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#Qualities#NewCovenant

Sunday, January 12th, 2020

I’m thinking that sometimes we who are Christ-followers really do miss out on the importance of the New Covenant over the Old. Now…before I say even more I want to make one thing very clear: I am in no way discounting the importance of the Old. The TRUTH is that we miss out on a lot of the meaning of the New by discounting the Old and we miss out on the observances of the Old by relegating it to “non-person” status. The power of the New Covenant is enhanced by our understanding of the Old.

In my sermon Sunday I brought to light 8 distinctive qualities of the New Covenant as found in 2 Cor. 3:6-18. I’d like to share them with you but also ask you to go to your Bible and see them for yourself. Underline and highlight them and use them to earn a greater appreciation for what we have. Here they are:

  1. It gives life. (v.6) Check out this verse on your own. “The letter kills but the Spirit gives life.” What a powerful statement against legalism. I’d almost say it was this one verse that solved the mystery for me years ago.
  2. It produces righteousness. (7a,8-9) The phrase “now if” can be translated as “since.” Since the law was a ministry of condemnation it could not offer righteousness. That could only come through Christ.
  3. It is permanent. (7b,10-11) Just as Moses’ covered reflection faded, so does the Old Covenant. The glory of God never fades away.
  4. It brings hope. (12) Those under the law had no hope, which also meant (are you ready for this?) no forgiveness of sins. Hope is the confident belief that God will fulfill all the promises of His New Covenant. It is a hope the Law could not offer.
  5. It is clear. (13-14a) Moses had to put a veil over his face after being in God’s presence.  He did that for two reasons: to hide the blazing glory of God, and to hide that it was fading. In contrast, the New Covenant reveals the mysteries of God that were obscure in the Old. All those sacrifices. All those rules. All those rituals.
  6. It is Christ-centered. (14b-16,18a) The veil which obscured the Old Covenant was removed in Christ, and was made plain in Him.
  7. It is energized by the Spirit. (17) The same God who gave the Old gave the New. The same God who gave the Law is the same God who gave salvation to all. The same God who gave the rules and regulations of the Old is the same God who set us free through the ministry of the Holy Spirit.
  8. It is transforming. (18b) We are daily being transformed in the image of Jesus.

There is no doubt the New Covenant is superior to the Old. Let’s not denigrate the Old; let’s just remember its place and purpose. Galatians tells us it was a “schoolmaster to lead us to Christ.”  Paul was upset with the Galatians that they were going back to the “old ways of the Law.” Let’s not go backwards. Let’s move forward in faith.

#PostModernism#Feelings

Sunday, January 5th, 2020

In my last post I talked about my sermon theme for 2020: TRUTH.  I’d like to expand on that a little in this post and then in my next post say a bit more.

A number of years ago a philosophy made its way to the forefront of our culture and eventually into the church. That philosophy was called Postmodernism. It is much more complicated than I am going to tell you, but I don’t want to muddy the waters too much by complicating things.

The basic premise for postmodernism is there is not absolute truth. In place of absolute truth postmodernism said we can trust our feelings. Whatever you feel is the way to go.

Does that sound scary to you? It does to me.  Some of you will remember a song by Debbie Boone called You Light Up My Life.  It had the lyrics in it which said, “It can’t be wrong; it feels so right. ”  When you shake Postmodernism down to its basics it is safe to say that the only absolute seems to be there are no absolutes, and the only truth is there is no truth.  It is not uncommon to hear someone say, “You have your truth; I have mine.” Chances are good that our truths will not sync up because we are using two separate platforms.  I mean…how can someone who uses the Bible and God’s truth as his/her basis have the same outcome as someone who has no basis for truth whatsoever?

Romans 1:16 tells us the Gospel of Jesus Christ is the truth. But we also read in verse 18 that to suppress the truth always leads to believing a lie. Take out truth and everything is up for grabs.  Rebecca McLaughlin in her book Confronting Christianity (my choice for 2019 Book of the Year) quotes Nicolas Kristof, a liberal journalist. See if this doesn’t ring a bell.

We (liberals) champion tolerance, except for conservatives and evangelical Christians. We want to be inclusive of people who don’t look like us-so long as they think like us.

My next post will highlight 4 marks of truth. Meanwhile, ask yourself this question: what or who is the basis for my truth-God’s Word or my feelings?

#ChristmasChallenge#Post25

Wednesday, December 25th, 2019

This will be my last #ChristmasChallenge post for this year. I thank each of you who have taken the time to drop by and read and even comment. Thanks for giving up some of your precious time to come to my world and spend a little time with me.

So…what could I do as the final post? That haunted me yesterday as I pondered it. I decided to do what we all need to do. Remember that old commercial when the telephone companies (when they still had phone books) would say, “Let your fingers do the walking?” Well…I’m going to allow the Scriptures to do the talking.

“Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.” Isaiah 7:6

“For unto us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” Isaiah 9:6

“Do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins. All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet: ‘Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel.’ “ Mt.1:21-23

“Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David, a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be sign for you; you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger. And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, ‘Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased.’ “ Luke 2:10-14

May the truth of Scripture fill your heart with that which God has promised: LOVE. JOY. PEACE. HOPE.

Thanks to Ed and Diane, my fellow #ChristmasChallenge bloggers.

#ChristmasChallenge#Post 24

Tuesday, December 24th, 2019

Several years ago I listened to Country Music. Let me restate that: over 20 years ago I listened to CM. No more. But one singer I did like also did a Christmas Album: Collin Raye. As I read a Christmas devotional this morning the writer mentioned the story of Christmas Eve 1914 when the guns fell silent on the battlefield. The story is told in various ways and lengths but the basic fact is this: for a few short hours guns were silent and men in battle laid aside their common hatred for the other and spent time together. Personally, knowing me, I would have had a really tough time picking up my weapon and firing it at someone I just spent time with.

Anyway, Collin Raye did a song on his Christmas album called It Could Happen Again. With the help of Johnny Cash’s narration, the song’s message stands strong: if it could happen then it could happen again. Please take a moment to listen to the song.

May you know the PEACE that the song speaks of but more than that, may you know the true PEACE Jesus gives.

Join my fellow #ChristmasChallenge bloggers:

Diane at Hadarah.

Ed at Word!

#ChristmasChallenge#Post23

Monday, December 23rd, 2019

I read the following quote:

The birth of Christ brought God to us;

The cross of Christ  brings us to God.

Growing up you really only think of Christmas-besides the whole Santa Claus and gift thing-as the occasion to celebrate the birth of Jesus. We like the story of the baby in the manger. It fits our “meek and mild” picture of Jesus. It fits our Away in a Manger and Silent Night theme.

But as C.S.Lewis says in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (which I just finished reading again), “There is deeper magic here.” What is seen on the surface is just that: the surface. There is so much more to see and learn. There is so much more at work than just the birth; there is also the vision of the cross. Without doubt Jesus came with the specter of the cross in His sights. Phil.2 even tells us that. Jesus reminded His disciples over and over that the Son of Man must suffer and die.  The cross of Christ is always there. It is through the cross, and the cross only, that we find our way to God. It is only through the blood of Jesus that salvation is found.

But it is through the birth of Jesus as a baby, as God made flesh, that it all begins.  The quote again:

The birth of Christ brought God to us;

The cross of Christ brings us to God.

“Father, thank you for that truth. May this Christmas season take on extra meaning because it is more than a baby in a manger. It is also that baby on a cross giving Himself up for us.”

Please check out my fellow #ChristmasChallenge bloggers:

Diane at Hadarah.

Ed at Word!

#ChristmasChallenge#Post22

Sunday, December 22nd, 2019

What do these have in common? Tickle Me Elmo. Cabbage Patch Kids. Pound Puppies. Buzz Lightyear. Beanie Babies. Transformers. Wii.

In common? They are all part of the Christmas toy fads down through the years. (And there are more I could add. Google it). Just like the movie starring Arnold Schwarzennegger, Jingle All the Way, people get caught up in a craze and often go crazy trying to keep up with the latest.

The good thing about fads? They don’t last. Hooray!! Thankfully. Who could ever forget mood rings? Moon rocks? Furbies? Are you kidding me? But it’s true.

Fads don’t last. Aren’t you glad that the gift of Jesus as a baby is not just a fad? Somewhere I’m sure some one, some company, has tried or will try to capitalize on it, but the birth of Jesus in  a manger is not a fad. Despite His humble birth which many don’t understand, the event brings on a life-change that is hard to match. And it makes Christmas so much more meaningful as well. It truly is good news for all people. Not just some of the time. All the time.  It never gets old. Never wears out.

“Father, thank you that the story of Jesus is not a passing fad. It doesn’t go the way of all the toys. It is so much more. It is a gift for all time.”

Check out Diane’s #ChristmasChallenge post here.

#ChristmasChallenge#Post19

Thursday, December 19th, 2019

One verse that may seem to have nothing or very little to do with Christmas has been one of my favorite verses for as long as I can remember. I have a plaque in my office with this verse on it. The verse is John 3:30. When John’s disciples are offended that Jesus is garnering more attention than John, he answers their statement with the words: “He must increase, but I must decrease.” Other translations might say, “He must become greater; I must become less.” No matter how you shake it, they all the same thing: Jesus must become more; I must become less.

Can anyone think of a time in the Bible where the greatness of Jesus is seen any more than at His birth and at His death? Why? His greatness is shown by his humility. First, the whole reincarnation miracle (truth) blows me away. Second, to realize the humility He displayed for that to happen is mind-boggling! Sorta makes our petty jealousy and one-upmanship seem childish and silly. Here was the King of all laying down His pride, His status, His desire to display a humility that is unmatched. How can I insist that my agenda is the one that’s right? How can I insist that I do this or that? How can I be jealous when someone else gets to sing, play, speak, whatever and I don’t?  Christmas is a time for many things. It most certainly should be the time where we lay aside “us” and promote Him.  (You did notice the emphasis on the previous questions did you not?)

Humility-Jesus becoming greater and me becoming less-is where I need to be. It’s a trait that needs to be more common in my life. John 3:30 needs to be more than a verse in the Bible or on a plaque; it needs to be written on every page of my heart.

“Father, may You become more in my heart so there is less of me there. And may you become more in my thoughts and actions so people see less of me and more of you.”

Check out my fellow #ChristmasChallenge bloggers:

Diane at Hadarah.

Ed at Word!

#ChristmasChallenge#Post17

Tuesday, December 17th, 2019

I am late to the #ChristmasChallenge today. But I have a good reason!

Yeah, we are the “fun recipients” of our second day of the Winter Wonderland.  Yesterday’s was about 5 inches, enough to cancel the local school system, but it was more slushy than anything. We got the second round yesterday afternoon, and then a third wave last night (but I was asleep so couldn’t prove it by me). Except…the shoveling of the walk and driveway and scraping of the truck at home, then getting here to the office and shoveling the walks and part of the parking lot for walking.  There is another leg to the walk off to the right. Since I am the first one here I usually do it and really don’t mind. (And, believe it or not, that walk was totally clear just 15 minutes before I started writing this post). Today is even more important because of what happens today.

Today…Diana (the church secretary/office manager) gets to distribute HOPE to bunches of families, especially kids. Every year OVCF, the church I pastor, has done our own version of the Angel Tree. Diana sort of spearheads that and we call it The Giving Tree. We ask people to submit names of families/kids whom they know need help this Christmas. We then put the names on a tree and ask our people to take them and buy what is listed. This year we blew away all previous years. OVCF (not the organization but the people) is providing Christmas HOPE to close to 40 people. Our previous high was about 26. We do children, but we also try to include the parents with gift cards or needed coats/gloves/boots and even food cards. One of our ladies works at the local bank and she and some of her coworkers  took some names and bought gifts for the tree.  It was wonderful helping to carry some of the bags to the tables where Diana will meet the parents and give them the gifts today, and some tonight. Unwrapped, but provided with wrapping paper so they can have that joy. (If you consider that fun) 🙂

HOPE is a companion to my last three posts: LOVE. JOY. PEACE. The story of Christmas-the story of Jesus’ birth-is a story of HOPE. Take that away and we have nothing. We can’t live without HOPE.  Our small token of hope-giving for the children and parents of people who have had a rough year pales in comparison to the HOPE given to us by a simple birth in a manger.

LOVE. JOY. PEACE. HOPE. The four sorta go hand in hand don’t they? What gifts we have been given!! Give HOPE to someone today.

{And as a side light: can you now see why I am absolutely thrilled to be the pastor of these people? And what makes it even more incredible is some of the names were given after our deadline and except for about 2 or 3, all of them were taken and provided for by the people}.

Check out a fellow #ChristmasChallenge blogger here. This is short but poignant. Thanks Diane.

#ChristmasChallenge#Post15

Sunday, December 15th, 2019

In my #ChristmasChallenge#Post13 I mentioned there were three gifts we all need at Christmas.  Love. Joy. Peace. #Post14 was about that first quality we all want: LOVE. I want to continue on that idea with a post about JOY.

Alexander Whyte was a British pastor from many years ago. He once wrote something that seems to become more and more true each year (or maybe each day?) in our world:

We tend to hang very heavy weights on thin wires.

What he meant by that is that many of us have a tendency to put the weight of our happiness on thin wires that may easily break.  For example, I know of people-as I’m sure you do-who have put a lot of stock into their health. They eat right. They exercise. They go to bed at a decent hour for the right amount of sleep. They avoid smoking or being around it. They avoid alcohol (or do so sparingly). They get regular check-ups. But they also hear the dreaded “C” word that causes their world to come crumbling down.  We have also watched as people have put the weight of their happiness on family, possessions, fame and fortune.  We have also watched them crash and burn.

Have you ever watched the movie Titanic? (Yes it has one nude scene as Jack is drawing Rose. Skip over it.) Anyway, as Rose helps fill in the blank spaces of the sinking of Titanic, and as she tells her story of survival, she talks about Cal Hockley. He was a fictional character who thought money could buy love (at least Rose’s). As she recaps her life, Rose tells of how Cal took his life after the downturn took his money. And yes, it still happens.

Many of you know happiness and joy are not the same thing. Imagine the Christmas carol we sing: “Happiness to the world, the Lord has come.” Just doesn’t have the same ring as “Joy to the world.”  🙂

Psalm 16:11 says, “You make known to me the path of life, in your presence is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.”  Joy is found in Jesus. Joy is found in His presence.  I’ll close my thought with the lyrics from a song Chris Tomlin sings:

Joy, unspeakable joy/ An overflowing well, no tongue can tell/Joy, unspeakable joy, Rises in my soul, never let me go.

“Father, help me to know real joy. Help me to find that gift that far outstrips happiness of fulfillment. You have promised unspeakable joy. May it be mine and may those I love find it as well.”

Check out my fellow #ChristmasChallenge bloggers:

Diane and Hadarah

Ed at Word!

#ChristmasChallenge#Post14

Saturday, December 14th, 2019

In my last post, I mentioned the need we all have of Love, Joy, and Peace. As part of my #ChristmasChallenge I thought I would take each one of those needs and expand on them a bit.

My topic today is Love.

One of the top songs of 1984 (was it that long ago?) was by the group Foreigner called I Want to Know What Love Is. It was a moving ballad that even today still speaks to hearts and gets down to the root of what we all want...LOVE.  I think if we are all honest we would admit that we all want to be loved or to experience love. It doesn’t matter whether you are young or old; married or single; rich or poor; employed or unemployed; male or female-we all want to know what love is and what it is like.

Why? Because it is part of our DNA. Babies want to know they are loved and they don’t have a clue what it is. Every child wants to know they are loved and still they aren’t sure they know what it is.  As we get older and understand a bit more about how the world works, we still want to know we are loved.  Why else would someone sing a song with the lyrics of  “Looking for love in all the wrong places.”

So here is the million dollar question: why do need love? We all do things that make it hard to love us or we search for love depending on our feelings to somehow answer that question. Why love? I am taking a stab at 4 reasons:

  1. Love covers sin. When Joseph found out Mary was pregnant and he knew it wasn’t his, he could have walked out. In fact, he planned on it. But God changed all that. Joseph couldn’t throw Mary out on the street. I believe his love for her was enhanced by the message of the angel.
  2. Love listens to God. In the midst of his pain, God came to Joseph.  He still does that and if we are listening we can hear His still small voice in the pit of our heart.
  3. Love believes God. Joseph believed God that all would be right. I have to believe in love since John 3:16 says, “God so loved (me)…”
  4. Love obeys God. Joseph did not put Mary away; he loved her and took care of her. Just as God would have him do.

Love is the focal point of the Christmas season. John 3:16 becomes like a beacon shining brighter the closer we get to that miraculous night celebrated on Christmas day. 

“Father, help me to pursue love…real love. And help me to give love to others. There are so many people searching for love because we all want it. Help me to be your instrument to show love to others.”