Saturday, June 18, 2011

June 18

Acts 2:22, "...miracles, wonders, and signs..." Is there a difference? My father-in-law is doing a series at Christian Life Center in Williamsburg on this topic which created a curiosity in me about the distinctions between them. I had always thought of them as three words restating the same sentiment, redundant for emphasis. But they are in fact, each one, unique.

The word that is translated "miracle" is typically the word "dunamis." Vines defines it as, "...power, inherent ability, is used of works of a supernatural origin and character, such as could not be produced by natural agents and means." You will also find this word translated as "power" throughout the New Testament. When "miracle" is used for the translation, it is when a specific occurrence is being referenced, one that necessitated power of supernatural origin (see Matthew 7:22). If you want to see examples of where "dunamis" is translated "power" then see Mark 5:30 and Ephesians 1:19.

New Ungers Bible Dictionary has a great definition for miracles, "supernatural manifestations of divine power in the external world, in themselves special revelations of the presence and power of God."

"Wonders" is the typically a translation for "teras" which according to The Complete Word Study New Testament, "to watch, as that which for its extraordinary character is apt to be observed and kept in memory." You can find this word in Matthew 24:24 and Acts 4:30. The word "miracle" is the more general word, a category of sorts, in which "wonders" could be thought of as a subset. Not every miracle is a wonder but every wonder is a miracle. An example of a miraculous wonder is when we practice tithing, priority percentage giving, we have less according to the math but for everyone who faithfully does this, you know, we always end up with more! It is a miraculous wonder!

"Signs" is from the word "semeion" which according to TCWSNT, "valuable not so much for what they are as for what they indicate of the grace and power of the doer or his/her immediate connection with God." When you read Mark 16:20, Acts 14:3, and Hebrews 2:4, you will see how "signs" has a special meaning relative to the others although it often appears in a list with them. Again, not every miracle is a sign but every sign is a miracle. An example of a miraculous sign is Jesus' virgin birth. A miracle most certainly but more importantly, a sign for Jesus being the Messiah!

In Acts 2:37 we see a great example of a miraculous wonder in that Peter's sermon was just words, but words that were supernaturally empowered from on high, words that "...pierced to the heart..." and brought the listeners to a moment of surrender to God!

In Acts 2:25-28 we see a great example of a miraculous sign through the prophecy that David gave centuries before in speaking of the Messiah in Psalm 16:8-11.

May we be a people of miracles, wonders, and signs!!

Pastor Fred

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

June 14

Stage fright. Our daughter has her first recital this weekend and her big question is, "Will I get stage fright?" I am quite certain that is the least of her worries! If anything, we may have difficulty getting her off the stage!

In Acts 1, we find the crowd of people who just witnessed the ascension of Jesus suffering from a sort of spiritual stage fright, paralyzed by the moment, needing a bit of a push to start that for which they had been training, studying, and practicing for the last three years.

I believe City Life, our church, is a place where we have a responsibility to be like the two men in the white clothes (although we prefer jeans, flips, and t's!) who say to people, "Hey, stop gazing at heaven...we've got work to do and you have a part to play!" People are stuck. They have a vision and a hope to one day be in heaven but they have never begun the work Jesus expects of us all, to bring heaven to earth, now.

The very first thing they did was to begin meeting together, they created a spiritual community, they formed the very first church! They prayed together, worshiped together, were active in the community telling others about Jesus, they worked to sure up their leadership team, they held meetings, they met practical needs...and as we keep reading in Acts, so much more! Does this describe you? Does this describe your life?

Don't be stuck staring aimlessly into heaven! Find a church, be a part, get to work!

Pastor Fred

Thursday, June 9, 2011

June 9

“My Kingdom is not an earthly kingdom...My Kingdom is not of this world.” This is Jesus responding to Pilate, recorded for us in John 18, verse 36.

I wonder how that perspective would change our reaction to perceived moments of unfairness in life? When we are passed over for a promotion, when we are the victim of unscrupulous business practices, when we are the subject of neighborhood gossip, when our hard work goes unnoticed or worse, credited to another, when we feel neglected by our friends, when we are excluded from certain social circles, when we are judged prematurely... my kingdom is not an earthly kingdom, my kingdom is not of this world.

That perspective doesn't preclude us from feeling hurt, feeling disappointed, feeling sorrowful, even angry. It does however keep us from slipping into a place of self-pity, from regressing into an emotional state of defeatism, a life orientation that allows disappointment to always eclipse hope. We must be genuine and honest and courageous in embracing the emotion of the moment, allowing our hearts to feel deeply. But then we give those feelings in prayer to God, we give those feelings to trusted friends, we give those feelings to their proper place... felt, not followed. Truth must be what ultimately leads us, that my kingdom is not an earthly kingdom, my kingdom is not of this world.

That which I suffer in innocence here costs me nothing... my kingdom is not of this world.

Pastor Fred

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

June 8

In today's reading in 2 Chronicles 30 and 31, we find some beautiful examples of the expectation that God has of each of us to do our part in ensuring that there are vibrant, life giving spiritual families in our respective communities that gather for worship, embrace a life defining faith, and support a vocational clergy.

In verses 7-9 of chapter 30, God speaks of the people who refuse to gather for corporate worship as being stubborn, having abandoned God, and having become the object of His derision because they are refusing to submit to God's call to gather regularly for worship. The particular gathering in this account is to celebrate the annual feast of Passover. I love the instruction that God gives regarding the Passover in Exodus 12:4, that families who cannot consume an entire lamb by themselves, should join with other families so nothing is wasted. If Jesus is the Passover Lamb, and we know He is, then what kind of crowd do we need to be a part of consistently to rise to the measure of His life! Do you gather with a church each week? Are you experiencing the joy sharing in the worship of Christ with others?

Moving on to chapter 31, in verse 1 we find that for those who gathered, there was a personal revelation during that gathering that there were inconsistencies between what they professed in worship and how they lived at home. And immediately upon their return to their communities, they began to abandon aspects of their lives that they knew were a contradiction to their declaration of faith to live as a child of God. When you drive home after sharing in the worship of Christ with others, are you examining your life as the Holy Spirit leads to explore areas of inconsistency in your life, between your declaration of faith and your attitudes, your words, your life roles, your relationships, your habits, your character, your marriage, your parenting, your job...

Finally, again in chapter 31, verse 4, we find that the people took up the responsibility to take financial ownership of ensuring that priests and their families were supported so they could devote their time to meeting the spiritual needs of their respective communities. Part of gathering for worship regularly is in bringing your contribution so that the church you call home has the financial means to advance ministries and endeavors to care for the community and will be ready to care for you when you need them, and at some point, you will! But until your crisis arises, be a person who takes delight in knowing that the urgent needs of others are being attentively addressed because you cared enough to share what you have!

Go to church this weekend, share in the worship of Christ, live according to your faith, and give generously!

Pastor Fred

Friday, June 3, 2011

June 3

Did you see it? The Old Testament teems with imagery of the salvation we find in Christ alone!

In todays reading of 2 Chronicles 20, listen to the prayer King Jehoshaphat prayer...

"O Lord, God of our ancestors, you alone are the God who is in heaven. You are ruler of all the kingdoms of the earth. You are powerful and mighty; no one can stand against you! O our God, did you not drive out those who lived in this land when your people Israel arrived? And did you not give this land forever to the descendants of your friend Abraham? Your people settled here and built this Temple to honor your name. They said, Whenever we are faced with any calamity such as war, plague, or famine, we can come to stand in your presence before this Temple where your name is honored. We can cry out to you to save us, and you will hear us and rescue us."

Here we find the spiritual predicament of all humanity. Their political state mirrors our spiritual condition, helpless apart from divine intervention. Paul writes in Romans 7:24-25, "What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? Thanks be to God-
through Jesus Christ our Lord!"

And as we continue reading in the narrative of the battle between King Jehoshaphat's soldiers and the invading armies, we find that God supernaturally intervenes so that Judah's army doesn't even pull a sword from its sheath! Paul writing again, this time in Ephesians 2:8-9, "For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith - and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God - not of works, so that no one can boast."

And finally, we find that the armies of Judah spent 3 days gathering the plunder left behind by the invading army. So too as Jesus was in the tomb for 3 days, so that we might gather the greatest plunder the world could possibly ever receive, the spoils of the battle from an eternal realm, eternal life! Paul continues in both of the following... Romans 6:23, "For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord." And 1 Corinthians 15:54b-55, "...Death has been swallowed up in victory. Where, O death is your victory? Where, O death is your sting?"

We finish with 1 John 5:13, by the Apostle John, "I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life."

Do you?

Pastor Fred

Thursday, June 2, 2011

June 2

2 Chronicles 18:18-22 gives us a glimpse into heaven...and what we find there is terribly unsettling, but should it be?

We find an account where Ahab, the king of Israel has come to the end of the reservoir of grace that God has established for him and judgment draweth nigh! The text tells of a vision by the prophet Micaiah where God asks how might Ahab be influenced to go into battle to meet his demise. A "spirit" approached the Lord upon His throne and volunteered. We do not know if this was a heavenly being or possibly something evil (which is possible based on Job 1:6-12). And God ordained that a lying spirit be allowed to influence Ahab's pagan prophets to lead Ahab to his judgment, a plan that we see from the narrative was successful, once again seeing that providence is inescapable.

So, should this be troubling to us? Not if we have resolved in our hearts to, as Earl Palmer says, put the full weight of our lives on Him. Do we fully trust? We need not fear ever the acts of a our Sovereign God! If we are Jehoshaphat and find ourselves unintentionally caught up with an evil person, God rescues us! If we are Ahab, then whatever judgment that befalls us is due to us. God's will reigns supreme.

This account does not give us permission to engage in deceptive practices to manipulate others in our earthly schemes. We do not possess the wisdom necessary to execute such strategies. We know that lying for mankind is only and always evil from Proverbs 6:16-19. God is the only entity in existence who is accountable only to Himself to which we say as Jesus taught us, hallowed be His name, He is perfect in all His ways, even the ways that are forbidden to us.

Rather than being unsettled by this account, our faith in God should be buoyed! There is nothing that He cannot accomplish, there is no escape from His hand, may we all put the full weight of our lives in Him!

Pastor Fred

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

June 1

Ever heard someone say that what we need is less religion and more life in churches today? I appreciate the sentiment but the truth is that there will never be more life unless there is more religion.

Theology is what we believe about God. Religion is what we do in light of those beliefs. I would argue we live in a society that has an abundance of theology but is painfully void of religion, beliefs with few life implications, doctrine with minimal personal expression, convictions that are indiscernible in one's daily living.

Listen to 2 Chronicles 15:15, "All in Judah were happy about this covenant (to live out their beliefs, a religion reflecting their theology), for they had entered into it with all their heart. They earnestly sought after God, and they found him. And the Lord gave them rest from their enemies on every side." And then in 2 Chronicles 16:9a, "The eyes of the Lord search the whole earth in order to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to Him."

At City Life, we teach there are 6 pursuits that reflect a "whole hearted" and "fully committed" life in light our beliefs: devotion to Jesus, intimacy with God, care of one another, personal transformation, diligence in service, and a life empowered by the Holy Spirit. All of these are promised to us by Christ in His teachings. In fact, they are are related to 6 very specific commands He gave. There is the follow Me command in John 1:43b, the love God command in Mark 12:30, the love each other command in John 15:12, the transformation command in Matthew 5:48, the serve command in Mark 16:15, and the be empowered command in Act 1:8.

Another Bible is never going to be written. We have the sacred text that God intends for us to cherish. But this very Book speaks to our lives being contained in pages of books in Heaven (Psalm 139:16) and may it be that for each of us, our books mirror 2 Chronicles 15:15 and 16:9a, that we lived for God with all our hearts, found by Him to be fully committed, religious to the very end!

Pastor Fred