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A memorial service

January 13th, 2018
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We have two purposes at a memorial service:

1. The first is to remember a fellow human being. Their life was a gift to him and the world. They are unique with their strengths and weaknesses.

At all times we must remember that a human life is made in the image of God. Thus everyone is precious. We respect the fact hat God allowed us to have life and that his purpose is the same one for all of us.

We all have our good times and our bad times. And the solution to the failures of each of us is the same solution for all of us: Jesus Christ. All of us depend on the same graciousness of God revealed in Jesus Christ.

We share the same need to rely on the love God has for us.

This leads to the second purpose of a memorial service:

2. It is not in ourselves we have hope. Our hope is in the one who loves even in our mistakes.

As the apostle Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians 4:4-7

4 The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel that displays the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. 5 For what we preach is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, and ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake. 6 For God, who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness, made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of God’s glory displayed in the face of Christ.
7 But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us.

That’s where our confidence is.

Life is not easy. There are contradictions all around us and even in ourselves. Things don’t work out the way we planned them. And so humanly many give up or feel there are no answers, or even that the ideallism of youth was misplaced in the uncertainties of life.

But this is where we have to turn from ourselves to know the glorious Father who sends his Son in the power of the Spirit to reveal himself

John 1:18

 No one has ever seen God, but the one and only Son, who is himself God and is in the closest relationship with the Father, has made him known.

This is where we ultimately must look.

Behind all existence is One who is the greatest treasure we can have. And we see him in the Son

John1:4

 In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind.

Everything we are meant to be is in him and can be seen in him.

One of the most encouraging truths of the Bible is that Jesus is the pioneer of a new humanity. He comes to perfect our human nature, release us from the consequences of sin and to gives us a new life which shares his life with the Father. He actually sets us free from ourselves.

He does that for all of us. Even in the midst of the darkness of this world, in the midst of our mistakes and our own confusions he did that independently of us.

He is the captain of our salvation, the firstborn from the dead, the author and finisher of our faith.

Colossians 1:15-23

15 The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. 16 For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him. 17 He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. 18 And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy. 19 For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, 20 and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.
21 Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behaviour. 22 But now he has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation – 23 if you continue in your faith, established and firm, and do not move from the hope held out in the gospel. This is the gospel that you heard and that has been proclaimed to every creature under heaven, and of which I, Paul, have become a servant.

So complete, so powerful is this Son, all things things have been reconciled to him.

And this has momentous consequences. It means that unless we have wilfully, deliberately with complete contempt rejected Jesus as the way to God, there is hope in him for everyone.

Our failures, our addictions, our depressions or any thing in this whole world cannot break his grip over our lives. He is Lord and his hold over us is total.

Thus our hope for anyone is not in who they are but in who God is.

The apostle Paul wrote about the truth of our lives and standing before the ultimate reality God. He wrote

Romans 14: 7-12

7 For none of us lives for ourselves alone, and none of us dies for ourselves alone. 8 If we live, we live for the Lord; and if we die, we die for the Lord. So, whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord. 9 For this very reason, Christ died and returned to life so that he might be the Lord of both the dead and the living.
10 You, then, why do you judge your brother or sister? Or why do you treat them with contempt? For we will all stand before God’s judgment seat. 11 It is written:
‘“As surely as I live,” says the Lord,
“Every knee will bow before me;
    every tongue will acknowledge God.”’
12 So then, each of us will give an account of ourselves to God.

And the one who judges is the one who was sent by the Father to save us from ourselves. And he knows us completely in a way no one else does. He knows everything about us. And still loves us.

We see the depth of this knowledge of us in

Hebrews 4:12-13

12 For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. 13 Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account.

When we read the gospels we see one who is for us, accepts us in our struggles, wants to give true life to us.

He lives a perfect life for us, he dies for us and he is resurrected for us.

There is nothing in Christ’s purpose that is against us. Oh, he is against evil, wickedness, rebellion because this hurts us but he has overcome this for us.

And it is in the power of his resurrection that he finally will set us free from all the pain, suffering, mistakes so we can see clearly the Father’s love for us.

This is true for all.

Message for the Day

The humanity of Jesus

December 24th, 2017
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It is interesting how the gospels of Matthew and Luke have genealogies leading to Jesus’ birth. Matthew begins with Abraham showing he is embedded in the story of Israel and Luke retraces it back to Adam, the son of God, showing he is one with all humanity.

To understand the Old Testament, we need to ask: What’s the role of Israel? Too many Christians fail to teach from the Old Testament because “it’s done away with”– we’re not under the law but under grace.

When we read the Old Testament, we see that it’s all figuring and types prefiguring the coming of Jesus Christ.

Paul talks about the law as a wonderful schoolmaster to bring us to Christ. So in that sense, through Israel, God has formed a community. He has not taken a pre-existing one. He creates a community of people through individuals, starting with Abraham, gives them a blessing, enters into a covenant with them: “I’ll be your God, you’ll be my people; I’ll give you blessings if you do these things, curses if you do these things.”

He’s forming them through giving them the law, rules which cover every aspect of life.

God is forming a people to know what it means to come into the presence of someone who is not an idol – someone who is not human – someone who is holy. “I’m holy – take off your shoes. I’m holy – prepare yourself. I’m holy – think different ways, act differently.”

Paul describes it this way.

Romans 9:4-5

4 the people of Israel. Theirs is the adoption to sonship; theirs the divine glory, the covenants, the receiving of the law, the temple worship and the promises. 5 Theirs are the patriarchs, and from them is traced the human ancestry of the Messiah, who is God over all, for ever praised! Amen.

All of that is in preparation for Jesus Christ, so that when he comes, he is the fulfillment of Israel. He is all Israel. So he represents, he substitutes for all Israel. Time and time again, the Gospels are alluding to this, where Jesus re-enacts the story of Israel.

Then we get the climax – not only is this for Israel – Jesus now is the way through which all humanity will be saved. All humanity will have the Spirit, all humanity can have the promise, the ingrafting that Paul and others talk about.

So we read the Old Testament, particularly Israel, as this long preparation for the coming of Christ. That gives us a context in which to understand this rabbi , teacher or master.

And did you notice verse 5 Theirs are the patriarchs, and from them is traced the human ancestry of the Messiah, who is God over all, for ever praised! Amen.

Human ancestry and who is God overall.

Now there are two perspectives we find in discussing Jesus.

One is from above -which we read in John1:1

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.

John starts his gospel up in the heavenlies. Here’s the Logos who comes down and verse 14 – takes to himself human flesh. But the rest of that Gospel is here with us-below.

We can emphasise his divinity as a lot of Christians do. But in doing so we may downplay the importance of his on-going humanity.

Read more…

Message for the Day

John4(5)

December 19th, 2017
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Jesus has had a wonderful and unexpected (to his disciples) response in the city of Sychar due to the witness of a woman.

Before we go on, there is another connection between Joseph and the Samaritan woman. We recall that earlier Joseph received a special blessing from his father at the time of Jacob’s death. It was a promise that he would be a fruitful vine climbing over a wall (Gen. 49:22).

In his conversation with the Samaritan woman, Jesus – the promised vine in Jacob’s promise to Joseph – is in effect climbing over the wall of hostility between the Israelite Jews and Israelite Samaritans to unite these two parts of His Kingdom through His person, teaching and deeds. In a deeply symbolic fashion this conversation takes place at the very well that was built by Jacob to whom the promise was given!

So when the Samaritans came to him, they urged him to stay with them, and he stayed two days. And because of his words many more became believers.

The time in Samaria was spectacularly successful. It appears that the whole town of Sychar was turning to Jesus as the Messiah and the Saviour of the world. The focus there is not on his miracle-working power, but on his word. “We have heard him for ourselves, and we know that this is indeed the Saviour of the world”

This is a better response than anything Jesus has gotten among his own Jewish people.

John4:43-45

43 After the two days he left for Galilee.

Galilee is where Jesus grew up in Nazareth. About 10 miles north of Nazareth was Cana, where he turned water to wine (back in chapter 2), and about 15 miles east from Cana was Capernaum where the official with the sick son in this story lives. So Galilee is Jesus’ homeland in a special sense. He is leaving Samaria, which is not his homeland, and turning now to his own stomping grounds.

44 (Now Jesus himself had pointed out that a prophet has no honour in his own country.)

John seems to be saying that Jesus intentionally goes where he is less honored than in Samaria. He’s coming again to his own people knowing that they don’t understand him and don’t honour him for who he is.

This is not new. John 1:11 set the stage for this strategy: “He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him.”

So the argument of verse 44 seems strange to us—go to a place because they will probably misunderstand you and reject you—but it was not strange to Jesus. It was part of the plan from the beginning. He intends to keep offering himself to his own, and overall his own will not receive him. This will in the end get him killed. Which is why he came.

Where sin abounded, grace superabounded.

45 When he arrived in Galilee, the Galileans welcomed him.

That isn’t what we expect. They’re supposed to dishonor him according to verse 44. How can John say, “A prophet has no honor in his own hometown, therefore they welcomed him”?

The answer is that the “welcome”—the reception—is not what it looks like on the outside. There is a kind of receiving Jesus that has no true honour for his person in it. It’s just an interest in his signs and wonders.

This is not new in John’s Gospel. We’ve seen it before. Remember John 2:23–25

23 Now when [Jesus] was in Jerusalem at the Passover Feast, many believed in his name when they saw the signs that he was doing.

24 But Jesus on his part did not entrust himself to them, because he knew all people 25 and needed no one to bear witness about man, for he himself knew what was in man.

They “believed,” John says, but this was not a kind of faith that Jesus accepted. It was simply an excitement with his miracles, not what they pointed to, namely, his beauty and glory as the Son of God, the Messiah, the Saviour of the World—the things that the Samaritans saw. The emphasis among the Samaritans didn’t fall on miracles, but on his word.

“They welcomed him.” Yes, but then it says,

They had seen all that he had done in Jerusalem at the Passover Festival, for they also had been there.

They welcomed him because they had seen works of power in Jerusalem. Jesus is coming to these very people knowing this is their attitude. And then John mentions Jesus’ coming to Cana.

John4:46-54

46 Once more he visited Cana in Galilee, where he had turned the water into wine.

People like to follow a miracle worker. We get the physical benefits plus we can be lifted up in him because of his status. Probably the fastest growing churches are those that promise miracles, healings, special blessings of wealth and success, spectacular gifts of the Spirit.

But Jesus is very wary of such belief.

And there was a certain royal official whose son lay ill at Capernaum. 47 When this man heard that Jesus had arrived in Galilee from Judea, he went to him and begged him to come and heal his son, who was close to death.

48‘Unless you people see signs and wonders,’ Jesus told him, ‘you will never believe.’

Jesus does not address the man only. He addresses the whole group he has been talking about—the whole region of his own hometown. And now he says clearly what their problem is.

You are sign-seekers. You are “wonder-worshipers.” You say you believe, but your belief—like those folks in Jerusalem —is not real belief that honours me. We can call it belief, but it’s not the kind that unites you to me as one who sees and treasures me as the Son of God full of grace and truth. In fact, it dishonours me.

This explains the statement that a prophet has no honour in his own home area and yet is welcomed.

But now what about this official? Was he in that crowd who believed but didn’t believe? Believed as a sign-seeker, but not as a Saviour-seeker? A lover of Jesus’ power, but not a lover of his person?

Is Jesus testing him? The official is asking for a miracle for his dying son in an environment where people love to see miracles. And he seems to be asking for the same reason any unbelieving person would love to see a miracle—I have a health need, fix it. Not: I have sin, forgive it, and give me power to live for you.

Unbelievers don’t love God; they use God. So Jesus bluntly says to the man—it says that Jesus said “to him” (verse 48)—that he and the other Galileans are sign-seekers: “Unless you see signs and wonders you will not believe.”

49 The royal official said, ‘Sir, come down before my child dies.’

He doesn’t even comment on it. He simply repeats his request. Neither Jesus nor John comments on the man’s sincerity. Jesus simply gives him a gift.

50 ‘Go,’ Jesus replied, ‘your son will live.’ The man took Jesus at his word and departed.

What is remarkable about this is that the man had asked Jesus to come with him. But when Jesus simply spoke, “Go; your son will live,” the man obeyed without a question. He believed and went.

He did not insist on seeing the miracle. He did not complain that Jesus would not come with him.

And amazingly, he simply left, John says, believing. It seems that in that moment of seeing Jesus speak so authoritatively in spite of his accusations, something awakened in the man. He saw something more than a miracle-worker.

51 While he was still on the way, his servants met him with the news that his boy was living. 52 When he enquired as to the time when his son got better, they said to him, ‘Yesterday, at one in the afternoon, the fever left him.’
53 Then the father realised that this was the exact time at which Jesus had said to him, ‘Your son will live.’ So he and his whole household believed.
54 This was the second sign Jesus performed after coming from Judea to Galilee.

Then the next day we get the confirmation of the healing at the very hour when Jesus spoke the day before. And the confirmation reestablishes the man’s faith, and his household believes also.

Was his faith the mere sign-seeking kind? It doesn’t seem like it. He seems to have passed the test. And who is he? The word “official” in verses 46 and 49 is literally “royal one.” It means “connected to a king” in some way. The king-like figure over Galilee was Herod Antipas. He was a wicked man. He had married his brother’s wife and put John the Baptist to death.

Calling this man a “royal one” or a “royal official,” John makes a connection with this court. So maybe John’s point is: Yes, this man believed. But he is more like the Samaritans than like the hometown folks whom Jesus criticizes as sign-seekers. He believes what and obeys what Jesus said. So his faith may be an added contrast to Jesus’ “own kind” who don’t honour him.

So, stepping back, what is the main point of this text? What is the writer doing?

Read more…

Message for the Day