follow God’s vision, His dreams and purposes is not people but ‘the evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, …those mighty powers of darkness who rule this world, and … wicked spirits in the heavenly realms.’
God’s dreams are focused on the forgiveness of our sins and the spiritual opposition, led by Satan, is constantly at war with God on this front. And we are on the front lines. In fact, the front lines run right through our souls.
The opposition Joseph faced along the way because of the dreams that he had, were spiritual in nature even though they had a human face. Each of one of us can be an agent of either good or evil. We can be working to fulfill God’s dreams or our own selfish and sinful dreams.
But, in spite of all the opposition that Joseph faced he still believed in God and in God’s goodness and mercy. Those dreams that he had were God’s way of communicating to not just Joseph but his entire family that God, through Joseph, would take care of them.
Dreams have a way of creating tensions between the reality of everyday life and the visions we carry around within us. There is also tension in our redemption.
In Matthew 7 Jesus said, “You can enter God’s Kingdom only through the narrow gate. The highway to hell is broad, and its gate is wide for the many who choose the easy way. But the gateway to life is small, and the road is narrow, and only a few ever find it.’
Joseph could have given up and surrendered to his circumstances and surroundings. But he did not. He remained faithful on the ‘narrow’ way even though it was hard to do.
In Isaiah 55 we read, “My thoughts are completely different from yours,” says the Lord. “And my ways are far beyond anything you could imagine. For just as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts higher than your thoughts.
God’s dream for us, we have to admit is not the American dream. It is God’s dream, a higher, bigger, larger, and unbelievable dream. It is dream; a passion about our transformation into God’s ways and image.
(Slide 3A) God’s dreams creates maturity
In the early part of his story, Joseph seems to spend a great deal of time looking up because he kept finding himself on the bottom. It also seems that just about the time that his life would start to get going he would hit another pothole. (Slide 4) And we know what those potholes do, don’t we? They get our cars out of alignment.
But the Lord uses the potholes in Joseph’s life to shape him for the place that he ends up to save his family and his nation! God’s dream is realized!
One of the most memorable statements in this story is found in Genesis 45:5, ‘But don’t be angry with yourselves that you did this to me, for God did it. He sent me here ahead of you to preserve your lives.’
Joseph is the one who utters this statement. Now I don’t know about you, but I would probably have a great deal of trouble saying that to a group of people who wanted me dead.
But, Joseph probably could not have said this when he re-met his brothers. I think that part of the reason we read of his struggle to keep his composure is that the Lord was dealing with him at those points and bring him to a maturity that would allow him to do and say what was right.
I can recall a time in my life when I said, out loud, to a group of people, ‘There is no way I am going to be a pastor! I just can’t do it! I cannot talk to people about personal issues and their relationship with God like the pastor I had interned with could.’
I needed some maturity, I needed to have more life experience including some of my own tough times, so that I could talk to other about their life and their faith. But, God still called me to the ministry even though I thought that I would only serve in a church for a few years as a youth pastor and now a pastor. Those few have turned into 20 years.
What about you? Has God given you a dream? Is it, God’s dream? Is it God’s dream? Hear me, is… it… God’s …dream? If it is God’s dream and He has given it to you, then He will make it come true as He directs and we follow and obey by faith!
I have no doubt that Joseph struggled with doubt but, he had God’s dreams within his soul and heart. I don’t believe that he gave up on believing the God was going to do something on his behalf and maybe that of his family.
What are God’s dreams and why should they matter to us this morning?
They are different than our dreams…
They cause us to choose either God’s way or our way.
They require us to see and think differently than what our culture’s thinks that we should dream.
They are not just about ‘me’ for God’s dream is a corporate dream – redemption of the entire human community using the entire church community.
God‘s dream for Joseph’s family was the same as it was for Joseph… it was not enough for Joseph to be delivered – it was also God’s dream, His desire that the entire family be delivered because of the promise that God had made to Joseph’s great-grandfather, Abraham…
What is God’s dream for our church? I believe that this is an important question to ask ourselves on a regular basis.
And I suggest this morning that God’s dream for our church is found in Acts 1:8, ‘When the Holy Spirit has come upon you, you will receive power and will tell people about me everywhere—in Jerusalem, throughout Judea, in Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.’
God’s dream for our church is to be involved in the telling of the Christian gospel in both word and deed. How well are we doing?
Joseph’s story continues to the end of the book of Genesis. It ends with his family coming to Egypt and being spared from death through starvation. His father, Jacob dies and again Joseph assures his brothers that he will not seek revenge on his treatment by them because God worked it out so that many would be spared from death.
What strikes me about Joseph is that he appears to never loose his sense of whose he is, God’s, throughout his entire life time. And his father, as he is dying blesses Joseph’s two sons, as well as his other sons the names which become the names for the twelve tribes of Israel.
God’s dream is about our transformation from being sinners to being saints. (Now that’s a big dream!) It is about doing a great and powerful work with us and through us to become persons and the people of God.
I believe that we begin not only to dream God’s dream but live out God’s dream when we very, very consciously choose to, individually and corporately as the people of God, to live out:
(Slide 5) The Great Commandment to Love and the Great Commission to go and make disciples.
|Several years ago a friend e-mailed me a humorous and poignant reminder about the aging process and what aging entails. It is entitled, ‘What I Want in A Man’ (Slide 1)
What I Want In A Man, (at age 24)
3. Financially Successful
4. A Caring Listener
6. In Good Shape
7. Dresses with Style
8. Appreciates the Finer Things
9. Full of Thoughtful Surprises
10. An Imaginative, Romantic Lover
What I Want In A Man (at age 32) (Slide 2)
What I Want In A Man, (at age 42) (Slide 3)
What I Want In A Man, (at age 52) (Slide 5)
What I Want In A Man, (at age 62) (Slide 6)
What I Want In A Man, (at age 72) (Slide 7)
I want to ask this morning, a variation of this phrase, (Slide 8) ‘What do you want in God at your current age?’
Sources: Joel Liechty blog, ‘Thoughts of A Wandering Mind,’ ‘God is Mostly Me,’ the May 20, 2007 entry. http://joelliechty.blogspot.com/
Sabo story is found at:
|(Slide 1) In some of my reading this past week I have been reminded about the cost of following Jesus. Two of the stories were about two American pastors who believed in racial harmony enough to make a public stand for it in a time and a place that did not want it. Another was about a South American believer who opened his door to his would-be assassin only to have the man leave when he realized that he could not kill him.
Our main text for this morning, words of Jesus spoken moments after His final meal with the disciples, one of whom whose betrayal would lead to Jesus’ execution, are words that we do not often want to hear. But we need to hear them. We need to understand that the implications of following the Lord will sometimes cause us to face mockery (as Jesus did and would), abuse, perhaps physical as well as mental and verbal (as Jesus did), and that it will make us unpopular with current trends (as Jesus often was.)
Following Christ is a very important thing to do. Following Christ is something that Jesus Himself asked of His disciples and that He asks of us today.
Speaking of disciples, I want us to think for a few moments about the kind of disciples who sat around that table.
(Slide 2) Over the course of the three years they spent with Jesus, these twelve interesting and diverse group of men, would hear Jesus say numerous times that He would be betrayed. But it was only when He said to them, at that table, “one of you will betray me,” that they were so troubled and concerned they asked, “It isn’t me, is it?”
Why would they do that? We know the rest of the story and we know something about three or four of them, but about the others we know very little. But in their asking the question, ‘Is it I?’ we are aware that they were aware of their own shortcomings and fears that could create conditions for betrayal.
(Slide 3) What kind of disciples were these men?
(Slide 3a) They were human because sometimes their anger got the best of them and they wanted to call fire down from heaven on a place that was inhospitable to Jesus and them…
They were human because they were part of their culture in which certain groups and certain kinds of women would not be addressed or even acknowledged in the middle of the day at a well.
They were human because they found children to be a nuisance to grown ups instead of valuable and important.
(Slide 3b) They were fiery, fearful, impatient, confused, and hopeful.
We sit around the table fully aware of our own sinful tendencies and shortcomings… we know in our hearts that we have the potential to either to betray (or at least become inconsistently unfaithful toward) our Savior. We need to be reminded of the need for love and unity as two key indicators of commitment and faith just as they were told by Christ.
(Slide 4) But we are also like them in other ways… (Slide 4a) They were and we are messengers of forgiveness and salvation! St. Paul reminds us in 2 Corinthians 4:7, ‘But this precious treasure—this light and power that now shine within us—is held in perishable containers, that is, in our weak bodies. So everyone can see that our glorious power is from God and is not our own.’ They were and we are (Slide 4b) flawed but improving messengers that God has chosen to make known His salvation known. We are the ancestors of their efforts at going along through life and telling about Jesus.
(Slide 4c) They were just like us and we are just like them…
I want you to remember this morning that when we accept Christ into our lives as Savior that we became part of God’s great mission that is still on-going. We go as we are and as we are becoming.
As we prepare for communion there is a brief video clip that we are going to watch. It has an interesting twist to it however, for instead of a beautiful communion table inside a beautiful stained glass church, it is a card table set up in very public places around a city.
As you watch it, ask yourself this question, ‘How does the message represented in communion affect my daily life in the places that are shown on the clip?’
Sermon Spice clip ‘Rescue Me’ is shown. (Slide 5)
As followers of Christ, we are ordinary people on an important daily journey that reveals the power of resurrected Christ in our lives. Let us give thanks to God and re-commit ourselves to God’s mission in and through us. Amen. (Slide 6)
|(A meditation as part of a singspiration service that Sunday.)
|(Slide 1- Title Slide) The title of my meditation this morning, ‘Got Worship?’ is a play on the advertising phrase, ‘Got Milk?’ that has been used to underscore the importance of the nutrients of milk in one’s diet.
And just as important as milk is to our bodies, worship of the Lord is important to our souls.
This has been one of the busiest summers for me in many years. Vacation, our national camp meeting in Anderson, Siblings Camp, and the Habitat experience last week in Mississippi have made the past four or five weeks go by very, very quickly.
And I confess that sometimes my personal worship of God has been shortchanged during this time. I noticed it after vacation! It is good and important to worship!
In my research for this morning, I discovered a quote from Sir William Temple about worship: (Slide 2)
‘To worship is to quicken the conscience by the holiness of God, to feed the mind with the truth of God, to purge the imagination by the beauty of God, to open the heart to the love of God, to devote the will to the purpose of God.’
That is a wonderful definition of worship because it goes beyond, well beyond, our very functional view of worship as a couple of hymns and choruses, prayer, the offering, a message of some kind, and a conclusion.
Do you ‘have’ worship? Or does God, through worship of Him, ‘have’ you?
Notice the action words of Temple’s definition: (Slide 3) quicken, feed, purge, open, and devote. All of these actions are, to be noted, going in two directions – from us to God and God to us for as we worship God it opens us to these ways of God working in us.
Music is a very helpful (and fun) avenue to worship. Have we not been moved today as we have sung?
Our main text for today has underscored the importance of music in praising and worshipping the Lord:
Let the godly sing with joy to the Lord,
for it is fitting to praise him.
Praise the Lord with melodies on the lyre;
make music for him on the ten-stringed harp. Sing new songs of praise to him;
play skillfully on the harp and sing with joy.
I don’t know about you, but when there have been difficult and challenging times in life, when I have needed a word of encouragement or comfort, it has often been a phrase of verse of a song – hymn and chorus – that has been brought to my mind.
The musical heritage of the Christian faith is too rich to limit to one style of music. In all the generations of faith, there have been, and there currently are, musical statements of worship and faith that God uses to minister His grace and mercy to us.
For me, I cannot do without ‘Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord God Almighty,’ anymore than I can do with out, ‘Come, Now is the Time to Worship.’ I need to sing, ‘Great is thy faithfulness, O God my father,’ as much as I need to sing, ‘Open the Eyes of My Heart, Lord.’
This morning, I want us to spend a moment to reflect again on Temple’s statement by considering how our conscience has been quickened, our minds fed, our imaginations purged, our hearts opened, and our wills devoted to, by, and for the Lord, in our worship service this morning.
What have we sung, which has challenged our conscience, fed our minds (and hearts as well), purged our imaginations of second class things, opened our hearts (and minds) to God’s love, and strengthened our wills to serve God?
Think about it for a moment, no answering back.
What might be God asking of you? Or reminding you of?
Finally, I want us to remember that in the end, praise and worship of God will still be around after all the other things we get excited and concerned about have gone…
‘After this, I heard the sound of a vast crowd in heaven shouting, “Hallelujah! Salvation is from our God. Glory and power belong to him alone. His judgments are just and true… Again and again their voices rang, “Hallelujah! The smoke from that city ascends forever and forever!” Then the twenty-four elders and the four living beings fell down and worshiped God, who was sitting on the throne. They cried out, “Amen! Hallelujah!”
I hope and pray that each one of us will be a part of that vast and great crowd who will join in shouting and praise our God and Savior on that day. In the meantime, stay faithful and PRAISE HIM! Amen!
|(1) [In the movie Toy Story} Buzz Lightyear, discovers that he is not the ‘Space Ranger out to save the universe’ that he thinks he is. He realizes that he is a toy when he sees a commercial featuring him available at the local toy store.
As a result of this devastating situation, Buzz finds himself in the grip of a kind little girl who makes him a tea time partner named Mrs. Nesbit complete with apron. Well, character sidekick, Woody rescues Buzz from his situation, but has a more difficult time getting him to remember that he is Buzz not Mrs. Nesbitt because self-pity has set in after having the illusion of his power and identity shattered.
Now I know that I have shared this illustration before but it illustrates one of the realities of sin and sinfulness when we face the truth that we are not who we think we are. But there is more to the story that I will share in a moment after this brief clip called ‘Wake.’
(2) Clip called ‘Wake’ from Bluefish TV.
(3) Buzz and Woody find themselves in the very serious and stressful situation of being at the mercy of the boy next door, Sid, who likes to destroy toys and will soon strap a large firecracker on the back of Buzz sending him into oblivion. The reason is due to a series of events caused by a wake of jealousy that Woody has toward Buzz creating conflict with Buzz as well as the other toys in the room.
This morning we are considering the second phrase of the 51-Word Bible, ‘Satan’s Deception.’ And I believe that his deception, which we have bought into, has created a wake of death, destruction, pain, and alienation with God and from the life we have been created to live.
This morning as we consider the seriousness of our sin and sinfulness, I would have us reflect on question raised in the clip, ‘What will the residue of your life leave?’
Dan Cornie tells about a man who purchased a white mouse to use as food for his pet snake. He dropped the unsuspecting mouse into the snake’s glass cage, where the snake was sleeping in a bed of sawdust.
The tiny mouse had a serious problem on his hands. At any moment he could be swallowed alive. Obviously, the mouse needed to come up with a brilliant plan.
What did the terrified creature do? He quickly set up work covering the snake with sawdust chips until it was completely buried. With that, the mouse apparently thought he had solved his problem.
The solution; however, came from outside. The man took pity on the silly little mouse and removed him from the cage.
Cornie concludes with this important insight, ‘no matter how hard we try to cover or deny our sinful nature, it’s fool’s work. Sin will eventually awake from sleep and shake off its cover. Were it not for the saving grace of the Master’s hand, sin would eat us alive.’
As we consider our main text for this morning, I cannot stress strongly enough that we need the empowering honesty of the Holy Spirit to deal not just with our sins but our sinfulness as well. But more about these two aspects of sin in a moment.
Our main text today is a very familiar passage of scripture to us. Perhaps we are too familiar with it. Let’s hear it again:
Now the serpent was the shrewdest of all the creatures the Lord God had made. “Really?” he asked the woman. “Did God really say you must not eat any of the fruit in the garden?”
“Of course we may eat it,” the woman told him. “It’s only the fruit from the tree at the center of the garden that we are not allowed to eat. God says we must not eat it or even touch it, or we will die.” “You won’t die!” the serpent hissed. “God knows that your eyes will be opened when you eat it. You will become just like God, knowing everything, both good and evil.”
In placing doubt… and desire… in Eve’s thinking we need to first understand (4) Satan knew and knows the ways of God. He overheard the conversation that is recorded in Genesis 2:16 and 17, ‘But the Lord God gave him this warning: “You may freely eat any fruit in the garden except fruit from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. If you eat of its fruit, you will surely die.”
Satan, who is historically called a fallen angel, knows the ways of God because of his place and stature as an angel. However, because he is fallen due to his rebellion against God, there is another observation to be made about this passage.
(4a) Satan misleads us by lying to us. ‘You won’t die!’ he says to Eve. In saying this he misleads her, and ultimately Adam as well, because he lies to them about the results of their actions.
Five years ago Reuter’s news service published a report out of England about the World’s Biggest Liar contest that took place at a pub in Northern England. It noted that ‘George Kemp beat five-time winner John Graham last year with a string of tall tales including one about his grandfather’s greyhound which he said stopped in the middle of a race to have pups and then went on to win, followed by the puppies. The winner gets the princely sum of 25 pounds ($40) in cash, a tie proclaiming them the World’s Biggest Liar and a silver cup they can keep for a year.’
I don’t think that lying pays that well. In fact, as we read the rest of this story and the rest of the Bible, we see the price of believing the Devil’s lies and we experience the cost of them as well.
Satan misleads Eve by getting her to doubt God’s intentions and isn’t that thy way he can get us off track as well?
If we are working on deepening our faith doesn’t he ask, ‘Do you have time for this? Doesn’t your family need time? Don’t you have an appointment? Aren’t you going to say yes to overtime again this week?’ The next thing you know, the Bible and prayer and worship and fellowship get moved down the list of priorities and we wonder why we struggle with faith and trust in God. Turbulence from the wake of neglect and even disobedience to what we know is right then causes us to lose control and momentum and we falter and fail.
What takes place in this very strategic passage of scripture continues to take place millions of times a day as the voice of Satan, slyly spoken in various ways and situations, continues to whisper in our ears and souls, questions that create doubt and desire. ‘Did God really mean that? Do you believe that will happen or not happen to you?’
In James chapter 1 beginning with verse 13 we read, ‘And remember, no one who wants to do wrong should ever say, “God is tempting me.” God is never tempted to do wrong, and he never tempts anyone else either. Temptation comes from the lure of our own evil desires. These evil desires lead to evil actions, and evil actions lead to death.”
The question that Satan asks Eve that day in Paradise creates not just doubt but desire as we read further in Genesis 3 starting with verse 6, ‘The woman was convinced. The fruit looked so fresh and delicious, and it would make her so wise! So she ate some of the fruit. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her. Then he ate it, too.’
Action is preceded by desire and decision. Whether or not we are fully aware of our desires within that we act upon, they are there as part of our decision making process as James makes clear in the passage that we just read, ‘Temptation comes from the lure of our own evil desires.’
I wonder how close was Eve to the tree when Satan started talking to her? Did she get closer and closer to the tree as the serpent talked to her? Did she run to the tree as soon as the desire fully embraced her and overpowered her will to say no?
We don’t know but we know the outcome. Her decision, Adam’s decision created a wake that has affected us and in turn we, by our own choices, have created as well. The residue of Adam and Eve has affected humanity ever since they made the choice to disobey God.
(5) Sin left its wake that day in two ways. (5a) First, it left its wake in Adam and Eve’s act of disobedience and second in their (5b) attitude of disobedience.
(6) Wiley and Culbertson indicate that there are four words used in the Bible to describe sin. (6a) The first word is ‘hamartia’ which carries the idea of missing the mark or right way. Romans 3:23 is probably the best illustration of this word when Paul writes, ‘For all have sinned; all fall short of God’s glorious standard.’
(6b) The second word is ‘parabasis’ which describes sin as a transgression as in Romans 4:15 which says, ‘But the law brings punishment on those who try to obey it. (The only way to avoid breaking the law is to have no law to break!)’
(6c) The third term is ‘adikia” which means ‘the bending or perverting of that which is right.’ 1 John 5:17 is an illustration of this verse which says, ‘Every wrong is sin, but not all sin leads to death.’ It is a word that speaks of the condition or state of sin that has distorted our heart and soul.
(6d) The final word is ‘asebia’ or ungodliness. Paul uses it in Romans 1:18 which says, ‘But God shows his anger from heaven against all sinful, wicked people who push the truth away from themselves.’ Wiley and Culbertson say that this term ‘carries with it the thought of a character unlike God and a state or condition characterized by the absence of God.’
With regard to the first term, Adam and Eve truly miss the mark of ‘God’s glorious standard’ with their decision and action. They illustrate the second term with their willful transgression of God’s rule to not touch or eat.
The third term is illustrated in the internal choice and desire to break God’s rule. The fourth term is illustrated in their running away and hiding after they realized what they had done.
Sin, then is not just about doing what is wrong, but about our desires and attitudes that tempt us to do what is wrong. Jesus gets at this deeper influence of sin in Matthew 5 when he talks about what the Jewish Law says in terms of behavior but He recasts in terms of attitude and desire.
“You have heard that the law of Moses says, ‘Do not murder. If you commit murder, you are subject to judgment. But I say, if you are angry with someone you are subject to judgment! If you call someone an idiot you are in danger of being brought before the high council. And if you curse someone, you are in danger of the fires of hell…’
‘“You have heard that the law of Moses says, ‘Do not commit adultery. But I say, anyone who even looks at a woman with lust in his eye has already committed adultery with her in his heart.’
“You have heard that the law of Moses says, ‘A man can divorce his wife by merely giving her a letter of divorce.’ But I say that a man who divorces his wife, unless she has been unfaithful, causes her to commit adultery. And anyone who marries a divorced woman commits adultery…’
Now today is a wonderful day, it is Sunday, it is graduation day for many, it is a time of celebration and worship. It would seem that those themes would be great subjects to preach on… and they are. This is a time to affirm 18 year olds who are ready to step into the adult world. It is a time to encourage them and root them on… and we do! It would seem then that all of this talk about sin is negative and out of place… It isn’t!
It is necessary because the world is a flawed and broken place. And it is a flawed and broken place because of the residue, the wake, left by Adam and Eve a long time ago. But… there is good news!
‘We have been forgiven!’ Sin does not have to have power over us anymore! We can be free from the power of and the death that sin brings! Jesus made that possible! Life can be lived better and with a greater peace and joy because of what Christ has done for us!
The most important thing that can be said to graduates today is that God cares and God loves and God forgives!
(7) Eventually, in the thick part of the plot, Buzz comes to realize that there is a little boy who loves his toys, including him and Woody, and that realization causes Buzz to take responsibility for himself and Woody and they work together to get free and reunited with Andy and the rest of the gang.
There is great freedom in forgiveness. When we confess our sins to God and we admit that we have done wrong; when we allow the Holy Spirit to ‘deep clean’ us and invite Him into to our hearts and souls; when we admit to God that not only have our actions but our attitudes have been wrong; and we truly repent of our sins, there is freedom!
There is an old hymn that asks the question, ‘Would you be free from the burden of sin? There’s power in the blood!’
I believe with all of my heart this morning that only when we are truly sorry for our sins and we are willing to deeply and honestly repent of them can we begin to live a life of peace and hope. But we have to take sin seriously!
We have to acknowledge that we are not who we think we are. We have a problem that we have to admit to and only when we admit that problem, namely that we are sinful and we need the forgiveness of God that comes only through Jesus Christ, and accept God’s solution of confession and repentance, are we victorious.
How is it with you and God this morning? Are you at peace with Him? Are you living forgiven? As you look back at your life to this day, what kind of a residue, what kind of a wake have you left? Where does God need to come in and work to straighten things out?
The past cannot be undone. But it can be owned and acknowledged and repented of. The future residue, if you will, the future wake that we leave, if you will, can be better, it can be different.
This morning I invite you to confess and repent as you need to. The altar is open. Use it as you need to. (8) Live victoriously! Amen.
Cornie illustration and Reuter’s story is from www. Sermoncentral.com
|(1) One of the books in our family library is a children’s book entitled, ‘The Blah’ by Jack Kent. It is the story about a young boy who feels like ‘a blah’ when no one pays attention to him and then gets very upset when his older brother steps on a prized crayon as he is coloring which then leads him to imagine himself leading an army of blahs against the terrible crayon breaker, older brother Billy. One of the things he says to himself in the story is that ‘no one pays attention to a blah.’
This morning I want to share, especially with our graduates, that we are not blahs or blobs of meaningless matter. We are, to quote the Psalmist, ‘fearfully and wonderfully made.’
(2) In addition to our honoring our grads today, we are also beginning a new series, ‘Hearing the Word of God’ based on the phrases written by Ron Forseth that he calls, ‘The 51 Word Bible’ that he composed as part of his 25 ways to engage the Bible. (3) Here is the 51 word Bible:
God’s Creation! Satan’s Deception. Adam’s Consumption. Noah’s Boat. Abraham’s Faith. Joseph’s Dreams. Pharaoh’s Oppression. Moses’ Escape. Doubters’ Wandering. Joshua’s Conquests. Judges’ Strength. David’s Slingshot. Solomon’s Wisdom. Prophets’ Proclamations. Israel’s Scattering.
Mary’s Delivery! Jesus’ Miracles. Rabbi’s Lessons. Lamb’s Death. Resurrection! Spirit’s Arrival. Disciples’ Testimony. Paul’s Letters. Churches’ Multiplication. World’s Demise. Heaven’s Triumph!
We are going to spend time over the next several months looking at these phrases because they provide us with a significant overview of the Bible that I believe will help us in personal and corporate Bible study.
Our first phrase, ‘God’s Creation,’ fits in line with our text and our context this morning because the main point that I stress to our grads today is that we are not blahs or blobs but that we are fearfully and wonderfully made because God created us.
And this is important to note because as you move into adulthood through college and/or work you will (if you already haven’t) encountered people who think God, faith, and Christianity is a stupid and fruitless pursuit. It is not!
In our main text this morning we read the Christian perspective of human creation, ‘So God created people in his own image; God patterned them after himself; male and female he created them.’ This verse and the chapter in which it appears leaves a great deal open for discussion and interpretation but behind it all is that we are here on earth because God created us to be and there was, and is a purpose for our existence.
A great deal of discussion and debate has been taking place in recent years between those who believe that our earth, universe, and us have merely evolved out of something else. Much has been made of what some call the ‘small gap’ between the apes and we humans. Now from a biological perspective there are some similarities between our genetic make up and other mammals.
Long will I remember a 20 to 30 minute event at the Toledo Zoo about 2 or 3 years ago when a then young gorilla put on a show for us as he frolicked and romped around his habitat. He was sooo cute and cuddly, but as we have since passed through that outstanding exhibit, he has gotten bigger and bigger.
They are fascinating and magnificent creatures. But while we share certain biological characteristics with them we are not the same although God created both them and us! They may seem human to us but they are not human! After all who shoots and poaches the other one on the one hand then seeks to save them and their habitat on the other hand?
What scripture does not give a full account of in scientific terms is made up for in mystery that requires faith. We do not have the full details of the 6 days of creation laid out for us but we do know that it was by divine design, not a random act or process, that this magnificent place we call earth, and the wonderful animal and plant kingdoms with which we co-exist, were created.
I have been reading the book, ‘The Language of God: A Scientist Presents Evidence for Belief,’ by Dr Francis Collins.
Dr Collins is a devout believer and a geneticist who lead the mapping the human genome which is as the Encarta Dictionary says, ‘the full complement of genetic information that an individual organism inherits from its parents, especially the set of chromosomes and the genes they carry.’ In other words he helped to map out our DNA that is a very basic part of life structure. I studied genetics in high school and college but it was very rudimentary compared to the hundreds and thousands of hours he has spent on studying and understanding human DNA.
In early 2000 he and a group of researchers announced the first mapping of the human genome. It was a big deal and it was announced with pomp and circumstance. It was accorded a White House press event during which he said, ‘It’s a happy day for the world. It is humbling for me, and awe-inspiring, to realize that we have caught the first glimpse of our own instruction book, previously known only to God.’ He went on to say that he said what he said because the sequencing was ‘both a stunning scientific achievement and an occasion of worship’ because in his view, ‘there is no conflict in being a rigorous scientist and a person who believes in a God who takes a personal interest in each one of us.’
(4) Let’s return to our main text for this morning and take a closer look at it.
(4a) God created people in his own image…
What our text says is that God, a Higher Power, Our Heavenly Father, the One who sent Jesus to die for our sins, is our creator…
The Judeo-Christian perspective as outlined in Genesis 1 and 2 say that God is the creator of our world and our existence. His choice to create us was His choice. Why did He do so? An ancient statement of our faith gives us a hint, ‘The chief end of man is to glorify God.’
(5) In Psalm 8 we read: ‘When I look at the night sky and see the work of your fingers—
the moon and the stars you have set in place—
what are mortals that you should think of us, mere humans that you should care for us? For you made us only a little lower than God, and you crowned us with glory and honor. You put us in charge of everything you made, giving us authority over all things— the sheep and the cattle and all the wild animals, the birds in the sky, the fish in the sea, and everything that swims the ocean currents. O Lord, our Lord, the majesty of your name fills the earth!’
Arno Penzias, a Nobel Prize winning scientist whose co-discovery of our universe’s ‘background noise’ has contributed to the Big Bang theory has written, ‘The best data we have are exactly what I have predicted, had I nothing to go on but the five books of Moses, the Psalms, the Bible as a whole.’
For us then to be created in God’s image, is an act of utter greatness and love that our minds have trouble comprehending but our hearts and souls resonate with. But because we are, we have been given characteristics of personality and abilities of our Heavenly Father.
(6) This leads us to the second phrase of our text, God patterned them after himself…
Because God created us in his own image we are patterned after God. Wiley and Culbertson have written that there are two types of images that we need to be aware of as it relates to being patterned after God.
The first is the natural image of God. They indicated that this may be ‘conveniently summed up under the term ‘personality’’ which they say includes ‘spirituality, knowledge, and immortality.’
The second is the ‘moral image of God.’ which they sum up in the word, ‘holiness.’ One they basically conclude, cannot be lost in any one but the other, the moral image, is amissible’ or ‘not as it should be.’
As we will see in the future, Satan’s Deception and Adam’s Consumption (to quote from the 51 word Bible,) creates a fatal flaw in our moral character that the Bible calls sin. But we still matter to God and went Jesus came to die on the cross for our sins, He did so that our moral nature could begin to be reshaped into what it once was… as God intended it to be.
The final phrase is an important one… (6a) male and female he created them…
In Genesis 2 we have more detail of humanity’s formation by God’s hands. In verse 7 we read, ‘And the Lord God formed a man’s body from the dust of the ground and breathed into it the breath of life. And the man became a living person’ and over in verses 18 and 21 and 22 we read, ‘And the Lord God said, ‘It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a companion who will help him… So the Lord God caused Adam to fall into a deep sleep. He took one of Adam’s ribs and closed up the place from which he had taken it. Then the Lord God made a woman from the rib and brought her to Adam.’ How can it more simply said than this… men and women are both creations of God and both men and women matter to God and are worthy of respect and dignity?
God, in His wise observation saw that there was something missing for Adam and because there was something important about companionship, something that we cannot live without, God saw to it that we do not have to live alone!
So we are not blobs or blahs who have a meaningless journey through what we call reality. We are people! We have value and meaning and purpose in the eyes and heart of our Creator!
Our value in life is more than to organization we work for, the company we keep, or the family we are raised in. Yet while those groups are important to us, our most important value is to our Creator because in the end, at the end, it is to Him, and Him alone that we will answer for how we have lived our lives in light of His purpose and plan.
(7) This morning, I challenge our grads, and really all of us, with the challenge that Joshua offered to the Israelites as they began a new chapter in their history as Joshua was moving toward the end of his life and career as their leader. Joshua 24:14 and 15, “So honor the Lord and serve him wholeheartedly. Put away forever the idols your ancestors worshiped when they lived beyond the Euphrates River and in Egypt. Serve the Lord alone. But if you are unwilling to serve the Lord, then choose today whom you will serve. Would you prefer the gods your ancestors served beyond the Euphrates? Or will it be the gods of the Amorites in whose land you now live? But as for me and my family, we will serve the Lord.”
Grads, serve the Lord no matter what, where or when. Serve and follow Him when it is easy and when it is hard. Serve Him by using all of the gifts and talents that He has given you. Bloom where He plants you! Make a difference for Him in the work, family, and communities that you will do and enter into in the years ahead.
We praise God and celebrate with you this day! Congrads! Amen.
Collins quotes are found on pages 6 and 7 of his introduction to his book, The Language of God: A Scientist Presents Evidence for Belief.
Penzias quote is found in Collins’ book.
Wiley and Culbertson are quoted in their Introduction to Christian Theology.
|(1) Last week I shared a quote from Rueben Job that began, ‘Most of us do not wait well.’ He went on to say, ‘Jesus asked the disciples to wait in Jerusalem until they received the promised power to meet all that lay ahead of them as well as an advocate to teach them all that they needed to know.’
He then made a very important observation, ‘It must have been hard to wait. They were under suspicion by the authorities; they wanted to get on with their lives; how did they know that waiting would make any difference? The disciples were obedient to the command of Jesus, though, and their obedience was rewarded with power and a companion.’
10 days have passed since Jesus returned to heaven under the remaining disciple’s overwhelmed and amazed gaze. That’s nearly a week and a half of waiting. It had been 50 days, nearly two months, since the Resurrection had taken place. But they waited in Jerusalem as Jesus had commanded them to do as we read in Acts chapter 1. And because they waited they experienced the power of God in their lives like never before.
What is hard for you to wait on? What tests your patience more than anything else?
Is faith worth waiting on and for? Is forgiveness worth waiting on and for? Is hope worth waiting on and for? Is love worth waiting on and for? Is God worth waiting on and for? I believe that they are! As impatient as I am at times, God and all that He offers me is worth waiting on and for.
We don’t know how hard it was for those gathered together to wait although Job makes a very salient point that they were under suspicion and that they wanted to get on with their lives. Waiting then is often a pressure cooker experience.
I remember waiting for my wedding ceremony to begin and I expected that it would start promptly at 6 PM because that was the time it said on the invitation. I was told that you wait for all the guests to be seated before you start. I didn’t care! It was their fault they were late! We were going to start at 6 PM! Well, everyone did get seated on time and we began on time. (I have photographic proof that we started at 6 PM!)
I also remember another time of waiting due to a less, very much less, pleasant experience. It came during middle school when I became the target of the neighborhood bully who loved to give me a daily kick in the seat of the pants.
I dreaded the wait getting on and off of the bus. He was bigger and stronger than I was and I did not want to get into a tangle with him. I don’t remember how long this went on, it seemed forever, but it was probably a couple of weeks, but all of that changed one day when he smarted off on the bus to the biggest kid on the bus who got off at our stop and expressed his displeasure.
I was never bothered again by him. (Maybe it was because I picked up his glasses and gave them to him after everyone had left. But I don’t know.) Sometimes we have waited for things that we dread to hear or experience.
(2) One of my favorite Bible verses is Isaiah 40:31, ’But those who wait on the Lord will find new strength. They will fly high on wings like eagles. They will run and not grow weary. They will walk and not faint.’ I believe this to be true. I have experienced it in my life and I have seen it happen in the lives of others. I have also experienced the results of impatient waiting and have found that it often creates a bigger mess than patient waiting.
I think of Abraham whose fear of being killed caused him to not wait for God to help but instead put him and his wife in an embarrassing situation as we read in Genesis 12. Gordon MacDonald suggests that Abraham (then called Abram) should have waited on God to provide for them instead of going to Egypt to wait out the famine and getting himself, and his wife, in trouble.
Fear, greed, lust, anger, impatience, you name it, a whole host of things can cause us to lose our place in line forcing us to go to the back. The ‘grass is greener’ myth can also force us to understand why waiting is hard to do.
But the disciples did what Jesus ask them to do, they waited, and waited, and waited… so that they would be empowered to become witnesses filled with a power and an ability not of their own making. Anthony de Mello has written, (3) ‘The Holy Spirit is given to those who watch and pray and wait patiently, those who have the courage to get away from everything and come to grips with themselves and with God in solitude and silence.’
I believe that the disciples came to grips with themselves and with God in those 10 days of waiting. I also believe that there was a reason for those 10 days of waiting.
We find the reason as we go deeper into the Biblical background and discover that the Day of Pentecost took place during the Jewish Festival of Harvest. It was one of the three major festivals celebrated in the Jewish faith and it was celebrated in Jerusalem that would swell in population as Jews from other nations came there to celebrate the festival. Verse 5 in Acts 2 confirms this, ‘Godly Jews from many nations were living in Jerusalem at that time.’
So God, in His great wisdom, sends the Holy Spirit at a time when a great number of people are present at the place where God the Son told the disciples to remain. (Isn’t God smart?)
The results of this strategy are that a large number of people from many nations hear the gospel in their own languages right now! Waiting pays off!
How long might it have taken for the gospel to be told if the disciples had been sent to various locations to learn the language first? God jump starts the birth of the church and the Christian faith in one moment of action because key people in His plan, waited…
(4) This past week we have mourned and remembered a young man who gave his life for his country in Iraq. Waiting has been difficult for his family, his friends, and those who knew him here. Waiting for his body to be returned. Waiting for the caring greeting of family and friends. Waiting for the funeral and the burial. Waiting for the grief and silence which comes afterward.
We not only remember Nick Hartege but we also remember others in other times and places who gave of their lives as well. Their faces are still very vivid to those who went into battle along side them and the memories of war and death remain ever strong today.
(5) As we move toward communion, we also remember another night of waiting: We remember the disciple’s anxious waiting as they are confronted by Jesus with the statement ‘one of you will betray me’ and the uneasy wrestling they had with their conscience. We also remember Jesus’ waiting… in the garden as He wrestled with the Father’s will and what lied ahead for Him… in the courtyards and before Pilate and Herod as they passed their judgment (or non judgment) on Him… in the midst of the Roman soldiers who beat him with lead tip whips into an unrecognizable condition, waiting for the next blow, and the next, and the next to fall on Him. (6)We remember the waiting that takes place at Calvary when Jesus hangs from the cross as His mother looks on…
I have been reading an interesting conversation between a Christian and an atheist as they discuss the question, ‘Is Christianity Good for the World?’ One of the statements that caught my attention as I read it with this day and this weekend in mind was uttered by the Christian named Douglas Wilson, ‘it is good for the world because Jesus died for the life of the world.’
We are the beneficiaries of waiting and the sacrifice of waiting… both politically and spiritually because the sacrifice of others on our behalf, including a living sacrifice, has made it possible as we stand here today because God sent Jesus to die for our sins and wrongs and because young men and women have died in places far away so that we don’t have to over here. Are you grateful for this? I am.
(7)And as we prepare for communion I would suggest to each of us today that one of the ways that we honor both those who have sacrificed for our country and our faith is we make the sacrifice of faith and commitment for those who come after us so that both political freedom (as well as responsibility) and spiritual freedom in Christ (as well as the responsibility that is there) is offered and enjoyed by the generations that are to come. May all who come behind us find us faithful and may we also wait on the Lord and experience the strength and power of the Holy Spirit as we do so. Amen.