The Body of Christ
Sun, Jun 13, 2021
The way God designed our bodies is a model for understanding our lives together as a church: every part dependent on every other part, the parts we mention and the parts we don’t, the parts we see and the parts we don’t. If one part hurts, every other part is involved in the hurt, and in the healing. If one part flourishes, every other part enters into the exuberance. - I Corinthians 12:25-26 (The Message) I’ve sometimes said that I keep my God in a box, defining him with the terms and understanding with which I’m comfortable and which therefore limits my God. I’ve probably done the same thing with the church. If you’re like me, when you think of church, you probably first think of Hope Church at 1661 Balch Road in Madison. If you’ve moved from one city to another, you probably have a better understanding of church being the body of believers and even understand some of the diversity in the body. If you’ve attended churches of different denominations, you may have an expanded understanding of how the denominations differ and opinions about what this means. This week we will look at the second sentence in the EFCA’s Statement of Faith on the Church: We believe that the true church comprises all who have been justified by God's grace through faith alone in Christ alone. They are united by the Holy Spirit in the body of Christ, of which He is the Head. The true church is manifest in local churches, whose membership should be composed only of believers. The Lord Jesus mandated two ordinances, baptism and the Lord’s Supper, which visibly and tangibly express the gospel. Though they are not the means of salvation, when celebrated by the church in genuine faith, these ordinances confirm and nourish the believer. Won't you please join us on Sunday at 10am, either in person or online, as we explore this statement. We’ll dig deeper into Ephesians 4:1-16 and 1 Corinthians 12:12-31 to better understand what this means.
This is the Church
Sun, Jun 06, 2021
For through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father. So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit. Ephesians 2:18-22 (ESV) Jesus declared, “I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” The church is Jesus’ very purpose, His mission on earth. The Bible teaches clearly what his church is, but how clearly do we understand what the church is? What Jesus means by His church and what our culture understands may be two very different things. Who belongs to the church? What does it take to be part of it? And what does it do? The true church of Jesus is under attack on many fronts, some subtle and some not so. The past year of suffering the consequences of COVID-19 have challenged the very existence and health of the church. We have, due to God’s grace toward us (of which the results of the vaccine are a part), been able to return to unrestricted meeting. With grateful hearts we can renew our purpose as a church and seek the Lord together to live for eternity as part of His church. This summer we will focus on renewing our understanding of Jesus’ church and its life. The Elders want to invite you to join us on a journey of renewal of understanding and practice of everything Jesus meant when he told us he was about building his church.
Here is the Church - Introduction
Sun, May 30, 2021
For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures. I Corinthians 15:3-4 (ESV) In God We Trust You've probably heard or seen that somewhere, right? Most of us probably don't remember a time when our national motto (adopted in 1956) wasn't printed on all of our coins and paper currency. Our national motto encapsulates the beliefs and ideals which we want to guide our Nation. The Nation of Israel had similar, though not formally adopted 'mottos'. The Shema (שְׁמַע יִשְׂרָאֵל יְהוָה אֱלֹהֵינוּ יְהוָה אֶחָֽד׃), which serves as the centerpiece of morning and evening Jewish prayers, captures the monotheistic essence of Judaism, "Hear, Israel, the Lord is our God, the Lord is One." Additionally, tucked away near the end of the song David composed to celebrate the Ark of the Covenant being brought to the tent he'd pitched for it in Jerusalem, is another phrase which became regularly used throughout the rest of Israel's history. 1 Chronicles 16:34 summarizes the nature of God as He revealed Himself to Moses on Mount Sinai, "Oh give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; for his steadfast love endures forever!" The historic Christian church has similarly composed and used creeds and confessions to make a formal statement of our beliefs as Christians (think of the Nicene Creed or the Apostle's Creed.) This Sunday, we'll enjoy an extended time of musical worship and have a shorter sermon to introduce our summer series "Here is the Church". We'll briefly examine the purpose of a creed or confession and how they inform and help us to understand what we believe about what 'the church' is and how it acts corporately and what 'Christian living' is and what that looks like both corporately and individually. Sola Scriptura (by scripture alone) is a foundational doctrine by which all of our creeds and confessions are derived, so it might be useful to you to prepare for Sunday (and the upcoming series) by looking at some of the scripture passages upon which some of these historical creeds are founded. (e.g. I Timothy 2:5-6 and 3:16; Matthew 16:16; Colossians 1:12-20 and 2:9-15; Romans 10:9-10; John 1:1-3, 10,12-14; Matthew 28:18-20; Philippians 2:6-11; Mark 12:29-31 and I Corinthians 8:6 and 15:3-4)
The Undershepherd's Job Description
Sun, May 23, 2021
So I exhort the elders among you, as a fellow elder and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, as well as a partaker in the glory that is going to be revealed: shepherd the flock of God that is among you, exercising oversight, not under compulsion, but willingly, as God would have you; not for shameful gain, but eagerly; not domineering over those in your charge, but being examples to the flock. And when the chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory. 1 Peter 5:1–4 (ESV) When I was in seminary, we had chapel a couple times a week. There we would hear from professors, ministry leaders, and alumni. The books of choice to speak to seminary students were the pastoral epistles. That seems appropiate as Paul addresses young pastors. If there were favorite chapters that were taught, they were 2 Timothy 3-4. We were regularly charged to know and trust God's inherent Word and we were told to preach that Word boldly. All of that was helpful in forming us and our committments, but we heard these passages so often that a classmate and I made an agreement, that if for some weird reason we were called on to come back and speak, we would choose other places to preach. So what would I preach? This week I'm going to take you to that passage. It's one that I think has been overlooked to encourage pastors and elders. Why am I going there? Because as I step out of leadership for my sabbatical this summer, I want the leadership team and all of you to hear these important words. Will you take a few minutes to read through 1 Peter 5 to prepare your heart and mind.
Finding the Perfect Priest
Sun, May 16, 2021
For it was indeed fitting that we should have such a high priest, holy, innocent, unstained, separated from sinners, and exalted above the heavens. Hebrews 7:25–26 (ESV) Nothing lasts forever. To say it another way, nothing is constant in this world but change. These are truths that we know but don't like to admit to ourselves. Most of us are creatures of habit. We live in and even thrive in the routine. But when things change we can become unsettled and anxious. This is especially true when it comes to those who lead us. When a boss or politician or pastor changes, we wonder how our life will be affected. We might even long for the old way of doing things. We might miss the old person's methods or experience. This was, at one level, the fear of the recipients of Hebrews. They were familiar with the routine of sacrifice. They knew the traditions and methods. But they also knew about change. Priests served and then died. Another took his place. The new one might not have a heart for God. Some new priests even turned to alternative Gods. There was change. Enter Jesus. He shows up and changes things. He was outside of the prescribed law. However, as we saw last week, He was actually connected to a much older law and promise, and He eliminated one important thing - change. This week we will look at the rest of Hebrews 7. I want to encourage you take a few minutes to read through the chapter and consider the nature of Christ's intercession for you.
A Different Kind of Priest
Sun, May 09, 2021
For this Melchizedek, king of Salem, priest of the Most High God, met Abraham returning from the slaughter of the kings and blessed him, and to him Abraham apportioned a tenth part of everything. He is first, by translation of his name, king of righteousness, and then he is also king of Salem, that is, king of peace. He is without father or mother or genealogy, having neither beginning of days nor end of life, but resembling the Son of God he continues a priest forever. Hebrews 7:1–3 (ESV) I admit it. I'm a sucker for the 'new and improved'. You throw tech into something and I'm likely to give it a second look. Put a touchscreen on it and there is a good chance it's on my 'buy list'. There is just something about the shiny, glassy screen that draws me to it like a bug to a zapper. Newer doesn't always mean better though. Take for instance a toaster. You can now buy a techie toaster with a touchscreen for $300. (Yes, that's really a thing). What if instead you bought an indestructible toaster? It would not be flashy. In fact, it would be older tech, but bulletproof and would last for your whole life. Which would you get? Newer isn't always better. This week we look at the oldest priesthood in the Bible. We finally get the scoop on this guy Melchizedek. We will find out why he is so important and what he tells us about both the Old Testament and Christ. We will begin to see what kind of priest we really have! Take a few minutes to read Hebrews 7. If you have time, take a peak back at Genesis 14 to find the beginning of the story.
An Anchor for the Soul
Sun, May 02, 2021
We have this as a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul, a hope that enters into the inner place behind the curtain, where Jesus has gone as a forerunner on our behalf, having become a high priest forever after the order of Melchizedek. Hebrews 6:19–20 (ESV) I don't have sea legs. I seem to get seasick fairly easily. I've only gone deep sea fishing a few times, but the last time I did more feeding the fish than catching them. I guess I'll have to give up my dream of being the star of 'The Deadliest Catch'! The waves are a biblical metaphor for the nature of life. David in Psalms uses them as a picture of the unstable and dangerous ebbs of life. We seem to live in unsafe waters. The writer of the book of Hebrews has been warning us of our the danger to our souls while we navigate through. But now he says, there is an anchor. There is something that holds in the middle of the turbulence. There is something that keeps us from shifting. What is it? Who is it? Take a few minutes and read through the warning and comfort found in Hebrews 6 to prepare your heart and mind to worship with us on Sunday.
Apostasy and the Perseverance of Faith
Sun, Apr 25, 2021
Though we speak in this way, yet in your case, beloved, we feel sure of better things—things that belong to salvation. For God is not unjust so as to overlook your work and the love that you have shown for his name in serving the saints, as you still do. And we desire each one of you to show the same earnestness to have the full assurance of hope until the end, so that you may not be sluggish, but imitators of those who through faith and patience inherit the promises. Hebrews 6:9–12 (ESV) How do you get someone to move forward in life? Leaders, mentors, and parents often are working on a delicate balance of help, encouragement, and punishment. If you help and encourage all the time you risk never showing the danger and difficulty in error and the growth that failure brings. However if you punish and chide all the time, you risk discouragement and bitterness from those under your care. How you figure out the balance is part of the delicate art of leadership. This week we continue in the third warning passage from the writer of Hebrews. He is poking at the recipients to consider their life and pursuit of Christ and he is calling us to consider the same. We want to encourage you to take a few minutes to read through Hebrews 6 to prepare your heart and mind.
Grow UP
Sun, Apr 18, 2021
For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the basic principles of the oracles of God. You need milk, not solid food, for everyone who lives on milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, since he is a child. But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil. Hebrews 5:12–14 (ESV) The development of a child is amazing. Think about for the milestones in a the first year of a child's life. They come into the world knowing nothing and being able to do nothing. Over the course of time their abilities and skills multiply at an amazing rate. As a parent of an infant it can be an exhausting and hard process, but looking back, it seems like it all goes by so fast. When we don't see our kids developing mentally or physically we get concerned. When they lag behind we try and get them help for that deficiency. But what about our spiritual life? People come to Christ and then at times they seem to get stuck. They don't seem to mature. Their knowledge and their practice seems shallow. It reflects a minimum understanding of scripture. If they have crossed the line of faith, is it important to go further? This week in Hebrews we are confronted with another one of the writer's warnings. In simple terms he says, 'Grow up!' Take a few minutes to read through Hebrews 5-6 to listen to his warning.
Finding a True Mediator
Sun, Apr 11, 2021
For every high priest chosen from among men is appointed to act on behalf of men in relation to God, to offer gifts and sacrifices for sins. He can deal gently with the ignorant and wayward, since he himself is beset with weakness. Because of this he is obligated to offer sacrifice for his own sins just as he does for those of the people. Hebrews 5:1–3 (ESV) As a pastor there are certain expectations that come with the job. In a public gathering, I'm usually the one asked to pray. Sometimes people will ask random Bible questions. Other times people ask me to 'put a good word in with the man upstairs.' There is a general feeling that if anyone is close God, it must be the pastor. So while the concept of a priest may seem like a distant concept, there still seems to be echoes of it in our cutlure. We have a sense we are separated from a holy God and we need help to restore our connection and relationship to Him, but who and how seems to be fuzzy. This week we head back to Hebrews 5. This text will give us a clearer picture not only of who and what a high priest did, but it will also help us see that a high priest now exists that is greater than Aaron or those that followed. This one is far superior to any modern priest or pastor. Take a few minutes to read through Hebrews 5. See if you discover this One who stands between God and men.
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