Monday, September 28, 2009

Words of Encouragement

And when the Israelites saw the great power the LORD displayed against the Egyptians, the people feared the LORD and put their trust in him and in Moses his servant. - Exodus 14:31

God's power brings results. The Israelites were amazed at the wonderful works of God. They saw the Lord's hand against the Egyptians with all the plagues he sent. It was so amazing that it caused fear to fall upon the hearts of the people. This working of God's power brought about a change in the hearts of the people. It made them realize that God was truly God.

It also resulted in them trusting in God. This is the result of God's power, it brings individuals to the place of trusting in him and his power. When we see God's power active in the world, we become like the Israelites, we become afraid. Not afraid in a negative sense, but in a positive way.

This fear of the Lord is an individual realizing the wonderment of God and sees that God is far greater than one's self. It causes the individual to be humbled at the awesomeness of God.

What working of God's power have you seen, that has resulted in your humbling yourself before God? Does God's power cause you today to place your trust fully in God? I pray today that as we see God's power at work in this world that we allow it to result in our further trusting him, in our yielding ourselves to him. God's power brings results, if you allow it.

Lord, today we seek you to have your way within us and that may your power continue to manifest within our lives so that we can be all that you have created us to be. In Jesus name we pray, Amen.

The Week in Review

Are you a Coat Maker?
South Suburban Church of God
May 17, 2009

As I was preparing for this message and the direction the Lord was taking me, I began to think about my mother. My mother was a seamstress. I was amazed at her ability to take fabric and create wonderful garments. She could take a bag of sequin or beads and create beautifully beaded dresses. She could take a pattern and alter it so that it would create something with its own unique flair and it would fit the personality of the person she was designing it for just right. When she finished the garment the individual that it was made for would be so excited about the fit and how much it expressed their personality. There was something special knowing that the garment was created just for them. Well today I want to talk about something similar, about being a coat maker, creating something specially tailor for an individual and allowing that which you make to help them express their uniqueness.

First, what is the purpose of a coat? When we think about a coat we think about a garment that covers us from the elements. We think about a garment that covers our exposed skin and protects us from the sun, the wind, the rain and the cold. The coat becomes a covering that protects us.

The question I want you to think about today is, are you a spiritual coat maker? And if so, what kind of coat maker are you? Are you making garments that will project others from the elements? Are you using your talents and your gifts to create covering for people that are standing exposed and uncovered?

What are people facing? They are facing the heat uncovered. The heat of life is beating down on them and because of it, they are being dried up of all hope; they stand parched without the living water, which is Christ. Some are facing the changing winds of life that blows on them and making it difficult for them to stand against these great chilling forces. These winds are chilling out the truth of God’s word, keeping it from settling in the hearts of people. Or what about the rain, those storms that come in life and leave many unable to stand under the weight of the rain-drenched clothing? Somebody is standing in need of a covering, a coat to protect them from these elements. Are you making some coats?

What is wonderful about the word of God is that we have examples of what happens when things are done wrong and then we have examples of how to do them right. Let’s look at the wrong types of coat makers, first.

The “Favoritism” Coat Maker
Genesis 37:3-4, 23
Now Israel loved Joseph more than all his children, because he was the son of his old age: and he made him a coat of many colours. And when his brethren saw that their father loved him more than all his brethren, they hated him, and could not speak peaceably unto him. 23And it came to pass, when Joseph was come unto his brethren, that they strip Joseph out of his coat, his coat of many colours that was on him;

Israel who was also known as Jacob before God changed his name, gives his son Joseph a coat. We see a father preparing a coat for his son, a “coat of love”. It is a good thing to be a coat maker that makes a “coat of love” and we would think this is a good thing that Israel is doing, however, we see some problems. The first problem is Israel loved Joseph more than he did the other sons and it was something very obvious. He gave Joseph a coat that was like a neon sign saying, “He is more important to me than you”. Think about this coat? It is bright and rich in color. To create garments of such brilliance was costly because of the treatments that had to be done to fabrics to obtain the colors. There was no expense spared on this one son. Truly we should not be cheap and should not spare any expense in giving our love, but the problem comes in if we pick and choose whom to give it to. How long do you think this can go on before we have problems? Not long because we see the brothers plotting Joseph’s death. While the brothers were wrong in their action, a coat maker, a provider cannot show favoritism in love because it breeds hatred, disharmony and discord.

Favoritism amongst a family surely brings disruption in the unity of the family. Also let us also not miss another possibly problem here, the favor shown by Israel was because of his personal reward in doing it. In other words, he was feeling himself because this was a son he had in his old age, it was a mark, a reward for him, and it was a male thing. You’ve seen it, men that have fathered children in their later years the pride that have because of that child, especially if it is a son. It’s like a badge of honor. This son along with his brother Benjamin was like special accomplishments for Israel.

What does that say to us today? As spiritual coat makers, we cannot show favoritism to one member of the family over another one. I cannot love Sis. Rose more because she can really cook, or Sis. Dorothy because she makes killer cornbread. First, that type of love is wrong because of the reasons I’m giving it. I’m giving it because of what I get in return, how it profits or benefits me. Love in the family is to be given freely and without any expectation of return, benefit or repayment. Secondly, I cannot lavish more love on one in the family as if saying by my actions “you are more important”, without problems arising. How long will it be before we see disharmony in the unity if believers show love more for one than the other? We set up the possibility of jealousy amongst the brothers and what happens is they may begin to plot on how to take that “coat” away. What they are trying in fact to do is remove the symbol of the “coat of love” that should have been lavished on all which was only being given to one.

The Favoritism coat maker does not line up with the type of garment makers God requires in his family. This is not to say that God does not allow us to see special things within each other and that we should encourage that, but we cannot pick one to love more than another. We know this because the word reads, “For there is no respect of persons with God”. – Romans 2:11. If God does not show respect of person, then we definitely cannot pick and choose whom we will give a “coat of love” to (come back next week for the next installment).

The Week in Review

Study of the Synoptic Gospels - Luke Survey

Written by Minister Jewel D. Williams (12/07)

Observations: Luke’s purpose for writing is to present the evidence of Jesus and he does that with his detail and themes throughout the writing of his Gospel. Luke’s Gospel focuses on history as the place where God’s salvation story was effected and on Jesus as God’s savior. Luke shows God’s love for mankind started with Adam and continued to all people; men and women, Jew and Gentile.

Author and intent: The most reliable information comes from the New Testament itself. Luke was well educated and believed to be a doctor and close friend of Paul (Co. 4:14). It is said that Luke’s intention was to make his Gospel more accurate than other versions of the Jesus story that had been compiled prior to his. Luke 1:1-4 states his main purpose, which was to write an orderly and accurate account so that others could know the truth.

Structural: There were some interesting patterns that I found within the Gospel of Luke. The first interesting structural pattern was the usage of the phrase “And it came to pass.”

This phrase was used 35 times (1:8, 1:23, 1:41, 1:59, 2:1, 2:15, 2:16, 2:46, 5:1, 5:12, 5:27, 6:1, 6:6, 6:12, 7:11, 8:1, 8:22, 8:40, 9:28, 9:33, 9:37, 9:51, 9:57, 10:38, 11:1, 11:14, 11:27, 14:1, 17:11, 17:14, 18:35, 19:29, 20:1, 24:4, 24:51). This phrase is used as a transitional phrase when the movement or action transitions from one event to another. This statement is an active statement in that what follows did happen.

There is also a Chiastic Structure (ABCBA pattern) regarding John and Jesus’ birth (see chart 1 below). It might be a stretch here, but I see the reference to Herod as a “C” between the events of John and Jesus (in chart 2, however it is not included in this post).

Contrasting is shown in Luke’s Gospel. One example is the speech by Mary (1:46-53).

Low Esteem----------------------------Blessed of All Nations (1:48)
Put Down-------------------------------Mighty Exalt the Low (52)
Fill Hungry with Good----------------Rich Made Empty (53)

There are also several mentions of the Holy Ghost’s work before the infilling mentioned in Acts. This is not something I am familiar with seeing in the other Gospels (1:15, 1:67, 2:25, 3:22, 4:1, 4:14 and 5:1). We see the working of the Holy Spirit as the one that empowers the individual to give prophecy, to be led, to hear God’s words, infill, empower for service. There is a climatic turning when we read of the entrance of Satan. The first when Satan enters Judas, (22:3) and the second when Jesus tells Peter what Satan wants to do to believers (22:31).

Chapter Titles:

I. Introduction – Salvation reliability (Chapter 1:1-4)

II. Preparation for Jesus’ Ministry (Chapter 1:5-4:13)
a. The Two Births (1:5-1:56)
b. The Two Sons (1:57-2:52)
c. John’s Ministry – Preparing the Way (3:1-20)
d. Jesus’ Ministry – The Way (3:21-4:13)

III. Jesus’ Gospel Message (4:14-9:50)
a. Message of Good News (4:14-5:16)
b. Conflict Over the Message (5:17-6:11)
c. Message for the Poor (6:12-8:3)
d. Revelation in the Message (8:4-21)
e. Jesus’ Identity Through the Message (8:22-9:50)

IV. Discipleship (9:51-19:27)
a. The Final Journey Begins (9:51-13:27)
b. The Journey Continues (13:22-17:10)
c. The Journey Ends (17:11-19:27)

V. Death and Resurrection (19:28-24:53)
a. Entrance into Jerusalem (19:28-48)
b. The Controversy (20:1-21:4)
c. End Time (21:5-38)
d. The Passover (22:1-38)
e. The Arrest and Trial (22:39-23:25)
f. The Crucifixion and Burial (23:26-56a)
g. The Resurrection – The Fulfillment (23:56b-24:53)

Thematic Study (Noting Proportion/Sensing Atmosphere):
The Themes in the book of Luke are God’s universal work, Jesus as Savior of the world, Event’s of Jesus’ early life, the place of women in Jesus’ ministry and the ministry of the Holy Spirit. Luke traces the ancestry of Jesus to show an emphasis of the universal nature of God’s dealing with the world. Luke focuses on Jesus as savior from the first announcement by the angel (2:11) to his last appearance on earth (24:46-47). When Jesus began his ministry, he opened the scroll and read of his fulfillment of the prophet’s words, thus announcing who he was. Luke also took an interest in the early life of Jesus. Matthew mentions the birth of Jesus, but Luke goes into more detail about his birth, and some of his early life. The other theme that is important to Luke is his emphasizes on women. All the Gospels mention women but Luke goes to greater extents in mentioning women in his Gospel (2:36-38, 7:11-17, 7:36-50, 10:38-42, 13:10-17, 21:1-4 and in the parables 13:20-21, 15:8-10, 18:1-8).

Literary Type & Genre: Luke adopted the geographical style of the Gospel of Mark as the basic pattern for his own Gospel (Nickle, 137). It is said that Luke wrote fine Greek. His polished style of writing was characteristic of the authors of Greek classical period, such as Homer and Sophocles. In his writing style, he was able to adopt a scriptural tone when it suited his purposes. “In effect he was consciously casting his composition into ‘Bible language’”(139).

Who or what is this about? – This Gospel is about Jesus. Luke tells his story of Jesus to help address the faith needs of his community. Matthew tells his story using the fulfillment of prophecy, while Luke uses a similar style with his “And it came to pass” theme. When reading Luke’s Gospel, this theme changes the direction of movement from one event to another while also bringing the reader to the understanding that this is a telling of something that has happened (has been fulfilled). The Gospel of Luke repeatedly discloses the true identity of Jesus to clear away all doubts about who he is.

Why is this so important? – Why is this book written in this way? It is said that Luke’s Gospel was written in this apologetic style to answer the concerns of his community and time. It is suggested that the writing occurred at a time when Roman authorities had begun to differentiate between Judaism and Christianity (159). Luke therefore was writing to clear up any misunderstanding or misinterpretations about Jesus.

What are the implications and assumptions one can take from this book? – One can assume Luke’s mission in presenting the Gospel was to defend the truth about Jesus. He wrote his Gospel to prove Jesus’ promised coming, his promised mission and his promised fulfillment of his ministry. It was important also to Luke that his readers knew Jesus was the savior for not only the Jewish people, but for all people.

What is the setting and why is that important? – The most likely places of this writing of the Gospel were Greece, Caesarea, Alexandria and Rome. There are some that state the true location cannot be discovered. However, wherever he wrote it, it was intended for Christians who may have had a pagan background.

How does this now speak to me? – The Gospel of Luke shows a detailed telling of the life of Jesus. This shows me that nothing was an accident in the unfolding of the life of Jesus. Even the smallest of details were part of God’s plan. The telling for example of John the Baptist’s life is in line with Jesus’ life. This then speaks to me that even the smallest events in my life should be looked at from the mindset that this is part of God’s plan for my life. He was involved in my very beginnings and he wants to be involved in the end. He was in the beginning of Jesus’ life and he was there throughout his earthly ministry. It says to me that God wants that for us as well. He wants to be a part of our entire walk, from beginning to end.