Gospel of Mark: Walking with Jesus–The Call of God

Last week, we began our series on the Gospel of Mark: Walking With Jesus and considered the voice of God.

Mark presented the Voice of God in the following forms:

  • Prophecy (Old & New Testament)
  • Apostolic Proclamation
  • Audible Voice of God

In today’s message, let’s look at the Call of God.

God has called people throughout the ages, and the Bible records many of those times of calling, but God CONTINUES to call people, even today.

We had the honor of hearing about the call upon the Miller family.

We’ve seen their calling in action serving with us in our ESL ministry.

We recognize the call.

People must be able to hear God’s voice so that they know the call of God on their lives.

I mentioned last week three gifts that help us hear God’s voice; they help us understand His Call, too:

Three Gifts to Distinguish God’s Voice/Calling:

  1. The Holy Spirit, Himself, though prayer
  2. The Written Word of God, inspired by the Holy Spirit
  3. The Body of Christ with the presence of God’s Holy Spirit

So, with prayer and on the authority of God’s Word, I participate with the Church by declaring the Call of God.

All of us are called by God

…PERIOD

Sometimes a statement like that is followed by the word,

“BUT.”

For example:

“All of us are called, BUT we are called to different things.”

Sometimes we consider particular “call” as greater, and therefore miss the most important.

All of us are called.

Remember, Jesus IS God in the flesh.

Mark knew this and referred to Him as the “Son of God.”

Such a term is different than “child of God,” since Jesus is “THE” Son.

So, what comes from the mouth of Jesus is God’s Word.

Jesus IS the Final Revelation of God to man.

Let’s read the next several verses and lookout for the call of God and how this relates to us:

14 After John was put in prison, Jesus went into Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God.15 “The time has come,” he said. “The kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news!”

16 As Jesus walked beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen. 17 “Come, follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will send you out to fish for people.” 18 At once they left their nets and followed him.

19 When he had gone a little farther, he saw James son of Zebedee and his brother John in a boat, preparing their nets. 20 Without delay he called them, and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired men and followed him.

21 They went to Capernaum, and when the Sabbath came, Jesus went into the synagogue and began to teach. 22 The people were amazed at his teaching, because he taught them as one who had authority, not as the teachers of the law. 23 Just then a man in their synagogue who was possessed by an impure spirit cried out, 24 “What do you want with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are—the Holy One of God!”

25 “Be quiet!” said Jesus sternly. “Come out of him!” 26 The impure spirit shook the man violently and came out of him with a shriek.

27 The people were all so amazed that they asked each other, “What is this? A new teaching—and with authority! He even gives orders to impure spirits and they obey him.” 28 News about him spread quickly over the whole region of Galilee.              Mark 1:14-28

The title of my message today is

“The Call of God,”

Let’s Pray

PRAY

Our Heavenly Father, we thank you for sending Jesus. We thank You that Your kingdom has come in Him, and that we are invited to belong to Your kingdom through Jesus.

As we grow in our relationship with You, we offer to You the throne of our hearts. We believe in You and follow You.

In Jesus’ Name,

Amen

  1. All Called to Follow

vv14, 15

  1. Kingdom of God

What is a kingdom?

It is the realm or territory that is controlled by a king or a queen.

There are about 25 kingdoms around the world from Saudi Arabia to Great Britain and from Bhutan to Denmark.

In some of these kingdoms the king is only a figurehead, but in others, he has absolute rule.

Jesus, too, is from a Kingdom: God’s Kingdom.  He began his ministry with this declaration:

“The time has come,” he said. “The kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news!”

Mark 1:15

Kingdom has come near…in Jesus.

Therefore, God calls us to respond and our response to the kingdom of God is repentance and belief.

Can you imagine going to Saudi Arabia and insulting the king? What would happen?

Probably you would be deported.

But what if a citizen insulted the king? He would be severely punished.

God calls us to come into His Kingdom.

Actually, he warns us that God’s Kingdom and rule is coming, really, whether we like it or not.

The kingdom came in Jesus, but when we die, we will either enter His kingdom in heaven, or we will be punished in hell.

Thus, let us be people who welcome God’s kingdom and rule, rather than to rebel against it.

  1. Repent

Instead of rebelling against God’s kingdom, we must repent and continue to repent.

How do we know what is rebellion? We must hear the revelation of God’s Word.

God calls all to repentance.

In the past God overlooked such ignorance, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent.

Acts 17:30

Today, powerful men are being held accountable for sexual misconduct…

Our response out to be looking deep into our hearts and repenting of what we’ve done, rather than cheering and judging.

All sin is rebellion away from the kingdom of God.

  • Sin declares

I am the king of my own kingdom!”

  • Jesus calls and declares,

“The Kingdom is near, repent and believe.”

Sin separates us from God

Jesus went to the cross because of our sins.

When we excuse sin, we rebel against the kingdom of God.

  1. Believe

What are we to believe?

That the kingdom has come near.

Mark was writing to a young church that was about 30 years old at this time.

The Church did not have much of the New Testament, but they did have the Old Testament.

Can you imagine what church gatherings were like in the first 30 years of the Church?

They met in homes and read from the Old Testament.

Letters from James and Paul were circulated, but the only Gospel was most likely the preaching that the apostles and their associates and followers.

I Timothy has an example of the Gospel that was preached:

15 Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the worst. 16 But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his immense patience as an example for those who would believe in him and receive eternal life. 

1 Timothy 1:15, 16

Christ came to save us, and display His love in and through us.

When the Gospel of Mark was first published, it was helpful for building the belief of the original audience, as it is in building our belief, today.

Belief and Repentance must go together, as James described that Faith without works is dead.

Yet, belief without repentance is the norm, today.

There are many who believe in God, but they don’t repent, and they don’t follow.

Faith must have evidence in order to be real.

As we believe and as we repent, then we are following Jesus.

If we stop repenting, we will stop believing.

So many times, when I’ve counseled people, they’ve admitted to something sinful that they began with which then led to something else, and in time, they even stopped believing.

  1. Are we following Jesus?

Q      How do we know if someone is following us?

A       We turn and they are behind us

Q      How do we know if we are following Jesus?

A       We should see Him in front of us

Q      If Jesus turned to look, would He see us following Him, or are we not following Him?

In addition to begin called to follow Jesus, we are all called to serve

  1. All Called to Serve

vv 16-20

  1. The call to service is specifically shown in the lives of Simon, Andrew, James and John
  2. They left their nets and even their family to not merely follow Jesus, but to serve with him.
  3. But, we are all called to serve…and in serving, people will hear Jesus’ call, and repent, believe and follow.

The initial call is TO all

All are called to follow.

But the call to SERVE is FOR ALL, meaning, when we answer the call to serve, then we are serving so that all may know. So that the Gospel may be displayed in us and in our service.

The Call is to Serve All by Serving God.

In our reading, today, of these four men, notice how they responded:

18 At once they left their nets and followed him…20 Without delay he called them, and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired men and followed him.

Mark 1:18, 20

Immediately,

at once and

without delay.

We who have walked with Jesus for a while have developed a

“lack of immediateness” when it comes to serving God.

This requires us to wait, pray, and postpone.

Let us NOT delay.

Perhaps Jesus called others to serve as his first disciples, but they delayed.

Where would the Church be, today, had Andrew and Peter, James and John delayed, and no one else took their place?

How much can be done in our city and in our church if we didn’t delay?

I don’t mean we need to be haphazard in our work, and I do believe in counting the cost,

but Jesus is calling all of us to SERVE, not to be served.

Jesus washed the feet of those disciples on the night he would be betrayed, the eve of his crucifixion.

Jesus served, and He calls us to serve with Him.

QUESTIONS:

Q      Have we heard God’s call to serve?

Q      Are we serving God through Jesus?

Q      Are we serving as He wants us to serve?

Or have we compromised?

Q      Are we serving in the ministry that God has called us to serve in?

Every church can use more people to serve with them.

  1. All Called to Holiness

In addition to Jesus calling us to follow Him, and being called to serve With Him, we are called to Holiness

vv 21-28

The university ministry CRU, formerly known as Campus Crusade for Christ use the terms

Believe,

Belong and

Bless

to explain their mission.

Today, we’ve looked at the calling to follow, which centered on believing and acting on that belief.

As well, when we looked at the call to serve, we see that we are to bless others.

The call to holiness is the call to belong.

Holiness is so often misunderstood.

I am holy because of Christ’s declaration in my life, therefore, I need to act on that holiness…otherwise, I don’t belong.

God’s kingdom IS Holy, it is set apart from the rest of the world.

We should not try to walk in both worlds. But when we are in the “world” per se, let’s be in the world but not of the world.

Jesus calls us into holiness.

  1. Jesus Calls with authority 

Jesus is the Son of the Holy God.

He calls us into His Holy family, to separate from the world, the flesh and the devil and to belong to Him.

He is in authority over all, and we need to recognize whether we are serving and following under HIS authority or under our own.

QUESTIONS:

  • Are we hearing and obeying His calling and stepping out of wickedness, and stepping into His Holiness?
  • Are we stepping out of complacency and stepping into participation?
  • Are we stepping out of our kingdom and submitting, fully, to His kingdom?

I believe that is what Jesus is calling all of us to.

Yes, we need to be held accountable for our actions, and Jesus wants us to be careful in our thought life, too.

  1. If we are following and serving Jesus, are we remembering that He has all authority?
  2. Are we living as someone who lives under someone’s authority?

We are not to live under our own authority, that is the temptation of Satan to us.

  1. Jesus delivered with authority 
  2. Notice that there is a great contrast between the Holy Spirit and the Impure spirit…yet, the Impure spirit recognized that Jesus was God.
  3. Jesus took authority over the impure spirit. We should apply Jesus’ authority to impurity and unrighteousness in our own lives.
  4. When I pray against something and recognize Satan’s presence, I pray in an authoritative manner
  5. As well, I pray as the Book of Jude describes, and say, “The Lord rebuke you, Satan.”
  6. Jesus calls us to walk in His Holiness

 

  1. He called out to the spirit, sternly, “come out of him.”
  2. The authority was recognized.

Throughout the Gospel of Mark we see many occasions in which the demons respond to the authority of Jesus.

  1. Jesus not only called to the demons and cast them out, he calls to his children, and invites us to come to him in wholeness and holiness.
  2. Satan tempted Adam and Eve to live under their own authority and to ignore God’s call in their lives.
  3. Yet, God called out to Adam, and asked, “where are you?”
  4. Jesus is calling to us:

“Peyton, where are you?”  

“Sue, where are you?”

“Terry, where are you?”

  1. Let’s look at where we are:

4. Where Are We?

  1. Are we following Jesus? Or are we excusing our sins?
  2. Are we serving Jesus? If so, how? Do we have room to follow him even more closely?
  3. Are we walking with Jesus in purity? Are our minds and hearts pure? Are we thinking about what is right and holy? We need to think on the good and right things of life, and not on what would separate us from God.
  4. Bad thoughts come into our minds, and we need to immediately rebuke those thoughts and think about something else. Otherwise as we think so we will do (Prov. 23:7).
  5. God offers us His Grace, and His Grace is not a license to continue to sin, but an opportunity to learn to say, “no.”
  6. Our sins and unholiness sent Jesus to the Cross, His Grace wants to save us from hell, which we deserve, but also from a life of sin.
  7. 11 For the graceof God has appeared that offers salvation to all people. 12 It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, 13 while we wait for the blessed hope—the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, 14 who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good.   Titus 2:11-14

 

  1. Jesus call to us to walking in his holiness

 

With authority he called out to Adam in the Garden…he calls out to us, too….Adam, where are you? Peyton where are you? Sue, where are you?

 

The Mission of the River:

 

Connecting our changing community with the unchanging Gospel

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The Gospel of Mark: Walking With Jesus Series–“The Voice of God”

This week we begin our study of the Gospel of Mark.

It’s fast-paced literature, and quite possibly the first gospel to be written in Greek.

In fact, the term “gospel” in Greek is Euangelion, meaning “good news,” and from which we form the terms “evangelist” and “evangelism.”

In Jesus’ day, a gospel was a proclamation of happy news, like a royal birth or a battlefield victory.

Mark uses this literary form to write about Jesus.

The beginning of the good news <εὐαγγελίου> about Jesus the Messiah, the Son of God…                            Mark 1:1

Mark announces that Messiah, the Son of God, has come.

Today, we will read the first 14 verses of Mark:

The beginning of the good news about Jesus the Messiah, the Son of God, as it is written in Isaiah the prophet:

“I will send my messenger ahead of you,
who will prepare your way”—
“a voice of one calling in the wilderness,
‘Prepare the way for the Lord,
make straight paths for him.’”

And so John the Baptist appeared in the wilderness, preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. The whole Judean countryside and all the people of Jerusalem went out to him. Confessing their sins, they were baptized by him in the Jordan River. John wore clothing made of camel’s hair, with a leather belt around his waist, and he ate locusts and wild honey. And this was his message: “After me comes the one more powerful than I, the straps of whose sandals I am not worthy to stoop down and untie. I baptize you with water, but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.” 

At that time Jesus came from Nazareth in Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan.10 Just as Jesus was coming up out of the water, he saw heaven being torn open and the Spirit descending on him like a dove. 11 And a voice came from heaven: “You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.”

12 At once the Spirit sent him out into the wilderness, 13 and he was in the wilderness forty days, being tempted by Satan. He was with the wild animals, and angels attended him.                                                

Mark 1:1-13

The title of my message today is,

“The Voice of God”

Let’s pray

Heavenly Father who broke through the heavens declaring Jesus to be Your Son, we call on You, today, and ask You to speak with us.

Thank You for sending Jesus; as well, we thank You that You will send Jesus, again. Help us to be ready for His return.

As we serve You, together, we will listen to Your voice both, as individuals and together as a family…as Your Church.

…in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

  1. God’s Voice

Without the voice of God, there is

  • no salvation,
  • no Word of God and
  • no Church.

God spoke in the beginning of time, saying,

  • “let there be light,” and
  • there was LIGHT.

Before Adam and Eve sinned, they had regular/face-to-face conversation with God; yet, when they sinned, God’s voice became obscured.

In fact, they sinned because they listened to Satan TWIST God’s Word.

Thus, for all of us, it’s harder to distinguish God’s voice from the voices of

  • the world,
  • the flesh
  • and Satan.

But, God is speaking to us….

It’s imperative that every Christian learn

  • to hear AND
  • distinguish

God’s voice from all others.

Today’s reading shows us several ways in which God’s voice was heard, then, and even today.

  • Old Testament Prophecy

Old Testament prophecy speaks to us, today. God speaks through the Old Testament.

  • Mark quotes Isaiah
  • There are 300 Old Testament prophecies that were fulfilled in Jesus
  • What are the odds of someone fulfilling just 8 prophecies?

1 in 100 Quadrillion

1 in 100,000,000,000,000,000

The Probability of 1 Person Fulfilling 8 Prophecies

 

But in Jesus’ case, he fulfilled 300 prophecies.

What is the probability of that?

    

1 in 10 Unquinquagintillion

1 in 10,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,

000,000,000,000,000,000,000,

000,000,000,000,000,000,000,

000,000,000,000,000,000,000,

000,000,000,000,000,000,000,

000,000,000,000,000,000,000,

000,000,000,000,000,000,000,

000,000,000

The Probability of 1 Person Fulfilling 300 Prophecies

There’s 157 zeroes in this number.

 

I had to look online for what that number is called.

Perhaps slang is better:

 

Jesus had a

1 in a Gazillion Bajillion

The Probability of 1 Person fulfilling 300 prophecies.

This mathematical probability is staggering.

Mark begins with one prophecy and its immediate fulfillment.

It’s from Isaiah that a forerunner would precede the Messiah, and this was fulfilled in John the Baptist.

As well, we are exposed to the voice of God in New Testament Prophecy.

  • New Testament Prophecy
  • John the Baptist prophesied, too, that the Messiah will come
  • So, Mark shows that prophecy is still active.

Prophecy and Words from God that speak to specific situations are active and available, today, too.

Our faith is based on God’s revelation, for faith comes from hearing the Word (Rhematos–Declaration) of God.

In addition to prophecy, Mark presents…

  • Apostolic Proclamation
  • Mark, though not normally considered an apostle, was the close companion to the apostles Barnabas, Peter and Paul
  • Mark presents Peter’s Proclamation in his GOSPEL.
  • The Apostles were appointed by Jesus to represent Him….,
  • We, too, share in the Apostolic task proclaiming the gospel around the world.

God’s voice is proclaimed in the gospel, and in Old and New Testament prophecy. As well, God’s voice is proclaimed…

  • From the mouth of God, Himself
  • We hear from God, Himself in these verses.
  • He spoke later at the Transfiguration of Jesus
  • He spoke other times, too (even in the Old Testament)
  • Jesus is Emmanuel, meaning “God with us,” and therefore, what he declares IS from the mouth of God.
  • And the first words that Jesus spoke in Mark (which we will look at Next Week) were that the “Kingdom of God is near, repent and believe the gospel!”
  1. Enemies of God’s Voice

Mark briefly mentions the chief enemy of the Voice of God in these verses,

but as we walk with Jesus, we need to be aware of those who want to misdirect us from God’s will, plan and direction.

God’s voice is revealed in the Law (both the Law of Moses and the Law of Christ), so the enemy of God’s voice is LAWLESSNESS

The antidote for Lawlessness is not legalism, but it is REPENTANCE.

Because God loves us, He calls us to separate from wickedness, just as a parent separates their child from what can harm them, so God shows us that we need to be separate from lawlessness.

Another competitor for God’s voice is our sinful flesh.

We gladly listen to God’s voice when we have no conflict.

The greatest enemy of God’s voice has been dismissed in the modern age:

Satan.

In Mark’s gospel, we don’t see many details about Jesus’ temptation, only a brief mention.

Matthew and Luke’s gospels give more detail.

We see that Satan’s strategies haven’t changed since he tempted Adam and Eve.

He challenged the Voice of God, directly.

Here is a moment when I want us to see more in depth in the story.

Let’s look at Matthew’s account (I underscored the part of the story that is covered by Mark.)

 4 1Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. After fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. The tempter came to him and said, “If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread.”

Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’”

Then the devil took him to the holy city and had him stand on the highest point of the temple. “If you are the Son of God,” he said, “throw yourself down. For it is written:

“‘He will command his angels concerning you,
and they will lift you up in their hands,
so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.’”

Jesus answered him, “It is also written: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’”

Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor. “All this I will give you,” he said, “if you will bow down and worship me.”

10 Jesus said to him, “Away from me, Satan! For it is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.’”

11 Then the devil left him, and angels came and attended him.

Matthew 4:1-11

Matthew reports Satan tempting Jesus about His divinity:

  • 3 “If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread.”
  • 6 “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down (from the highest point of the temple). For it is written…”
  • 9 “All this [the kingdoms of the world] I will give you, if you will bow down and worship me.”

Satan, also, twists God’s Word when he tempts us.

  1. Hearing God’s Voice

To each of Satan’s temptations, Jesus answers with clarity:

  • 4 “Man doesn’t live merely on bread, but by every word of God.”

God the Father had just 40 days prior spoken, audibly, that Jesus IS the Son of God.

God speaks to us, too, saying:

“I sent my Son that you may become my child, and NOTHING Satan says can ever change this reality!”

  • 7 Jesus clarifies

“It is ALSO written, ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’”

Satan tested Jesus, who IS the Lord, as well, he tempted Jesus to test His Heavenly Father.

Jesus reminded Satan of Who He Is,

Yes, Jesus IS the Son of God.

As well, Jesus was clarifying what is Written.

Can we, too, point out to Satan what is written?

Satan wants us to lose our place in God’s kingdom, but we must remind him of his place.

Satan has told us

  • to be ashamed…
  • we’re not good enough…
  • we don’t measure up…

Like in the song, “Simple Gospel” that we sang today.

But Scripture declares us to be a New Creation in Christ!

 17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!    2 Corinthians 5:17

Satan says we are worthless, and because we’ve failed too often, so what’s the use in following Jesus?

Scripture says I’m a new creation, but I feel like an old and weary soul.

Why is it that we are more prone to listen to Satan’s voice rather than God’s voice?

Finally, Satan offered Jesus something that Jesus really wanted: The kingdoms of the world.

Remember, God sent Jesus because He “so loved the WORLD…”

Yet, the price was too high…

“bow and worship me,”

Satan said.

The voice of the Father had spoken 40 days before that Jesus Is God’s Son, and I don’t know what Jesus was hearing during his 40-day fast, but during that time, he resisted every temptation from Satan because He understood that the voice of God the Father is RIGHT.

I HAVE A QUESTION:

WHO SENT JESUS INTO THE WILDERNESS?

Did you notice Who sent Jesus into the wilderness to be tempted?

12 At once the Spirit sent him out into the wilderness

Mark 1:12

It is interesting to me, that the term “sent” is actually a stronger term in Greek, and it means “drove.”

God’s Holy Spirit DROVE Jesus into the wilderness.

Those who first read the book of Mark may have recognized the same term IN THE GREEK TRANSLATION OF THE OLD TESTAMENT

when God DROVE Adam and Eve out of the garden:

22 And the Lord God said, “The man has now become like one of us, knowing good and evil. He must not be allowed to reach out his hand and take also from the tree of life and eat, and live forever.” 23 So the Lord God banished him from the Garden of Eden to work the ground from which he had been taken. 24 After he drove the man out, he placed on the east side of the Garden of Eden cherubim and a flaming sword flashing back and forth to guard the way to the tree of life.

Genesis 3:22-24

The Holy Spirit sent Jesus into the wilderness to be tempted, and to succeed.

And Jesus, therefore, sends the Holy Spirit to the Church; as John the Baptist declared,

“I baptize you with water, but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.”

Mark 1:8

Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, acted according to the Spirit and showed us that we need the covering and the presence of the Holy Spirit in our lives as we live in the wilderness of this world.

We need to hear the voice of God, and listen to it, rather than to listen to our flesh or the world or even Satan.

God has a plan for all of us.

He wants us to listen for His voice.

He wants us to distinguish His voice from others.

But how?

Three Gifts to Distinguish God’s Voice:

  1. The Holy Spirit, Himself, though prayer
  2. The Written Word of God, inspired by the Holy Spirit
  3. The Body of Christ with the presence of God’s Holy Spirit
  • We need to spend more time in Prayer…How much time can you give to God in prayer?
  • We need to live according to the Word of God, and stop compartmentalizing our lives, saving parts of our lives for ourselves, BUT need to offer our whole lives to the Lord. How much time can we give to reading God’s Word?
  • We need to spend more time as Church, both at this address and in our homes and other places, too.
  • We will be stronger as we all work closer, together, and as we welcome others to join us. Think of how we can meet outside of this building.
  • Can we invite people into our homes or to places outside of the church?
  • Can we call and message each other for fellowship and prayer?

I think we can do these things!

INVITATION

  • If you would like to know the Holy Spirit more,
  • If you would like to draw closer to God
  • If you would like to walk in the gifts of the Holy Spirit
  • If you would like to put your faith in Jesus for your salvation
  • And/or If you would like to be baptized in the Holy Spirit…

Then I invite you to come to the front, and we will pray together and seek the answer from our Lord and God.Mark series

CONCLUDING PRAYER

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The Word to Refresh

Good morning!

Today, we begin our Advent series and celebration.

For some of us, this may not seem too strange, but for others it might seem very different.

Ernie and I were at the Lakeside Area minister’s meeting last month, and there was discussion about a community Lenten service for next year.

During the discussion, I interjected that in the AG (that is, the Assemblies of God), we don’t have much liturgy.

But then I chuckled,

“I’m the most liturgical of any of my AG friends.” J  I like the Advent Season, because Christmas is too secular and too commercial. It is too busy, too frantic, and too stressful.

And because of this, many in our community don’t EVEN know the CHRIST of Christmas.

If we celebrate Christmas only one Sunday a year, then what about those who miss that Sunday due to travel or illness?

Therefore, today and the next three Sundays are

Advent Sundays…think of them as Christmas Sundays!

Here are a few vocabulary terms to help us with the season:

Advent= (Latin) coming; particularly an important arrival

 Incarnation=(Latin) God taking on Flesh in Jesus

 Immanuel=(Hebrew) “God with us”

Messiah=(Hebrew) Anointed One

 Christ=(Greek) Anointed One

 Christmas=(Latin) The Mass of Christ, thus Christ+mass

 Prophet=(Greek) To speak before, to speak for God (interpreting the past or present or pointing to the future).

Today, in our Advent reading, we considered the testimony of John the Baptist.

This is found in the Gospel of the Apostle John.

It may be confusing that there are two Johns, but not as confusing as when we see that there are at least 5 Davids among us J

John the Baptist came from God, and he was a prophet. His purpose was to speak God’s Words to others.

He enjoyed an immense following, and in fact, in Ephesus, there had been disciples of John the Baptist who seemed to be Christians.

John’s influence was great. Even today, in Iran and Iraq, there are still those who follow John the Baptist.

They are called the Madaeans, and some have emigrated to the US.

They get baptized many times in their tradition. Clearly, they see the act of baptism as an actual cleansing, whereas we see it as a statement to illustrate the cleansing of Christ.

John prepared people for Christ and he testified that he was NOT the Christ.

People asked him, who are you?

John replied in the words of Isaiah the prophet, “I am the voice of one calling in the desert, ‘Make straight the way for the Lord.’”

John 1:23

PRAY
Lord, we, too, want to be a voice calling in the desert.

 First, help us to be able to hear the voice in the desert.

 Help us to answer the voice, and to welcome the Lord.

 Let us accompany Your voice as it makes a way and a path for the Lord.

 Please empower us, again, with Your Spirit and for Your glory.

 In Jesus’ Name,

 Amen.

  1. Calling in the Desert

John said he was calling in the desert.

Can you picture that?

What is a desert? It is a place without civilization, … without convenience.

Deserts can be beautiful, but they are harsh, and deadly, too.

When John quoted Isaiah, the people were familiar with the quote, so let us look at the quote in its context:

A voice of one calling:
“In the wilderness prepare
the way for the Lord[
a];
make straight in the desert
a highway for our God.[
b]
Every valley shall be raised up,
every mountain and hill made low;
the rough ground shall become level,
the rugged places a plain.
And the glory of the Lord will be revealed,
and all people will see it together.
For the mouth of the Lord has spoken.

Isaiah 40:1-5

When we wonder, what is God doing in the world, we need to remember Isaiah’s words.

  • God is building a highway
  • He is raising up the valleys and
  • leveling out the hills and mountains
  • He is doing this so that the Glory of God can be unobstructed.

Today, in the news, we see many men are being leveled.

Matt Lauer & Charlie Rose are two news anchors who’ve recently lost their jobs.

John Conyers and Al Franken are two congressmen under scrutiny.

And Michael Flynn, too.

In the last several decades, others have been leveled:

Pastors & Presidential candidates; Dictators and Teachers;

Innovators and Movie Directors.

The mighty are falling, and someone will have to take their places.

In the case of leaders in our society, mountains are being leveled and valleys are raised up.

God is calling us to look at our own situations, too, and to repent of our sins.

We need to turn away from what separates us from God and turn toward Him.

Bring down the mountains in our lives, and in humility we need to let our valleys be raised up.

For many of us we feel that we live in a spiritual desert, and we are afraid to speak out.

Who am I to speak for God?

I need God to Speak to me.

Who will listen to me, anyway?

What if I say it incorrectly?

What if ________? (fill in the blank)

Let us be people who are able to call out into the desert and help God make straight paths.

But you ask, “how can we?”

The simplest way is to seriously live out our repentance.

Don’t just say you will, but will that you will.

Ask God for the help to strengthen our wills.

So that we will Delight in the Law of the Lord…letting God’s Word fill our wills.

Let us follow the example of Jesus who declared,

“Not my will but Yours be done (as He prayed to Our Heavenly Father).”

And call upon your church to help you to hold on, tightly, to God’s Word and His Will.

In John 1, we know that Jesus is referred to as “The Word.”

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.        

 John 1:1-4

This is referring to Jesus.

He is from the beginning, and through Him all was created.

The Scripture continues…

14 The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.                                 John 1:14

The awesome Word of God, became flesh and lived on earth.

John writes that we’ve seen his glory.

He saw this, literally, in Jesus, but we see it, too, as Jesus reveals Himself to us.

We can see glimpses of His glory in many ways:

  • When someone asks forgiveness in a sincere manner.
  • When someone forgives and lives in the benefits of that forgiveness.
  • When someone gives sacrificially to help others.
  • When we hear God’s voice in our hearts
  • When we see God act on behalf of us and our situations
  • When people choose to live morally according to the Scripture, even though we live in a world that is really a desert with crooked paths.
  • When we begin to move debris from the pathways that block people from Jesus.
  1. Make Straight Paths

Often, we have a great view of someone else’s path, and we can see that they are on a difficult trajectory. They will most likely fall, unless they listen to our wisdom.

Honestly, we ain’t that wise.

God knows the way to help us to straighten a path, and while we need to participate in straightening the paths of others, YES,

we need to look at our own paths, too, and straighten them out.

As we took communion, today, we were saying that we believe.

As we sang today, we declared our faith.

As we prayed, today, we affirmed that we trust only in God through Jesus.

Now, as we conclude this time of worship and focusing upon the Word of God, let us ask God to straighten our paths.

Let us ask Him to make us more like Jesus.

Jesus is the Word Made Flesh.

He wants us to take the Word of God into our flesh, and make Him known to those around us.

  • Why in the flesh?
  • Why not by Twitter?
  • Why not by a letter?
  • Why not just by giving money into the offering so that someone else can tell about Jesus?
  • Isn’t it enough for us to just let Kendal and Camryn serve and tell others, and we can send them our pocket change each month?
  • Why does He want us to take His Word into our Flesh?

Because our flesh will destroy us.

Flesh is destroying the careers and lives of people who have been bigger than life to us, and think of the victims whose flesh, also, had been injured and destroyed.

We need a Savior, Who can ACTUALLY SAVE.

We need a LORD, Who is ACTUALLY GREATER than all other lords in the earth.

We need the Word Made Flesh to Live among us…as God With Us.

The Word to Refresh

God’s Word came in flesh because our flesh needed to be refreshed.

We needed a transformation, and sin constantly battles against God’s will for our flesh and our lives.

Our feelings get hurt, even when our flesh gets hurt.

Our flesh affects our feelings and our feelings affect our flesh.

Stress causes us to grow fat, wrinkled and gray (like me J), and so I cannot save my flesh, nor can I save the soul that is connected to my flesh.

God came in the flesh so that He could show us that the human body is not inherently evil, but it IS corrupted. And through Jesus’ resurrection, He showed that the corruptible can be made incorruptible.

The stale, the destroyed, the diseased can become REFRESHED…

….by the Living, Breathing Word of God, Jesus, the Messiah.

He came because we need a Savior, and without Him, we have no hope.

This Christmas, let us wrap His Word in our Flesh, and let it make a difference for us.

Clover and I just watched the movie, “The Man Who Invented Christmas,” which is about Charles Dickens.

By “Inventing Christmas,” the movie means that Christmas had previously been one day a year, and not so big a holiday.

Dickens, who himself had known poverty first-hand as a child, wrote “A Christmas Carol” as a result of his own understanding of how sad his times were, and people were reluctant to give to the poor.

But after his story of Ebenezer Scrooge, who changed from being a miser to becoming generous, charitable giving significantly rose.

His story is about change.

It is about repentance.

So was the ministry of John the Baptist.

So is the purpose of Christ coming to earth in the flesh, that he would know the pain of the impoverished and would put to death the power of sin over our own flesh.

Let our story be about change…A life that is DIFFERENT from one without Christ…a Life that Honors Him.

Let us, take some time to pray, and ask God to straighten our paths.

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Thankful for the Unshakable Kingdom

We celebrated Thanksgiving last week, and by now we are tire of turkey, stuffing, cranberry sauce and sweet potato casserole J

For some of us, we had a wonderful opportunity to visit with family. For some of us, we were either alone, or with fewer family than previously.

For me and my family, most of us were able to be together, and it was wonderful. I was actually very touched to have my parents and my in-laws and our two daughters and their husbands and grandchildren. Our son and daughter-in-law face-timed us.

Before we ate, I gave thanks, and in doing so, I was overwhelmed with thankfulness for my parents and Clover’s parents.

I thought of how wonderful it was that we have been blessed by God, and He blessed us through our parents, who have in turn, blessed others around the world in many tangible ways.

I am thankful.

Have you noticed how that we are often reminded of what God has done in the Bible. People complain about the repetition in the Bible, but repetition is a tool for memory.

Memory is a key for thankfulness.

Thankfulness is the antidote for stress.

I was considering the amount of times that Thanks and thanksgiving are mentioned in the Scripture:

The word “thanks” or “thanksgiving” occurs about 100 times in the Bible in both the Old and the New Testaments. The holiday is truly American and rooted in our American history and heritage, but the real roots go so much deeper.

I want to share about how important it is to be thankful.

In some cases, thankfulness is the antidote to anger, fear, confusion, frustration and doubt.

When we are able to give thanks, rather than to give in to fear, etc. our lives are changed.

Have you met a grumpy old person? I’ve met them, and at times, I’ve resembled one J But, no one wants to be around grumpy. Even though that was the name of one of Disney’s Seven Dwarfs.

We must be people who give thanks.

There are several Bible verses about giving thanks, and today I want to present a couple of verses.

28 Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe, 29 for our “God is a consuming fire.”

Hebrews 12:28,29

PRAY

Heavenly Father, we thank You for Your Word, which we read today. Help us to consider it, to heed it, and to share it with those whom You dearly love, and who truly need You. We remember that You love the world so much that You gave Your One and Only Son, Jesus, to be the sacrifice for our sins.

 Through Your Son, we are receiving an unshakable kingdom, and for this, our response is awe, reverence, humility, holiness and thanksgiving.

 We thank You, in Jesus’ Name,

 Amen

The Unshakable Kingdom

According to this verse, the original readers of the book of Hebrews were receiving an unshakable kingdom (and so are we).

Those who originally read this letter would most likely have heard about Jesus’ teaching regarding prayer. This is because the gospels of Luke and Matthew which present what we call the “Lord’s Prayer” were already written and being circulated among the churches.

I find that I so often am thinking of the Lord’s Prayer in life.

So specifically, I want us to consider these words from that prayer:

“This, then, is how you should pray: ‘Our Father in heaven, …     your kingdom come, …                on earth as it is in heaven …

for yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.’”

Matthew 6:9, 10, 13

The first readers of the book of Hebrews were already praying this prayer and understood that the unshakeable kingdom is already here.

And let US continue to pray since we, too, are receiving this kingdom.

As we read this verse, we need to notice the term, “therefore?”

“Therefore” is there for a reason. It tells us that what precedes this verse is related to this statement.

In the verses immediately preceding this verse the writer draws a distinction between what the lives of the previous believers and holy people compared to our lives.

Here are some examples:

By faith [Abraham] made his home in the promised land like a stranger in a foreign country; he lived in tents, as did Isaac and Jacob, who were heirs with him of the same promise. 10 For he was looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God.

 Hebrews 11:9-10

Abraham lived in tents but was looking forward to something that God would build.

Tents are nice and they are mobile, but have you ever been in a tent during a storm?

I have several times, and it is not easy.

As a child, my family and I were camping once and the wind was so intense that I went back to the car to sleep through the night.

When I awoke, I saw that the tent had fallen on top of my brother and my father.

Another time we were camping in the mountains and a tent actually blew away in the wind (it was empty). We never found it.

Here is another verse about those who were before us:

13 All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance, admitting that they were foreigners and strangers on earth… 16 …, they were longing for a better country—a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them.

Hebrews 11:13, 16

They were longing for something unshakable and followed God for this.

Abraham and all of the others were searching for this, and they saw it from afar. We see this kingdom, now, as we have found Jesus.

Those who had gone before: Noah; Jacob and Joseph were looking for the unshakeable kingdom of God.

Jesus began his ministry announcing this Kingdom:

Jesus went into Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God. 15 “The time has come,” he said. “The kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news!”

Mark 1:14, 15

This kingdom is what all were looking for, previously. Kingdoms were established, but they ended: Saul’s; David’s and Solomon’s.

What they sought,

we have.

What they were looking for,

we have found.

What they predicted,

we know has been fulfilled.

-Though we must receive it by faith, just as they did.

Imagine if we were able to go back in time and could sit with one of the Old Testament prophets: We could tell them that we have seen what they foresaw, and that we live, now, according to the power of the Holy Spirit alive in us.

God calls our church, The River, to share His unshakable Kingdom with the shakable world, hence our mission is stated this way:

Connecting our Changing Community with the Unchanging Gospel.

The River’s Mission

For NOTHING can Shake the Kingdom of God, and Nothing can shake His Church.

In 2001, a friend of mine was preaching in his church in Pakistan. He stated that he will follow the Lord even to the point of death. The next week, grenades were thrown into his church, and several people killed or wounded. He, too, was wounded, and all he remembered was seeing the grenades pass by his head. The next thing he remembered was waking up outside of the church. His hand was bleeding. People told him that as he exited the church, he prayed with those who were injured, and helped them out of the building.

His local church was shaken, but not the Spirit of God that fills the Church.

Another friend of mine ministered in Libya. He had a church in his home, and conflict from ISIS and others surrounded him.  Yet, people were having dreams about Jesus and coming to him for baptism and repentance. A mortar slightly damaged his car, so he moved it to a body shop. Another car parked in his place, and was destroyed by a second mortar blast. Even his apartment was hit by mortar fire, but my friend continued on as long as God allowed him. He with his wife and three children, declared the unshakable kingdom in the most shakable of kingdoms, Libya.

Dear brothers and sisters, this is Who We All Are. WE are members of God’s unshakable Kingdom through Jesus Christ. It is NOT the same as other kingdoms for Jesus is the King of kings. It is not the same as other religions for Jesus is the Lord of lords.

When John the Baptist spoke of the coming Messiah, he spoke of One who would baptize with the Holy Spirit and with Fire.

The Consuming Fire

When the Hebrews were at the base of Mt. Sinai, they were afraid of the cloud on the mountain that looked like fire.

15 When Moses went up on the mountain, the cloud covered it, 16 and the glory of the Lord settled on Mount Sinai. For six days the cloud covered the mountain, and on the seventh day the Lord called to Moses from within the cloud. 17 To the Israelites the glory of the Lord looked like a consuming fire on top of the mountain.

Exodus 24:15-17

The glory of God looked like consuming fire.

Who wants to see God’s glory?

Yet, there is an awesome and awful nature of His Glory.

This “consuming fire” caused fear in the Hebrews’ hearts, and they didn’t want to come near God.

As well, God doesn’t want sinful man to come near him.

He allowed Moses, but there were limits. When Moses asked God to show him His glory, God agreed to a point, as God said to Moses:

But,” he said, “you cannot see my face, for no one may see me and live.”

Exodus 33:20

When the people were afraid of the cloud in which God was, and they saw it as a “consuming fire,” they were afraid, and yet Moses, went into the cloud.

I cannot imagine anyone wanting to go into something that looked dangerous. Yet, firefighters and police are trained to enter dangerous places.

In response to the fear of the Hebrews, God promised prophets like Moses to come from among them, because they were afraid of God’s Awesome/Awful voice and His Consuming fire on the mountain.[1]

Because God’s presence is too difficult to be tolerated by sinful man, God promised to send a greater prophet than Moses and God’s Word would be in Him.

Jesus, the Consuming Fire and the Unshakable Kingdom

Jesus is known as “the Word of God.”

Jesus is shown by Scriptures to be greater than the angels, even Gabriel; and greater than all of the prophets, even Moses.

He is the greatest High Priest of all.

Referring to the previous prophecies about himself, Jesus said,

56 Your father Abraham rejoiced at the thought of seeing my day; he saw it and was glad.”

John 8:56

There was an occasion that is referred to several times in the Bible known as the transfiguration.

This was when Jesus and three of his disciples, Peter, James and John, when to the top of a mountain.

While they were there, Jesus was transfigured, which meant that his divinity was shown and his glory was revealed. Certainly, they couldn’t see all of his glory, or these disciples would have died, but they saw something.

And they heard the voice of God the father declare that Jesus was His Son.

While this story is told in three of the Gospels (Matthew, Mark and Luke), John, also, refers to it as he refers to Jesus as the “Word:”

14 The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.

John 1:14

Peter referred to this event, too, when he wrote his second letter:

17 He received honor and glory from God the Father when the voice came to him from the Majestic Glory, saying, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.” 18 We ourselves heard this voice that came from heaven when we were with him on the sacred mountain.

2 Peter 1:17, 18

We follow Jesus because there has never been and there will never be anyone greater than Jesus.

Jesus is not only the One Who proclaimed the unshakeable Kingdom, but He IS the unshakeable Kingdom.

About Jesus and His Kingdom, Paul wrote:

13 For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, 14 in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.

15 The Son is the image of the invisible God,

Colossians 1:13-15

Our Response

How do we respond to this information?

The Scripture we looked at to begin with today tells us how to respond:

28 Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe, 29 for our “God is a consuming fire.”

Hebrews 12:28,29

Let us respond by thankfulness and by reverence.

Thankfulness

How do we thank people?

We tell them.

We give them a card.

We buy them a gift.

We hug them.

How do we express thanks to God?

By telling Him, and following Him.

There are those who look at a glass as though it were half empty, we call them pessimists. There are also those who look at a glass as if it were half full, they are the optimists.

But it may just be our feelings at the moment that we are looking at a glass. Are we thirsty?

Are we frustrated?

Are we satisfied?

But, I find that those who see the glass as half-full are really those who are thankful for the half that is full, rather than disappointed or cursing the part that is empty.

I need people who see things “half-full” around me to help me see what I have so I can be thankful.

Let us come to God with a “glass half full” kind of thinking rather than the “glass half empty.”

Reverence

And with thankful hearts, let us be people who out of fear and humility have hearts of reverence for God.

Let us revere Him in worship.

Standing, kneeling, with arms raised, clasped, folded, with eyes closed or open, with hearts open and receiving of Him and His grace and love.

Let us walk through life on pilgrimage, giving thanks for each place that our feet step. Giving thanks for each breath and heartbeat. Giving thanks for each second a baby giggles or cries.

Let’s worship acceptably and in awe.

God is greater than we can understand and yet, He understands us and IS concerned with us.

God is the most powerful force in the universe and yet, He withholds His wrath from us and does not destroy us as our sins deserve.

God chooses to love us, and He reaches out to us, but let us not forget that He is a consuming fire.

Jesus sent His Holy Spirit, and this makes us freer to worship, but His Spirit is with us that we would be with Him. That He would be able to correct us and we would hear it.

His Spirit is with us so that when we hear something that goes against God’s Will, we would not applaud it, but we would speak a loving word of correction.

When someone confesses their sins to us, and then says that God understands and excuses it, we need to remind them of the cross, by which the consuming Fire of God was displayed.

We, too, should look at our own lives and see if we are in need of repentance.

God calls us into a relationship with Him, to be Holy, since He Is Holy.

God calls us into a relationship with him, a relationship of worship. This is acceptable, and pleasing.

[1] 15 The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among you, from your fellow Israelites. You must listen to him. 16 For this is what you asked of the Lord your God at Horeb on the day of the assembly when you said, “Let us not hear the voice of the Lord our God nor see this great fire anymore, or we will die.” 17 The Lord said to me: “What they say is good. 18 I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their fellow Israelites, and I will put my words in his mouth. He will tell them everything I command him.”  Deuteronomy 18:15-18

 

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Remember

Yesterday was Veteran’s Day.

Today, we want to recognize our veterans.

So, if you served in the US Armed Forces, please stand.

[allow people to stand, then cheer, then we will pray for them]

 Please remain standing while we pray.

 We don’t want to forget your sacrifice, nor the sacrifices of over 48 million American men and women who have served in our armed services throughout the history of our nation.

Veterans and our current military personnel provide protection for us as a nation. We remember you, today, and thank God for you.

And I want to pray for you, today!

Heavenly Father, thank you for our veterans. Thank you for the service that they gave for our nation, and that they have given to help other nations.

 Thank you for our current military service people, and we ask you to protect them.

 In Jesus’ Name,

 Amen.

 Remember.

Memory is a tool that helps us with basic situations in life.

If we cannot remember, then we find ourselves doing crazy things.

For example, sometimes as I am leaving the church building, I don’t recall if I actually locked the front door or not, because it is such a habit.

Subconsciously, I remember, even when I don’t consciously remember.

Our subconscious remembers things even when we don’t. I’ve had interesting dreams in which I’ve even been chased by something evil, and in my dream I shouted, “Away from me in the Name of Jesus Christ.” The evil presence disappeared and I awoke.

I’ve actually said that in real life, too, and seen great results.

I’m glad that my subconscious remembers the power of Jesus’ Name.

Remember.

“Remember when” These are two words that often occur at the beginning of a story from the past.

Whether or not it was a good story or a bad story, what these have in common is that they were memorable stories.

  • “Don’t forget to go to the post office on the way to work.”
  • “Don’t forget to kiss me good-bye.”
  • “Please remember to take your shoes off when you come into my house.”
  • “Always remember to look both ways before your cross the street.”

These and other statements we often hear, and we hopefully follow. If we don’t remember, then we usually have to remember it, again.

In your bulletins, there is a takeaway sheet, which has significant dates on it. I want you to take a few moments to remember these dates before we go forward.

[take a few minutes]

In the book of Ecclesiastes, we have a cynical book written by the wisest man who had ever lived.

Solomon was the third king of Israel, and he was the reason that the kingdom divided between the North and the South.  Solomon was wise, yet, he turned away from God, and followed the gods of his many wives.

Because of this, Solomon became depressed, and even in all the splendor and glory of his court, he had lost his way. He wrote the book of Ecclesiastes and taught through it that life is meaningless without having God at the center of our lives.

Near the end of the book, Solomon writes three times that we must remember something.

I want to specifically look at one of those points to remember, first.

Let’s look at Ecclesiastes 12:1

Remember your Creator
in the days of your youth,
before the days of trouble come
and the years approach when you will say,
“I find no pleasure in them”—
        Ecclesiastes 12:1

Let’s pray

PRAY

Heavenly Father, we thank You for Your Word that we read, today. You, Oh Lord, brought forth this Word from the pen of a man who had forgotten You, though he grew up knowing You. He had forgotten You, though he had previously written that the Fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.

King Solomon was like many who had at one time looked toward you and followed You, whole-heartedly, only to slowly take our eyes off of You, and allow separation instead of fellowship, as we sometimes seek relevance over relationship, and we may seek peace on our terms rather than seeking the Giver of and the Prince of Peace.

Bless Your Word, today, in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

  1. Remember Who?

We must remember many things, but let us not forget the Who.

We must remember God, for He Is Our Creator.

Remember your Creator
    in the days of your youth,
before the days of trouble come
and the years approach when you will say,
“I find no pleasure in them”—
            Ecclesiastes 12:1

This week I heard the testimony of a pastor of a very large church here in Virginia.

I don’t know this pastor, but I had tried to get to know him, and yet, suddenly, he was no longer pastor of the church.

When he spoke at a meeting this week, it was the first time he has spoken, publicly, about his moral failure. I don’t know what kind of failure he had, and can only guess, as he didn’t go into the details of the sin, but he wanted us to know what it was that allowed him to fall.

He was…

Disillusioned

Distressed

Depressed

From the outside, he looked like he was the happening pastor.

He led an incredible ministry, and not only ministered to his church family, but to the community.

In the first year of his ministry in Virginia, his church of 1500 grew by 1000 to 2500 members.

But he said that even though he was building the church, he was not building his relationship with God, nor with his wife, nor with his friendships.

During that first year of incredible growth for his church, he also had to deal with large groups of people criticizing him.

People would not allow him to be human, and he separated himself from others.

What he needed to do was REMEMBER.

Oh, he could remember to pass certain tests:

  • like counseling people,
  • leading meetings,
  • writing and delivering sermons,

but he didn’t REMEMBER what he needed to remember to keep his relationship with God alive, and he fell.

Let us be people who REMEMBER.

Let us be people who remember the Who.

I don’t’ want to forget God.

I don’t want to live like someone who have forgotten God.

I want to live like someone who remembers God. Remembers who God Is, and Who He I am, too.

If we forget, then we drop back into our default mode, and we can find that we remember things we would do better forgetting.

Those who forget God, remember what will destroy them.

Those who forget God, look for help and assistance apart from God, and then complain from when life falls apart.

We must remember.

  1. Remember When?

We need to remember in our youth.

Now that has passed for a few of us, perhaps very few of us feel youthful.

I am amazed at how many years have passed since I first believed in Jesus: 44 YEARS!

I am so thankful for those years.

I am humbled by those years, too.

Remember your Creator
    in the days of your youth,
before the days of trouble come
and the years approach
when you will say,
“I find no pleasure in them”—
        Ecclesiastes 12:1

Remember God in the days of OUR youth

Before the days of trouble come.

Truly, if we can remember God before we desperately need Him, then we will remember Him even then.

We need to fill up our cupboards, fill up our gas tanks with the knowledge…the relational knowledge of God before we find ourselves out of work or running on empty.

So, really that means remember Him, NOW.

Don’t despair if you didn’t remember Him when we were young.

Remember Him, NOW, and continue to remember Him.

Moses gave this word to the people of God:

Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the door frames of your houses and on your gates.

Deuteronomy 6:4-9

Israel is first of all taught the God is One,

Then taught how to love God (with all heart, soul and strength…what Jesus called the greatest commandment)

Then how to remember this:

Put it in your hearts

Impress them on your children

Talk about them at home

When you walk, lie down and get up

Tie them on your hands and foreheads

Write them on the doorframes of houses and gates.

  1. Remember What?

Remember that He remembers us

a. The Lord was with Joseph, thus, He remembered Joseph.

But while Joseph was there in the prison, 21 the Lord was with him;      Genesis 39:20, 21

b. One of the thieves on the crosses next to Jesus asked Jesus to remember him. Jesus’ answer should encourage us, too.

39 One of the criminals who hung there hurled insults at him: “Aren’t you the Messiah? Save yourself and us!”

40 But the other criminal rebuked him. “Don’t you fear God,” he said, “since you are under the same sentence? 41 We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong.”

42 Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.”

43 Jesus answered him, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.”

Luke 23:39-43

Jesus promised to remember this man, God remembered Joseph.

Thus, let us remember Him Who Remembers us.

We sometimes feel that He has forgotten us.

It is great to remember what has been done for us and what we have gone through with God and with His Church.

My son reminded me of something yesterday in which he said,

“Dad, do you remember when you took me to the Leukemia hospital in Kazakhstan?”

“Yes, I remember.”

“Thanks for doing that. Thanks for not leaving me home, but taking me with you. It helped me to have a heart of compassion.”

My son was remembering something that helped him become who he is.

We may remember significant answers to prayer.

We may remember when God helped us through a difficult situation.

This week, I was in a meeting, and I remembered a situation in which I was in Kazakhstan.

I was at a bazaar and going toward my car. Near my car was a woman whom I took to be a beggar. 

I reached into my pocket to get some money for her, and as I handed it to her, I realized that she was NOT a beggar, but a fortune teller.

I don’t know what you think of such stories, but there is something demonic about fortune tellers.

As I handed her the money she said to me,

“I can see in your eyes that you are going to die, soon.”

At that moment, out of my mouth came these words in Russian:

“Get away from me in the Name of Jesus!”

She went away, and I went to my car. 

I then prayed and thanked God that I had no need of any worry, but that my trust was in God.

Then I went to my next activity which was to get my car repaired.

It was an SUV, and it was lifted up high. As I was going to leave, I remembered I had a bag in the back seat. I decided to climb up the lift.

I did, retrieved the bag, and then lost my footing. I fell backwards and landed on the back of my head.

My assistant was with me, and he looked so surprised when I got up and brushed myself off.

“You landed on your head.”

The whole way down as I fell, it felt as though I were floating. There was no fear.

Later that day, I remembered how a fortune teller had tried to scare me into putting my trust in her, when all along, I knew my trust needed to be in Jesus, and Jesus delivered me from death.

Let us fill up our wells, and fill up our hearts with the memories of God, and what He has done for us when He healed us, or helped us in some significant way.

Remember Who?

Remember When?

Remember What?

Finally

  1. Remember Why?

Don’t forget the joy that God brings to us.

We took communion, today, and it is something that Jesus said we were to do in remembrance of him.

It was the Passover meal that Jesus was celebrating, which was a meal of remembrance, too.

If people remember, then they follow God, if they forget, then they don’t follow God.

I heard someone say this the other day:

“Jesus said, ‘follow me and I’ll make you fishers of men,’ so if you ain’t fishing then you ain’t following.”

Don’t forget the peace that He has given.

Don’t forget the times He has answered and come through, and let these memories encourage us to not forget that God remembers us, so let us remember Him.

Remember your Creator
in the days of your youth,
before the days of trouble come
and the years approach when you will say,
“I find no pleasure in them”—
            Ecclesiastes 12:1

Remember God before you no longer have pleasure.

Perhaps that has to do with the changes in our physical being, that cause us to not enjoy life as we used to

Or

Perhaps it has to do with the changes around us that we don’t like to see.

Or perhaps it has to do with changes within us, as we take our eyes off of God and become cynical.

Let us Remember.

Let’s remember our mission at the River, too,

The Mission of the River:

Connecting our changing community with the unchanging Gospel.

Let’s remember and let’s pray.

 

 

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A House of Prayer for All Nations

We are excited about today, as it is a day that we’ve talked about for months, and Clover and I have thought about this for years.

We imagined that we might one day, hypothetically, live in Northern Virginia, in order to minister in an international community.

Our desire is to minister to the whole community, not just to the internationals…but to those who WELCOME them, as well.

“International” as I use it is synonymous with other terms like

  • “foreigner,”
  • “alien,”
  • even “stranger.”
  • “international students,”
  • “refugees”
  • “immigrants.”

The Bible refers to people as either “Jews” or “Gentiles,” and the term “nations,” is often used as well.

God’s purpose and plan is to draw all of the nations to Himself, through Jesus.

Today, I want to talk about prayer; specifically two statements of Jesus about prayer and their relevance for us, today.

17 And as [Jesus] taught them, he said, “Is it not written: ‘My house will be called a house of prayer for all nations’?”    Matthew 11:17

 [Jesus] told them, “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.”                        Luke 10:2

Let’s Pray

PRAYER

Almighty God, we love You, and thank you that You love us.

We thank you for Your Holy Word and Revelation, today, given through Your Son, Jesus the Messiah.

 We pray in Jesus’ Name, Amen

  1. All Nations Need God’s Help

Jesus told us that God the Father’s heart is so in touch with His creation that He knows even when a bird, falls to the ground,

  • …He cares for us.

God the Father even knows the number of hairs on each of our heads,

  • …He is concerned for us.

Jesus taught that God, EVEN knows our needs before we ask…Yes, God cares for us.

As well, He gives out justice, too.

  • He knows everything

We can trust our Heavenly Father.

The Apostle Peter wrote this about our Lord:

The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.                  2 Peter 3:19

Not wanting anyone to perish.

God doesn’t want you or me or our neighbor to perish.

He doesn’t want the people in other countries to perish, either.

God, the Father, even doesn’t want Sayfullo Saipov to perish.  That is the young man from Uzbekistan who was arrested for terrorist activity in New York City this week.

But what about justice? You may be asking. He killed people, and the US government may even sentence him to death.

Yes, justice systems must be in place, and they must operate.

Our justice system is based upon the justice system that God instituted through Moses 3500 years ago.

God’s laws enable us to live in harmony on earth, though it does not bring us into peace with God.

Following laws here on earth help maintain order, but God knew we could never follow His laws completely, 100% flawlessly.

Therefore, He who CREATED and BEGAN our justice system, also satisfied the justice system for our heavenly requirements.

He sent Jesus to die for us.

Jesus is the perfect sacrifice.

John the Baptist (aka the “forerunner”) declared this of Jesus:

“Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!”

John 1:29b

God promised salvation through Jesus’ death and resurrection throughout His Holy Scriptures …

  • From the Garden of Eden,
  • During the calling of Abraham,
  • Through the ministry of Moses,
  • In the reign of King David,
  • And in the ministry of the great prophets of the Old Testament.

Jesus IS the perfect Sacrifice to satisfy God’s Justice System.

We see this in Jesus’ own words:

For 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. For God did not send his son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.         John 3:16, 17

Thus, Jesus, in referring to the Temple of God, that used to stand in Jerusalem, stated,

17 And as [Jesus] taught them, he said, “Is it not written: ‘My house will be called a house of prayer for all nations’?”    Matthew 11:17

  1. It is Written

Jesus knew, followed, taught and FULFILLED the Scriptures

Thus, we, too, follow the Scriptures.

The Protestant Reformation happened 500 years ago because the Roman Catholic Church stopped knowing, following, and teaching the Scriptures.

“It is Written…”

  1. My House

Specifically, the Temple of God, but, also, believers in Jesus, become a Temple of God.

And, collectively, we are the Temple of the Holy Spirit of God

  1. House of Prayer for All Nations

All nations should be able to pray in God’s House.

Through Jesus, all nations can join God’s family, therefore, when God’s people come together, we ought to look like all nations.

My friend, Frank, who played the drums today, referred to this as “the face of heaven.”

Heaven is not full of only one group of people.

For example, “white Americans.”

Heaven is filling up with people from all nations.

After this I looked, and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and before [Jesus].                     Revelation 7:9 

Our Heavenly Father sent Jesus to die for our sins;

Jesus rose to conquer death, the penalty for sin;

Jesus sent God’s Holy Spirit to empower us as witnesses of God’s work through Jesus.

He desires a House of Prayer for all nations.

We are part of the House of Prayer, what we call “Church” with a capital “C.”

WHAT IS OUR JOB?

  1. Pray and Invite

God calls us to pray for the nations to know Jesus.

God calls us to support those who go to the nations to share the work of Jesus among them.

God calls us to go and serve Him among the nations.

So that the Desire that God Has will be Realized in us, His Church.

[Jesus] told them, “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.”               Luke 10:2

A.   Recognize the Harvest

The whole earth IS the harvest.

That is a monumental task!

And He recognized that the “workers” – “harvesters” are few.

He asked His disciples…and therefore us,

…to PRAY.

We are to pray, yes, that people would believe, but specifically in this verse we see that we are to PRAY that God would send out the workers.

Clover and I answered that call and served in Kazakhstan and Turkey for 22 years.

Now that we are back home, we still have that calling. We have the same calling, just a different address.

We are called to welcome the Nations who are coming here to RVA, and guess what, all Christians are supposed to be doing this.

My hope and vision is that every church in RVA will

  • Pray
  • Give
  • Go

To reach the people whom God has brought here.

But we must first RECOGNIZE the harvest.

Let’s not be blinded by the following:

  • Politics…we may all have differing views on immigration, and you may be surprised at even some of my views. I am not trying to be a Politician, but regardless of politics, we have internationals here among us, so let us welcome them.

Don’t Allow Politics to Close Our Ears to God and Our Hearts toward Our Neighbors.

  • Economics…Some people complain, “oh, they’re taking our jobs,” but in reality, there are many who are taking jobs that the rest of America don’t want to do.

Don’t Allow Economics to Dictate How Our Ears Hear God’s Word, Or How Our Eyes See the Harvest

  • Religion…Some complain that many non-Christians are coming here, but we must remember our history:
    • Many of us are descendants of people who came here for Religious Freedom.
    • As well, let’s be thankful that God has saved us, and, let’s rejoice as others who had no chance to hear the Gospel, before, may hear it, today.

Don’t Allow Religion to Block People From Finding Jesus through Us

A.    Pray and Invite

Jesus said, “Ask the Lord of the Harvest.” This means, PRAY to God.

What are we to ask?

That Harvesters would be sent.

And let’s be willing to be part of that harvest.

And let me tell you a secret:

Resources for the harvest are IN the harvest.

We, at one time, were not part of the “harvesters,” but were part of the “harvest.”

God called us through someone else to follow and believe in Jesus’ Work on the Cross and His Resurrection.

We obediently give our tithes and our offerings to the church in order to reach out.

Lately we’ve been able to spend some money to make things better around here and more WELCOMING.

And as people get reached with the Gospel, they will become harvesters and supporters and prayer partners, too.

But, some may object and say, “Pastor Peyton, you are neglecting our children, and our neighbors who have grown up here in Lakeside and in RVA, but don’t follow Jesus.”

To that I say three things:

  • ONE: As they see us take seriously the Gospel and welcome refugees, the poor and the needy, then they might then decide to follow Jesus, too.
  • TWO: They have more opportunities to find Jesus than merely through me (family, literature, media, 100s of churches that worship in their language, radio, etc.) and yet they’ve not followed Jesus….Yet.
  • THREE: Those whom we welcome might be the ones who our family will listen to.

God calls us to pray and to invite

God wants us to be a House of Prayer for All Nations.

Remember our mission:

Our Mission at the River:

Connect our Changing Community with the Unchanging Gospel.

Therefore, we welcome internationals and locals to worship with us, and grow God’s Kingdom at this location, in this congregation for God’s wonderful glory!

Let’s pray

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Welcome Home (Part One)

Today, I want to start a mini-series I’m calling “Welcome Home.” It is about Welcoming the Stranger among us. We will look at Rahab and Ruth as well as our neighborhood.

INTRODUCTION

We like the feeling of being welcome, and don’t like to feel as though we are not welcome.

None of us want to feel like unwanted or uninvited.

We don’t want to feel out of place, but instead, we love to feel at home.

Have you noticed that when Kalyan welcomes us, he calls our church, “home.”

You know, when I call it home, and you might think,

“Of course, pastor, you would feel at home here.”

But for Kalyan to call it home, this is very different from what he used to call “home.”

In the Book of Hebrews, we have a chapter about faithful people.

Abel, Enoch and Noah are the first of many, including unnamed people (some of whom resemble  people today)

Those prior to Abraham were not Hebrews, but, Abraham, the father of the Hebrews, came from them.

The Book of Hebrews was written after the death, resurrection and ascension of Jesus, about 2000 years ago, to help the Hebrews understand and recognize that Jesus is the fulfillment of the Old Testament.

The 11th chapter is about the Faithful.

I’ve mentioned four names, already, but also, Sarah, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph and Moses, are listed.

These were BELIEVERS, who acted according to their BELIEF.

Yet, in relation to the world, they were strangers, even foreigners.

Let’s look at a few verses:

By faith Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going. By faith he made his home in the promised land like a stranger in a foreign country; he lived in tents, as did Isaac and Jacob, who were heirs with him of the same promise. 10 For he was looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God. 11 And by faith even Sarah, who was past childbearing age, was enabled to bear children because she considered him faithful who had made the promise. 12 And so from this one man, and he as good as dead, came descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as countless as the sand on the seashore.

13 All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance, admitting that they were foreigners and strangers on earth. 

Hebrews 11:9-13

The title of my message today is

Welcome Home (Part One)

Let’s Pray

PRAY

Heavenly Father, we praise You, and thank You for Your presence in this place, today. When we gather in Your Name, we are gathered as family in Your Home.

 We want to honor You with our lives as people of faith, people we act faithfully, and people who encourage others to act faithfully.

 We thank You for the promise of eternal life that we have in Jesus. We praise You, today, in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

  1. Faith in Action

What is faith or belief?

When I believe in something, I trust in it.

If I don’t believe in it, I won’t trust it.

When I went on my first missions trip, it was to the Dominican Republic, and I was part of a team of people who were going to build two church buildings in two weeks.

Although it was an adventure, we had concerns:

Re: health:

  • Malaria
  • Dysentery
  • Different Climate

We had social concerns:

  • Different culture
  • Different language

And, the work was going to be hard.

The means of getting to the work-site was also hard, as I had never before flown.

I was 15 years old, and it would be the adventure of my life at that point.

Whereas it might seem like something a kid would want to do, I must tell you, that at that young age of 15, I had distinctly  heard from the Lord that I was going to go on this trip for His purposes.

About 9 months prior to this trip, I heard a missionary speak in church. I was so moved by God, that I prayed and asked God what He was saying to me.

I had this strong sense in my heart that God was whispering His will to me:

“Be ready to travel to another country for me next year.”

I had heard of YWAM, by the way, very briefly, but that was all. I was honestly scared to tell anyone what I had heard, because I was not used to hearing God’s direction.

On the first Sunday of 1979, I arrived at church, late. Extra chairs had been added to the small sanctuary, and I sat on the front row. There was an empty seat beside me.

The associate pastor motioned to me to save that seat for him, for after he gave announcements. I placed my Bible there.

After praise and worship, the associate pastor, John Hershman, made an announcement:

“This year, although our church is in a building program, we will send a team of people to a country in the Caribbean to build a church for a struggling congregation.”

That statement was to me like Kennedy’s statement about sending men to the moon.

It was hard to believe, but still probable.

And I knew that it was God confirming to me what He had told me, previously.

I can’t tell you if anyone else on my team had heard specifically from the Lord, but I had.

Abraham had to specifically hear from the Lord in order to travel from one country to another in confidence.

He lived in an age in which people worshipped wood, clay, stone and metal objects, as well as stars and the moon.

Abraham’s family were moon worshippers, but Abraham began to worship the One who made the elements, stars and planets.

What is faith?

Earlier in Hebrews 11 we see this verse that explains it:

Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.                    Hebrews 11:1

Abraham believed and became the example for all who believe in One God:

Jews; Christians; and Muslims all claim to believe in the God of Abraham.

What distinguishes Christians from Muslims and Jews is our belief in Jesus.

Without Jesus, we have no hope.

As we look at the verses in Hebrews 11:8-13 we see that Faith was more than just intellectual understanding.

Faith is not merely saying,

“Hm, that sounds good,”

and then continuing in a sinful life as before.

But it IS to repent of our sins and believe that forgiveness of sins is found in Jesus’ death and resurrection.

Faith is much more than recognizing the truth of a fact, but to live according to the truth.

These faithful heroes in Hebrews were commended for this.

They had lived and died according to their belief.

They acted upon that belief.

Notice these verbs that followed faith:

  • By Faith Abraham …obeyed and went.
  • …. made his home in the promised land like a stranger
  • By faith…Sarah…was enabled to bear children because she considered God faithful

We, too, are called to believe.

Belief is what separates us from the world and makes us strangers and aliens, too.

Paul describes us as citizens of heaven:

20 But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ,  Philippians 3:20

Faith in Jesus makes us a citizen of heaven. Becoming “born again” or “born from above” enables us to be one of God’s children.

When we are citizens of heaven, we are no longer citizens of the world.

My son-in-law recently became a US citizen. This week in the mail, he received a letter from the Kazakhstan Embassy in DC stating that he is no longer a citizen of Kazakhstan.

Thus, he is a foreigner, now, to the land of his birth.

Faith needs to be revealed in action in order to be faith.

When we get hired to do a job, we enter into an agreement with our employer.

The employer in essence asks the potential employee,

“Do you want to work here?”

The potential employee usually tries his best to get the job, and through the application and interviewing process says,

“Yes, I want to work here.”

And so, the potential employee is actually expressing a “Belief,” and the employer is accepting that belief by faith.

But,

  • if the person spends more time talking than working.
  • If they spend time on their phone with personal calls, Facebook, texting and reading, rather than working.
  • If they show up late for work, and hangout by the time clock 10 minutes before quitting time,

then by all of these actions they are demonstrating that they don’t really believe in work.

And what happens to the employee?

He gets fired.

It takes action to reveal what someone really believes.

Abraham believed and he moved.

Abraham and Sarah believed, and they had a child named Isaac, although they were elderly.

  1. The Actions of Strangers

Being a stranger is not easy.

Abraham lived in tents.

Not only he, but his next two generations lived in tents.

Often when people emigrate to another country, they are doing it not for themselves, but for the next generation.

And it is the next generation that grows up feeling less like a stranger, and more like a local.

In Scripture, see the Faithful in Hebrews 11 were looking in faith to the future.

13 All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance, admitting that they were foreigners and strangers on earth. Heb 11:13

Can we be people of faith even if we don’t get to see the answers to our prayers and the fulfillment of our faith?

These faithful people saw themselves in need of God, even though they could not see God.

And even if they didn’t have everything that they wanted, they submitted to the sovereignty of God and followed Him.

Let’s look at some more actions taken by these strangers:

11:17   By faith Abraham …offered Isaac as a sacrifice

11:19] …Abraham reasoned that God could even raise the dead

11:20, 21       Isaac blessed Jacob and Esau; Jacob…blessed each of Joseph’s sons and worshipped

11:22  Joseph…spoke about the exodus…from Egypt

11:23  Moses’ parents hid him…and were not afraid.

11:24, 25 Moses…chose to be mistreated along with the [Hebrews]

Leaving Egypt, walking through the Red Sea and even the bringing down of the walls of Jericho are all attributed to faith by the book of Hebrews.

All done by believers who really saw themselves as citizens of heaven and not earth.

The list of the faithful included some of the judges, kings and prophets, like Gideon, Samuel and David, included others as well.

Many of the unnamed. were tortured for their faith, and even killed.

The Scriptures declared these strangers in this way,

38 the world was not worthy of them.              Hebrews 11:38a

BUT, I left out one name in particular:

Rahab.

Rahab was a foreigner to the Hebrews.

She was a citizen of Jericho, and yet, she is included in this roll call of the faithful of Israel.

How did this happen?

She was welcomed into the family.

She was welcomed home.

She was a prostitute, though some scholars consider that this term may have actually meant “innkeeper.”

She welcomed two Hebrew spies into her home, which was part of the walls of Jericho.

She protected them.

She enabled them to escape.

She asked them to remember her and protect her.

31 By faith the prostitute Rahab, because she welcomed the spies, was not killed with those who were disobedient.    Hebrews 11:31

Rahab welcomed, and she was then welcomed into the family of God.

The story of Rahab is in Joshua 2, and we see there that Rahab had heard all that God had done for the Hebrew people, even what had been done 40 years before, and she believed in God for this.

Listen to her declaration of faith:

11 … the Lord your God is God in heaven above and on the earth below.       Joshua 2:11b

Rahab welcomed God’s people, and in turn, she was also welcomed by God’s people.

And, as we see, later, Rahab was included not only in this list, but in the list of the ancestors to King David and to Jesus.

The people whom Rahab welcomed agreed to protect her.

The strangers welcomed a stranger.

APPLICATION

We, believers in Jesus, are citizens of heaven, and we have been given the commission to invite people to come home with us.

We are to welcome them home.

Yes, some whom we welcome, will look like us.

But others whom we welcome will not.

Some whom we welcome will have shared experiences of Thanksgiving, Christmas and Easter, while others will be clueless.

But what is important is that we be people who welcome.

Some will be locals, but God’s invitation is not only for locals.

For God so loved the WORLD….

And He has sent the WORLD to RVA.

In Hebrews 13, we see that by welcoming strangers, some have even welcomed angels.

Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it. Heb 13:2

And this was referring to a story in the life of Abraham.

As well, Jesus, said this about how we welcome strangers:

35 For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36 I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’

…..‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.

Matthew 25:35, 36, 40

One dream I have is that as we try to reach this community, God will reach Buddhists, Muslims and Hindus, and as they become believers in Jesus, they will in turn share the gospel with locals from our area, and one day and American-born person from a Christian background will be baptized here because he heard the gospel from a former Muslim, Hindu or Buddhist.

Let us continue our journey Home, living out our faith in Jesus, with actions that declare our faith.

And let us, welcome others Home with us.

For a couple months, we’ve been showing you our mission:

Connecting our changing community with the unchanging gospel.

Let’s be about our mission.

Let’s pray

 

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