Sunday, August 31, 2008

SOTM - Pure in Heart

Psalm 24 “1 The earth is the LORD'S, and all it contains, the world, and those who dwell in it. 2 For He has founded it upon the seas and established it upon the rivers. 3 Who may ascend into the hill of the LORD? And who may stand in His holy place? 4 He who has clean hands and a pure heart, who has not lifted up his soul to falsehood; and has not sworn deceitfully. 5 He shall receive a blessing from the LORD and righteousness from the God of his salvation. 6 This is the generation of those who seek Him, who seek Your face--even Jacob. Selah.
7 Lift up your heads, O gates, and be lifted up, O ancient doors, that the King of glory may come in! 8 Who is the King of glory? The LORD strong and mighty, the LORD mighty in battle. 9 Lift up your heads, O gates, and lift them up, O ancient doors, that the King of glory may come in! 10 Who is this King of glory? The LORD of hosts, He is the King of glory. Selah.”

Matthew 5: 8 "Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.”
Hebrews 12:14 “Pursue peace with all men, and the sanctification without which no one will see the Lord.”
1 John 3: 2 “Beloved, now we are children of God, and it has not appeared as yet what we will be. We know that when He appears, we will be like Him, because we will see Him just as He is. 3 And everyone who has this hope fixed on Him purifies himself, just as He is pure.”

The Words:

Pure(katharos): Cleansed; this compares with the other similar words in Greek: hagion – holy, free from every fault; hosios – holy, free from defilement; eilikrines – pure, as being tested
We’ve been reading in the news about the listeriosis poisoning that is coming from tainted meat. 10 people have died so far from the pre-packaged meat. When I worked as the deli and bakery supervisor for a grocery store, we were always careful to follow the rules when dealing with meat. All our cuts were stored between 1 and 5 degrees C. We did temperature checks every 2 hours on both our coolers in the back as well as the refrigerated cases on the floor. When we cut the meat we sliced it and packaged it right away. It was dated and then put in one of the coolers. The meat slicer was then fully disassembled so we could clean it effectively. A lot of time each day taken for cleanliness. We know the reason. If there is bacteria left on equipment from not being cleaned, or on a cutting board, or a utensil, and then you use it on something else the bacteria is spread. If it is allowed to go too long it becomes dangerous to the body – it becomes a poison. Botulism from uncleaned vegetables. Pesticides from unwashed fruit.
Blessed are the pure in heart – God has made available spiritual bleach, if you will. He can cleanse us from sin. His holy spirit works in our lives so that sin no longer has mastery over us. This word pure refers to God at work in our lives! Refiner's fire - Purify my heart...

Heart (Kardia): It is the chief organ of the physical life, pumping the life sustaining blood. You can live without your arm, but you can’t without your heart. Because of the centrality of this organ, it came to refer to a person’s entire mental and moral activity. Another person described it as the hidden springs of the personal life. We are aware what happens if bacteria gets into springs, or the source of our water supply. The whole shebang goes bad. There was a town in Ontario a few years back that suffered through many people dying and getting sick before they traced the source of the problem to containments getting into one of the wells. We need to guard our hearts, to protect them from junk and bad stuff getting in, because it affects our whole person.

The beatitudes are not about salvation as we traditionally understand it, they are about becoming like Jesus. That’s why this beatitude isn’t first. This beatitude is for the person who recognizes he or she can’t do it on their own. They are poor in spirit – they recognize their poverty. They mourn over it. They understand that everyone has to deal with this before God so they are meek. But they want God, so they become hungry for Him. It is at this point we see Jesus saying pursue holiness. It is at this point that we find purity is extolled. Jesus is speaking to us Christians, us people who are religious, who know the church, the building the people. You say you follow me, then be holy for I am holy cries God.

The paradox:

Do you hear the promise? Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God. The paradox is that we can’t do anything to become pure! It is God who makes us pure. All our actions and good deeds are as filthy rags to God. Purity is a result of surrender to God, not behaviour for God. Living for behaviour results in legalism, not purity. I mentioned this before, but one time Bonnie and I were driving to Alberta from Ontario. We cut through the US and we were on a road that crossed into Canada in southern Saskatchewan. Well, we were on a totally different road than what we thought, because Canada was not appearing ahead of us. Sometimes we get on the wrong road spiritually. We think we are headed for purity, when instead we are headed for legalism. Get off that road. It turns bumpy and crabby. Get back on the road called Surrender, for it leads to Christ-likeness.

Take it home:

We “shall see God in all things here.” John Wesley said that. What he meant is that if we are pure in heart, we will see God in the life all around us. There is a story and a film that came out several years back. It was called The Matrix. The premise is that all of what we see in this life is a dream programmed by computers. Our physical bodies are in bondage and used for their energy, but all of what we sense is like a computer game. At the end of the book the hero can see it for what it is. He sees binary code in the walls and the people around him, and so can defeat the bad guys. When we understand God, and pursue Him, and surrender all to Him, life makes sense. We understand sin and what it is. We can see the grace of God at work in people’s lives all around us. We know that nothing can happen except by God’s allowance, and that He is Sovereign. We see God in all things here. We may not fully understand His processes, but we are confident His grace and love are enough.

God will be revealed in our lives. Not only will we be able to see god around us, but people will be able to see God in us. 2 Corinthians 3: 18 “But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit.” 1 John 4: 11”Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. 12 No one has seen God at any time; if we love one another, God abides in us, and His love is perfected in us.” No one has seen God at any time, but people will see Him in our love, in our life.

We shall be in God’s presence for eternity. Life is about relationships, about presence. Listen to this truth as we find it in Romans 6:23 “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ.” Death is about separation; that is why death was the penalty for sin. God cannot have sin in His presence and so those in sin are separated from Him. But the pure in heart will fellowship with God in eternity. Some people try to make it a bad thing to talk about heaven, because of the implications of hell. That is why we share Jesus, though, That is why we support missionaries and live pure lives, that God may draw people to Himself through us.
Don’t leave this place today with meeting God, without surrendering to Him. You can do it as we close in prayer. After we pray, and have a short discussion about what I have just said, come to the front if you need to meet God. We have the alter rails for that purpose. It is a decision of your will, not one born out of emotions. We don’t need to have quiet music to convince you about Jesus speaking to you. For centuries people like Paul and Peter would stand up and give the challenge to surrender to God. And immediately people would step forward and ask, “What must I do to be saved?” If God is speaking to you, listen, and do what He asks of you.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

SOTM - Mercy

Lamentations 3:19-26 “19 Remember my affliction and my wandering, the wormwood and bitterness. 20 Surely my soul remembers and is bowed down within me. 21 This I recall to my mind, therefore I have hope. 22 The LORD'S lovingkindnesses indeed never cease, for His compassions never fail. 23 They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness. 24 "The LORD is my portion," says my soul, "Therefore I have hope in Him." 25 The LORD is good to those who wait for Him, to the person who seeks Him. 26 It is good that he waits silently for the salvation of the LORD.”

Jesus told the parable of the unmerciful servant who owed his king 100 thousand dollars. When the king demanded payment of the debt, the man said, "Just give me time and I'll pay." The king not only gave him extra time, he forgave the debt. Then the plot thickens when the same servant found another fellow servant who owed him $10 and demanded repayment. The second servant also asked for a little time, but the first servant had him thrown into prison until he paid the debt. When the matter came to the attention of the king, he said to the unmerciful servant, "You evil-hearted wretch! Here I forgave you all that tremendous debt, just because you asked me to — shouldn't you have mercy on others, just as I had mercy on you." Then the angry king sent the man to the torture chamber until he had paid every last penny due. Jesus concluded the story with these stern words: "So shall my heavenly Father do to you if you refuse to truly forgive your brothers" (Matthew 18:23-35 LB).

Matthew 5:7 “Blessed are the merciful, because they shall receive mercy.”
Proverbs 11:17 “The merciful man does himself good, but the cruel man does himself harm.”

The Words:
: The outward manifestation of pity; to feel sympathy with the misery of another manifested in action. Mercy assumes need on the part of the person to whom it is given. Mercy is something God is in the business of. It is being actively compassionate. Remember Jesus looking on Jerusalem and crying? He despaired at the nation Israel and its spiritual state – then He did something about it, dying on the cross.

The Paradox:
One of the paradoxes of life is that many people who love to give, and serve, and practice mercy never allow themselves to receive it. This is usually a result of poor self esteem. People find their worth in giving, and so if they aren’t giving they are not worth anything. The flip side of the same coin is pride. They don’t want to receive because it is beneath them. In both scenarios the people are not being transparent. Their motivation is rooted outside of God, and who they are before God. Even God steps back and allows us the opportunity to give to Him through worship, through tithes and offerings, through ministry and works of compassion. If God, the Creator of the ends of the earth is open to receiving from us, how much should we be open to others giving into our lives. No man is an island. We were created for fellowship. We believe in the doctrine of the Trinity as a church of the Nazarene. That means we believe God is three separate personalities, yet one God. What I understand from that, is that within God Himself there is community. When He created man in His own image, then, He created the capacity and need for community. Part of this need may be fulfilled in marriage, but it goes beyond that. It is about us as a church being a community, about being more than just a social club. That’s why we pray for one another. That’s why we visit. That’s why we have programs where we can serve side by side with one another. The saying is true, that you only get out of something what you are willing to invest in it. Put time and energies into this community, and God will bless you accordingly.
Another paradox of the Christian walk is that in order to receive, we must give. You want mercy? Then give mercy. You want life? Then give your life away. This verse says to receive mercy, first be merciful. There are two different directions here. We are to be merciful to our fellow human beings. When we do that, the promise is that we will receive mercy, and it is understood that it comes from God. Don’t put your trust in man. Don’t extend mercy and then look for repayment from that person. You will be disappointed again and again. Offer mercy freely, then look to God for what you need.

The Application:
First and foremost, understand that God blesses us first spiritually. When God says you shall receive mercy, look for God’s blessings in your life, and seek those blessings. You need money? Pray and ask for it, but pray that you will use what He provides to honour and glorify His name. And beyond that surrender your life to Him so that whether you are raising kids, on your own, or looking after your parents, you are seeking in all you do, in all your relationships to reflect the character of God. 2 Corinthians 4:16-18 “16 Therefore we do not lose heart, but though our outer man is decaying, yet our inner man is being renewed day by day. 17 For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison, 18 while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal.

Secondly, be actively compassionate. Let me give you two examples. The first is the forgiveness of offences. Did someone strike your cheek? Turn your cheek and let him smite the other – give him a second chance. Did she take your shirt? Give her your coat as well. Is there discord in your family because one of your siblings is acting like a jerk? Forgive them and take the initiative to mend the rift. Forgiveness of offences. The second way to be actively compassionate is the remission of obligations. Someone owe you something? Write it off. Whether it be money, a favour, an apology. Try to go through life owing no man anything but love, and letting go of the things owed you, trusting in God’s provision instead.

Finally, be transparent in community. You need something, let us know. Someone else expresses a need, reach out with what you have and offer it. Mercy is about needs. If everyone here had no needs, we would have no sharing among us. Who here is without needs? We all have them in one form or another. We are all brothers and sisters in Christ. Ephesians 4:15-16 “15 but speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head, even Christ, 16 from whom the whole body, being fitted and held together by what every joint supplies, according to the proper working of each individual part, causes the growth of the body for the building up of itself in love.”
Though the majority of our congregation is middle class or better, the people in poverty have as much in Christ as we do. In some ways it is easier to tap into a relationship with God because their needs are facing them every day. Those of us who have nice homes and money in the bank, sometimes struggle to depend on God, because we have a sense we can do it ourselves with what we have. It’s a myth. No one can do it on their own. We all need Jesus, we are all on the same path of holiness, of trying to become like Jesus in all we think, say and do.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Sermon On The Mount - Gentle Giant

Matthew 5:5 "Blessed are the gentle, for they shall inherit the earth.” (NASB)

So, I am making some oatmeal one morning and Bonnie is busy writing away. We are talking between rooms and I am looking at a bag of brown sugar with a piece of bread in it. I know why the bread is in there, but my concern was that it would eventually go moldy, so I asked her if I should put it in the freezer. I am thinking that frozen bread won’t go moldy. She is thinking I am talking about something else. The next day I am making oatmeal and I am complaining how hard the sugar is, because it was frozen. It was then that we realized we were talking about different things. The Beatitudes are like that. We read an English word and think we understand what it is all about. Often, we don’t.

The word for “meek” carries none of the meanings associated with weak. The meek, (hoi praeis) has been translated mild or gentle. The word was originally applied to the outer characteristics of things and people. It was not considered a virtue or an attitude. Today’s meaning of meek has been watered down to the point it has lost most, if not all of its true meaning.

The image most closely associated with "meek" and its meaning is that of the horse. The Greek historian Xenophon used the very same word Jesus used to describe a horse broken to saddle, so that it is under control.

A horse is a powerful animal. It is a symbol of strength in the Greek world. Wild and untamed the horse is a useless animal. It cannot be used for any of the tasks man has for it. However, if the horse is broken it can be used for all kinds of tasks for which it was created. It can be tamed and then taught. A tamed horse is a picture of power under control.
The other common analogy is the willow tree, that sways and bends in the wind, but never breaks because of its strength.

The Words
Meek (Gentle): Meekness is the absence of retaliation and the presence of quiet gentleness (and the attitudes behind those behaviors).
· Meekness is not about self-vindication.
· Meekness is not just reflective of outward behavior… it goes deeper than that.
· Meekness is not preoccupied by self (this is not natural, but supernatural).
· Meekness is an unwrought grace of the soul, and it is firstly and primarily to God. Remember that picture of the horse broken to a saddle? In a way, we are the horse, and God is the one who sits on the saddle.
· Meekness is the fruit of power, of control, not the residue of weakness.
· Meekness is living understanding we have the infinite resources of God at our disposal.
What does this look like? Defensive driving, rather than aggressive driving. But it is also in everyday life.

· Birthright
· Reward as a gift, on condition of obedience
· Cf. Jacob and Esau.

All of this physical stuff.

The paradox:
“The one who is meek may be as bold as a lion and as strong as Samson; but they have stopped being fooled about themselves. They have accepted God’s estimate of their own life. They know they are as weak and helpless as God declared them to be, but paradoxically, they know at the same time that in the sight of God they are of more importance than angels. In myself, nothing; in God, everything.” AW Tozer

Take it home:
1) Focus on the things of God! People are often aggressive because they are living in their own strength, pursuing what is good to them. The violence that fills the Old Testament is because people went their own way. And what is happening around us today? If you want to live in meekness, in quiet strength, begin by pursuing the things of God. Matthew 6:33 “But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” Philippians 4:8 “Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things.”
2) When it comes to men, owe no man anything but love. Romans 13:8 All the stuff around us is temporary. This pulpit, this building, our vehicles outside, the places we live in, even the country we live in – these are all passing. Over the last 2,000 years, though, God has delighted in love. God inhabits the praise of His people, as well as the love of their actions. You want to be meek? Love your neighbor.

3) Trust God to look after you. Isaiah 11:4 “But with righteousness He will judge the poor, And decide with fairness for the afflicted of the earth…” At the heart of our journey through life is what we will put our faith in. You cannot be truly gentle unless you are sold out to God. In each of these Beatitudes, Jesus is calling us to give up the deed to our life to Himself.