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4/24 Monday Morning Quarterbacking

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In light of yesterday’s sermon about the pillar of cloud and fire, I wanted to follow-up with one point I made towards the end of the sermon:

How is your body the temple?

On the list of misquoted Bible verses, 1 Cor 6:19 must be one of the most frequent. Some of the problem stems from a general arc in today’s theology toward a ‘therapeutic’ approach to the Bible. This results in an emphasis on what can ‘faith’ do for me now: how can it solve the problems I have in this life? For the record, I don’t think it’s illegitimate to talk about how genuine faith can (many times) make this life better, it just can’t be the whole story (e.g. Jesus talks about true disciples must expect suffering, persecution, etc. which doesn’t fit with ‘our best life now’ theology).

In this vein, 1 Cor 6:19 is used by some to talk about a biblical basis for the pursuit of good health. “Eat right! Exercise!” we are told because “your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit.” I have heard someone once state that a certain diet is ‘cleansing the temple’ just like Jesus drove out the money changers. While this kind of thinking may help someone shed a few pounds, it really detracts from the original meaning of the verse. On the one hand, our bodies are a gift from God, and it is part of Christian stewardship to care well for what we are given (this is a historic argument against self-harm). On the other hand, the context of 1 Cor 6:19 has more to do with the moral use of our bodies. Here are the preceding verses:

1Cor 6:16-19 Or do you not know that he who is joined to a prostitute becomes one body with her? For, as it is written, “The two will become one flesh.” But he who is joined to the Lord becomes one spirit with him. Flee from sexual immorality. Every other sin a person commits is outside the body, but the sexually immoral person sins against his own body. Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God?

Rather than speaking of the latest organic food fad, Paul, here, is informing the Corinthians not to sleep with prostitutes (how about that for pastoral advice to a local church!) and points to the larger issue of sexual immorality.  Sexual intimacy is not only a physical union but a spiritual one as well. This is the blessing of sexual intimacy when it is in its proper context of marriage, but becomes disastrous outside its proper context. Paul further argues that we also can’t treat this topic casually because, as believers, we are united to Christ by the Holy Spirit. TheHoly Spirit dwells in the hearts of believers just like He dwelled in the temple (which connects back to the pillar of cloud and fire of Exodus). And just like in the Old Testament the temple was to be kept pure and holy from anything that could defile it since there was God’s presence, so should we seek purity in how we use our bodies.

The beauty of this text (that I explored briefly in the sermon) is that this is how God dwells with His people: the Spirit dwells in us and among us as the body of Christ. The challenge of this text is that God’s presence is not only a great comfort, but it is also motivation to flee from temptation. And the power to flee from temptation (sexual or otherwise) resides in the Spirit’s work within us, changing our hearts and strengthening us to fight sin in our lives.

2/22/17 (Belated) Monday Morning Quarterbacking

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“What’s in a name?” Juliet tells Romeo in that famous Shakespeare play. If you know Romeo and Juliet at all, you’d know it mattered quite a bit to the story! If it weren’t for the names ‘Capulet’ and ‘Montague’ there would be two less deaths in the end. A lot is in a name.

This past Sunday we looked at the importance of God’s name that he reveals to Moses in the context of delivering Israel out of the clutches of Egypt. God’s name was a declaration of his character, as well as a promise of his loyalty to Moses and His people. As I labored to expand on this topic this week, I received this excerpt below of Alec Motyer’s book Psalms by the Day from Tracie Aldridge (thanks Tracie!). Motyer does a great job of highlighting the invitation of intimacy God is giving by providing His name:

The divine name ‘Yaweh’ will at first sound strange in your ears, being used to the established (but mistaken) English convention of representing the name as ‘the Lord’. We who are of an older generation will remember the days when calling someone by their Christian name was a privilege granted, not presumed upon. It meant something to us when a senior friend said, ‘Please call me by my Christian name’; the relationship had ripened into a new intimacy and privilege. So it was in Genesis 4:26 when people began to call their God by his personal name; so it was, even more, when the significance of that Name was revealed to Moses (Exodus 3:15). 

(Alec Motyer, Psalms by the Day, Christian Focus 2016)

Exodus: God’s Battle for the Heart

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Quick: when did the American Revolution end? Most people assume it started in 1776 (though it actually started about a year before the Declaration of Independence). If you guessed 1783, you’d be right! At least historically speaking. But according to John Adams, one of the nation’s founders, he believed the war was won way before 1783:

[The] radical change in the principles, opinions, sentiments, and affections of the people, was the real American Revolution

In that sense, the war was won before it was ever even fought.

We are about to start a new sermon series on the Book of Exodus. It is a book full of plagues, thunder, smoke, walls of water, earth quakes and works of power. It tells the story of God’s relentless pursuit of the rescue of His people, fulfilling the promises he made to Abraham four hundred years earlier. It roots God’s law and instructions on the worship of God in the context of this great rescue plan unfurled. Yet, as we walk through the story, we will begin to realize that the real battle taking place is on the battlefield of the heart. Like the John Adam’s quote above, God is chasing His covenant people with His grace to change their principles, opinions, sentiments, and affections concerning God and life. It is the same hunt God has begun in us and won’t stop until our hearts are His.

1/16/17 A Very Long Prayer

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It was a mess of a church. Well, maybe church is stretching it a bit too far. It was more of a community of refugees. Count Zinzendorf parceled out his own land to let various Christians from around Europe to find refuge and create a small community. This little rag-tag bunch of just about 300 spoke dozens of languages and had various theological backgrounds. And the worst of it was, this new ‘shining example’ of Christian community called Herrnhut was known for its bickering and fighting. At his wit’s end, Count Zinzendorf, in May of 1727 and finally came to a conclusion he should have come to way before; he could not change people. He could not make this a pinnacle of the Reformation; he wasn’t smart enough, talented enough, etc. to make it work. So what do you do in a situation like that? Pray. And pray is what he did.

In 1727 Zinzendorf called on the community to begin praying continually. Not just every day, but every hour, of every day of every week, of every year, each member of the community had an allotted hour to pray on a prayer rotation. This small community of 300 prayed 24/7 for revival, for the church, for unity, for the spread of the Gospel. And how long did they keep this up? Maybe a couple of months? That would certainly be a testament! Or for a whole year? That would be something! But they lasted much longer. This community prayed from 1727 to well into the 1830’s. That’s right, over 100 years of 24/7 prayer. What were the effects? On the 65th anniversary, it was recounted that there had been over 300 missionaries sent throughout the world from that tiny little community that numbered as much at its beginning. Three of the most notable men impacted by missionaries from Herrnhut were none other than George Whitfield, John, and Charles Wesley.

I guess you take away from this story a few things. You could just be impressed, but in light of that kind of commitment, I think most of us would despair. But I think this story is valuable not so much for us to marvel at a church’s commitment to prayer; I think we ought to marvel at God’s grace in using broken human beings like the villagers of Herrnhut (or us), and His astounding faithfulness in using prayer to build His Kingdom. May you be encouraged this week to have a chat with the God of all glory, who works wonders and is establishing his Kingdom through His Church.

24 Hour Day of Prayer

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Part of our focus this coming year at Harbor Church is encouraging prayer throughout our church family. In order to do kick off this renewed focus, we are going to be holding a 24 Hour Day of Prayer from Friday, Feb 3rd through Saturday, Feb 4th.  Our prayer focus during that time will be for the spiritual needs of the people around us. Here are a few ways you can be involved:

Listen: Pastor Michael is preaching three sermons in January on prayer

Complete: Fill out one or more yellow prayer cards and return by Jan 22nd (instructions on the card) – You can email your requests as well.

Sign up:  Put your name or your family’s name down for a devoted hour or more to pray for those listed on the cards (yellow sign up sheet located in the lobby)

Attend: Come to the conclusion of our 24 hour day of prayer at Harbor from 5-6pm on Saturday, Feb 4th.

Pray: Pray for the Day of Prayer, that God would use it to make us a people marked by prayer

1/9 Monday Morning Quarterbacking (Sort of)

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It was a weird one this week! Because Sunday services were canceled due to weather I felt like I both preached and didn’t preach seeing as how I recorded my sermon for you all Saturday evening (by the way, you may hear my children in the background: there is no quiet room in my house!). The recorded sermon is my first installment of a three-part mini-series on prayer leading up to our 24-Hour Day of prayer (Feb 3-4). In that sermon, I mentioned a phrase from Charles Spurgeon and I thought it might be encouraging to you all to quote further from his sermon on prayer and God’s sovereignty. Notice in the following quote the part about Jesus being an ‘eye witness’ to God’s decrees:

Moreover, in other matters we never regulate our actions by the unknown decrees of God; as for instance, a man never questions whether he shall eat or drink, because it may or may not be decreed that he shall eat or drink; a man never enquires whether he shall work or not on the ground that it is decreed how much he shall do or how little; as it is inconsistent with common sense to make the secret decrees of God a guide to us in our general conduct, so we feel it would be in reference to prayer, and therefore still we pray. But we have a better answer than all this. Our Lord Jesus Christ comes forward, and he says to us this morning, “My dear children, the decrees of God need not trouble you, there is nothing in them inconsistent with your prayers being heard. ‘I say unto you, ask, and it shall be given you.’ ” Now, who is he that says this? Why it is he that has been with the Father from the beginning—”the same was in the beginning with God” and he knows what the purposes of the Father are and what the heart of God is, for he has told us in another place, “the Father himself loveth you.”

Now since he knows the decrees of the Father, and the heart of the Father, he can tell us with the absolute certainty of an eye-witness that there is nothing in the eternal purposes in conflict with this truth, that he that asketh receiveth, and he that seeketh findeth. He has read the decrees from the beginning to end: hath he not taken the book, and loosed the seven seals thereof, and declared the ordinances of heaven? He tells you there is nothing there inconsistent with your bended knee and streaming eye, and with the Father’s opening the windows of heaven to shower upon you the blessings which you seek. Moreover, he is himself God: the purposes of heaven are his own purposes, and he who ordained the purpose here gives the assurance that there is nothing in it to prevent the efficacy of prayer. “I say unto you.” O ye that believe in him, your doubts are scattered to the winds, ye know that he heareth your prayer.”  (Taken From www.gracesermons.com/hisbygrace/whypray.html)

12/19 Monday Morning Quarterbacking

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In a follow-up to yesterday’s sermon, I have written a little more detailed explanation about how Mary does and does not fit with the woman in Revelation 12, which you can read about by clicking below. I also wanted to follow up about praying for the persecuted church. The Voice of the Martyrs is a great organization I have found helpful in keeping up with our persecuted brothers and sisters throughout the world with information, prayer, and even financial support. One of the neatest resources they have is an interactive map of the world that highlights various places in the world and how to pray for them. Maybe it might be a good idea to get online this next week and look at it as a family, maybe let it guide your prayer time.

Mary and the Woman of Rev 12 – Extra

Community Caroling

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This past Sunday, we decided to do something a bit unusual. A bunch of us went out to a local shopping center (we asked permission first, don’t worry) and sang Christmas hymns as people were walking around and shopping. We didn’t ask anything from anybody (though we did hand out candy!). The reactions were interesting:

Some people were at various levels of amusement / interest. I saw someone filming us as we sang “Hark the Herald Angels Sing”. Drivers might give a little wave as they drove by.

Some people tried not to make any eye contact whatsoever. And that makes some sense. Most people are a little skeptical about anyone outside a store: they must be selling something, and whatever they are selling, I don’t want it.

Similarly…

Some people assumed we were collecting donations. There were some very sweet folks who came to us with wads of cash in hand, ready to give to whatever cause we happen to be singing for. As they approached, somebody from our group usually responded with, “Nope, we’re not taking anything, we are just here to bless you.” What followed was an expression of shocked-yet-pleasantly-surprised.

And as I am watching these reactions, I couldn’t help but think this was like a little microcosm of most people’s reaction to the Gospel. Here is Jesus: singing his song of love, no strings attached, pure unmerited favor. Some people are slightly amused, but go back to their lives. Others assume there must be some sort of catch and try not to make eye contact. Still others come genuinely grateful, money and good works in hand, ready to pay Jesus back. Only they find there’s nothing to buy back, just a gift we could never afford, bought with blood for you and for me.

There was one other person who we met along our little caroling adventure. One lady was so excited and thankful she wanted to join us in singing. So we gave her a caroling book and she joined the chorus. And isn’t that what Jesus wants? For us to know His love, shown on the cross, to have our sins washed away, so that we would join the chorus of His praises through all eternity.

12/5 Monday Morning Quarterbacking

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I’m not sure how many of you caught it, but this past Sunday we sung a very familiar song (“Hark the Herald Angels Sing”) with some very unfamiliar lyrics. Most versions take the Charles Wesley’s Christmas hymn and cut it down to three verses. But the original had five verses, which we included this past Sunday’s worship. As I was thinking about yesterday’s sermon where I encouraged everyone to pay more attention to the words that we sing, so I thought I might lead the charge by describing these two ‘lost verses’:

4. Come, Desire of Nations, come,
Fix in us thy heav’nly Home;
Rise the Woman’s conqu’ring Seed,
Bruise in us the Serpent’s Head.

Verse 4 references the ‘conquering seed’ of Gen 3:15, where God promises that the ‘seed of the woman’ will ‘crush the head of the serpent’. This was the first promise of the Gospel after the Fall, and we can now look back on those words and see that Jesus was that ‘seed/child’ who would put an end to Satan’s/the serpent’s reign. Yet Charles Wesley cleverly adds two words that apply that theological concept straight to our hearts: “Bruise IN US the Serpent’s Head”. The hold of sin and temptation is in our hearts, that’s where Satan’s head is, and it is there that the battle must take place. Jesus doesn’t just conquer sin and death ‘out there,’ but the good news of the Gospel is that he conquers those things in us, personally and profoundly.

5. Adam’s Likeness now efface,
Stamp thy Image in its Place;
Second Adam from above,
Work it in us by thy Love

 The fifth verse has some unfamiliar language that might be confusing at first blush. Adam’s likeness is the image of God from Gen 1:27, which was perfect at Creation. But after the Fall, the image of God is ‘effaced’- or ruined. Imagine a beautiful statues that someone painted graffiti and has thrown stones at till its nearly unrecognizable. That is the image of God in us: still there, but broken. The rest of the song asks the ‘second Adam’ i.e. Jesus (1 Cor 15:45, Rom 5:15) to work in us, by his love his own image in place of the broken one. This reminds me of Rom 8:29 that says we are being conformed into the image of Christ. The hope of Christmas doesn’t end with the baby Jesus in the manger, but points to the renewal of our very humanity as was created good in the Garden, tarnished in the Fall, and in need of redemption and renewal.

Revelation Intro

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In the coming weeks, our Christmas series will be drawing from classic texts from the Gospels and sections from the Book of Revelation. Maybe I am getting over my head, but I am so excited about seeing how the Book of Revelation can illuminate the Christmas story. I thought, by way of preparation, that I might give a VERY quick guide to how I approach the Book of Revelation which I won’t be able to go into during the sermon series. Here goes:

  1. The Original Audience of Revelation was a Specific Group of Churches. In Rev 2-3, specific churches (or groups of churches within cities—presbyteries?) are mentioned by name and have several specific applications addressed to them in a similar manner to, say, Paul’s letter to the Galatians or Ephesians. This fact is very helpful to readers because it sets the context for why the book was written: to churches facing persecution from the world as well as a temptation to follow the ways of the world. What they needed most was assurance that God was in control, that evil would be done away with, and that their destination was going to be glorious. Therefore they are called to persevere by faith in Christ. If we want to read Revelation better, I think we need to start with understanding this is a primary purpose of the letter.
  2. The Visions in Revelation are Symbolic and Steeped in the Old Testament. You certainly have to have a healthy sense of imagination to take in all that this book has to offer, with its seals, beasts, angels, horsemen, new heavens/new earth. But probably more importantly is that you will need a good background in the OT. One professor told me if you want to prepare yourself to read Revelation well, you need to read four things: Exodus on the Tabernacle, Isaiah, Ezekiel, and Daniel. If you are confused about a particular image, one of the best resources is to go back to the Old Testament.
  3. The Visions in Revelation can be Described not Linearly but also in Terms of Cycles. Something I have grown in appreciation for in the last couple of years is the cyclical nature to the visions in Revelation. In each cycle there is worship, problems, a going to the brink, a saving, and more worship. There is an orderly pattern to each vision. Here’s a summary of them:

VISION*          CHP    CONTENT

   1                   1-3       Seven Churches in a Fallen World

   2                   4-8:1    Seven Seals

   3                   8:2-11  Seven Trumpets

   4                   12-14   Battle Against Satan

   5                   15-16   Seven Bowls

   6                   17-19   Downfall of Babylon (City of Evil)

   7                   20-22   Church Perfected: New City

  1. Revelation Speaks to the Past, Present, and Future. For the most part, the passages we will be looking at won’t be the ‘controversial’ ones that get people into knots over (e.g. millennial views), which is sometimes the only topic that some people pay attention to. Revelation is not merely ‘a book of the future’ because it is absolutely rooted in Old Testament imagery, at times it points to history (from our perspective) within a generation after the resurrection of Jesus (like the destruction of the temple), speaks to contemporary churches of John’s time, and concerns future (both in the short term and long term). The patterns in Revelation can speak to many ages both past, present, and future. So how should we most effectively read it? That’s where we go to next…
  2. Revelation Presents us with Timeless Principles we can Apply at any Time. In every episode we must ask the question (like we should with every part of Scripture), what can I learn and apply to my own life right now? So as we approach the Book of Revelation, what do we learn about Jesus or the world in each passage and how does it help me to fight temptation or persevere despite opposition?

*Table taken from Derek Thomas’ book, Let’s Study Revelation (Let’s Study Series), (Banner of Truth, 2003)