As you can see, I am carrying a heavy backpack. In this backpack there are several stones. Each stone represents a burden.
This stone is the burden of … what if I became sick like with cancer? What if I got diagnosed with one of those terrible diseases?
This stone is the burden of financial things. What if I did not have enough income? How would I take care of my family?
This stone is the burden of popularity. What if my congregation did not like me? What if my sermons would not make sense to them? What if I hurt anyone?
This stone is burden of family. What if my marriage collapsed? What if my kids would not have a good future? What if they made bad choices of jobs or spouses?
This stone is called the burden of the unknown future. What if something bad happened to us in the future?1
I believe many of us carry heavy loads of “stones” on our back. Our life becomes heavy and burdened.
This is the last Sunday of the year. We are saying goodbye to the year with the anticipation of a New Year to come. I wonder if I move from one year into another with the same backpack, with the same load,will there be anything new under the sun?
If I keep carrying the same burdens over and over without dealing with them, I think I am making a statement. I am saying to God: “You cannot help me; you cannot take away my burdens…” Most of these burdens are my own selfishness. I am living with a lot of “What ifs…” Did I forget God’s promises?
“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30, ESV)
What if we decided to live according to these verse? What if we really did come to Him with our burdens? We all do need rest. Where shall we find rest from our burdens?
Here is another man who was under heavy burdens from his enemies. King David was persecuted.
The introduction to the psalm says: “A psalm of David, when he was in the wilderness of Judah.”
“The title links the psalm to David’s days as a refugee, but it is not immediately clear whether the reference is to fleeing from Saul (1 Sam. 23:14–15; 24:1) or from Absalom (2 Sam. 15:23, 28). The latter may seem more likely, since the author calls himself a king (Ps. 63:11)” (ESV Commentary)
David as king escaped to the desert and wrote those words:
O God, you are my God; earnestly I seek you;
my soul thirsts for you;
my flesh faints for you,
as in a dry and weary land where there is no water. (Psalm 63:1, ESV)
He is in the desert, the wilderness of Judah. He is in a dry land. He has burdens. Those burdens could make him bitter person. Someone said to me, “As people get older, they either become better or bitter.” David learned to trust God over and over. He learned to turn to God saying: “Earnestly I am seeking you, like a thirsty soul.”
The verb “earnestly seek” in Hebrew is derived from the Hebrew for “dawn.”When it dawns in the morning, we just eagerly wait to see the rising of the sun. That is how we seek the Lord.
This theme of last Sunday is coming one more time: wise men still seek him…
In a dry land. A dry land is full of stones. If you remember, the stones were in my backpack. They were on my back. They were heavy. David was in the wilderness surrounded by stones, but he was not carrying them. Although the stones were reminding him of his burdens but he found rest in this wilderness.
In Hebrew, midbar means wilderness. Midbar is derived from dabar, which means word. Perhaps visions and words from God can be heard in the wilderness. I wonder if midbar is the place for revelation.
Listen how David continues:
So I have looked upon you in the sanctuary,
beholding your power and glory.
Because your steadfast love is better than life,
my lips will praise you.
So I will bless you as long as I live;
in your name I will lift up my hands. (Psalm 63:2-4, ESV)
God reminds David of his experiences in the sanctuary back in Jerusalem.
I have looked upon you in the sanctuary:
He saw God’s glory and power. (God is in control. Stop worrying, David)
God sometimes talks to us through our memory. One of the tasks of the Holy Spirit is to remind us.
We read in the Gospel of John:
But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you. (John 14:26, NIV)
In his mind, David is seeing the sanctuary, his worship band, the musicians, the worshipers, the smell of the incense; he sees God’s glory and power. But now he is alone in the desert. Only he and God.
When we are alone in prayer we are not alone, but we are alone with God Therefore:
Then he has a deeper conversion experiencing God’s love:
“Your steadfast love is better than life…”
Life is a precious gift that we all seek. Ask any person who is on the edge of dying. Life, life, life….. Please notice David’s words. One thing he wants to experience: God’s hesed, loyal love, steadfast love, agape. I believe David is moving to a deeper commitment to choose one thing, God’s love.
David found his peace in God’s love which is better than life itself.
David is not carrying his stones. He found rest in God’s presence. He was surrounded with stones. He was in the wilderness, yet his inner peace with God conquered all his fears.
How about us?
Goodbye 2013 and welcome 2014.
Anything new? Are you carrying your stones with you towards 2014?
“do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.” (Philippines 4:6 ESV)
1 The idea of stones on my backpack is from Pastor John Ortberg.
Have your ever heard some news and tried to figure out if it is bad or good?
“The good news about computers is that they do what you tell them to do. The bad news is that they do what you tell them to do.”
A new computer is good news. However, the moment you buy it; the bad news is there is a better one coming out the next day.
For example, even the news that a woman is pregnant can be good for some and unfortunately bad for others.
An earthquake is bad news for most of us but it’s good news for constriction companies.
The birth of Jesus was good news for some and bad news for others.
According to Matthew, we have the wise men coming from the East and asking, “Where is he who has been born king of the Jews?” However, this inquiry about the newborn king of the Jews was not good news for king Herod.
Herod the King:
There were many kings called Herod in those times. This is Herod the Great, king of the Jews, who reigned from 40 BC to 4 BC in Judea. The title “King of Jews” was given by the Romans. He earned this title because of his loyalty to the Romans.
He was scared when he heard about the birth of king Jesus. He lived in paranoia, always thinking that people were against him. He had killed many people, including his wife and his family assuming one day they could revolt against him.
For someone like him, the news of a new baby king being born, the king of Jews, is bad news.
How tragic is that that Herod lives in fear. How tragic that he can not get out of his darkness. I bet he is under extreme pressure from the Romans. He is a man pleaser, a puppet. Insecurities are all over him. How sad that he is afraid of the birth of a child.
Herod wants assurance about this news, and goes to the palace “Google.” He assembles all the chief priests and scribes. They assure him about the Good news, which is bad news for him. They knew the Scriptures. They quoted from Scripture. It was predicted that the Messiah would be born.
How about you? We just sand carols, enjoyed the Sunday School children and the Nativity scene, heard the Scripture and the story of the birth. How do you receive this news? Does it in any way disturb you?
Do you think the birth of Jesus will disturb your life? Your “authority”?
What areas of darkness are covering your life, that make Christmas bad news and not good news for you?
The Wise Men
We do not know too much about them. They were traveling from the East, could be the Arabian Desert or Persia. Why were they wise?
1. When they discovered the birth of Jesus in their calculation, they took the initiation to travel and seek him. Wise men seek the truth.
I saw this poster on facebook: “Wise men still seek Him.” This is very true. Last Sunday I mentioned this point. Mary sat at the feet of Jesus listening. You need to have the desire to seek him. These people who are not Jews, not from the “family”, heard about it and came using their astronomical technology to arrive to Bethlehem.
Seeking means searching, asking, inquiring, reading. You cannot seek Jesus by speculating, guessing. Wise men still seek HIM.
How strange is this? Herod was living geographically close by, yet he did not know or seek Jesus. Wise men came from far away, and they are not Jews. They knew about Jesus.
You can be at the same place where Jesus was born, but you can miss His birth.
“if you indeed cry out for insight, and raise your voice for understanding; if you seek it like silver, and search for it as for hidden treasures— then you will understand the fear of the Lord and find the knowledge of God.” (Proverbs 2:3-5 New Revised Standard)
2. When the wise men found Jesus, they worshiped him. “We have come to worship him.”
Once they found Jesus, they came to worship him. Their love was expressed in their loyalty to this king. They humbly worshiped him.
The ones who do not seek, but are just informed (sometimes wrongly informed), do not worship Jesus, they keep asking questions without love and service to Him.
Herod missed Christmas, and many who were with him missed it too.
Response to this Birth?
Wise men brought gifts: gold, frankincense and myrrh. Besides being valuable gifts, they represented gifts to honor a king and deity. Frankincense and myrrh are used to anoint someone.
I do not think Jesus needs our gifts. God does not need me. So what can I bring Him this morning?
The carol “in The Bleak Midwinter”
What can I give him, poor as I am?
If I were a shepherd, I would bring a lamb;
if I were a Wise Man, I would do my part;
yet what I can I give him: give my heart.
Jesus wants my heart. Jesus wants from me my trust, my loyalty to HIM.
He wants me….period. So Avedis, Good News is Good News to me, because I am ready to surrender to Jesus.
Christmas is bad news to you if you go out and you do not pledge your heart to Jesus. That is bad news.
My prayer is that you come to Jesus like the wise men. And if you feel like Herod, it is never late to come with your fears and doubts to Jesus to comfort you.
Let me finish with this quote from a German pastor Dietrich Bonhoeffer who walked with God and was executed for his loyalty:
Christ is breaking open his way to you. He wants to again soften your heart, which has become hard. In these weeks of Advent while we are waiting for Christmas, he calls to us that he is coming and that he will rescue us from the prison of our existence, from fear, guilt, and loneliness… Let us make no mistake about it. Redemption is drawing near. Only the question is: Will we let it come to us as well or will we resist it? Will we let ourselves be pulled into this movement coming down from heaven to earth or we will refuse to have anything to do with it? Either with us or without us, Christmas will come. It is up to each individual to decide what it will be.
We are in the Third Week of Advent. “Advent is a season of celebration for the Christian church, in which we remember both how the ancient world (and our world) sat in darkness and how God gave us the light of Jesus Christ. Advent is a season of remembrance and hope.”1 And as you realize, each Sunday we add a candle. We are moving from darkness to light. Christians in Aleppo today can literally understand this, as they have no electricity in their homes. Each candle can add a new light. I wonder if we have lost the meaning of the Advent wreath. It is symbolism for reminding us how dark the world is without the real light.
Today, I want to take a familiar story that helped me focus on welcoming Christ in this season of Advent.
The story is written in the Gospel of Luke. This event occurs between two passages of Jesus’ teaching. Before this story, Jesus tells the Parable of Good Samaritan; in other words: “Go and do it…” After this story, Jesus teaches them how to pray, the Lord’s prayer; in other words: “Go and pray…”
So what went on that day?
Martha invites Jesus.
“Now as they went on their way, Jesus entered a village. And a woman named Martha welcomed him into her house.” (Luke 10:38)
What better thing can one do than this? Inviting Jesus into your home. Martha welcomed Jesus into her home. How ironic is that Martha took the initiation and not Mary, yet Mary chose the best part.
It is Advent. Are you inviting Jesus into your home?
If yes, how would you invite him? What does it mean literally to invite him into your home? The question I am raising is: “How would you prepare the house for Jesus’ coming? What would you do?”
Mary sat at the feet of the Rabbi:
“And she had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord's feet and listened to his teaching.” (Luke 10:39)
She sat at the feet of Jesus. Wow, did you know that only men were able do this. Only men could sit at the feet of a Rabbi. This was a sign of discipleship: a Rabbi teaching his disciples. What was Mary doing?
Listen to what the Word of God is saying: “She sat there and she listened to the teachings of Jesus.” (Luke 10:39)
Of course, Martha did not like this and she complained. “How come I do all the work and Mary sits there?” Luke says: “But Martha was distracted with much serving.” (Luke 10:40) The word “distracted” perisapo means: to draw around, to draw away, to be driven about mentally, to be over-occupied, too busy, about a thing.2
Does this ring any bell, too busy, occupied with a thing…
We will continue in English.
1 Eddy Ekmekji and Tyler Watson, Embracing the Coming Light. P 3
2 Greek Lexicon
Please think with me and evaluate the two characters one more time. Mary, sitting at the feet of Jesus to learn, obey and become a disciple; Martha, the active one, who is in control the situation, who knows everything, is activity oriented, and has her opinion. She can even tell Jesus what he should say and do.
In this Advent season, the “holiday season” (to use the politically correct vocabulary), whom do you want to see? Or who are you?
Being the practical Christian is not the issue. Without “Martha” we will all remain hungry. The question is not whether we should serve or pray.
The question is deeper than that.
The phrase that was used to describe Martha was “distracted”. This is serious. To be busy…
Badveli, this is Bay Area, we are busy.
Someone said: “Busyness is not the outcome; it is the condition.”
It is a situation we get into. It becomes a lifestyle. We are lost in our busyness; in fact, busyness shapes our identity. Our identity is shaped when we accomplish things. Our jobs, our achievements, our to do list, our guests, our cooking, our parties, our vacations….all those are choices we make. It is dangerous when these become the priorities of our lives, especially in this season.
Listen what Oswald said:
“Beware of anything that competes with loyalty to Jesus Christ… The greatest competitor of devotion to Jesus is service for Him… We count as service what we do in the way of Christian work; Jesus Christ calls service what we are to Him, not what we do for Him.” Oswald Chambers
Please fill the end of this sentence:
I wish I had more time to…………..?
What is your to do list during Christmas time?
Am I lost in this season when I am “doing” things?
Mary found her identity at the feet of Jesus. I found my identity when I learned that I am the beloved child of God.
What can we learn from this story?
1. Do not be anxious (worry).
“Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary.” (Luke 10:41 ESV)
When Jesus repeats a name twice, it is serious. I love the way he handled this situation. “Do not be anxious. One thing is necessary, and without it, all your work is anxiety.”
When we worry, we are distracted from hearing God’s voice. Paul said it too, as if he summarized the story: “do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.” (Philip 4:6 ESV)
2. Sit at the Feet of Jesus.
How do I sit at the feet of Jesus? How do I listen to Jesus? Does he speak? How come I do not hear him?
Do you seek him? Do you sit at the feet of Jesus? Are you constantly busy?
Suzanna Wesley the mother of Charles and John Wesley had 17 children. She had a regular time for prayer. She had a corner for prayer. Her kids knew that mom should not be disturbed at that time. My mom had a corner of prayer at our home. We knew that we should not disturb her when she was praying.
Last Sunday John Sagherian quoted from Habakkuk, a book that was written in the time of stress, economic recession, starvation, enemy attack and disturbance. Does it represent our situation? In chapter one Habakkuk asks all the why questions. Then in the chapter two he says, “I want to listen.” Here is the Word of God:
“I will climb up into my watchtower now and wait to see what the Lord will say to me and how he will answer my (question).
Then the Lord said to me,
‘Write my answer in large, clear letters so that a runner can read it and tell everyone else.
But these things I plan won’t happen right away. Slowly, steadily, surely, the time approaches when the vision will be fulfilled. If it seems slow, wait patiently, for it will surely take place. It will not be delayed.’” Habakkuk 2:1-2 (New Living Translation)
A. Have desire to listen to God.
It is a choice you make. You choose to stop and have a quiet time to listen. But you need to have the desire. “I will climb...” it is choice he makes to go up to the tower to spend time to listen. Mary made a choice to sit at the feet of Jesus.
Solomon says it best:
“if you indeed cry out for insight, and raise your voice for understanding; if you seek it like silver, and search for it as for hidden treasures— then you will understand the fear of the Lord and find the knowledge of God.” (Proverbs 2:3-5 New Revised Standard)
Remember the gold rush. People came to California to seek gold. Have the desire to seek Him. Seek God desperately. Prayer is not a monologue. Do you listen to God? Mary listened to Jesus.
B. Be silent, be still.
Too noisy? Find a silent place. There is little time in our lives that is truly quiet. In the cars, we have the radio, the iPad or the iphone…. In the shopping centers, we have music and loud people. Even in the elevator, often there will be music (we call it elevator music, I learned it here in the US). There is noise pollution all around us. You need to have a quiet place to hear Jesus, to hear God’s voice, to feel the Spirit of the Lord working in your life.
In my quiet time, I realized how important it was to be alone at the feet of Jesus.
You see, when we are alone in prayer we are not alone, but we are alone with God. When we are silent, it does not mean we are just not speaking, but we are listening to God.
C. Slow down
Learn to be patient. Wait for the Lord. He says this to Habakkuk: “But these things I plan won’t happen right away. Slowly, steadily, surely…”
Slow down. Lately I tried to discipline myself to slow down by driving 65-70 instead of 70-80.
D. Become a blessing to others
If you realize, this one is more activity-oriented task. Be careful, this will happen when you are fed at the feet of Jesus. This is not the Martha style of serving.
In the end, may His Word be lead me:
Let me hear what God the LORD will speak, (Psalms 85:8a)
The Lord GOD has given me the tongue of those who are taught,
That I may know how to sustain with a word him who is weary.
Morning by morning he awakens;
he awakens my ear to hear as those who are taught.
The Lord GOD has opened my ear,
and I was not rebellious… (Isaiah 50:4-5a)
On Monday morning I read the following in my quiet time: “You’re never going to make peace with others until you make peace with God.” This is so true in my life. The inner peace that God gives me is my inner strength with which I face daily trials and get the ability to make peace with others. The passage I read that day was from Colossians:
And you, who once were alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, he has now reconciled in his body of flesh by his death, in order to present you holy and blameless and above reproach before him. (Colossians 1:21-22, ESV)
The concept that God reconciled with us through Christ brings joy, comfort and responsibility. In GNT translates this verse: “God has made you His friends…” The Message puts it: “Christ brought you over to God’s side and put your lives together.”
When we accept God’s offer to make reconciliation with us, we have peace with God, we become His friends, we are on His side. But, you see, friendship needs nurture. My high school friends were my friends for many years. Then we lost each other for different reasons such as traveling, moving on with our lives in different directions. After 30 years, some of us did find each other and we reconnected. We do not live in the same city, yet we reconnect through email and the internet. That day one of them wrote to me, “Nerses, you have not written to me for a while. Are you OK?”
Friendship means a relationship that grows.
John writes in chapter 15: “You are my friends and not servants…You are my friends if you do what I command you.” (15:14, ESV)
Our friendship with Christ is manifested when our lives are holy. We are called to live a holy life. My friendship will be meaningful when I have a relationship with my “friend”. In other words, my friendship makes sense if I love Him. That love is manifested when I obey his commandments.
Lately my sermons are about growth. I am interested that our faith grows and gets nourished. I am interested to see that your friendship with God becomes stronger and is reflected in a life of holiness.
It is strange. Sometimes when I speak with people who refuse to have any relationship with God, or are atheists, an important question comes to my mind. I wonder why these people do not believe in God. Is it lack of proof? If God proved Himself to them, would they believe? I think that many do not want to believe nor become a friend of Jesus because they are afraid their life will change. They do not like to believe because they do not want to have a God who is Sovereign Lord and King over their lives. They want to be in control of their lives.
My challenge to you and me: Are you friends with God? And if you are, do you have that inner peace?
Advent is a good time to prepare for the coming of Christ, to call Jesus your Lord and your friend.
Pastor Steve will speak about the love God showed us.
We will continue in English.
This morning there is one truth that we want to hang on to - the bottom line of what we’re looking at this morning: God loves you. Closer to home - say this to yourself: “God loves me.”
Let that truth rattle around inside for a moment.
God loving us is sometimes easier to grab on to intellectually - in our heads - than in our hearts. One reason being that for many of us our understanding of love has been messed up by past experience. Things we’ve gone through in our childhood - past relationships - the church. In reality what love is all about is hard to grab onto.
Let’s be honest - the way the world does love - the vast majority of what we experience around us in the name of love - all that is pretty selfish. The way we may have been treated by people who were suppose to “love” us maybe didn’t go so well. For some - just saying that our Heavenly Father loves you - is kind of a scary thing. Because the idea of a father - think earthly father - loving us didn’t go so well.
It is difficult - at times - to think that God could actually love us. In part - because it is even more difficult to think that we actually are loveable. And here’s the hardest one. It is really difficult to even love ourselves.
God loving us is pretty easy to say - on an intellectual - theological - been to church heard that - been taught that - level. But, deeper - at the heart level - maybe not so easy.
But the bottom line is that - regardless of the hang ups we have - God really does love us. This morning what we’d like to do is look at one verse of Scripture with the goal of having that truth of God’s love impressed deeper into our hearts.
Would you turn with me to (Song of Songs) Song of Solomon 2:4. (:rg;roun :rge) The Song of Solomon is not a book that normally gets preached from. It may be even a tad hard to find if you’re turning pages instead of swiping on a pad. But, it is a hugely significant book in the Bible. Historically - one of the most read and most loved books.
The Song of Solomon answers the cry from deep within each of us - our crying out for love. The theme of the book is love. 1 Kings 4:32 tells us that Solomon composed 1,005 songs. This is the only one that God has preserved for us. Maybe because the song of songs is about the theme of themes - love.
On one level the song is a description of the fullness and depth of love that should exist between every married couple - the intimacy of that relationship.
But deeper - the Jews understood the Song of Songs as an allegory - as an illustration of God’s love for His people. Historically - Solomon probably wrote this poem as a description of real time events - his courtship and marriage with a Shulamite women.
But reading through Scripture - over and over God uses marriage as an illustration of the depth of relationship between God and His people. So, on a deeper level what we have here is a description of how greatly God loves His people and the intimate depth of loving relationship that God desires for His people to have with Him.
Taking that one step deeper - bringing all that into the New Testament - the song describes the love of Christ for His Church - us. How deeply - intimately - each of us is loved by God. And, how greatly God desires for us to experience a loving relationship with Him in Jesus.
Which really is the core of what we’re looking at this morning - what can be helpful to us - as we’re thinking through what it means that God loves us. Impressing that truth on our hearts. What that can look like for each of us on the heart level.
(S2) Song of Solomon 2:4 - would you read this one verses with me: He brought me to the banqueting house and his banner over me was love.
(S3) There are two parts to this verses that we want to focus on. Verse 4 begins: He brought me to the banqueting house.
Have you ever been somewhere where they had a place setting like this? Total confusion. Which fork do you use first? Epic failure if we get it wrong.
In a formal place setting - left to right - just the dinner ware - there’s a separate fork for the fish course - the meat course - the salad course - then knives - for the salad course - the meat course - the fish course - a soup spoon - a seafood fork. Then above the plates a dessert fork and a coffee/tea spoon. A water glass - champagne glass - red wine glass - white wine glass. And then the plates and napkins and on and on.
How many of us eat like this? I had to look it up.
What’s being described here in verse 4 is a wedding reception on steroids. Think royalty - wealth - opulence. Multi-course meals with massively confusing place settings. This is the wedding feast. Can you imagine working out who sits where?
The first part of the Song of Solomon focuses on the wedding day. Later on there are sections of the book that focus on remembering the courtship and the engagement on what Solomon and his bride mean to each other.
But here in verse 4 this is the after the wedding ceremony wedding feast of the richest guy who ever lived. At the time, probably the most well known. Everybody who’s anybody is there. There’s no expense spared. The finest food. The best dressed people. The greatest music. The most incredible decorations. Speeches. Toasts. A total celebration of royal proportions.
(S3E1) There’s also a crucial contrast here.
While we may know a lot about Solomon we don’t know a whole lot about his bride - the Shulamite girl. We don’t even know her name. One thing we do know is that she shouldn’t be here.
Reading through the Song of Songs - Solomon had a vineyard in the hill country of Ephraim - a ways outside Jerusalem. He’d leased the vineyard to a mother, her two sons, and her two daughters. Together they work this vineyard. Some of the income being paid to Solomon.
The Shulamite woman is the older daughter of the family who - while she may have an attractive natural beauty - the only attention her family pays to her is for what they can get out of her.
The two brothers are probably step-brothers who’s greatest joy in life is to make this step-sister work extremely hard - long hours - tending the vineyard. She has no time to take care of herself. Instead she’s outside getting sun burned. She prunes the vines. Sets traps for foxes. Keeps the flocks. She probably smells a whole lot like sheep.
Point being - she is not a dainty lady of the court - pampered - polished - and powdered.
One day a handsome stranger comes into the vineyard - who is King Solomon in disguise. Maybe - as Solomon writes in Ecclesiastes - maybe Solomon was out to discover what life is like at various levels. His exploration of life brings Solomon to his vineyard - disguised as a simple country shepherd.
He meets this young lady and is attracted to her. They fall deeply in love with each other. Promise themselves to each other. Then he goes away. She spends a large part of the Song of Solomon describing her loneliness - longing for this young man that she thinks is a lowly shepherd. Dreaming about him at night. Thinking about him during the day.
One day there’s an announcement that King Solomon is coming to visit in all of his regal glory. An announcement that the girl doesn’t pay a whole lot of attention to because she’s longing for her shepherd boy. Suddenly she receives a message that the king wants to see her.
She doesn’t know why King Solomon in all of his royal magnificence would want to see her the lowly shepherd girl until she discovers that in reality the King is the shepherd who’s deeply in love with her.
The king comes - sweeps her off her feet - takes her back to Jerusalem. They’re married in the palace. Then he brings her to the banqueting house - not as a poor abused sun burned girl who smells like sheep - but as his queen. Proudly displayed before all in regal splendor - breathtakingly beautiful.
Verse 4 is the bride’s description of being there. The perspective of the Shulamite woman. The Message paraphrase gives her description this way: “He took me home with him for a festival meal, but his eyes feasted on me.” Isn’t that great?
“He brought me to the banqueting house.” Were it not for the shepherd who is the king she would not belong at the banqueting table. But - because he loves her - he did and she does. She belongs at the banquet.
While we don’t even know this girl’s name - she is chosen by God to represent His people. Chosen to powerfully demonstrate to us what the love of God is all about.
There are astounding implications in that for us. Thinking about God’s love for us. Christ’s love for His Church. What does it mean for us that Jesus has brought us to His banqueting house?
(S3E2) Jesus brought His disciples to the Passover Feast - breaks bread and tells them: “This is my body which is given for you.” Takes the cup after supper - in the Seder that cup symbolizes salvation - takes the cup and tells His disciples: “This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for the many for the forgiveness of sins.” (Matthew 26:26-29; Luke 22:14-20)
God’s love is given - not because of the merit of the recipient - us. God’s love is given because God - who is love - chooses to do so. God chooses - knowing us and the ugliness of our sin - God chooses to place His only Son on the ugliness of the cross - to die in our place to make real the offer of our salvation - our forgiveness - our being set free from bondage to our sins and the ugliness of what we do with our lives - set free to experience life as it is created to be lived - the intimate depth of a made right relationship with God.
Verse 4 is in the past tense. He has brought me… What’s here reveals the depth of personal relationship that’s possible between Jesus and every individual believer. He’s already brought us to the table of His salvation. He’s already brought us to the table of fellowship with Him. He’s already brought us to the table of relationship together as His body.
What Jesus sets before us - today - is a table overflowing with good things. He invites us to eat and be satisfied.
(S3E3) Jesus said, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst.” (John 6:35).
Jesus satisfies our spiritual hunger. He satisfies our spiritual thirst. Whatever we crave deep within - whatever our deepest needs - all that is satisfied when we come to Jesus.
(S4) Looking forward into future history - the church - each of us as believers - we can look forward to the day of the final banquet when God will bring us to the marriage supper of the Lamb.
Revelation 19:9 says, “Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb.”
Revelation 19 describes Jesus Christ as the Bridegroom - the Church is His bride - raptured - resurrected - purified - made ready by marriage - brought to the feast. Until that time we’re separated. Jesus is in heaven. We’re on earth. The marriage supper celebrates our formal union with Christ in our eternal relationship. From that moment on we will always be together. (Revelation 19:7-9)
By God’s grace - because of God’s love for us - as believers in Jesus you and I will be there. What a gathering! Are you looking forward to being there?
I’m looking forward to seeing people I’ve missed - family and friends that I know will be there. I’m looking forward to seeing family I’ve never met. But I’ve heard about them - their faith. I know they’ll be there. And the saints of the Bible - the Church Fathers - those that have gone on before us in the faith. They’ll all be there.
All of us children - adopted by our Heavenly Father - who loves us. And at the head of the table - Jesus.
Imagine sitting around that table - the stories - the adventures - the testimonies - all to the glory of God who has brought us there.
That goes on forever. A forever reunion with no tears - no sorrow - no regrets - to pain - no mourning. But life - real life - restored life - unimaginable life.
That is future history. History that will happen. Because God loves us we know that He will bring us - He has brought us - into His banqueting house and everything that He has promised us He will fulfill - now and forever.
(S5) The second part of verse 4 goes on: and his banner over me was love.
The Hebrew word for banner is “degel” (dr),ak) - which means… banner - a flag. A piece of cloth fastened to a pole.
(S5E1) The same word is used in the book of Numbers 2:2 where God is giving instructions to Moses and Aaron about how the people of Israel are to set out their camp.
Looking at the picture. The Tabernacle is in the middle of the camp. God’s place of dwelling with His people - where the sacrifices take place. Then the 12 tribes are camped out around the Tabernacle. In front of each tribe is their banner.
There are a number of ways to understand what Solomon’s bride means by “his banner over me.” We want to touch on just four.
(S6) First: A banner is a symbol of presence.
Each tribe camps behind their own banner. Each tribe has its assigned location. Every time the nation made camp that’s where you camped. Judah with Judah. Ruben with Ruben and so on. Each tribe camps behind their own banner. The banner is between them and the Tabernacle.
It is interesting to think that every time someone in their camping spot - camping with their tribe - when they looked at their banner they’d see the Tabernacle - God’s dwelling place - His presence in the center of the camp. God is with us.
(S6E2) David wrote in Psalm 23: “You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies.”
Imagine a battlefield - bullets flying - people screaming - dying - smoke - burning - explosions - chaos. In the midst of all that a table - with a fine tablecloth - set with the finest china - a candelabra - flowers - the finest food. A place of peace in the midst of what should cause great terror.
David writes, “I will fear no evil…” even in “the valley of the shadow of death.” Why? “For you are with me.” God’s presence.
Joy is the realization of God’s presence in our lives. A realization - whatever is going on outside of camp - the wild and the wilderness - God is with us.
“You anoint my head with oil. My cup overflows. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life.” This is all about God’s generous provision for us. His hospitality. His favor. Even in the wilderness.
When we get that life changing phone call from the doctor. Or there’s a crisis in the family. Or whatever is happening around us and we’re struggling with anxiety and stress. His banner over you is love. Presence.
Because God loves us God is with us. God is still with you. Do not fear evil. Trust the presence of the God who loves you.
(S7) Second: A banner is a symbol of identity.
Each tribe gathers together to camp behind their banner. 2 million plus Hebrews in the nation and we know who we are. Kessabtzies, Fresnotzies - identity.
Every time we read a genealogy in the Bible - so and so begat so and so. Every time we read a long list of who brought what or who built what or who came back from wherever. Or we read a long list of numbers - how many people were in such and such a tribe. How many people were in each family. Every one of those people is someone.
While those lists may not mean a great deal to us they meant a whole lot to the people who were listed there. Point being - every person listed there individually means a whole lot to God. So much so that God choose to love them and to call them to be His people. So that they would be forever identified with Him.
As believers in Jesus our names are listed in the Lamb’s Book of Life - the list of who will spend eternity with God. Aren’t you glad that its important to God that your name is on that list?
Identity means knowing where we belong and it means knowing who we belong to. His banner over me is love. We’re the church - the Body of Christ. We’re His - His bride.
There’s a shade of meaning of the word banner that has to do with what we see - what we identify with our eyes. In other words God sees us with loving eyes. Meaning that the banner symbolizes that God - because He loves us - He sees us as His own - lovingly sees us - lovingly recognizes us - with love identifies us as His own.
That banquet hall was packed. But Solomon only saw his Shulamite bride. “his eyes feasted on me.”
Can you imagine that God looks on each one of us individually that way. Out of all of humanity - out of all those who have ever lived - are living - will live - God chooses to love you. Chooses to die for you. Chooses to call you His own. Chooses to present you as the bride chosen for His Son.
Claim that for yourself. His banner over me was love.
(S7E1) Third: A banner is a symbol of protection.
When Israel broke camp - when they were picking up and moving out to the next camp ground - where each tribe had camped - assigned location - also determined where you marched - your assigned location in the line of march - who followed who. One of the ways they got people to line up was that each tribe followed their banner. Pretty simple - follow the banner and you’re going to be where you belong.
God established that order. 2 million plus people breaking camp and moving out across the wilderness. Without that order there’s chaos and disaster and death. People get lost. People get picked off. Being with the tribe - there’s safety in numbers. People to rely on. People who defend each other - fight for each other.
In a sense - follow the banner - trust God’s ordering of things - and be safe.
(S7E2) When Jesus took on human flesh and entered this world God declared: “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.” (Matthew 3:17)
A series of events - planned in the mind of God before creation was creation - a series of God ordered events moves forward to God’s planned outcome. The enemies of Jesus couldn’t touch Him until it was time. He was protected.
(S7E3) Paul writes in Romans 5:6 “At the right time Christ died for the ungodly” - us.
(S7E4) When the right time came - the time chosen by God - then Jesus’ enemies took Him and crucified Him. They thought that God had abandoned Him. They mocked Jesus - saying “He trusted God, so let God rescue him now if He wants Him! For He said, ‘I am the Son of God.’” (Matthew 27:43 TNLT)
But God was still pleased with Jesus. God raised Jesus from the dead. He delivered Him from death. And God’s banner of salvation and protection is over all those who trust Jesus as their Savior.
Sometimes we think we know where we’re going and how we’re going to get there and we think we have enough control over our lives and what’s going on around us that we think we can get ourselves there.
But the way to move through the wilderness of life is to follow God. God has all of history laid out. Its going where He has willed it to go. Even death must obey His will. Salvation and our eternal destiny is all about God’s timing and what He wills.
Point being that when we get outside of where God has planned for us to follow Him we’re in serious serious danger. And God knows that. God chooses to love us and helps us to understand that He does love us. In Jesus He calls us to a relationship with Him. Places His banner over us and instructs us to follow Him through life.
There’s a question here that each of us needs to answer every day of our lives: Who’s banner are we following? Ours? Or God’s? Each of us needs to come to the moment in our lives when we trust that Jesus really is our Savior and we really do surrender our lives to God. And then live surrendered to Him. Choosing to follow Him through life not our own whit, wisdom, and working.
(S8) A fourth understanding of banner is that A banner is a symbol of victory.
For the Roman legions a banner was a symbol of battle - warfare - conquest - the overwhelmingly victorious Roman legions. When the Israelites - obeying God’s marching orders - followed their tribal banner into battle - they were following God - trusting God for His victory. Which God led them to - huge victories over some really powerful enemies.
(S8E1) In Romans 8 - familiar verses - Paul asks a question: “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?” Notice “from the love of Christ.” What God has done for us in Christ because God chooses to love us.
Paul goes on with a pretty complete list. “Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? As it is written, ‘For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.’”
Paul gives us a pretty complete list of the physical troubles and dangers of life. The last part is a quote from Psalm 44 - the part about God’s people being like sheep getting slaughtered - is a reminder that the death of God’s people - even martyrdom - isn’t anything new. (Psalm 44:22)
God’s people have always suffered. Been tortured - suffered all kinds of horrible deaths. Death is a part of life. Anything short of that shouldn’t come as a surprise to us.
Paul adds to his list - going on in verse 38: “For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
Paul gives us a list of things unseen. The powers behind what we see going on in the physical world. The authorities - godly and evil - the sweep of creation history present and future - even death itself.
In the middle of those lists - Paul asking and answering his question - is verse 37. Paul writes, “No, in all these things - the worst of the worst that life can throw at us - in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.” (Romans 8:35-39)
Paul’s question: Who will separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord? Answer: No One - No Thing. Simply cannot be done. Why? Because God loves us.
We don’t just fearfully walk through the valley of the shadow of death - nervously peering into the darkness waiting for something to jump out at us - repeating over and over, “The Lord is my shepherd. The Lord is my shepherd.” We don’t just put up with suffering - mumbling under our breath, “This is so unfair. What ever happened to that Thou art with me part?”
Paul writes that in all these things - how many things? All these things we are what? “more than conquerors” - we’re “overwhelming conquerors.” In the worst of life - when we choose to turn to God - to trust God with our lives - to allow God to work in us and through us - by the grace and strength and enduring presence of God within us - because God chooses to love us - God allows us to participate in His overwhelming victory won on the cross through Jesus Christ.
Following His banner - Jesus said not even the gates of Hell itself can stand against the forward march of the Church. (Matthew 16:18)
God takes those things that life throws at us - actually takes the very things that are designed to destroy us - and uses them as stepping stones instead of stumbling blocks. Uses them - and us - to move His kingdom forward.
(S9) He brought me to the banqueting house and his banner over me was love.
God loves us. God loves you. Because He does - God opens up to us life - life in His Son - saved - forgiven - righteous - now and forever. God chooses to be with us and lead us through life. We’re His - with all that that means. We don’t need to fear anything in life because not only is God with us - but we live each day in the victory that Jesus has won over even the worst of this life - even death.
That’s a lot to take in. Maybe even difficult to grab on to. But its true.
If there is a challenge for us this morning it is to trust that because God says we’re lovable... we are. And we need to trust Him - even if it’s a little trust with a little understanding - to trust that God really does love us and that all that He chooses to do for us He really does choose to do for us.
I love the song that goes, “Count your blessings and name them one by one.” I sang it all the time. I sang it in Armenian, now I sing it in English. How do you count or measure your blessings? How do you know if you are truly blessed?
I guess I can put a checkmark on the things I do have. I have a spouse, check; I have kids, check; I have a job, check; I have health, check; I have a home, check; I have a car, check; I have a church, check; I have friends and community, check; I have savings, check...We sometimes think a blessed person is the one who can check all these boxes.
Today I would like to look at blessings from another side. I will call them, “The Unseen Blessings.” Here let me give you a few other titles for this sermon: “Blessings in Unexpected Places; The Blessing of not Having it All; Blessings in Disguise.”
What am I talking about?
I am continuing my sermon series about growth, Christian growth. We did cover growing downward-- to be rooted; we covered growing upward-- to be fruitful; we covered growing inward-- to be strengthened in the faith. Today I will cover growing outward as we overflow with thankfulness. Our theme verse is from Colossians 2:
“So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your lives in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness.” (Colossians 2:6-7, NIV)
Paul ends this verse saying that after growing in all areas, one thing is left. We will be bursting out with a thankful heart. In Armenian, the word “overflowing” is translated as djokh, “abundant, lavishly abundant.”
Are you thankful this morning? Not just thankful, but are thankful with an overflowing heart?
Many of us will say, if we check all the previous boxes, then of course we will be overflowing with thankfulness.
But here is a new challenge to you and me. Are you blessed because you do not have this or that? Are you blessed because you lack something? Can you see your unseen blessings? Can you find your unseen blessings?
Let me start with simple examples. Can you feel blessed because your home does not have a dryer? Can you see yourself going out with you basketful of clothes into the fresh air? Piece by piece you can lay them on the string, seeing God’s presence there, remembering your family’s old days when you used to do this with your mother. Or perhaps when you were outside your neighbor needed you and you reconnected. Can you see that not having a dryer can be a blessing?
Can you say in this Thanksgiving week: I am thankful for not having…? Can you see blessings in the unseen?
It is very tough to do so. We are programmed the other way round. We evaluate blessings with having this or that. How can we feel blessed when we do not have it?
We used to have four cars. Then we lost one of them in an accident. It was Sevan’s car. We felt terrible about losing it. Four of us had cars; we were independent from each other. Are we blessed by not having this car? We are. We first realized God saved us family from a dangerous accident. Then we learned to depend on each other. We learned sharing and compromising; we learned prioritizing; my wife started to teach at home; things changed and we saw the blessings of not having it… We saw how God can teach us to be content when we do not have it all.
We will continue in English.
Can I be content when I lose my job?
Vicken a member of our church lost his job three weeks ago. Losing a job is not a blessing in itself. God gave us work and blessed us so we can become a blessing to others. We make money not just for our family; we make money so we can use it for His Kingdom. So losing a job is a terrible thing.
Yet, Vicken came and hugged me three Sundays ago after the worship service. The sermon was about faith and was based on Hebrews 11. “Faith is assurance of things hoped for.” He said, “Badveli, you were speaking to me today.”
This last three weeks of course Vicken was been looking for a job. We as family of CACC are concerned and praying for Vicken to find the right job. Now listen, what happened in these three weeks. Vicken had extra time during these days. He took care of our website. Go, visit our page and you can see the difference. He took care of Samaritan’s Purse; he took care of Food Festival; and more…..
Is there a blessing in not having a job? Is there a blessing? I believe for Christians, it is a training in how we look at things. When we lose something we use to have or when we do not have something, God will use us in a new way. We will see new things. We will see the unseen world. God will use you whether you have job or not. But when you lose something, God can help you learn to trust HIM further in your life. You learn to thank him for not having everything. I will say it again, you LEARN to THANK Him for NOT Having…
The best place I learn about this is the Word of God.
-Paul is a great example.
Almost all Paul’s letters start with thankfulness. “I am thankful…..for so and so…..” He is thankful for the life of new Christians being rooted in their faith. Paul is thankful that “baby” Christians are growing and maturing. He is even thankful that they are facing suffering and trials. He is thankful that he can write his letters from prison where he is chained to another man.
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
I give thanks to my God always for you because of the grace of God that was given you in Christ Jesus, that in every way you were enriched in him in all speech and all knowledge—even as the testimony about Christ was confirmed among you—so that you are not lacking in any gift, as you wait for the revealing of our Lord Jesus Christ, (1 Corinthians 1:3-7ESV)
Paul is writing this letter not because the church of Corinth is making great financial profits. If you read the letter you can see how many things were lacking. Yet, he is saying to them that he is thankful to God for them, because of His Grace, the grace of salvation, the grace of Jesus Christ and because they do not lack any gift. Can you see that all the gifts are given? Do I have eyes to see that? Do I have the right heart to see that?
-Here is the introduction to another of Paul’s letters:
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing… (Ephesians 1:3)
What are the spiritual blessings Paul mentioned? We were adopted to be God’s children. We were called to be IN CHRIST, to walk in Him, to live in Him. These are not boxes you check. They cannot be. These are blessings in the unseen world which shape our lives and transform us into His image (Being IN Christ is the best blessing).
-Peter, like Paul, says in his greeting:
May grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord.
His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence. (2 Peter 1:2-3 ESV)
God granted us all things that we would know him and live a godly life.
Both Paul and Peter stress that we have “every spiritual blessing,” and we are “granted all things.”
-The author of Hebrews makes it clear in chapter 11:
And all these, though commended through their faith, did not receive what was promised, since God had provided something better for us, that apart from us they should not be made perfect. (Hebrews 11:39-40 ESV)
By faith, all the heroes mentioned in Hebrews 11, experience God’s promises. However, there is something better waiting for us. This means His promises continue being fulfilled throughout eternity, where the best is. Let me quote from the ESV commentary:
Most of those (promises) mentioned in this chapter saw only preliminary glimpses of what was specifically promised (see v. 13), and all were anticipating a greater future hope (v. 16). In light of chs. 1–10,something better for us refers to the new covenant realities of the superior Son of God, with his superior priesthood, and the consequent eternal perfection of the faithful.
The best is yet to come.
In his death bed, a Christian asked to be buried with a fork in his hand. People were wondering why he wanted to have a fork in his hand. He said, “In all the church banquets and I attended, after the main dish, someone would announce, ‘Keep your fork.” I was my favorite item because I knew something better was coming, the dessert.’ I know that the best is yet to come.”
Let me bring back the main question again. Do you see blessings when you do not have...?
I saw a funny yet a sad post that describes the American Thanksgiving:
“Thanksgiving is when Americans give thanks for everything they have so that next day they can go out and buy everything they don’t have.”
Human greed can never be satisfied. If you are only thankful whenever you receive something, it is time to see the blessings of God when you do not have it. This means external circumstances do not limit your contentment, thankfulness, happiness, joy, and peace.
I would like to finish with Paul’s attitude about this one more time:
I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me. (Philippians 4:12-13 ESV)
In all circumstances Paul learned to see God’s blessings- all circumstances. The secret is not in him, the secret is having Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. Then all things can be seen in a different view. (Like Romans 8:28-29)
Enjoy this week your family and all the blessings that has God granted you. Also think if one thing you lack, and thank God for it!
Grow outward, overflowing with thankfulness.
Video before communion:
I know my redeemer lives, and the video of sun who is disable asks his father to participate to Ironman. (Three tough races to endure: 2.4 miles ocean swim; 112 miles bike, 26.2 miles of Marathon) With God’s presence we can do.
Grow Inward and Strengthened in Faith (Part 2) (English) (2)
It is impossible to walk with somebody, unless you are going the same place together. This means Enoch had the same purpose as God, and the same one goal.
Enoch walked with God. He had the same path; he knew where to walk, what path to take, because His Word (God's presence, his word was not written that time) was a lamp unto His feet and a light unto His path.
Enoch walked with God. That means he had same pace. God is ready to walk with us with our pace. He teaches us to speed or slow down. (See my sermon "Praise God with Tambourines" 8/10/2010).
How long did he walk with God? 300 years.
Enoch walked with God 300 years; this means consistency. I wish we could learn this. I am learning from my diet. Consistency can help me walk in the right path with a focus. Three hundred years of walking with God? Wow...
A few weeks ago we spoke about Abel who never spoke, but through his death he is speaking until today. Enoch, because of his faith, because of his walk with God, never died. He was taken to his real home.
I love the way little Sunday school girl tells it: She said, Enoch was a man who learned to walk with God, and they used to take long walks together. One day they walked so far that God said, “Look, Enoch, it's too far for you to go back; just come on home with me. So he walked on home with God.1
Finally, Enoch's faith and his walk with God pleased God. This is pretty strong. Who am I to please God? "Now before he (Enoch) was taken he was commended as having pleased God. And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him. (Hebrews 11:5-6 ESV)
The next character is Noah.
Noah lived in a very wicked time. He lived at a time when people were so wicked that God regretted having created them.
The Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. And the Lord regretted that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him to his heart. (Genesis 6:5-6, ESV)
Theologians call it total depravity. God wanted to see change in humanity. He patiently waited for their change of heart. There was one man who was ready to listen and obey God, Noah. Noah was a righteous man. Peter called him "a preacher of righteousness"(2 Peter 2:5). Noah's faith was not static; it was active. His trust in God made salvation possible for him and his family.
How strange will it be to hear God telling Noah to build an ark!
It is not strange to build an ark. But when the sea is 500 miles away, it is very strange to do such a thing. To build a boat near the water is something. To build an ark in the desert where it hasn't rained for many years is something else. It is also strange the size of the ark was a thousand times the size of his family!
Can you see how foolish this act was? Can you hear the voices of the neighbors who were laughing day and night?
Faith sees the unseen things. Noah's faith "saw" the unseen things. Most likely what God told him did not make sense to him either. He trusted and obeyed. In Genesis we read that Noah responded to God "in reverence"."And Noah did all that the Lord had commanded him" (Genesis 7:5, ESV).
Here are some observations from both Enoch and Noah:
1. Both were a minority and stood up almost alone.
They were alone. Enoch was alone and Noah was with eight members of his family. The next time if you feel alone in your workplace, just think about Enoch and Noah. At least we have our church and other believers. At least you have more people who believe in God. They were alone.
2. Both walked against the popular wicked society.
We cannot just observe the 'wicked life' and do nothing. Their faith was active and not passive. Enoch walked with God; probably his life was a testimony to help other people see God; Noah built the ark. He tried to tell people about God's ways and His desire to save them from destruction. What he received was mockery. That did not stop him from his obedience to God.
For me the Syrian situation represents a wicked life. There is unfair political powers play and manipulate people's lives. I cannot just observe this. I will continue praying for God's inference. But also I will try to help the people who are there. I will try to help the pastors, the churches, the people by all means. If it is necessary to raise money, call, write, and make their voices heard...
I need to fight the battle with faith. Yes, with God's faith. Where there is hopelessness, I will see God's hope in this wicked world.
3. They obeyed in totality, and not with an attitude of compromise. That needed courage and perseverance.
You cannot pick and choose what you want to obey from God's Word. Noah obeyed in reverence and in all that Lord commanded. In the Bible we see God gives instructions, the blue print. Noah executes them without any changes. Also God asks him to tell people about the coming judgment. (Go preach the 'gospel'). Can you see him carrying the hammer with one hand and, and the God's word with the other (there was not bible in that time), the message of salvation. He did this for 120 years. Enoch walked 300 years with God, alone. It needed courage and guts. Both Noah and Enoch saw the result of their obedience, total obedience. When I read His word, I cannot just pick and choose.
4. Noah's obedience brought salvation and judgment.
When I look to Noah's life, I see that he did not see, but he believed in "things hoped for."
Noah's ark brought temporary salvation and judgment.
We, who believe in Christ, by our faith we receive eternal salvation and by rejecting faith, we will face eternal judgment.
God did not ask us to build and ark. He asked us to believe in His Son Jesus Christ. Noah was saved through his faith in God.
We are saved through our faith in Jesus Christ.
Noah was secure in the ark.
We are secure in Christ.
Peter's words are clear:
when God's patience waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was being prepared, in which a few, that is, eight persons, were brought safely through water. Baptism, which corresponds to this, now saves you, not as a removal of dirt from the body but as an appeal to God for a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ,(1 Peter 3:20-21, ESV)
So here we are. What can we learn?
Do you have faith? Do you really have faith?
Are you hungry for God? to listen, seek, obey, trust, love, share, care, serve
Are you ready to commit yourself to God?
There is too much wickedness around us. Sin, is terrible thing that can blind us.
Malcolm Muggeridge a famous British writer and journalist illustrated it with a story. He says he was on an assignment to India. He went to the river to swim. There his eyes saw a woman bathing. His first impulse was to go to her and seduce her as King David did to Beersheba. Temptation was storming his mind. He began swimming towards this woman. The words of his wedding vows came to his mind. But he responded by going faster. When he arrived towards the woman and she turned towards him, Muggeridge saw that she was a leper. His first reaction was to despise her. What a dirty lecherous woman. Then he suddenly realized it all. It was not the woman who was lecherous; it was his own heart.
We are wicked without God. Our hearts need God. Our mind, soul and heart, need Jesus Christ to cleanse us and save us. By Faith...By faith...By faith...
God's grace will save us. Noah in the wicked society had faith, and that saved him. He found grace; Noah found favor (Grace) (it is from the word hanan) in the eyes of the Lord.(Genesis 6:8, ESV).
Let us reflect on these words, and go by faith to the world.
1 Ray Stedman, What is Faith. June 13, 1965 PBC
Grow Inward and Strengthened in Faith (Part 2) (Armenian)
“Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.(Hebrews 11:1 ESV)
Our faith is not passive; our faith is active. It transforms our lives. It gives us the strength to carry on with our daily walk. In the previous sermon, we discussed how by faith we understand that the Creator created the world by His word. Then the author gave live examples of ordinary people living extraordinary lives. How? They had faith in God. As simple as that, they had faith in their Maker who helped them see the unseen. These people learned to live with the solid conviction that whatever was told by God was a promise and was a reliable promise.
By studying these personalities, we live with them; we learn from them; we identify with their experiences; we become their friends. Their faith becomes ours. This means we will grow inwardly.
We talked about Cain and Abel, the first murderer and the first martyr. Giving the best from the heart was acceptable to God. Nothing else was.
We move on to another character-- Enoch. We read in Genesis:
“When Enoch had lived 65 years, he fathered Methuselah. Enoch walked with God after he fathered Methuselah 300 years and had other sons and daughters. Thus all the days of Enoch were 365 years. Enoch walked with God, and he was not,for God took him.(Genesis 5:21-24 ESV)
We don't know too much about Enoch’s life. He is great grandfather of Noah. We know that when he was 65 he had a child by the name of Methuselah, which means man of spire. Something happened when his child was born. It seems Enoch witnessed the miracle of life. This made him seek God, and more; he had faith in God, and Scripture says he "walked with God.
When I married Sevan, suddenly I saw the reality that I was not alone anymore. I was responsible for both of us. And when we had Nanor, our first child, things changed one more time. Now I was responsible for them. It seems little children bring a new life, a new order, a new pattern for sleeping, eating, driving...you name it. Believe me, both of my kids' births brought new beginnings. I used to watch and wonder how God created them. I gaze upon their hands, their eyes wondering about life.
It seems this child Methuselah brought a conversion in Enoch's life. He lived after this birth for 300 more years.
What was the world like in those days? The earth was full of wicked people. They did not believe or obey God. “The Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually." (Genesis 6:5, ESV)
Enoch walked with God. Despite the wicked situation, he walked with God. “The Hebrew verb for 'walked'is a distinctive form that conveys the sense of an ongoing intimacy with God. In the NT Paul used the same concept: walk by the Spirit (Gal 5:16-25); walk as children of light (Eph 5:8); walk by faith (2 Cor 5:7); walk in love (Eph 5:2); walk in a manner worthy of the calling (Eph 4:1-32); walk in newness of life (Rom 6;3-5). Also John says: “Whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked" (1 John 2:6). “Walk in the truth" (3 John 1:3-4). In other words, Enoch's faith was alive and active.
What happens when God makes a promise, but it doesn't seem to be coming true? How do we keep faith, and stay faithful, when what God has promised doesn't seem to be happening? How should we react? How do we know that He will keep His promise? We will look at a fascinating, strange, and not often studied story from the life of Abraham that addresses these questions.
I have often heard that when bad things happen they will turn around and bring good things into our lives. In Armenian we often hear: Asor mech al parik me ga. Literal translation: In this (bad thing) there is some good.
Is there? Is it really good when bad things happen?
I think we misread Romans 8. In fact, those who claim this statement probably do not even know what the verse it refers to. It is just a popular saying trying to help reduce the pain of suffering.
What is Roman 8:28 saying?
And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose."(ESV)
This is not a promise given to everybody. All things do not work together for good for everybody in the world. They only work together for good for those who love God and trust Him with their plans, with their lives.
The verse says: those who love Him, who are called according to his purpose. What is that purpose?
In Hebrews 11 the author emphasizes the role of faith in strengthening our daily walk with the Lord. Verse says: "And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him."(Hebrews 11:6 ESV)
Those who have one purpose in life to love him, draw near to him, and seek him will experience the statement "all things will work for good."
Let me clarify what is good? Good does not mean absence of suffering and persecution. In the midst of suffering and a tough life, we experience God's good which transforms us to His image. We should read this verse in the context of Romans chapter 8, where Paul is talking about us being transformed into Christ's image. (Be conformed to the image of his Son) (Romans 8:29)
God is control of your life. He knows what is going on in your life. Faith means we should trust Him when it does not make sense. Let me end with a real life story:
In her book, THE HIDING PLACE, Corrie Ten Boom relates an incident that taught her to be thankful for things we normally would not be thankful for. She and her sister, Betsy, prisoners of the Nazis, had just been transferred to the worst prison camp they had seen yet, Ravensbruck. Upon entering the barracks, they found them extremely overcrowded and infested with fleas. Their Scripture reading from their smuggled Bible that morning in 1 Thessalonians had reminded them to rejoice always, pray constantly, and give thanks in all circumstances. Betsy told Corrie to stop and thank the Lord for every detail of their new living quarters. Corrie at first flatly refused to give thanks for the fleas, but Betsy persisted. Corrie finally agreed to somehow thank God for even the fleas.
During the months spent at that camp, they were surprised to find how openly they could hold Bible study and prayer meetings in their barrack without guard interference. Several months later they learned that the guards would not enter the barracks because of the fleas.(1)
What is good in living with fleas? Nothing is good! However, God used the fleas to keep the guards away (evil) to give the women the opportunity to seek Him, to know Him and to draw them near to Himself. In other words, to be transformed into His image.
Relax, seek Him and love him. He is in control. Relax. Be still and know God.
1. Sermon central
Grow Inward and Strengthened in Faith II (English)
Grow Inward and Strengthened in Faith (2)
We all have five senses given by God: Hearing, smelling, seeing, touching, and tasting. Some will say faith is like a sixth sense; we receive it as a gift from God at the moment of salvation.1
We live in a world where not everything is seen by the human eye. For example, there are radio waves, telecommunications, and such things we cannot see. If you close your eyes, you will stop seeing anything. Eyes are a gift from God and an instrument to see things. Faith, too, is a gift from God. Unseen waves like that of the radio, could be heard, measured and even seen if we have the right instrument. Faith is a gift from God; it helps us to see the reality of God, to experience the reality of God, to see God through Jesus Christ and the Spirit.
So, the second part of the verse:
Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. (Hebrews 11:1, ESV)
Faith teaches us that there is an unseen world, which is very important. Scripture teaches us that it is the invisible things that make life worth living.
Let me give you the example of a home and a house. What is the difference between a home and a house? Both are physical structures where people reside. Yet there is a major difference between them. A house can be large mansion, where people are cold and joyless towards each other; they do not have time for each other. That building is a house but not a home. Yet members of some other family, who lives in a small one-bedroom apartment, experience joy, love and care towards each other. That makes the house a home. That is a home. From the outside no one can see if these two structures are homes or not. But inside, the unseen world makes a house a home.2
When I accepted Christ in 1976, I started seeing things that I have not seen before. My faith in Christ helped me see the unseen.
Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls. (1 Peter 1:8-9, ESV)
These verses are so real in my life and in the lives of those who have experienced faith. I have faith, and that faith is based on the truth of Jesus Christ. The unseen world becomes a reality in my life when I believe in Jesus; it becomes a daily experience walking with HIM. Faith makes God ALIVE in my life. Faith makes my belief not a theory, or just a topic to discuss, but a relationship and reality. Faith is not just an abstract, passive word, it is active word.
This way I grow inward, when I allow God to strengthen my faith.
The first example of faith the author gives is Creation.
By faith we understand that the universe was created by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things that are visible. (Hebrews 11:3, ESV)
In the beginning there was nothing and God created from nothing He put the laws of gravity, physics, and so on. The triune God from the beginning was at work. The Spirit of God was moving, and God spoke the Word, Logos. The spoken Word made the universe. I think there is a very important point the writer brings. There is a frequent question asked by Christians and non-Christians. Why are we here? Why are we created? Only men and women with faith in God arrived to an answer. By knowing God, we understand our origin and our purpose.
Where do we find evidence of God?
Creation (psalm 19); His Word, Scriptures; and in the people of faith (Hebrews 11)
Let us move on to the first hero of faith Abel. The story of Cain and Abel, Adam's sons.
In the course of time Cain brought to the LORD an offering of the fruit of the ground, and Abel also brought of the firstborn of his flock and of their fat portions. And the LORD had regard for Abel and his offering, but for Cain and his offering he had no regard. So Cain was very angry, and his face fell. (Genesis 4:3-5, ESV)
Both sons were productive, working; one was in agriculture, the other in farming. Each brought to God whatever they produced in their daily life. God accepted one and rejected the other. Why?
Cain brought not the best, but Abel brought the best, from his heart. THE BEST. The writer of the Hebrews explains: By faith Abel offered to God a more acceptable sacrifice than Cain, Abel brought his offering BY FAITH. Cain brought his own offering, without faith. Both worked hard; both brought offerings to God; yet God accepted only the one who came in faith and real adoration. God rejected an offering which is not glorifying Him. The sad part of this story, Cain became the first murderer in history, and Abel became the first martyr in history.
We all love to be productive in life. We all strive to do the best. In fact, we lose our job if we do not do the best. Work is a blessing from God. The choice we have to make is whether we live by faith or without faith? Whom do I glorify, my God or my name? My God or my work? My God or my family? My God or my reputation? My God or my pleasure?
How much do we know about Abel? How many verses were written about him?
I love what the author of Hebrews says:
God commending him by accepting his gifts. And through his faith, though he died, he still speaks. (Hebrews 11:4, ESV)
We do not have any single thing written about Abel's words. I cannot find any sentence he spoke. His life of faith, even though he died, speaks even today. What mark do you want to leave in life?
â€œFaith is the assurance of things hoped for, and the conviction of things not seen."Â
Do you trust God? Do you want to please HIM? Do you glorify Him in your life?
And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him. (Hebrews 11:6, ESV)
Seeking God is a choice you make. That will help you to grow inward, strengthened your faith. That pleases God.
Next week I will go over other the heroes of faith:
Here is a summary of what one can see in chapter 11 about faith. I like what pastor David Jeremiah did:
â€œFaith for the Christian is not a passive attribute. Faith is an active attribute.
Faith brings the proper sacrifice.
Faith enables you to walk with God.
Faith builds an Ark when it has never rained.
Faith goes on not knowing where it's going.
Faith dwells in camps in a foreign country.
Faith looks for a city whose builder and maker is God.
Faith receives strength to bear a child when the mother has passed the age of childbearing.
Faith offers up one's own son in obedience.
Faith believes in the resurrection.
Faith promises not to leave Jacob's bones in Egypt.
Faith refuses to be called a son of Pharaoh's daughter.
Faith chooses to suffer affliction with the people of God.
Faith esteems the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures of Egypt.
Faith forsakes Egypt for the Promised Land.
Faith passes the Red Seas on dry ground.
Faith walks around the walls of Jericho till the walls fall down
Faith subdues kingdoms, works righteousness, obtains promises, stops the mouths of lions, quenches the violence of fire, escapes the edge of the sword, puts to flight the armies of the aliens,
Faith receives the dead back to life.
Faith receives the promise. 3
Our faith is not passive, our faith is active. It transforms our life. It gives us strength to carry on with our daily walk. Next week one can see, none of the heroes of faith are spectacular, extraordinary people, they are simple people, but they have faith in God, which makes their life extraordinary.
1 David Jeremiah, What is Faith? July 7, 2013
2 Steve Zeisler, Faith That Pleases God, PBC
3 David Jeremiah, What is Faith?
Grow Inward and Strengthened in Faith I (Armenian)
A man was climbing a hill. He slipped and started to slide down. Eventually, he was able to grab a tree branch and held on it. While he was hanging and dangling in the air, he started praying: â€œGod I have faith in you. Please help me.â€ There was silence. He prayed again: â€œGod I love you, I worship you. I believe in you. I have faith in you, HELP ME.â€ Suddenly a sound was heard. â€œHave faith, let go of the branch and jump.â€ The man did not like the answer. He repeated the same request only to receive the same answer. After several attempts he gave up asking and hung there all night. In the morning, he lowered his head down and realized that the flat ground was only two feet away. â€œHave faith, my son, have faithâ€¦â€
What is faith? To answer this question let us review our main topic: "Rooted, strengthened and overflowing with thankfulness " based on Colossians 2:6-7.
We covered â€œrooted and built up in himâ€¦â€ We did talk how to GROW downward and upward. Today we move on to next step: To GROW inward: â€œstrengthened (established) in the faith as you were taught.â€(Colossians 2:7)
How do we become strengthened or established in our faith?
The verse uses the phrase â€œas you were taught.â€ I believe a great way one can grow inward and get strengthened in faith is to become teachable. The disciples of Jesus learned to become teachable. Paul learned that. After his conversion on the way to Damascus, the arrogant Paul became a teachable disciple. Meekness is one of the flavors of the fruit of the Spirit. And one explanation for the virtue of meekness is being teachable.
In the Bible we find several heroes of faith. These were people whose faith in God was strengthened in the experiences they went through. I will take Hebrews chapter 11 as a blueprint to study faith in God. In the book of Hebrews faith is mentioned 32 times, of which 24 times are in chapter 11.
We use the word faith often in our daily life. â€œI have faith in this car; it runs well. I have faith in my doctor. I have faith in this pilot.â€ The Biblical understanding of faith is not just positive thinking about something or someone. Faith is not just hoping for the best, hoping that everything will be good. So what is faith? In the Bible faith is defined in the 11th chapter of Hebrews. Not only its definition is mentioned, but also the implications of faith.
Let us start with the first verse:
Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. (Hebrews 11:1 ESV)
The word Assurance can be translated as, substance, confidence, anchor (the new Armenian translation). â€œThe faith described here involves the most solid possible conviction, the God-given present assurance of a future reality.â€1
â€œHebrews actually defines faith in relation to hope; itâ€™s one thing to have a hope, but when you have faith underneath it gives it assurance. I may hope for a better worldâ€¦ but unless I believe in the God who raised Jesus, my hope may degenerate into mere optimism.â€2
In my words, â€œI have confidence and assurance that whatever God promises, He will fulfill.â€
One more time letâ€™s review the fruit of the Spirit and its nine flavors: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.
To wrap up the previous sermons, I will make some observations about the fruit of the Spirit before moving on to the next chapter where we will grow upward by learning to bear each other.
The Fruit of Spirit can be manifested in your relationships. In the Bible, 58 times we find the phrase one another. Love one another, greet one another, care one another, help one another, encourage one another, serve one anotherâ€¦ and BEAR one anotherâ€¦ You cannot fulfill Godâ€™s plan by yourself. The Fruit of Spirit will be manifested in the church, in the community, in the kingdom of God.
Todayâ€™s topic is bearing each other. It is not easy. We are all born dependent. Our parents feed us, change our diapers, help us to walk, to run, to eat, to write, to talk, to get dressed, to take a bath, to ride a bicycle, to drive a carâ€¦ and more and more until we become independent. Eventually, we graduate from college, find a job, and become self-sufficient and independent. We enjoy this independence, but only for a while. â€œIf I become free from everyone, free from friends, free from parents, free from God, I am not free at all but merely lonely, isolated.â€1
The ideal is not independence, rather, interdependence. With that understanding let us read these words:
Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted. Bear one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. (Gal 6:1-2)
Two important words appear here: restore, and bear one another.
Restore: in Greek it means to render, to fit, to complete, to adjust. How appropriate is this word for being connected to each other? We need to complete each other, we need to fit and restore each other. We are a community with a variety of strengths and weaknesses. We all have limitations. Sometimes we are the person who steps in to help; sometimes we are the person who is helped in the time of need. All of us begin in ignorance and we need guidance and enlightenment. Sometimes we are careless and we need discipline.
However, as we help and restore each other, we are not in condemnation business, as we often do. We are in restoration business, which we seldom do. I guess it is easier to point our finger at people rather than thinking that this person is weak and fallen and needs a restoring hand.
Paul says we need to restore each other, complete each other in the spirit of meekness (gentleness) (praotes). This is one of the flavors of fruit of the Spirit. We cannot restore each other with pride and a self-righteous attitude. Let me remind you the three explanations of what it means to be meek: being submissive to the will of God; being teachable; being considerate.
We cannot restore anyone when we are not resorted ourselves daily by the Spirit of God. When I am submissive to His will, when I am teachable and considerate, God will shape me, transform me into Christâ€™s image. Through Him I can help, complete, serve, counsel, discipline, encourage and rebuke a brother or sister. Paul tell us to listen to the Spirit and not the flesh: â€œFor the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life.â€ (Gal 6:8)
Grow Upward By Bearing One Another (2)
The Amish community is absolutely fascinating. I did not know much about them until I visited my sister-in-law a few years ago in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. Although I disagree with their interpretation of the Bible concerning some issues, yet I can learn from them the discipline of restoring and bearing each other.
The Amish refuse any new invention to enter into their community. Electricity and telephone are not allowed. Lately I saw a documentary about them and I learned why they did not want the telephone to enter their homes. They refused the telephone because they realized that by using this instrument they would stop visiting each other, and eventually they would be isolated. That is not what God wanted for His creation. We are created to have relationships.
I love my iPhone, but also I see how this new smart phone is isolating the young generation from each other. I was reading an article that mentioned that a larger percentage of teenagers do not want to learn to drive, because they do not feel the need to. They do not feel the need to visit each other. There is Skype, Facebook, texting, iMessage, tweeting , and more. Although the Amish community's view point is radical, but they have a point.
Are we really a community of believers bearing each other? What is Paul saying:
Bear one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. For if anyone thinks he is something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself. But let each one test his own work, and then his reason to boast will be in himself alone and not in his neighbor. For each will have to bear his own load. (Gal 6:2-5)
We have many reasons to avoid bearing each other. We are busy; we do not have time; it is not our concern; someone else can take care of that need and so on.
But I find that another reason that we do not bear each other. It is the wounds of resentment. We have difficulty to forgive. When we do not forgive, we create a distance between ourselves and that person. This also creates alienation from God.
12 Put on then, as God's chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, 13 bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. 14 And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. Colossians 3:12-14
Forgiving each other. It starts with me. Did I experience God's forgiveness?
In 2006, a gunman entered the school of the Amish community, sent away the boys, tied the girls and shot ten of them. Five schoolgirls died. It was a very tragic story where innocent children were killed for no reason. Yet, the way the Amish community handled this event was so biblical.
The pastor who visited the wife of the gunman witnessed a breathtaking scene in that house. A few of the parents of the Amish girls wanted to visit the family of the killer that same day. The pastor said, ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œWhen they entered, Grace entered."It was liberating. Grace came and visited the tragic situation (Grace met sin).
I want to make sure that you understand. When someone hurts you, you lose your trust towards them. You need to forgive them. But it takes time to regain the trust.
How do we forgive?
Did I acknowledge that we need to repent and ask forgiveness from God?
Let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles us, and run with perseverance the race marked out for us. fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. ..: (Hebrews 12:1-2a)
There is something that hinders us from growing in Christian life. That is unconfessed sin.
We try to justify it, rationalized it, or escape from it by ignoring it. It is there and will hinder us from running the race. And by the way, our race is not against each other; we run the race together by helping each other run the race (bearing one another). So many of us walk with guilt, unconfessed sin, and it is a heavy burden. God does not like to see you living in guilt and shame which is not confessed and cleansed. And the guiltier you are, the more judgmental you become. Because you live with the sins of the past, you cannot share the freedom that Christ brings to your life. Throw off everything that hinders the sins that are not confessed.
Here are some practical steps to confess your sins to God: 1
1. Review your sins. Open your heart. You can write them down. Take time and write them.
2. Repent, meaning turn around 180 degrees. Turn away from something that hinders you. You can read your sins that you wrote down and confess them. Bring them to God and ask for forgiveness.
a) Do not rationalized them;
b) Do not blame others;
c) Acknowledge them and get them off your chest. The greatest hold up to the healing of your hang up is YOU.
3. Resolve to make restitution.
If it is possible. Sometimes that is not possible. They are gone, or they are not around you. Zaccahues is good example. His life was changed and he wanted to repay for his mistreatment.
4. Receive His Grace.
If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.(1 John 1:9)
We will receive His grace and mercy when we surrender to Him and ask forgiveness. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. (Hebrews 4:16)
5. Reveal it. God will forgive you. But if you reveal your sin to another person, either a pastor, or an elder, it helps you to let it go from your chest. It gives you healing.
James did say this:
Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed." James 5:16a (NIV)
Now when you experience God's forgiveness, then you learn to forgive others who have been hurting you.
Why? God forgave you first. (The parable of the master who cancelled the debts of the servant. Matthew 18)
Are you forgiven? Have you experienced God's forgiveness?
Or are you carrying the guilt and shame of your sins?
Then do you forgive other? Can you forgive others?
Let us bear each other. Let us be aware how God bore us from our sins and gave us a new life. Let us learn that from Christ and apply it.
â€œA man fell into a pit and couldn't get himself out.
-A subjective person came along and said, "I feel for you down there."-An objective person walked by and said, "It's logical that someone would fall down there."
-A Pharisee said, "Only bad people fall into pits."
-A mathematician calculated how deep the pit was.
-A news reporter wanted the exclusive story on the pit.
-An IRS agent asked if he was paying taxes on the pit.
-A self-pitying person said, "You haven't seen anything until you've seen my pit."
-A fire-and-brimstone preacher said, "You deserve your pit."
-A Christian Scientist observed, "The pit is just in your mind."
-A psychologist noted, "Your mother and father are to blame for your being in that pit."
-A self-esteem therapist said, "Believe in yourself and you can get out of that pit."
-An optimist said, "Things could be worse."
-A pessimist claimed, "Things couldn't be worse."
"Jesus, seeing the man, took him by the hand and lifted him out of the pit."2
1 Rick Warren, The Prayer of Cleansing from Daily walk
2 (SermonCentral illustrations.)
Grow Upward Bearing the Fruit of the Spirit (III) (2) (English)
Grow Upward Bearing the Fruit of the Spirit (III)(2)
Over 250 years ago John Wesley said, â€œDo all the good you can. By all the means you can. In all the ways you can. In all the places you can. At all the times you can. To all the people you can. As long as ever you can.â€
Eugene Petersen describes goodness as
â€œthe freedom to see and respond to life in terms of its good creation rather than in terms of its willful rebellion.â€1
I see this in the parable of the Good Samaritan. He stopped, he got out of his comfort zone, he saw the evil that people had done (willful rebellion), then he acted in goodness and kindness. This is what we learn from Jesus. This is an attribute of God.
Letâ€™s move on to the next flavor of the fruit of the Spirit:
Having a faithful person in your daily relationships is essential, like having a faithful person in your work place, someone that you can trust, someone who is loyal, someone who will not change and is reliable.
Faithfulness can be learned from God. God is faithful in His promises.
You see God is slow in His anger; He is patient. He waits, and does not push Himself on us. He is faithful to us even when we abandon Him. God wants to have a long-term relationship with us; let us call it loyal love â€œhesed.â€
Next, Gentleness, Meekness (praotes)
Barclay explains three interpretations according to the NT:
A. It means being submissive to the will of God
Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth. (Matthew 5:5)
Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle (Praotes) and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy (chrestotes), and my burden is light.â€ (Matthew 11:29-30, ESV)
B. It means teachable
Therefore put away all filthiness and rampant wickedness and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls. (James 1:21)
Someone who will be teachable if has the humility to learn: â€œbeing goodâ€.
C. It means being considerate:
What do you wish? Shall I come to you with a rod, or with love in a spirit of gentleness? (1 Corinthians 4:21, ESV)
I, Paul, myself entreat you, by the meekness and gentleness of Christâ€”I who am humble when face to face with you, but bold toward you when I am away!â€” (2 Corinthians 10:1, ESV)
I urge you walk inâ€¦â€¦with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. (Ephesians 4:2 ESV)
Aristotle defined praotes, the quality of the man who is always angry at the right time and never angry at the wrong time. The adjective of this word is praus, which is used for a tamed animal.2
This leads me to the final word, Self-Control; the word is obvious. Control yourself. This is not Godâ€™s attribute. The word is unique. It does not appear in Scripture elsewhere. The word is clear, to use oneâ€™s energy wisely. Lately losing weight is one of my disciplines. All the energy that I have for appetite, I use it wisely. I cook the right food, I exercise, and moreâ€¦. I need to restrain my appetite. There is no other way to lose weight.
Here are the nine flavors of the fruit of the Spirit. It starts when we are freed from sin, the self, the â€œfleshâ€, the old life. We are freed to love, to care, to live under the control of Holy Spirit, to produce fruit, more and more.
1. The Fruit of Spirit can be manifested in your relationships. Are you connected to people? Do you have a community? Do you have a small group that you are plugged in?
In the Bible, 58 times we find the phrase one another. Love one another, greet one another, care one another, help one another, encourage one another, serve one another â€¦.
You cannot fulfill Godâ€™s plan by yourself. The Fruit of Spirit will be manifested in the church, in the community, in the kingdom of Godâ€¦.
2. If you live a life of faith, the fruit of Sprit will appear in your life. Sometimes it appears in places that you did not anticipate. God works in mysterious ways.
Peterson says: â€œThere is far more to our lives that we bring to them. Fruit is the appropriate metaphor. We do not produce it by our effort. We do not purchase it from another. It is not a reward for doing good deedsâ€¦.Fruits are simply there. Sometimes we experience them in another, sometimes in ourselves.â€3
3. The fruit is perishable. When we buy fruit, it should be eaten. If you leave it without use it will perish. Fruit of the Spirit will help us to use our gift in a creative way. All the flavors of the fruit help us not to be self-centered. They help us to be creative in putting in action all our gifts for His glory. The opposite is the flesh. All the works of the flesh make us unproductive, self-centered and eventually miserable.
1 Look around you. Do you see the any fruit of Sprit in people around you? Share with them the blessing. Encourage them.
2 Which fruit or flavor do you think people see in you? Which of this 9 flavors you lack. Why?
3 Allow the Sprit of God to mold you and transform you so the fruit of the Sprit will be manifested in you.
Go and grow upward
1 Eugene Peterson, Traveling Light P 165
2 William Barclay, The Daily Study Bible: Galatians P 51-52
3 Eugene Peterson, Traveling Light P 166
Grow Upward Bearing the Fruit of the Spirit (III) (Armenian)
Grow Upward Bearing the Fruit of the Spirit (III)
Fruit is the result of a long organic and living process. The process is complex and intricate. Fruits are not something made, manufactured or engineered. They are not the product of the drawing board. They are not the invention of a genius. They are not the product of a sophisticated technology. They are the result of a life of faith created by God.1
We are in the process of growth. We are growing in all directions. Through Galatians 5, we are studying the process of bearing the fruit of the Spirit, which comes in 9 flavors. In the previous sermons we covered Love, (agape), Joy (chara), Peace (eirene), and Patience, (makrothumia).
How are you doing with these flavors? Fruit cannot be made artificially. They cannot be manufactured. They are the result of a life of faith created by God. We talked about this. Surrender to God. Allow God's Spirit to control you. Be still, let go, relax, and KNOW that God is working in your life. I will stress this point over and over; otherwise, my sermons are lectures of nonsense.
Let us move on to the next flavor: Kindness, (sweetness)(chrestotes)
Kindness and goodness are closely connected words. But before we go further in those words, let me return for a moment to the previous fruit. Patience is withholding anger or wrath; kindness is giving something that is contrary to what we receive.2 We find these words close to each other in 1 Corinthians 13: “Love is patient and kind." If patience helps you to delay your anger, your retaliation, keeps your mouth from speaking, gives you a “long fuse", then with kindness you act with compassion and love, and your behavior will be sweet and gentle.
Christ's yoke is gentle, easy, and sweet (Matthew 11:30). Here the word is the same, chrestotes.
The next fruit is goodness. This word is related with the first. The word Paul uses for goodness is agathosune. Goodness is working for the benefit of others.3 However, without kindness goodness can sometimes be harsh and rebuking. We may sometimes try to do goodness but not in a kind way. Goodness should be manifested in active kindness.
In our daily conversations, I often hear, “He is a good person; I am a good person, etc. In the Bible there is an incident where a young man came to Jesus and asked: “Good teacher (Rabbi) what shall I do that I may inherit eternal life?" Mark 10:17
Jesus replied: “Why do you call me good? No one is good but One, that is, God."
Only God is good. God is good, and He acts in goodness. When we practice goodness it takes the form of “doing good. So we also are called to learn from God, and follow His example of goodness. Remember, this fruit only appears as result of surrendering to God and allowing to Holy Spirit to transform our character.
We will continue in English.
1 Eugene Peterson, Traveling Light P 166
2 John Hanneman, The Freedom to Say Yes, May 21st, 1995
3 ESV Commentary
Grow Upward Bearing the Fruit of the Spirit II (2)(English)
Grow Upward Bearing the Fruit of the Spirit II (2)
In the Armenian sermon, I reflected on Peace. Love, Joy, and Peace, we receive from God and they transform our inner life. Those internal characteristics will be manifested outward in our behavior.
Stress is the number one problem the live of most people. Ask anyone in the Bay Area, they will tell you they live under stress.
I was listening to Rev. Rick Warren's message on Daily Hope. HE talked about three things that cause stress:
1. Uncontrollable Circumstances: Things beyond your control. They could be simple things like these. You are trying to arrive to an appointment but got stuck in traffic. You had a flight to catch, something happened and you missed your flight. Economy hit hard, it affected your life. Let me give you more serious stuff. You wake up to find out that you have a terminal disease. Or you have a special needs child. These are circumstances beyond your control.
2. Uncooperative People: These are people who make your life miserable. They do not cooperate with you. They always find something wrong in your life. Whatever you do, it is not good enough for them.
3. Unexplainable Pain: Some pain that you cannot understand why need to have. “Why me, O Lord? Why is this happening to me right now?"
All these stresses make your life miserable. You can lose your love, joy, and peace. Last Sunday I have played a song called I surrender all.
The answer to this stress is surrendering to God. What does it mean to surrender? Letting the control be in the hand of God. You see that is the only way the Spirit of God will work in you. That is the only way the Spirit will produce fruit in you. We need to trust God.
Let me share with you the famous prayer called Serenity Prayer. Most of you have seen only the first part of the prayer.
Here is what you know:
“God, grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change,
the courage to change the things I can,
and the wisdom to know the difference."
But the actual prayer goes one as follows:
“Living one day at a time,
enjoying one moment at a time
accepting hardship as a pathway to peace
taking as Jesus did, this sinful world as it is,
not as I would have it;
trusting that You will make all things right
if I surrender to your will
so that I may be reasonably happy in this life,
and supremely happy with You forever in the next.
“Accepting hardship as a pathway to peace. Trusting that you will make all things right (You are giving the control to God.)
This leads me to next characteristic of the fruit of the Spirit:
Patience: literally means to "put anger far away."
The Greek word for patience is MaKrothumia. “Makros", which means “long and “thumia, which means “passion or “wrath Someone translated it as, Long fuse. Not easily angered or upset. In fact, you decide to wait and not retaliate.
Makrothumia is “forbearance and long-suffering toward those who aggravate and persecute us, not pushing for a result or resolution.
Eugene Peterson's definition is: “the freedom to stay with something or someone, not hurrying, not rushing for a result.
When we are under stress we are aggravated, and short fuse.
The three reasons of stress: Uncontrollable Circumstances, Uncooperative People, and Unexplainable Pain. These are beyond my control. Those stresses will take me down. I learn patience through the Spirit of God working in me. I learn to have a long fuse. Instead of anger and bitterness, I pray for peace, and patience.
I give up, I surrender, I leave it to God, I let go.
There is a great verse in the Psalms about being still:
“Be still, and know that I am God." (Psalm 46:10)
The expression “be still" has many meanings in Hebrew, such as be quiet, relax, sink down, and let go.
“Let go, release, relax, and know I am God. I rule over nations"
I need long patience to experience this. Also I need patience not to be aggravated quickly and retaliate. Relax, wait, be still, make a decision to postpone your response of anger.
Patience is one of attribute of God:
In the Bible Makrothumia is a word commonly used describing and attitude of God. Our God has patience. He does. He is patient with me. How about with you?
What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction (Romans 9:22, ESV)
because they formerly did not obey, when God's patience waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was being prepared, in which a few, that is, eight persons, were brought safely through water. (1 Peter 3:20, ESV)
But I received mercy for this reason, that in me, as the foremost, Jesus Christ might display his perfect patience as an example to those who were to believe in him for eternal life. (1 Timothy 1:16, ESV)
Patience is the “antivirus" for works of the flesh, such as: “But if you bite and devour one another,(15) fits of anger, rivalries, (20), Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another. (26)
So, let me go over the list of the fruit of the Spirit:
Love, Joy, Peace, Patience.
This fruit cannot be artificial. It can only come from the Spirit of the Lord, only. And the Spirit can produce fruit when you surrender to God. Let go, allow God to be in control. Stop being a control freak. The most insecure people are control freaks. They become angry, bitter, self-centered.
We will face stresses that are beyond our control. Surrender, give the leadership to the Chief Commander. Paul says it the best:
I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me. (Philippians 4:11-13, ESV)
Also Isaiah has this about peace:
You will keep in perfect peace
those whose minds are steadfast,
because they trust in you.
4 Trust in the LORD forever,
for the LORD, the LORD himself, is the Rock eternal. (Isaiah 23:4)
Pray the prayer of serenity:
“Living one day at a time,
enjoying one moment at a time
accepting hardship as a pathway to peace
taking as Jesus did, this sinful world as it is,
not as I would have it;
trusting that You will make all things right
if I surrender to your will
so that I may be reasonably happy in this life,
and supremely happy with You forever in the next.
1 John Hanneman THE FREEDOM TO SAY YES
Grow Upward Bearing the Fruit of the Spirit (II) (Armenian)
Grow Upward Bearing the Fruit of the Spirit (II)
There was a painting contest with the theme of â€œPeace". Many artists painted great pictures. Sunsets, the calm landscapes of the Pacific Ocean, Hawaiian beaches with still waters. Yet, one person drew a completely different view. The weather was stormy, the colors were gray, black and white, the sea was rough, and the wind was blowing everything away. And in the corner of the painting there was a bird that was sitting in her little nest peacefully protecting her chicks in the midst of the storm.
To stand still in the midst of the storm needs an inner peace that only God can give. In the previous sermon, we covered two characteristics of the fruit of the Spirit: Love and Joy.
The third characteristic is peace.
Peace has two meanings:
-Serenity and order in a city, country, family, relationships.
-Second, the Biblical understanding of peace comes from the Hebrew Shalom, which is not just freedom from trouble, but peace in totality. This kind of peace can only come as the fruit of the Spirit. It is an inner peace, a sense of wholeness and well- being. Last Sunday we heard Naghmeh's testimony. She is the wife of an Iranian pastor Saeed Abadini, who is imprisoned in Iran. She witnessed that inner joy and peace despite of horrible circumstances. It does not mean she does not miss her husband. In her middle of difficulties, she experienced the joy and peace of God, an inner contentment that only God can give her.
I had a long conversation with Rev. Serop Megerdichian, the pastor of Emmanuel Church in Aleppo. Some weeks ago a rocket hit the building across the street from the church. The effect was enormous. The windows were shattered, and shrapnel made 14 holes on the roof of the church. On the next day, they worshiped God with an open roof. That day more than 250 people came to worship. The pastor was not expecting anyone to come. Then he said God gave him and his congregation that inner peace. They worshiped God looking up, looking beyond the holes to the sky and thanking God they were alive.
Let me go back to the beginning of the chapter 5. Before mentioning the works of flesh and fruit of Spirit, Paul's starting point was freedom from sin, the â€œold lifeÂ, the flesh."
â€œFor you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. (5:14)
No one can have inner peace when they are not freed from the â€œold life"Â. Inner peace is the fruit, and it is result of being freed from sin to a new life through Christ. I think it is worth examining what is bothering you this morning. Do you have inner peace, joy and love?
Eugene Peterson describes peace as â€œthe realization that God works through the disparities and contradictions of my experience and brings them into harmony." 1
Just remember my introductory illustration, a stormy weather, where a bird is protecting its nest and is remaining peaceful in the midst of the storm.
We will continue in English.
1 Eugene Peterson, Traveling Light P 165
Grow Upward Bearing the Fruit of the Spirit (English)
Grow Upward Bearing Fruits of the Spirit (2)
I recently read about a simple village called Roseto in Pennsylvania. There was a study done on this small community where people lived long lives (90s and 100s), yet their eating habits were very bad. They smoked, drank alcohol, did not exercise, did not eat healthy, yet they lived longer life. Now after many generations, when things changed and people moved out of the village, people started saying they needed their space, their freedom. They started to die early. They started to have heart attacks like all of us. They discovered that being connected, having healthy relationships helped the family live longer.1
We are a building, where God is building us every day by His Spirit. Paul says:
in whom (Christ) you also are built together spiritually into a dwelling place for God. (Eph 2:22)
We are not alone. We are a community. We are built up together spiritually. I will urge you to take our phone book and read the names of the families. Examine and see how many of those you know? How many of those families you can connect with? It is a challenge, a good one. We need to be connected with each other. There is no other way for the fruit of the Spirit to show.
Last Sunday we said the flesh will oppose our growth. So what is the alternative?
The alternative is to allow the power of God's Spirit to direct our life. How? Walk in the spirit. Paul would say, “live or walk in the Spirit".
-In Romans 8:6 Paul writes, “Those who live according to the sinful nature have their minds set on what that nature desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires.
You need to intentionally focus on walking with the Lord, allowing the Spirit to mold you and shape you. It needs focus and attention.
Now let us go to the list of these fruits. If you realize it has been said Fruit of the Spirit. It is as if this single fruit has multiple flavors (tutti frutti). The point is all these flavors remind us of the love of Christ to us.
The Spirit produces the fruit of a godly character. In these verses Paul lists nine characteristics of the fruit of the Spirit. Every characteristic in the list, except for self-control, is an attribute of God.
The first of these is love.
It should not surprise us that love tops the list. Paul has already stated that it is for this reason that we have been set free. “We are freed to LOVE.
-When I look to my life, the first thing I experienced as a Christian is the Love of God through his Son Jesus Christ. Ã¢â‚¬Å“God so loved the world that he gave his son...
-As we embrace our acceptance as sons and daughters, then we are set free to truly love others the way God loves us.
Our model for loving is Christ himself who died and rose again.
Our model for loving is the God the Father who sent his Son for our salvation.
Our teacher, reminder, comforter, and energizer for loving is the Holy Spirit.
-Notice that love stands in direct contrast to the self- centeredness of most of the characteristics on the list of the works of the flesh.
-Love means having the compassionate heart of the Father, initiating forgiveness, and giving without expecting anything in return, I'll call it unconditional love.3
Joy is the next fruit, which directly comes out of the Love of God.
Joy has a special aroma that gives flavor to life.
Please let us not confuse Joy with Happiness. In the Bible, we read 330 times about Joy, and only 26 times about Happiness. Happiness depends on what happens to you; circumstances are extremely important to bring happiness. Yet, joy is internal. Only God can give us Joy.
-In the story of the prodigal son, when the younger son returned and repented, the father took him back with great joy. The father rejoiced when the Ã¢â‚¬ËœlostÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ was found. And the prodigal son rejoiced by being found. Yet, the older son did not accept this return. He lost his joy, and he excluded himself from the “banquet of joy. One cannot have God's joy with resentment in his heart. Resentment and joy cannot exist together.
There is also the fact that we relate real joy with the absence of suffering and sorrow. In Jesus, suffering and complete joy meet.
He was despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief; (Isaiah 53:3a)
Yet, Jesus was full of joy in his sufferings. That is extremely important for all of us to experience this kind of JOY.
So what is Joy according to Jesus?
8This is to my Father's glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples
9"As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. 10If you obey my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have obeyed my Father's commands and remain in his love. 11I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. (John 15:8-11)
Jesus said these words and soon after went to the cross. He could experience divine joy even while he was in pain.
Naghmeh Abidini, the wife of the pastor Saeed Abidini , who is in prison in Iran because of his faith, has a powerful testimony. Listen how she is full of joy and peace, while she is suffering from her husband's condition, prison, torture, solitude, pressure to denounce Christianity and go back to Islam. Listen how the Sprit of God is working in her, producing the fruit of love, joy and peace.
The third characteristic is peace with God
Peace has two meanings:
Serenity and order in a city, country, family, relationships.
But biblical peace comes from the Hebrew Shalom, which is not just freedom from trouble, but peace in totality of our life that only the Spirit of God can bring to us. It is an inner peace, a sense of wholeness and well- being. Just listen to Naghmeh and you will see her inner peace. That can only happen by God's presence.
I was finally able to call Aleppo today. I spoke with Rev. Harout Selimian. There is a very serious situation in Aleppo, Syria. A rocket fell at the church yard last week. God kept him alive. In those situations, I pray that God will give inner peace to the people of Syria, I mean all those who have known the Lord and His peace in their hearts.
Love, Joy, and Peace, we receive from God and they transform our inner life. Those internal characteristics will be manifested outward in our behavior.
Let us leave this place being aware that we should not be artificial trees which has the fruits for decoration and not genuine real ones.
Let us examine our life, and be ready to receive the Sprit of our Lord who is the source of the fruit.
1 The Roseto Effect; http://www.uic.edu/classes/osci/osci590/14_2%20The%20Roseto%20Effect.htm
2 N.T. Wright
3 John Hanneman The Freedom to Say Yes May 21st, 1995
Grow Upward Bearing the Fruit of the Spirit (Armenian)
Grow Upward Bearing the Fruit of the Spirit
On a very hot day in August, I entered Costco to buy some groceries. Lo and behold, I see Christmas trees. I just laughed and passed by. Then I stopped and turned back to see what was new. It was the same tree, made in China, with Christmas ornaments and lights. These trees are seasonal. We use them decorate our homes, then we take them down; either we dispose of them, if they are real trees, or we fold them and put them in the garage waiting for the next season. And the fruits (which have not grown on them) we put in boxes.
Christians who live in the Spirit, bear fruit. These fruits are not artificial. They are grown on a tree. Real fruit must grow out of life, and in our case, it is the life of the Spirit. The fruit of the Spirit will grow on the tree that is rooted on Christ. The ordinary tree does not look like a Christmas tree. Why? A Christmas tree is a show; it is fake; it is only decorative; it is seasonal; it is temporary. Ordinary trees do not look very showy and are in no need of decorative lights, but if they are cared for they will go on bearing fruit year by year. They will be in the garden of trees next to each other, holding each other, and bearing fruit year after year until one day they die having accomplished their mission on this earth.
Paul wants us to be built up, to grow, to bear fruit. And God is not done with us yet. This is the right attitude to learn how to grow upward to build up the temple of God or to become the tree that bears His fruit.
Last Sunday I went over the works of the flesh that oppose the works of Spirit. The flesh and the Spirit are constantly in war with each other. I hope you did go over the list of the works of the flesh and examined your life.
As I said last Sunday, our spiritual bodies can grow in a community; in relationships. Christianity is not a solo life; our relationship with each other truly matters.
From the beginning God did not want Adam to be alone. All creation was good, yet Adam was alone. So God said: "It is not good that the man should be alone" (Gen 2:18). So since the beginning, God created us in His image. He created us so we can be in relationship with Him and each other. Since the beginning, God wanted us to be connected with Him and each other. I will stress this idea over and over. As I said last time, we are freed through Christ to love each other. And love cannot be practiced alone. It does not matter if you are married or single. We are called to be connected and to be in a relationship with each other.
Speaking of relationships, out of the fifteen sins in the list of the works of flesh (Gal. 5: 19-21), eight have something to do with the breakdown of relationships. Today I will go over the fruit of the Sprit. In these verses Paul lists nine characteristics of the fruit of the Spirit. Every characteristic in the list, except for self-control, is an attribute of God.
All these fruits are practiced in a community, in the church family and also outside the church in your daily life. Paul emphasized this to the Christians of Rome saying: ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œso we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of anotherÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â (12:5). What does "individually members of one another" mean? We need to be connected with each other; and only in that situation the fruit of the Spirit is manifested.
In the middle of Oxford University there stands a wonderful building, surrounded by well-kept grass. The building is a library, circular in shape, topped by a great dome. It is beautiful inside and out. People have photographed it, painted it, etc.
The grass that surrounds the building used to be protected with high railings- so high, in fact, that unless you were quite tall they would obscure your view of the building itself. During WWII, the government needed the ironwork for armaments. So the grass surrounding the building was open to the public. In the 1950 and 60s there was a small notice requesting people not to walk on the grass. Mostly, people obeyed.
But then, in the 70s and 80s, the grass became a favorite spot for tourists to have a picnic. The place became noisy, and the students could not do their work in the library. The whole area no longer looked beautiful; instead, it looked messy and scruffy. Finally in the late 1980s the university made a decision to build railings, not too high. Now once again, the grass and the building are beautiful.1
This story demonstrates what happens when we abuse the freedom that we receive. This is the issue faced by every criminal when released from prison: shall I use my new found- freedom to go and commit more crimes? Freedom from restraint, if it is to be of any use, must be matched by a sense of freedom for a particular purpose.2
The freedom that Christ brings librates us from sin, from the flesh, from the old life, from pagan life, or from Jewish laws. â€œFor you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another.â€(Galatians 5:13)
When we are freed from the â€œflesh,â€ from sin; we are freed to serve one another through love: Freedom to love.
So, we grow upward when we are built up in the Spirit, which results in freedom from the flesh to freedom to love. Living (walking) in the Spirit produces fruits. Yet walking in the flesh produces vices. There is a â€œwarâ€ going on between the flesh and spirit in our lives.
What is flesh? We live in a body, in a flesh. Flesh is good and not bad. But in our context flesh represents the human fallen world, where sin dominates.
Eugene Peterson describes the flesh:
A life of passions and desires, a life of impulse and necessity, a life responding to signals from others, a life of captivity to internal compulsions.3
It is interesting that Paul did not say â€œthe fruits of fleshâ€; I think flesh cannot produce anything good. The Spirit can produce fruits and not the flesh. Peterson further explains the works of the flesh according to Galatians 5.
It is obvious what kind of life develops out of trying to get your own way all the time: repetitive loveless sex, a stinking accumulation of mental and emotional garbage, frenzied and joyless grabs for happiness, trinket gods, magic-show religion, paranoid loneliness, cutthroat competition, all-consuming-yet-never satisfied wants, a brutal temper, an impotence to love or be loved, noisy arguing, small-minded and uneven pursuits, a vicious habit of depersonalizing everyone into a rival, uncontrolled and uncontrollable addictions, ugly satire of community. I could go on.4
Our building is not a solo building, the bodies of individuals, or relationship with each other. Speaking of relationships, do you realize that in the fifteen sins in the list (Gal. 5: 19-21), eight of them have something to do with the breakdown of relationships? Freedom is lived out in relationships. We are freed to love. We are freed to care, and caring for each other is not a luxury; it is a biblical command. As the writer of the Hebrews says: But exhort, (encourage) one another every day, as long as it is called â€œtoday,â€ that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. (Hebrews 3:13)
This list of sins can be categorized as such:
1. Inappropriate sexual behavior: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality
Paul is cautious. The church had serious problems of â€œdevouringâ€, or â€œbitingâ€ each other: But if you bite and devour one another, watch out that you are not consumed by one another (5:15).
I learn from Jesus how he faced the flesh. He faced the Pharisees, the Sadducees, the Romans, Pilate, all kinds of oppositions that wanted to eliminate him. Jesus did not lose his focus.
All that flesh can do is to trap us to fall in it. Jealousy, sexual addictions, or any kind of addictions; idolatry, wrong kinds of worship, all these sins make us slaves of our desires and ego. We think we are liberated; indeed we are slaves of our self.
So where is the solution?
N.T. Wright says:
The alternative is to allow the power of Godâ€™s spirit to direct your life. If you want to fulfill the law, supremely through obeying the central command of love, this can only happen by the spirit. As so often in Paul, â€˜fleshâ€™ and â€˜spiritâ€™ are in opposition to each other. This isnâ€™t a matter of the material world against the non-material. Many of the â€˜works of fleshâ€™ could be practiced by a (wicked) disembodied spirit. It is, rather, a matter of where your true identity lies, where your deepest motivation comes from, and where the power that rules your life is really found.5
What is our identity? Who rules you? Are you free from theflesh? Are you walking in the Spirit? Are you growing upward building up the body of Christ, and bearing the fruit of the Spirit? Those are questions that one has to face and tackle with.
Last week I was speaking in a retreat of the church where Rev Steve Muncherian is the pastor. I met people who were liberated from addictions, from jail, from wrong marriages, you name it. There was joy in their heart. There was love in their relationships. The group was like a big family. They planned afternoon activities and started to play outside. Then it rained really bad. All came inside and started playing table games. No complaint; just fun games and laughter. Then at night they had planned a campfire but it was impossible to have one. It was raining and was cold. They adjusted their campfire and stayed inside the meeting hall. They put the chairs in a circle and set up flashlights in the middle to pretend it was a campfire. Then they had their evening program. No complaint, just enjoying each othersâ€™ company.
It does not matter what past one has had. The past is erased by the grace of God. I was touched by the love in this community of believers. They were freed to LOVE, to love each other.
Next Sunday, we will take the fruit of the spirit.
This year our main theme is: "Rooted, strengthened and overflowing with thankfulness " based on Colossians 2:6-7. Basically grow in all dimensions:
Grow downward by being â€œ rooted.â€
Grow upward by being â€œbuilt up.â€
Grow inward so that you can be â€œstrengthened in the faith.â€
Grow outward as you â€œoverflow with thankfulness.â€
Two weeks ago we covered being rooted, growing downward. Those sermons help me evaluate my life while I am working on them. I pray they will challenge you as well to study, learn and grow in HIM.
Paul says: â€œrooted and built up in himâ€ (Colossians 2:7)
Built up means growing upwards like a building where stones are laid on top of each other. In the Old Testament, building the Temple was an extremely important task. The Temple or the building itself became the center of worship. Yet Jesus challenged this by becoming the new temple of God. He also became the sacrifice, the only sacrifice offered at the Temple. He wanted his followers to be the new structure, the new building, not built by stones, but living stones. The church, the family of believers, us, you and me are the living stones of the new Temple.
Peter writes concerning this new structure:
As you come to him, a living stone rejected by men but in the sight of God chosen and precious, you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. (1 Peter 2:4-5)
We are living stones. Yes, the dead stones of the Temple turned into living stones. Christ is the cornerstone of this building. Without Him, the building is doomed to collapse.
Peter used the same root word Paul did: â€œWe are built upâ€ (oikodomeō).
The meaning of the word in the Greek Lexicon is:
1. to build a house; erect a building
2. metaphorically: â€œto promote growth in Christian wisdom, affection, grace, virtue, holiness, blessedness.â€1
We are being built up as a spiritual house. Those living stones are laid next to each other. Those stones will be in relationship with each other to demonstrate Christian wisdom, virtue, grace, holiness. Those attributes will be seen only in the context of community and relationships. Those living stones are in a relationship with the Cornerstone and with each other. The evidence of this healthy relationship is seen in the fruits of the body.
We will elaborate this by referring to Galatians 5 where we will discover how the living stones will build up the body of Christ.
Last Sunday we ended the service by reading the following:
Grow downward by being â€œ rootedâ€
Grow upward by being â€œbuilt upâ€
Grow inward so that you can be â€œstrengthened in the faithâ€
Grow outward as you â€œoverflow with thankfulnessâ€1
I would like to take the first metaphor about being rooted and dig deeper to see how God's Word elaborates on this concept.
In the Armenian language, we ask each other Where is your root from? (armadnert ourge yen?) In other words, Who is your family?
When I was a child, my father published my grandfather's diary, The Cold and Days of my Life. In the middle of the book there is a family tree. I enjoyed reading the names on that tree. Some of the people I would personally know, some I had never seen, and some had passed away a long time ago. The root grew into a tree and gave branches. I was always interested in continuing and filling in the names of the new members of the family tree.
Websites like ancestry.com have become very popular as people search for their roots. As Armenians, we generally cannot go far back in our finding our roots. During the Genocide, we not only lost most of our families but also the archives.
In the New Testament, we find the word "root" 17 times, always referring to the faith of the person.
1. Let me start with the letters of Paul to the Romans. In Romans chapter 11, Paul, a Jew, rooted in a Jewish family, describes how God invites the gentiles, the new converts who do not have the same Jewish blood, (not of the same root) to the family of God. The gentiles were grafted onto the olive tree. Paul is challenging the Jewish converts to be inclusive in their understanding of God's family. You were chosen to be on this root; now you have new people grafted on this tree.
Paul also warns the gentiles who were arrogant towards the Jews who had left the olive tree. These were the Jewish people who rejected Paul's message of turning to Christ. Those branches were cut off from the main root. He warns the gentiles to not be arrogant towards those people.
â€œBut if some of the branches were broken off, and you, although a wild olive shoot, were grafted in among the others and now share in the nourishing root of the olive tree, do not be arrogant toward the branches. If you are, remember it is not you who support the root, but the root that supports you. (Romans 11:17-18, ESV)
Paul is praying that those who were cut off will be back to the faith (Jews who rejected Christ). Paul warns both Jews and gentiles that being on the root of God is not a privilege of culture, race, or color. God's kingdom is open to everyone, Jews or gentiles; it is not a birthright anymore; it is to be grafted on the main root. It is important to be rooted on God. That is the foundation.
Weâ€™ve heard such statements and they have bothered us. I hear such statements in churches, maybe not in words, but in action. To be rooted in God is my topic, and I finished the Armenian sermon presenting Paulâ€™s description of being rooted.
In Romans 11:18
â€œDo not be arrogant toward the branches. If you are, remember it is not you who support the root, but the root that supports you.â€
Remember that you are not the root, and you do not support the root. You are on the root, and the root supports you. Who is in control?
Sometimes I feel we tell God what to do. Instead we learning from Him, we teach God a lesson. Peter tried that with Jesus. Peter even rebuked Jesus one day (Matt. 16:22).
We need to see that our identity is shaped by being rooted on God. If you are Armenian, American, fine. That is not enough to shape your real identity. We all, with our different backgrounds, are rooted on God. He is our foundation, and everything else is built on it.
2. John the Baptist talked about the root. (bear fruit) He warned the Pharisees and Sadducees who were not bearing fruit and were rooted on God:
Bear fruit in keeping with repentance. And do not presume to say to yourselves, â€˜We have Abraham as our father,â€™ for I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children for Abraham. Even now the axe is laid to the root of the trees. Every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. (Matthew 3:8-10, ESV)
Stop thinking that it is your right to be a child of God. No, it is an invitation to anyone from any race, to come to God in repentance and brokenness. It is an invitation to be fruitful, and not just rooted without any use. This means we should learn To be rooted on God and not on your wisdom, race, strength, family, backgroundâ€¦.
3. Jesus told the parable of the sower. This parable is recorded in three gospels. A very simple parable, yet it is a parable that Jesus interprets. It is basic Christianity. What do I mean?
This parable is essential parable that teaches us to build a foundation of our faith. This parable is measuring oneâ€™s faith. The seed is sown and the farmer is not giving up. He knows that some will fall in tough areas (the road, hard rocks, thorns). Those areas have something in common: the seed cannot grow roots. No root, short life, eventually no life. When the seed is planted, it needs to be in good soil where the roots will be growing deep; otherwise there will no fruit, no results.
Have you realized that the root of most plants is bigger than the visible part? There is a reason that the root is larger. It is a good foundation. It absorbs water and minerals from the soil.
Another observation: the root does not appear, it is underground. My faith, my foundation on God is hidden, it is private. Your prayer life, your daily study, your quiet time, your spiritual nourishment is something private and will not show and brag about. Yet without it, you cannot survive. It is like my piano exercises. A pianist will give a concert for an hour. In order to give that concert, the pianist needs to practice for thousands of hoursâ€¦. Those are the roots.
4. The Bible also talks about the wrong kinds of roots in us, which could destroy our lives.
And he called the people to him and said to them, â€œHear and understand: it Is not what goes into the mouth that defiles a person, but what comes out of the mouth; this defiles a person.â€ Then the disciples came and said to him, â€œDo you know that the Pharisees were offended when they heard this saying?â€ He answered, â€œEvery plant that my heavenly Father has not planted will be rooted up. (Matthew 15:10-13)
Here is the problem, Satan also works heard to plant his seeds. His seeds also take roots in our lives. Seeds of pride; seeds of anger, seeds of hatred; seeds of war; seeds of lustâ€¦
In Matthew, Jesus told another parable right after the parable of the sower. It was the parable of the weeds. The evil weeds were planted along with the grain.
He said to them, â€˜An enemy has done this.â€™ So the servants said to him, â€˜Then do you want us to go and gather them?â€™ But he said, â€˜No, lest in gathering the weeds you root up the wheat along with them. (Matthew 13:28-29)
Paul mentions about some of wrong roots:
For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs. (1 Timothy 6:10)
See to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God; that no â€œroot of bitternessâ€ springs up and causes trouble, and by it many become defiled; (Hebrews 12:15)
5. Let us be rooted in Christâ€™s LOVE
Our main topic is to be rooted in Christ. Paul wrote to the church of Colossae and encouraged them to be rooted in Christ. It does not matter what background you come from. It does not matter what past you have had. It does not matter who you are. If you believe and have faith in Christ, you are rooted in Him. You are an important member in the family of God. Not that you earned it. No, Christ made it possible for you to be grafted onto the olive branch.
Paul says it well in his prayer:
For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faithâ€”that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.(Ephesians 3:14-19, ESV)
Grow Downward, Upward, Inward, and Outward I (Armenian)
Grow Downward, Upward, Inward, and Outward
In 1979, Diana Nyad swam more than 100 miles from the island of Bimini to Florida, setting a distance record. Over thirty-three years later, at the age of 64, Diana Nyad accomplished her dream by swimming the 103-mile swim from Cuba to Florida - a swim she was unable to complete in 1978 and 2010 because of rough weather.1
I donâ€™t know about Dianaâ€™s faith in God, but this week she inspired me as well as many others. Her message was simple and clear: â€œWe should never ever give up; youâ€™re never too old to chase your dream.â€
Brothers and Sisters, this is renewal Sunday. CACC was established in 1926. For 87 years we have had Renewal Sundays. We have come together to say to each other, â€œGod has granted us another year. We will not give up worshiping and serving Him.â€ And it does not matter how old you are; God will use you in His Kingdom.
The following is a list of themes we covered since 2005: Plug In; Know Christ and Make Him Known; A Renewing Mind; Reach out and Love Someone; Restore the Joy; Abide in Meâ€¦Bear Fruit; Be Transformedâ€¦Into His Image.
We will never accomplish these. Those topics are with us, and we will continue learning and growing in our spiritual journey. This year our main theme is: "Rooted, strengthened and overflowing with thankfulness " based on Colossians 2:6-7.
â€œSo then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness.â€ (Colossians 2:6-7)
First, Paul is reminding the Colossians that they have received the most important news that Jesus Christ is LORD. The member of the early church kept a secret sign to tell each other that they were Christians: the sign of the fish, Ichthys in Greek 2. (This is an acronym that stands for Jesus Christ Godâ€™s Son Savior).
The early church reminded each other of their creed in one word. They believed that Jesus (the humanity of Jesus) Christ (the divinity of Jesus), is Son of God and Savior. This is the only way we can worship God when we accept Jesus Christ, the Anointed One, as Lord and Savior. We do not use the word Lord these days. So think about Jesus as the big boss. How to you accept the big boss? Reverence, Love, respect, adoration, obedience, surrender. (Remember the eyes of the servant looking to his master in Psalm 123).
Then Paul draws a picture of growth in all directions: upward, downward, inward, outward. What does it mean to be a witness of Jesus Christ as LORD and Savior?
Paul says: â€œcontinue to live in himâ€ (NIV), or in another translation â€œwalk in Him.â€(ESV). The original Greek word means: â€œto make one's way, progress; to make due use of opportunitiesâ€3. Or in other words â€œcontinue walking around him to grow.â€
We will continue in English.
Diana Nyad is one of those people that you have a hard time believing really exist. For 10 years, between the age of 20 and 30, Diana was one of the greatest long-distance swimmers in the world. Some of her swims were more than 30 continuous hours -- never once coming out of the water to eat or sleep. She swam around the island of Manhattan setting a record, she also swam more than 100 miles from the island of Bimini to Florida. In spite of all these accomplishments Diana has always been haunted by a failed attempt to swim from Cuba to Florida. This week she accomplished her dream.
Grow Downward, Upward, Inward, and Outward* (2)
Paul says: â€œContinue to live in himâ€ (NIV), or in another translation â€œWalk in Him.â€(ESV). The original Greek word means: â€œto make one's way, progress; to make due use of opportunitiesâ€3. Or in another word â€œcontinue walking around him to grow.â€
Paul is practical; he illustrates his thought with imagery:
1. Walking In Him
Walking is a great metaphor. Everyone walks, we walk to our car, we walk to the airport, we walk towards our work, we walk and walkâ€¦. Every culture walks, we used to walk more than before. Now we drive moreâ€¦
â€œJust as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live in Christ,â€ heâ€™s reminding his readers that since they received Jesus by faith, so too they must walk by faith in His power; in other words: walk the talk.
2. The Tree and the Roots
It means: â€œto cause to strike root, to strengthen with roots, to render firm, to fix, establish, cause a person or a thing to be thoroughly grounded.â€1
It is a metaphor used in agriculture, in the past and today. Whenever we collected unwanted grass from the ground, my dad told me I should pick them up from their roots, otherwise, they would grow again. Once the plant is rooted, nothing can stop that thing from growing. I like the imagery â€œthoroughly grounded.â€
The tense of the Greek word means, â€œonce and for all having been rooted.â€ Those who have received Christ are rooted in Him. A tree puts down deep roots in order to find nutrition and to provide stability. Likewise, we must go deep with Christ in order to find the fuel we need to flourish, and in order to withstand the storms of life.
Jeremiah describes the man who is trusting God;
He is like a tree planted by water,
that sends out its roots by the stream,
and does not fear when heat comes,
for its leaves remain green,
and is not anxious in the year of drought,
for it does not cease to bear fruit.â€ (Jeremiah 17:8, ESV)
Once we are rooted, we will grow downward.
â€œrooted and built up in him.â€
We like to build up buildings. Our building, the church building is beautiful. Everyone is talking about our new Bay Bridge construction. Build up happens upwards, when we put stones on top of each other. Jesus loved this metaphor, yet he asked us to be the building, not made of stone, but each of us as a new stone and Christ as the cornerstone.
Paul also challenges the Corinthian church telling them how should they build:
â€œNow if anyone builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, strawâ€”each one's work will become manifest, for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed by fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each one has done.â€ (1 Corinthians 3:12-13)
What kind of material is someone using to build oneâ€™s life? At CACC we build each other when we get out of the comfort zone and learn to open up to others, care for them, love the ones we do not know, open up, get in a small circle and start a community of love, agapeâ€¦
Once we are built up, we will grow upward.
â€œstrengthened (established) in the faith as you were taught.â€
How do we become strengthened or established in our faith? By becoming a student of Christ. A student is a constant learner.
Itâ€™s worship as we are carried into the presence of God through song. Itâ€™s practicing spiritual disciplines of fasting, solitude, or simplicity. But itâ€™s also going to India on a short term mission trip. Or following what you perceive to be Godâ€™s call by taking that new job that he seems to have prepared for you. Or inviting a friend to church. Or trusting God in the midst of illness or infertility. Itâ€™s all the parts of our lives that we live in the context of God. Time spent trusting God, following him, questioning him, asking of him, worshipping him, speaking of him, and looking for him. Truly living the life of faith helps you know that what you believe in is real. Living your faith strengthens your faith. 2
We need to learn, study, go deeper, have solid food and not just milk. I keep saying â€œPlug in.â€ I know you are tired of hearing this, but you see I am your pastor and I am responsible for your spiritual health. My doctor was saying, â€œLose weight.â€ One day I went to the HMR and started my serious walk in learning what to eat, and what not to eat. I wanted to walk a healthy walk.
CACC believes that the Word of God is the center of church growth. So grow inward strengthening your faith by becoming a student who will never graduate on this earth.
5. A Luxurious Banquet (in Armenian Jokh seghan Joq Sy.an) or River
â€œoverflowing (abounding) with thankfulness.â€
Walking in Christ brought us here, having thankful hearts, an inner contentment that only God can give us. That Joy will be burst out of us, overflow from us like a living water. We will grow outward. Yes, having grateful heart will reach out and touch someone. Last Sunday I said: Shnoragal yem, in Armenian it means: â€œI have received Grace.â€
The more we understand grace, the more gratitude we will have and grace will overflow from us.
Kent Hughes writes, â€œA thankless spirit betrays a life which is no longer focusing on the greatness of Christ.â€ If you donâ€™t feel very thankful today, itâ€™s probably because youâ€™ve taken your eyes off of Jesus and put them on your problems.
Grow downward by being â€œ rootedâ€
Grow upward by being â€œbuilt upâ€
Grow inward so that you can be â€œstrengthened in the faithâ€
Grow outward as you â€œoverflow with thankfulnessâ€ 3
Let us approach to the table
Once a pastor ended his sermon saying: I want to close this morning with a simple question. Imagine that you were arrested for being a Christian and the authorities brought charges against you. Would they find enough evidence to convict you?
*Ideas are taken from Deepening Your Roots by Brian Bill.
1 Greek lexicon
2 Pastor Paul Taylor, Taking a Walk with the Creator of the Universe. PBC May 1, 2011
3 Deepening Your Roots, Sermon shared by Brian Bill, SermonsCentral.com
In the Armenian sermon we talked about asking :Ask for Hanan (mercy, favor, grace, consideration). We should ask with full attention, eyes fixed on GOD. Asking wholeheartedly, not with a double mind.
Do we have the same attitude towards God? Do you raise your eyes towards him saying like the psalmist?
I lift up my eyes to the hills.
From where does my help come?
My help comes from the LORD,
who made heaven and earth. (Psalm 121:1,2)
When do you approach God? Just at the time of need?
What is the psalmist asking of God?
Mercyâ€¦Hanan. It has different meanings: being gracious, favor, mercy, showing consideration, compassionate loveâ€¦
In my words, â€œGod, you want my full attention when I speak to you, and I want from your love towards me; that you are on my side, that you love me, you have mercy on me, that you are gracious to me, you show your favor to me.â€
Here is another example how the word is used. God speaking to Moses and giving his blessings to Aaron and the peopleâ€¦.
â€œthe Lord make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you.â€ (Numbers 6:26)
â€œGod be on my side; show me your favor; walk with me, O LORD.â€
Donâ€™t we have the same approach in our lives? We need to know if the people that we are encountering are on our side. Your spouse, your coworkers, your colleaguesâ€¦
Now it is funny that in our daily life we try to win the other personâ€™s favor. We try to be nice to them, or use the right words. We just try to win their favor.
Not with God. The psalmist did not start by trying to impress God.
Let us review one more time. The Psalmist comes to God with full attention, not from above, but below, with humility, like a servant gazing at his master. Then he wants Godâ€™s favor, the assurance of Godâ€™s presence, His love, compassion, His grace to walk with him. He knows he cannot earn His favor. We can ask, ask GOD.
Now I will stop here in my sermon. I will give time to spend time in just waiting and -----------------------examining your life and asking God. You can use the back of the bulletin to write your thoughts.
In Psalm 124 the psalmist is thanking God for answering his prayers.
Now the psalm has three parts:
If it had not been the LORD who was on our sideâ€”
let Israel now sayâ€”
if it had not been the LORD who was on our side
when people rose up against us, (124:1-2)
Now when you see the word â€œifâ€, you expect to see the word â€œthenâ€. Here if occurs twice and I believe it is saying, â€œIf the Lord was not on our side we would be gone.â€ I believe he is saying, â€œThank you God, you were on our side. Let all the Israelites hear, the Lord was on our side.â€
My sonâ€™s car alarm was going off on its own at night and bothering the neighbors and us. I took it to the mechanic to take care of it. We agreed to do something simple to fix it. Then the mechanic called me said that he was glad that the car was brought to him. The fuse box was in trouble and had we not fixed it, it could damage the car very badly, and even catch fire. Quickly my wife said to me, â€œIf God was not on our side, we would have faced who knows what.â€
Then the psalmist gives series of answers that God did for his nation:
then they would have swallowed us up alive,
when their anger was kindled against us;
then the flood would have swept us away,
the torrent would have gone over us;
then over us would have gone
the raging waters.(124:3-5)
Those are serious things: Being swallowed alive? Flood taking them away.
I donâ€™t know exactly what happened, but one thing is clear, God kept them from a â€œmonsterâ€ and from the â€œfloodâ€.
While I was writing my sermon, I was praying in my heart, â€œGod, I pray for Syria, Egypt, Lebanon, and the Middle East. I pray for the US. I pray for the world that you created.â€ There is evil, a lot of evil. I donâ€™t know who is â€œmonsterâ€ in your life, and what is â€œfloodâ€ in your life. I want favor from my God. Please keep us safe.
Then he finishes with a wonderful imagery of being rescued:
Blessed (praised) be the LORD,
who has not given us
as prey to their teeth!
We have escaped like a bird
from the snare of the fowlers;
the snare is broken,
and we have escaped! (6-7)
The psalmist is thankful. â€œBlessed, praised be GODâ€. The image of bird in a cage is vivid. The only way the bird can be freed if someone from the outside comes, opens the cage door, and frees the bird.
For us as Christians, Christ is the one did that. He came and freed us from bondage of sin and death. The best answer of prayer I have been received. THE BEST answer. How about you?
On CNN there was an article about an atheist church or congregation.
As members of the Cambridge congregation file into a wood-paneled classroom at Harvard, singer Shelley Segal greets them with a few songs from her latest recording, called simply, â€œAn Atheist Album.â€
Taking a hint from the theme of the event, Segal strums on her guitar and belts her song, â€œGratitude.â€
â€œI don't believe in a great power to say thank you to,â€ Segal sings. â€œBut that wonâ€™t take away from my gratitude.â€1
I donâ€™t know how an atheist can thank? Thank whom? He does not believe in God, yet he wants to thank. Interesting, he wants to thankâ€¦.
I thank God. Shnoragal yem, in Armenian it means: â€œI have received Grace.â€
Ask, Wait, Thank God.
Come in full attention, bring your eyes.
Ask humbly for hanan, His mercy and love, compassion, grace, favor
Thank God. He is faithful.
*the outline of this sermon is taken from Rev Paul Taylor