October 4, 2009

Where are you living? (Ephesians 2: 11-22) by David Hanke

September 14, 2009

“Who are you?” by David Hanke
Ephesians 1: 1-14

A Place and A Time

Picture 10One of the key applications of our series from Exodus was creating a deliberate time and place to interact with God.  Moses did it outside the camp in a tent of meeting.  We can do it almost anywhere–  a park bench, a specific chair in our home or office, a closet.  So choose a place and choose a time!  Check.

Once we are there, then the question becomes, what do we do?  For hundreds of years, faithful Christians have followed plans to read through the Bible and pray their way through Scripture.  You can google Bible Reading Plan and find scores of them.  My favorite is from Robert Murray Mc’Cheyne.  You can read a quick bio here.

His plan gives 4 readings a day (takes about 20 minutes) and takes you through the NT twice, Psalms twice, and OT once, every year.  I love it.  It’s nice to just show up in my place at my time and not have to figure out–  what do I do??

May Robert Murray Mc’Cheyne be a gift to you as well.

August 30, 2009

“Up! Make Us Gods Who Shall Go Before Us…” by David Hanke

The Attraction of Idols

Restoration Anglican Church sermon on Exodus 32-34; IdolatryOver the next two weeks, we will be digging in to Exodus 32-34.  Here is some helpful background on why Israel (and we) love idols.  The information is from one of my favorite professors at Gordon-Conwell, Dr. Doug Stuart.

Idolatry is attractive because it is:

1.  Guaranteed: Presence of a god was guaranteed by presence of idol.  The idol image was like an ancient cell phone.  People believed that the offerings they brought before an idol of a god and the prayers they said the idol’s presence were fully and unfailingly perceived by the god.

2.  Selfish: Idolatry was an entire materialistic system of thinking.  The one ‘hold’ or advantage that humans had over the gods was the ability to feed them.  If you fed the god, it was obligated to use its power on behalf of the worshiper.

3.  Easy: Frequency and generosity of sacrifices were the sole significant requirements of faithful idolatrous religion.  Idolatry minimized the importance of ethical behavior.  As long as you kept the food coming, you could do whatever you want.

4.  Convenient: In contrast to the Lord’s command to come up to Jerusalem three times a year, idol shrines were erected on every hilltop and street corner.  You could drop by to offer a sacrifice at your convenience–  virtually any time of day, any day of the week, at a location of your choosing.

5.  Normal: everyone did it.  If an Israelite asked his Canaanite neighbor how to farm in these parts, the Canaanite would begin with an explanation for how to worship the local idol.  If you want to fit in, worship the idol.

6.  Logical: idolatry was polytheistic, syncretistic, and pantheistic.  It made sense to have a multiplicity of gods, each one covering a different facet of life.  It was enormously attractive to think one could gain assured access to those gods who had power over your greatest need simply by being in the presence of an idol.

7.  Pleasing to the senses, indulgent, erotic: The images of divinity were ‘beautiful’.  The worship ‘services’ were huge feasts.  The more frequently one ate meat and the more meat one ate, the more likely one could curry favor with the gods.  Heavy eating and drinking were encouraged.  Temple prostitution was common because it was believed that if you had sex in the presence of the idol, it would encourage the gods to have sex and provide what you need–  fertility, more crops, more cattle.  Ritual sex would stimulate things to be born on earth.

It is important to remember that Israel never struggled with belief in the Lord or even worshiping the Lord.  Their struggle was always to worship ONLY the Lord.  Even today, many of us would say that Jesus is Lord, but find it challenging to say no to the idols that compete for His worship.

August 23, 2009

“Doing What it Takes” by Larry Martin

August 16, 2009

“God’s Grace” by David Hanke

God’s Good No

Well, it’s almost a week later, and I’m still thinking about last Sunday’s sermon.  (Good job, David!)

For those who weren’t there (and for those who were and were sleepy), David walked us through Exodus 19.  God leads the Israelites to Mt. Sinai, he descends upon the mountain, and he calls Moses up onto the mountain so that God can to speak to him.  But God very clearly states that none of the rest of the Israelites are even to touch the mountain.  If they do, they will be put to death.

Maybe not quite what you were looking for when you got out of bed early on Sunday morning.

It’s a hard scripture, and it was a hard message.  David spoke to us about the limits that God puts on us and our behaviors.  He showed us that because God is a holy God — as this passage makes so clear — there are limits on how we can act and what we can do.  Because we are created in God’s image and called to reflect his holiness, and because we are human and not gods, there are limits on our choices and our behavior.  Both God’s holiness and our humanness mean that God sometimes says “no” to us.  That “no” can be very difficult — but because it is God’s, it is also very good.

What kind of limits does God put on us? David gave us lots of hard, specific examples:

  • Limits on how we spend our time and our money.
  • Limits on our work-life “balance” (or lack thereof).
  • Limits on physical intimacy in dating relationships.
  • Limits on marriage.
  • Limits on our internet and other media consumption.

There was something in there for just about everyone — it was what I think of as an “equal opportunity convictor.”

David also showed us how the Israelite community was charged with protecting and preserving the limits God had set around Mt. Sinai; those who transgressed the limits were not immediately smited by God but received their punishment at the hand of their fellow Israelites. In a similar way, we as a community of people following Jesus bear the responsibility of naming, protecting, and preserving the limits that God has placed on us.   This doesn’t mean that we have to turn into the morality police, but it does mean that we as a community need to take seriously the limits on how we live in light of God’s holiness.

Does that make you uncomfortable?  I hope so.  It does me.  This is hard stuff.  It’s hard to hear.  It’s hard to accept.  It’s hard to do right — and all too easy to do wrong.  But I think it’s true.  And so we have to wrestle with it.

So this is an invitation to a wrestling match.  I think this sermon should be the beginning of a conversation, not the end of it.  We want to hear what you think.  What spoke to your heart?  What made you mad? What made you seek and receive God’s forgiveness? What did you disagree with? What made you want to stand up and cheer?  We want to hear it all.

So please talk to us, and talk to each other.   Talk to your roommate, your spouse, your kids.  Talk to someone from your last small group.  Talk to me or to David (you can always reach us here).  Let’s wrestle together to understand God’s good “no.”

I believe in God…

It’s been a real problem for me.

This week we are reading Exodus 20-24. You’ll notice there are a lot of rules. What do you think about God’s Laws– helpful? hopeful? capricious? mean? rigid? liberating?
I’m asking this question as I write: What do God’s laws tell us about God? What does He value? What’s important to His heart? What matters?

And then, what does it tell us about His people? If He gives this Law Gift to His people, how is that an expression of love, delight, and great care?

Shalom Auslander’s memoir is a well-written reflection on God as arbitrary, petty, and egocentric.

It breaks my heart.

July 12, 2009

“God’s Sacrifice” by Erin Coleman

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