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Does God Hate Some People? April 23, 2012

Posted by roberttalley in Esau, Genesis, Isaac, Jacob, Malachi, Rebekah, Suffering.
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DOES GOD HATE SOME PEOPLE?
Genesis 25:19-34 with Malachi 1:1-5

The Bible says that God hated Esau. What does that mean? Does God hate any of us? Our hate usually involves a sinful attitude. What is involved in God’s hate?

“Helen Rosevere was a British medical missionary to the Congo during the uprising of the Mau Mau revolutionaries. Though she had gone to the Congo to serve God and to share the gospel, she was personally and brutally…raped, but hung on with her life to a faith in God that refused to be shaken…Recovering from her ordeal in the Congo, Helen wrote a statement that each of us should consider. She wrote a question as though spoken from God’s own mouth: Can you thank Me for trusting you with this experience even if I never tell you why?” (taken from Gripped by the Greatness of God by James McDonald, 2005).

A. There are many things about God’s dealings with us which we do not understand. When we look at life, there are times when God seems good and other times when He seems cruel. We could easily draw the conclusion that we cannot trust Him.

1. We may not understand why answered prayer results in pain (Gen. 25:21-22). Isaac prayed for his wife to bear a child. The couple knew that they were praying according to God’s will; God had promised that the world would be blessed through Isaac’s seed. Abraham had given Isaac everything (Genesis 25:5-9; see also Genesis 17:18) because he was the promised seed and Abraham’s other children were not. God answered Isaac’s prayer but the answer was so painful for Rebekah that she began to question the answer.

How often have we longed for God to answer our prayers and then when he answers them, we are disappointed because the answer brought its own set of problems. God did not have to allow Rebekah to have twins. There needed not to be an Esau. What blessings has God given you that did not work out (from no fault of your own) the way you had hoped?

2. We may not understand why God blesses one and curses another (Gen. 25:23-24). Who decided that Jacob would continue the promised seed instead of the older brother, Esau (Genesis 25:21-23, 29-34; 27:1-17, 27-41; 28:3-4, 10-15)? God. Neither son is presented as particularly spiritual. God, however, laid his hand on Jacob.

Are we then just puppets on God’s string? Certainly not. Our choices may not be capable of changing God’s plan but that does not mean that they are not our choices. James McDonald tells of being “in Indonesia and [getting] to play against a chess master…There were ten [players]…and he played [them] all at the same time.” McDonald writes, “He would walk down the row of boards, crushing each of us with his speed and incredibly insightful moves. In fifteen minutes, we were all out of the game” (taken from Gripped by the Greatness of God by James McDonald, 2005).

3. We may not even recognize God’s blessing (Malachi 1:2-5). Israel was so obsessed with their own problems that they did not recognize that God had blessed them above all other nations, but particularly over Edom, the nation descended from Esau. God’s purposes are too great for us to grasp but it is clear that God wanted Israel to recognize their honored position and live accordingly.

B. Whatever God does, we should be prepared to live according to what He reveals of His ways.

1. What we know God has favored, we should favor (Genesis 25:27-28, 29-34).
a. Is it good when the parents favor one child over another? Is it possible for a parent to love all their children the same? Why or why not?
b. How do you think the children would react to being the favorite? How about not being the favorite?
c. What if one parent loved one child more and the other parent loved another child more?

Obviously we see this as a negative thing, yet Rebekah showed more faith than Isaac. She saw that God had chosen Jacob and she was going to go the way of God. Isaac should have known better, after all, he himself was also the chosen one of God and selected by God over all of his brothers. Yet he allowed his personal desires to get in the way of God’s will.

2. What we know God has commanded; we should do (Malachi 1:6-8). God had favored Israel, destroying Edom and yet they did not honor him but rather gave him what was inferior in their lives.

a. If God is the one who decides things and not you, what should you do? Submit to God’s will, His ways, and His Word.

b. What if you don’t understand or don’t agree with what God has decided? Ask him for mercy (Malachi 1:9) and seek to obey His word (Malachi 2:4-9).

c. What will happen if you fight against God’s chosen ways (Esau would be a good example)? You will be cursed (Malachi 1:14-2:4).

In today’s bulletin we have a synopsis of the life of Fanny Crosby. Fanny wrote a poem at the age of eight:
O what a happy soul am I!
Although I cannot see,
I am resolved that in this world
Contented I will be,
How many blessings I enjoy
That other people don’t!
So weep and sigh because I’m blind,
I cannot, and I won’t.

When it seems that God is frowning on you, you can get closer to God or push back away from Him. There is mercy for those who get closer and only a curse for those who push back. Which path will you follow.

Next Week’s Sermon: Tears of Regret

Now That Jesus Is Risen April 18, 2012

Posted by roberttalley in Confession, Covenant, Discipleship, Exodus, First Peter, Holiness, Leviticus, Sanctification.
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NOW THAT JESUS IS RISEN
Exodus 19:1-8

I want to address an important question. We believe that Jesus rose from the dead. Now that he is risen, what now? The answer is found in Romans 10:9-10, “That if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.”

Salvation we understand. We are saved from sin, death, hell, and the devil. What, however, does it mean to believe unto righteousness? This is one of the great themes of the Bible. We through faith in the resurrected Christ become a holy people, that is, we become saints.

A. To be a holy people means we must keep the covenant of the Lord (Exodus 19:3-6). The children of Israel are a good example of what we are talking about. God saved them from slavery in Egypt. God saved them from certain death by parting the Red Sea. God saved them from Pharaoh and his mighty army.

In verse 4 God says, “You have seen what I did to Pharaoh. You have seen that you are the apple of my eye. I have born you on eagle’s wings. All the world is mine but I have made a covenant with you. Keep that covenant.” Put another way, this is your reality, now obey me.

B. To be a holy people means we must honor the salvation of the Lord (Leviticus 11:44-47). These verses indicate how that we keep the covenant of the Lord. At the end of a chapter of rules concerning what is kosher to eat, God says that the reason for these rules is not because bacon is sinful and hamburger is not. It is also not necessarily because oysters are unhealthy and chicken is not. God tells us why he gave them such strict rules. He says that my works prove that I am different from all other gods so you must be different from all other peoples (verse 44-45).

Now we know that these rules don’t apply anymore. Jesus made that clear to Peter in a dream in Acts 10. Since bacon and jumbo shrimp are allowable to us to eat, how do we honor the salvation of the Lord? Ephesians 4:1-3 tells us, “I, therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you to walk worthy of the calling with which you were called, with all lowliness and gentleness, with longsuffering, bearing with one another in love, endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.”

The world for the most part does not live with this type of attitude. Billy Martin tells how that he and Mickey Mantle went hunting in Texas. Mantle had a friend, who had given them permission to hunt. When they arrived, Mantle went inside and Martin stayed in the car. The friend had a pet mule in the barn, that was going blind, and he didn’t have the heart to put the animal out of his misery; so he asked Mantle to shoot it for him. Mantle came back to the car pretending to be mad and said to Martin, that permission to hunt had been denied and that he was so mad he was going to shoot one of the friend’s mules. Martin said, “We can’t do that!” Mantle said, “Just watch me!” Mantle rushed to the barn and shot the mule. As he was leaving the barn, he heard two shots. He saw Martin with his gun. “What are you doing?” Mantle said. Martin, himself now truly angry, said, “We’ll show him! I just killed two of his cows.” That is the way of the world. Are you longsuffering as a citizen of God’s holy people or do you get even, as is done in the world?

C. To be a holy people means we must pledge our loyalty to the Lord (Leviticus 20:6-8). To be holy means more than being nice. It also means that our loyalty is pledged to the Lord. God uses strong language here. To depend on a medium or someone who communicates with the spirit world is unfaithfulness to God our husband.

Now most of us do not try to communicate with the spirit world, not because we don’t believe in its existence or in the possibility but rather we have understood that God has forbidden it. There is, however, another way in which we can show unfaithfulness to our groom, Jesus the Christ. It is found in James 4:1-4, “Where do wars and fights come from among you? Do they not come from your desires for pleasure that war in your members? …You fight and war. Yet you do not have because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask amiss, that you may spend it on your pleasures. Adulterers and adulteresses! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Whoever there wants to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.”

D. To be a holy people means we will not follow the world (Leviticus 20:25-27). God says, “I have separated you from the peoples, that you should be mine” (verse 26). He is not talking about isolation here. Israel was never isolated from the nations. In fact, Israel was intended to be a witness of God’s power to the nations. Rahab, Ruth, Namaan, the city of Nineveh, the Ethiopian eunuch, Cornelius are all examples of how Israel as the nation of God drew individuals from within the nations to God. If we are not to isolate ourselves from the world, what does it mean not to follow the world?

First John 2:15-17, “Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world-the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life-is not of the Father but is of the world. And the world is passing away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides forever.”

E. To be a holy people means we will hope in the coming of the Lord (1 Peter 1:13-21). Peter is saying, because the world will not last and our salvation is eternal, you need to “gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and rest your hope fully upon the grace…as obedient children, not conforming yourselves to the former lusts, as in your ignorance… ‘Be holy, for I am holy.’”

To hope in the coming of the Lord implies being very careful in this world. Max Lucado tells about an Indian walking up a mountain when he met snake who wanted to be carried up the mountain. The Indian said, “No, you’ll bite me.” “No, I won’t,” said the snake, “I just need a little help.” The Indian picked up the snake and carried him to the top of the mountain. At the top the snake bit him. The Indian fell and the snake began to slither away. “You lied!” he gasped, “You said you wouldn’t bite me!” The snake stopped and looked back and said, “You knew what I was when you picked me up.”

F. To be a holy people means we proclaim the praises of the Lord to the world (1 Peter 2:8b-10). We have been delivered. We are now a holy people. Let’s proclaim his praises, let’s shout from the housetops that there is mercy to be found in Jesus Christ.

This is one of the reasons I believe in eternal security. How can I preach the mercy of God when I am not sure that His mercy is sufficient to forgive me not only of what I have done but also of anything I might do. There is a warning here though. Paul put it this way in Romans 11:20-22, “Because of unbelief they were broken off, and you stand by faith. Do not be haughty, but fear. For if God did not spare the natural branches (ethnic Israel), He may not spare you either. Therefore consider the goodness and severity of God: on those who fell, severity; but toward you, goodness, if you continue in His goodness. Otherwise you also will be cut off.” If I say I am in the faith and I do not live accordingly, then, like Israel, I prove am not in faith and that I am doomed to destruction.”

Next Week’s Sermon: Does God Hate Some People?

Easter Sermon 2012 April 9, 2012

Posted by roberttalley in Easter, Ezekiel, Power of God, Resurrection.
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CAN THESE BONES LIVE?
Ezekiel 37:1-14

Easter is the celebration of the miraculous. You might say, so is Christmas; and you would be right. Easter, however, differs from Christmas in several significant ways, for example, with Easter we celebrate God’s victory over death. The virgin birth has a very important place in the life of Jesus Christ but it would have little or no meaning if Jesus had not risen from the dead.

In this vision that Ezekiel saw we have a good example of the impossible situation that death presents to us. In verses 1-2 we find that he is in an open valley surrounded by bones and these bones were very dry. They have been there a long time. There is no life in them at all. There is nothing in them from which one can find a spark of life and ignite.

God asks Ezekiel a question, “Can these bones live?” Ezekiel looked at these dry, dusty, brittle, fragmented bones and said, “O LORD God, You know.” Ezekiel recognized that this was an impossible situation.

1. Our most impossible situations need the resurrection power of the Holy Spirit (verse 14). Now this vision has to do with the regathering of the nation of Israel and the spiritual transformation of that nation. After the vision has been explained, God tells Ezekiel how he intends to accomplish the impossible, through the resurrecting power of the Holy Spirit.

a. Jesus was raised by this same power, the power of the Holy Spirit. Jesus was not resuscitated. No man who suffered crucifixion and died after six hours on the cross would be able to survive. We have records of people who were taken off of crosses before they died but even these people soon died from their suffering. The cross may have been a slow death but there was no death more certain. Jesus did not revive because of the coolness of the tomb. He was wrapped in linen with up to one hundred pounds of spices. There is no way that he could have been resuscitated. The power of God was necessary to raise Jesus from the dead.

Romans 1:4 tells us why, so that we might know that He is the Son of God. “During the years following the French Revolution, there was a great turning away from the Christian religion. A certain man named La Revilliere concocted a new religion which he thought was far superior to Christianity, but had trouble convincing others to follow him. Seeking help, he went to the great diplomat Charles de Talleyrand for advice. His advice was simple. “To ensure success for your new religion, all you need to do is have yourself crucified and then rise from the dead on the third day” (borrowed from Ray Pritchard, keepbelieving.com).

b. We also receive life only through the power of the Spirit (Romans 8:11). The earlier verses of Romans 8 talk about this present life as lived by the Holy Spirit but there is coming a day when the Spirit will give life to our mortal bodies. How can I be confident that I will rise again? Because Jesus rose again and I will be raised by that same power.

“When Benjamin Franklin was 23 years old, he wrote an epitaph for himself. Though it was never actually used when he died many years later, the epitaph reflects deep spiritual truth:
The body of Benjamin Franklin, Printer(Like the Cover of an Old Book Its Contents torn Out And Stript of its Lettering and Gilding) Lies Here, Food for Worms. But the Work shall not be Lost; For it will (as he Believ’d) Appear once More In a New and More Elegant Edition Revised and Corrected By the Author” borrowed from Ray Pritchard at keepbelieving.com).

c. Any truly impossible situation we face demands the power of the Spirit, the power of the resurrection. In Romans 8 Paul is discussing the problem of sin in the Christian. He points out that this problem is no problem for the power that conquered death. We can be victorious over sin through the same power that made Jesus victorious over death.

2. Our most impossible situations need the transforming power of the Spirit. Ezekiel describes how this happened in his vision. Can you imagine such power that makes dry bones to hear God’s Word, to come together, to form muscle and flesh, to breath, to stand at attention as an army? That is a transformation.

a. Jesus was transformed at the resurrection through being exalted as man to the throne of God. Not only was he transformed positionally but Jesus also received a glorified body. His resurrection was physical not spiritual. This body not only is capable of going through walls and appearing (teleporting) if you will to wherever he wants to be, this body is capable of enduring the presence of God, where Jesus Himself is at this moment.

b. We are not resuscitated by the Spirit either but rather are born anew by the Spirit. We will also receive a glorified body like that of Christ when we are raised from the dead but I want to remind you that to be born anew begins now, before death. Jesus said to Nicodemus, you must be born again.

c. Our most impossible situations do not need tweaking but rather transformation.

“In 1501 a 26-year-old sculptor named Michelangelo was offered a considerable sum of money to produce something worthwhile from that enormous block of marble called “the giant.” As he began his work, he saw a major flaw near the bottom that had stymied other sculptors, including (it is said) Leonardo da Vinci. He decided to turn that part of the stone into a broken tree stump that would support the right leg. The rest he worked on for four years until he had produced the incomparable “David.” Today the seventeen-foot-tall statue stands on display at the Accademia Gallery in Florence where people come from around the world to view it. More than a masterpiece, it is one of the greatest works of art ever produced. It has been said that there is no statue more perfect.”

“How did he do it? Here is the answer in his own words: ‘In every block of marble I see a statue as plain as though it stood before me, shaped and perfect in attitude and action. I have only to hew away the rough walls that imprison the lovely apparition to reveal it to the other eyes as mine see it’” (borrowed again from Ray Pritchard; see his website at keepbelieving.com, I’ve borrowed his illustrations but his sermons are good also). In other words, “I chiseled away everything that did not look like David.

The resurrection of Christ is about hope but it is also about transforming power. What does God want you to be that you cannot be?

The Two Jerusalems April 3, 2012

Posted by roberttalley in Abraham, Galatians, Hagar, Isaac, Palm Sunday, Promises of God, Sarah.
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TWO JERUSALEMS
Galatians 4:19-31

When Jesus rode the donkey on Palm Sunday, the people were celebrating because he was riding into Jerusalem. The Jews knew that Jerusalem, specifically the Temple, was where God had chosen to place His name. They knew that from Mount Zion the Messiah would set up the kingdom where he would rule in justice over Israel and that it is there where the nations would come and worship God and submit themselves to His Messiah. It is no wonder that they were so excited.

Yet Jesus on that first Palm Sunday did not set up a throne at the Temple but rather did a house-cleaning, driving the money-changers and the animal-sellers off of the Temple grounds. You see something had happened at the Temple. Money had become more important than prayer.

Later on that week Jesus was talking to the disciples. As they admired the Temple, Jesus told them that it would be destroyed and all of Jerusalem with it. This happened less than forty years after Jesus’ death and resurrection. The Romans destroyed Jerusalem and the temple.

When Paul wrote Galatians though Jerusalem and the Temple was still standing. It was a symbol for every Jew of their special relationship with God. In fact, the Jews had fallen into a special type of false worship. They had begun to worship their relationship to God as symbolized by the “present Jerusalem,” the place where God’s Temple had been built.

1. If we worship what we do to maintain our relationship with God; we are enslaved by those works (verse 21-25).

Paul uses two women to illustrate his point: Hagar and Sarah. Both had sons by Abraham. Hagar was a slave. The son she bore was not promised by God. Sarah was Abraham’s wife and bore a son because of God’s promise. Her son would carry the blessing that God had given to his father. Hagar remained a slave for the rest of the time she lived in Abraham’s household. She was probably a good mother but she remained a slave. Paul says that you who are trying to keep the Old Testament law to maintain your relationship with God are like Hagar. You are slaves.

There is probably no one here trying to keep the Old Testament law but there may be someone trying to maintain their relationship with God by works. We encountered this in Europe. There were people who refused to leave the state church they grew up in because they were afraid they would lose their relationship with God. This happens in America also though. This may be out of fear, that is, they have been taught that if they make a mistake or too many mistakes or too serious of a mistake then God will forsake them.

It may, however, be because of pride. Spiritual pride is often behind the works of the law. The people, who crucified Jesus, were a proud people. They were convinced that no one else could be as close to God as they were. They were quite convincing. All over the Roman Empire there were Gentiles like the Ethiopian eunuch and Cornelius who were longing for a God who they could respect and worship but they were shut off unless they were willing to undergo circumcision, to establish that special relationship with God.

These Jews were enslaved by their pride. We think of those who are addicted to drugs or alcohol and we often think of them as enslaved by their addictions. Their addictions drive them to do irrational things. Some of the Galatians had become enslaved by the works of the law and it had caused them to do the most irrational thing of all, leave Christ for the works of the law.

Imagine that someone has been given an unlimited gift card for a five-star restaurant. They go in and they order the finest of food and drink but then they feel compelled to go out on the street and start cleaning the sidewalk in front so that they can earn their meal. Once inside they brag to everyone about how industrious they were and how they had earned this fine meal. We would say they are crazy.

Are you enslaved by the pride of your relationship with God? None of us can earn a relationship with God. God does not give away brownie points.

2. If we worship the God who promises spiritual freedom through Jesus Christ, we are free because He has kept His promise (verses 26-28).

Relationships can be joyous but they can be enslaving. There is no joy in enslavement but there is joy in a promise. When in Lynchburg, I looked for a souvenir because I knew that my daughter was rejoicing in the promise of one. Just because we have a relationship is not guarantee of joy. There are lots of daughters who dread their father coming home but she had received a promise and she rejoiced in that promise.

If you were to choose between your relationship to God and the promise you have in Jesus, which would you choose? If you hold to maintaining that relationship, you may miss out on the promise, on the Jerusalem that is above; but if you hold to the promise provided through Christ’s death on the cross, you will also have the relationship.

(Here is an illustration taken second-handedly through Ray Pritchard.) “It goes something like this. Consider for a moment the deeds of Jeffrey Dahmer…he was a pervert, a murderer, and a cannibal. After he was arrested, he professed faith in Jesus Christ. That is, he claimed to have seen the error of his ways, confessed his sins, and cried out to Jesus to save him. We’ll never know the full story of what happened because he was beaten to death in prison not long after that… [Does God’s promise of salvation through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ apply to Jeffrey Dahmer?] …When we think about Jeffrey Dahmer and the possibility that he might truly have been saved after those heinous crimes, our first response may be to say, “There is grace even for people like Jeffrey Dahmer.” That statement, true as it is, reveals at least as much about us as it does about him. All of us would like to think (and in fact do think) that we are “better” than he is. Or we’re not as “bad” as he was. I make no bones about the fact that I think I am “better” than Jeffrey Dahmer. I’ve never done the things he did. I’ve never even thought or dreamed or imagined about some of them. So when I say there is grace “even” for the likes of Jeffrey Dahmer, while I’m willing to include him in the circle of those God might save, I’m not putting myself on his level. I truly believe I’m better than he is…But then (as you can tell I’m partly telling the illustration and partly thinking my way through it at the same time) the preacher said it’s not enough to say there is grace even for the likes of Jeffrey Dahmer. In truth, he said, there is grace only for the Jeffrey Dahmers of this world. They alone can be saved” (taken and slightly adapted from “Amazing Grace,” a sermon by Ray Pritchard, found at http://www.keepbelieving.com/sermon/1999-10-03-Amazing-Grace/ ).

This is the promise we have of eternal life through faith in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. It is by grace not by maintaining our relationship with God. Will you claim God’s promise as to you? A promise is no good if it is not claimed. It gives no hope unless you believe it.

Believer, are you living according to promise or in the pride of your relationship to God?