Sunday, January 22, 2006

I Don't See the Scars Anymore--Sermon Notes, January 22, 2006

Post taken from loose outline notes of the pastor. Actual delivered sermon may have differed. No video available of this sermon...sorry!
Text: Psalms 41:4; Isaiah 53:4-5

I was reacquainted with a movie the other day, directed by Mel Gibson. It was called "The Man Without A Face." It touched me on several levels, both spiritually and professionally as a teacher, and emotionally as a teacher as well. It was made a few years ago and I would encourage you to go and rent it from the video store or catch it when it makes the rounds on the cable channels.

In the story, set in the 1960s, young Chuck Norstadt is a troubled young man from a broken home. Mel Gibson plays Justin MacLeod, the Man without a face. The story of a relationship between a teacher and his troubled pupil. Justin McLeod is a former teacher who lives as a recluse on the edge of town. His face is disfigured from an automobile accident and fire ten years before in which a boy was incinerated and for which he was convicted of involuntary manslaughter. He is also suspected of being a pedophile. He is befriended by Chuck, causing the town's suspicion and hostility to be ignited. McLeod inculcates in his protege a love of justice and freedom from prejudice which sustains him beyond the end of the film.

Justin McLeod has been living the life of a reculse for seven years, ever since his face was horribly disfigured. Known as "Hamburger Head" to the locals, he's the subject of many rumors and wild stories. Chuck is a young boy determined to get into the same military as his father, despite his mother's protests and his halfsisters' mocking, even if it means studying all through the summer. Desperate for a tutor, Chuck encounters the reclusive McLeod, and together they begin to help each other deal with a world that has shunned them both.

There is a point in the film where young Norstadt looks at McLeod and says, "it is funny, I don't see the scars anymore." He no longer sees the disfigurement. He now simply seeks Justin as another human being, as a mentor, a friend. Along the way, Norstadt is able to make the grade and get into the academy, but at a terrible price. Justin is able to once again go out into the world that once scorned him.

Now, back to us. We have deep, deep scars. We are scarred a sinners, our perfect souls at birth fallen due to the sinful nature in us thanks to the Fall. Our souls are scarred by those sins, and we see them in the mirror. God sees them. We would spend an eternity seeing them and being reminded of them if not for Christ. You see, the world we live in plays games with us. While it wants us, it scars us and makes us outcasts so it can destroy us for eternity. It makes fun of what it itself does to us, scarring us.

We have a scarred face before God. However, unlike the intolerant townspeople in the film, God sees beyond our scars. He wants us and others to see beyond the scars as well. He wants us to be made fully whole again. So, He sent Jesus to take our lashings, to take the scarring that should have been ours for eternity, as it is prophesized in the Isaiah verses. As Christ was beaten, scarred; we are healed. If we accept Christ, we accept the giving of our scars to Him, and we are healed.

When we are redeemed and saved, we get that momentary rush, that yes we have been healed. Others see us as this new creation, but the world still sees our scars, our mistakes, our miscues, our inadequacies, and so do we. We still look in the mirror and see our past hurts, and it can bring us down. We cannot just take the gift and sit on it in our little havens. We must go back out into the world.

McLeod only forgot about his scars when he was working to help Nordstadt. Likewise, as we are used by God to help others and to help the ministry, we no longer see our scars as much. We look in the mirror and see the developing of that new creation. Yes, there are still some scars which remind us of the past, but it is no longer about the negative, but about the positive future. The scars no longer have power over us, they have healed over. Yes, they may be there, but they no longer grip our lives and determine who we are. We are more than that, much more, being made more perfect and getting closer to God day by day. As we are used, we are healed as well.

It is like when we learn anything. We don't want to mess up. Yet, the first time we do something, like riding a bike, we mess up. We fall and bust ourselves. We then have a choice. Do we be defined by the failure of not riding, or do we get up and go again and be defined by the success? If we are in Christ, the answer is obvious--we are defined by the success. Christ himself was made whole after being scarred. Now, for Him, it took just three days. For us it takes a while longer. But, our scars are being healed day by day, to the point where we just remember them, they don't hold that grip. And the day will come when we look at each other in Heaven and say, "I don't see the scars anymore. I just see the perfect creation of God, as it was meant to be." But, we must take the plunge even as we are being made perfect to serve God and follow His will, even though it may make us subject to misunderstanding and ridicule. Because, in the end, we will be healed, made fully whole, and in full fellowship with God.

Trust--Sermon Notes January 15, 2006

Note: post taken from loose outline notes of pastor. No video available of this sermon. Sorry.
Text: Romans 5:6; 7:14-18; see also John 6:44; and Romans 8:15+
The other day I was driving down the road when I sas a sign at another church, discussing the title of the pastor's messaage. The title caught my eye and got me thinking. The result of that thinking and prayer is what we are going to discuss today. Thet title: Can God Trust Us? We will discuss that later, but first let's ask this question: Can we Trust God?

Now, of course we can, you say, we have to. He is God and we are Christians. Well, we havent all had a bed of roses. We have had bad things sneak up on us without warning. There is evil in the world. God doesn't keep us from harm all the time or protect us from being hurt. We aren't all happy. Maybe we can't trust God. Maybe He is just out for His own entertainment.

Well, we could say that if He hadn't warned us ahead of time. When he cast Adam and Eve out of the garden in Genesis, he laid it all out on the line. There would be bad times. We would have to work the land and work hard. There would be pain and suffering. God and His Son have never said life is a bed of roses when following the Almighty. Nowhere was it said that all our suffering would end. However, God did say thru Paul and others that our present suffering is used to sharpen us, to make us more perfect. Indeed, if we trust God, over time, we are shown to be trustworthy to God.

Why don't we trust God? I mean, He made everything, right? He created it all and has given us a plan for salvation. Why don't we trust God? For one, in many cases we are too scared to give up our own illusions of independence. In part taught by the world, in part by the enemy, we are encouraged to "be our own person", "do it ourselves," "be independent." The truth is, we can do no good thing without God. Paul discusses it at length in Romans 7 and 8, the dicotomy. Also, we are afraid of being controlled by another, without realizing that by not trusting in God, we are being controlled by the world. We must be willing to be out there for God.

Another reason we don't trust God is our own arrogance. We want to show we can do it without help. Remember when we were little--"I want to do it myself." Then we promptly made a mess of whatever we were doing and got the help we needed. However, the world teaches us and embeds that impulse of wanting to show we are "independent" to the world. NEWSFLASH--We can do no good thing without God. We can do zip, nada, without God. But, for the Holy Spirit, there would be no good thing done by us. We must move past this arrogance, because arrogance leads to sin. We must throw out this teaching of seeking to prove our "independence" because independence itself is an illusion. If we are not trusting in God and letting Him guide us, we are trusting in the world and letting the other guy guide us. Me, I want to go with God.

Therefore, we must trust God. By trusting God, we are moving past fear and arrogance and seeking to establish a closer relationship with God. And, by trusting God, even in hardship and going through what we do, the strengthening and exercising of that trust makes us more trustworthy to God. Which brings us to the next issue:

Can God Trust Us?
That is a tough one. The answer is yes and no. God trusts our intent, I believe, but not our will. We want to do what is good, we really do. However, we are weak. Paul discusses this in Romans 7 and 8. The Spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak. We cannot rise above our sinful nature on our own. Anything good we do is by the grace of God, not out of our own ability alone. Also, look at our history as God's creation. Everytime he has asked for our trust, we have turned on Him. In the Garden. In the Wilderness, by making the Idol. Moses striking the stone. And look at the cost. The cost before Christ came was the serious risk of an eternity in perdition. As we are, we are highly untrustworthy, and even the closest to God have been known to betray Him--Judas Iscariot, Peter denying Him 3 times.

So, how are we made trustworthy? God knows our flaws. He sent Christ to make us trustworthy. He sent Christ to draw others to Him. You see, God wants to trust us so much that the only way we can truly come to Him is by being drawn to Him (John 6:44). Once we are drawn, Christ comes and seeks our repentance for our disobedience and lack of trust of God. Then, we place our trust on His promise of salvation and remittance of sin. Also, God wants us to be made trustworthy. Once we are cleansed of our past transgressions, He sends us the Holy Spirit to instruct us. The Holy Spirit is sent to comfort us in our present sufferings, to intercede for us, to help guide us past our present trials to see the truth--our present issues and times are but tasks God has set out for us to be made more perfect, more trustworthy. As we trust more in God, He trusts more in Us, and as He trusts more in us, the Spirit grows in Us, and we get more power over the world. But it is not our power, it is God's power. As it says in Romans 8, our present sufferings and trials are about us being made more perfect, and that what awaits us for laying our trust on God is something that will make us forget our present sufferings, something that is so worth it God himself sent Christ to die so we could get it. That is someone worth trusting in. An omnipotent Creator who seeks merely to have a relationship of trust with us is something worth going through these trials for. God is trustworthy, and with His help and the help of the Spirit and His other children, we too shall be someday.

Sunday, January 08, 2006

Jan. 8, 2006 Sermon Notes--Those Magical Magi

Note: this post is based on loose outline sermon notes taken from the pastor. Actual sermon may have varied from what is written here. Unfortunately, no video available for this sermon.

Text: Matthew 2:1-12; see also Luke 10:21-22

Good morning. This past Friday, in many cultures, the coming of the Magi or Wise men was celebrated much the same way we in America do Christmas morning. In Spain and in traditionally Catholic nations, this is common practice. So, today, we are going to look at the coming of the Three Wise Men and discuss any implications for us we can find.

These men are mysterious figures in the Bible, we don't know a terriblly great deal about them, but we know they were probably agnostics from the East. They were wealthy astronomers seeking out answers to the anomalous star they found in their astronomical research. They found the answer in Hebrew prophecy and set forth to the West (for them, anyway) to find this King of the Jews. They probably expected to find him in Jerusalem, the capital, or at least find a festival or celebration in honor of the king. Notice, Christ revealed himself to these wealthy men from the East.

Now, wait a minute, you might be thinking. Just a few weeks ago you referenced Luke 10:21-22, talking about how Christ came not to the wise and the powerful, but to the poor and those like children in their knowledge. You were talking about how wonderful that Christ came to the lowly rather than the wealthy, the effite, the elite. Now you are telling us that He revealed Himself and led these wealthy effite rich guys from the East. Well, yes and no.

First, Christ was talking about those who were "wise in the world" and who had power. These wise men had no such power in Israel. Also, Who should be more knowledgeable and knowing than the religious leaders and the rulers of Israel? Shouldn't they know their own prophecies? Shouldn't they have the heart for searching for the King? See, this is what Christ was talking about in Luke. Often, those religously and politically powerful don't look to Scripture or have their heart on fully on God, they are more concerned with keeping power or securing their place rather than serving their purpose. These were the "wise and wealthy" Christ talked about not appearing to. And He is right. Herod and Co. know nothing when confronted by these three wise men looking for the King of the Jews. "Hey, that's me" says Herod. The wise men say no, and Herod immediately goes into protection mode. Sometimes that happens to our so=called leaders. They care more for perception and their own power than in serving. Such was Herod.

Now, these wise men did not search in a way looking for fame or fortune. They searched with curiosity, with wonder, with reverence for this mystery they found, this new star which led them on their search. They were not looking to find the Christ child to use him, or to influence Him, but to search out One so important that the stars would bend to find Him. Note htey way they approach the weeks old Christ, maybe even up to a year old or so depending on which scholar you listen to. They come to the hosue where Mary and Joe are staying and worshipfully offer gold, myrhh, and incense. We need to come before Christ in such a way as these wise men, because we are like them in many ways. No matter our familiarity, we are still being led by a mysterious star, the star of the Holy Spirit, toward fellowship with the Christ. We are still following the path, and we need to do so as these guys did, with daring, with reverence, with awe and wonder.

We also need to give of the gifts we are given. We need to give the love, the generosity, the concerns that have been given to us by God. We need to give to others as that is akin to giving to Christ. We need to give that kind word, that supportive hug, that special gift, whatever it is, in the name of Christ, and we are giving to that Child. However, we are not giving to a babe in a cradle, but to the grown up, majestic, powerful, awesome King of Kings.

And, as those wise guys gave, so to were they given to. The wise men were given salvation from the wrath of Herod, as they were told to not go back to him. We know Herod would have probably had them killed, so they would not be around to warn Mary and Joe or to spread the word about the Christ being born. So, they experienced salvation when the messenger of God came and told them to take a different route.

So, too, we will experience salvation by coming to the throne, except we are getting not an escape route from a tyrant, but an escape route from a demon to the land of eternal life and fellowship. We will not be escaping, but coming to live forever with Christ, the grown up King of Kings. However, like the wise men, we are led by that star. We need to stay faithful to it, and let it lead us to that kingdom where we may find Christ, not in a town, but in the depths of our hearts, in the sliver of the divine God gives us, and let that grow into a massive fire for Christ. Let our hearts open up and reveal more of Christ to us, let the blinders of the world be removed. Let us be like thsoe wise men, because, as the cliche goes, the Wise Men still seek Him! God bless you all...

Saturday, January 07, 2006

January 1, 2006 Sermon Notes--Renew, Renew!

note: posting taken from loose sermon outline notes of pastor. Actual sermon not videotaped this week. Sorry.

Text: Psalm 51:10-12; 2 Cor 4:16-18See also Titus 3:5

Happy New Year! This is the time of year where we look back, where we make our resolutions that will inevitably be broken, where we talk about gaining weight, finishing that novel, talking less on the phone, paying down the bills, and invariably, we evalaute those resolutions and find them lacking.

You know, looking back is good. But, Christ calls us to be a forward thinking people. He calls us to look forward, to look ahead, to not live on the past. Granted, it is good to look back, but we cannot be firmly rooted in the past. We must be rooted in the Present of God, the Present of Christ. But, things are not always great, they are not always rosy. We tire, we bleed.

With Christ, we need to realize that each day is a new opportunity. Each day, God renews us. Each day, though the mountains crumble and new ones rise, we are renewed by Christ's love and sacrifice, by His transforming regeneration (Titus 3:5).

This reminds me of a movie from the 1970s, a somewhat cheesy though modern classic scifi film called Logan's Run. It takes place in the future, where all humanity lives in relative harmony in one city. You have a disc on your hand. When you turn 30, everything goes bad. You must report to the ceremony of Carousel to be "renewed", or you will be hunted down by Sandmen who vaporize you. Here is the key, renewal is a farce: you really just get cremated because you can't have the population growing, so when people turn thirty, you kill them. There is supposedly a place called sanctuary where "runners" can go to escape. however, there is no real sanctuary, just the outside world.

Well, here is the good news. There is a real sanctuary for us. It is in the healing power of the Lamb of God, Christ. It is hiding in the flood of the blood of the Lamb, being renewed by His sacrifice and the cleansing power of his blood. We need to ask for this renewal and accept the gift of redemption.

Even as our bodies on the outside are wasting away, we are being renewed daily in the Holy Spirit. We are being drawn closer to Him, becomeing more His people, more of His true creation, the New Man. Thus, growing older, another year, it doesn't mean as much as it does to the outside world. To them, renewal is getting botox treatments. To the outside world, getting your face lifted behind your ears is renewal. Not so with us. WE are not concerned with the lesseer, outside being. WE are concerned with the inner, eternal soul. Through the the Holy Spirit, we can begin each day as fresh as babes. Therefore, we can use each day to resolve to be better, to improve, and each day each minute, is a gift to be used to renew ourselves in Christ and to help others to seek renewal in Him. So, here and now, not as the folks in Logan's Run, but as a brother in Christ, I urge you all: Renew! Renew!

CHRISTMAS! Week 4 of Advent-LOVE-Dec. 25, 2005 Sermon Notes

Note: posting taken from loose outline notes of pastor. Actual sermon as given this date available on Videotape. Post in comments for requests for video or for further information.

Text: John 3:16, Matthew 22:37-40

First of all, Merry CHRISTmas! Yes, Merry Christmas, one and all! We are still allowed to say that in church, aren't we? Well, today, we have the culmination of Advent, the lighting of the 4th Candle, the candle of Love, as well as the center White Candle, the Christ Candle, symbolizing the purity of the infant born of Mary and God the Father.


3rd Sunday of Advent: Joy! Dec. 18, 2005 Sermon Notes

Note: posting taken from loose outline notes of pastor. Actual recording of sermon may be available from the pastor. Ask in comments for more details.

Text: Phillipians 4:4, see also Luke 10:21, Luke 2:10-14, and Luke 1:46-52

Today we light the previous weeks' candles of Hope and Peace, and today we light the Candle of Joy.

Our joy is in the Holy Mission of Christ, in the Salvation that comes from Christ. Today we are going to look at instances of joy we find in the Bible, especially as it pertains to the Christmas story.

This new Child, the New Man, is the source of joy, not just of Earth but of Heaven. Look in Luke 2:10-14, the Heavenly Host itself opens itself up in Joy and exaltation. Behold, Glory to God in the Highest, and on Earth Peace and Good will toward Men. The angels themselves are so beside themselves in Joy at the Advent, the Birth of the Christ Child that they have to open up and reveal themselves to the shepards keeping watch.

Look at Christ's own joy in God's own direct method of revelation. Look in Luke 10:21. Christ rejoices in the fact that God reveals Himself not to the academic elites and intelligentsia, the bureaucrats of the faith, but rather He reveals himself directly to us through His Son, Jesus Christ, and through the Holy Spirit. He does not use go-betweens. He seeks a direct relationship with each of us. God comes to us not through grand theories, or epistemological study, but through a child in a simple manger, in the direct words of a rebel carpenter. That should in turn, give us great joy as well.

God lifts us from the depths. He lifts us up as infants and seeks to grow us in His image as new men and women in the Holy Spirit. The Source of our joy is truly that He saves each of Us, he desires that personal relationship with us that he Had with Enoch, that He had for a limited time with Adam. He wants to know each of us on an individual basis, on a personal basis. he comes to each of us individually, seeking to care after our specific needs as a wonderful father to His children. So, truly, our joy comes from John 3:16.

Sunday, January 01, 2006

2nd Sunday of Advent: PEACE Dec. 11, 2005 Sermon Notes

Note: This post is taken from loose outline notes of the pastor. Actual delivery and message may be slightly different. Sermon may be available on videotape. Check with pastor in comments section below for availability.

Text: John 14:27; 16:33 see also Matthew 1:20-5; Matthew 2:13-21, and Luke 1:26-38

Today we light the candles of hope from last week and this week's candle of peace. You know, peace I think in many cases is misinterpreted by today's experts to mean the absence of conflict. How rare indeed! I tend to believe that the proper definition of peace is calm and having assurance n the face of conflict.

Let's look no farther than the Christmas story. Joseph and Mary were heavily involved in personal, societal, and religious conficts in their young lives. Here we have a young man and woman whose lives are blown away by this amazing announcement. First. let's look at Joseph.

Good ole Joseph, an upright and righteous man we are told, a carpenter. Granted, not Bill Gates but someone who could be a good provider. Now, here is Joe, finding out that his fiance is pregnant, and the talking around the community begins. Joe cares about Mary and wants to just quickly divorce her and try to rebuild his reputation. However, an angel of the Lord appears to him and sets him straight on the whole mattter. This was no indiscretion. This is divine will. This is a great miracle and gift. (Matthew 1:20-25)

Look also at Mary, she had to be worried. Because, back in the day, you oculd get stoned and I don't mean chemically intoxicated, for having a child out of wedlock, especially when you were engaged to be married. However, the angel of the Lord appeared to her as well, and comforted and praised her as being blessed among women. Mary was so relieved that she burst into the song now known as the Magnificat. (Luke 1:26-38)

Later, when it was revealed that Herod was going to seek out the Christ child to murder him, Joespeh and Mary were given peace when they were told to leave Bethlehem and go to Egypt. That had to be of great concern to Joe, who was a new father and did not want to move his young family ove such a good distance. And of course, both parents had to be worried about this ruler wanting their child dead. However, once again, the angel of hte Lord appeared and gave Joe peace.

How do we get our peace? We get it through the knowledge of Christ, of His Father's plan for salvation for us, in the remission and repentance of our sins, and in the knowledge that we are saved. You see, we know we are looked down upon by the elite. We know we have targets on our backs because of what we believe. However, through Christ, we can have peace even in the midst of Conflict, even as jobs are uncertain, friendships are on wobbly ground,and the future seems bleak, we can still have peace because we know we are saved through Christ. And that story began, that assurance of peace began, long ago when a carpenter was assured that his wife was true.

You know, another thing about peace. I believe in the old adage by President Reagan, peace through strength. In order to have peace as a Christian, we need to hope for the best but be prepared for the worst. We need to trust and be hopeful in other people, but we need to be ready when they let us down, with the weapons of the word of God and forgiveness. We need to be ready to go out and take a stand, and be willing to fight for it. Too long have we believed that peace is the absence of conflict. That has led to circumventing of some of our values and the assault on Christians we have today. We do not desire conflict, but we can have peace in the midst of that conflict by trsuting in God, calling upon Him, trusting n the salvation of His Son. Then we know, whether we rise or fall we will be awash in His divine care forever. That is the true peace. The peace given by the hope in a starry night, a star westward leading, where we are still proceeding, searching to be ever closer to Him.

1st Sunday of Advent: Hope December 4, 2005 Sermon Notes

Note: this posting based on outline notes of pastor. Sermon may be available on video. Email or ask pastor in comments below for details.

Text: Luke 1:67-80

Today we light the first candle in the Advent wreath, the candle of Hope. Hope springs eternal, as the story goes. Yes, hope is a resilient and amazing sensation. Every spring, we have hope that this will be the Reds' year. And by May, we know it is not. However, each year, we come back full of hope, full of expectation of the coming season. By May, we are through. However, the hope and expectation we will be speaking of today is one that will not burn out, but only if our hope is in what it should be.

Let's look at examples of hope. Abraham based his faith on the hope that he would be given a child, much less a nation, even though he and Sarai were beyond childbearing age. He listened to God, though he and Sarah did waver in seeking to give a son in the form of Ishmael, but overall, Abraham's hope held firm. Even as things looked dim, he maintained his hope. Even through his doubts, there was still hope. And thru believing in that hope, he was rewarded.

Now, let's look at today's Scripture, another message and story of hope. Zacharias and Elizabeth wanted a child. They, like ole Abe and Sarah, were older folks. Abraham got visited by an angel of the Lord, and what did Abraham do? he doubted. He did not believe even when the answer to his prayers was nigh. This is what we so often do in the face of the amazing hope offered by that babe in the manger, by that Man on the Cross. It is just too good to be true. How can we pin our hopes on this, we must be dreaming, etc.

However, like Zacharias, our hopes will be fulfilled, if we believe, and if we follow through, even if we have doubts. Zacharias doubted, even scoffed, and he was silenced while Elizabeth carried little John the Baptist in her belly. We may have a rough go of things, we may be humbled, but as long as we believe and have that hope, we too will see the rewards. Of course, in order to have hope, we must believe. We can still doubt, though we should not, but we must believe to have that hope.

Hear the good news: our hope is beyond all of these, even Abe and Zacharias. Our hope is born of God Himself. Our hope could not be extinguished by temptation and death. Our Hope had the victory and holds the keys to death and life. Our hope was resurrected of God. It is, in fact, the one, true, only Hope. It is that sweet babe lying in the manger. It is the hope of eternal life, the hope of repentance, that we can be wiped clean as babes, and we can be, as long as we maintain that hope, that hope that there is more than just this world. That there are miracles, angels, and sometimes amazing events that are beyond belief, but we know of greater, deeper miracles, the miracles of Christ and Salvation. Our hope is in the name of the Lord, Jehovah, Emmanuel, Jesus. Amen.

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