Pastor Kirk

Reflections from a spiritual pilgrim in Toledo, Ohio

Nake Noah, 15 January 2017

Naked Noah
Series: Ideal Family
Genesis 9:20-25

Series Big Idea:
All families are messed up, including biblical families.

Big Idea: Even the best parents are human and make mistakes.

Scripture: Genesis 9:20-25

Today we’re continuing our new series entitled, “Ideal Family.” Whether you like it or not, you’re part of a family; at least one. Ever since God said it was not good for man to be alone, humans have lived with others…for better or worse. I have yet to meet someone who didn’t have a biological father and a biological mother. Most people have siblings. Aunts, uncles, cousins, and grandparents are a vital part of life for many of us. Family is God’s design. It was His idea.

There are two unfortunate things I’ve discovered about families. First, they are all messed up! That’s ultimately the result of sin, our disobedience toward God. Ever since Adam and Eve ate of the fruit in the Garden of Eden, we have struggled to get along. Pride divides. Greed corrupts. Selfishness hoards. Anger disturbs. Hatred destroys. Misunderstanding confuses.

The second unfortunate thing about families is the mistaken belief everyone else’s family is okay. Listen to me carefully…all families are messed up! This includes biblical families. This even includes Jesus’ family! We all need help…so let’s pray!

Last week we began our series with a look at the First Family, Adam and Eve and their sons Cain and Abel. Today we’re looking at one of the greatest heroes of the Bible, Noah. You know Noah, the guy with the ark and the animals. Many people think his wife’s name was Joan (of Ark)! Let’s take a look at Noah’s highlight reel. If you turn to Genesis 5, he is mentioned for the first time in verse 29.

When Lamech had lived 182 years, he had a son. He named him Noah  and said, “He will comfort us in the labor and painful toil of our hands caused by the ground the LORD has cursed.” After Noah was born, Lamech lived 595 years and had other sons and daughters. Altogether, Lamech lived a total of 777 years, and then he died. (Genesis 5:28-31)

Noah’s dad was 182 years old when he was born! Wow! You thought Abraham was old at 100. But Lamech was just a kid compared to Noah the dad!

After Noah was 500 years old, he became the father of Shem, Ham and Japheth. (Genesis 5:32)

Let’s take a moment for reflection. Imagine Noah coming to First Alliance Church to dedicate his newborn son and happens to mention he was born in 1517! Sure, people lived longer back then, but 500 years? And that’s when he became a dad!

When human beings began to increase in number on the earth and daughters were born to them, the sons of God saw that the daughters of humans were beautiful, and they married any of them they chose. Then the LORD said, “My Spirit will not contend with humans forever, for they are mortal; their days will be a hundred and twenty years.” (Genesis 6:1-3)

That settles the old-man issue!

A few verses later it says

The LORD regretted that he had made human beings on the earth, and his heart was deeply troubled. So the LORD said, “I will wipe from the face of the earth the human race I have created—and with them the animals, the birds and the creatures that move along the ground—for I regret that I have made them.” (Genesis 6:6-7)

Let that sink in for a minute. God regretted making humans. No wonder He sent a flood.

But Noah found favor in the eyes of the LORD. (Genesis 6:8)

The sentiment is repeated in the next verse…

Noah was a righteous man, blameless among the people of his time, and he walked faithfully with God. (Genesis 6:9b)

So God tells Noah to build an ark (6:14) because, as He said

I am going to bring floodwaters on the earth to destroy all life under the heavens, every creature that has the breath of life in it. Everything on earth will perish. (Genesis 6:17)

Of course God had Noah and his family enter the ark along with pairs of animals, and…

Noah did everything just as God commanded him. (Genesis 6:22)

God gave Noah further instructions…

And Noah did all that the LORD commanded him. (Genesis 7:5)

And if you’re keeping score…

Noah was six hundred years old when the floodwaters came on the earth. (Genesis 7:6)

There are so many details to these Bible stories we simply miss in Sunday School flannel board presentations!

So we have the flood.

The waters flooded the earth for a hundred and fifty days. (Genesis 7:24)

But God remembered Noah and all the wild animals and the livestock that were with him in the ark, and he sent a wind over the earth, and the waters receded. (Genesis 8:1)

Later it says,

By the first day of the first month of Noah’s six hundred and first year, the water had dried up from the earth. Noah then removed the covering from the ark and saw that the surface of the ground was dry. By the twenty-seventh day of the second month the earth was completely dry.

Then God said to Noah, “Come out of the ark, you and your wife and your sons and their wives. (Genesis 8:13-16)

God loved Noah and his family. He was a righteous man. He obeyed God. His obedience essentially saved living creatures from extinction.

And God said, “This is the sign of the covenant I am making between me and you and every living creature with you, a covenant for all generations to come: I have set my rainbow in the clouds, and it will be the sign of the covenant between me and the earth. Whenever I bring clouds over the earth and the rainbow appears in the clouds, I will remember my covenant between me and you and all living creatures of every kind. Never again will the waters become a flood to destroy all life. Whenever the rainbow appears in the clouds, I will see it and remember the everlasting covenant between God and all living creatures of every kind on the earth.” (Genesis 9:12-16)

So God said to Noah, “This is the sign of the covenant I have established between me and all life on the earth.” (Genesis 9:17)

The writer of Genesis mentions again Noah’s three sons and then tell us

Noah, a man of the soil, proceeded to plant a vineyard. (Genesis 9:20)

Great. Who doesn’t love grapes? Grape juice. Raisins! Noah’s dad was a farmer so planting made complete sense. But…

When he drank some of its wine, he became drunk and lay uncovered inside his tent. (Genesis 9:21)

Wait a minute! What is happening? Noah is drunk and naked?! The two often go together, by the way! The Japanese have a proverb which says: “First the man takes a drink, then the drink takes a drink, and then the drink takes the man.” Fortunately, he’s inside his tent where nobody can see him. But this is Noah! Righteous Noah!

God created a garden, Adam and Eve at forbidden fruit, and found themselves naked.

Noah planted a garden, ate—or drank—too much fruit, and ended up naked.

In both cases their sin was shown in their nakedness. They disobeyed God. Sins are felt by the following generations.

Did we need to include this in the Bible? Can’t we just call Noah a superhero and stop after the rainbow? Actually, no! First, we are all descendants of Noah and his sons. Second, we get to see how even the most righteous people in the Bible were not perfect. We all sin and fall short of God’s glory (Romans 3:23). We’ll see this throughout this series.

We also see how sin affects others…families.

Ham, the father of Canaan, saw his father naked and told his two brothers outside. (Genesis 9:22)

Was that necessary? Why did Ham enter the tent in the first place? Seeing your dad naked is…well, it’s never good! He could’ve covered his dad and left quietly, but he tells his brothers. He disrespected his father, leaving Shem and Japheth to intervene.

But Shem and Japheth took a garment and laid it across their shoulders; then they walked in backward and covered their father’s naked body. Their faces were turned the other way so that they would not see their father naked. (Genesis 9:23)

Love is looking out for the best interest of another person. It doesn’t condone sin. It doesn’t cleanse sin (only Jesus’ blood can do that). But love does cover sin (1 Peter 4:8). Did you see what I did there?!

The relationship between a father and son is special. The video earlier showed an “ideal” relationship and then a real one. That’s not to say we should be flippant about things such as borrowing/loaning money from relatives, but sometimes relationships can be complicated. Nevertheless, we are to honor our parents. This is one of God’s Top Ten (Exodus 20:12). Honor your father and your mother. Shem and Japheth honored their dad. Ham did not.

So Noah gets drunk and naked, his youngest son, Ham, saw him naked, his brothers to cover him, and…

When Noah awoke from his wine and found out what his youngest son had done to him, he said, 

“Cursed be Canaan! The lowest of slaves will he be to his brothers.” (
Genesis 9:24-25)

This passage has been wrongfully used to support racial prejudice and even slavery. Ham saw his dad and his son Canaan gets the curse? Actually, this is best understood as a prophecy describing what will happen to Ham’s descendants, not necessarily a curse from Noah to his grandson. Later in Jewish law children could not be punished for the sins of their fathers (Deut. 24:16; Jer. 31:29-30; Ezek. 18:1-4). What we do know is the Canaanites were conquered by the Israelites (Genesis 14:8-12; Exodus 3:8; Numbers 13:29; Joshua 3:10).

He also said, 
“Praise be to the LORD, the God of Shem!
May Canaan be the slave of Shem.
May God extend Japheth’s territory;
may Japheth live in the tents of Shem,
and may Canaan be the slave of Japheth.” (Genesis 9:26-27)

The chapter ends by telling us

After the flood Noah lived 350 years. Noah lived a total of 950 years, and then he died. (Genesis 9:28-29)

What a life! What an ending!

So What?

I realize this is an odd passage. The point is…don’t plant a vineyard! Actually, that’s not the point, though alcohol can lead to a host of problems.

Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit, (Ephesians 5:18)

Genesis 19 tells an even more bizarre story where two girls got their dad drunk and slept with him in hopes of getting pregnant! Ewww!

I think one takeaway from today’s text is even the best parents are human and make mistakes. Noah made the faith hall of fame.

By faith Noah, when warned about things not yet seen, in holy fear built an ark to save his family. By his faith he condemned the world and became heir of the righteousness that is in keeping with faith. (Hebrews 11:7)

Noah was a righteous man, but his story didn’t exactly end on a high note.

How will your story end? Your past righteousness is valuable, but today is the first day of the rest of your life. How will you live it? Every day we hear stories of people behaving badly. But by the grace of God so go I. We’re all susceptible to sin, as we saw last week, especially when we are
HALT: hungry, angry, lonely, tired. I pray you will honor your parents and/or be honored by your children. If you drink, I hope you are of age and do so responsibly. Consuming alcohol is not forbidden in the Bible, but drunkenness is clearly a sin…and can lead to other sins. I hope and your pray your most righteous days are ahead.

Credits

Some ideas from Be Basic by Warren Wiersbe.

  • You can listen to this message and others at the First Alliance Church podcast here.

First Family, 8 January 2017

First Family
Series: Ideal Family
Genesis 4:2-8

Series Big Idea:
All families are messed up, including biblical families.

Big Idea: Sibling rivalry is nothing new…and can be fatal!

Introduction

We’re beginning a new series entitled, “Ideal Family.” Whether you like it or not, you’re part of a family; at least one. Ever since God said it was not good for man to be alone, humans have lived with others…for better or worse. I have yet to meet someone who didn’t have a biological father and a biological mother. Most people have siblings. Aunts, uncles, cousins, and grandparents are a vital part of life for many of us. Family is God’s design. It was His idea.

There are two unfortunate things I’ve discovered about families. First, they are all messed up! That’s ultimately the result of sin, our disobedience toward God. Ever since Adam and Eve ate of the fruit in the Garden of Eden, we have struggled to get along. Pride divides. Greed corrupts. Selfishness hoards. Anger disturbs. Hatred destroys. Misunderstanding confuses.

The second unfortunate thing about families is the mistaken belief everyone else’s family is okay. Listen to me carefully…all families are messed up! This includes biblical families. This even includes Jesus’ family! We all need help.

We begin our series with a look at the First Family. I’m not talking about the Obamas, but rather Adam and Eve. The story of creation in Genesis is well known, as is their sinful eating of the one tree in the Garden that was forbidden. Everything changed at that moment. Thousands of years later we still bear the consequences of their sin.

The LORD God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it. And the LORD God commanded the man, “You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat from it you will certainly die.” (Genesis 2:15-17)

The LORD God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.” (Genesis 2:18)

After they ate from the tree in what is called “The Fall,” God issued His punishment:

To the woman he said, 

“I will make your pains in childbearing very severe;
with painful labor you will give birth to children.
Your desire will be for your husband,
and he will rule over you.” (Genesis 3:16)

All moms are familiar with the pains of childbearing (even if they’ve had a C-section). But notice the relational curse. Some suggest it is more accurate to translate the Hebrew this way: “Your desire was for your husband.” She would now be mastered by him, ruled by him. Note this is not God’s design. Generations later Paul would instruct the early church by saying to spouses…

Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ. (Ephesians 5:21)

The idea of ruling over another person is the result of sin. Much could be said of the marital wars that result from pride and power oppressing a spouse who is to be loved. Jesus would later address our temptation to rule over others to his disciples.

Jesus called them together and said, “You know that those who are regarded as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Mark 10:42-45)

There’s a recipe for healthy, God-honoring relationships: serve one another.

Cain & Abel

Unfortunately, family problems are not limited to marriages. Parenting brings its own share of joy…and heartache. Rarely do siblings rush to serve their parents together as we saw in the “ideal” video! Parenting one child is a tremendous challenge. A second child introduces an entirely new dynamic: sibling rivalry.

How many of you have a sibling? How many parents have more than one child?

Sibling rivalry dates back to…the very first siblings. The first kids joined in on the conflict and dysfunction started by Adam and Eve. Genesis chapter four begins

Adam made love to his wife Eve, and she became pregnant and gave birth to Cain.  She said, “With the help of the LORD I have brought forth a man.” Later she gave birth to his brother Abel. (Genesis 4:1)

Cain is the leading character in this story. He’s mentioned sixteen times. He’s the older brother. His birth is celebrated by him mom.

Now Abel kept flocks, and Cain worked the soil. In the course of time Cain brought some of the fruits of the soil as an offering to the LORD. And Abel also brought an offering—fat portions from some of the firstborn of his flock. The LORD looked with favor on Abel and his offering, but on Cain and his offering he did not look with favor. So Cain was very angry, and his face was downcast. (Genesis 4:2-5)

On its own, this passage isn’t clear. Is God a carnivore? Is He allergic to fruit? Hardly! The simple answer is we don’t know. Some have suggested the necessity of a blood sacrifice, but the text doesn’t say, nor do we know Abel’s sacrifice contained blood. Abel brought the firstborn of his flock—his very best—but we don’t know if Cain brought his best or not. We just know Cain was very angry because his brother’s offering was acceptable and his was rejected. Warren Wiersbe writes, “Cain wasn’t rejected because of his offering, but his offering was rejected because of Cain: His heart wasn’t right with God. It was ‘by faith’ that Abel offered a more acceptable sacrifice than Cain (Hebrews 11:4), which means that he had faith in God and was right with God.”

By faith Abel brought God a better offering than Cain did. By faith he was commended as righteous, when God spoke well of his offerings. And by faith Abel still speaks, even though he is dead. (Hebrews 11:4)

This event with the offerings is the beginning of recorded sibling rivalry, but hardly the end. Ishmael persecuted Isaac. Jacob fled his brother Esau fearing his life. Joseph’s brothers nearly killed him, instead opting to sell him as a slave. The very person/persons we are closest to often cause the greatest hostility. If anyone should have your back it should be your brother or sister.

Let me add this is true spiritually, too. Often our greatest critics are not distant strangers, but rather the people who sit beside us on Sunday mornings or those in our small group. May it never be! We are called to love one another! Always!

Then the LORD said to Cain, “Why are you angry? Why is your face downcast? If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must rule over it.” (Genesis 4:6-7)

Cain obviously disobeyed God. God encourages Cain to do what is right. He is warned that sin is near, personified as a crouching demon waiting to strike.

Heather and I had some interesting conversations this past week about satan, demons, and temptation. I can’t say either of us are experts on the subject, but I am certain angels and demons are both real. God and satan are both real. We are in the middle of a spiritual battle between good and evil.

There are moments when we are especially vulnerable to temptation. For many of us, it is when we are

Hungry
Angry
Lonely
Tired

HALT!

Jesus faced these temptations—essentially all temptations—during forty days of fasting and prayer in the wilderness as recorded in Matthew 4 and Luke 4. Fortunately, he was prepared and able to resist satan’s most deceptive lures.

Unfortunately Cain opened the door. He succumbed to temptation. What sin is lurking at your door? Do you carry grudges? Are you bitter? What about lust? Gossip? Worry? Gluttony? Paul instructs

“In your anger do not sin”: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold. (Ephesians 4:26-27)

If only Cain had been so wise. His sacrifice was rejected, but the story gets worse. Much worse.

Have you ever been jealous of a sister or brother? Maybe they got straight A’s while you struggled to pass the class. Perhaps they were Olympic-bound while you were the last one to cross the finish line on Field Day. Envy is ugly. Sibling rivalry is real. Comparing ourselves to others is dangerous…even deadly!

Now Cain said to his brother Abel, “Let’s go out to the field.” While they were in the field, Cain attacked his brother Abel and killed him. (Genesis 4:8)

This may have been the first human death. Here’s the summary:

- Abel obeys God
- Cain disobeys God
- Cain is envious and adds to his disobedience and sins by killing his brother

Our relationship with God and our relationship with our brothers and sisters cannot be separated. We love God by loving our neighbor and we love our neighbor by loving God.

Most of us will not be murdered by a sibling! At least I hope not! Yet many are emotionally destroyed by the actions of a jealous sibling.

Because he is a better musician, I’m going to…
Because she got married before me, I’m going to…
Because she’s the first one to have a baby, I’m going to…

Cain disobeys God by bringing the wrong sacrifice.
Cain disobeys God by killing his brother.
Cain disobeys God by lying about the murder.

Then the LORD said to Cain, “Where is your brother Abel?” 

“I don’t know,” he replied. “Am I my brother’s keeper?” (Genesis 4:9)

God does everything He can to prompt repentance. He’s always seeking to save the lost, the broken, the criminal, the sinner.

Martin Luther’s definition of sin was “man curved in upon himself.” Sin is always focusing on yourself, always choosing yourself over God or others, placing yourself at the center. Sin means even when we do good things (help the poor, attend church gatherings, etc.), it’s always about us, about furthering our agenda, about giving us the self-image we want to have, about engaging so long as it makes us feel good. Sin is so insidious that when we look like we’re serving others, we’re really serving ourselves.

Repentance undoes sin. That was God’s desire for Cain and us. Repentance. Change.

God had questions for Adam and Eve, too, not because He was clueless, but rather to draw out a confession. In both instances, God calls them out.

The LORD said, “What have you done? Listen! Your brother’s blood cries out to me from the ground. Now you are under a curse and driven from the ground, which opened its mouth to receive your brother’s blood from your hand. When you work the ground, it will no longer yield its crops for you. You will be a restless wanderer on the earth.” (Genesis 4:10-12)

A passage that began with a blessing ends with a curse.

Cain said to the LORD, “My punishment is more than I can bear. Today you are driving me from the land, and I will be hidden from your presence; I will be a restless wanderer on the earth, and whoever finds me will kill me.” (Genesis 4:13-14)

But the LORD said to him, “Not so; anyone who kills Cain will suffer vengeance seven times over.” Then the LORD put a mark on Cain so that no one who found him would kill him. So Cain went out from the LORD’S presence and lived in the land of Nod, east of Eden. (Genesis 4:15-16)

Cain’s not sorry for his sin, but only for his punishment. Like so many sins, one led to another and then another. Perhaps the most tragic statement of all is that “Cain went out from the LORD’s presence.” I never want to be there. And it began with jealousy and sibling rivalry. By the way, in church many have visited the “land of Nod,” but today we don’t know exactly where it was!

So What?

There are two types of people in this world: those who honor God and those who dishonor God. We don’t know the details, but the contrast between Cain and Abel is obvious.

There are so many applications to this passage.

- Obey God
- Love your siblings—biological and spiritual
- If you’re jealous Let it go. Give it up. Life’s too short.
- Know your weaknesses and areas of vulnerability to temptation
- Repent when you sin. Don’t cover it up. God knows. He sees it all.

If you are in the midst of a broken relationship of any kind, seek reconciliation. We talked about this last Sunday.

If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. (Romans 12:18)

If it’s not possible, stay on your knees. Cry out to God. Your story’s not over yet. Change is possible. God is faithful.

Credits

Some ideas from Be Basic by Warren Wiersbe.

  • You can listen to this message and others at the First Alliance Church podcast here.

Fresh Start, 1 January 2017

Fresh Start
Psalm 90

Big Idea: Today is the first day of the rest of your life!

Introduction

Welcome to 2017! My name is Kirk and I’m very excited about this new year. So far, I have not broken any of my new year’s resolutions. How about you?!

Life is full of milestones. Defining moments. Some are unexpected. We don’t usually know when we’ll meet our spouse or best friend. It’s often months or years later when we look back and realize that day was special.

Other milestones we can anticipate.

When I was about eight years old I opened a Christmas gift from my aunt and uncle. They knew I was a big sports fan so it made sense they bought me a football jersey. However, the color didn’t represent any of my favorite teams. Don’t get me wrong, I liked it, but it seemed somewhat random…until they mentioned the number. 86. Why was that significant? They told me it was the year of my high school graduation! From that moment on, I anticipated the year 1986!

Have you been anticipating 2017? Some of you know this will be the year you will graduate—from high school or college. I know a few of you have wedding planned this year. This year will be the birth year of new First Alliance babies! And maybe this will be the year that you—get that dream job, get engaged, or finally win your fantasy football league!

Others of you are anticipating 2017 for a different reason. You’re just glad 2016 is over. You couldn’t wait to turn the page and have a fresh start. 2016 was a year of pain, disappointment, struggle, or loss. The 2016 election exposed the great tensions of our nation. The entertainment world lost so many stars, a GoFundMe account was established to raise $10,000 to protect Betty White from 2016!

Regardless of whether 2016 was fantastic or forgettable, I have great news for you: Today is the first day of the rest of your life!

Life is a gift. Musician Randy Stonehill penned these words:

I'm gonna celebrate this heartbeat
Cause it just might be my last
Everyday is a gift from the Lord on high
And they all go by so fast
Amen! Actually, a quick note to parents of young children: the years go by fast, even though the days often seem like they last forever! Diapers, crying, pediatrician visits, packing for trips, …

But every day is a gift. Our days are numbered, but none of us knows how many we get. Moses famously wrote,

Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom. (Psalm 90:12)

Many of us take life for granted—until it’s snatched away suddenly. We simply don’t know our expiration date. It could be today. It could be years from now. Are you ready? They say you’re not ready to live until you’re ready to die.

On a more cheery note, how will you use this fresh start? It may or may not include written resolutions, but how do you want to live 2017? How do you want to grow? Where do you want to find yourself 365 days from now as 2018 begins?

I’m reminded of Reinhold Niebuhr’s famous Serenity Prayer

God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
Courage to change the things I can,
And wisdom to know the difference.

Oh that we would all have that wisdom!

Psalm 90

Most of the psalms were written by…David. One was written by Moses: Psalm 90. It
begins

A prayer of Moses the man of God. 

Lord, you have been our dwelling place
throughout all generations. (Psalm 90:1)

This is such a comforting thought. Yesterday we remember the life of Bob Carson, an incredible member of this church for decades. God was his dwelling place and will be to his children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren.

Before the mountains were born
or you brought forth the whole world,
from everlasting to everlasting you are God. (Psalm 90:2)

From everlasting to everlasting He is God. Hallelujah! Think about that for a moment. He was present before the mountains—before this planet! Our God spoke our universe into existence! And He loves you and me! Sometimes we forget these simple yet truly awesome truths.

You turn people back to dust,
saying, “Return to dust, you mortals.” (Psalm 90:3)

That’s our God! Sometimes we’ve worked so hard to make God personal, we think He’s just like us. We’re created in His image, and some of us have returned the favor! God is awesome. We are but dust. 2016 provided us with many reminders that one day all of us will die—including Prince and Princess…Leah!

A thousand years in your sight 
are like a day that has just gone by,
or like a watch in the night. (Psalm 90:4)

This verse has been quoted often to speak of the return of Jesus. He said he would return soon, yet 2000 years does not seem soon to us…though it may only be two days to God. Peter wrote

But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day. The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.
(2 Peter 3:8-9)

Moses continues

Yet you sweep people away in the sleep of death—
they are like the new grass of the morning:
In the morning it springs up new,
but by evening it is dry and withered. (Psalm 90:5-6)

Now the reality of our sin moves into focus:

We are consumed by your anger 
and terrified by your indignation.
You have set our iniquities before you,
our secret sins in the light of your presence.
All our days pass away under your wrath;
we finish our years with a moan.
Our days may come to seventy years,
or eighty, if our strength endures;
yet the best of them are but trouble and sorrow,
for they quickly pass, and we fly away.
If only we knew the power of your anger!
Your wrath is as great as the fear that is your due. (Psalm 90:7-11)

We don’t like to talk about God’s wrath, sin, death, or judgment…but a holy God demands perfection, which is why we desperately need Jesus. His perfect life made his death on the cross for us the perfect and acceptable sacrifice, payment for our sins.

Teach us to number our days,
that we may gain a heart of wisdom. (Psalm 90:12)

Here’s one of the most popular verses in the Bible. In the context of life and death it is deeply profound. Wisdom comes from God…and from understanding our lives are fragile. What is your expiration date? It could be today. It could be sometime this year.

Relent, LORD! How long will it be?
Have compassion on your servants.
Satisfy us in the morning with your unfailing love,
that we may sing for joy and be glad all our days.
Make us glad for as many days as you have afflicted us,
for as many years as we have seen trouble. (Psalm 90:13-15)

Remember, this is Moses. Pleading with Pharaoh. 40 years leading complainers in the desert. He knows trouble.
 
May your deeds be shown to your servants,
your splendor to their children.
May the favor of the Lord our God rest on us;
establish the work of our hands for us—
yes, establish the work of our hands. (Psalm 90:16-17)

I love Moses’ conclusion. He doesn’t merely say, “Bless us, LORD. Make us rich. Keep us from sickness.” He gets involved. He wants to do life with God. He wants to partner. He’s willing to work, but realizes he needs God’s favor as he works.

So What?

Today is the first day of the rest of your life. How will you live it?

Today is a fresh start. We’ve all made mistakes in 2016…and we will in 2017, too. But today is a new beginning. It’s a great time to reflect upon what’s truly important; how we want to live; who we want to become.

Some of you have dreams you’ve buried. Maybe 2017 is the year to revive them, to take baby steps toward their fulfillment.
Without burdening you a list of new year’s resolutions, consider a few things:


    When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins, having canceled the charge of our legal indebtedness, which stood against us and condemned us; he has taken it away, nailing it to the cross. And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross. (Colossians 2:13-15)

    In a few moments, we’ll celebrate communion communally, together. We remember Jesus died, his body broken, his scarlet blood shed to make us as pure as wool.

    “Come now, let us settle the matter,”
    says the LORD.
    “Though your sins are like scarlet,
    they shall be as white as snow;
    though they are red as crimson,
    they shall be like wool. (Isaiah 1:18)

    Leave behind the guilt and shame of 2016. It’s a new day. It’s a new year!

    One of the great struggles for followers of Jesus is satan’s lies. He’s the accuser, and he loves to keep you shackled in your past failures rather than released to pursue God’s future plans. It is often said when satan reminds you of your past, remind him of his future!

    Seriously, though, if you have trusted Jesus Christ as your LORD and Savior, he has forgiven you of all of your sins. All of them! Yes, even that one!

    The LORD is compassionate and gracious,
    slow to anger, abounding in love. 
    He will not always accuse,
    nor will he harbor his anger forever;
    he does not treat us as our sins deserve
    or repay us according to our iniquities. 
    For as high as the heavens are above the earth,
    so great is his love for those who fear him;
    as far as the east is from the west,
    so far has he removed our transgressions from us. (Psalm 103:8-12)

    That’s good news. That’s great news!



      Jesus boiled the entire Bible down to two commands: love God and love others. One way we love God is by loving others. As 2017 begins, you need to get right with God. Receive His love and forgiveness. It’s there for the taking. Surrender everything—time, talents, treasures—to Him.

      You also need to get right with others. Jesus said…


      “You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘You shall not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.’ But I tell you that anyone who is angry with a brother or sister  will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to a brother or sister, ‘Raca,’ is answerable to the court. And anyone who says, ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell.

      “Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to them; then come and offer your gift. (Matthew 5:21-24)

      My interpretation is, “Get right with others.” Don’t drag bitterness into 2017. Forgive. Let it go. Let go and let God. Seriously. We’ve all been wronged…and we’ve all wronged others.

      Relationships can be messy. I learned that in a whole new way in 2016…unfortunately. There are two people with whom I have unsuccessfully tried to reconcile. Actually, I’ve struggled trying to figure out what I did to deserve the brokenness of the relationship. I’ve asked. I’ve done my best to humble myself. I have been encouraged by these words in the book of Romans…

      If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. (Romans 12:18)

      Despite our best efforts, we may not be able to live at peace with everyone, but “if it is possible” we are to do so.

      They don’t deserve forgiveness. Neither do you! That’s why grace—unmerited favor—is so amazing! Paul wrote to the church in Corinth

      For I received from the Lord what I also passed on to you: The Lord Jesus, on the night he was betrayed, took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, “This is my body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of me.” In the same way, after supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me.” For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes. (1 Corinthians 11:23-26)

      So then, whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of sinning against the body and blood of the Lord. Everyone ought to examine themselves before they eat of the bread and drink from the cup. For those who eat and drink without discerning the body of Christ eat and drink judgment on themselves. (1 Corinthians 11:27-29)

      Today is the first day of the rest of your life. How will you live it?

      • You can listen to this message and others at the First Alliance Church podcast here.

      God is Good…All the Time, 31 December 2016

      A Year To Be All In
      Tabernacle of Praise – First Alliance Church
      Psalm 25:1-5

      Big Idea: God is good…all the time. He is true, present, and faithful. God was faithful in 2016. Will we be faithful in 2017?

      Scripture Reading: Psalm 25

      Introduction

      Welcome to the end of 2016!

      Life is full of endings and beginnings, have you noticed? The stores have clearance sales on summer clothes while introducing winter fashions. The end of college basketball occurs on or around baseball’s opening day. Heather and I once attended her grandmother’s funeral with news of our pregnancy and an upcoming baby.

      Sometimes it’s hard to let go. We want to hold onto the past, but we can never move forward if we’re stuck in park.

      Tonight, I have a simple message for you. You may have heard it before. Are you ready?

      God is good…all the time.
      All the time…God is good.

      God’s been good…in 2016.
      God’s gonna be good…in 2017.

      How do I know? God’s character does not change. He’s always doing new things, but His character does not change.

      What can we say about God’s character, His being, His essence? How much time to we have?!

      I want to look at three aspects of God’s character tonight: true, present, faithful.

      God is true.

      King David, perhaps the most powerful man in the world in his day, wrote these words:

      In you, LORD my God, I put my trust. (Psalm 25:1)

      He didn’t say he put his trust in his power or his army or his wealth. His trust was in the LORD, his God. Can that be said you…really? Sure, we talk about trusting God. We nod when the preacher says God’s trustworthy, but do we really live like it?

      Pastor Craig Groeschel recently wrote a book called
      The Christian Atheist. He says many so-called Christians have biblical knowledge, but we practically live as if God doesn’t exist. Let me give you an example. A few weeks ago I decided to address an ongoing problem in our house—a leaky toilet. For the uninitiated, if a toilet leaks from the bottom, it usually means the wax ring between the toilet and floor is failing. It’s a $4 part to replace, but requires a bit of work to remove the toilet, clean out the old wax, and reset the toilet with the new wax ring. Seeing that I’m not Mr. Handyman, I watched a YouTube video which showed how the $4 part could be installed in about thirty minutes.

      Have you heard of Murphy’s Law? Let me recite it to you. It says, “A $4, thirty minute home improvement project will surely cost at least $100 and take a week or more to complete.” Actually, Murphy’s Law states if anything can go wrong, it will…and it did! (Do you know the corollary to Murphy’s Law? Murphy was an optimist!).

      The point really isn’t my toilet installation, but rather how I ignored God in the process. I was waist deep in—well, never mind that—I was in the middle of the project when it occurred to me to pray about this situation. It was far more complicated—and costly—than I expected and I needed help…divine help. Until I prayed, I was living as a practical atheist.

      King David continues…


      I trust in you; do not let me be put to shame, nor let my enemies triumph over me. No one who hopes in you will ever be put to shame, but shame will come on those who are treacherous without cause. (
      Psalm 25:2-3)

      He says it again, he trusts in God. And he needs to trust in God. He has real enemies. His enemies aren’t a mean school teacher who grades hard, gossipers on Facebook, or even an angry boss. People want to kill him. People want his kingdom. Armies have been formed to defeat him.

      Show me your ways, LORD, teach me your paths. Guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are God my Savior, and my hope is in you all day long. (
      Psalm 25:4-5)

      I don’t know about you, but I want that to be my prayer. I want God to show me His ways. I want Him to teach me His paths. I want Him to guide me in truth. The more I know God—not just about God, but knowing God—the more I experience peace, joy, and contentment. It’s so cliché but it’s true:

      Know God. Know Peace.
      No God. No Peace.

      The recent celebration of Christmas is a celebration of Jesus, God’s son who is fully God but also fully human, a wonderful mystery. Jesus said

      “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. (John 14:6b)

      He is the truth. Speaking of Jesus,

      God is present.

      The word “Emmanuel” means “God with us.” John 1:14 says

      The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth. (John 1:14)

      That’s a fine translation from the Greek, but I really like the way Eugene Peterson translates it in
      The Message:

      The Word became flesh and blood, and moved into the neighborhood. We saw the glory with our own eyes, the one-of-a-kind glory, like Father, like Son, Generous inside and out, true from start to finish. (John 1:14, The Message)

      God moved into the neighborhood. He came here. He didn’t remain in heaven, feeling sorry for the mess we’ve made of this world. He sent Jesus to be born in a cave or some primitive shelter likely made for animals. Jesus spent about thirty years doing normal life out of the spotlight. Then for three years he taught and healed, lived and died for us, rose again, ascended into heaven, and now he’s awaiting the Father’s signal to return. Maranatha! Come quickly, LORD Jesus! Maybe he will return in 2017. Are you ready?

      Even though Jesus is not physically walking the earth today, God is here. God is present in this place. The Holy Spirit is a gift given to every follower of Jesus. God no longer lives in fancy tabernacles or cathedrals. He lives in me. Is he living in you? This means God is present. He is still Emmanuel, God with us. You can’t see him, but he’s still present. You can’t see the WiFi in this building, but it’s still real. Some of the most powerful realities of life are invisible, yet present—love, the wind, radio waves, thoughts…God is present.

      Finally,
      God is faithful.

      My favorite hymn is
      Great is Thy Faithfulness. It has been the theme song of our marriage for more than 26 years. Our family—like many of yours—has endured job loss, deaths, mental illness, a sick child for nearly a decade requiring treatments in five different states, childish rebellion, strained and even broken relationships, …but God has been faithful. Even when it feels like He’s distant, He’s still present. He’s still active. He still hears our prayers. Sometimes our will aligns with His and other times He has a higher purpose, a better plan, perfect timing.

      Let me link some ideas together. How many of you have prayed a prayer and God didn’t answer the way you wanted? All of us experience this regularly. Did you know Jesus did, too?

      The night before Jesus was arrested, he prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane. It’s a real place, in Jerusalem. I’ve been there. Jesus knew he would be crucified and die for you and me, but he wanted Plan B. He prayed…

      “Abba , Father,” he said, “everything is possible for you. Take this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will.” (Mark 14:36)

      That’s a tough prayer to pray—God, this is what I want, but I will trust You if Your will is different. I’ll obey You. You are good and faithful, even if it doesn’t feel like it in this moment.

      Can I get an amen?!

      That’s faith. It’s easy to trust God when the sun’s shining, the bills are paid, the family’s getting along, and there are leftover Christmas cookies to eat! Praise God!

      But can you praise Him in the storm? Is He any less faithful at the hospital, the attorney’s office, the police station, or the frustrating job site? He’s really not.

      The prophet Jeremiah had a pretty rough life. God told him to proclaim unwanted news to the people of Jerusalem, and warned Jeremiah he would be rejected! Wow! His life was so challenging, he wrote a book of laments—words of deep grief and sorry—called Lamentations. He said this:

      I remember my affliction and my wandering, the bitterness and the gall. I well remember them, and my soul is downcast within me. (Lamentations 3:19-20)

      You might as well call him Eeyore! But he wasn’t necessarily complaining, just being honest with God. You can be honest with God, too. He can handle it!

      Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope: Because of the LORD’S great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. (
      Lamentations 3:21-23)

      Let me turn again to The Message:

      But there’s one other thing I remember, and remembering, I keep a grip on hope:
       

      GOD’S loyal love couldn’t have run out, his merciful love couldn’t have dried up. They’re created new every morning. How great your faithfulness! (Lamentations 3:21-23, The Message)

      Listen to what follows:

      I’m sticking with GOD (I say it over and over). He’s all I’ve got left.

      GOD proves to be good to the man who passionately waits, to the woman who diligently seeks. (
      Lamentations 3:24-25, The Message)

      I love that! I’m sticking with God! He’s all I’ve got left.

      Maybe you feel that tonight. 2016 has left you in a tough place and you hope 2017 will be better.

      Perhaps 2016 was a banner year and you’re nervous 2017 won’t be as good.

      Regardless of how you feel in this moment, God is still God. King Jesus is on the throne. He’s not a little baby any longer. He’s preparing to return to us soon. He is true. He is here. He is faithful.

      God is good…all the time.
      All the time…God is good.

      He is true, present, and faithful. God was faithful in 2016.
      Will we be faithful in 2017?

      Angels, 25 December 2016

      Angels
      Series: First Christmas
      Luke 2:1-14

      Series Big Idea:
      Most know the Christmas story, but what did the individual characters experience?

      Big Idea: We need not fear angels…or anything but God.

      Merry CHRISTmas! My name is Kirk and I’m thrilled to be able to celebrate Jesus’ birthday with you!

      Throughout Advent—this season of waiting—we’ve been looking at the Christmas story through the eyes of various characters present at the First Christmas. We looked at the Wise Men, Elizabeth, the Innkeeper, Joseph, and today it’s the angels.

      Have you ever met or seen an angel? Our minds picture a person dressed in white with wings and a halo, but angels are real creatures. In fact, they’re mentioned nearly three hundred times in the Bible! Unless they suddenly became an endangered species, they are just as real and important today.

      We don’t have time to do a thorough study of angels today, but I want to look at two words they spoke: fear not.

      In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. (This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria.) And everyone went to their own town to register. (Luke 2:1-3)

      So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them. (
      Luke 2:4-7)

      And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. (
      Luke 2:8-9)

      STOP!

      Why were they terrified? They saw and angel. They saw the glory of the Lord.

      It seems like often when angels appear, people are afraid. That makes sense, right?

      The angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. (Matthew 28:5)

      But the angel said to him: “Do not be afraid, Zechariah; your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you are to call him John. (Luke 1:13)

      But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favor with God. (Luke 1:30)

      Sometimes people are already afraid and angels are sent to bring comfort and peace.

      God heard the boy crying, and the angel of God called to Hagar from heaven and said to her, “What is the matter, Hagar? Do not be afraid; God has heard the boy crying as he lies there. (Genesis 21:17)

      But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. (Matthew 1:20)

      And we have the example in today’s text.

      But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people.  Luke 2:10

      I have loved Charlie Brown for as long as I can remember. Being a musician, I should’ve identified most with Schroeder, but whenever I would read the Peanuts comics or watch the television specials I always connected with Charlie Brown.

      Charles Schultz, the creator of Charlie Brown, told so many wonderful stories, but the best story he ever told was not his, but taken from the Bible.

      Perhaps you’ve seen the Facebook post by Jason Soroski. I’m so grateful to Crystal who sent it to me. I nearly cried reading it…and I want to share it with you today.

      Last year, A Charlie Brown Christmas aired on national prime time television for the 50th time. In a world where the latest greatest technology is outdated in a matter of months, and social media trends come and go in a matter of days, 50 years of anything becomes quite meaningful.

      I am a fan of all things nostalgic and all things Christmas, and so when the two are combined I am hooked, and the Charlie Brown Christmas special falls squarely into that category.

      I was in the first grade back when they still performed Christmas pageants in schools (less than 50 years, but still a very long time ago), and our class performed a version of the Charlie Brown Christmas. Since I was kind of a bookworm and already had a blue blanket, I was chosen to play the part of Linus. As Linus, I memorized
      Luke 2:8-14, and that Scripture has been hidden in my heart ever since.

      But while working so diligently to learn those lines, there is one important thing I didn’t notice then, and didn’t notice until now.

      Right in the middle of speaking, Linus drops the blanket.

      Charlie Brown is best known for his uniquely striped shirt, and Linus is most associated with his ever-present security blanket. Throughout the story of Peanuts, Lucy, Snoopy, Sally and others all work to no avail to separate Linus from his blanket. And even though his security blanket remains a major source of ridicule for the otherwise mature and thoughtful Linus, he simply refuses to give it up.

      Until this moment. When he simply drops it.

      In that climactic scene when Linus shares “what Christmas is all about,” he drops his security blanket, and I am now convinced that this is intentional. Most telling is the specific moment he drops it: when he utters the words, “fear not.”

      Looking at it now, it is pretty clear what Charles Schultz was saying, and it’s so simple it’s brilliant.

      The birth of Jesus separates us from our fears.

      The birth of Jesus frees us from the habits we are unable (or unwilling) to break ourselves.

      The birth of Jesus allows us to simply drop the false security we have been grasping so tightly, and learn to trust and cling to Him instead.

      The world of 2016 can be a scary place, and most of us find ourselves grasping to something temporal for security, whatever that thing may be. Essentially, 2016 is a world in which it is very difficult for us to “fear not.”

      But in the midst of fear and insecurity, this simple cartoon image from 1965 continues to live on as an inspiration for us to seek true peace and true security in the one place it has always been and can always still be found.

      I couldn’t have said it better myself!

      What are you afraid of? I know that’s an odd question to ask on Christmas Day, but what are you afraid of?

      The dark?
      Your credit card bill next month after Christmas shopping?
      Loneliness?
      Your health?
      Fruitcake?

      God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them. This is how love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment: In this world we are like Jesus. There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love. (1John 4:16-18)

      We love because he first loved us. (1 John 4:19)

      Fear not!

      The angels said it.

      It’s the most common command in the Bible.

      If we recognize the love and presence and power and wisdom and wonder and mystery of God, our other fears will diminish.

      Technically, the Bible doesn’t say the angels sang. It says they praised God.

      Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, 

      “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.” (
      Luke 2:13-14)

      We can praise with words, but music has a special way of enhancing the worship.

      “Angels We Have Heard On High” has possibly the longest word in any piece of music! The 18-syllable word is "Gloria." Gloria, in excelsis Deo means simply, “Glory to God in the highest.”

      Fear Not

      The message of Christmas is Immanuel, God is with us.

      Fear not…God is with us.
      Fear not…the Prince of Peace is here.
      Fear not…you are not alone.
      Fear not…the baby will return soon as King Jesus.

      Happy birthday, Jesus! Merry CHRISTmas! God bless you!

      • You can listen to this message and others at the First Alliance Church podcast here.

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