We Shall Overcome – Quote

Journey From darkness into light – We Shall Overcome!

In celebration of Easter, this week we conclude our series based on the mini-series The Bible. It is through our faith in our Lord, Jesus, that we journey from Darkness into Light. And, it is by embarking on this wonderful journey, and by His Name, we boldly proclaim – We Shall Overcome!

Spiritual Quote

Helen Keller, herself no stranger to obstacles, put it this way:

Although the world is full of suffering,
it is also full of overcoming it.
~Criminal Minds Episode

Join us Easter Sunday for worship and fellowship as we celebrate our Risen Lord, exploring the journey from Darkness into Light!

Potential Scripture

  • Matthew 27:45b, NIV
  • John 20:1, NIV
  • John 20:14-29, NIV
  • 1 Peter 2:9, NLT
  • John 8:12, NIV
  • Hebrews 13:5-6, NKJV
  • John 16:33, NIV

Service to Others – Teaching

As we continue with messages based on the mini-series The Bible, we turn this week to exploring our Journey from Religion to Relationship. This week’s Spiritual Quote reminds us of a key component in our relationship with God and with our Lord, Jesus Christ – Service to Others.

Spiritual Quote

What we do for ourselves dies with us.
What we do for others, and the world, remains, and is, immortal.
~Albert Pine

The Perfect Storm

In his book, Simply Jesus, author and Bible scholar N. T. Wright describes a storm that gathered off the Atlantic coast of the United States:

It was late October 1991. The crew of the fishing boat Andrea Gail, out of Gloucester, Massachusetts, had taken the vessel five hundred miles out into the Atlantic. A cold front moving along the Canadian border sent a strong disturbance through New England, while at the same time a large high-pressure system was building over the maritime provinces of southeastern Canada. This intensified the incoming low-pressure system, producing what locals called the “Halloween Nor’easter.” As Robert Case, a meteorologist put it, “These circumstances alone could have created a strong storm, but then, like throwing gasoline on a fire, a dying Hurricane Grace delivered immeasurable tropical energy to create the perfect storm.” The hurricane, sweeping in from the Atlantic, completed the picture. The forces of nature converged on the helpless Andrea Gail from the west, the north, and the southeast. Ferocious winds and huge waves reduced the boat to matchwood. Only light debris was ever found. There had, of course, been earlier “perfect storms,” but this was the one made famous by the book and movie of the same title.

Wright compares that singular storm to the forces that met in the last days of Jesus’ life on this earth. The ingredients of that approaching storm were an oppressive Roman empire, which governed the land; the legalistic religious authorities, who dominated and controlled the lives of the common people; and what Wright calls the “Wind of God”—the long-awaited and much-misunderstood fulfillment of God’s plans for his people, and for the world through Jesus Christ.

As we’ll see in this week’s video clip, that perfect storm came to a head as the Passover Feast approached in probably, AD 30, in Jerusalem.

[View Clip]

Thoughts

The story we focus on today is the scene which summarizes the “perfect storm” into which Jesus rode that first Palm Sunday. There were three interests arrayed against Jesus, which also correspond to the “great salvation” (Hebrews 2:3) that is available to every one of us by grace, through faith in Jesus Christ.

This is one of the few scenes described in all four Gospels in the Bible. Luke 19:28-40 and 45-48 put says:

After Jesus had said this, he went on ahead, going up to Jerusalem. As he approached Bethphage and Bethany at the hill called the Mount of Olives, he sent two of his disciples, saying to them, “Go to the village ahead of you, and as you enter it, you will find a colt tied there, which no one has ever ridden. Untie it and bring it here. If anyone asks you, ‘Why are you untying it?’ say, ‘The Lord needs it.’”

Those who were sent ahead went and found it just as he had told them. As they were untying the colt, its owners asked them, “Why are you untying the colt?”

They replied, “The Lord needs it.”

They brought it to Jesus, threw their cloaks on the colt and put Jesus on it. As he went along, people spread their cloaks on the road.

When he came near the place where the road goes down the Mount of Olives, the whole crowd of disciples began joyfully to praise God in loud voices for all the miracles they had seen:

“Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord!”

“Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!”

Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to Jesus, “Teacher, rebuke your disciples!”

“I tell you,” he replied, “if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out.”…

When Jesus entered the temple courts, he began to drive out those who were selling. “It is written,” he said to them, “‘My house will be a house of prayer’; but you have made it ‘a den of robbers.’”

Every day he was teaching at the temple. But the chief priests, the teachers of the law and the leaders among the people were trying to kill him. Yet they could not find any way to do it, because all the people hung on his words. (NIV)

That event is called the Triumphal Entry, and it has been celebrated by churches around the world on Palm Sunday for the past two thousand years. But there was far more going on that day than may at first be obvious. His entry into the city of Jerusalem at the beginning of that fateful week can even supply an illustration of three things that change when Jesus enters our lives.

Salvation comes to the human heart, not as a result of religion and self-effort—like that of the Pharisees and Sadducees—but as a result of relationship, as a result of the living presence of Jesus Christ coming into our heart and taking up residence there as Savior and Lord. And a true, living relationship with Jesus brings about things that no amount of religion could ever do.

One of those things is:

1.        When Jesus enters our lives, forgiveness comes to us because He is our High Priest.

One of the elements in that perfect storm that eventually swept Jesus up to Calvary was the Sadducees. The Sadducees were the priestly party of Jesus’ day. They were the elite caretakers of the Temple. The high priest was a Sadducee.

The high priest represented the people before God, interceding with God on behalf of the people. It was the high priest’s job to offer the sacrifices that brought about forgiveness and cleansing for the people of God. It was a form—and a force—that dated back to Aaron, the brother of Moses.

So, when Jesus entered Jerusalem and made his way to the Temple and “cleansed” the Temple courts, He was stepping on some Sadducee toes! He was a threat to the power and place of this priestly party.

But he was—and is—more than that because the Bible says Jesus Himself is, both High Priest and the once-for-all sacrifice for sin:

The law is only a shadow of the good things that are coming—not the realities themselves. For this reason it can never, by the same sacrifices repeated endlessly year after year, make perfect those who draw near to worship. Otherwise, would they not have stopped being offered?

For the worshipers would have been cleansed once for all, and would no longer have felt guilty for their sins. But those sacrifices are an annual reminder of sins. It is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins.

Therefore, when Christ came into the world, he said:

“Sacrifice and offering you did not desire, but a body you prepared for me; with burnt offerings and sin offerings you were not pleased.

Then I said, ‘Here I am—it is written about me in the scroll—I have come to do your will, my God.’”

First he said, “Sacrifices and offerings, burnt offerings and sin offerings you did not desire, nor were you pleased with them”—though they were offered in accordance with the law. Then he said, “Here I am, I have come to do your will.” He sets aside the first to establish the second. And by that will, we have been made holy through the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ once for all. (Hebrews 10:1–10, NIV)

Jesus came, a High Priest above all high priests, and did not offer a bull or lamb as a sacrifice—he offered himself. And so, when Jesus comes into our life, when he takes up residence in our heart, when we begin a day-by-day and moment-by-moment relationship with Him, His saving and healing presence brings forgiveness and cleansing that no religious act could ever bring about.

We don’t have to take a precious offering to a priest to have our sins forgiven; we can have the High Priest actually living in my heart. And when we have Him, we have complete forgiveness and cleansing through His once-for-all sacrifice for us.

Another way in which a true, living, relationship with Jesus brings about far more than religion could ever do is:

2.        When Jesus enters our lives, righteousness comes to us because He is the fulfillment of the Law.

Looking again at Luke 19 – Two parties objected to Jesus’ actions on that first Palm Sunday. One was the Sadducees, or as verse 47 calls them, “the chief priests and the scribes”. (ESV) The other is mentioned in verse 39: “the Pharisees.” The Pharisees were the “teachers of the Law,” the rabbis and others who relied on adherence to the Law of Moses in every detail to try to gain favor in God’s sight.

They identified 613 separate commandments God had given to his people, and insisted on obedience to every one of them. More than that, they added traditions that were intended to keep people from ever getting close to breaking one of God’s commandments—well, better safe than sorry.

But, of course, from the giving of the Law through Moses to the time of Jesus, not one human being had succeeded in keeping the Law. In fact, one accomplished Pharisee later wrote,

Jews and Gentiles alike are all under the power of sin. As it is written:

“There is no one righteous, not even one; … there is no one who does good,     not even one.” (Romans 3:9b-10, 12b, NIV)

Despite all of the Pharisees’ efforts, no one—not one soul—had managed to keep the Law of God…because the Law was not given to make us righteous.

The Bible says the Law was given to show us our sin. Romans 3:20 says, “No one will be declared righteous in God’s sight by the works of the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of our sin.” (NIV)

In other words, the Law exists so that you and I, all of us, will know when have fallen short of the Glory of God. And that’s where Jesus comes in. He is the fulfillment of the Law.

He said:

“Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.” (Matthew 5:17, NIV)

Jesus is the fulfillment of the Law. So when He enters our life—when we, by faith, enter into a relationship with Him—the fulfillment of the Law takes up residence within us! When He enters our life, righteousness enters with Him…because He is righteousness.

2 Corinthians 5:21 (NIV) says, “God made Him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God.”

So when we have Jesus Christ living in us, we have righteousness living in us, and flowing out from us.

In Romans 5:17 (NIV), the Apostle Paul says: “those who receive God’s abundant provision of grace and of the gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man, Jesus Christ!”

When Jesus enters our life, forgiveness comes to us because of the sacrifice He made for us as our High Priest. When Jesus enters our life, righteousness comes, too, because He is the fulfillment of the Law.

And there is yet one more way in which a true, living relationship with Jesus brings about far more than religion could ever do:

3.        When Jesus enters our lives, a new power comes to us because He is our King.

We’ve all heard the story, how a few days after entering the city Jesus was arrested, placed on trial, and shuttled between King Herod, the self-styled “king of the Jews,” and Pilate, the governor, the representative of the Roman emperor.

These earthly rulers supposedly had the power to pardon or sentence Jesus. Yet the whole time Jesus stood before these human rulers, the true power was in his hands, not theirs:

“Are you the King of the Jews?” asked Pilate. “You have said so,” Jesus replied. (Mark 15:2, NIV)

Jesus wasn’t going to lie. He couldn’t deny his kingship.

They could arrest him, but He was still King. They could imprison him, but He was still King. They could flog Him, beat Him, and crucify Him, but He was still King. And so he is.

This is why, after Jesus had died and rose from the dead, his closest followers asked Him, “Lord, are you now going to restore the kingdom to Israel?” In other words, “Are you going to take your throne and exert all your power…and, of course, share it with us?”

They still didn’t fully understand that Jesus was a different kind of king and His kingdom was a different kind of kingdom. But He knew what they were asking, so He answered, “You will receive power …”

But it would not be political power, temporal power. He told them that theirs would be a power of a different kind, but no less real.

  • Power to testify to Jesus’ kingship, as they all did on the Day of Pentecost.
  • Power to heal, as Peter and John demonstrated in healing the beggar at the Temple.
  • Power to turn weakness into strength, as Paul experienced after his conversion.
  • Power to resist temptation, power to conquer evil, power to withstand persecution, power to change the world…as the entire book of Acts reveals.

And that power is ours, too, if we accept the King because when Jesus enters our life, a new power comes to us because He is our King. All the power of the kingdom comes when the King enters in. That’s what Jesus meant when he told his first followers, “Anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing. He will do even greater things than these…” (John 14:12, NIV 1984)

Bold words, but true. All this can be ours, if it isn’t already.

Closing Thoughts

Jesus fulfilled the Law. He was the very example of our quote. Everything about His life, and even His death, was based on putting others ahead of Himself. When we accept Him as our Lord, when we make the choice to follow Him, we journey from Religion (the Law) into a relationship with Him. But, what does that look like in our lives today?

Let me share a few Scriptures that will give us insight.

  • 1 Peter 4:10 – As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace…
  • Mark 10:44-45 – And whoever wishes to be first among you shall be slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.
  • Galatians 5:13-14 -For you were called to freedom, brethren; only do not turn your freedom into an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. For the whole Law is fulfilled in one word, in the statement, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”

And finally…

  • Philippians 2:1-4 – If therefore there is any encouragement in Christ, if there is any consolation of love, if there is any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and compassion, make my joy complete by being of the same mind, maintaining the same love, united in spirit, intent on one purpose. Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind let each of you regard one another as more important than himself; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others.

I invite you to journey beyond religion, beyond the Law – and into a relationship with Jesus. His love was so complete that it has lived on for over 2000 years – and continues to live on through us. I invite you to live as He lived, in complete and total service to others. Love as He loved: Forgive one another, show kindness and compassion to one another, extend mercy and generosity to others. Not just some of the time or to some people, but all of the time and to everyone!

When we have this kind of relationship with Jesus, when we are this committed to living our lives as He lived, we will be able to say, with honesty and conviction, Paul’s words in Galatians 2:20 – “…Christ lives in me…”

Scripture

  •     Hebrews 2:3
  •     Luke 19:28–40 and 45–48
  •     Hebrews 10:1–10
  •     Romans 3:9b-10, 12b
  •     Romans 3:20
  •     Matthew 5:17
  •     2 Corinthians 5:21
  •     Romans 5:17
  •     Mark 15:2
  •     John 14:12
  •     Philippians 2:1-4
  •     Galatians 5:13-14
  •     Mark 10:44-45
  •     1 Peter 4:10
  •     Galatians 2:20

Join the Discussion

If you would like to share your thoughts, please post your comments. And, if this message resonates with you, please feel free to share it with others.

 

 

Serving Others – Quote

As we continue with messages based on the mini-series The Bible, we turn this week to exploring our Journey From Religion to Relationship. This week’s Spiritual Quote reminds us of a key component in our relationship with God and with our Lord, Jesus Christ – Serving Others.

Quote

Serving Others

What we do for ourselves dies with us.
What we do for others, and the world, remains, and is, immortal.
~Albert Pine

Potential Scripture

  • Hebrews 2:3
  • Luke 19:28–40 and 45–48
  • Hebrews 10:1–10
  • Romans 3:9b-10, 12b
  • Romans 3:20
  • Matthew 5:17
  • 2 Corinthians 5:21
  • Romans 5:17
  • Mark 15:2
  • John 14:12
  • Philippians 2:1-4
  • Galatians 5:13-14
  • Mark 10:44-45
  • 1 Peter 4:10
  • Galatians 2:20

Join us Sunday for worship and fellowship!

 

Victim to Victor! – Teaching

As we continue with our series based on the mini-series The Bible, our journey takes us to the Book of Daniel. The stories in the Book of Daniel give us some inspiring insights into how God’s “great salvation” changes us from Victim to Victor, even when it may seem impossible.

Quote

My job is to take care of the possible and to trust God with the impossible.
~Ruth Bell Graham

Thoughts

Victim to Victor – Miracle at Dunkirk

Let me start with a little story.

It was May 1940. The allied French and British forces had been badly defeated by Germany in the Battle of France. Around three hundred fifty thousand men, including the entire British army, were backed up against the sea at the port of Dunkirk, on the coast of France.

They were sitting ducks. Their days were numbered. They were certain to be wiped out at any moment. Three hundred fifty thousand men…far too many to evacuate by sea. And the Germans were certain to press their advantage. German planes had only to bomb and strafe the troops from the sky.

The British commander at Dunkirk issued a cryptic three-word message to the people of England: “But if not.” It was a reference to the three Hebrews in the book of Daniel, who refused to bow to King Nebuchadnezzar’s image, saying, “The God we serve is able to save us…but if not, we will not bow.” It was a message of courage and defiance against impossible odds.

The king of England issued a call for prayer, and a call for help. The weather forecast changed, often grounding German planes. And soon nearly eight hundred fishing boats, yachts, and merchant vessels joined the navy to ferry those soldiers to safety over the course of ten tense days.

To this day, it’s called the “Miracle at Dunkirk.” It turned certain annihilation into a reason for hope. Apparent victims lived to fight another day…and eventually emerged victorious. And, this story that still defines and inspires the British nation; as many of the stories of the Bible define and inspire us. They explain where we’ve come from. They shed light on who we are. They guide our steps as we move forward in life.

The Story of Daniel

The story we will learn from today is the story that inspired that three-word cable from the beaches of Dunkirk that I mentioned at the start of my comments this morning. It is the story of a time when the entire nation of Israel was reduced to nothing. To rubble. To victimhood.

But God had a plan, as he does for every one of us. His plan was to work their salvation, in such a way that turned them from victims to victors; the same plan God has for you and me.

And the first such insight is this:

1.        We can be victorious because “there is a God in heaven.”

The book of Daniel, in our Bible, is named for the main figure in the story; who was one of many exiles who were forcibly taken from their homes when Jerusalem was conquered by King Nebuchadnezzar, and the kingdom of Judah ended by the nation of Babylon. Though he was more than five hundred miles from home, among people who didn’t know or worship his God, Daniel’s story was just beginning.

He became an adviser to the very king who had tried to make victims of him and his people.

[View Clip: Nebuchadnezzar]

This clip was a summary of the story told in Daniel, chapter two. We’re going to study portions of Daniel 2, 3, and 6 today to see what God has to say regarding our situations by looking at Daniel and his situation.

Daniel had become one of Nebuchadnezzar’s many court advisers. And then, one day, the king had a dream that no one in his court could explain. So he issued an order to kill them all! But Daniel and his friends asked God for help; and God answered their prayers in a vision he gave to Daniel.

So Daniel told Arioch, the king’s assassin, that he could interpret the dream. In Daniel 2:25–28, they say:

“Arioch took Daniel to the king at once and said, “I have found a man among the exiles from Judah who can tell the king what his dream means.”

The king asked Daniel (also called Belteshazzar), “Are you able to tell me what I saw in my dream and interpret it?” Daniel replied, “No wise man, enchanter, magician or diviner can explain to the king the mystery he has asked about, but there is a God in heaven who reveals mysteries. He has shown King Nebuchadnezzar what will happen in days to come,” (NIV)

That’s much the same scene shown in the video, except that the clip summarized Daniel’s wording, “there is a God in heaven who reveals mysteries,” with the phrase, “But my God can.”

God can and does reveal mysteries. And because of that truth, we do not need to be victims. We don’t need to resign ourselves to our current circumstances. We do not have to settle for the status quo, any more than Daniel did. He faced a royal decree, a kingly contract on his life; his response…“but there is a God in heaven.”

We may feel like our situation is impossible; “but there is a God in heaven.”
We may be burdened by sin or sickness; “but there is a God in heaven.”
We may see no way to improve a dead-end marriage, a dead-end job, seemingly dead-end life; “but there is a God in heaven.”

There is a God in heaven who reveals mysteries, who can redeem us from our past, and who can give us boldness and confidence in our future.

But that’s not all. Because Daniel’s story is our story in another way, too:

2.        We can be victorious because our God “is able to deliver.”

Chapter 3 tells the memorable story of a golden image the king had made. It was mammoth, about ninety-feet tall—the height of a nine-story building. And he issued a command that everyone in his kingdom bow to the image. And everyone did…except for three Jews whose Babylonian names were Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. They would not, and did bow. And that is where we will pick up the story, in Daniel 3:13-23:

“Nebuchadnezzar summoned Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego. So these men were brought before the king, and Nebuchadnezzar said to them, “Is it true, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, that you do not serve my gods or worship the image of gold I have set up? Now when you hear the sound of the horn, flute, zither, lyre, harp, pipe and all kinds of music, if you are ready to fall down and worship the image I made, very good. But if you do not worship it, you will be thrown immediately into a blazing furnace. Then what god will be able to rescue you from my hand?”

Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego replied to him, “King Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you in this matter. If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to deliver us from it, and he will deliver us from Your Majesty’s hand. But even if he does not, we want you to know, Your Majesty, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.”

Then Nebuchadnezzar was furious with Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, and his attitude toward them changed. He ordered the furnace heated seven times hotter than usual and commanded some of the strongest soldiers in his army to tie up Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego and throw them into the blazing furnace. So these men, wearing their robes, trousers, turbans and other clothes, were bound and thrown into the blazing furnace. The king’s command was so urgent and the furnace so hot that the flames of the fire killed the soldiers who took up Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, and these three men, firmly tied, fell into the blazing furnace.” (NIV)

Sometimes we’re in the same position as they were. We, too, are children of God. We, too, face difficult choices. We, too, have to decide between compromise and conviction. And we, too, can be victorious because, as they told the king, “Our God whom we serve is able to deliver us.”

Let’s see how this episode concludes, starting in verse 24:

“Then King Nebuchadnezzar leaped to his feet in amazement and asked his advisers, “Weren’t there three men that we tied up and threw into the fire?”

They replied, “Certainly, Your Majesty.”

He said, “Look! I see four men walking around in the fire, unbound and unharmed, and the fourth looks like a son of the gods.”

Nebuchadnezzar then approached the opening of the blazing furnace and shouted, “Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, servants of the Most High God, come out! Come here!”

So Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego came out of the fire, and the satraps, prefects, governors and royal advisers crowded around them. They saw that the fire had not harmed their bodies, nor was a hair of their heads singed; their robes were not scorched, and there was no smell of fire on them.

Then Nebuchadnezzar said, “Praise be to the God of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, who has sent his angel and rescued his servants! They trusted in him and defied the king’s command and were willing to give up their lives rather than serve or worship any god except their own God. …

Then the king promoted Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego in the province of Babylon.” (Daniel 3:24–28, 30, NIV)

It’s important to understand this story is not a guarantee that we’ll never have to endure injury or pain. But let’s also remember the promise of Psalm 34:17. It says: “The righteous cry out, and the LORD hears them; he delivers them from all their troubles.” (NIV)

And, let’s remember the resolute faith of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. They said to the king, “God is able to deliver us…but if not, we still won’t bow to an idol.” I would submit that it was at that moment that they became victors––not when they walked out of the fiery furnace. It was their trust in God and their obedience of him that brought victory. We can have that kind of confidence, because our God is able to save and deliver us.

He was able to save Noah and his family from the flood.
He was able to save a whole nation of people from slavery in Egypt.
He was able to save the kingdom of Israel from oppression by Philistines, Moabites, and Edomites.

And he is able to save and deliver us here, now, today.
He is able to do things for us that we cannot do for ourselves.
And he is able to do things with us that we can’t even imagine.

So, we can be victorious because “there is a God in heaven,” as Daniel said. We can be victorious because our God “is able to deliver,” as the three Hebrews said.

And, finally:

3.        We can be victorious because “our God sent”.

Years later, after Nebuchadnezzar’s Babylon had been conquered by a new king, and a new empire, Daniel was still serving in the royal courts, and still faithfully praying to God—three times a day, in fact. But others among the court officials resented Daniel. He not only still had influence in the government, his influence was growing. So these officials plotted against Daniel, and convinced the new king, whose name was Darius, to proclaim a thirty-day period in which no one could pray to anyone but the king.

Thirty days. Now, I know some of us here might think, “I could go thirty days without praying.” Some may even be thinking, “I DO go thirty days without praying.” But these plotters knew that Daniel couldn’t…or wouldn’t.

And they were right. Even after the decree was signed, Daniel continued his three-times-daily prayer habit without missing a beat. So the king, though he liked Daniel and had plans to promote him, had to enforce his own law.

As punishment, Daniel was thrown into a den of lions…overnight. Now, we all know what happens when fresh meat is thrown to the lions – they don’t waste time. They get down to business, like some of us at a buffet.

But after the king suffered a sleepless night, in Daniel 6:19-23, the Bible says:

“At the first light of dawn, the king got up and hurried to the lions’ den. When he came near the den, he called to Daniel in an anguished voice, “Daniel, servant of the living God, has your God, whom you serve continually, been able to rescue you from the lions?”

Daniel answered, “May the king live forever! My God sent his angel, and he shut the mouths of the lions. They have not hurt me, because I was found innocent in his sight. Nor have I ever done any wrong before you, Your Majesty.”

The king was overjoyed and gave orders to lift Daniel out of the den. And when Daniel was lifted from the den, no wound was found on him, because he had trusted in his God.” (NIV)

Let me focus on verse 22. Notice: Daniel said, “My God sent his angel, and he shut the mouths of the lions.”…“My God sent his angel.”…“My God sent.”

Daniel was saved…because God sent…

You and I can say the same…except in our case, God did not send an angel, but someone even greater than an angel; he sent His Son.

John 3:16, one of the most familiar verses in the Bible, puts it this way:

“God so loved the world, that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” (NIV)

We can be victorious over temptation and sin because “our God sent…”
We can be victorious over shame and guilt because “our God sent…”
We can be victorious over death and the devil because “our God sent…”
We can be victorious over all the evil and filth of this world because “our God sent…”

Closing Thoughts

In closing, I’d like us to think about our quote for just a moment. Our job is to do the possible, and trust God to do the impossible. We must do our part, and we must trust the Spirit of God to guide us, even when things are tough, even when it seems impossible. I’d also like us to think about how the examples in the Book of Daniel can apply to us today.

How firm do we stand in our faith? Remembering back to a previous message, faith = trust. Do we trust God, even when it seems we’re facing a den of lions? What if we were told we must bow down to a ‘foreign’ god, or to idols, or die…would we bow down in order to save our lives? If we were told we could not pray for thirty days, and if we did, we would be executed – would we cease praying? Or, would e stand firm in our faith…in our trust in God? Let’s go one step further…we are told we must bow down and worship a ‘foreign’ god – and if we don’t, we must watch our child be executed. Now what’s our choice?

Now, I know the likelihood of actually being faced with such extreme decisions is pretty slim. But, during this time of Lent, as we prepare to celebrate the very foundation of our faith, it’s worth taking time for self examination. I invite us all to give thought this week to our relationship with God, and with Jesus. Is it as strong as we’d like it to be? Is our faith strong enough to stand and say, “our God is able to deliver,” and “but if not, we will not bow?” Is our faith so strong that we can say with conviction, regardless of circumstance, “with God, I am not a victim, I am victorious?”

Scripture

  • Daniel 2, 3, & 6
  • Psalm 34:17
  • John 3:16

Join the Discussion

Please feel free to post your comments. And, if this message resonates with you, please feel free to share it with others.

Victim to Victor! – Quote

We continue this week with part 3 of our series based on the mini-series The Bible being shown on the History Channel. Our exploration this week takes us to the Book of Daniel. The stories in the Book of Daniel are wonderful examples of moving from Victim to Victor, and are summed up in this week’s quote.

Spiritual Quote

My job is to take care of the possible and to trust God with the impossible.
~Ruth Bell Graham

Join us Sunday at 10:45 AM for worship and fellowship.

Planned Scripture

  • Daniel 2, 3, & 6
  • Psalm 34:17
  • John 3:16

A Community of Spiritual Growth and Healing Where Everyone is Welcome!

Journey Into Freedom – Teaching

This week, we’ll continue with our series based on the mini-series The Bible. Our journey takes us to the story of Rahab, a Hebrew prostitute; and the pivotal role she had to play.

Quote

Remember, it is not where you come from,
or not even where you are,
it is where you are going that matters most.
~Bo Bennett

Introduction

Nearly every family has a set of beloved stories they tell over and over. It may be how Grandpa came to this country with five dollars in his pocket. Or of an ancestor who fought in a famous battle. It may be the story of a romance, or a child’s rescue, or a moment of accomplishment.

One of my favorite stories is when we surprised my mom and her husband for their 25th wedding anniversary. My son was able to fly in to Arizona from Florida. My daughter, my grandson, and I flew in from California. My mom had never met her great-grandson. The four of us met at the hotel, then drove to Mom’s house. She was expecting me because she knew I was flying in on business. She came out to greet me, and my son got out of the car. Completely surprised, Mom went to give him a hug and my daughter got out. Mom starting crying, and then it hit her – if Jennifer was there, Aydin must be, too. Aydin climbed out and Mom completely ‘lost it.’ I will never forget the look on her face when she held her great-grandson for the first time. Adding to the surprise, my two brothers flew in the next day – unannounced to Mom. I’ll always remember how special that time was because Mom and her husband weren’t able to travel any longer, and they both passed away just a year and a half later. It was the last time she got to see my son and my daughter, and the first and last time she got to see her first great-grandchild.

In some ways, the stories we remember—and tell—shape us. They explain where we’ve come from. They shed light on who we are. They guide our steps as we move forward in life.

That is one of the reasons the Bible is so important, or should be; because it is the story of all of us, from the first words of Genesis to the last lines of Revelation.

That is why we are retelling some of those stories, following along with the mini-series, The Bible. It started airing last Sunday night on The History Channel and will continue tonight and through Easter Sunday evening. I encourage all of you to watch it, if you can. As you watch, though, remember that the stories have been dramatized for viewing; and there are several scenes that are graphically violent. Please use judgment if you’re having young children watch with you.

The Bible mini-series presents the vast variety and sweeping scope of the Bible’s stories as a unified whole, with a consistent theme. Each Sunday, the stories to be presented that evening will be the topic of our message on Sunday morning. And, during the message on Sunday morning we’ll view a short video clip from The Bible miniseries to help us visualize and experience the story.

Today, the story we’ll focus on is the story of Rahab. It’s a story almost hidden away in the first chapters of the sixth book of the Bible––the book of Joshua. But in many ways, it is also our story; and it’s as current as this morning’s headlines.

Thoughts

In order to fully appreciate Rahab’s story, we must understand the backstory, which involves the Exodus––the deliverance of God’s people from slavery in Egypt. As today’s story begins, the background is this:

God’s people had been delivered from slavery in Egypt, led through the Red Sea, and had wandered in the Sinai wilderness for forty years. There, they had received God’s Law and coalesced as a nation…but, they were still nomads. Their deliverance was not yet complete. The Promised Land was not yet theirs.

In order for that to happen, they had to conquer the most heavily fortified city in the entire land.

[View “Rahab and the Scarlet Cord”]

One of the last few lines in the clip––“you’ll be passed over”—is a reference to the Exodus, forty years earlier that God’s people had since celebrated every year in the Passover. It’s a recognition that something like that is happening again, for Rahab and her family, as recorded in the first chapters of the book of Joshua.

And, as I mentioned, it isn’t just Rahab’s story; it is yours and mine, too; at least in several ways. The first is this:

1.        Our stories start out sad (Joshua 2:1–3).

Joshua 2, verses 1–3, says this:

“Then Joshua son of Nun secretly sent two spies from Shittim. “Go, look over the land,” he said, “especially Jericho.” So they went and entered the house of a prostitute named Rahab and stayed there. The king of Jericho was told, “Look, some of the Israelites have come here tonight to spy out the land.” So the king of Jericho sent this message to Rahab: “Bring out the men who came to you and entered your house, because they have come to spy out the whole land.”” (NIV)

Now, Jericho was a brilliant strategic choice. It is the world’s oldest-known fortified city. It was considered impregnable. Its defeat would have made headlines, and would have struck fear into the hearts of all around. Why? – If JERICHO can be defeated, we don’t stand a chance!

Rahab, on the other hand, seems like a strange choice. She is referred to as a “prostitute” in the Bible account. That is not an auspicious start to her story. It may have been understandable, from the spies’ viewpoint. Two men entering her house may not have raised much suspicion; and the location of her house on the city wall may have made escape a little easier.

But still…she was a prostitute, right?

What if our autobiographies started out like that?

What if our stories were preserved forever with those words?

Guess what? They kinda do.

We can dress it up however we like, but that’s how every human story begins. Maybe we didn’t start out as a prostitute, but as a “sinner” of one kind or another.

Romans 3:23, NIV, says, “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”

Let me give you a quick Greek lesson. You know what the Greek word for “all,” pas, in that verse means? It means, “all,” or “every.” And the Greek word for “sinned” is hamartanʹō; which means to miss the mark, to err, to offend.

So, the verse tells us that all of us have, at some point in our lives, missed the mark and fallen short of the glory of God.

And, Jesus said, “Very truly I tell you, everyone who sins is a slave to sin” (John 8:34, NIV). Slave, or servant, in this context in Greek means “to be bound.”

Now, your sin, or offense, may seem more “respectable” than mine, but it’s still sin, or falling short; and we all become just as bound to it…according to Jesus.

But it’s not the whole story. There is another way in which Rahab’s story is true of us; and that is:

2.        Our stories involve a choice (Joshua 2:4–14).

Joshua 2:4–14 goes on to say this:

“But the woman had taken the two men and hidden them. She said, “Yes, the men came to me, but I did not know where they had come from. At dusk, when it was time to close the city gate, they left. I don’t know which way they went. Go after them quickly. You may catch up with them.” (But she had taken them up to the roof and hidden them under the stalks of flax she had laid out on the roof.) So the men set out in pursuit of the spies on the road that leads to the fords of the Jordan, and as soon as the pursuers had gone out, the gate was shut.

Before the spies lay down for the night, she went up on the roof and said to them, “I know that the LORD has given you this land and that a great fear of you has fallen on us, so that all who live in this country are melting in fear because of you. We have heard how the LORD dried up the water of the Red Sea for you when you came out of Egypt, and what you did to Sihon and Og, the two kings of the Amorites east of the Jordan, whom you completely destroyed. When we heard of it, our hearts melted in fear and everyone’s courage failed because of you, for the LORD your God is God in heaven above and on the earth below.

“Now then, please swear to me by the LORD that you will show kindness to my family, because I have shown kindness to you. Give me a sure sign that you will spare the lives of my father and mother, my brothers and sisters, and all who belong to them—and that you will save us from death.”

“Our lives for your lives!” the men assured her. “If you don’t tell what we are doing, we will treat you kindly and faithfully when the LORD gives us the land”” (NIV).

Now, it is easy to read a story like this without fully appreciating it. Let’s not do that, let’s delve a bit deeper. Let’s take a minute to put ourselves in Rahab’s shoes.

She faced a decision…She could have turned the spies away…She could have turned them in…She didn’t have to help them…In fact, the safe choice probably would have been to stay out of the line of fire. But given a choice between the side the Lord was on and the other side, she chose the Lord’s side. Ponder for a moment…

Was something was operating in Rahab, too?

Did the status quo feel more like “status no” to her?

Was ready to be somewhere else?

Was she ready to be someone else?

Maybe like some of us here, today. Maybe for some of us the status quo feels more like “status no.” Maybe some of us are ready to be somewhere else, to be someone else. Maybe some of us are ready to be free.

Remember – Our God is a God who specializes in setting captives free.

Remember Joseph’s story?

The kid brother who was sold into slavery in Egypt? God not only got him out of slavery and out of prison; he made Joseph prime minister of the whole land of Egypt!

Remember the story of Joseph’s ancestors in Egypt? They were enslaved by the Egyptians…until God sent a man named Moses who led his people out of slavery.

Remember the story of Israel in the time of the Judges? Year after year, generation after generation, they strayed from God and his ways, and were repeatedly oppressed and enslaved by a succession of nations. And repeatedly God sent leaders—judges, as they are called in the Bible—to deliver them.

Our God is a God who sets captives free. He shatters our bonds. He delivers us from sin.

But He will not do so without our consent. Like Rahab, each of us faces a decision, too. Sin or salvation? Slavery or freedom?

If we haven’t yet done so, I hope today is the day when we say no to the status quo. I hope all of us here today are ready to be somewhere else, to be someone else. I hope all of us are ready to be free!

Because if we are, then one more part of Rahab’s story will become our story, too, and that is:

3.        Our stories are marked by a scarlet cord (Joshua 2:15–21, 6:20–25).

Rahab’s story is the story of a prostitute…who faced a choice. She had to choose one side or the other. Sin or salvation? Slavery or freedom?

Joshua 2:15-21 continues with,

“So she let them down by a rope through the window, for the house she lived in was part of the city wall. She said to them, “Go to the hills so the pursuers will not find you. Hide yourselves there three days until they return, and then go on your way.”

Now the men had said to her, “This oath you made us swear will not be binding on us unless, when we enter the land, you have tied this scarlet cord in the window through which you let us down, and unless you have brought your father and mother, your brothers and all your family into your house. If any of them go outside your house into the street, their blood will be on their own heads; we will not be responsible. As for those who are in the house with you, their blood will be on our head if a hand is laid on them. But if you tell what we are doing, we will be released from the oath you made us swear.”

“Agreed,” she replied. “Let it be as you say.”

So she sent them away, and they departed. And she tied the scarlet cord in the window.” (NIV)

A scarlet cord…Hanging outside the city wall.

And, of course, you probably know how the story ends. Israel’s army surrounded the city and marched around it every day, for six days. Then, on the seventh day, they marched around the city seven times. And, when they had done so, the sixth chapter of Joshua records the result:

When the trumpets sounded, the army shouted, and at the sound of the trumpet, when the men gave a loud shout, the wall collapsed; so everyone charged straight in, and they took the city. … But Joshua spared Rahab the prostitute, with her family and all who belonged to her, because she hid the men Joshua had sent as spies to Jericho—and she lives among the Israelites to this day.” (Joshua 6:20, 25, NIV)

“Rahab the prostitute,” it says again. And yet … she was saved. Saved by a choice…by a scarlet cord, hung outside the wall.

She not only found a place of acceptance among the people of God, but she became the great-grandmother of King David…from whose royal line Jesus came. That’s quite a journey, from “Rahab the prostitute” to “Rahab the progenitor of the Lord Jesus Christ.”

All from a sinner, and a scarlet cord, hung outside the city wall.

That is my story. And yours, too, if you’ll let it be.

Galatians 4:4-5 (The Message) says:

“When the time arrived that was set by God the Father, God sent his Son, born among us of a woman, born under the conditions of the law so that he might redeem those of us who have been kidnapped by the law. Thus we have been set free to experience our rightful heritage.”

Just like Rahab, no matter what was in our past; no matter how bad we think we are, or have been told we are; no matter how hopeless our situation; we can be set free. We can be made acceptable in his sight, because, as the Bible says in Hebrews 13:12 (NIV):

“Jesus … suffered outside the city gate to make the people holy through his own blood.”

Closing Thoughts

The choice, however, is ours. Freedom is in front of us. All we have to do is make the choice. If we’ve made the choice, if we’ve chosen to move away from our “sins” – those things that separate us from God, and chosen instead to follow Jesus’ path, the Bible says we have passed from slavery to freedom and have been set free to experience our rightful heritage as a child of God.

We started today by talking about stories and how they’ve shaped us. Like Rahab, we all have a story. Though not a prostitute, the stories would tell of a pretty checkered past. Some of you may have those same types of stories. The good news is that once we’ve made the choice, who and where we were, and even who and where we are, will no longer matter – and we will continue on our journey into a bold and wonderful new life, free from the bondage that keeps us separated from God.

Scripture

  • Joshua 2:1-21, 6:20-25
  • Romans 3:23
  • John 8:34
  • Galatians 4:4 & 5
  • Hebrews 13:12

Join the Discussion

If this message resonates with you, please share your thoughts and comments. And, if you would like to share it with others, please feel free.

Journey Into Freedom – Quote

This week, we’ll continue with our series based on the mini-series The Bible. Our journey takes us to the story of Rahab, a Hebrew prostitute; and the pivotal role she had to play.

Quote

Remember, it is not where you come from,
or not even where you are,
it is where you are going that matters most.
~Bo Bennett

Join us Sunday at 10:45 AM for worship and fellowship.

Planned Scripture

  • Joshua 2:1-21
  • Joshua 6:20-25
  • Romans 3:23
  • John 8:34
  • Galatians 4:4 & 5
  • Hebrews 13:12

A Community of Spiritual Growth and Healing Where Everyone is Welcome!

Test of Faith – Teaching

This is Week One of our 5-part series on the mini-series The Bible. The messages for these five weeks come with the series pack, but they also have the option of slight customization.

In this, week one, we’ll be taking a look at faith – deep, unwavering faith. So, our quote is particularly appropriate.

Quote

Weave in faith and God will find the thread.
~Author Unknown

 Thoughts

If you want to fascinate a child with a great story, one of the best ways to do that is to make the child a main character in a story.

Nearly a hundred years ago, a little boy in England received a stuffed bear as a gift on his first birthday. Soon after, his father, a playwright and novelist, began writing stories that featured the little boy, his bear, and other toys in the boy’s playroom, as characters.

You know the bear as Winnie-the-Pooh. You know the boy as Christopher Robin.

Since then, of course, A. A. Milne’s Winnie-the-Pooh stories have been loved by generations of children, translated into more than fifty languages, and featured in songs, movies, and television specials. But it all began with a little boy and a stuffed bear as characters in a simple story.

Everyone here has a story, whether we have a stuffed bear or not. I have a story. You have a story. Some read like tragedies, some like comedies. Some are mysteries, and others are romances. Some are much longer than others, and some are just getting started. But everyone has a story. All of our stories, as different as they are, are part of a bigger story:

A story that is older than any of us, a story that defines all of us, and can—if we let it—guide us, too. It is the story told in the pages of our Bible, from the first words of Genesis to the last lines of the book of Revelation.

The over-arching redemption story of the Bible has been retold dramatically in an epic made-for-television miniseries called, appropriately enough, The Bible. It begins airing tonight and the next five Sunday nights on The History Channel. I encourage all of you to watch it, if you can.

The Bible miniseries presents the vast variety and sweeping scope of the Bible’s stories as a unified whole, with a consistent theme. It is those stories and their messages that will occupy our attention in the Sunday-morning sermons and small-group discussions these next five weeks [of Lent] leading up to Easter. We will track with some of the most inspiring and powerful Bible stories featured in the series. And in my Sunday morning messages, I’ll share a short video clip from The Bible miniseries to help us visualize and experience the story.

Over the next 5 weeks we are going to discover some of the most gripping stories from the Bible––stories that are more than just stories; stories that tell us something about ourselves, our lives, and God’s hopes and plans for us. The stories may also prompt us to ask ourselves questions.

Video Clip

The story we will start with today is found in the first book of the Bible, the book of Genesis, the twenty-second chapter. It is sometimes called “The Binding of Isaac,” and we’ll look at it first on video, and then turn to our Bible(s) to study it in greater detail:

[Video Clip Viewed]

A Different Point of View

Now, some of us have read that story and heard it many times. It is a story of great faith, the story of a father who was so obedient to God that he was willing to make the greatest sacrifice imaginable. It is a story usually told from Abraham’s perspective, as a display of his great faith. But have you ever looked at it from Isaac’s perspective?

That’s how we will approach it today. Because that story, from Genesis 22, is not just Isaac’s story; it is the story of all of us in at least three very important ways.

The first way that Isaac’s story is our story is this:

1.        Our lives are an uncertain journey (Genesis 22:1–8).

If you have your Bible, please turn to Genesis 22, where we’ll read it together. Verses 1-8 say:

“Sometime later God tested Abraham. He said to him,
“Abraham!”
“Here I am,” he replied.
Then God said, “Take your son, your only son, whom you love—Isaac—and go to the region of Moriah. Sacrifice him there as a burnt offering on a mountain I will show you.”
Early the next morning Abraham got up and loaded his donkey. He took with him two of his servants and his son Isaac. When he had cut enough wood for the burnt offering, he set out for the place God had told him about. On the third day Abraham looked up and saw the place in the distance. He said to his servants, “Stay here with the donkey while I and the boy go over there. We will worship and then we will come back to you.”
Abraham took the wood for the burnt offering and placed it on his son Isaac, and he himself carried the fire and the knife. As the two of them went on together, Isaac spoke up and said to his father Abraham, “Father?”
“Yes, my son?” Abraham replied.
“The fire and wood are here,” Isaac said, “but where is the lamb for the burnt offering?”
Abraham answered, “God himself will provide the lamb for the burnt offering, my son.” And the two of them went on together.” (NIV)”

Think about that for a moment, and put yourself in Isaac’s shoes; or sandals, as the case may be. Apparently, one day his father told him they were going for a trip…a father-son trip to Mt. Moriah, with two servants.

It was a trip of about fifty miles from where they were living. They traveled for two days, reaching their destination on the third day. The Bible doesn’t tell us how much Isaac knew, if anything. While artistic depictions and the clip we just watched depict Isaac as a boy, he was probably a young man at the time.

In any case, it is clear that there was much Isaac didn’t understand. There was much that hadn’t been revealed to him. There was much that was a mystery. That is true of our lives as well. We are all on a journey––an uncertain journey.

We don’t know what lies ahead. A pastor and songwriter named Ira Stanphill once wrote,

I don’t know about tomorrow;
I just live from day to day.
I don’t borrow from its sunshine
For its skies may turn to grey…
Many things about tomorrow
I don’t seem to understand
But I know who holds tomorrow
And I know who holds my hand.

As the wise “preacher” and author of Ecclesiastes once said, “No man knows what is to be, and who can tell him what will be after him?” (Ecclesiastes 10:14b, ESV).

None of us knows what is to be. No matter how much we may know, no matter how educated we are, no matter how much we have figured out, our lives are an uncertain journey.

That’s one way in which Isaac’s story is our story. But there is another way in which his story is true of each of us, and that is:

2.        Our death appears certain (Genesis 22:9–10).

Look at the text again. Genesis 22, verses 9 and 10, say this:

“When they reached the place God had told him about, Abraham built an altar there and arranged the wood on it. He bound his son Isaac and laid him on the altar, on top of the wood. Then he reached out his hand and took the knife to slay his son.” (NIV)

Can you imagine? Again, put yourself in Isaac’s shoes. Can you imagine his amazement, his incredulity, his horror? Whether he was eight years old or eighteen, this had to have been a frightful moment. Did his father surprise him? Did Abraham explain what had to happen? Did Isaac resist? We don’t know for sure. But it seems likely that, at some point, Isaac understood what was happening. At some point, he realized that his death was certain.

And, while the biblical account doesn’t give us much detail about how things got to this point, it supplies excruciating detail at this point: Abraham raised the knife to “slay” his son! Talk about your life flashing before your eyes!

Some of us have had such a moment. Maybe it was a cancer scare. Maybe it was a car accident or an operation. But Isaac’s story is your story, and mine, regardless.

There is a scene in The Bible mini-series dramatization of the Exodus, in which Moses has to explain the final plague to his people, and he tells them, “Death is coming for us all.”

It’s true. We may not be tied hand and foot and placed on an altar. The angel of death may not be sweeping through our house tonight. But death is coming for us all, one way or another, sooner or later.

Depressing, right? I bet if you knew I was going to be such a “downer” today, you would’ve stayed home and watched some preacher on TV, right?

But stay with me, it gets better. Before we can truly appreciate the good news, though, we need to understand the bad news. Death is coming for us all. Every one among us is facing physical death, just like Isaac did on the altar; it’s not a question of if death is coming, it is only a question of when.

We all know our time on this earth, in this life, is limited. We all know that the human condition is terminal. We know that the death rate is 100%. We may hope it’s not today. We may feel like we’ve got all the time in the world. But none of us knows. As the Bible says, “No man knows when his hour will come.” (Ecclesiastes 9:12a, NIV 1984)

But, happily, that is not the end of the story. Or, at least, it doesn’t have to be. Because there is one more way that Isaac’s story is our story, and it is this:

3.        Our salvation has been provided (Genesis 22:11–14).

Let’s look one more time at the text. Remember, Abraham has bound his son Isaac and laid him on the altar. He has lifted the knife to kill his son. And then Genesis 22, verses 11–14, says this:

“But the angel of the LORD called out to him from heaven, “Abraham! Abraham!”
“Here I am,” he replied.
“Do not lay a hand on the boy,” he said. “Do not do anything to him. Now I know that you fear God, because you have not withheld from me your son, your only son.”
Abraham looked up and there in a thicket he saw a ram caught by its horns. He went over and took the ram and sacrificed it as a burnt offering instead of his son. So Abraham called that place The LORD Will Provide. And to this day it is said, “On the mountain of the LORD it will be provided.””(NIV)

Close call, right? Can you imagine the relief? For Abraham, certainly—but once again, put yourself in Isaac’s shoes. The die was cast. The knife was raised. He probably closed his eyes and braced himself.

And then…and then…the angel of the Lord spoke up, told Abraham to hold off, and the next thing you know, a ram appeared, tangled in a bush nearby. A ram. A sacrificial animal. A substitute. And Isaac was saved.

Our Story

That’s our story, too. We may not be physically bound, hand and foot, but, we know what it’s like to be tied up in knots. But our story doesn’t end there, any more than Isaac’s story ended on Mt. Moriah. Because just as he did for Isaac,

God provided salvation for us…a substitute…a Lamb.

In fact, God provided that Lamb on the very same spot where the ram was caught in a thicket, in prophetic fulfillment of the promise, “On the mountain of the LORD it will be provided.” (Genesis 22:14b, NIV) That’s what John the Baptist meant when he saw Jesus by the Jordan River, and announced to everyone:

“Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29, NIV)

God provided a Lamb for all of us.

Closing Thoughts

There’s one more thing I’d like us to consider. I said at the beginning that our discussion today might just cause us to ask ourselves some hard questions.

Whether you believe the story of Abraham and Isaac is a literal event, or an event that the God-inspired writers dramatized to illustrate a message – the message is the same – unwavering faith. So, I ask you, and I ask myself – is our faith like that of Abraham? Do we trust completely in God, and in His Son, Jesus? Are we willing to put aside our human desires (that pesky self-denial we we’ve talked about the last couple of weeks), and live our lives in accordance with Jesus’ teachings of love, kindness, compassion, mercy, forgiveness? Are we willing to give up those things that separate us from God? Are we willing to lay down our lives for our fellow man, indeed, for our faith? As we celebrate Lent and the Easter season, the very foundation of our faith, it’s important we take stock of our lives, weave in faith, and trust in God to find the thread and help us to make the changes we know will move us closer Him.

Let me ask you to put yourself in Isaac’s shoes—or sandals—one last time today.

Can you picture him climbing down from that altar? Do you imagine that he casually wiped his brow and said, “Whew! That was close”?

Or do you imagine that he dropped to his knees in tearful gratitude for the salvation God provided? Do you, like me, think that’s the kind of response that would be appropriate for us, today? Do you think we might bow in gratitude and petition also? Do you think we could pray a simple prayer? I invite you to pray with me now:

“Lord God, thank you for your great salvation. Help each of us to live in gratitude and constant awareness of our deliverance from sin, and guilt, and death, in Jesus’ name, amen.”

If you would like to pray and ask our Lord Jesus into your life and heart, take the time,now, to pray this prayer:

“Lord God, thank you for providing my salvation. Thank you for the spotless Lamb of God, who was given to take away the sins of the world. I confess that I have sinned, like everyone else here. I turn to you, and accept Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross as payment for all the wrong things I’ve done. I ask you to come into my heart, and take charge of my life from this moment on, in Jesus’ name. Amen.”

Scripture

  • Genesis 22:1-19
  • Ecclesiastes 10:14
  • Ecclesiastes 9:12
  • John 1:29

Join the Discussion

If you’d like to share your thoughts, please post you comments. And, if this message resonates with you, and you’d like to share it with others, please feel free.

Test of Faith – Quote

This is Week One of our 5-part series on the mini-series The Bible. The messages for these five weeks come with the series pack, but they also have the option of slight customization.

In this, week one, we’ll be taking a look at faith – deep, unwavering faith. So, our quote is particularly appropriate.

Quote

Weave in faith and God will find the thread.
~Author Unknown

Join us this morning for worship and fellowship as we explore one of the oldest stories in the Bible, and examine its message of unwavering faith.

Planned Scripture

  • Genesis 22:1-19
  • Ecclesiastes 10:14
  • Ecclesiastes 9:12
  • John 1:29