Monthly Archives: November 2012

God’s Gift of Family

Peninsula Community Church

November 25, 2012

God’s Gift of Family – An Introduction

One of the things I have found about families is that almost every family has that one person who is different. Sometimes there is one member that is the trouble maker or they march to a different beat. For other families there are those who are the “black sheep” who put a black mark on an otherwise normal family. We all have these family members. But over the next couple of weeks we will observe that Christ also had family members that fit the above description.

Text: Matthew 1:1-6 – The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham. Abraham was the father of Isaac, and Isaac the father of Jacob, and Jacob the father of Judah and his brothers, and Judah the father of Perez and Zerah by Tamar, and Perez the father of Hezron, and Hezron the father of Ram, and Ram the father of Amminadab, and Amminadab the father of Nahshon, and Nahshon the father of Salmon, and Salmon the father of Boaz by Rahab, and Boaz the father of Obed by Ruth, and Obed the father of Jesse, and Jesse the father of David the king. And David was the father of Solomon by the wife of Uriah …

My goal over the next several weeks is to focus on the five women Matthew references in his genealogy. But before do that, I would like to make some preliminary observations about the text. My desire is that through this series you we will see and recognize and bring to light the awesomeness of God’s grace and mercy.

If we do a quick read on this text we can miss much that is hidden within these words. So, today, we will mine some of the truths that exist within these words. To understand them we must dig beyond just the words that are written to understand the historical and Judaic meaning of the passage.

As we dig into the meaning of this passage, we must first recognize a specific reference that Matthew makes. First, it is important to note that including women in a Jewish genealogy was not a common practice in those days. In most of the genealogies of the day the emphasis was upon the man as evidenced in Luke’s record of the genealogy of Christ. The reason given for this most often was that the Jew was looking for Messiah to come and they knew that Messiah was to be a man. It was for this reason that the emphasis was most often on the male role. In this study it is also interesting to note who Matthew did not include. He did not include Sarah, Leah, Rachel and many others who may have presented Christ’s family in a better light.

Secondly, it is critical to note that Matthew’s gospel focused on the kingdom of God. This is important because it has been said that if you want to understand the kingdom you must read Matthew’s gospel. Matthew, in God’s wisdom, presented the kingdom of God as a future event that would be consummated in Christ’s second coming and the establishment of His kingdom for eternity. Matthew also emphasized that God’s kingdom was present now and could be experienced now by those who would follow God’s commands through obedience. This is seen in the Lord’s Prayer Christ prayed “Your Kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” It is also interesting to note that Matthew on a number of occasions presented an illustration of what the kingdom of God would look like when he would state “The kingdom of Heaven or of God is like….” And then he would resent a scenario.

There is a critical need for believers to realize that the kingdom of God is evident now and the full power of the kingdom is available to them. We can call on God to reveal his kingdom power into every situation that we face. When His kingdom is revealed we experience His grace and His power. Things happen when God’s Kingdom comes.

In reference to this passage, however, we have another truth that is evident. By including these women in the text Matthew is reminding us that the Kingdom of God is open to all who will come to Him. It does not matter about one’s past or what one may have done in the past. The door of the Kingdom is open to them. Secondly this is a reminder that the Kingdom is not open to just the Jew but to the Gentile as well. The Kingdom is available to the Jew and the Gentile; the slave and the free; and both man and woman.

Thirdly, in Matthew’s gospel he focuses on the women in these stories but by implication it also focuses on the families of these women and their male counterpoint. The fact is God’s family is filled with dysfunctional people who are not much different than us today. In fact, many of the stories of the Old Testament could be torn right from the pages of our newspapers, movie scripts, TV programs and the latest steamy novel. It should be an encouragement to us today that God allowed us a glimpse into His family. It should encourage us that He allows the curtain to be pulled back so we can see His family up close and personal.

That brings us to a fourth observation. The Holy Spirit is not afraid to deal with some uncomfortable issues in the Scripture. He could have chosen to ignore these stories or he could have pressed the delete button and removed these stories from the Bible. But rather, He addresses those things that relate to real life.

For educators and psychologists there is a term they use called “disequilibrium.” What they say is that we often learn more when we face things that unsettle us or that shake us out of our comfort zone. It is at this moment that we must either adjust our paradigm of understanding or we adjust our emotions to accept the issue.

It is interesting to me how the stories related to these women cause us to ask questions and deal with issues that we would not normally deal with in Scripture. Let’s briefly look at these ladies:

Tamar – Tamar’s first husband, Er died. He was taken by God because of his evil ways. Her second husband, Onan, died, as well as, a result of disobedience and the evilness of his ways. Judah, Er and Onan’s father, had promised her his third son who was too young to be married. He unfortunately did not keep his word and Tamar took things into her own hands and dressed up like a prostitute because she knew that Judah would succumb to the temptation of prostitution. He did and she trapped him by his actions. This sounds like a story from modern TV or the movies doesn’t it.

Rahab – Rahab was a prostitute. While Rahab was a prostitute God used her to guide Israel to victory. Rahab was such a critical part of the history of Israel that she is listed in the hall of fame of faith in Hebrews 11.

Ruth – Ruth was a foreigner who lost her husband and was left in essence without a home or a future but there was a kinsman redeemer. And she became the mother of Boaz who became the father of David.

Bathsheba – Bathsheba lost both her husband and her son because of David’s dishonesty and lies. While Bathsheba was not completely innocent she submitted to the wishes of the king which if she had disobeyed him her own life would have been at stake.

Mary – And finally, we have Mary who was different from most of these other ladies. She was an innocent young girl who should have never have been chosen. She was in essence a nobody but she was a somebody chosen by God to be the mother of His only Son.

Finally, all of these stories remind us of the grace and mercy of God. It is so awesome that these stories are a part of Christ’s family. Each of these dysfunctional families and situations are welcomed and invited to be a part of the kingdom and is a part of Christ’s heritage and family. Each of these women was a great grandmother of Christ. They were a part of His family. Each of us has similar those stories in our families. These stories remind us that the dysfunctional and broken are welcomed into the kingdom. They are invited into the family of God. That includes us. We are all invited but not all will accept the invitation.

 

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Moral Compass – God Values Human Life

Peninsula Community Church

Moral Compass – God Values Human Life

October 28, 2012

Text: Psalm 139:13-17 For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well. My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them. How precious to me are your thoughts, O God! How vast is the sum of them!

A discussion on the value of human life no longer centers solely on the unborn but now the elderly and the aged are in the crosshairs of those who have a diminished view of life. For many years the focus was on the act abortion but in recent years the discussion has turned to issues regarding end of life issues. During the debate over the recent health care bill and because of such people as Dr. Kvorkyan, known as the suicide doctor this issue is now on the forefront of a moral discussion. One of the discussions that was front and center on the new health care bill was that “death panels” and boards would be organized in order to determine the level of care that one will be able to receive. The idea that has been propagated is that the cost of treatment will be weighed against the quality of life and life expectancy of the individual. While the bill does not explicitly refer to death panels there is a lot of gray area where the government can control costs by controlling the kinds of procedures that will be approved. Thus, the natural outcome and the unintended consequences of many of the measures put forth in this bill will require a rationing of healthcare to one degree or another which could limit the care that will keep on alive simple on the quality of life or the cost of providing care for them.

We have seen this with the abortion issue in that the argument to support Roe VS. Wade was that abortion would never go beyond the 1st trimester but as we know now doctors can abort in most cases up until the time the baby is born. In fact to assure that the baby will not survive the abortion the doctor will inject the baby with a saline solution. In 2008, the last year data is available, the total number of abortions for that year was 1.21 million. That is 3322 a day. It is also important to note that an abortion according to Planned Parenthood can cost anywhere from $350 to $950. This would mean that this is a multi-million dollar business and may be as much as 1 billion dollars a year. It is also interested note that 40% of minors reported that neither of their parents knew they had received an abortion. This is in a nation where schools cannot even give out an aspirin without parental approval.

For me personally, the problem I have is that when the government has control over any issue the tendency is that it will become political because bureaucrats will now determine the outcomes and those outcomes will be politically motivated.

Before I go much further let me make an observation. As we look at how God values life, I am keenly aware that there may be some you have been negatively impacted by abortion to one degree or another. You may have experienced it personally or you may have had someone close to you that experienced abortion. But, you need to know that while God values life he also offers forgiveness to those who fall short of God’s plan and purpose for life. While the government focuses on the political expediency of life, the Bible offers us a view and a standard for understanding what life is and how life is to be valued.

First of all we see that God is the creator, sustainer and provider of all human life. In Genesis 1-3 we see that God created mankind in His image. The difference between mankind and the animal kingdom is that God formed and shaped and breathed life into the soul of mankind whereas animal kind was only spoken into existence. It is in this act that God established the value of mankind above and beyond any other part of his creation. In Colossians 1 we come to understand this as Paul reminds the Colossians that God was the creator and sustainer of all of life. It is for that reason that we must trust God and value what God values.

The problem in a discussion of the value of life is that every since mankind’s first sin, man has struggled to control God and has tried to replace God with himself. This is called the depravity of man which means that because of that first sin in the Garden of Eden that man from that point forward has the potential to sin. There is no greater place that this is a reality than in the discussion of the sanctity of life. By aborting unwanted children we are attempting to control what God has created and we are determining what God should do. If we can diminish God’s character and who God is we can feel better about our sin.

It is for this reason that we see that God values all human life from the womb to the tomb. This is clearly presented in Psalm 139 where David states that we are fearfully and wonderfully made. Look at David’s words. For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well. My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them. How precious to me are your thoughts, O God! How vast is the sum of them!

Notice that in this passage that God knows us in the womb as it is He that has formed us and shaped us but he also talks about that our days are numbered by the Lord as well. He knows the number of days we will live before we ever begin to live them. And He values this life until its end of days. A second idea is at play here and that is that murder is murder. It cannot be redefined as acceptable based on one’s age or inability to speak for themselves. This why God was clearly focused on teaching that murder was a sin.

The third concept that is presented through scripture is that our bodies belong to God. There is this debate in the world today that people say that this is my body and I am in control of it and nobody can tell me what to do. This plays into the spirit of independence we have and that we do not want anyone to tell us what to do. Perhaps there is some truth to this but the fact is we are temples of the Holy of the Spirit. We do not own our bodies but we are stewards of our bodies. Listen to Paul’s words in 1Corinthians 6:15 Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? Shall I then take the members of Christ and make them members of a prostitute? Never!

We belong to God and we are His therefore we must honor God with our bodies and what we do with our bodies.

The final thought here is that God has created us with the ability to choose and therefore we must choose to align ourselves with Biblical values that support life and liberty. In Christian circles we call this free will. But with free will there must be responsibility. For example I believe in choice and I believe in a woman’s right to choose. Now before I am stoned as a heretic let me tell what I mean by this. For me there is a choice but the choice must be made early in the process.

Think about this for a moment. If we were to be obedient to God’s plan for marriage and refrained from pre-marriage sex we would not be having this discussion. But the reality is that we once again we are motivated by our sinful desires and passions that are difficult to control unless we have submitted these to God’s will and His plan for our lives.

There is a choice to be made and Paul in his letter to the Romans discusses this choice. But, if we reject the truth we can become futile in our minds and their hearts have been darkened. Romans 1:21-28 For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things. Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen. For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions. For their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature; and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error. And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done.

Proverbs 1:29-31 Because they hated knowledge and did not choose the fear of the LORD, would have none of my counsel and despised all my reproof, therefore they shall eat the fruit of their way, and have their fill of their own devices.

The fact is that while our bodies belong to God we can deny that existence and will face the repercussions of denying the truth of God’s import in our lives.

Job offers a counter offer to this in Job 34:4 when he states “Let us choose what is right; let us know among ourselves what is good.”

Deuteronomy 30:19-20 I call heaven and earth to witness against you today, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse. Therefore choose life, that you and your offspring may live, loving the LORD your God, obeying his voice and holding fast to him, for he is your life and length of days, that you may dwell in the land that the LORD swore to your fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, to give them.”

How are your choices? How about those who are running for office? What is their view of the sanctity of life? Do they cherish life? Or, do they say they support life but do not support laws that support life? If we support life, how do we do at supporting those who decide to keep their children rather than having an abortion? You see the world knows what the church is against but do they know what we stand for. We stand for life from the womb to the tomb. And we stand for helping those who choose life over abortion or end of life death. May God help us!

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Moral Compass – God Values Marriage

Peninsula Community Church

Moral Compass – God Values Marriage

November 4, 2012

Text: Genesis 2:23-25 Then the man said, “This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man.” Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh. And the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed.

It is hard to believe that this Tuesday is finally Election Day. For me, I am so ready to cast my vote because it seems that this election cycle has lasted forever. I don’t know about you but sometimes I feel like the little girl in this clip (show video).

As we enter the last few days of this election and we come to the end of this series, I want to share one more key issue that I believe we need to consider before we vote on Tuesday. Today, we will look at the sanctity of marriage and how that plays a role in what we will be as a nation and how it should play a role in how we vote. This is a critical issue as it is my opinion that the sanctity of marriage is under attack today like we have never seen before. We see the sanctity of marriage diminished in a number of ways. We see the increase and normalizing of divorces and multiple marriages. We have seen this glorified by way of TV and movies that present a model of marriage that is far from the ideal established by God. It would be nice to say that the church is immune to these new paradigms but the church is just as susceptible to divorce. In fact, studies have shown that while the divorce rate is 50% plus in society the divorce rate is unfortunately the same for the church.

A second attack on the sanctity of marriage is related to an aggressive gay and lesbian agenda. We have witnessed an increase in gay and lesbian relationships being interjected into many TV programs and movies. It is interesting to note what The New York Times had to say. “Gay marriage may not be the law of the land, but it has become a cornerstone of network television. NBC calls its new comedy about a homosexual couple adopting a baby “The New Normal,” and that kind of understates it. There is nothing particularly new about gay characters on sitcoms. This season they are not only normal, they seem de rigueur (required by fashion, etiquette or custom). GAY is the new straight.” (The New York Times, September 6, 2012).

To date there are six states where gay marriage is legal. So far Connecticut, Iowa, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Vermont and Washington D.C. have passed laws legalizing gay marriage. Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, New Jersey and Rhode Island have civil unions and California, Oregon, Nevada and Washington offer domestic partnerships (Freedomtomarry.org). As we know, today, Maryland has on their ballot a proposition to legalize gay marriage. The sanctity of marriage is certainly under attack.

While the world around us is attacking the sanctity of marriage we can to look at Scripture to set our compass, I would like to submit to you several ideas that are presented through the Gospel.

First of all the concept of marriage has always been designed by God as a Covenant between one man and one woman. In the text we read this morning, we see that God created man and woman and that the man was to leave his family and to cleave to his wife. In the Hebrew language the term man is in the masculine tense and the term for woman is a female. Therefore, God’s design was always for marriage to be between a man and a woman. We also see that Paul in Ephesians 5:31 speaks to this as well when he states “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.”

The marriage between a man and woman is also a covenant as noted in Malachi 2:14 where Malachi stated But you say, “Why does he not?” Because the LORD was witness between you and the wife of your youth, to whom you have been faithless, though she is your companion and your wife by covenant.

It is interesting to note that that in the traditional Jewish wedding ceremony and the KETUBAH or the marriage contract the husband accepts certain marital responsibilities, such as the provision of food, shelter and clothing for his wife, and promises to care for her emotional needs as well. The contract is so important that the marriage is not complete until it signed by the groom and presented to the bride. This demonstrates that both husband and wife see marriage as more than a just a physical and emotional union, it is a moral and legal commitment. It is forbidden for Jewish couples to live together without this document. For the Jew, the marriage covenant symbolically represents the covenant between God and His people, Israel.

For Christians, marriage goes beyond the earthly covenant as well, as a divine picture of the relationship between Christ and his Bride, the Church. The marriage relationship models the work of God in us. The husband is to love his wife as Christ loved the church and gave himself for her. The wife in turn is to love her husband in recognition of his leadership and his commitment to Christ. So again we see that God’s view of marriage is to have one man and one woman united together in this covenant relationship.

A second issue that is seen through the Scripture is that misplaced emotions and ideologies cannot redefine marriage. One’s emotions and personal ideologies must never be the foundation of scriptural truth. When we depend on our emotions we can be easily deceived because our emotions can easily change.

Listen to what Paul says in Romans 1:19-32 For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things. Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen. For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions. For their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature; and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error. And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done. They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless. Though they know God’s decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them.

It should be noted here that one sin is not greater than another. However, the problem is that some sins have greater consequences. God never intended for man to have a depraved mind but it is the response to rejecting the truth of Christ and His plan for life. So it is when we reject God’s plan and purpose for marriage.

The problem is that once again we see a slippery slope of degradation occurring as this relates to marriage. What began as people of the same sex wanting to have relationships has now evolved to them wanting all of the rights afforded married couples as defined by God. Unfortunately, it may not stop here. The organization LAMDA has reported that they are pushing for laws that will allow men to marry young boys and to have sex with them as a natural action of life.

And, finally moral depravity has always been at the center of the demise of every great nation or empire. Carl Zimmerman, a Harvard sociologist, in 1949 wrote a book entitled Family and Civilization. In the book he wrote, there are six major characteristics of any major world empire just before its fall.

  • Marriage is no longer viewed as a sacred institution and today we see the demise of the marriage union in this culture;
  • Alternative forms of marriage and family are condoned; gay marriage is being readily accepted as the norm;
  • There is a rise of feminist movements and the emasculation of males – it is interesting to note that the Bible has done more to liberate women than any other document. In Jesus’ time a man could divorce a woman for as little as burning the toast. Women were treated as a second class citizen but Jesus on many a occasion stated that man and woman were equal as a created being.
  • There is a breakdown of parental authority – Schools, computers, games and TV are now the greater substitute for parents.
  • Adultery is celebrated instead of recognized as a sin
  • There is a rise of sexual perversion including incest and homosexuality

As a nation we are on this slippery slope of our demise but we can make a difference. We can live according to God’s plan and purpose in regard to marriage. And, we need to know where the candidates stand on the sanctity of marriage. We can change and we can live out 2 Chronicles 7:14.

Where do the candidates stand? It is my belief that if our current administration remains in power that it will not be long before the church will be forced to support gay marriage or it will cease to exist as an institution. We see this in the recent developments with contraception and the Catholic Church. There is no regard for religious freedom and I believe that sanctity of marriage will be the next area that we see attacked. How do the candidates match up? Take a copy of the voter guide as you leave so you know where your candidate stands.

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