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Showing posts with label Salvation. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Salvation. Show all posts

Monday, October 18, 2021

Love Never Gives Up

Introduction
If you followed football yesterday, you may know that Ole Miss beat TN.  Alabama beat Mississippi State.  Georgia beat Kentucky. Auburn beat Arkansas. LSU beat Florida. GT beat Duke.

You know, in a football game, there often comes a certain moment in a game where the tide turns for your team and the game is no longer winnable.  You can sometimes gauge when this critical moment comes, because you may see fans start leaving the stadium.  They know their team is beat at this point.  So they start leaving to get ahead of the traffic.

If you’re a true fan, you may hold on to hope.  You may think, “That’s Ok.  We can still get this back.”  And you’re rooting for your team and you’re hoping that they will retake the lead and win the game.  Then, the opposing team get’s another score.  And you’re frustrated.  But it’s still not over. You still believe—because you’re a true believer.  You believe your team can still pull out a win.  But the time is ticking off the clock and soon your down to the final minutes.  And you’re hoping beyond hope that your team can still do it.  Maybe you’re thinking, “If they get the ball back, and this happens and this happens… They could still do it. It’s possible!” You start running through different scenarios in your mind.  “It may take a miracle, but it’s still possible!”  But then the clock is down to the last minute, then the last seconds, and all your timeouts are gone…

I remember watching a few football games with my dad and older brother as a young kid, I would always be the last one to give up hope.  Dad and Nelson were older and knew the game better.  They could read the writing on the wall when the game was lost.  But I was young and na├»ve and I loved our team and was full of hope.  I would hold on till the last seconds.  But then our team would lose.  It was inevitable. 

Well, that’s football.  But love, according the 1 Corinthians 13:4-7, love is another story. Love never gives up.

1 Corinthians 13:4-7
Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.

The City of Corinth
This passage is from Paul’s first letter to the Corinthian church.  The Corinthians lived in Corinth, an important port city in Greece.  Corinth was especially important because it was located on the isthmus of Corinth—a narrow strip of land separating the Gulf of Corinth and the Saronic Gulf.  Ships could be carried over land about four miles on a special paved road made just for moving ships.  It saved a tremendous amount of time and money and was much safer than sailing 185 miles around the treacherous Peloponnesian peninsula.  Corinth’s strategic location made it a very wealthy city, and with it’s wealth also came debauchery.

Ancient Corinth was the home of the temple of the goddess, Aphrodite—the Greek goddess of love.  It was said that the temple employed 1,000 professional prostitutes to “help” the people “worship” Aphrodite.  (I guess that's one way to get people to church!)  

By the time Paul wrote his letter, Corinth had been taken over by the Romans, who converted the Temple of Aphrodite to the Temple of Venus (the Romans name for the goddess of love).  Both Aphrodite and Venus “are known for their jealousy, their beauty and for their affairs with both gods and mortals.”[i]

Study notes in the The MacArther Study Bible say, “Even by pagan standards of its own culture, Corinth became so morally corrupt that its very name became synonymous with debauchery and moral depravity. To ‘corinthianize’ came to represent gross immorality and drunken debauchery.”

Despite Corinth’s centuries of sin and debauchery and corruption of the virtue of love, God did not give up on them.  God sent Paul to Corinth in AD 49 or 50.  According to Acts 18:11, Paul spent 18 months discipling a group of new Christians who then formed the Corinthian church.  God is always working to save people and bring them back from the brink of destruction.  And it doesn’t matter how far gone they seem to be, God still cares.  We see this clearly in the Corinthian church.  From a city as wicked as Corinth, God established a group of Christians to be a beacon of God’s light.

But they still had a lot to learn.  The Corinthian church had some severely warped ideas of love—no wonder; they were a product of a city that worshipped the so-called “goddess of love” that taught love was only a carnal, consuming thing.  Paul wrote about the One True God’s love that is demonstrated in Jesus self-sacrificing love on the cross.  And Paul wrote “Love is patient and kind.”  It had to teach the Corinthians that real love is not jealous like the so-called love of Apphrodite or Venus.  And love “is not boastful or proud or rude.” So they shouldn’t fight amongst themselves about who was the most important or who was more spiritual or who was in charge.  And today we’re learning that “Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful…” just as God never gave up on the Corinthians, despite their centuries of wickedness and sexual immorality and moral corruption.  God's love neve gives up and it changes people's live and even changes the whole world.

John 3:16
John 3:16 is probably one of the most well-known verses in the whole Bible, and for good reason.  John 3:16 could be a summary of the entire story of the Bible.  “For God so loved the world that he gave His only begotten son so that whoever believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.”

The whole story of the Bible—from beginning to end—is the story of God’s love that “never gives up, never loses faith, and is always hopeful” that people will turn from their evil ways and return to a love relationship with God.  Throughout the centuries, while God is reaching out to people to beckon them to come back to Him, God is also setting up His plan to save the whole world.  The ultimate message of God’s love is given through Jesus Christ.  In Jesus, God came in the flesh to show the world His love.  He came teaching people the truth about how to live.  His presence brought healing and life—everywhere he went, the lame were made whole, the blind could see, and the deaf could hear.  Leprosy and deformity and demonic possession were banished.  And so, hoping beyond hope, God reached out to fallen humanity.  There is a way to heal your spirit!  There is a way to be made whole again!  There is a way to be saved!

And there was a tremendous sense of hope.  The Disciples followed Jesus.  And crowds of people heard his teachings and saw his miracles and they believed.  Could this be the Messiah who was sent to save us, even when it seems all hope is lost?

But They Crucified Him
Jesus came in love, but we crucified him.  Can you imagine the disappointment of Jesus’ disciples and followers?  Jesus was love.  He was hope.  They put all their faith in Him.  And then He was brutally murdered on a Roman cross.

Roman crucifixion was the most painful, humiliating, degrading way to kill someone.  It was intentionally designed to make a bold statement to anyone who dared challenge Roman rule.  Crucifixion’s message was: “We own you.  We can do whatever we want to you—any of you.  It doesn’t matter if you are a peasant, a religious leader, a king, or even supposedly a messiah or god, we can strip you naked and beat you to a pulp and nail you to a cross and hang you up to die and agonizing death that will take days while everyone watches in horror—including your mother.”

If ever there was a moment in history when the game was lost, it was on the Friday they nailed Jesus to the cross.  And I don’t care who you were or how much faith you had, everyone who saw Jesus die new the game was over.  Love had lost.

Some cried bitter tears.  Some got angry and cursed Jesus and spat on him.
Some just left, because they knew the game was over. Some ran away in horror and hid in shame.
Some just stared in disbelief.
How could this happen?  How can evil triumph over good?  What do we do now?

There’s a certain point in a football game that’s the point of now return—when the game is lost and there’s no hope to win.  But football’s just a game.  What do you do when it’s real life?

What do you do when the marriage really is over and ends in divorce?
What do you do when your son’s addiction finally takes him?
What do you do when cancer wins?
What do you do when the game clock of real life finally says zero and it really is over?
What do you do when Jesus is really dead?

A Childlike Faith
Jesus was dead and buried in a tomb.  A stone was rolled over the door. 
Soldiers guarded the entrance.  No one was going to get in. 
But Jesus was going to come out!  On the Third Day, Jesus rose from the grave!

With God’s love, true love, divine love, there is always hope.  1 Corinthians 13:7 says, “Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful…”  Love never fails.

Jesus said, “I tell you the truth, anyone who doesn’t receive the Kingdom of God like a child will never enter it.” (Mark 10:15)

Children often have more faith than adults.
Adults know better.  We know how the game of life works.  We know when the game is over—even if the clock hasn’t finished running out.  We think we know when all hope is lost and how it will all end.
But children believe in magic.  They believe in hope.  They still believe in miracles.
And God can work through miracles.  He saved the world through a miracle.
Jesus was dead, but then He was alive!
Jesus can save you with a miracle.  

So, we need to be mature and use our intelligence, but we also need to keep our childlike faith.
“Humanly speaking, it may be impossible.  But with God, everything is possible.” (Matthew 19:26)

Invitation
I want to tell you something though. 
Sometimes you've got to lose before you can win.
Sometimes you've got to die before you can rise to new life.
There may be something you've got to let go of before God can give you something new.
Do you trust Him?
Open your heart. 
Let go. 
Let God do a new thing in you.



[i] http://www.differencebetween.net/miscellaneous/culture-miscellaneous/difference-between-aphrodite-and-venus/

Monday, September 27, 2021

Love is NOT Irritable

Introduction
Kelly and I thoroughly enjoyed our trip to Puerto Rico last weekend as we celebrated our 27th wedding anniversary.  Thank you for allowing me the freedom to be away.  It was a much-needed vacation.  Puerto Rico was a beautiful, interesting place.  I learned so much about it.  Puerto Rico is an American territory and Puerto Ricans are proud America citizens.  The island has a distinctive Latin/Caribbean vibe, but it is also very much American.  90% of the people we met spoke perfect English.  And they live very much like Americans on the mainland.

There was one exception.  As we drove to the airport to fly home early last Monday, we were driving on a major highway at about 4:30 in the morning.  As we came to the red traffic lights, cars would slow down a bit and then run the red light when they determined the intersection was clear.  Everyone was doing it.  I guess that’s just the way they do it in Puerto Rico!  I said, “Well, that’s not the way we do it in Georgia!  So I’m not doing it!”  But then I started to get really concerned, because we would be driving along at 65 MPH and I’m thinking if I stop, these cars behind me are gonna rear end me because they’re not expecting me to stop!  So, I started gingerly running the red lights too (because I didn’t want to cause an accident!).

That got me thinking about road rage. Road rage is a modern phenomenon where drivers get angry and lose control and lash out at other drivers because of stress and frustration while driving.  Most of the time, road rage only lead to verbal attacks (or the use of obscene hand signals).  But sometimes it even spills over into physical violence. 

Road rage is a modern problem.  I don’t think people were arguing, flipping each other off, and rudely tailgating each other’s camels in Bible times.  There’s something about being inside a car that makes otherwise polite, mild-tempered people feel empowered to lash out at other people in ways they would never act if they were face to face with another human being. 

We see something similar on social media.  People will sometimes lash out and call people names and speak rudely on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram in ways they would never act if they were with someone in person.  In past centuries, we might have been more polite and kept mean words to ourselves, because we were speaking with people face-to-face.  It wasn't necessarily that irritation wasn't deep down in people's hearts, but they didn't express it.  Then came the telephone where you could speak to someone miles away—maybe an operator or customer service rep you would never meet face-to-face, and suddenly people felt safer to berate someone over the phone.  Now, people are mean to others over the internet.

Anger, irritability, and unloving attitudes often hide down deep in the human heart.   But what the world needs is love.  And the kind of love our world needs is revealed in the Bible in 1 Corinthians 13:4-7.

1 Corinthians 13:4-7
Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.


Love Is NOT
Last week, David did a wonderful job teaching that love is NOT jealous or boastful or proud.  Today I tell you, Love is NOT rude.  It does not demand its on way.  And, It is NOT irritable. 

Someone who is irritable is grumpy, easily annoyed or made angry.  They are like the road raging driver who is so quick to lash out with angry words at the annoying driver who’s driving too slow in front of them (or stopping at a red light in the middle of the night in Puerto Rico while everyone else is running those red lights). 

People can get irritated when they don’t get their own way.  Irritated people are impatient and can be down right rude.  One person’s rudeness irritates someone else who then lashes out at someone else.  Before long, everyone is irritated.  And irritation and anger are slippery slopes where people sometimes slip down to rage and violence.

Real love puts a stop to it all.  When we love—really love the way God loves us—we find that love “does not demand it’s own way.”  And love is not irritable, but rather is easygoing, patient, and gentle.  Jesus once used love to quench a spark of irritation among His disciples.

Luke 10:38-42
38 As Jesus and the disciples continued on their way to Jerusalem, they came to a certain village where a woman named Martha welcomed him into her home. 39 Her sister, Mary, sat at the Lord’s feet, listening to what he taught. 40 But Martha was distracted by the big dinner she was preparing. She came to Jesus and said, “Lord, doesn’t it seem unfair to you that my sister just sits here while I do all the work? Tell her to come and help me.”

41 But the Lord said to her, “My dear Martha, you are worried and upset over all these details! 42 There is only one thing worth being concerned about. Mary has discovered it, and it will not be taken away from her.”

Most people have experienced a situation like this.  Are you typically Mary or Martha in the story?  Are you the one doing all the work or the one sitting their having a good time? 

Martha was annoyed that she was doing all the work while her sister, Mary, was sitting at Jesus’ feet.  She got irritated and went to Jesus to complain.  I want you to notice verse 40.  She goes to Jesus and calls him “Lord”.  That’s a good way to start—recognizing that Jesus is the sovereign Lord of all.  But then, in frustration, she accuses the Lord.  She asks a question, but it’s not really a question.  She asks, “Doesn’t it seem unfair to you that my sister just sits here while I do all the work?”  Martha uses the question to point out what she thinks should be obvious to Jesus.  Really she was accusing Jesus saying, “My sister is making me do all the work and you aren’t doing anything about it!” And then she proceeds to try and tell the Lord what to do.  (That's pretty brash!)

I don’t want to be too hard on Martha.  She was a good woman.  She welcomed Jesus into her home.  She was being a good hostess, making sure everyone was fed—and it had to be a big meal.  There were a lot of mouths to feed—Jesus and all his disciples (that’s 13 people), plus there may have been other’s accompanying them.  It could have been a gathering of quite a few people. And Martha is trying to take care of everyone while her sister is sitting at Jesus feet.  (Sisters really know how to annoy each other, don’t they?)

Thankfully, Jesus didn’t get irritated with Martha.  He loved Martha (and her sister, Mary).  Rather than escalating the situation, Jesus said the truth in a gentle way.  He speaks tenderly, “My dear Martha…”  It’s a very tender way to rebuke her.  He knows her name and she’s dear to him.  Jesus appreciates what she’s doing—or at least he appreciates she is trying to help in the best way she knows how, by taking care of the meal.  But Jesus also conveys that what He really wants, the food that truly feeds him, is to teach and to have students soaking up the Good News about God’s Kingdom he came to give the world.  Mary is sitting at Jesus feet listening.  She has chosen the most important thing.  While Martha is “worried and upset over all these details”, Mary is sitting in the listening at the feet of God’s only begotten Son. 

My Way, Highway
Love does not demand its own way.  When we try to demand our own way, we are easily frustrated. When we are frustrated, we become irritable. When we’re irritable, we are rude. We might even say something for which we’ll be sorry later.  We might even go to the Lord, like Martha, and try to rebuke him saying something like:  “Now listen here Lord!  You should’ve told so-and-so to do what I wanted them to do.”  In that moment, we’re not loving God.  We’re not loving our neighbor. 

When we act like that, we’re being selfish and demanding our own way.  Our “own way” might not be the most important way.  It may not even be the right way.  We’re so distracted by all our plans and concerns that we don't care.  We’re not thinking of anyone else.  That's not love.

Martha was so distracted and concerned by all the details of fixing a big dinner for her guests that she missed the main point of the gathering, which was to spend time with Jesus.  The best hosts I’ve ever known—people who truly have a gift for hospitality—know how to make people feel welcome.  They don’t get so wrapped up in the details of serving that they lose sight of the people they are serving.  Exceptional hosts always keep the main thing the main thing. And the main thing is the people they are hosting.  The food, the setting, and everything else supports the people and if they they don't, they are simply discarded. 

When we get so wrapped up in accomplishing all our own big plans, we may not even notice our big plans have nothing to do with what Jesus really wants.  And who’s plans do you think are more important—ours or Jesus’?

So if you find yourself “demanding your own way”, it might be a good time to check yourself and ask: “Have I drifted off course here?  Does it really matter?  Why am I so upset and frustrated?  What’s the main point of all this anyway?  Have I abandoned love in this circumstance for the sake of something I really want?  Am I demanding my own way?” 

Conclusion
The kind of love our world desperately needs is "patient and kind.  It is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude.  It does not demand its own way.  It is not irritable."  That’s only half the definition of real love from 1 Corinthians 13, but can you imagine how much better our world would be if everyone just lived out this first half of 1 Corinthians 13's definition of love? 

Well, if you are a Christian—if you call Jesus Lord—you are called to live this way.  The early Christians changed their world with this kind of love.  They started out as just a handful of people living in a hostile, unloving, unchristian world, but they didn’t let that stop them. 

You see, Jesus didn’t say, “Go out there and only love the people who are loving to you.”  No, Jesus said, “Love everyone.” He even said, “Love your enemies.  Pray for those who persecute you.”  And that’s what those early Christians did and it changed their world.

And that’s what Christians are called to do today—to love everyone, even our enemies.  When we do, it changes our world and makes it better.  So we need to get out there and do it. 

Maybe you aren’t a Christian, yet.  Maybe you haven’t decided to follow Jesus.  I would like to invite you to start today.  Jesus loved you so much he gave His own life for you.  And there is no greater love than this.  His love is so deep and powerful it can set you free from sin and shame.  It frees you from the wounds of the past and gives you a whole new future.  You can make a fresh start through Jesus' love.  Jesus’ love will change your live and empower you to change others too.  

You see, Jesus has already won.  And if you decide to follow him, you are included in His victory too.  There won’t be anything this world can do to you, because you’ve already won.  You have nothing to lose, because you've already been crucified with Christ and risen to new life and you have the greatest reward anyone can ever receive--eternal life.  So you have nothing to lose!  Even if the evil forces of the world kill you, they still can’t defeat you because you have eternal life.  Living is serving Jesus and sharing His love with the world.  Dying is going Home to live forever celebrating Jesus love in the holy presence of God, where there will be no more sickness or sorrow or suffering or death.  For as the Bible says in Philippians 1:21, “Living means living for Christ, and dying is even better.”

Why don’t you make a choice to be a Christian and follow Jesus today? I invite you to pray to Jesus right now and ask Him to forgive you and accept you as His follower.  He will save you and give you Eternal life and also fill you with His Holy Spirit who will guide you to live for Him and His Kingdom.

Monday, July 19, 2021

The Names of God - Yahweh-Rapha

Introduction
As we continue through our message series about the biblical names of God, we come today to the name Yahweh Rapha, which means “The Lord who heals.”  As we begin, I want to turn your thoughts to the idea of healing.  What does it mean to be healed? Is there something for which you need healing?

In our modern world, we tend to separate physical, spiritual, and mental healing.  Somehow, we’ve come to believe they are three separate spheres.  Even though we appreciate the interconnectedness of the mind, body, and soul, we still treat them as three separate and practically unrelated parts of a person’s life.  Doctors work primarily to heal the body with little or no concern for spiritual matters. Pastor’s focus on saving souls, but do little to address physical health.  And we still haven’t figured out mental health is inseparable from physical and spiritual health.

Modern people arrogantly believe we are better informed about everything than people in past ages.  However, the ancients were not ignorant of the interconnectedness of mental, spiritual, and physical healing.  In fact, they would not even describe them as interconnected because they would not even conceive of them as separate issues. What was true then is true now.  Healing—true healing—is encompasses every aspect of life--een extending beyon the individual person to the community and even creation.

We can sense the wholistic healing power of God in the Exodus story.  God delivered the Israelites from slavery in Egypt.  He convinced Pharaoh to let God's people go free and God lead them to freedom through the Red Sea.  However, just because the Israelites were no longer in physical bondage doesn’t mean they were free in their own hearts and minds.  Their people had spent 400 years as slaves in Egypt.  One does not simply stop thinking like a slave overnight.  It requires healing and that healing may take generations to take full effect.


Exodus 15:22-26
22 
Then Moses led the people of Israel away from the Red Sea, and they moved out into the desert of Shur. They traveled in this desert for three days without finding any water. 23 When they came to the oasis of Marah, the water was too bitter to drink. So they called the place Marah (which means “bitter”).

24 Then the people complained and turned against Moses. “What are we going to drink?” they demanded. 25 So Moses cried out to the Lord for help, and the Lord showed him a piece of wood. Moses threw it into the water, and this made the water good to drink.

It was there at Marah that the Lord set before them the following decree as a standard to test their faithfulness to him. 26 He said, “If you will listen carefully to the voice of the Lord your God and do what is right in his sight, obeying his commands and keeping all his decrees, then I will not make you suffer any of the diseases I sent on the Egyptians; for I am the Lord who heals you.”

Jehovah-Rafa/Yahweh-Rafa
The Hebrew name of God is hidden in this passage.  I don’t know why they didn’t list it as they have in the previous passages we’ve read in this series.  To see the name, you have to look at the original Hebrew where God’s name in the text is Yahweh Rafa.  Some may pronounce it Jehovah, but most scholars agree Yahweh was the original pronunciation until the middle ages when people wanting to refrain from saying or writing God's proper name used the vowels from AdOnAI (the Hebrew word for Lord) with the Ancient Hebrew YHWH (or JHVH).  This produced Jehovah.  

Also, the second part of the name Rafa or Rapha can also be spelled/pronounced variously as Rafa, Rapha, Rophe, or Ropha.  The letters/sounds P and F are closely related and shift over time and in different regions in human language.  For instance in English we say "Father"; in Spanish they say "Padre"; and Germans say "Vater".  So Rafa could have been pronounced a variety of ways.

Ok, enough of the nerd stuff.  What does this have to do with healing?

Rafa means healing.  In the ancient, biblical sense it wasn’t just medical healing.  It was an all-encompassing, wholistic healing of every part of a person’s being.  And not just a personal healing, it was a healing for the whole community and even the whole world.  You may recall from the creation story in Genesis that all of creation was corrupted when Adam and Eve first sinned.  Our sin doesn't just effect us; it effects others and even creation.  Therefore, all creation needs healing.  Yahweh (the Existent One, the Great I Am) said, “I am the Lord who heals you.”

God wanted to heal the Israelites.  He wanted to change their thinking from slaves who lived with a scarcity mentality—just trying to survive day by day, hour by hour—to a people who trusted God completely and knew, in His love, they had nothing to fear.  He wanted them to know in their heart they were royalty and priests with the holy task of showing God to the whole world.

We see the Israelites' sickness in their spasmodic thinking.  Just three days after Yahweh miraculously parted the Red Sea and they walked across on dry land, the Israelites have lost faith and are complaining about the bitter water they’ve found at the oasis in Marah.  These people have a long road to find healing.

So God gave them many rules and traditions to guide them toward a wholistic healing where they finally accepted and trusted Yahweh as their creator and Lord.  These rules, which we call the Old Testament Law would also set Israel apart as a peculiar people who would represent God to the whole world—because God’s desire is that every nation and all people (even all of creation) would know Him and find healing and wholeness and deliverance from slavery to sin.

Yahweh provided for the physical needs of His people.  He showed Moses a piece of wood to throw into the bitter spring at Marah and it made the water good to drink.  Some translations say it was a tree, but the original Hebrew literally means a piece of wood.  It cold have been a branch or a stick; that makes more sense than throwing a tree into the water.  The wording is vague.  There was a very famous piece of wood Moses is known for carrying.  I like to think God told Moses to use his staff he to make the water of Marah sweet.  It was the same staff God turned into a snake to show Pharaoh God is more powerful than the Egyptian gods.  It was the same piece of wood Moses raised to part the Red Sea.  I I can imagine God answering Moses' cry for help about the bitter water by saying, “Hey, remember this?  Remember this simple piece of wood I used to do all those other miraculous things to save your skin?  Use it to make the water sweet!”  

How quickly people forget God's providence—even when we've been through something tremendous.  Traditions help us to remember and celebrate.  They can help us heal.  This past Sunday, Robert and Melissa Starling placed flowers in the sanctuary of my church.  It was a special occasion for their family.  You see, July 18th is the birthday of their son Harrison.  Harrison was born healthy but developed a virus within a couple of hours of birth and got terribly sick.  He did about a week later.  It was a terrible loss, as you can imagine.  However, God used that situation.  My wife was a nurse who took care of Harrison in the NICU.  And I hear that some friends of mine from Atlanta had a grandson in the NICU and wen to pray for hi and his family, and it turned out it was the same family my wife was caring for.  We prayed for healing, but it didn't come in the way we expected.  Harrison went Home to be with the Lord in Heaven.  And it took many years for Robert and Melissa to heal from losing their son (they are still healing).  But one way they have been healing is to place flowers on Harrison's grave every year on his birthday.  However, this year, the Starling family placed them in the sanctuary of my church because they joined as members of our church.  They were not attending church before Harrison's death.  But now, Melissa has transferred to my church and Robert has professed his faith in Jesus and been baptized along with their two sons who will be growing up learning about Jesus.  God has taken all these broken pieces and arranged them together into a beautiful mosaic of healing.  

Healing Isn’t Always Easy
Healing and growth aren’t always easy.  Sometimes they hurt.  Kelly and I listen to an amazing podcast by Radiolab about how a baby first starts to breathe.[i]

A baby spends 9 months inside the womb. 
Until the moment of birth, the baby gets all it’s blood through it’s umbilical cord.  So that useless scar everyone has on the belly that seems so useless, used to be one of the most important areas of your body.  Through it, the baby receives all the nurishment and oxygen it needs to live.  

Ababy can’t breathe because it’s living under water of the womb.  Their lungs are useless.
Then at the moment of birth, the lungs have to fire up and get to work.  There’s a door in the wall of the heart—between the left and right side of the heart.  In adults, the door is completely walled off, but it's open in unborn babies because the lungs aren’t working and the blood flows to the umbilical chord.  At the moment of birth, the door in the babies heart closes so the blood and oxygen stops flowing through their belly button and starts going through the lungs to exchange oxygen and carbon dioxide.  When a baby is born, it is wet and feels cold for the very first time in it’s life. It’s quite a shock to go from the perfect temperature of mother's womb to the cold light of day in the real world.  When that cold air hits the baby’s skin, the skin sends little signals to the baby’s breathing center in the nervous system and BOOM! the baby starts breathing and the door in the heart closes and the blood begins to flow to the lungs and the baby has a heart and respiratory system just like every other human being on earth.  It’s just one of a million of God’s amazing miracles that happens in our first moments of life, but as you can imagine, it’s incredibly shocking and painful for the baby.  Why do you think they come out crying?  Fortunately, that pain serves a purpose.  It’s vital.  Otherwise, we would all be flopping around 
like a fish out of water trying to breath through our belly buttons!

Healing and growth aren’t always easy.  Sometimes it’s very uncomfortable or just plain hurts.  I want you to know that you don’t go through that pain alone.  God goes through it with you.  Think about the Israelites wandering through the desert.  People sometimes think it was cruel for God to make them wander there for 40 years before entering the Promise Land.  Do you think they were going through that wilderness alone?  No.  God was right there with them.  He told them to build a tabernacle, a tent in which God would live with them.  God could have been in the glory of Heaven, but He chose to wander through the desert with a bunch of whiny, rebellious, sinful former slaves for 40 years.  He was with them.

When you are going through whatever painful suffering and healing you must face, remember God left the glory of Heaven to live among us in our broken world and even suffered the agony of dying on the cross in order to heal you and our whole world.  And God is with you in your pain now because He is Yahweh Rafa—the Lord who heals.  The healing of Yahweh is complete and wholistic.  It covers you from the top of your head to the bottom of your feet.  It penetrates to the very center of your soul and extends out to your family, to your community, and to the whole world.  Think of it, when you get your life right with God through Jesus, it effects stars that are trillions of light years away.  Furthermore, it’s not a temporary healing—as all physical healing is in this life.  God’s healing is eternal and leads to eternal life where there will be no more sickness or sorrow or suffering or death.

Along the way, God may give you some rules and traditions to follow.  These are not meant to restrict us from enjoyment, but are merely the roadmap to the perfect place we want to be--the place of healing and wholeness.  God knows how we should live because He designed us and every part of creation.  God heals us on every level of our being when we follow His perfect plan for life through Hus Son, Jesus the Christ.

Yahweh Rafa says, “If you will listen carefully to the voice of the Lord your God and do what is right in His sight, obeying his commands and keeping all his decrees, then I will not make you suffer any of the diseases I sent on the Egyptians; for I am the Lord who heals you.”

Invitation
So, I want to i
nvite you to pray for God's healing—a healing that encompasses every aspect of your life and ultimately leads to eternal life with God as Lord.  

Are you weary from weary and carrying a heavy burden?
Do you need to forgive or be forgiven?
Pray to Yahweh-Rafa, the Lord who heals you.



[i] https://www.wnycstudios.org/podcasts/radiolab/articles/breath

Monday, July 12, 2021

The Names of God - Yahweh-Yireh

Introduction
My message today is about one of God’s names:  Yahweh-Yireh, also known more commonly as Jehovah-Jireh.  Ancient Hebrew didn't have vowels, only consonants, which leaves a lot of room for interpretation on how to pronounce this ancient word.  Yahweh is spelled YHWH.  The letter Y can be pronounced as John or Yan.  Also, the letter W can be pronounced as What or Vat.  Therefore, Yahweh could be Jahvey.  Added to this confusion is that in the middle ages, Jews wanting to avoid saying or writing God's name would add the vowels for the Hebrew word Adonai in with the consonants of YHWH to render YaHoWaiH or JaHoVaiH, which is where we may get the word, Jehovah.  Most scholars believe the ancient pronunciation was closer to Yahweh.

Genesis 22:1-14
1
Some time later, God tested Abraham’s faith. “Abraham!” God called.

“Yes,” he replied. “Here I am.”

“Take your son, your only son—yes, Isaac, whom you love so much—and go to the land of Moriah. Go and sacrifice him as a burnt offering on one of the mountains, which I will show you.”

The next morning Abraham got up early. He saddled his donkey and took two of his servants with him, along with his son, Isaac. Then he chopped wood for a fire for a burnt offering and set out for the place God had told him about. On the third day of their journey, Abraham looked up and saw the place in the distance. “Stay here with the donkey,” Abraham told the servants. “The boy and I will travel a little farther. We will worship there, and then we will come right back.”

So Abraham placed the wood for the burnt offering on Isaac’s shoulders, while he himself carried the fire and the knife. As the two of them walked on together, Isaac turned to Abraham and said, “Father?”

“Yes, my son?” Abraham replied.

“We have the fire and the wood,” the boy said, “but where is the sheep for the burnt offering?”

“God will provide a sheep for the burnt offering, my son,” Abraham answered. And they both walked on together.

When they arrived at the place where God had told him to go, Abraham built an altar and arranged the wood on it. Then he tied his son, Isaac, and laid him on the altar on top of the wood. 10 And Abraham picked up the knife to kill his son as a sacrifice. 11 At that moment the angel of the Lord called to him from heaven, “Abraham! Abraham!”

“Yes,” Abraham replied. “Here I am!”

12 “Don’t lay a hand on the boy!” the angel said. “Do not hurt him in any way, for now I know that you truly fear God. You have not withheld from me even your son, your only son.”

13 Then Abraham looked up and saw a ram caught by its horns in a thicket. So he took the ram and sacrificed it as a burnt offering in place of his son. 14 Abraham named the place Yahweh-Yireh (which means “the Lord will provide”). To this day, people still use that name as a proverb: “On the mountain of the Lord it will be provided.”

Yahweh-Yireh
This is a strange and disturbing passage with which we should never become completely comfortable.  Anytime religious texts that promotes a loving and holy God commanding a person to sacrifice another human being, it should give us pause.  However, the passage reveals God’s name:  Yahweh-Yireh (or Jehovah-Jireh).

Yahweh means "I Am" or "I Am Who I Am".  In other words, God is who He is and we don't get to determine what He is like.  He created us in His image.  We don't get to create Him in ours.  God is the Great I Am.

Yireh means “see to it".  Vanilla Ice once rapped: "If there's a problem, yo, I'll save it."  God sees the problem and then sees to it and provides the solution.

People like there needs met.  In a world of uncertainty, it’s good to know we will have food to eat, shelter for warmth, companionship, etc.  Unfortunately, we always want more. 

I had an experience that illustrates this.  When my son was 2 years old, we were riding alone in the car and I had a really big bag of potato chips.  I decided we were going to eat as many of those chips as we wanted.  So I started eating and gave a chip to my son.  He loved it and wanted more.  SO I stated handing him chips one by one.  He would eat one and ask for another. I decided I would give him as many as he wanted, but I wasn't going to give him the bag and let him stick his grimy two-year-old hands in the bag.  After repeatedly giving Gavin chip after chip, he started asking for the bag.  I told him, he could have as many as he wanted, but only one chip at a time.  He couldn't have the bag.  He didn't like that.  He started to get upset and throw a fit.  He wanted the whole bag to himself.  He didn't want to have to depend upon me to give him each chip.

This is the human condition.  We don't want to depend on God or anyone else.  We want what we want and we want it independently.  We want things our way and leads to sin.  We see this from almost the very beginning of humanity.  In Genesis, we read how Adam and Eve in the Garden f Eden.  It was the very definition of paradise.  They had every thing they could ever want and it was perfect.  God said they could eat anything in the Garden except for the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.  This alone would be a test to prove their loving obedience to God.  But then a Satan slithers up to them as a snake and convinces them "God is withholding something good from you."  And they wanted it and they believed a snake instead of God.

I see this in the church sometimes.  People have everything they need—people in the church that care about them, people that sacrifice for them and love them unconditionally while overlooking their faults, and so many good things.  And maybe for a time, they will tell you “This church has been such a blessing…”   They will be fine for a time, but unfortunately it often happens that these same families start to want something more they feel the church isn’t providing—better music, better kids programs, whatever—and they go looking somewhere else or they just get bored with the church and stop coming.  For them, God and His Church are just something to use to get what they want or need. They consume the church as a product or a fruit; and when they are finished with it or what more, they will move on and consume something or someone else.  This is the human heart and it is incredibly wicked.  Jeremiah 17:9 says, “The human heart is the most deceitful of all things, and desperately wicked. Who really knows how bad it is?”

And so humanity finds itself broken and corrupt, with no way to be healed.  But God is Jehovah-Jireh, the God who sees the problem and the God who provides the solution.

Abraham and Isaac
It is passages like this Abraham/Isaac story that convince me the Bible was inspired by God.  Yes, God used people to write and compile the stories, but their work was guided by God.  If it had only been a human effort, the editors would have gotten rid of passages like Genesis 22 a long time ago.  The editing committee would have sat together and said, "Come on guys.  This passage makes God look really bad.  We need to get rid of it."  But God is not trying to make us like Him.  He is Yahweh.  He is who He is.  

This story has an important purpose.  One purpose is to disabuse us of our entitlement mentality.  Lest we ever begin to think of God as our personal Sugar Daddy in the Sky who only exists to give us stuff and make us happy, the story of Abraham and Isaac serves to shake us from our selfishness.  In the image of Isaac on the altar, we see the agonizing cost of our broken relationship with God.  We see the agony of a father (Abraham) poised to sacrifice his only son (Isaac) and we are appalled.

Many religions throughout the millennia have advocated human sacrifice (and even child sacrifice) as a method to appease or manipulate the gods.  Yahweh actually forbids and abhors human sacrifice in the Bible (Deut. 18:10).  Yahweh cannot be controlled—He is who He is and He is sovereign.

The story of Abraham and Isaac foreshadows what God has done for us. While other so-called “gods” (which are really idols and false gods or demons parading as god) entice people to sacrifice their children in order to get something, the One True God—Jehovah-Jireh/Yahweh-Yireh, the God who provides—gave up His own Son for us.  He did this, not because we deserved it, but because we desperately needed it.

Mt Moriah is Mt. Calvary
Many scholars believe (and I agree) that Mount Moriah, where Abraham laid his son on the altar, is the same location where thousands of years later Jesus, the Son of God, was crucified on the cross.  God wanted Abraham and us to know the agony He would go through to provide for our deepest need and the cost of our atonement.

Notice what Genesis 22:14 says, “On the mountain of the Lord it will be provided.”  These words were spoken 2,000 years before Christ was even born and died on top of Mount Moriah (what the Christians call Mount Calvary).  No one could have known that one day a Messiah would be born that John 3:16 tells us is God’s “only Son”.  No one could have known he would be called "the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world".  No one could have known that God’s Son would be bound and nailed to a cross for our sin.  No one could know this accept Yahweh-Yireh, who is the God who sees and provides what we really need.

God, Yahweh-Yireh, sees deeply into every situation and even far into the future and works out His perfect plans for us.  We must have faith like Abraham, especially when we don’t understand.  We need to trust God is providing for our truest needs.  And this is extremely important, because we feel like we have needs but we don’t always know what we really need.  We cry out to God in our perceived needs.  We pray for things we want and think we need.  We may even pray for things that seem reasonable and even noble—things like safety for our family, healing and health, etc.  And it’s ok to pray for those things.  But God really see our deepest needs and He provides.  And we have to trust Him because we can’t see the big picture and God’s providence may take forms we don’t understand.  We can’t even see what’s going to happen this afternoon and God is thinking thousands of years down the road.  He sees eternity and He wants you there with Him.  So we have to have faith—like Abraham—and listen for God’s voice and keep our eyes open.  God may provide a solution that’s just right there like a ram with its horns caught in a thicket.

Closing
What do you need today?  What do you really need?
You may not know.  You may have some idea.  You may think you know.
But maybe God has something to show you.  It could be a solution you haven’t seen before.
It could be that you’ve been looking at the problem all wrong.
God wants to give you new insight.
Ultimately, God has already seen to everything you really need for eternity.
On the mountain of the Lord it was provided in Jesus Christ on the cross.
Maybe you just need to accept it.
Well, I invite you to spend a moment talking to Yahweh-Yireh, the God Who Provides now.