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Wilderness is a powerful thing, because it can be life-changing. When we go into a place of wilderness, whether it is geographical or circumstantial wilderness, it is going to change us. On the one hand, there is the danger that it could be deadly or defeating to us. But, if we let God do His work in us through the wilderness, then it can help us learn holiness as we drawn nearer to the life-giving God. It can also help us become more human as we become more of what God created us to be. David learned this in his wilderness experience as he was running from Saul. He learned to see the holiness of God and the humanness of all people, even in his enemy, Saul. So, don't be afraid of wilderness, but embrace it, for in it you will find God in a new way.
Fear is a problem for all of us. We all have things in our lives that terrify us, or at least, make us very anxious. In David's Psalms of lament, starting with Psalm 3, we learn a lot about what David feared, but also about how he handled fear and overcame it. To handle fear we have to be able to name it and understand it, knowing that there are greater forces at work in our lives sometimes than we can see, namely the forces that are engaged in the cosmic battle for the salvation in the world. This was the case for David, and can often be the case for us too when we engage in activities and ministry that Satan would like to see us fail in. But to overcome our fears, we have to believe that God is shielding us as we move forward and follow His call, that He is giving us His glory, and that we are part of His story and His mission in the world, a mission that is shared by a unified church.
What does it really mean to worship the Lord in His holy temple? David mentions God being in His holy temple in multiple Psalms, yet we know that there was no temple in existence yet when David lived, so what did David have in mind when he talked about temple worship? A deeper understanding of the idea of temple in the Old Testament shows that long before the temple was constructed God's people understood that all the heavens and the earth were God's Holy Temple and that the building that was later built was done so to provide a safe place for God's people to connect with Him. And now that Jesus has come and the temple building is long destroyed, we know that by the giving of the Holy Spirit we have all become the temples of God. And we can once again meet God not primarily in a building, but in all of His creation. This makes it important for us to care for creation and it makes our corporate worship a time to be inspired by who God is and what He has done.
We all need time to rest. Our western society may tell us otherwise--that rest stands in the way of accomplishments--but it is essential for humans to have times of rest in order to thrive and to focus on relationships with God and others over and above any accomplishments. This message teaches us what real rest is, how that rest comes by way of the Gospel, and how to enter into a Gospel rest.
On Pentecost, we recognize and celebrate power from above that changes disciples, and that then ultimately changes the world. Power from above is seen in the wind and fire that so often symbolize God's power from heaven. At Pentecost this power descended on all the believers. These disciples then, filled with the Spirit, were changed immediately and imparted with joyful fearlessness. And the Spirit also gave everyone the ability to hear the gospel in their own language. This changed the world because it showed that the gospel was translatable and could thrive in every culture. Unlike the first Pentecost on Mt. Sinai when the law was given and the people were in fear, this second Pentecost gave the Good News with a power that produces joyful fearlessness and an ability to reach all cultures, and this continues for us today.
When Jesus ascended to heaven shortly after His resurrection, He charged His disciples to be witnesses to the ends of the earth and to take an active roll in the work of his Kingdom, in anticipation of His sure return. In the gospel of Matthew we find the Parable of the Talents, by which Jesus teaches us exactly what He expects of us in this commission He has given us. We learn that Jesus expects us to take risks for Him and to make gains for Him. We also learn how great our reward will be when we are wiling to take these risks.
In this second message on God seeking us, we turn to John 10 and the powerful teaching of Jesus, the Good Shepherd. We learn that He loves us in such a great way that He lays down His life to save His flock. Jesus also knows His sheep and everything about them; and He expects us to know Him as well. And, finally, He owns His sheep, which means He will never let anybody or anything snatch us from His loving hands. Indeed, He makes a great point of finding all of the lost ones and brings them home. Wow, how can we be more like our Good Shepherd?
As we study Ezekiel 34 we learn a couple things about sheep and shepherds. First, we are all sheep and this is not a compliment. We are dumb, abstinent, short-sighted and easily lost. So we need a shepherd. Second, shepherds, both civil and religious leaders, tend to be selfish and unwilling to care for the needy. Therefore, God will send Himself, in the form of Jesus Christ, to protect and provide for His sheep.
There are three very important characteristics of a healthy church found in Hebrews 10. The first is that we should exhibit confidence. Because of Christ's work on the cross the veil is open and we now forever reside in the inner circle of God's presence. A second vital characteristic is hopefulness. We are able to look toward and move into the future because we know that Christ is in the work of transforming the world. And finally, the church must be compelling. We move each other by spurring each other on, by offering encouragement to each other, and by serving together and meeting together.
There are two words for time in the Greek language. One is kronos, which describes the chronological passing of time. The other is kairos, and this is the time in which God often works. Kairos time is the right or opportune time, and when God works in this kind of time He always has a redemptive purpose. This can be seen throughout scriptures as God unfolded His redemptive plan. It can still be seen today as God moves through His church to continue bringing redemption. Kairos moments are often preceded by crisis and they come through prayer. These moments also bring with them the power of the Holy Spirit in order to accomplish what God wills to accomplish by producing boldness in God's people, creating authentic community, and growing the church. Trinity church is at a Kairos moment and it is up to us to get in step with the Spirit as He moves among us.
Pastor Haman Cross from our sister church, Rosedale Park Baptist in Detroit, preached on Numbers 20:8-12 with the title: "Speak Softly and Carry a Big Stick"
God commanded Moses to speak to the rock to get the water the Israelites needed. Instead he struck the rock with the staff. We need to follow God's will for our lives even when it does not seem to make sense to us. This is the only way to move forward on our journey.
The Christian life is like running a marathon. Sometimes it feels like we may never succeed in taking even one more step, much less reaching the finish line. But the author of Hebrews gives us several reasons to keep running the race. The first is that great cloud of witnesses who have gone before us and have already completed the race and given us their example of a life of faith. The second is that those things that hinder us and the sins that entangle us can be thrown off if we keep our eyes on Jesus. And the third is that the goal is Jesus, who is the very one who gives us faith, who completes that faith in us, and is the greatest example of faith for us. So keep running!
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