Passover Sermon: Exodus 12 and Luke 22

Passover Sermon
Exodus 12 and Luke 22

 

Good Morning! Please grab your Bibles with me as we open up Gods Word. This is a special week for Christians. Today, the Sunday before Easter is known as Palm Sunday. This is when Jesus entered Jerusalem on a donkey and many bystanders laid down palm branches as a way of honoring Jesus. This would kick off the week known as Holy Week. Much of the Gospel stories take place during this week. We are going to especially focus on one of the nights of this week.
Jesus and his disciples met in an upper room on a Thursday night for a dinner celebration. The twelve that were with Jesus did not have any idea that this would be there last meal together. They had no idea that one of them was about to betray Jesus, that he would be illegally tried three times that night. They had no idea that he would die the next day and they had no idea the things that he would reveal to them that night. This was not an overly special week to them, with one exception. All they knew was that it was Passover, and they were there to celebrate.
Today we will take a look at the Passover we will look at a number of different texts, but if you want to open up your Bible, we will be starting in Exodus 12, and then moving over to Luke 22. When I read the scriptures, I will be reading out of the English Standard Version, though I encourage you to read along in which ever is your preferred translation.
To know about the Passover, to see why it was a celebration and how important it was to the Jews in that time, we need to start in Exodus 12. The setting of Exodus 12 is that the people of Israel were slaves to the Egyptians. God was done with that and was ready to free his people and bring them to the land that he had promised Abram 400 years ago. So, He told Moses to go tell Pharaoh to let the Israelite go. Pharaoh would not so God sent a number of plagues on Egypt to show his power and might and Pharaoh would still not let them go.
So, God decided to send one final plague. A plague that was so harsh, so brutal, that Pharaoh would not be able to stop the Israelite s from leaving. God was going to kill all the first-born males in Egypt. This included all the first-born Egyptian sons. This included Pharaohs first born son. This even included the first-born male cattle. And this was going to so complete and so total that it would have included the first-born male Israelite s, except that God gave them a way out.
Exodus 12 lays out the way out of this plague. Starting in verse 3, God tells Moses and Aaron,
“Tell all the congregation of Israel that on the tenth day of this month every man shall take a lamb according to their fathers house, a lamb for the household….” V.5, “Your lamb shall be without blemish…”, and picking up in v 7 & 8, “Then they shall take some of the blood (from killing the lamb) and put it on the two door posts and the lintel of the houses in which they eat it. They shall eat the flesh that night, roasted on the fire; with unleavened bread and bitter herbs they shall eat it.”
OK, so God told them how to eat a very specific meal and to wipe the blood of the lamb on the doors. But it doesn’t yet tell us that God will spare the Israelite s from this plague. But God then goes on to spell it out for them and us.
Starting at the end of v11, “It is the Lord’s Passover. For I will pass through the land of Egypt that night and I will strike all the first born in the land of Egypt, both man and beast; and on all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgments: I am the LORD. The blood shall be a sign for you, on the houses where you are. And when I see the blood, I will pass over you, and no plague will befall you to destroy you, when I strike the land of Egypt.”
God told them to sacrifice a lamb without blemish, and that the blood of that lamb would protect them from the wrath of God that would be poured out on the nation. More on that in just a little bit.
The LORD also went on to describe to the Israelites how they were to continue to celebrate this Passover celebration every year for all the future generations to learn as well.
We pick right back up in v 14, “ This day shall be for you a memorial day and you shall keep it as a feast to the LORD; throughout your generations, as a statute forever, you shall keep it as a feast.” and later in v 25, when Moses is telling Israel what the LORD told him about Passover, he shared this with them for the future, “And when you come to the land that the LORD will give you, as he promised, you shall keep this service. And when your children say to you, “What do you mean by this service?” you shall say, “It is the sacrifice of the Lord’s Passover, for he passed over the houses of the people of Israel in Egypt when he struck the Egyptians but spared our houses.” (v25-27)
God told the people that this was a joyous occasion, that he had spared them from this wrath and that they needed to celebrate it and teach their kids what had happened. Sometimes, in the church, we forget that our kids don’t know as much as we do about some of these things. We forget that they have not had the experiences that we have. In this case, the children would not have seen Gods wrath passing over the nation of Israel and sparing them. To this day, in the Jewish Passover celebration, the youngest child asks the question and the father then tells the Passover story.
I heard a quote a couple years ago. I don’t remember who it was that said it and I couldn’t find it this week, but they said, “What the first generation knows, the second generation forgets, and the third generation never knew.” What this is saying is that we need to constantly remember to teach our kids, not just church, but the gospel. This was one of Israel’s big problems throughout the Old Testament. Israel would turn to God and experience a revival, but within one or two generations, they were back to worshiping false idols and, as God puts it in numerous places, committing spiritual adultery on him.
God knows all this ahead of time and told the Israelite s that part of this yearly ritual and celebration was to pass the story on to the younger generation.
I also saw a quote recently that reminds just how smart our kids can be. It said, “As soon as we assumed that children were too stupid to figure out what the pastor was talking about, they were” Our kids are much smarter than we ever give them credit for and if we teach them and talk to them as if they are smart enough to get it, they will.

But this is also a reminder to ourselves. How many times, how often do we receive an answer to prayer, a miracle from God and we forget about it shortly after it happened? I know it happens to me all the time. And with big things even. Right after Hope and I got married, I lost my job and was out of work for 6 months. I happened to get placed in a company through a temp agency, and through circumstances that could only be brought about by God, I got hired on full time. Not only was this a job, but this was a job that paid well, and had great benefits. To be completely honest I would have taken a decent pay cut just to have had those benefits. But I would often forget how God arranged all this and I would take it for granted and I would look for other jobs and I would get frustrated there. Then something would remind me.
This is why the disciples were celebrating the Passover with Jesus on this Thursday night. To Remember. They didn’t know that the Jewish leadership was planning on arresting Jesus. Well, one did.
Luke tells is right at the beginning of Chapter 22 that the Jews were afraid of the people and that was why they were looking to put him to death. They were afraid of the people because Jerusalem was packed full of Jews traveling there to celebrate the Passover. Luke tells us earlier in his book, that the religious leaders had trouble coming up with ways to kill him because the people were hanging on every word to come out of his mouth. There was no way that all those people would stand for the arrest of Jesus. They would be whipped into a frenzy. It would become a mob mentality and there would be no predicting what would happen. So, to protect themselves, they would wait until they could encounter Jesus away from the crowds.
Even with the evil in their hearts, their preference was to not do this during Passover. They did it because the opportunity came up and they did it because they could not see who Jesus was.
Jesus revealed himself to be THE Passover Lamb. The New Testament shows us this in many places. John the Baptist saw Jesus walking towards him in John 1:29 and recognized Jesus for who and what he was. He said to himself, “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world.” It wasn’t just that John called him that that made it so. There were many reasons the scriptures point out. Exodus calls for the Passover lamb to be one without blemish. In 1 Peter 1:18-19, Peter says “You were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your forefathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect.”
The lambs that were chosen for sacrifice in the Old Testament times were very purposefully to be without blemish. We are blemished, we are sinful and full of defects. We are told that “The wages of sin is death.” (Romans 6:23) In the Old Testament, we would offer blood sacrifices to atone for our sins. But that was just temporary, we could not stay perfect, no matter how hard we tried. We needed someone who was perfect, who had no sin, no blame. The only person that could accomplish this was a perfect man. The sacrificial lambs were sacrificed in place of us to pay the temporary payment of our sins. Jesus was the Lamb that was sacrificed for our sins permanently.
While the blood on the door for the Israelites signaled for Gods wrath to Passover that household, so does the blood of Jesus on our hearts signals the wrath of God to Passover us when stand before him in judgment.
The Passover ended up being the final plague on Egypt. After the death of all the firstborns, Pharaoh wanted them to get out and they left. They were now freed from slavery. In the same way, we are slaves to sin. The New Testament is very clear on this. In the same way the Passover freed the Israelites from slavery of Egypt, Jesus freed us from the slavery of sin.
Now, as I said, the Israelites were commanded to pass along the tradition and celebration of the Passover. We are no longer under the law. On the night of the last supper, Jesus replaced the Passover celebration, and the Abrahamic Covenant was fulfilled in the New Covenant. But Jesus orchestrated the Passover to be the time when he was going to be crucified. In Luke 22:15-16, Jesus tells his disciples, “I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer. For I tell you, I will not eat it again until it finds fulfillment in the kingdom of God.”
What he is saying is that while Jesus is THE fulfillment of the Passover lamb and he secured freedom for us from Gods wrath, that freedom will not become totally seen until we are with God in Heaven.
He replaced the Passover meal with communion. Instead of eating of the Passover lamb, sacrificed and drained of blood, we are to partake in eating the bread, symbolizing the body of Christ, who was THE Passover Lamb and drink the wine which was the Blood of Jesus who was THE Passover lamb.
Instead of celebrating the freedom from slavery every year, we are to celebrate the freedom from sin and the freedom from eternal torment whenever we gather together. But that doesn’t mean that we are to forget. Hope and I enjoy celebrating Passover and Hanukah, some of the Jewish holidays. Of course, it is not required as it was previously, but, for me it helps make the Bible more real. It helps us to remember that Jesus is our Passover lamb. It helps us to remember that his blood allows Gods wrath to pass over us.
We forget that sometimes. If not intellectually than definitely practically. We all have things that become our practical Passover lamb, our idols, our practical saviors. For some of us, it’s that we are a good person. We think that is enough to save us. That was what mine was. For most of my life I figured I was a good enough person and that’s all that was needed. That is one that I still find myself struggling with at times.
For some of us, it’s our good works. If we do, do, do, if we help the poor, if we protest against abortion or homosexuality, the we can outweigh whatever bad we may do on the scales at the end. I’ve heard one pastor describe this as trying to wear the same set of white clothes for eighty years and trying to keep them pure and spotless. And I think that’s a good illustration, but it doesn’t go far enough. Because, even if we were to physically keep the outfit pure and spotless from our environment, we could not keep our sweat, tears, that sort of thing, just as our mind, our heart, our sinful nature has already ruined the outfit. We all have these things that come between us and Jesus.
And the Passover, and communion remind us that Jesus closes that gap. Between us and him. It is not through anything that we do, but through his blood, his love and his grace that are out white outfits stay pure and spotless.
Finally, the Passover is an intrinsically important part of our history. It’s not just world history, or Jewish history or American history. But it’s your history and it’s my history. Its believer’s history. If you are a follower of Jesus, who was Jesus?
Jesus was not a Christian, not in the sense that we understand it. He was not American; he was not white. He was not gorgeous. He was not anything like we picture. He was a plain looking, brown skinned, middle eastern Jewish man.
Most of us spend our time in the Bible in the Gospels and Paul’s letters… We might go through the Old Testament for our daily reading plan, but how often do we spend intentional, studious time in Numbers, or Deuteronomy, or Lamentations, or Joel? Joel is one of the Old Testament prophets by the way…
But what Scriptures did Jesus know? The Gospels weren’t written when he was alive. Neither were Paul’s letters. Jesus had the Old Testament. He had the writings of Moses, the first 5 books of the Old Testament. He had the historical books, starting with Joshua and going through Esther. He had the wisdom books, Psalms, Proverbs, Song of Solomon and the like, and he had the Prophets, Isaiah through Malachi.
These are the scriptures that Jesus had, and the Jews had, and they were vital for understanding God, his story and his redemption plan. Now, most of us are not Jewish, ethnically speaking. But Once Jesus came, he followed the Old Testament, and he came as a Jew, to the Jews, and offered them salvation. Then he turned to all the rest of us and we were allowed to receive the gift of salvation as well.
For us to know Jesus better, we need to know who he was, when he grew up, what the culture was. That’s one of the things that The Old Testament does for us. Jesus celebrated the Passover, for us to know Jesus better, to have a better relationship with him, we don’t have to celebrate the Passover, but you have to understand it and why Jesus celebrated it.
My challenge to you, to me, to us, is, are you, are we utilizing all of the resources available to us to understand Jesus better, to grow closer to him.
We have our Bible, are we reading it? All of it? Or just our favorite parts? Are we only skimming it because it’s in our daily reading plan or are we actually reading it? Both Testaments?
Are we praying? This hits a couple of areas. Are we praying for those around us? In our congregation and in our family? Are we praying the list of prayer requests that come in the bulletin each week? What about prayer requests that come in Bible Studies? Or even just your everyday conversation with friends, family, coworkers, and the trials and troubles that come up in their lives. What about personal time in prayer just for you and God. Time to pray, meaning talk to him, listen to him and just be with him.
Are you talking to the people in your life that you can learn from? If you’re not sure who that might be. My phone is always on and my office door is always open. Are you reading or listening to things that bring you closer to God? This could include things on TV, music on the radio, but it includes books about Jesus, in includes sermons online, podcasts, things like that. I’m not saying you have to do all, or even any of these things. If you belong to God, you belong to God, but these are resources that you have, that can help you know Jesus Christ better, help you grow closer to him.

As I referenced at the beginning of the sermon this morning, this week is what is called Passion Week, or Holy Week. Today is Palm Sunday. The day that Jesus rode into Jerusalem for the last week of his life. He was there this week specifically because it was the Passover. Thursday night is when he had the Last Supper with the disciples, the Passover meal, the prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane. Thursday was the night the Judas Iscariot betrayed Jesus and turned him over to the Romans and Jewish leaders. He was illegally tried through the night, with false witnesses on trumped up charges, the loudest of which was blasphemy.
Friday he was beaten to within an inch of his life. The beating the Romans doled out was called the half death, because half of the prisoners who received it, died from it. He was then forced to carry his own cross and then crucified on it.
The details are horrendous, and I won’t go into them today, but there was a reason that the Passion of the Christ was Rated R. Jesus died on that cross. He died for me, he died for you, he died for all of us.
And on Sunday morning, he accomplished all he came here to do, by being raised back up from the dead by God the Father and proclaiming victory over death and sin.
This is the most important week in Jesus life. We today tend to celebrate Christmas as the most important date in Christianity. And don’t get me wrong, the birth of Jesus Christ was a monumental moment in history. It was world changing, to say the least.
But then, 30 plus years later, Jesus would have yet another, greater world changing moment. This week is designed by God to be one of reflection. Do you understand what Jesus went through this week? Do you see that what he went through allowed you and I to be passed over in our sin? That his life, and his death, were a fulfillment of the Passover, and that his resurrection made that Passover permanent? Take some time this week, think about it. Reflect on that. How serious are we about our relationship with God? And what are we doing to bring ourselves closer to him?

Let’s Pray

Malachi 3:6-12 Give to God what is Gods

Malachi 3:6-12
Give to God what is His

Good Morning! Please grab your Bibles with me and turn to Malachi, chapter 3. If you do not have a Bible, if you do not own one, please help yourself to one off of the back table, as our gift to you.
So, as we are continuing through this book, we are seeing that there is nothing new under the sun. The things that God is addressing and telling Israel through Malachi could very easily be written today. This book, the message in Malachi is very contemporary and applies to us, as Gods covenant people as it applied to the recipients of this message, Israel, as Gods covenant people.
There is not too much introduction today, because there is not much to say. In Malachi, God has been pointing out a variety of different ways that we are being unfaithful to him and the convant that he has established with us. He has been pointing out a variety of ways that we have been sinning against God. And he has been pointing out Gods “Never Stopping, Never Giving up, Unbreaking, Always and Forever Love.”
And we are going to continue those themes this morning as we read this weeks passage. We are going to look at Malachi 3:6-12. Ill be reading out of the English Standard Version. Please follow along in your preferred translation. Malachi chapter 3, verses 6-12. God, speaking through his prophet, Malachi, says:
“For I the Lord do not change; therefore you, O children of Jacob, are not consumed. 7 From the days of your fathers you have turned aside from my statutes and have not kept them. Return to me, and I will return to you, says the Lord of hosts. But you say, ‘How shall we return?’ 8 Will man rob God? Yet you are robbing me. But you say, ‘How have we robbed you?’ In your tithes and contributions. 9 You are cursed with a curse, for you are robbing me, the whole nation of you. 10 Bring the full tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. And thereby put me to the test, says the Lord of hosts, if I will not open the windows of heaven for you and pour down for you a blessing until there is no more need. 11 I will rebuke the devourer[b] for you, so that it will not destroy the fruits of your soil, and your vine in the field shall not fail to bear, says the Lord of hosts. 12 Then all nations will call you blessed, for you will be a land of delight, says the Lord of hosts.

We start out with God proclaim his unchangingness. James writes that there is no variation in God. Once his covenant is made, it is made. When he makes a promise, that promise comes true. He says something and it happens. And he has said that he will show mercy to his people.
And yet, despite his promising to show us mercy, proving it time and time again, we continue to take from God. We reject him outright, or we think that we can use him and contain him, we continue to treat him as if we can earn his good graces, his love. We think we can keep him in a box, pull him out when its convienant, or when we need him and put him back away, able to live our lives however we want.
Thats not how God works and he has been quite clear about that. He has promised to have mercy and his love to those who are his people. He has called us to believe the Gospel and repent of our sins. James writes in his letter, chapter 4, verses 7 & 8:
7 Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. 8 Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded.
Here is what his promises and his word and his unchangeability mean. God is completely sovereign. Nothing is done, OR not done for that matter, outside of His will. Nothing in this world is done or not done, without God purposely and specifically deciding that it will or will not be done.
But Scripture is also crystal clear that this does not absolve us of our own responsibility for our actions and our decisions. Again, Jesus says in Mark 1:15 (double check) that we are called to Repent and believe the Gospel. We have no standing to say that we didnt have an oppurtunity or a call to turn to him. But we are to have faith in Jesus Christ alone as our Salvation.
James also writes that the faith that we do have, without acting on it, without doing the things that faith calls for, that faith is dead. (James 2:17) The seeming paradox between Gods Sovereignty and Mans Responsibility continues as we look at Ephesians 2. Verse 8-10, Paul writes:
For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast. 10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.

Even this passage shows us two things that I point out. First, the faith in which we trust in Christ and faith in which our rightouesness is based on, that faith itself is a gift from God and not of ourselves. But also, that with our faith comes responsibility. Verse 10 points out that we were created to do good works for and through God and and that it is our responsibility to do them.
We were created to do these good works that God has called us to. And we were created to worship God with all our heart, mind, soul and strength. Romans 12:1, Paul writes: to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Us doing the things that God has created us for is the truest and purest form of worship.
God says that he will be faithful on his end, and calls us to be faithful on our end. One of the things that Scriptures continues to show us over and over is the we dont keep our end. This section of Malachi shows another example of how Israel at the time and us today fail to give to God what is his.
Verses 8-12 here have an immdeiate context, a bigger context within Malachi and an even bogger context within scripture as a whole. And as a shared recently, all of those contexts are important, to leave one of them out is to take the verses out of context.
We will start with the immediate context and work our ways out. Malachi here is talking about Israels unfaithfullness in the context of tithing. The word tithe literally translated means 10 percent. Thats why we tend to use the word like we do. We dont notice, or we forget that the prescribed giving in the Old Testament was upwards over 30%.
We do also see that there is no prescribed “tithe” in the New Testament. We re commanded to give, but never commanded to give a certain amount. 2 Corinthians 9:6 & 7 says : The point is this: whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. So, when you give, the two things to makes sure is not that your giving meets a certain dollar amount or whatever, but that your giving is cheerful and sacrificial. Give generously and as you are led.
Above all, we are to give God our first fruits. We are to give to God before all and above all. Lets look back momentarily to the story of Cain and Abel in Genesis 4.
Cain was a Gardner, a farmer. He grew crops and food. Abel was a Shepard, tending to the flocks and the animals. Now, they both brought an offering appropriate to their profession, what they had, they brought the offering to the LORD.
For one reason or another, God approved of Abel’s offering and did not approve of Cain’s offering. Now, any conclusion we come to as to why, is just a guess. The scriptures don’t tell us clearly why. But there are some thing it does tell us and there are some ideas we can ponder. First, Hebrews 11:4 says that Abel’s was a “more acceptable sacrifice,” and he was commended as righteous. But why was it more acceptable?
There are a few thoughts, some might be right, all of them might be right, none of them might be right. I don’t think that last one is the case, by the way. Now, some say that it was because there was no blood in Cains offering that his was rejected. This is possible, but I don’t think its the case for a few reasons. First, yes, blood was already shown to be required for the covering of sin, as we saw last week, but specific offerings and sacrifices had not yet been implemented. Also, there is no indication that this is a sin offering. There were plenty of Old Testament offerings implemented that were not required to include blood. All the text says is that this was an offering to the LORD. So, I tend to lean against that view.
Next, and this has the most possible textual support, is that Abel gave his first and his best, while Cain gave just some stuff. If we look back at verses 3& 4, it says that Abel brought first born of the flock. For Cain it simply says he brought of his fruit. If he did bring first fruits, wouldn’t it say it there? And God does want us to give first to him. We put him number one in our life, above all things. Period. We give to him first, everything else second. We give off the top and we give him the best. That principle is clearly established throughout scriptures and very well could be why Cains offering was rejected.
I think that’s part of the reason. But I think the biggest reason is that Cain gave his offering, his sacrifice, his fruit he gave them for the wrong reasons. I think that Abel gave cheerfully and generously, as Paul calls us to do in 2 Corinthians. I believe that Abel gave out of his faith. He gave out of his love for God. It was his worship. I believe that Cain gave because he was supposed to or he was told to. Without faith. With out worship. Not cheerfully or generously. But out of obligation.
I think we see that in the way Cain reacts here. And as we look at this, think abut how we act with God as well. Cain brings fruit for an offering, as he is supposed to and God rejects it. You can almost here the thoughts going through Cains head. “I did my best and it wasn’t enough for you! Its not fair! What else do you want me to do? What more could I possibly do?”

We also see in the passage of our scripture reading this morning, Acts chapter 5, the story of Annanias and Saphira that the issue is not with how much they gave. The specific dollar amount is never the issue. The issue we see here is the heart, which we know is deceitful above all things. They said they were going to give the whole amount to the church. They instead, held some back for themselves and then lied about it. It was their deciet and sinful heart that ultimately did them in, not the amount of their giving.
From there, we move to the bigger context within Malachi. And that is us being unfaithful to God, his commands and what he has called us to. We have seen us breaking his commandments. We have been worshipping other gods and various idols. We have ignored and celebrated sins. We have been un faithful in marriages and seeing marriage as a covenant. We have failed to repent of our sin and know we are robbing God with out unfaithfullness in giving and genorosity. Basically, a basic, complete and systematic lack of obedience.
And yet, God is faithful. We believe in the Gospel and repent of our sins. And sometimes we expect that means that we wont sin anymore. We expect to never let God down again. And yet, we know thats not the case because we are living it. Pual himself struggles with this issue in Romans chapter 7. But once we are brought from death to life in Christ, once we are Gods children, God has made a promise that He will not turn his back on us, that he will be with us always.
God tells us in Joshua 1:9;
Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go.”
And the very last words of Matthews Gospel, Jesus says in Matthew 28:20:
I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

God has made his promises and his word is unchanging. He will keep his promises and his covenant will be fulfilled.
And we finally come to the biggest context, the context of the entirety of the scriptures. Give to God what belongs to God.
This includes but is more than money. As an example of how, all incompassing this is, I want to read Luke 20:19-25:
The scribes and the chief priests sought to lay hands on him at that very hour, for they perceived that he had told this parable against them, but they feared the people. 20 So they watched him and sent spies, who pretended to be sincere, that they might catch him in something he said, so as to deliver him up to the authority and jurisdiction of the governor. 21 So they asked him, “Teacher, we know that you speak and teach rightly, and show no partiality,[d] but truly teach the way of God. 22 Is it lawful for us to give tribute to Caesar, or not?” 23 But he perceived their craftiness, and said to them, 24 “Show me a denarius.[e] Whose likeness and inscription does it have?” They said, “Caesar’s.” 25 He said to them, “Then render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.”

Your life does not belong to you. Your life belongs to God. Jesus paid for it with his blood. He gave his life for yours. He created you and I. And we were created in his image and likeness.
And as one made in his image and likeness, you reflect the attributes of God the Father. You get to chose how you do so. You are either a slave to sin, or you are a slave to rightouesness, as Paul puts in Romans 6: 17-23. Jesus says in Johns gospel that we are either sons of the Devil or Sons of Abraham. (John 8:39-47) As spiritual heirs of Abraham, the fulfillment of so much prophecy, we are called children of God. (John 1)
You either give to God what is His, or you rob from God by wothholding and taking what is His.
Now, its common to hear very wrong application taught from this passage in Malachi.
Guiling you in to giving a higher dollar amount to the church, regardless of what you have been giving or what the other circumstances are. WRONG!
Offering you a money back gaurauntee on your tithes if God doesnt show up in your life and do a miracle. WRONG.
Any other application where you eliminate the Word of God and just go off of guilt or what the Pastor says. WRONG.
Gove in order to receive any sort of material blessing or healing. WRONG.
You give. Thats biblical. Thats from God. But you give what God has called you to give and not what I or anyone else tell you to give. Sometimes God will bless you with money or material blessings, but that is never promised in the Bible. Sometimes God will heal you. He certainly can and in some cases, does. But physical healing of disease or infirmities is never promised this side of heaven.
And if he chooses to give you those blessings, YAY! Praise God! But what He has promised to give us is worth som much more than anything else in this world. He promises us Him. He gives us himself. He gives us forgiveness of our sins, His Sons rightouesness and eternal life.
Revelation 7:9&10 gives us a picture of what this will look like when John writes:
behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands,
Rev 7:10  and crying out with a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!”

All of things that are written in scripture, all the Words of God are designed to show us the truth. John writes in his Gospel, Chapter 20, verses 30 & 31:
Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book;
but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.
Thats the goal, and if we are in Christ, thats the promise. We stumble, we trip, we fall. In Christ, that is in the process of being driven out of us, the process of sanctification. But we deserve the wrath of God. But it is Gods grace that saves us, through faith in His Son Jesus Christ.
The enemy will try to sow seeds of doubt or shame. Because we have not and will not achieve sinlessness this side of the grave, Satan, the Accuser, will try to make us doubt Gods love, see the first section of Malachi. He will try to make us doubt our salvation, that we havent yet earned it or done enough good. Or he may make some think that because they are good people or have done good thingsthat they really are saved when their actually is no saving faith. He will use and do anything he can to make us doubt Gods promises and faithfullness.
God promises us in Malchi 3:11 the he will rebuke the devourer for us. The enemy has no power over us when we are in Christ. Romans 8:1 says that there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. And thats what Im going to leave us with. Assurance of the fulfillment of Gods promises to us. Im going to read Romans 8:31-39 and then I will close us in prayer. Paul writes:
What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?
He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?
Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies.
Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us.
Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword?
As it is written, “For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.”
No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.
For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers,
nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Luke 10:25-37 Who is my Neighbor? (Romans Tie-In)

Good Samaritan Sermon
Luke 10: 25-37

Good Morning. Please grab your Bible and open on up to Luke’s Gospel, chapter 10. If you do not have a Bible, please grab one from the back table as our gift to you. So, I know this seems to be a change from our regular series through Romans, and it is, but only just a bit.
The next passage we are going to go through in Romans is chapter 13, verses 8-14, and in that Paul talks about love being the fulfillment of the law. As I was starting to work on that sermon, I kept getting drawn to this passage in Luke, this famous Bible story and I decided that this would be a good primer, it would be laying some groundwork for us to continue into that passage in Romans. So, my next sermon will be on those verses in Romans and it will pick up off some of the themes we look at today.

So, In 2008, ABC News did an experiment. Much of what I am sharing with you about this experiment comes directly from the news article.
They placed ads in a newspaper and on Craigslist. The ad said we were looking for people to participate in an “on-camera tryout” for ABC News. Those who responded were interviewed on the phone, and those selected were asked to come to appointments over the course of two days.
When they arrived for those appointments, the volunteers met with an ABC producer who talked to them in general about the audition, but did not go into specifics about what they were to do. She explained that each person needed to have a topic to discuss before the cameras, and that she was going to help them select that subject. She then showed each of them a sampling of cards and asked them to pick one.
What appeared to be random was in fact not a choice at all. The topic listed on all those cards was the same: The Good Samaritan story that we are going to look at this morning.
They were given the Sunday school version of the story. A man who is beaten by robbers and left for dead on the side of the road. Two religious men come by and ignore the victim. But a third man, an outcast from society, a Samaritan, comes along next and not only stops to help the man and care for his wounds, he takes him to an inn and pays for him to stay in a room there and have meals. Jesus instructs his followers to follow the lead of the Good Samaritan.
After our producer read the story to each person, they were told they were to give a short speech about it for their “audition.” Thinking that the cameras were set up at a nearby studio, they walked the short distance. They set off with the Good Samaritan story fresh in their minds. Following the directions took the volunteers through a small park. They had no idea what would be awaiting them there: actors hired by ABC News.
Two men took turns playing a person in distress. They were seated on the grass directly alongside the path the volunteers were instructed to use. The actors were told to play men clearly in need of help, and both cried, moaned and rocked back and forth. They seemed to clearly need help. Who better to come to their aid than our volunteers, who approached with the Biblical story of helping one’s fellow-man echoing in their ears?
The question: Would these participants stop to help? Carrie Keating, professor of psychology at Colgate University, expected they would. She predicted they would be suspicious of the situation, and likely to do anything to make themselves look good.
But Keating was in for a surprise: many of the 22 volunteers did not stop. They rushed right by the actors, proceeded to the studio, and gave the speech on the Good Samaritan. Their words were the complete opposite of their actions from just minutes before.

They completely missed the point, much like the lawyer in our story, many, many years before this experiment.
Jesus would often teach In parables. Parables are simple, memorable stories that use common examples or imagery from the culture and use them to teach greater truth. Sometimes the greater truth was painfully obvious and sometimes the truth was hidden. Jesus would, at times explain the meaning of some of the parables, not to the public, but to his disciples.
After teaching a parable early on in his ministry, the disciples asked Jesus what it meant. In Mark 4:11 & 12, Jesus tells them,
“To you has been given the secret of the kingdom of God, but for those outside everything is in parables, so that

“they may indeed see but not perceive,
and may indeed hear but not understand,
lest they should turn and be forgiven.
The parables were used to teach because some people, who were listening to Jesus, were not ready to hear. Sometimes the truth was hidden in these stories. However, sometimes the truth comes through to everyone and, as happens here, is very pointed at the Pharisees, or the religious leaders of the day.
Let take a look at the parable of the Good Samaritan. It is in Luke chapter 10, verses 25-37. I’ll be reading out of the English Standard Version, I highly encourage you to follow along in whichever translation you have with you.
Luke writes:
And behold, a lawyer stood up to put him to the test, saying, “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” He said to him, “What is written in the Law? How do you read it?” And he answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.” And he said to him, “You have answered correctly; do this, and you will live.”
But he, desiring to justify himself, said to Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”

Jesus replied, “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and he fell among robbers, who stripped him and beat him and departed, leaving him half dead. Now by chance a priest was going down that road, and when he saw him he passed by on the other side. So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan, as he journeyed, came to where he was, and when he saw him, he had compassion. He went to him and bound up his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he set him on his own animal and brought him to an inn and took care of him. And the next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper, saying, ‘Take care of him, and whatever more you spend, I will repay you when I come back.’ Which of these three, do you think, proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell among the robbers?” He said, “The one who showed him mercy.” And Jesus said to him, “You go, and do likewise.”

We see here that the expert in the law asks a very deep and profound question. Now, he just thought he was trying ask a difficult question to try to trip up Jesus or get Jesus to contradict himself. But he asked a question that people everywhere and in every time have been asking and we have here a very clear answer. The lawyer asks in v. 25, “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” He is asking what do I need to do to be saved?
Jesus, as is the norm for him, answers this question with a question himself. He asks the man, “What is written in the Law? How do you read it?” Good teachers will do this. If you ask a question that you already know the answer to, they will redirect you in a way that has you say the answer and think through it instead of just telling you the answer.
And the man did give the correct answer. He replied to Jesus, “You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.” And Jesus affirmed this answer as correct.
Now this is at first a simplistic easy to follow answer. “What must I do?” Love God and Love your neighbor. The whole Law is summed up in these two commands. This is the Great Commandment. But this is also a very easy answer to dismiss. Because, in some ways, the lawyer asks a very human and valid question. “Who is my neighbor?”
The lawyers heart was all wrong. The scriptures show us that the lawyer was trying to justify himself when he asked “who is my neighbor?” Instead of genuinely asking and looking for who his neighbor was and how he could help them, he was looking for loopholes, looking for reasons to not help. He was looking for the least that he could do. The least he could do to not help those around him…To not help those different than him…To not help those he did not like….To not help those he did not know…
By teaching him this parable, Jesus is showing the lawyer, and us, that the question is not Who is my neighbor? But instead, Am I loving my neighbor?
The details that Jesus uses in this parable are not incidental or accidental. The man was walking from Jerusalem down to Jericho. This was a 15 mile journey and the road here was very treacherous. It was steep, rocky and had a lot of twists and blind turns. It was notorious for having many bandits being a very dangerous journey. This was well known for having these dangers and people knew the risks involved in this journey. Often times people would wait at one end of the journey for a group of them to gather so that they would at least have a little it of safety in numbers.
So this man got mugged and beaten and was left lying on the side of the road, half dead. Now, even though this was an infamous, dangerous walk, many people did take this journey alone as well. It took 8 hours for the journey, and sometimes, time was of the essence. It was the only way to get between these two cities.
Now, Jesus brings along a Priest. If any one would see a man in need and stop and help him, to show him mercy and kindness it would be a priest, right? He sees the man, crosses to the other side of the road and just walks on by. He had a job to do, he was ceremonially clean and he didn’t have time to deal with this situation and then get ceremonially clean again.
The law at the time was looked at as the ‘Be-all, end-all” and it didn’t matter what had to be sacrificed, or what the motivation behind it was. In this case, there would have been no reason, no excuse in the priests mind to becoming ceremonially unclean, not even a different Law of God. If the priest had stopped, the best case scenario for him was that he would be unclean until the next sundown. That’s assuming he had time to get home and go through the cleansing process. If the body was a dead body and the priest came in contact, he would be unclean for a minimum of 1 week. During these times of being unclean, he would not be able to enter the temple or take part in any of the ceremonies.
However, some also speculate that he knew he was making the wrong decision and that’s one of the reasons why he crossed over to the other side of the road, so that the man would not recognize him if he survived and this story later got out. Either way, the priest was not willing to take time out of his busy schedule doing Gods work, to be a neighbor to this beaten broken man.
After he passes by, Jesus brings along a Levite down the road. Instead of crossing to the other side of the road, the Levite actually looked at the situation before deciding to continue on his way. Levites were of the same family, in the line of Aaron that the priests were. In modern terms, if the priests were the pastors, the Levites were the elders, the deacons, the worship leaders, or other people in the church that work behind the scenes to keep the church running.
Just like the priest, the Levite knew the Law and had it memorized since he was a young man. He knew the laws about loving your neighbor, which are all through out the Old Testament. But, for whatever reason, he did not want to take the time and effort to stop and help this man. He looked at the situation and it was very likely that he could see the gravity of the situation, that he could see that the man would surely die if he did not get any help, but also that the man could be saved. The Levite saw what was happening and then crossed over to the other side and passed on by.
This is where Jesus throws the curve ball in the parable. Starting in verse 33,
“But a Samaritan, as he journeyed, came to where he was, and when he saw him, he had compassion.”
A Samaritan! What is he going to do? Finish the man off? See if the robbers and muggers missed anything? At best, he will just do what the other two did and just pass on by. I mean, he is just a Samaritan.
This was the mindset of the Jews at the time regarding the Samaritans, and vice versa. There is no putting it mildly, they disdained each other.
The Samaritans were partial Jews who had been living in the Northern Kingdom of Israel prior to the Exile in Old Testament times. When the Northern Kingdom was conquered and captured, They intermarried with the culture around them and were often guilty of worshiping false gods and idols.
The Jews looked down on them, mocked them, made jokes at their expense, and this hatred was returned back at the Jews by the Samaritans. When traveling to certain areas of Israel during this time, the quickest, most direct route would be through Samaria, for example from Jerusalem to Nazareth, where Jesus was from, or the Sea of Galilee. Instead of going through Samaria, most Jews went far out of their way, going around the area, adding much time and distance to their journey.
So when a Samaritan comes walking down the path and sees a Jew, beaten and bloody, there is no inclination that he would stop and help.
And yet, he does. He stopped his journey. He bandaged the wounds of this man. Luke, who was a physician, noted that the Samaritan poured oil and wine on the mans wounds. But he didn’t stop there. He lifted the man up and put him on his own personal donkey and took him to the nearest inn. It was here that he essentially put a down payment and opened up a tab at the inn for whatever the beaten man needed.
Jesus asks the lawyer in v. 36, “Which of these three, do you think proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell among the robbers?”
And you can almost hear the contempt and defeat coming out of the lawyers mouth when he says in v 37 “The one who had mercy on him.” He couldn’t even refer to him directly, just, “That one…”
See, each group in this story saw the man who was beaten very differently. The lawyer saw the man as a subject to discuss. The robbers saw the man as someone to use and exploit. To the priest and Levite, the man was someone to avoid at all costs. The innkeeper sees the man as a customer. To the Samaritan, the man was a human being, a man worth caring for and helping, a neighbor.
The lawyer in this story was full of head knowledge. But he would not see or admit the truth. He knew what the commandments said about loving God and loving neighbors. He knew who his neighbors were. The priest and the Levite in the story, They Knew! They knew that they were supposed to stop and help the man. And yet, they didn’t. Knowledge without application. exactly what Paul has been talking about in Romans.
Back to the experiment I talked about earlier. They had divided the volunteers into two groups at the start. Everyone heard the Good Samaritan story but only half of the volunteers got something more: time pressure. That group was now facing a dilemma. In order to get their chance at something they really wanted — a chance to be on TV — they would have to hurry. And researchers discovered, that made a big difference in their behavior.
Only about 35 percent of our volunteers in a hurry stopped to help our actors. But almost 80 percent of those who were not rushed stopped to help.
Since the volunteers thought they were rushing in order to do something they thought would be beneficial to them, perhaps it is not surprising that time pressure would influence them. The researchers found that being rushed changed people’s actions. Time pressure was the only significant factor the researchers found that they concluded would determine if a particular volunteer would stop to help a stranger.
Keating says that other research since then has shown that it is possible to make anyone disregard the needs of others if enough pressure is introduced. She concluded that in this experiment, not stopping to help was not an indication at all of whether any particular participant is a good or moral person. She said any of us might act in the same way.
And we do, everyday. But we shouldnt. Every subject in this experiment knew that the right thing to do was stop. But many of them didn’t. Would we? Do we? I said earlier that the lawyer asked the wrong question. The question was not Who is my neighbor? But should have been, Am I loving my neighbor?
The Greek word used in the New Testament for neighbor is the word, plesion {play-see’-on}� One concordance defines it like this:
1) a neighbor
1a) a friend
1b) according to the Jews, any member of the Hebrew nation and commonwealth
1c) according to Christ, any other man irrespective of nation or religion with whom we live or whom we chance to meet.
We need to remember this, “any other person whom we chance to meet.” It doesn’t matter who it is. God put them into our life, into our Day for a reason. It doesn’t matter if it is someone we know and don’t get along with. It doesn’t matter if it is someone of a different religion, Muslim, Wiccan, Hindu… It doesn’t matter even if they live by different moral codes than the one that God gives to us. We are to love them. It’s not a choice available to us to not love them.
What is required of our love? What do we need to give and sacrifice to love people? Time,mostly, is one biggest ways we show others love.
The priest in this story did not have time, in his mind, to stop and help the man. The subjects in the experiment that did not stop were in a time crunch, trying to get to the studio. But it takes time to love people. It takes building relationships with them.
It takes times to identify needs and opportunities to show love. What about your neighbor? The one that you don’t get along with, maybe you argue over your property line. But you know that your neighbor is not doing great physically. Maybe they are getting older, maybe they just had surgery, whatever it is, you know that they have needs in their home. Their faucet is leaking, the lawn needs mowing. And you know that you can help.
Peter and John once encountered a crippled man begging outside the gate of Jerusalem. Instead of giving him money, they recognized that the man’s need was that he couldn’t walk. So, working in the Holy Spirit, Peter healed him instead.
But in our minds, we are justifying ourselves, asking, “Do you know how long that would take?” or “But I am on my way to go do this or go do that” I know I do this all the time. But when Jesus said, at the end of v.37, “Go and Do Likewise,” he was not just talking to the lawyer, or to the Pharisees, or to the Jews. He was also talking to us. And the commands he gives to us, they are rarely easy.
Time is the most precious commodity we have. I costs us more to give someone our time that to give any thing else. It means more too. Visiting people and spending time with them, taking the time to talk to them and get to know them, is one of the most loving things we can do.
Jesus tells us in Matthew 25 how important this is.
For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’
Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’
Matthew 25:24-40
The other way that Jesus’ commandment is not easy is that it will be messy. Not just physically messy,as it would be with the beaten, bloody man. But getting involved with people is messy. Hearing about people’s problems, telling them about ours. Showing them that we love them, that we care. It’s not always easy, it’s not always fun. But its important and it’s how we show the love of Christ to those around us.
One of the aspects that the lawyer missed, is that the law the lawyer referenced earlier was to Love your neighbors as yourself. That doubly shows that the question of “Who is my neighbor?” was an invalid question. If we were beaten, robbed and mugged, how would we want to be treated? Which of these three figures would we want to be the ones to come along? Whatever our answer is, and most of us, if not all, would want someone to act like the Samaritan, stopping to help us, that is how we treat the people we come across in our lives.
The thing here is that Jesus has already done this for us. Sin has left us beaten up, dying on the side of the road. It has robbed us of our right standing with God. Jesus came down and sacrificed everything, including his life for us, to save us from the death of sin. When Jesus affirms that loving God is the first and foremost commandment, he does so by also having told us that if we love the Father, we will love the Son. And here Jesus is showing us that if we love the Son, we will love our neighbors, we will love the least of these. Paul is going to tell us that love is the fulfillment of the law.
Jesus is showing us that he all have opportunities to help those around us. We all have neighbors in our community that could use a helping hand in some way. We all have people that we just don’t like, that could use our help. But Jesus loves them and Jesus wants us to show them love on his behalf.
I mentioned earlier that each character in the story saw the man who was beaten in a different way. One that I did not yet mention was Jesus. To him each and every character in the story, from the lawyer, to the pharisees, to the priest and the Levite, the innkeeper, the Samaritan and the man who was beaten and robbed, he sees them all the same way, as a sinner in need of a savior, as someone in need of forgiveness and some one who by all objective standards is not worth the time to die for and take care of. It doesn’t cost God anything to not save us. It did cost Jesus his human life to die for us. But, as God, being in complete control, he knew the outcome. He knew that, though we were not worth dying for, the act of dying for us was worth it. There was nothing reckless about Jesus love for us. God knows the end of the story and all the outcomes because he wrote the end of the story.
Like the Samaritan, he sees us beaten up by sin, by grace through faith, picks us up and put down a down payment on the price of our sins and has an open tab for us, not matter what it costs to win us, for those that are his, he did it. No one else has been able to do that because no one else was God and man. No one else was able to atone for our sins and offer forgiveness. Buddha, Mohammed, Joseph Smith, any other religious figure that people follow, they are the lawyer, the prest and the Levite, unable to help us in our sin. Only one can offer forgiveness of sins and eternal life. Jesus said that He is THE way, THE truth, and THE Life. Paul wrote that God showed us what love was, that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Love him, trust him, repent and believe, as Jesus says, and let him show us how to love others.
Lets Pray

Giving Thanks to God Psalm 136

His steadfast love endures forever

Psalm 136

Good Morning! Hope you all had a great Thanksgiving! Christmas season has officially started! Go ahead and turn in your Bibles with me, we will be anchored in Psalm 136. If you do not have a Bible, or do not own one, please grab one from the back table as our gift to you.

Luke recounts a story in his Gospel about Jesus walking between Samaria and Galilee, on his way to Jerusalem. He came upon a group of 10 lepers. The lepers called out to him and asked for healing. Jesus cleansed them from their leprosy and sent them to the priest for their ceremonial cleansing. One of those lepers returned to Jesus and gave thanks to him for his healing and cleansing, a Samaritan. Luke then recounts Jesus exclaiming, “Were not ten cleansed? Where are the nine? Was no one found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?” ( Luke 11:17-18) He speaks as if expecting all ten to return thankful, not just the one.

One of the clearest messages from the Bible is that God deserves our thanks. Were all 10 lepers grateful for their healing? Sure, but only one was thankful, full of thanks, with thanks in one’s heart. We are going to see that we are to give thanks to the LORD for two reasons. First is Who he is. The second is what he has done for us.

So Who is God? Why is who he is a reason to worship him, to praise him and to give thanks to him? God has spent the entire Bible (and all of time before and since then) revealing himself to us. First, he created the universe, the world, the heavens and earth, and us. He is more awesome and powerful, more loving and merciful and good, the Most knowing and creative being that has ever been. He has spent the entire Old Testament doing mighty works, performing miracles, delivering and saving people, making himself known to the Jewish people and the nations around them. He saved nations, destroyed cities and had individuals turn to salt or swallowed by fish.

We also see that God instituted the sacrificial system in the Old Testament to make atonement for our sins. Sin requires blood and God allowed us to sacrifice animals in our place for the forgiveness of our sins. But those were not the only sacrifices, or offerings that were instituted. Leviticus 22:29 also makes reference to giving a sacrifice of Thanksgiving. Psalm 50, a psalm of Asaph tells us the same thing, saying in v 14: “Offer to God a sacrifice of thanksgiving, and perform your vows to the most high.”

What’s really neat is that when we look at the Old testament sacrifice of thanks, is what is required in it. The sacrifice requires a blood offering of a lamb or goat with no blemish. It requires bread or crackers made with yeast and bread or crackers made without yeast.

These three pieces are symbolic in what they represent. A lamb without blemish is a foreshadowing of Jesus Christ. His blood was sacrificed for us and poured out on the cross just like the lamb here.

The unleavened bread, or bread made without yeast is very specific as well. Yeast and leaven are associate with sin, and so bringing bread without yeast represents a life without sin, a life of holiness and purity. Again, who amongst us has lived this life? Only one man. Also a part of the unleavened bread was that it was mixed with oil, which is often times associated with the Holy Spirit.

One commentator brings it together this way,

So, all three persons of the trinity are represented in this offering:
(1) God the Father to whom the offering is given, (2) Jesus represented by the unleavened bread and (3) the Holy Spirit represented by the oil.”

The commentator continues on, bringing in the last piece of the sacrifice, again, saying,

Now there was one more part of the thank offering, I mentioned the sheep or goat, the unleavened bread, and then the third part of the offering was cakes of bread made with yeast or leaven. This represented the person offering it, that is the sinner… you and I. This is symbolically saying, God, you’ve done so much for me,
You’ve given me all that I have, and I not only thank you,
but I give myself to you. That’s what the offering,
of this leavened bread was really saying. So God set up this system in the OT so that people would be giving him thanks, on a regular basis, by sacrificing to him.”

God has so many attributes that make him worthy of our thanksgiving and our praise and our worship. Psalm 136, gives us 26 verses of things that God is and things that God has done that make him worthy of thanks, but it repeats the same thing in the second part of every verse. I want to read you the first 9 verses of Psalm 136 and Im reading out of the english Standard Version:

Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good,
for his steadfast love endures forever.
2 Give thanks to the God of gods,
for his steadfast love endures forever.
3 Give thanks to the Lord of lords,
for his steadfast love endures forever;

4 to him who alone does great wonders,
for his steadfast love endures forever;
5 to him who by understanding made the heavens,
for his steadfast love endures forever;
6 to him who spread out the earth above the waters,
for his steadfast love endures forever;
7 to him who made the great lights,
for his steadfast love endures forever;
8 the sun to rule over the day,
for his steadfast love endures forever;
9 the moon and stars to rule over the night,
for his steadfast love endures forever;

Now as I said, this continues on for an additional 17 verses and each one repeats “his steadfast love endures forever.” The word here translated as steadfast love, is also translated “lovingkindness” in this psalm. The Hebrew word, “checed”

Now, I don’t actually know if I’m pronouncing it correctly, but that’s the word. In other passages, this is often translated mercy, kindness or goodness. One commentator explains the use of the word in this psalm this way: “The LORD’s loyal love, mentioned in each of the 26 refrains, is his covenant faithfulness to his Chosen People whom he loves.” Forever means forever. God’s love endures forever. Nothing can take it away, nothing can change it. It always was and always is. His steadfast love is part of who he is. This is based on his qualities, not ours. Just like the other things the psalmist lists in Psalm 136.

What I like about this psalm in particular, is that it so completely lists that many reasons to be thankful to God, and as I mentioned earlier, it splits it in to two categories, Who he is and what he has done. The first 9 verses, what we just read, are about who God is. HE is the God of gods and the Lord of lords. He is good and he alone does great wonders. And it starts talking about the wonders of his creation. Genesis 1:1 starts off everything, “In the beginning, God created…” The first words of the Bible. Out of nothing, nothing! God created the Heavens and the earth, the seas and the lands, the skies and the mountains, the animals, the birds and the fish. And he created man.

Have you ever created anything out of nothing?

There is a joke about that. A scientist thinks he has finally figured out how to replicate Gods miracles. He thinks he knows how to make man out of dust. Remember this is a joke. God doesn’t believe the scientist and says, Ok, prove it. The scientist begins to gather up a pile of dirt and dust. All of a sudden, God cries out, “no, no, you have to make your own pile of dust.”

Now we are made in Gods image, so we are born with the ability to create with the gifts and materials that he has given us, but we cannot create something out of nothing. God is greater than us and deserves our thanks, and our praise.

The next section of the Psalm takes us into some of the things he has done. In the specific context of the Psalm, they start looking back at God freeing the Israelites from Egypt and bringing them to the promised land. But towards the end, it also becomes more general so that it applies to us as well. v. 23-26 reads:

It is he who remembered us in our low estate,
for his steadfast love endures forever;
24 and rescued us from our foes,
for his steadfast love endures forever;
25 he who gives food to all flesh,
for his steadfast love endures forever.

26 Give thanks to the God of heaven,
for his steadfast love endures forever.

The psalmist points out here that when we give thanks for what God has done for us, it’s not enough to just give thanks to him for the good things in our lives. The Bible makes it clear that we are to give thanks in all circumstances. Here in psalm 136, the psalmist is saying that they were in low estates.

They were down on their luck, nothing was going right. This would be where we start to wonder where God is. We wonder what possible reason we have to give him thanks. We have some of the moments and feelings that we talked about last week.

This is where chesed comes in. It is his ability to be faithful, not our ability to see or not see him working. But the psalmist points to Gods grace. First, specific grace that is given to his people. V 24 says that God rescued us from our foes. Second, he points to common grace. This is grace, love and gifts that are given to all people, He says in v 25 that God gives food to all flesh.

Jesus parallels this in the Sermon on the mount. In Matthew 6, Jesus tells us not to be anxious, not to worry about what clothes we will where and what food we will eat. He says in v 26, “26 Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?”

Jesus is not telling us not to plan, not to be prepared, but what he is telling us is not to doubt the love and the goodness of God. We will always have this common grace to be thankful for. Charles Spurgeon speaks of these times in our lives, saying:

Some of us think at times that we could cry “My God, My God, why hast thou forsaken me?” There are seasons when the brightness of our father’s smile is eclipsed by clouds and darkness; but let us remember that God never does really forsake us. It is only a seeming forsaking with us, but in Christ’ sake it was a real forsaking. We grieve at a little withdrawal of our fathers love; but the real turning away of Gods face from his son, who shall calculate how deep the agony which it caused him? In our case, our cry is often dictated by unbelief: in his case it was the utterance of a dreadful fact, for God had really turned away from Him for a season. O thou poor, distressed soul, who once lived in the sunshine of God’s face, but art now in darkness, remember that He has not really forsaken thee. God in the clouds is as much our God as when he shines forth in all the lustre of his grace.”

God wants us to see him in the good and the bad, and see that he is in control, that he is our creator King and he will continue to take care of us, no matter what. James tells us right at the beginning of his letter, in verse 2, “Count it all joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of various kinds.” God has a way of working things together for his glory, that we can’t always see now, and we may not ever see.

When we read the Bible, we have the advantage of seeing from 30,000 feet. What I mean by that is that we often get to see the big picture, how God uses different circumstances and brings them around to his will and his glory. Two narratives that come to mind in the Old Testament are that of Joseph and of Job.

In Genesis, Josephs brothers do not like him and are jealous of him being their father’s favorite. They sell him into slavery and he ends up in Egypt. He is faithful to God, becomes respected, ends up in jail on false charges, becomes respected again and ends up being the Pharaohs right hand man. He is the one who is essentially running the country.

When there is a huge famine in the area, Egypt is the only country with food and people are coming from all around to try to buy food. This includes Josephs old family. He reveals himself to them and moves his family down to Egypt. His brothers show regret and think that their will be retribution for what they did to Joseph. In Genesis 50:20-21, Joseph tells them:

As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people[b] should be kept alive, as they are today. 21 So do not fear; I will provide for you and your little ones.” Thus he comforted them and spoke kindly to them.

Joseph was able to look back and see why God had put him through all the trials that he was put through. He saw the bigger picture. Job was not so lucky. We, reading the Bible see the part in the beginning of Job where Satan and God are talking and God gives him permission to put him through many various trials. So Job was put through all this to prove that he would not turn against God when everything he has was taken from him. See, Jobs fear of the LORD, his worship of God, his giving thanks to him was not only based on what God had done to him and for him, but because of who God was. Job got through the trials and God restored all that he had and more. But during the entire time that God was revealing to Job who he was and talking with him, Job never found out why he went through all the trials he did.

So we can see in each of those stories what there is to give thanks for, what good has come of them, and who God is in them. We see them from high up in the air, putting the puzzle together and seeing it in totality. When things are happening to us, we don’t see it from up in the air, we are seeing it from the ground and we can’t always, or even often see the big picture.

But what we do have is Gods word, his promises. And his promise is that we go through the things we go through for a reason. Lets go back to James. He tells us to be thankful for the trials that we are put through, but he goes onto tell us why. Starting in v 3,

 for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. 4 And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.

When we give thanks to God during times of trials, our faith grows and we come to know God better, growing closer to him. Paul tells us that no matter what, God’s will will be done. That He is in control and that he has our best interest in mind. Our job is to worship him and to follow him, giving him thanks and praise. Paul tells us on Romans 8,

 And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good,[h] for those who are called according to his purpose. 29 For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.

The point of this passage is not just that God is good and will work everything to his will, which he will. But more than that it tells us a part of what his will is. That those of us that know him will be conformed to the image of Jesus Christ. That we will grow to be more like Jesus and that we will grow to be closer to God. That we will give thanks and worship and praise to he who is our creator King and is all good all the time.

Now let’s be clear. The bible is not saying and I am not saying that these times aren’t hard, that they arent difficult and that we shouldnt hurt. When Lazarus died, Jesus wept. His friend’s death hurt him and he mourned. What the Bible is saying is that when we know him, we can look at these circumstances and we can know that somehow, someway, someday, sometime, God will use this for his glory. Charles Finney said that, “A state of mind that sees God in everything is evidence of growth in grace and a thankful heart.”

This past Thursday, our nation celebrated Thanksgiving. Many Americans sit down as a family, tell each other what they are thankful for and spend time together. Many Americans do this only on this one day of the year. But I want to challenge us to something more. Each day, tell each other what you are thankful for. Each day, whoever you are spending your time with, family, friends coworkers, tell them what you are thankful for in your day, in your life, big and small. And let everyone know who you are thankful to.

See, just like forgiving others and praying, having a thankful heart towards God has an actual effect on us. A few of the many benefits of having a thankful heart towards God include It honors Him, It refocuses our attention, It releases us from anxiety (Phil. 4:6-7), It refreshes our relationship with Him, It reinforces our faith, and It protects us from attacks and temptations from the enemy. Dietrich Bonhoeffer spoke on the importance of biblical thanksgiving, saying:

“The way out of spiritual trial leads through thanksgiving.  . . . When thanksgiving fails, all else fails.  If there is something in our lives that we cannot include in thanksgiving, the Devil has found an open gate.  .

Giving thanks to God, having a thankful heart and mind towards him are vital for our well-being, for our growth and for our worship and right understanding of God. I think that thanksgiving to God is very similar to prayer to God. He wants to hear us pray for the big things. My old Pastor used to teach about how our prayers tend to not be very big, compared to Gods immeasurable greatness and power. But we also know that God loves us individually as singular people. And he wants to hear our prayers, not matter what they are, no matter how small they seem to us.

See, most of us fall into one of to categories. Either we believe that God is big enough powerful enough, to have the ability to create everything in existence, the entire cosmos, but does he really love and care about little old me enough to care about and do anything with my prayers? Or we go the other way, God loves me and cares about me, wants to hear about my wants and my problems, but he is not really going to do anything about it. Intellectually we may know that he is both, but viscerally, we have a hard time with that and tend to lean one way or the other.

He is both big enough to warrant thanks for life, salvation, this world. And he is also personal enough to warrant thanks for fried chicken, my kids and wife, for a heating system, for padded pews and chairs.

It matters to God. It should matter to us. It matters to the point that Revelation shows us in Ch 7 that the angels are on their faces before the throne of God and in v 12, : saying, “Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might be to our God forever and ever! Amen.”

The most important reason for us on a personal level, to give thanks to God is what we saw earlier in the quote by Charles Spurgeon. Our sins needed to be dealt with. We turned our back on God, we disobeyed his directions and found our selves separated from him. Because he wanted to restore that relationship, God sent Jesus Christ to take our punishment. We see that God had to forsake Jesus, to turn away from him, so that Jesus would feel that separation from God. We see the agony and the utter torment that cause jesus on the Cross. That was supposed to be us. Instead Jesus took it so we didn’t have to. Doesnt that deserve Thanks?

We look back at the story I opened with and Jesus healing the ten lepers. Do we want to be the one who came back or the ones who didn’t? I found a poem of giving thanks to God that I want to read to as we finish up.

When times are lean with nought to share
When love is hard to find
Where cold nights reign with cupboards bare
Then God is on the mind
But who gives praise when life is grand
When God has seen us through
Who’ve learned in truth to understand
That God remembers too
How oft we fail to thank the Lord
For all His kindness done
Through love He’ll turn His vengeful sword
In Christ His faithful Son
Give thanks to God for large and small
Give thanks for life on earth
From deep within or not at all
Give praise for all you’re worth

Worthy is God of all our praise
For all His wondrous deeds
Who serve The Truth in all their ways
May find they have no needs
Yet still the nations live in stress
Where harvest brings defeat
They need to turn so God can bless
With food for all to eat
Yet those who have can ill afford
With belly’s full to sit
We need to pray through Christ our Lord
We need to do our bit
For things can change as times before
When God held back the rain
For who can tell if sin once more
Won’t change our times again

Lets Pray

O Lord, Accept our thanks and praise for all that you have done for us. We thank you for the splendor of the whole creation, for the beauty of this world, for the wonder of life, and for the mystery of love.
We thank you for the blessing of family and friends, and for the loving care which surrounds us on every side.
We thank you for setting us at tasks which demand our best efforts, and for leading us to accomplishments which satisfy and delight us.
We thank you also for those disappointments and failures that lead us to acknowledge our dependence on you alone.
Above all, we thank you for your Son Jesus Christ; for the truth of his Word and the example of his life; for his steadfast obedience, by which he overcame temptation; for his dying, through which he overcame death; and for his rising to life again, in which we are raised to the life of your kingdom.
Grant us the gift of your Spirit, that we may know him and make him known; and through him, at all times and in all places, may give thanks to you in all things.
Amen

We have our new home!

Super Exciting News Guys! We found out where we will be going. We will be placed in Mossy Rock, Washington just after the first of the year. Needless to say, Hope and I are very excited. We have been able to do a little bit of research on the town (thats right, a town!) and thought we would share some of what we know with you all.

Mossy Rock is a town of about 750 residents. The school district (K-12) consists of about 400 students. There is a cafe, a food market, a gas station and some other local businesses. There is a blueberry festival with parade and everything each summer. There is a significant hispanic population, so Hope is excited to speak Spanish on a regular basis again, despite our efforts to teach me. There is also a home school population there as well. We will be just a few blocks fro the High School and from the food market and will be able to take family walks around town, getting to know the residents and our new neighbors.

There are numerous camping areas around Mossyrock and two recreational lakes as well. I have heard that, like the lakes we are near now, there is some pretty good fishing on Riffe Lake and Mayfield lake. The church I will be pastoring, Mossyrock Community Church, We are told the average attendance will be about 40 people on ay given Sunday. Once we get settled in, I plan on starting by preaching through the Gospel of Mark.

Again, I want to give our sincerest thanks and gratitude to those who have been supporting us. For those that don’t know, as a Village Missions Missionary Pastor, we are to raise our own wages, our own funds. There is much biblical precedent for fund raising (1 Cor. 9, 1 Tim. 5:17-18, Luke 10:7 and Matthew 10:9-10)

We would ask that you please prayerfully, carefully consider whether you are able and willing to help support us financially. You can make a tax deductible donation through the Village Missions website. Our families page is located here.

 

If you know of anyone that might be interested in praying for us, supporting us, or just learning more about our situation, please let us know and we can contact them. Feel free to share the email, our phone number or anything else. Please put them in contact with us. Thank you everyone for all your support, prayers and encouragement.

 

 

Casey

Luke 10:27

Make an Angel rejoice

“Just so, I tell you, there more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance” Luke 15:7

 

“Just so, I tell you, there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.” Luke 15:10

 

When some one gives there heart to the LORD, turns there back on sin and becomes one of Gods redeemed, the angels in heaven rejoice. This event is of vital importance to those in heaven; the redeemed who are already there, the angels and created beings, Jesus,the Holy Spirit and God the Father.

 

Have you made angels rejoice?

 

We would love to hear your story below

Casey

Luke 15:1-10

 

 

 

 

Prepping for my next Sermon

So Im am prepping to do my next sermon on May 18th and I will be preaching on the Parable of the Good Samaritan. I will post the passage here from Luke 10:25-37. What do you take from this? I want to hear the obvious as well as the deeper, not so obvious…

The Parable of the Good Samaritan And behold, a lawyer stood up to put him to the test, saying, “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” He said to him, “What is written in the Law? How do you read it?” And he answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.” And he said to him, “You have answered correctly; do this, and you will live.” But he, desiring to justify himself, said to Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” Jesus replied, “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and he fell among robbers, who stripped him and beat him and departed, leaving him half dead. Now by chance a priest was going down that road, and when he saw him he passed by on the other side. So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan, as he journeyed, came to where he was, and when he saw him, he had compassion. He went to him and bound up his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he set him on his own animal and brought him to an inn and took care of him. And the next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper, saying, ‘Take care of him, and whatever more you spend, I will repay you when I come back.’ Which of these three, do you think, proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell among the robbers?” He said, “The one who showed him mercy.” And Jesus said to him, “You go, and do likewise.” (Luke 10:25-37 ESV)

Casey