Empowered: Exalted Son

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Last week we looked at the work of the Inclusive Spirit in the miraculous events surrounding Pentecost, which allowed the early church to surpass a level of inclusion unknown in the Middle East in the 1st century and still sought after throughout the 21st century. Yet it isn’t only the inclusive Spirit which was at work, next we see the heart of the message involves the…

 Exalted Son—On July 9th, 1896, at the Democratic National Convention in Chicago, IL, the presidential dark horse, long-shot, unknown, William Jennings Bryan walked onto the stage and promptly gave one of the most famous political speeches of all time rallying the crowd into a frenzied crescendo. Bryan’s address which focused on the gold-standard and his last line, “you shall not crucify mankind upon a cross of gold” pushed him from unknown into the first spot, making him the Democratic Party’s presidential nominee. Yet within months the seemingly unstoppable, immutable, uncontrollable cheers of the people went mute as he lost in the general election to William McKinley. It is a speech that is remembered, but an impact which is forgotten. Yet in the first sermon, we see Peter highlight the one who was crucified so that mankind could avoid death– Acts 2:22-24 22 “Fellow Israelites, listen to this: Jesus of Nazareth was a man accredited by God to you by miracles, wonders and signs, which God did among you through him, as you yourselves know. 23 This man was handed over to you by God’s deliberate plan and foreknowledge; and you, with the help of wicked men,[b] put him to death by nailing him to the cross. 24 But God raised him from the dead, freeing him from the agony of death, because it was impossible for death to keep its hold on him.

 Unlike Bryan whose words seem hollow today, TIME Magazine to their credit made this observation about what makes Jesus unlike all the rest: “The memory of any stretch of years eventually resolves to a list of names, and one of the useful ways of recalling the past two millenniums is by listening the people who acquired great power. Muhammad, Catherine the Great, Marx, Gandhi, Hitler, Roosevelt, Stalin and Mao come quickly to mind. There’s no question that each of those figures changed the lives of millions and evoked responses from worship through hatred. It would require much exotic calculation, however, to deny that the single most powerful figure—not merely in these two millenniums but in all human history—has been Jesus of Nazareth…A serious argument can be made that no one else’s life has proved remotely as powerful and enduring as that of Jesus.

 Were These Just Words from Peter? Again filled with the Spirit he looks to prophecy, the words of David- who pointed to the one who would come in his line, to sit on his throne, who would never taste death saying, 26 Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices; my body also will rest in hope, 27 because you will not abandon me to the realm of the dead, you will not let your holy one see decay…In fact, he goes on to point out 34-35- “34  David did not ascend to heaven, and yet he said, “‘The Lord said to my Lord: “Sit at my right hand 35 until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet.”

Peter is clear: David had died, his body had decayed, but he envisioned another: the coming of the Messiah who would never decay . Again words which alone could have been interesting—like the latest John Grisham novel—it is a good read, but it doesn’t change anything. Uniquely, we find that the words of Scripture are matched with miraculous moments in history! So in an exclusive minded world—If you haven’t noticed there are a lot of things in which even the church has divided over: You can be a Calvinist or Arminian, Pelagianist  or Augustinian, Amillienialist or Premillennialist or Postmillennialist, King James only or NIV, Old Earth vs. New Earth, instrumental vs. non-instrumental, contemporary vs. tradition…Oh it keeps going—scholars filling books and losing souls! While theology is important, let’s not miss the Christology which is imperative…So when you approach Scripture—we need to do approach the debatable with humility, defend essentials ferociously, and pray for the discern to know the difference.

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Empowered: Inclusive Spirit

son of God

Today, we continue in our series: Empowered, working through the book of Acts—the formation and empowerment of the church. Building up to our text today in Acts 2:14-41 remember all the Jews from across the Middle East have gathered to celebrate Pentecost (long-running tradition), when it is transformed– there was a raging wind, tongues of fire, and the Gospel of Christ heard in the native languages of all who were present. In the aftermath, people were left searching for answers, asking big questions– “What’s happened?” “Why did this happen?”  Some thought they saw the hand of God at work others were certain they saw the wine of man at work and so it was in uncertain times that Peter, an apostle of Christ, rose to his feet, ready to calm the storm and answer the questions.

 In fact this is a familiar pattern: hours after Challenger exploded with school aged children watching all over the country, President Reagan sat at his desk in the oval office, looked directly into the camera, and spoke  to the emptiness which filled the minds and hearts of many who were asking the question “WHY did this happen!” In the years that followed the Russians blasting Sputnik into orbit, seemingly eclipsing us,  John F. Kennedy boldly rose to the podium, answering the question-“Where do we go from here” provided a vision, not of decline or fear, but one of a future that involved man doing not what was easy but was hard, walking on the moon. After September 11th, 2001, with our nation reeling from attack and in a state of disbelief the words of New York mayor Rudy Giuliani were broadcast all over the country and world—offered a consistent voice of calm in a state of chaos.  In fact, speeches in the aftermath of highs and lows of history have provided comfort or crystallization, acted as memorial or monument.

By looking at the first sermon in the New Testament church, Peter provides the vision beyond the vexing questions of the day into the future starting with the work of an:

Inclusive Spirit— In an excerpt from Martin Luther King Jr.’s most famous speech, he captured the sincere human desire to belong: “I have a dream that one day down in Alabama, with its vicious racists, with its governor having his lips dripping with the words of interposition and nullification – one day right there in Alabama little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers. I have a dream today. I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted and every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight, and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed and all flesh shall see it together.”

 Despite the imperfections of our society, the injustice of racism or prejudice, we find that the Spirit of God laid out a reality in the face of mankind’s dream by starting to make low every hill or mountain, straighten out the crooked places, to reveal the Lord: (Acts 2:15-21) 15 These people are not drunk, as you suppose. It’s only nine in the morning! 16 No, this is what was spoken by the prophet Joel: 17 “‘In the last days, God says, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions, your old men will dream dreams. 18 Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days, and they will prophesy. 19 I will show wonders in the heavens above and signs on the earth below, blood and fire and billows of smoke. 20 The sun will be turned to darkness and the moon to blood before the coming of the great and glorious day of the Lord. 21 And everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.’

Instead of being drunk passing out—Peter reveals it is the divine playing out! Explaining that what appeared chaotic was in fact prophetic. What is amazing, is 800 B.C., almost 900 years before Pentecost, Joel told of the coming inclusive nature of the Spirit. Unifying old and young, slave and superiors, male or female, rich or poor come together not based on the color of their skin but based on the Spirit inside their hearts.

 If you look around at different clubs, groups, and organizations you might ask yourself what makes the church distinct. Recently, I met a nice guy trying to convert me—he wasn’t from another religion but rather from Cross-Fit! He talked about the diversity of people who do it, the great community it brings, and the results it brings!  You might think—Joel, Peter, Scripture—aren’t these just words on a page! The uniqueness of the church is an inclusive spirit developed on two simultaneous principles: MISSION and MESSENGER! We are united to one another, we are united to Christians all over the world, we are united to believers of other ages by our Mission, and yet lots of organizations have mission statements, but then we add a messenger—it is with the Holy Spirit that we take purely a human gathering and make it divine—finding that our diversity does not divide us! Instead our purpose unites us!

Empowered: These Ain’t Your Momma’s Results

Encounter

Continuing through the events of Pentecost have revealed some amazing transformation in the face of simple tradition. Through the power of the Spirit, we see the radical changes that take place in an instant—changing a ritual into a way of life, and moving the presence of God from the walls built by man to the walls of our heart built by God, and finally we see that…

THESE AIN’T YOUR MAMA’S RESULTS (Acts 2:5-13)Now there were staying in Jerusalem God-fearing Jews from every nation under heaven. When they heard this sound, a crowd came together in bewilderment, because each one heard their own language being spoken. Utterly amazed, they asked: “Aren’t all these who are speaking Galileans? Then how is it that each of us hears them in our native language? Parthians, Medes and Elamites; residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia,[b] 10 Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya near Cyrene; visitors from Rome 11 (both Jews and converts to Judaism); Cretans and Arabs—we hear them declaring the wonders of God in our own tongues!” 12 Amazed and perplexed, they asked one another, “What does this mean?”13 Some, however, made fun of them and said, “They have had too much wine.”

When the unexpected occurs, it causes bewilderment, shock, amazement. I have seen this even in Franklin—They see flashing lights, excitement, hear a loud noise, and they all come flocking to see what happened. Sometimes you’ll even have a traffic jam, not because a lane is closed, but because everyone is driving by peering off and slowing down to see the wreckage on the side of the road. In the same way the people have heard the noise, seen the tongues of fire which have rested on the people, indwelling in the first believers with amazing results- Suddenly they are speaking in tongues—languages that are foreign to them.  In fact, the results although a shock to the first Christians, were predicted by Christ who said in Mark 16:17- “These signs will accompany those who believe: In my name they will drive out demons; they will speak in new languages.” As they speak suddenly, the diverse listeners hear the message of Jesus Christ in their own distinct dialects, languages, and tongues.

Wives if your husband looks at you at times like you are speaking another language the results are in! A UK experiment found on a test of 40 men and 40 women, that men were more inclined to hear “masculine” words such as beer and football—the words peaked their memory and stayed with them longer. Yet, ladies before you go elbowing your husband in the ribs to punish them for this selective hearing, the experiment found that women are just as likely to have selective hearing for “feminine” words such as chocolate and shopping.

In truth, the experiment found that with all the competing messages vying for are allegiance, we only hear the messages that we find appealing or credible. Think about your friends or family outside of church— During these same hours—something else won out—extra sleep, work, exercise, family time—Yet just as God used the Spirit to add credibility and credence to the cross of Christ and unify the believers in the first century—allowing the miraculous to invade the everyday…. Paul in 1 Cor. 6:10-11 shows us how the Spirit still adds credibility to the message today—: 9Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor men who have sex with men 10 nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. 11 And that is what some of you were. (That use to define us—sin which would lead to death) But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God… 14 By his power God raised the Lord from the dead, and he will raise us also.

Although the changes that happen around us, some slow and some fast, may rock our world—-in Christ, the greatest change of all is what happens in your heart—your allegiance, conviction, your worldview. As we move forward as the body of Christ, there will be times where you might be frustrated with changes, you might be angry with new initiatives, you might be frightened by unique directions, but know that THIS AIN’T YOUR MAMA’S CHURCH—and that is okay—because it is Christ’s church—that as we change, we do so to fulfill the same unchanging mission, with the same unchanging mission, and that the methods—-whether we join together on two wheels or in a tin hut, are only momentary—while the changes of the Holy Spirit are forever.

Empowered: This Ain’t Your Momma’s Temple

Jewish Temple

 

Last time we saw that God took the tradition of Pentecost and made it a moment of transformation. God changed the event, but he went further giving a new emphasis and new scope revealing:

THIS AIN’T YOUR MAMA’S TEMPLE (Acts 2:3-4) They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues[a] as the Spirit enabled them.

With everyone gathered together for the festival—it highlighted what made the Jews unique—a God that interacted with His people—a temple that was his earthly dwelling place among his people. 2 Chronicles 5:13-14 reminds us of the moment he first filled the temple, “the house of the LORD, was filled with a cloud, so that the priests could not stand to minister because of the cloud, for the glory of the LORD filled the house of God.”  As cool as it must have been to see the smoke pouring out of the temple, we see a radical shift from a holy building being filled to a holy people being filled.

With this change—the Spirit breaking out of the walls of the temple– Vince Antonucci, a pastor decided that his Virginia Beach, VA church would act on this change. They started holding a Tuesday night service! Radical! Not really—unless you hate Tuesday nights. What makes it particularly different is that they held the service, full with sermon, offering, communion, prayer, and songs in a bar—not a bar that is closed down, but a bar that is in operation—serving customers, in hopes of reaching them!

As I’ve driven down the street and seen a piece of a mobile home seemingly floating by, or a giant hot dog, but I’ve never seen an enormous temple on wheels. The temple was in Jerusalem alone! Yet, the beauty of Pentecost is that God shows us we are never too far removed from God, that with Baptism, the spirit of God dwells inside of us, where we go, the Spirit goes with us. –and yet in too many experiences we confine the gospel to the 4 walls of the church between 9:30-11:30 a.m. Instead of simply calling the lost to come to us—we are able to take the truth to them. We become the messengers, we become the comforters, we become the peacemakers, and we become the mouthpieces. When we live out our faith, it brings the presence of God before the audience of the lost. Jesus-in fact takes the same approach to us—when we have no way of coming back into relationship with God on our own, he became one of us to come after us!

Empowered #7: THIS AIN’T YOUR MAMA’S CHURCH!

thisain'tyourmama's

Last week we looked at the periods of waiting that sporadically invade our life and yet more often than not, if I had to guess I bet—you probably spend more time racing (around) rather than resting with things constantly changing around you. Sometimes change is slow and steady other decades like in music—as we moved from Elvis Presley to the Beatles with the British Invasion—to today’s classics—“What does the Fox Say?” Other times change happens in an instant—from the calm of September 10th to terror of September 11th—-Despite the speed at which it occurs, a social scientist rightly quipped, “The only thing constant in life is change!”  Even the church is getting in on the action– One church in particular- located in Merced, CA- have gone out of their way to embrace change—called aptly, “This Ain’t Your Mama’s Church.” Meeting each week not in a church with four walls, comfy chairs or padded pews, no soft-spoken messages, but instead on two wheels, with lots of horse-power, chaps, leather and angels to spare, but that is only because some were former Hells Angels. It is a motorcycle church! So today we are going to look at what happens when the waiting is over!

Today we continue in our Empowered Series, through the book of Acts. We move from the church being called on to Wait to seeing that when God is ready—change can transform everything. In our text from Acts 2:1-13, we will see the three major changes in the life of the early church which still impacts our faith today!

We begin in (Acts 2:1) When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place.

Pentecost had come, let the party begin. But what are we celebrating? Sometimes it is easy to forget that the Jews practiced this event before Christ and still after Christ in the festival called Shavout- (Sha-voo-ot). Originally, it marked God giving Moses the Law on Mount Sinai, and annually celebrated by the Israelites honoring God’s provision, blessings, and concern by bringing the first fruits of the harvest to the temple. Yet here in our text, we see that after the every year being the same that this AIN’T YOUR MAMA’S PENTECOST- Look what happens in Acts 2:2– Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. In fulfillment of Christ’s promise, like a trumpet sounding announcing the arrival of royalty, or a major decree, the blowing wind acknowledges the arrival of the far greater power and presence-the Holy Spirit!  As God bottled his love for humanity in Christ (Romans 5:8), he pours out that love through the Holy Spirit—leading John to say “It is the Spirit who gives life.”

The change in the church can easily be taken for granted, the spirit came at Pentecost and the church was formed and we turn the corner,” but don’t miss the explosive change– It would be like a farmer waking up each morning—hooking up the old plow to the old horse who has seen better days. Every inch of progress would come at the price of blood, sweat, bulging arms, and lots of naying. The contrast of Pentecost would be waking up in the morning, walking out to your field and finding the latest and greatest planter from John Deere, fully equipped with GPS, air conditioned cab, and precision planter. When we try to live on our own power—we barely break the surface, each step forward only comes at the expense of our blood, sweat, and tears yet the infusion of power, precision, and the presence of God changed the entire landscape and offers to change our entire lives.

Look what happened here, God took a long-standing tradition and turned it into a moment of transformation. Not simply the memorialization of God’s law– into a true moment of interaction with God’s grace allowing us to be real with God—breaking the surface–no fake smile, plastic halo, or hollow words. Just as God did with Pentecost, he can do in your life. What things do you do everyday nearly on auto-pilot, stopping at the coffee house for a cup of joe, meeting with your friends, maybe God is calling you to take your tradition and start using it as a moment of transformation.  Usually though we avoid change as much as possible—change messes with our schedules, our sanity, and our sociability—yet sometimes only change will catapult us towards Christ! It took Moses seeing a burning bush that wouldn’t be consumed to get him out of the literal rut he probably walked in following the sheep! When is the last time you’ve tried growing in your faith by serving in a unique way, or read something that might solidify your conviction or reached out to someone new, or strived to disciple the next generation of believers? If the answer is never, or not for a long time, lets allowed the Holy Spirit to wake us up as it woke up the first Christians.

Remember Who You Serve

I remember you

Remember Who You Serve

So many late nights trying to make sure the words are just right,

Ensuring that the impact is amplified, instead of falls flat

Making sure each “i” is dotted, each “t” is crossed.

The hustle and bustle along with the worry and flurry

So much time spent pleasing the world.

When all along, I lost sight of why I serve at all!

When the worship became just work!

No more–I will remember whose work made worship a reality!

No more–I will remember whose life has amplified through the centuries.

No more–I will remember that the times of prayer are more powerful than the most perfectly worded paragraph!

No more–I REMEMBER YOU!

Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God–this is your spiritual act of worship. Romans 12:1

 

Acts #6-The Restorer

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When we are waiting faithfully it gives us an opportunity to practice being obedient—finding the will to act with wisdom—it is an opportunity to see God’s kingdom coming through the cracks, and  finally we see that…

While they were waiting it was an opportunity to be Restored. (Acts 1:21-26) 21 Therefore it is necessary to choose one of the men who have been with us the whole time the Lord Jesus was living among us, 22 beginning from John’s baptism to the time when Jesus was taken up from us. For one of these must become a witness with us of his resurrection.”  23 So they nominated two men: Joseph called Barsabbas (also known as Justus) and Matthias. 24 Then they prayed, “Lord, you know everyone’s heart. Show us which of these two you have chosen 25 to take over this apostolic ministry, which Judas left to go where he belongs.” 26 Then they cast lots, and the lot fell to Matthias; so he was added to the eleven apostles.

The 1 that was missing, 11 out of 12, the elephant in the room silently spoke volumes and the incompleteness had to be addressed.  In the OT there were 12 leaders, one for each tribe of Israel, and now at the installation of the church—it is a necessity to transition from incompleteness and betrayal to restoration. A vision of which John saw In Rev. 21:10-“10 And he carried me away in the Spirit to a mountain great and high, and showed me the Holy City, Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God.” Unlike the 12 tribes of Israel that struggled to create a physical kingdom, the 12 apostles would reach out to build the New Jerusalem, the church, the restored spiritual kingdom of God.  When it is time to pick a replacement, do you see what is better than voting?  Praying. Do you see what is more effective than a 10 person committee? Praying.  Instead of hiring a head-hunter company to find a replacement—they instead turn to the head of the church in prayer; creating a core of witnesses who would build the church on the foundation of Christ’s resurrection—not one of tradition, preference or popularity—but wholly based on the apostolic truth-ensuring the message is maintained!

la pieta
Yet sometimes things can become disfigured–Do you ever feel like you are incomplete, that something is missing, that with time and trails been chipped away? A few years ago, an angry man rushed through the Rijks Museum in Amsterdam until he reached Rembrandt’s famous painting “Nightwatch.” Then he took out a knife and slashed it repeatedly before he could be stopped. A short time later, a distraught, hostile man slipped into St. Peter’s Cathedral in Rome with a hammer and began to smash Michelangelo’s beautiful sculpture The Pieta. Two cherished works of art were severely damaged. But what did officials do? Throw them out and forget about them? Absolutely not! Using the best experts, who worked with the utmost care and precision, they made every effort to restore the treasures. (sermonillustrations.com)

God worked much the same way with his disfigured creation—sending the absolute best in the greatest act of restoration in response to sin. That through prayer, scripture, and restoration—God still uses the church as the same unchanging foundation and means of restoration. Each time someone accepts Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, embracing the power of the Holy Spirit, the power which brought Christ from the dead and the same restoration that ensured the church’s foundation would stand eternally, ensures that we too are eternally restored.

So while you are just waiting—waiting—waiting—you have the opportunity to use the time of waiting—not as a waste of life, but as an opportunity to make the most it! A time to solidify in your mind the evidence of what happened in history with Jesus Christ—a historic Savior passed down from the apostles, time to solidify in your heart the Words of Scripture, and finally time to restore what is incomplete because of sin in your life—ensuring you are ready when the WAITING is over!