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Monday, March 27, 2017

What is the church? Not alone.

What is the church?  And what can we liken it to in Genesis 39?

"Now Joseph had been brought down to Egypt, and Potiphar, a court official of Pharaoh, commander of the guard, an Egyptian, bought him from the hand of the Ishmaelites who had brought him down there. And Yahweh was with Joseph..."

"And he was there in prison. And Yahweh was with Joseph..."

Whether the spoiled son of a rich nomadic chief living as an alien on land promised to him or the slave of an officer of a foreign power or a prisoner unjustly incarcerated, the church is defined and known by the company it keeps.  

Yahweh is with His church.

"And Jesus approached and spoke to them, saying, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe everything I have commanded you, and behold, I am with you all the days until the end of the age.”"  Matthew 28 

Sunday, March 26, 2017

What is the church? Faithful servants.

What is the church?  And what can we liken it to in Genesis 39? 

"Now Joseph had been brought down to Egypt, and Potiphar, a court official of Pharaoh, commander of the guard, an Egyptian, bought him from the hand of the Ishmaelites who had brought him down there. And Yahweh was with Joseph, and he became a successful man. And he was in the house of his master, the Egyptian. And his master observed that Yahweh was with him, and everything that was in his hand to do Yahweh made successful. And Joseph found favor in his eyes and he served him. Then he appointed him over his house and all that he owned he put into his hand. And it happened that from the time he appointed him over his house and over all that he had, Yahweh blessed the house of the Egyptian on account of Joseph. And the blessing of Yahweh was upon all that he had in the house and in the field. And he left all that he had in the hand of Joseph, and he did not worry about anything except the food that he ate."

"And Joseph’s master took him and put him into prison, the place that the king’s prisoners were confined. And he was there in prison. And Yahweh was with Joseph, and showed loyal love to him, and gave him favor in the eyes of the chief of the prison. And the chief of the prison put all the prisoners that were in the prison into the hand of Joseph. And everything that was done there, he was the one who did it. The chief of the prison did not worry about anything in his hand, since Yahweh was with him. And whatever he did Yahweh made it successful."

Wherever the church is, whether God blessed it with the choice of careers and mission fields in which to serve or whether God is testing her with less than ideal circumstances and even suffering, one thing should mark those who know Yahweh and are known and loved by Him:

The church should endeavor to be the most loyal, the most beneficial, the most honest, the most worthy servant we can be there for as long as we are there.  Employers, employees, co-workers and customers should all be able to stand on the last day and praise God for how we treated them. 

"
Slaves, obey your earthly masters with fear and trembling, in the sincerity of your heart, as to Christ, not while being watched, as people pleasers, but as slaves of Christ doing the will of God from the heart, serving with goodwill as to the Lord and not to people, because you know that each one of you, whatever good he should do, this he will receive back from the Lord, whether slave or free. And masters, do the same things to them, giving up threats, knowing that both their Lord and yours is in heaven, and there is no partiality with him."  Ephesians 6
  
For the church should not motivated by money, the praise of men, worldly ambition or laziness.  The church are those chosen to serve in the same love they have been served.

"So when he had washed their feet and taken his outer clothing and reclined at table again, he said to them, “Do you understand what I have done for you? You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and you speak correctly, for I am. If then I—your Lord and Teacher—wash your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example, that just as I have done for you, you also do. Truly, truly I say to you, a slave is not greater than his master, nor a messenger greater than the one who sent him. If you understand these things, you are blessed if you do them."  John 13 

Saturday, March 25, 2017

What is the church? Known by its limping.

What is the church?  And what can we liken it to in Genesis 32?

"And Jacob remained alone, and a man wrestled with him until the breaking of the dawn. And when he saw that he could not prevail against him, he struck his hip socket, so that Jacob’s hip socket was sprained as he wrestled with him. Then he said, “Let me go, for dawn is breaking.” But he answered, “I will not let you go unless you bless me.” Then he said to him, “What is your name?” And he said, “Jacob.” And he said, “Your name shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel, for you have struggled with God and with men and have prevailed.” Then Jacob asked and said, “Please tell me your name.” And he said, “Why do you ask this—for my name?” And he blessed him there. Then Jacob called the name of the place Peniel which means “I have seen God face to face and my life was spared.” Then the sun rose upon him as he passed Penuel, and he was limping because of his hip."

Despite the appearance of a few generations of enlightened christians, the church is not white, clean and neat.  It is not shiny, happy people who have got it all together.  Got it all figured out.  It is not "good" people.  

It is people who wrestle with God.  It is people whom God has interrupted, disciplined, blessed and disputed with and instead of walking away, instead of avoiding, instead of running from or ignoring, these chosen people have struggled to understand and have had the faith not to give up.  They are people who have been led to a hard place, a wilderness place, a place of darkness and death and dying and asked the question, "Why God?  Why?"  And not always gotten satisfactory answers.  Leastways, not right away, if at all.  And God not only allows this, He most often welcomes it.  

"Cease to do evil! Learn to do good!
    Seek justice! Rescue the oppressed!
    Defend the orphan! Plead for the widow!
“Come now, and let us argue,” says Yahweh.
    “Even though your sins are like scarlet, they will be white like snow;
    even though they are red like crimson, they shall become like wool.
If you are willing and you are obedient,
    you shall eat the good of the land.
But if you refuse and you rebel, you shall be devoured by the sword." Isaiah 1


How can God be so tolerant?  How can he be so patient?  Because the church is His children whom He dearly loves.  The church are those children who want to know why, Daddy, why?

"When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child; but when I became a man, I put away childish things. For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part, but then I shall know just as I also am known.
And now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love."
 

Friday, March 24, 2017

What is the church? Sacrificed for.

What is the church?  And what shall we liken it to on the mountain in Genesis 22?

"And they came to the place that God had told him. And Abraham built an altar there and arranged the wood. Then he bound Isaac his son and placed him on the altar atop the wood. And Abraham stretched out his hand and took the knife to slaughter his son. And the angel of Yahweh called to him from heaven and said, “Abraham! Abraham!” And he said, “Here I am.” And he said, “Do not stretch out your hand against the boy; do not do anything to him. For now I know that you are one who fears God, since you have not withheld your son, your only child, from me.” And Abraham lifted up his eyes and looked. And behold, a ram was caught in the thicket by his horns. And Abraham went and took the ram, and offered it as a burnt offering in place of his son. And Abraham called the name of that place “Yahweh will provide,”"

God is God.  He is Holy.  Part of what that means is anyone who does not treat him as such deserves to die.  Abraham deserved to die for his sins.   The concept and practice of sacrificing an animal in our own place goes back to Genesis 3 when God gives animal skin coverings to Adam and Eve.  Our naked shame is covered by the blood of something which did not rebel against God; did not doubt Him; an innocent caught in the thicket of our sin.  We see it again in chapter four with Cain and Abel.  We see it again in the animals Noah brings on the ark and sacrifices as soon as they are safe on land again.  And we will see it all through the Bible, right up to the coming of the True Lamb of God.  All of this points ahead.  God knew what He was going to do from the beginning.  

"And authority was given it over every tribe and people and language and nation, and all who dwell on earth will worship it, everyone whose name has not been written before the foundation of the world in the book of life of the Lamb who was slain."  Revelations 13

Just as God knew what Abraham and Isaac were going to find on the mountain.  Here God is giving Abe and the angels and us a much clearer picture of Jesus than even a fuzzy little lamb!  Here God is letting Abraham, the father of nations, act in God's own place!  For God knows what He is going to do: sacrifice His own Son!  This test wasn't to show God what was in Abe's heart, He already knew.  Abe's name is written in a book God has on his coffee table.  A book of people whom Jesus has chosen to die for.  Chosen to die in place of.  Chosen to provide for.  It is to show us what is in God's heart.

"For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord."  Romans 6

The church are those who have received the gift God has provided.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

What is the church? Condemned...

What is the church?  And what can we liken it to as we continue with Abraham and Isaac in Genesis 22?

"And Isaac said to Abraham his father, “My father!” And he said, “Here I am, my son.” And he said, “Here is the fire and the wood, but where is the lamb for a burnt offering?” And Abraham said, “God will provide the lamb for a burnt offering, my son.” And the two of them went together."

Isaac is a dead man walking.  He just doesn't know it yet.  Maybe being in his teens and no dummy, he begins to suspect, yet he walks on.  Abraham has known for days.  Yet he walks on.  And here's the very simple point i've tried to make before and will try again today, the church is not inherently free from sin or its penalty: death.  

"They are corrupt.
They do abominable deeds.
There is none who does good.
Yahweh looks down from heaven upon the children of humankind
to see whether there is one who has insight,
one who cares about God.
All have gone astray;
they are altogether corrupt.
There is not one who does good;
there is not even one."  Psalm 14


"Because of this, just as sin entered into the world through one man, and death through sin, so also death spread to all people because all sinned." Romans 5

There is nothing lovely in these people who have come to be known as the church in and of themselves!  They are sinners.  They are thieves and whores and liars and murderers when they are called, every last one of them.  The church are dead men walking...

but they are also prophetic.  "And Abraham said, “God will provide the lamb for a burnt offering, my son.” 

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

What is the church? A Testimony.

What is the church?  And what can we liken it to in Genesis 22 still? 

"And he said, “Take your son, your only child, Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains where I will tell you.” And Abraham rose up early in the morning and saddled his donkey. And he took two of his servants with him, and Isaac his son. And he chopped wood for a burnt offering. And he got up and went to the place which God had told him. On the third day Abraham lifted up his eyes..."

Those whom God calls and those who hear and obey and suffer for it and serve when and where and how they are called, will be a testimony to Christ.  Their very lives, their very suffering will point to the suffering of Christ!  This makes perfect sense.  The church are those given the Holy Spirit and the Holy Spirit is always testifying about Christ.  How could we not?  Abraham's call to sacrifice.  Isaac's call to be the sacrifice.  Three days of thinking Isaac as good as dead.  Abraham is being invited to know God in ways we could never know him just by reading about him.  

"If anyone serves me, he must follow me, and where I am, there my servant will be also. If anyone serves me, the Father will honor him.”  John 12

The church are those who's suffering, who's prosperity, who's very lives are a living testimony to Jesus Christ who's life, death and resurrection are a testimony to the Father.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

What is the church? Glorified and glorifying.

What is the church?  And what can we liken it to in Genesis 22?

" And he said, “Take your son, your only child, Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains where[a] I will tell you.” And Abraham rose up early in the morning and saddled his donkey. And he took two of his servants with him, and Isaac his son. And he chopped wood for a burnt offering. And he got up and went to the place which God had told him."

We touched on it yesterday.  But look, what do you see?  When God told Abe he was going to destroy a wicked city or four, Abe had the temerity to argue with God.  To talk him down, to bargain for the lives of people he did not know.  When God told Abe he was going to be a father some day, Abe asked how it could be and even took matters into his own hands with one of his servants.  But here, Abe has matured enough to know that this is a time to just listen and do.  He knows this God.  He has been through deep waters with Him.  He loves and trusts and fears Him.

"And we know that all things work together for good for those who love God, for those who are called according to his purpose, because those whom he foreknew, he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, so that he should be the firstborn among many brothers. And those whom he predestined, these he also called, and those whom he called, these he also justified, and those whom he justified, these he also glorified."

   When we do these things, when the church hears and obeys, God always moves them into the best position to see the good He has planned, to conform us not to the pattern of this world, but Jesus Christ, the visible Glory of God.

"Jesus said to her, “Did I not say to you that if you believed, you would see the glory of God?”"  John 11