Monday, January 14, 2019

Legacy Series Week 1: Legacy of Eternal Worth


About a year and a half ago my wife started telling me that I was morbid. Not because I have an interest in death, or I watch scary movies, or anything like that. She started calling me morbid, because the last several times we’ve visited with my parents, I’ve brought up the subject of them having a will.
Now I don’t bring up the subject as if I’m the prodigal son, trying to get my cut of my parent’s estate. Rather, the more I live in Quartzsite the more it’s pressed upon me that we are not always going to be here. I don’t know if you know that. And I have seen people pass away, without having a well thought out plan about what will happen to their estates when they leave it behind.
Now, some people don’t care. They say things like, “What would I care, I’m gone.” But I have watched families struggle trying to get everything in order. I have seen families fight about who gets what.
And so, I just want to make sure that my parent’s wishes are fulfilled. What is it that they want? Are those wishes clear? And is there a clear way of implementing everything when the time comes? Personally, I don’t have emotional attachments to anything my parents have. And so, there’s nothing that I really want from them. All I want, is for their legacy to continue. And I don’t mean the legacy of their stuff. I mean the legacy of their lives.
Growing up, I never really knew my grandparents. My parents kept us away from them, because they were either very abusive, or they lived lives that my parents didn’t want us to experience. 
But I want my kids to know their grandparents. Both my wife’s and mine, because I think they’re great people. They love God, their generous, and their fun to be around. That is the legacy I want to live on. A legacy that builds up, and doesn’t tear down. I don’t want to see, at the end of my parent’s lives, the legacy that had been built into their children and grandchildren, come falling down, because a will wasn’t there or wasn’t clear.

And that’s where we come to the beginning of our sermon series on Legacy. For the next few weeks we’re going to be talking about leaving a biblical legacy. Now we’re going to intertwine the personal biblical legacy that God calls us to, with the ministry legacy of the Alliance Church here in Quartzsite.
But here’s a spoiler for the sermon series: the personal legacy is not about money, while we might touch on the topic of money, this sermon series is not about our earthly wealth.

Legacy is defined as; anything handed down from the past… Can that be money? Yes, but there’s a greater legacy that we who have put our trust into Jesus as our Savior are called to. And it’s the greater biblical legacy that we are going to talk about. So let’s jump into it.
If you have your Bibles, we’re going into 2nd Timothy chapter 3, starting in verse 10.

As we get into 2nd Timothy 3:10, lets find out where we’re at. Since this is a 2nd Timothy, that means there was a first. The first one was written about three years prior. Both are written to Timothy, and both are written by Paul. Timothy was one of Paul’s proteges, and someone Paul left behind to do ministry in the city of Ephesus. Paul’s first letter was to teach Timothy how to be a leader of a church. But Paul’s second letter is very different.
In the first letter, Paul is very much thinking about the here and now. How to lead a church, how to recognize the attributes of Elders and Deacons, how to see false teachings that will inevitably seep their way in. All of it has a focus on carrying out the work that needs to be done now, in this present time. Paul even states in chapter 3 verse 14 of his first letter, “Although I hope to come to you soon, I am writing you these instructions so that, 15 if I am delayed…” Paul is thinking about visiting Timothy, he might be delayed, but his goal is to visit his protege again.
But Paul’s second letter is very different. Instead of a pure focus on the here and now, Paul focuses’ on the future to come. Paul encourages Timothy to be faithful to the end, to be a workman approved by God, to not get involved in useless quarreling, and how in the last days there will be godlessness. Paul’s focus has shifted from the work of the here and now, to the time ahead.
And it’s at the end of this letter that we pick up Paul’s words in chapter 3, starting in verse 10. Let’s read.

3:10 You, however, know all about my teaching, my way of life, my purpose, faith, patience, love, endurance, 11 persecutions, sufferings—what kinds of things happened to me in Antioch, Iconium and Lystra, the persecutions I endured. Yet the Lord rescued me from all of them. 12 In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, 13 while evildoers and impostors will go from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived. 14 But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of, because you know those from whom you learned it, 15 and how from infancy you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. 16 All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, 17 so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.
4:1 In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who will judge the living and the dead, and in view of his appearing and his kingdom, I give you this charge: 2 Preach the word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction. 3 For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. 4 They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths. 5 But you, keep your head in all situations, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, discharge all the duties of your ministry.
6 For I am already being poured out like a drink offering, and the time for my departure is near. 7 I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. 8 Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day—and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing.

We tend to hear, or read, or even recite Paul’s words in verse 7, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.” These words are good, but it’s not the full legacy that Paul wants Timothy to receive.

Paul starts off with, “You, however, know all about my teaching, my way of life, my purpose, faith, patience, love, endurance, 11 persecutions, sufferings—what kinds of things happened to me in Antioch, Iconium and Lystra, the persecutions I endured.”
Paul tells Timothy, you know what my life has been like. The pain, the suffering, and the love and purpose of it all. Paul tells Timothy, you know the teachings that I’ve given to you. But it’s not until verse 1 of chapter 4 that we really get into the legacy Paul desires Timothy to receive.
“In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who will judge the living and the dead, and in view of his appearing and his kingdom, I give you this charge:”
We tend to start thinking about legacy when death is knocking on our door. Paul is literally in the last year of his life. Paul wrote his first letter to Timothy when he still thought he’d be around to visit him. But now, three years later, Paul is in a situation, where he is focusing on meeting his Savior. Everything else is dropping away, and only legacy is in view.
So he tells Timothy in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, here is your charge from me. Here is the legacy I desire to pass on to you.
“Preach the word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction. 3 For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. 4 They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths. 5 But you, keep your head in all situations, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, discharge all the duties of your ministry.”
Paul tells Timothy, preach the word, being ready at any moment to do so. And then in verse 5, Paul tells Timothy, buckle down and do the work that God has called you to you. Don’t worry about these other things that will happen. Don’t worry about people leaving you to hear other messages that tickle their ear. No, Timothy, you do what God has called you to do.
And it’s in this context, this context of being at the end of this life, of sending the next generation off, that we get Paul’s oft so quoted words in verse 7, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.”

In other words, I have done everything that God has called me to do, now Timothy follow my example. Live within the legacy I am leaving behind, the legacy you have watched me build all these years.
This is an Elijah and Elisha moment of the Old Testament. Elijah was the Paul, and Elisha was his Timothy. The mantle, the garment, the legacy of Elijah passed to Elisha.
This is what biblical legacy is, the passing of the torch of the word of God from believer to believer. From the old in the faith, to the new in the faith.

This ministry of the Alliance Church was started, when godly men and women took up the legacy of reaching people. That legacy has been passed down for the last 40 years. You and I have been given the responsibility to continue the legacy of God’s work here. Not to make the Alliance Church great, but to do the work that God has called us to.
This is the legacy that we have received, and we are to pass to the next generation. Are we willing leave it ready for them? Have we done what we can to leave them in a place to achieve greater work? Elijah gave Elisha a double portion of spirit. Paul gave the work in Ephesus that he started to Timothy. Jesus said to his disciples, “Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these (John 14:12)…”

Are we running the race in such a way, that the legacy we leave behind would be one that people would want to be a part of? Or are we running the race in such a way, that they just want to throw it out?

In June of 2018 I officially took over for Pastor Jeff as Lead Pastor of the Alliance Church here in Quartzsite. I see the legacy that Jeff has done here, and I want to continue to build on it. Because I see that Jeff ran the race and did as God led, and I want the double portion of Jeff, I want to pick up where he left off, I want to do greater things, because of the legacy he, and those before him in this ministry, have left.
And I want to challenge you to be a part of that work, to be a part of this legacy. To run it well, so that we can pass it on to the next generation, so that they can accomplish greater things.

So what is this legacy? Paul left no money, no land, no nest egg behind. Too often we think that legacy is synonymous with money. If I leave money, or land, or whatever behind, I will be remembered.
That might be true for one generation, but what about the one after that, or the one after that? 
We tend to leave legacies of temporal wealth. Those things that can be forgotten in one generation. Those things, that Jesus says will pass away. I think there is a place for that. There’s a great richness in being able to give the next generation advantages of wealth that we have built up. And to show our beneficiaries that we care for them enough to give them something when we pass on. 
But God calls us to legacies of eternal worth. This type of legacy shifts it’s focus from the temporary enjoyment of our beneficiaries, to the building of God’s Kingdom. 
Legacies built on temporal wealth are used, fought over, divided, and forgotten. But Legacies built on eternal worth move the work of God forward, and lay the ground work for people coming to know Jesus as their Savior.

I’m not asking that you make the Alliance Church a beneficiary of your wealth. I’m echoing God’s call on your life, to work with me for God’s Kingdom.

And so I ask you, what type of legacy are you leaving behind? Will your children, grandchildren and great grandchildren see your legacy as temporal or as eternal? That is my question and the challenge for this week, is this: take some time, and evaluate your legacy, asking what is the legacy I’m leaving behind? Is is temporal wealth, or eternal worth?

Let us be people that leave legacies of eternal worth, so that the Kingdom of God may house even more people. Let’s pray.

Wednesday, January 9, 2019

Famous 2019




One of the best Disney movies is Aladdin, which is getting live action redone that comes this year. If you don’t know the story, Jafar is the evil advisor to the sultan. He is trying to gain the magical lamp with the Genie to take over the kingdom of Agrabah. He uses street rat Aladdin to enter the cave of wonders and retrieve the lamp. While doing this the cave collapse, sealing Aladdin inside with the lamp.
Using the Genie’s magic to get out, Aladdin wishes to become a prince, so that he can marry the princess of Agrabah, that he fell in love with at the beginning of the film. And his introduction is an amazing song and dance entrance. 
But everything starts going off the rails, when the fame becomes more important than the truth. And it’s because Aladdin isn’t truthful with the princess when he should be, that causes his relationships with his friends to become strained, he ends up losing the lamp, and only be the skin of his teeth does it all turn out alright in the end.

I use Aladdin’s story to bring up the idea of being famous. Now in the past, I have said, a lot of us want to be famous, and I have had teens say to me, “Oh I don’t want to be famous.”

Well, I got the stats for you to say, “yeah, you’re probably lying to me if you say you don’t want to be famous.
In 2017, a survey was taken by a website called the dailymail online. Now it was of teens in the United Kingdom, but another survey back in 2009 showed that the trends of developed countries, like the US and the UK are usually statistically similar. So what did the daily mail find out?
The top 5 jobs that teens want to get in the future are, YouTubers at 34%, Blogger/Vlogger at 18%, Musician/Singer at 16%, Actor at 15%, and Film Maker at 13%. That means 96% of teens want to be in a role that will bring them fame. This doesn’t include the overlap of TV Presenters, or Athletes. We have a desire to be known by people. Why? because who wants to live their lives as if it didn’t matter?
We don’t want our lives to have no meaning. This is especially true if we look around us and see people who’s lives seem to make no difference. Or if we are shuffled to the back of the family. We have a sibling that seems to get more love from our parents or grandparents. We have other kids around us that seem to be smarter, stronger, better at things, and we want the recognition. 

In the band Imagine Dragons, their song Thunder picks up on this idea.

Just a young gun with a quick fuse
I was uptight, wanna let loose
I was dreaming of bigger things
And wanna leave my own life behind

And,

Kids were laughing in my classes
While I was scheming for the masses
Who do you think you are?
Dreaming 'bout being a big star
They say you're basic, they say you're easy
You're always riding in the back seat
Now I'm smiling from the stage while
You were clapping in the nose bleeds

We tend to want to make ourselves known, but what will that get us? Momentary love of others, until we’re no longer useful. Sure you have people like Beyonce, who is going strong in her career, but for every one that makes it, hundreds even thousands are left behind. Still hoping for their shot.

But God desires a different fame for us. Jesus said, “For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it (Matthew 16:25).”

One of Jesus’ disciples, Paul, wrote this at the end of his life, “6 For I am already being poured out like a drink offering, and the time for my departure is near. 7 I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. 8 Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day—and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing…18 The Lord will rescue me from every evil attack and will bring me safely to his heavenly kingdom. To him be glory for ever and ever. Amen (2 Timothy 4:6-8, 18).”

Paul realized what true fame was: not to be known by the world, but to be known by God. 
People want to be world famous. And some have reached that status, but others are more well known than any of the actors, or youtubers, or bloggers of today. Paul is one fo the most quoted men of history, and all he did was talk about Jesus.
This is the fame that lasts, not that the world knows us, but that God knows us, And when we find this fame, then we find purpose, we find contentment, we find life.

As we begin this new year, I would ask you, where are you seeking your fame? From this world, that is fleeting? Or from God eternally?

Let’s close on the song, Yours (Glory and Praise) by Elevation Worship.


Sunday, December 30, 2018

The Coming Wait


I don’t know about you but, most of my life I’ve learned lessons, not when they were taught to me in a classroom, but rather when I needed to learn them. Math is not my biggest strong point. Take fractions for instance, I never understood them for the longest time. I was taught the subject several times throughout elementary, junior high and high school. Did I understand what the teacher was talking about? Not one bit. They never made sense to me. Pie into pieces gives you 1/2, 1/4, 1/8? Who cares! I just want to eat it. But then I started to work in construction and we dealt with eighths. That’s when I started to understand how to covert them, a 1/2 is 4/8s, 1/4 is 2/8s. I began understanding how to add them, 3/4 and 3/4 equal 1 & 1/2. Same with subtracting. But since I never multiplied or divided them, I still can’t do that. But I began to understand fractions.
The same is true in my walk with God. A lot of the lessons I’ve learned had to be learned through experience. I’ve had to get beat up sometimes in order to learn the lessons that deepen and strengthen my relationship with God. But is that the only way to learn, or is there a better way?

That’s where we come to the book of Isaiah chapter 26 today, a place where through Isaiah, God tries to get us to understand an alternative way to learn what he has to teach us.

As we jump into the book of Isaiah chapter 26, we need to know what is happening to get us to where we are.

Isaiah is the prophet that a lot of people think of when they think of prophecies about the Messiah. There’s about thirty-two that Isaiah speaks of. Famous ones like, being born of a virgin (7:14), authority over nations (9:6), and his titles (9:6).

But Isaiah’s primary job was to for tell the destruction that was about to happen to the nation of Judah. So let’s make a short timeline of Jewish history, to better grasp what’s going on. At the beginning of King Solomon’s son’s (Rehoboam) reign as King of Israel, the nation of Israel split into two.  It happen because the son was a fool and didn’t listen to his advisors (Literally this is the definition of an fool Proverbs 15:2). So the kingdom of Israel split in two. The northern kingdom continued to be called Israel, with the majority of tribes siding with them, while the southern kingdom became Judah, because it was the primary tribe and followed the linage of David. Out of the two, the northern kingdom tended to be the more wicked, but Judah wasn’t pristine either. 

In fact, because of the animosity between the two kingdoms, when Israel called on Judah to help them against the Assyrian forces that were trying to expand their territory, Judah refused and was eventually attacked by Israel. This led Judah to seeking the Assyrians help, which eventually led to the downfall of the northern kingdom. The prophet Isaiah spoke against allying with Assyria, and later against allying with Egypt and Babylon. But his warnings went unheeded, and eventually the nation of Judah fell. 
It is during the Assyrian alliance period that we enter into the book of Isaiah in chapter 26. A chapter that is nestled between several of God’s messages for other nations, and the nation of both Israel and Judah. Chapter 26 is one of two songs that Isaiah sings about God, and what he will do in the future.
Let’s pick it up in verse 1.

In that day this song will be sung in the land of Judah: We have a strong city; God makes salvation its walls and ramparts. 2 Open the gates that the righteous nation may enter, the nation that keeps faith. 3 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 put his focus on the city of Jerusalem representing the whole of God’s work in bringing his people back to himself. Isaiah’s song, is meant to be encouraging. All the destruction that will happen, will lead to greater things. All the problems that Judah will face, God will make them right. All the sins that it has committed, God will judge with justice. All the times the Jewish people have turned their backs on God, God will bring about peace for those who trust in him.

Isaiah continues this understanding in verse 19, 

But your dead will live, Lord; their bodies will rise—let those who dwell in the dust wake up and shout for joy—your dew is like the dew of the morning; the earth will give birth to her dead.

And it’s this to and fro of God’s people accepting God’s word, then rejecting it, then experiencing the consequences of their rejection, then calling upon God, just for God to make it right in the end. We talked about this cycle of the Old Testament several week ago in our Descent series. 
In Isaiah it has come to the boiling point, to which God begins to more fully reveal the work of the Messiah that is to come. So God uses Isaiah and the other prophets of his time, to let people know that the nation of the Jews, as it was first envisioned, is about to fall. There will be a time when the Messiah will come and restore all things, and God will then dwell with his people. But it will be different than the nation state that they are experiencing now. 

So then, what does God want his people to do when they are in this time between destruction and restoration? What does God desire from his people as they are dealing with the pain of the moment and future peace?

Isaiah gives us the answer in his song. In verse 8 he says, “Yes, Lord, walking in the way of your laws, we wait for you; your name and renown are the desire of our hearts..”
I think one of the major things we miss in Scripture is the waiting on the Lord that we are called to. I don’t mean that we don’t talk about trusting and waiting upon God, we quote verses like, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding…(Proverbs 3:5)”

But do we fully comprehend the wait aspect of trust that God calls us into? I mean think about it, what does trust in God mean? We tend to use the idea as a back up plan. “I have no other place to turn to, so I guess I have to trust God.”
And even though the thought is actually correct, there is no other place to turn except God, it’s the attitude behind it that’s the problem. We tend to do things in our own power first, before we move into trust.
When Judah wanted to ally itself with Assyria against the northern kingdom, Isaiah told them not to, but rather to wait upon the Lord. The kings wouldn’t listen, so in their own power they made an alliance with Assyria against their brothers Israel. Then when the northern kingdom fell, Judah realized they were next, and again in their own power, they sought other nations to help them. All the while Isaiah kept telling them to trust and wait on God.

We do the same thing, we tend to trust God, after we have exhausted our own resources. We do everything our power can do, and we forget that there is a wait aspect to it. 
I want to share with you a story that some of you know, but is generally unknown to most of you. Several years back there was a movement within our church that believed it was necessary do away with both the van ministry and the youth pastor position. Opting instead to make the youth pastor position volunteer. I tell you this, not to talk about this movement, but rather my response to it.
Even though I knew this was where God wanted me, I began to feel like I needed to make plans for the future. So I began to send out resumes to different youth pastor positions. My thought was, I didn’t want to be out of a job and have nothing for my family, so I began to plan. The two sides of me were at war, I knew God had called me here and wasn’t done with me in this place, yet I wanted to create a safety net for my family just in case.
Every resume that I sent out got me an interview and for about two years, every time I would apply for a position, I would reach the end of the process and not be chosen. The pressure of the situation got so overwhelming one time, that I exploded at a teen who was being a jerk to me.
Instead of waiting on God to see what was going to happen, I tried to force the outcome so that I would feel more in control.

I tell you this, because it’s something I think we easily slip into. Just a quick study of Scripture reveals how easy we fall into the trap of non-waiting. The need to wait on God usually is talked about when we have exhausted our options and now need to be reminded to trust and wait for God’s movement. 
If we look at the Old Testament, we really start to see the talk about waiting on God be begin to happen around the Psalms, where people are dealing with life and death situations. But it really picks up in the prophets, where God’s judgment is about to happen, or has just happened.  It is where all options have been exhausted that the call to wait is sent out to the people.
Then in the New Testament, we get really no mention of waiting on God, until Acts, where Jesus tells his disciples to wait for the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. Then the other writers tell us in their letters about waiting for the return of Christ. These New Testament letters were written to help the believers trust that God will make all this right in the end at his coming.

But in my own life, after that experience of exhausting all my options, I came to a realization: God doesn’t want me to treat him like he’s the last option, but rather he is the only option. Too often I work really hard to make things work, but while I do that I have become like Judah who took their eyes off the Lord. Who make alliances with other nations, put trust in other sources, instead waiting upon God to work his plans out.
Throughout Isaiah’s writing, his preferred title of God was the Lord of Hosts, which points to God being all-powerful. 
Isaiah had to remind the people that God is all-powerful, they didn’t have to worry about what was going to happen, instead they were supposed to make God their first option and wait on him to act.
But in waiting, they were supposed to being doing something as well, and it’s actually what they weren’t doing that got them into trouble in the first place.

Back in verse 8, Isaiah says, “we wait for you.” That little praise is nestled in-between two statements: “walking in the way of your laws…your name and renown are the desire of our hearts..”

This is the lesson Isaiah desired for his people to learn, and this is the lesson that God has for us this coming year. We must wait on him, true, and what do we do while waiting? We walk in his ways, and desire his renown.
In a couple of weeks we will be starting a series called Legacy, which will pick up on this second idea. But as we go into the new year, God is calling us to be a people who wait on him as we walk in his ways. 
We are to be a trusting people who move at his command. We are to be a people that wait for him to act, and trust in him as our first resort. And as we do, we consul ourselves to doing as he commands. Walking in his ways, doing what he has already told us to do, accomplish those things he has put in our path to accomplish, and leaving the rest in his hands.
What has God said? That is what I must do as I wait for him to move. As Jesus says in Matthew 6:34, “Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”

Over time, I have become a proponent of learning a lesson before I need to. Why learn a lesson after you’ve been disciplined? I’ve learned way to many lessons like that before, and I don’t like the pain. Instead, God calls us to learn lessons before hand, so even if we face trials and tribulations, the lesson we have learned will get us through it with greater assurance.
So I want to trust God now. I want to wait on him now. I want to walk on his path now, because I don’t want to get into a situation where I am forced to do it. I want to walk in his ways now, and his way is the way of trust, of waiting on his move.
If we learn God’s lessons because we desire to conform our will to his, then we will be walking in his ways and waiting on him, something the nation of Judah didn’t do.

So today, as a sign of trust, as a sign of waiting on what God will do through this church in the year to come, and a sign of walking in the ways of the Lord, I have asked the elders to step out in faith with me and ask that we not take a regular offering today. So we are not going to pass the bags.
I don’t know what this coming year has in store for us. I don’t know what trials we will face. All I know, is that we are called to trust in God. We are called to wait upon his work. And we are called to walk in his ways.
So we are not going to take up a regular offering, instead if you so choose to give, there will be a little wooden church box on the welcome table for those offerings. But as a leadership that has been placed here by the grace of God, we want to lead in a way that says we will trust, wait and walk with our focus on God for all things. And we want you to know that you are not banks to us that we use for our own gains, but rather we are co-workers in what God has called us to do in Quartzsite. And together we will accomplish the work God has set out before us.

And so I end with this challenge for you: what is one area of your life where you’ve let God become the last option to trust? 
This year, make God the first option, the only option to trust in that area. Wait for his actions, while you do what he has already commanded through his word. 
God has called us to make him our only option in the finances of the church, and we want to walk in his ways and not our own. Where is he calling you to make him your first option? Where is he calling you to wait? Where is God calling you to walk? Let us be the people who wait upon the Lord in all things, that his name would be renowned among the nations. 

Now may God give you the strength to wait upon his movement that we may glorify him. Amen.

Monday, December 24, 2018

Descent Week 4, God’s Last Descent


As most of you know, I like baseball. More exact, I love to play it and coach it. Since I was five years old, there has been only one year where I didn’t play, until I was a senior in college. In my home town, at the start of every spring, they had a big parade marching the baseball players through the town to the local park. From the t-ballers at 5 years old, to the senior league at 16, and the fan fair was huge. 
But there is one thing I never liked about baseball in little league or in high school ball, and that was the time limit rule. Because baseball isn’t like other sports where there are time limits. But in the younger leagues they impose a time limit, because no one wants to be there all day long watching a 100 point game. 
Now, I’ve been on teams where I’ve welcomed the time limit, because we were getting trounced by the opposing team. I’ve also been on teams where I’ve been doing the trouncing, and I welcomed it there too, because those games are really no fun either. But the reason I despise this rule, is because of three games I’ve been involved in. 
One happened in little league when I was in the senior division, the other one happened in high school, and the third was when I was coaching for a high school team. In each of these games my team was down, and in each of these games we were on a comeback. The games went all the same way. Our team started off slow, and the other team shot off. But by the fifth inning we were coming back. Our bats came alive, and our defense finally was holding. The momentum had shifted in our favor. And as we ended the sixth inning, the Umpire would stand up, and in a loud voice, call the game on account of time. One maybe two, runs were all that we needed. The other team’s players were exhausted, but ours had adrenaline pumping through at break neck speeds.
But with the Umpire’s words, we hit a wall going a hundred miles per hour. And it’s because of these three games, that I have come to loath a time limit in baseball, because it’s unnatural for the game, and I feel like it cost me three victories.

And it’s this idea of a time limit where we find ourselves in our Descent series on this Christmas Sunday. So if you have your Bibles, we’re going to start off in the book of Acts chapter 1, using it as a jumping off point for our talk today.

But before we get into Acts chapter 1, verse 6, let’s bring ourselves up to speed where we’re at in the our Descent series so far. 

In our first week of our Descent series, we talked about God’s purposeful creation. How you and I are created by God out of his desire for us. We are not randomly here as ancient creation accounts or modern naturalist believe. No, we are here because God wants us to be here. And not only does God want us to be here, he created us to be in relationship with him. This is the first descent, God’s descent in creation.
Then on our second week we talked about how, we broke our relationship with God, because we wanted to go our own way. How we desired not to listen to God’s created order, but instead try to run our lives and the world around us, on our own terms. This breaking of relationship with God, is called sin. Desiring our way over God’s way is sin. Sin is taking what God designed, and distorting it, and using it for our own purposes, rather than his. This is why lying is sin, because it distorts the truth. This is why sexual promiscuity is a sin, because it distorts God’s created purpose. And the list can go on. And so we see in the Old Testament, a cycle of God working to restore our relationship back to him. This cycle begins with God reaching out to people, people accepting him, then turning their backs, then the consequences of the people’s actions occur, and they cry out to God, which God again reaches out to his people. But God wants to bring a permeant fix to this cycle. And so we see this as the second decent, God’s descent in our need.
That brings us to last week, where we saw that there needed to be a bridge between God and humanity. We saw this in the book of Job, where Job recognized that we need someone that was equal to God, yet was like man. This is who Jesus claimed to be, God made flesh. God who came down to be with his creation as one with his creation. He paid our sin debt that we have been building up. And death is how this debt is paid. So Jesus pays our debt with his own life, so that a bridge between God and humanity can happen. This is Christmas, and when we accept what Jesus has done for us, we can then enter into a right relationship with God, because God has done everything for us. And all we have to do is accept it. We accept we’re a sinner, we accept we can’t fix it, we accept Jesus paid the price for us, and we accept him as God and Lord of our life, living for him the rest of our lives. This was the third descent, God’s descent in Christmas.

But we talked about how there is one more descent left. And it’s this descent that will lead us into an enteral joy, or an eternal sorrow. So let’s pick this up in Acts chapter 1, starting in verse 6, where Jesus has raised from the dead and is talking with his disciples one last time while on earth.

6 Then they gathered around him and asked him, “Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?”
7 He said to them: “It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority. 8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”
9 After he said this, he was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid him from their sight.
10 They were looking intently up into the sky as he was going, when suddenly two men dressed in white stood beside them. 11 “Men of Galilee,” they said, “why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven.”

Jesus goes up to heaven, and to his disciples, they don’t understand. See, their thought from the moment they started following Jesus was that he was working to make the nation of Israel a powerhouse over all the other nations. They thought Jesus was going to free them from the oppressive rule of the Romans, and make them great over everyone. And so their question speaks to this idea, but they still were not fully understanding the plans of God. Jesus leaves them, so that they would be filled with the Spirit of God, and so they would carry the message of Jesus to the ends of the world. 
But, as Jesus ascends, the disciples were given a promise, “This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven.”

Jesus will be back. There will be a time when Jesus will return. When is that? Jesus tells us a few verses before, “It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority.”

So we don’t know the time, but what we do know, is that he will return. About 50 times, the NewTestament it speaks of this promise of Jesus’ return. From Jesus’ own words in places like John 14:3, “If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself, that where I am, there you may be also.”
To the book of Revelation 22:12, “Behold, I am coming quickly, and My reward is with Me, to render to every man according to what he has done.”

The promise of Jesus’ return is confirmed again and again throughout the Scriptures. And this a physical (Zechariah 14:4), and visible return (Matthew 24:27). Everyone on the earth, will know when it happens. The book of Revelation chapter 1, verse 7 says this, “‘Look, he is coming with the clouds,’ and ‘every eye will see him, even those who pierced him’; and all peoples on earth ‘will mourn because of him.’ So shall it be! Amen.”

But did you catch that last part of that verse? “…and all peoples on earth ‘will mourn because of him….’”

Wait a second? Shouldn’t Jesus’ return be a happy time? God has come back! He has fulfilled his promise! Shouldn’t everyone be rejoicing? Why would anyone be morning?

Philippians 2 sheds some light on why people would be doing this. “10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”

C.S. Lewis in his book the Great Divorce, says this about the attitude of people when their knee will bow. “There are only two kinds of people in the end: those who say to God, ‘Thy will be done,’ and those whom God says, in the end, ‘Thy will be done (pg. 75).’”

See, those who have accepted Jesus as their Savior; who have sought after God; who have desired God’s restoring relationship, they will rejoice in Jesus’ appearance. They will bow out of reverence. They will bow out of love. They will bow because Jesus is their rightful King. They will say to God your will be done. And on that day, the promise of God will be fulfilled.
But those who have rejected God; who have sought to flee from God; who have desired to have no relationship with God, even mocking God’s gift of right relationship, they will mourn at Jesus’ appearance.  They will bow out of fear. They will bow because Jesus is the rightful King. Because they wanted their will to be done. And on that day, they will detest that God fulfilled his promise.

C.S Lewis goes on to say in the Great Divorce, “All that are in Hell, choose it. Without that self-choice there could be no Hell. No soul that seriously and constantly desirers joy will ever miss it. Those who seek find. To those who knock it is opened (pg.75).”
And it might sound strange to bring up Hell on a Christmas Sunday, but the reality, is, the purpose of Christmas is for us to realize everything God has done to keep us out of Hell. God created us to be with him because he desires for us to be in relationship with him. And only in relationship with him are we fulfilled.
In our rebellion of sin, wanting to do things our own way, God still pursues us because of his great love for us. God knows the consequence of our sin, it’s death. God knows the eternal consequence of our broken relationship, it’s Hell.
And so God does everything possible to get us to realize his extreme love, by the Son coming to earth as Jesus and dying for us. 
And his promise is, Jesus will return. But, will we be ready? Will we be welcoming him with joy, bowing to him, out of love. Or, will we not be ready? Receiving his coming with sorrow, and bowing down in obligation of defeat?

Christmas is a joy to all those who accept the birth of Jesus, because it’s the precursor to his return, to his final descent. And at that final descent, there’s no going back. Because what we do with Christmas, is what we’ll do with Jesus at his return.
If we accept God’s descent at Christmas, that means we accept we are sinners. We accept we can’t fix our broken relationship with God. And we accept that Jesus died for us, to save us from sin. And then, at Jesus’ return we will rejoice into eternity because we will be with the One who loves us and died for us.
If we reject God’s descent at Christmas, that means at Jesus’ return we will enter into eternity, by our own choice, in sorrow because we will understand what we have rejected.

So this Christmas I want to implore you, if you haven’t decided what to do with Christmas, accept Jesus as your Savior. Turn your life over to him. He loves you and has done more for you than you can imagine. And for the rest of your life here, until his return or your body’s decay, to find out how a relationship with God can transform your life. And all you have to do is accept what God has done, calling on him to give you the gift of his descent at Christmas.
But for you who have accepted Jesus as your Savior, your not off the hook. You get to rejoice in that day when you see your Savior, but you are given a job, to tell everyone God brings into your life about what he has done for them. About his four descents of creation, need, Christmas, and return. We are told by Jesus in Matthew 24:14, “And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.”

We need to get out there and share Jesus with people. Don’t rely on a pastor, or someone else to do it. You have been given the Spirit of God, and he will speak through you. Let us not stand in front of Jesus with the knowledge that we could have done more for those sorrowing around us. Instead, let us stand in front of Jesus knowing that we spoke of his work to everyone he gave us. And in the old saying of the of the Alliance, let’s bring back the King!
My challenge for you this week is simple: on your way out there will be a picture for you to hang up. It has the four descents that we have talked about these past four weeks. Take one, hang it up where you will see it, and every time you do, thank God for this work, and ask him to help you speak his word to people so they might be saved.
Merry Christmas, may you accept the descents of God on your part this season, and look forward to the return of the King. Amen!

Wednesday, December 19, 2018

Descent Week 3 - God’s Descent in Christmas


In 1996 a movie called Matilda came out. It was based on the 1988 book of the same name. The basic premise of the story is that the little girl Matilda is the black sheep of her family. Where her father, mother, and brother are a bunch of dishonest, sneaky, and mindless TV watchers, Matilda is a smart and honest little girl. There’s more to the story, but that’s all we need to know about it, because it’s the father that always frightened me. Not frightened in the sense that he was a scary character, but frightened because he was exactly the type I never wanted to deal with.
See, he was a used car salesman, and already the stereotype of dishonesty should fill your minds. And the story plays off this stereotype. Matilda’s father is the epitome of deceit. He runs the odometer backwards to lower the mileage, he puts saw dust in the transmission to make it sound like it runs smooth, and he glues bumpers back on. Every sleazy shortcut that could be made, this guy makes it.
And growing up, you hear a lot of stories about shady dealings with car salesmen, and I don’t know why, but Matilda’s dad, has become, for me, the exact person I would never want to come in contact with when making a car purchase.
Because I don’t know about you, but when I making any type of purchase, one of the things I look for in a salesman is honesty. When I talk with a person who is trying to sell me something, I ask myself, do they seem genuine, or do they seem dishonest? Do they seem like they’re looking out for my best interest or their own?
That’s one of the reasons why I rely so heavily on reviews. Before I purchase something, or try a new restaurant, I first check the reviews from several websites to see if it’s any good. If it gets a four out of five or higher, I usually will go with it. If it’s lower, then I’m thinking it’ll probably not be the best place.
Checking reviews gives me a sense of equal footing with whatever I’m going to purchase. It gives me an understanding of what to expect, and can I trust that this is the best option for me.

And that’s where we come to our third week in our Descent series, a place of trust. Can I trust God? Are the reviews on him good? Is he working for good things in me, or is he like that car salesman, making a good show of it all, just to reel me in?

So if you have your Bibles we’re going to be in two passages today. The first one is the book of Job chapter 9. The second one will be the Gospel of Luke chapter 19. 

As we’re opening up to Job chapter 9 and Luke 19, let’s find ourselves, where we’re at in the Descent series so far. In the first week of our series we talked about the purposefulness of God’s creation. How, unlike other creation accounts, and even by today’s modern atheistic view, this universe was no accident. It was purposefully made by God out of a desire to do just that. This answers humanity’s greatest question of, “Why am I here,” with a fulfilling answer of, “Because God desires you and has purpose for you.” We have to understand God’s descent of a purposeful creation out of his desire to better understand Christmas.

That brings us to last week, where we talked about how, even though God created everything good, we, through our desire to do things our way and not God’s, have broken our relationship with God. These things we do that put us at the center and shove God to the side, is what God calls sin. And that sin has created a rift between us and God. But the story of the Old Testament, is the story of a Father trying to mend his relationship with his children. Time and time again we see God descend to humanity to fix what humanity has broken, and it seems to work for a little while, until again, humanity choses to go it’s own way, and breaks the relationship once again.
And it’s this cycle of God trying to mend, and humanity rejecting that we see throughout the pages of the Old Testament. And so God seeks a permanent fix for the problem.

Let’s pick up the beginnings of this fix in the book of Job, chapter 9, starting in verse 1.

Now for a little context, Job has had everything ripped away from him. His family and his wealth have all been destroyed. And now, as Job sits in agony, his friends add to his suffering by saying it’s all his own fault. But we know as the reader, that that’s not true. It’s Satan’s fault Job is in the predicament that he’s in. In fact, it’s because of how righteous Job is in God’s sight, that Job is where he’s at. And Job maintains this idea that he is innocent, yet the bad keeps happening to him. And it’s in chapter 9, that we see Job’s desire to speak with God face to face. 

“Then Job replied ‘2 Indeed, I know that this is true. But how can mere mortals prove their innocence before God? 3 Though they wished to dispute with him, they could not answer him one time out of a thousand.’”

Job is wrestling with this idea about bringing his case before God. Asking, how can a mortal prove his innocence before God. In the verses that follow this question about bringing his case before God, Job continues on describing how powerful and mighty God is. So how can a person who is powerless, come before the One with the most power? How can a just case be carried out? We pick up his thinking in verse 14.

“How then can I dispute with him? How can I find words to argue with him? 15 Though I were innocent, I could not answer him; I could only plead with my Judge for mercy. 16 Even if I summoned him and he responded, I do not believe he would give me a hearing.”

Job’s view of God is almost like that of the stereotypical car salesman. Job is wrestling with this idea that, how do I know that God he would be just? Job’s thinking, even if I’m innocent, in a situation where I’m not in control, where I have to rely on someone else for judgement, how can I trust that God will be fair? Job even brings this up in verse 29, “Since I am already found guilty, why should I struggle in vain?”
Job is consigned to the fact that even though he is innocent, God has made him guilty. And I don’t know about you, but sometimes it can seem like God is being unfair. God has already judge me guilty and now I’m just carrying out an eternal sentence of pain and suffering.
But then something happens, one of the most profound things Job can say, he says starting in verse 32.

“32 He is not a mere mortal like me that I might answer him, that we might confront each other in court. 33 If only there were someone to mediate between us, someone to bring us together, 34 someone to remove God’s rod from me, so that his terror would frighten me no more. 35 Then I would speak up without fear of him, but as it now stands with me, I cannot.”

This is profound, this is ground breaking, this is Christmas! Job sees the need for God and him to meet. But Job understands that since he is human and God is divine, there’s no way for him to be on an even playing field with God. But, Job thinks, what if there was someone? Someone who was both equal to God, and equal to man? Then, then the pleas of Job could be heard, and the relationship could be mended. 

And this is Christmas, God fulfilling this need for there to be a bridge between humanity and God. 

This is why the Bible says, “(Jesus) Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; 7 rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. 8 And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself (Philippians 2:6-8a)…”

See in the Gospel accounts, Jesus again, and again, and again uses language that references him being God. In fact, about 180 times Jesus references himself as God. From being the source of healing (Matthew 8:7), to being the true source of life (John 6:35). But one of the most interesting things I have learned in the last couple of weeks has to deal with Jesus’ preferred title for himself. See Jesus uses this title of Son of Man, which he connects with a vision from the book of Daniel in the Old Testament. 
In the vision Daniel says this, “13 In my vision at night I looked, and there before me was one like a son of man, coming with the clouds of heaven. He approached the Ancient of Days and was led into his presence. 14 He was given authority, glory and sovereign power; all nations and peoples of every language worshiped him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that will not pass away, and his kingdom is one that will never be destroyed.”
What was interesting is that in the ancient Middle East area another god, Baal, was called the Cloud Rider. When Daniel says he sees one like the son of man coming in the clouds, who is given authority, what he is seeing is God subverting the false god Baal, and saying, no it is the God of the Bible who is the cloud rider. And it is this divine person riding on the clouds that is in appearance like a human who will have everlasting authority over everything.
This is who Jesus says he is. The cloud rider, the divine person who has descended and become like humanity. Jesus is God who puts on the flesh of you and I and fulfills the desire of Job to have one that is equal to both God and man, who can finally bridge the gap and bring a lasting fix to the relationship problem. 

And this is where we move over to Luke chapter 19, because the reality is there’s more to it than just God coming to be with humanity. In Luke 19, we see just how far Jesus is willing to go.
The story goes that a tax collector, one of those dishonest car salesman types, invites Jesus to his house for dinner, and the people around him say this in verse 7, “He has gone to be the guest of a sinner.”
The people saw this tax collector, they hated him, he was slimy, and dishonest. He was a representation of everything wrong with their society and the government. People like him were so hated by the community that they couldn’t be a part of the synagogues, or a part of any religious festivals. They were rich, but they were limited in the people they could associate with. 
Yet Jesus was his guest. Jesus moved past the sin. Jesus moved past the social rejection, and the broken relationships it caused. Jesus moved past the brokenness of this person’s life and met with him.
And at the end of Jesus stay there, and the tax collector’s desire to restore a right relationship with the people by giving away his money, Jesus says this in verse 9, “Today salvation has come to this house, because this man, too, is a son of Abraham. 10 For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.”

This is God’s desire, to seek and save us. To bring us back into right relationship with him. And so what does God do? He comes down to us. The Son is sent, takes on human flesh. He eats with us, he drinks with us, he cries with us, and he does it so that our relationship with him would be mended. This is why a disciple of Jesus’ says this about him, “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are--yet he did not sin (Hebrews 4:15).”

But Jesus even goes one step further, not only does he come down to humanity fulfilling Job’s desire for there to be a bridge between us and God, Jesus does something he shouldn’t, he makes things right, without a thing from us.

The whole thing of sin, is that a payment has to be made to make things right between us an God. It’s almost like credit. We have run up a credit with sin, where we have taken more than we can pay back. Sin is taking what isn’t ours, and death is the collection company. Our very death is the payment for doing things our way, and using what God has given us in the wrong ways. Lying, cheating, murder, gossip, sexual promiscuity, and the like are sins that cause us to be in debt to sin. And death is the only payment it will take.
But God wants his creation back. He wants us back to where we were when he first created us. A people that are with him in a close relationship. A relationship that is both fulfilling and loving. Where all our needs are met in God.
So what does God do? The Son becomes like us, so that he can pay the collection company. Jesus gives his life to pay our sin’s debt. It would be like one of those reviewers I check to see if a restaurant is good, coming in and paying my bill for me. Except Jesus’ sacrifice is to bring us out of death’s grip, and into God’s eternal life.
And what do we have to do? Accept it. We accept our sin, and we own it, not giving it excuses but actually being truthful that we are sinners, and it is us who have broken relationship with God. Then we accept that God paid our debt through Jesus. God became fully human, so that he could die for our sins, and mend the broken relationship that we caused. 
This is Christmas, that God descends to be with us, to be us, and to die for us. And then, after his death he raises from the dead. Linking Christmas and Easter as one descent and ascent of God. 

But that’s not the end. There’s still one more descent of God, and it’s the one that makes our decision about Christmas an eternal joy, or an eternal sorrow. And that’s what we’ll talk about next week in our final week of our Descent series.

But this week I want to challenge you with this thought: how has the descent of Christmas changed you? Are you still living your life in your own way, for your own desires? Maybe thinking that God is just a car salesman just out for his own good, and so you have to do good for yourself? Or has Christmas changed you, and moved you into a mended relationship with God? Understanding that God desires good for you, but that good can only come when you accept his gift of paying your debt off.

This is the challenge, because what we do with Christmas, leads us either into a eternity of joy, or an eternity sorrow. So what have you done with Christmas? 

Now may God reveal to you the bridge he made at Christmas through Jesus. Amen.

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Descent Week 2 - God’s Descent In Our Need


There are many natural joys that come from being a father of young children. When I’m gone for a long time at work, I get greeted as if I’m a conquering hero when I walk through the door. On top of that, even the most simple things can make them laugh. Just the other night, my wife was reading a story to the children on the couch. It was at a tense moment in the story where nosies could be heard off in the distance, and then the nosies stopped. For dramatic effect, my wife paused. At that moment I grabbed one of the kids and yelled. Everyone jumped in surprise, having a great laugh at being startled.
But with the joys of being a father, comes the harder jobs that have to be done. Probably the most frustrating of jobs is discipline. In fact, I recently had a quick conversation with a man who agreed that disciplining children is not something that we find enjoyable. Now I will say, I don’t mind it. It doesn’t bother me to discipline my children, because I know that to discipline them is to help them become who God created them to be. What I find frustrating about disciplining children, is when I walk through the door, and instead of the hero’s welcome, I find that I have to be the disciplinarian.
And I know from experience, and from other people’s experience, that waiting for daddy to get home to administer discipline, is not a child’s favorite part of the father child relationship either. Many a kid has heard the words, “Just wait ’til your father gets home,” and have dreaded every second until he arrives. And as a kid, there’s this thought that, even though your parent tells you they don’t enjoy disciplining you, they really secretly do. As if parents are wringing their hands, just waiting for the next time their child messes up, so they can discipline them. 
Now I don’t know about you, but the truth is, when I get a call, or a text telling me that when I get home I need to discipline one of the kids, I don’t like that either. Not only does it put me in a sour mood, but I also know that the chances of me being greeted warmly are probably zero.
But in order for my children to grow up, they need discipline. And my job is to be one of two disciplinarians in my family. So when I get home and I have to discipline, I do it, because in the long run, it will produce better lives.

And that’s where we come to in our second week of our Descent sermon series. A place where daddy’s coming home and the children know there’s discipline coming with him. But here’s the thing, there’s more to the discipline than punishment. There’s a heart behind the discipline that a lot of times, children and we miss. So if you have your Bible’s we’re going to start in Genesis chapter 3, but we’re going to jump forward to Exodus chapter 3.

And as you open your Bibles to Genesis and Exodus 3, let’s catch up from last week, so we can see where we’re at.

Last week we asked one of the greatest questions humanity can ask, “Why am I here?” Then we looked at four creation accounts from ancient civilizations to answer that question. Three of the accounts told us that the universe was in chaos, from there, war, or strife created earth, and/or humans. These three creation accounts therefore gave us the answer to, “why am I here,” with the answer, “by chance”. This works well with the modern atheist and naturalist belief, that tells us that we are randomly here, with no purpose as to why.
I don’t know about you, but this doesn’t sit right with me. Because it leaves so much on the table. Why then should I do anything? What then is meaning? The why’s continue, because these answers to the greatest question on earth, leaves us with a sour taste in our mouths, because they do not give a meaningful and satisfactory answer. 
But then we dove into the Bible’s account of creation, and we found that the Bible does give us a meaningful and satisfactory answer to the question. Because it shows us a very different creation. Where God creates out of a desire, and not by accident. That everything has purpose, and we are his image bearers.
And to understand that God is a purposeful Creator, is to begin to understand Christmas. But there is more to the story, and that’s where we come to Genesis chapter 3 today.

Now a lot of people know the story of Adam and Even and the eating of the forbidden fruit, where God gives the two first humans one rule, you can eat of any fruit in the garden, except for the fruit from this one tree. With that understanding, I want us to fast forward the story a little bit to the aftermath of eating the forbidden fruit. So let’s pick up the story in verse 7. So they eat the fruit and then it says…

7 Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves.
8 Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the Lord God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from the Lord God among the trees of the garden.
Here we see what a lot of parents experience on a daily basis. Kids do something they know they’re not supposed to do, and what action do they take? They hide. “Daddy is coming home, quick, clean it up, fix the broke vase, hide the food,” they say. Why, because just like children, Adam and Eve didn’t want what they knew was coming, a discipline.

Now if we continue on into the rest of the situation here, we find out that there is indeed discipline. There’s discipline for the serpent who coerced Eve into eating the fruit. There’s discipline for Eve, who fell for it. There’s discipline for Adam for allowing the whole thing to happen.
And it’s easy to look at God in this situation, and think, he flew off the handle. I mean, it was only one piece of fruit. Did God really need to discipline all of humanity for such a minuscule infraction?
And when we start down that line of thinking, it’s easy to see God as that mean disciplinarian that we’re waiting for as a child to come home. But if we look at God in that light we miss him, we miss the heart of the matter. 

To get at this the heart of God and understand hi side in the disciple that has to happen, to me, there’s no better place to see it than in Exodus chapter 3. Like the story of Adam and Eve with the forbidden fruit, the story of Moses and the burning bush is known by a lot of people. Moses sees a bush that is on fire, but isn’t being burned up, so he goes over to investigate it. It’s there in verse 4 that we pick up the story.

4 When the Lord saw that he had gone over to look, God called to him from within the bush, “Moses! Moses!”
And Moses said, “Here I am.”
5 “Do not come any closer,” God said. “Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy ground.” 6 Then he said, “I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob.” At this, Moses hid his face, because he was afraid to look at God.

Here we begin to see the heart of God for his creation. He sees Moses and calls out for him to come closer.
But, in verse 5 we see the broken relationship between God and humanity that happened back in Genesis 3. Adam and Eve usually walked with God with no barriers, but because they ate of the forbidden fruit, barriers between the perfect God, and the now corrupted creation were put up. Those barriers are what the Bible calls sin. In Moses’ encounter with God, we see that Moses cannot get any closer to God because God is holy, he is perfect, and Moses is not. God is perfect, but Moses is like his ancestors Adam and Eve, lost in sin. Moses murder someone, causing his own sin to put up barriers between himself and God.
In verse 6, when God introduces himself, Moses recognizes the broken relationship with humanity and God, and his own sin, this is why Moses hides his face. He’s not just physically hiding his face, but relationally as well. Just as Adam and Eve hid from God, so too, Moses hides from him. And it says, Moses was afraid. He understands the perfection of God, and his own imperfection.
And this is the child knowing he has done wrong, and here’s his father coming to the door. I have found my children underneath their covers hiding from me when I have to discipline them. I remember when I was around four years old, I gave another child a bloody nose. I remember running to my house to hide, because I knew I would be disciplined for what I had done.

And we could end there, with an understanding of God as this allusive, and tyrannical disciplinarian. We could end with this understanding that there is a separation between God and humanity. That we need to hide from the wrath of God. And you know what, many people do. Many people see the God of the Old Testament and see a vengeful, wrathful, angry God that is out to discipline humanity for crimes they had no hand in.
But if we do, if we stop there, we miss the heart of this Father. We miss the true purpose of the discipline. We miss the God who is not out to destroy us, but rather to restore us.

Verse 7, God says, “I have indeed seen the misery of my people in Egypt. I have heard them crying out because of their slave drivers, and I am concerned about their suffering.”
God tells Moses, I have heard their suffering, and I am concerned. I personally know the feeling of concern a parent has for their child. I see that very same concern from God.
But it doesn’t end there. It says in the next verse, “8 So I have come down to rescue them from the hand of the Egyptians and to bring them up out of that land into a good and spacious land, a land flowing with milk and honey…”

This is monumental. We saw last week that God came down to create, and to be with his creation. God descended to create out of a desire to do just that. At the beginning of today, we saw that humanity broke that relationship. It would be easy for God to wash his hands of us and move on. But no, God comes down again. He descends again, but this time it’s to seek to restore his relationship with humanity.
This is why Jesus tells the story of the Father with the Two Sons, or if you like, the story of the Prodigal Son in Luke 15 (11-32). I think of that story as concerning the Father more than the sons. The story is simple, a father has two sons. The youngest wants his inheritance, receives it, and leaves the family. Eventually the youngest son squanders the inheritance, and returns. And this is where we see the heart of the father. Since his son had left, the father had been watching for his return. And when the father sees the son in the distance, the father runs to restore the relationship.
This is what we see from God throughout the Old Testament. God descending to restore the relationship that we broke. Every time we do something that goes against God, we add to the breakage of the relationship that Adam and Eve began.
Yet, God continues to descend. God continues to run to us. God continues to hear our suffering and he is concerned.
The Old Testament is the story of the father returning home to discipline his children, and the children being in fear of him. But here is what we must understand about the father, this is what we must understand about God: the father doesn’t discipline because he wants to break the relationship, the child has already done that, no, the father disciplines to bring the child back into a right relationship with the family.
When I discipline my children, I try to end with two things: talking about the reason for the discipline, and a hug. Children need to know that their discipline is a result of their actions, not the father’s love. The father’s love is in the discipline, because through the discipline, the relationship is restored.
But there is a caveat, the relationship will continue to be broke, because we want our own way more than God’s. And so, we see God in the Old Testament descend again, and again, and again to mend the relationship we continue to break. This is the descent of God in our rebellion, in our need.
And in order to bring a finalized mending, God must descend again, but this time in a different way. This third descent of God is what we will talk about next week.

But for this week I want to challenge you with this: have you recognized your own rebellion against God? How do you hide your life from him? What things have you done, or are doing, that if your father came to you, you would be hiding under your covers?
I want to challenge you this week to search your heart, ask God to search you as well, and then talk to him about those things are you hiding. Remember, God desires to restore your relationship with him, not to beat you down. But we need to recognize in our own lives, what God calls sin, those things that we do that are opposite of what God wants.
And when we confess those things, Scripture tells us he is faith and just to forgive them (1 John 1:9). 
Let us recognize that God comes to us, even while we sin, even while we rebel because he is our Creator, caring deeply for those he has made out of his desire.

Let us look upon God as the father who comes home, and let us be a people who give him the greeting as the conquering hero, and love him as our disciplinarian. Because in both cases, he is there so that our relationship with him would be restored, and we would live a full and joyous life. 
Now may your relationship with your heavenly Father emulate the relationship of the Son, by the power of the Holy Spirit. Amen