Monday, June 15, 2015

Have You Believed?

 The Gospel Story tells us that several times during Jesus’ earthly ministry He would disappear into the crowd unnoticed by those around Him. The disciples were probably used to this by now, probably not even giving it a second thought. They knew they would meet again at a later time that day or night. But this time was different. Maybe that’s why Jesus left this earth in physical form in such a dramatic way. His eleven disciples, now missing Judas would know that Jesus’ departure was final (or the time being.) Luke makes note of the two men dressed in white, these Angelic beings escorting Jesus upward into Heaven. Maybe these two were the same ones who appeared some days earlier in the transfiguration. Maybe at the tomb when they appeared to Mary? We don’t know and can only speculate on this and other events leading up this defining moment, this ascension to the right hand of God. Whatever the details may be, one thing surely stands out about Jesus ascension. This was the defining moment between two phases of ministry-the earthly and the heavenly. Jesus was not taken up until after He had given instructions through the Holy Spirit to the disciples he had chosen to carry on the earthly ministry.
        Luke is the only Gospel writer who records the event of Jesus’
Ascension. There were some who did not believe the ascension to be a literal and historical event. Maybe its because they didn’t realize the importance of this event and what it signified to the beginnings of the early church and the dawn of Christianity. These would say that since this miracle had not happened before it wasn’t genuine. Miracles do not need precedents to be real. Before Jesus, the blind were not healed, or the lame given the ability to walk. Even when we look at the Old Testament, no one had parted the Red Sea before Moses. You see, for those of us who were not eyewitnesses, we must choose to believe. Today we would like to look at some of the reasons why Jesus ascension was so important to we who remain until Jesus comes again for His Church.
        As I once heard a Sunday School teacher say, ”Jesus went up and the Holy Spirit came down.” That’s pretty basic isn’t it? And actually makes it really easy to understand. For a few moments today, let us look at what the coming of the Holy Spirit really meant.
                Witnesses, not Stargazers: The two men in white robes asked Jesus’ disciples why they were gazing up into the sky. The Holy Spirit was given to empower Jesus followers and the early church. Jesus told them they had been baptized with water. He told them that very soon they would be baptized with the Holy Spirit. Denominations will differ on what this baptism means. The most important takeaway here is that the Holy Spirit was given that these new Christians could spread the Gospel of Jesus Christ throughout the region and eventually the entire world. You see, they were to be witnesses, not stargazers.
On June 11, 1739, John Wesley, the founder of Methodism signified a defining moment when he made a entry into his journal. He wrote that famous statement, he viewed the entire world as his parish. John wanted us to remember that God doesn’t just show up within the four walls of the church. God wants us to take the Gospel everywhere. When you drive throughout the countryside you will notice Methodist churches even in the most remote places. When I watch the movie with John Wayne and Kathryn Hepburn, I notice she is playing a female preacher. I told Vicky that even though this was fiction, since she was in a remote place, and a female, she would most likely be a Methodist. Early circuit riders traveled by horseback in all kinds of weather, usually in pairs. The seasoned pastor would train the younger, who would sometimes be his replacement. That why we see churches all over the countryside.

The disciples and the apostle Paul spread the Gospel throughout their known
area. They were persecuted, killed, and often tortured for the Gospel’s. Foxes Book of Martyrs records the brutal treatment Jesus followers were given throughout the centuries. But something amazing happened. Today we would call this a God Thing. Just when the rulers of the day thought they had killed the last follower. Just when they though that now we have put a stop to these Jesus people. Guess what? They would rise up with a new group somewhere else and start all over again, even stronger and bolder than before. They could never have had this boldness on their own. That’s the boldness God gave them through the Holy Spirit. That’s the boldness to witness that we need in this day and age. Jesus may longer be with us physically, but the Holy Spirit was sent to guide us and give us strength when we need encouragement from above. 

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

John Wesley's Thoughts on War-A Commentary

Going to war can be a controversial thing, always has and always will be. Recently during the Gulf War of the early 2000's, some thought you surely could not be a Christian or a patriot if you did not support the war or "conflict" in Iran/Iraq, conflict probably a word making it easier for politicians to send other's sons and daughters into harm's way. Big Box Radio even censored the Dixie Chicks...remember them? Yes, I personally support those in our military. But not unlike, John Wesley, I question the wisdom or necessity to police the world. As a Conservative Libertarian, a position I reached after much thought and prayer, I believe old John B. had it mostly right. From a political view, Korea, Viet Nam , Iran, Irag, haven't changed that much since we left. World World Wars One and Two probably were necessary in keeping the world free of madmen who wanted to control the world. The Bible tells us one day God will allow that to happen under a world government. Depending on your theological bent, we may or not be on hand to witness this personally.

The Bible has much to say about violence and how we treat or neighbor. One can look back at our history and see that we did not always fair so well here in our country. Amish and others don't wear a mustasche so as not to be confused with the military personel who wore ornate ones after "killing them some injuns."I have to sometimes wonder who is really the illegal in the state of Texas, after all, remember the Alamo. I would encourage you to watch and listen to the video portrayal of John Wesley in Wesley's own words.Read what the Bible says, you may come away with a new view of things. I will leave you with the words of Shaw who said that someone who could not change their mind could not change anything...

Friday, May 10, 2013

Homemakers in an Age of Feminist Mystique

Homemakers in an Age of Feminist Mystique

Jennifer Marshall
Democratic strategist Hilary Rosen hit close to many American homes with her comment that Ann Romney, stay-at-home mother of five boys, "had never worked a day in her life."
The broadside didn't just hit a presidential candidate's wife but also a wide swath of Middle America moms.
It turns out the typical stay-at-home mom doesn't live next door to the "Desperate Housewives" in a four-bedroom house on Wisteria Lane. Instead, as The New York Times reported after the Rosen-Romney dust-up, 65% of stay-at-home, married mothers of children under 18 live in a household with an annual income below $75,000.
Rosen apologized, saying she valued all women's work. Trouble is, her comments fit a longtime pattern of statements by liberal feminists that seem to diminish the decision not to work outside the home.
On the campaign trail for her husband in 1992, Hillary Clinton defended her own choice to pursue a law career by disparaging what others opted to do. "I suppose I could have stayed home and baked cookies and had teas, but what I decided to do was to fulfill my profession," she told reporters.
Clinton's condescension was only a faint echo of the brutal comments made by feminist matriarch Betty Friedan in her 1963 book "The Feminine Mystique."
"I am convinced there is something about the housewife state itself that is dangerous," wrote Friedan, describing the homemaker as consigned to "a comfortable concentration camp."
Friedan used the term "feminine mystique" to refer to "certain concrete, finite, domestic aspects of feminine existence" made "into a religion, a pattern by which all women must now live or deny their femininity."
Since Friedan's day, the demographics have changed dramatically. By 1982, women had outstripped men in the number of bachelor's degrees earned each year; by 1986, the same was true for master's degrees. In 1995, more women in the workforce had bachelor's degrees than men.
About 70% of married mothers with children under 18 were in the labor force as of 2010, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
"Within a generation, more households will be supported by women than by men," bestselling author and Washington Post reporter Liza Mundy predicts with praise in her new book "The Richer Sex: How the New Majority of Female Breadwinners Is Transforming Sex, Love and Family."
Not all women will reach the same conclusion.
For decades, nearly all young women consistently have said marriage and motherhood are important to their future happiness. Strong majorities also look forward to working.
When they grow up to be mothers, juggling home and workplace responsibilities, many wish they could tilt their timesheet ratio more toward home. In fact, nearly 70% of full-time working mothers of children under 18 said they'd prefer to work part time or not at all, according to a 2007 report from Pew Research Center.
Feminists claim to support a woman's individual choice when it comes to the balance of work and family life. But episodes such as the Rosen flap don't reveal respectful regard for all women's choices in this arena.
The irony is that women now face a feminist mystique. Today's "pattern by which all women must now live" - to use Friedan's words - leads to awkward silences in response to the homemaker who admits her vocation at a cocktail party.
Too often feminists tend to categorize women as a class. Demanding conformity to the feminist norm, they fail to respect a woman's intellectual freedom to think for herself - the ostensible goal they fought to achieve.
British mystery writer Dorothy Sayers found that "repugnant." She lambasted the impulse in a speech to a women's group in 1938, titled "Are Women Human?"
"What is unreasonable and irritating is to assume that all one's tastes and preferences have to be conditioned by the class to which one belongs," Sayers said. "Are women really not human, that they should be expected to toddle along all in a flock like sheep?"
Today's stay-at-home mom may not be following the crowd. And for that, feminists ought to show her just a little more respect.
Jennifer A. Marshall is director of the DeVos Center for Religion and Civil Society at the Heritage Foundation.
First moved on the McClatchy Tribune Wire service

Sunday, March 17, 2013

God's Hall of Faith

A Sermon by Rev. Keith Kiper
Media Pastor-Boonville Wesleyan Church
from Hebrews Chapter 11 (CEB)
Hebrews chapter eleven is often called the “Hall of Faith” or the “Faith Chapter” of the Bible.  That is because this chapter outlines for us the lives of those who often maintained their faith , sometimes against incredible odds including torture and death. This hall of faith includes those in both the Old and New Testament. Many names had been added throughout the history of the church. This list would include Origin, Joan of Arc, Martin Luther, John Wesley, Huss, Tyndale,  Dietrich Bonhoeffer, plus countless others throughout the world today. Some were persecuted while others died for their faith. Many are being persecuted and martyred throughout the world today.  I’m sure we can think of those in our lifetime, family members from our own church that we can add to this list who maintained their faith.
We have our own hall of faith here at Boonville Wesleyan. Our hall of faith would include those who have battled cancer, ill health, financial difficulties. Their faces come to our minds as we remember them today. Some have gone on to their reward. Others are still with us, encouraging us with their testimony. In spite of hardships they have faced… they refused to give in and maintained their faith as a testimony to God’s amazing grace. They encouraged us. Others have come to know Jesus because of their testimony. All these we mentioned have something in common. They maintained their faith because they trusted God’s Word. They maintained their faith because they had a vision of something better to come. It is almost impossible to separate faith and vision.
  As Barnes Commentary well states, ”There is no part of the New Testament of more value than this chapter in Hebrews; none which deserves to be more patiently studied, or which may be more frequently applied to the circumstances of Christians. These invaluable records are adapted to sustain us in times of trial, temptation, and persecution; to show us what faith has done in days that are past, and what it may do still in similar circumstances. Nothing can better show the value and the power of faith, or of true religion, than the records in this chapter. It has done what nothing else could do. It has enabled men and women to endure what nothing else would enable them to bear.”You may ask: How did they survive and keep their faith? I would like to look at four ways here today.

1. VISION:  In the early 1970’s preparations were being made for the grand opening celebrations of Disney World in Orlando Florida. Many years of planning and design had gone into building the new theme park. The founder, Walt Disney died not very long before Disney World opened. One of its leaders remarked that he sure wished Walt could see Disney World now. Another friend remarked, He did see it, that’s why we are here today.
These members of the Hall of Faith knew what it meant to have a vision,. They possessed something even better. They knew what it meant to have a heavenly vision, a vision which looked past the current trials and tribulations.
They envisioned that place that Peter talks about, a place where they could partake of the divine nature.
          2. CONFIDENCE: That 1980’s philosopher Jack Handy said, ”Sometimes I think you have to march right in and demand your rights, even if you don’t know what you rights are, or who the person is you are talking to. Then, on the way out, slam the door.”
            Confidence can be both a good thing and a bad thing. It wasn’t self-confidence or false pride that fueled the early Christians. Their confidence was placed in an all knowing, all powerful God of perfect love.  We can have confidence in God’s written Word, the confidence that the Holy Spirit can guide us, comfort us, and direct our paths no matter what comes our way.
Paul gives us good advice in Ephesians:6:17  “ Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is God’s word.
18 Offer prayers and petitions in the Spirit all the time. Stay alert by hanging in there and praying for all believers. 19 As for me, pray that when I open my mouth, I’ll get a message that confidently makes this secret plan[b] of the gospel known. 20 I’m an ambassador in chains for the sake of the gospel. Pray so that the Lord will give me the confidence to say what I have to say.”

3. HUNGER:  Exodus 33:17-20

Common English Bible (CEB)
17 The Lord said to Moses, “I’ll do exactly what you’ve asked because you have my special approval, and I know you by name.”
18 Moses said, “Please show me your glorious presence.”
20 But,” the Lord said, “you can’t see my face because no one can see me and live.”
When Moses asked God to show him His glory, the Lord warned him that no man can see Him and live. Even in the New Covenant this is true. Only dead men can see Him. Now I’m not talking about the physically dead, but those who have died to self. When one dies to self, there is a renewed hunger to experience God in His fullness through the Holy Spirit. John Wesley called this the Second Blessing. This is what we call sanctification in our holiness churches. As Christians we draw strength from above when we desire and seek God’s presence. We gain strength in times of depression and tribulation through corporate worship. That why assembling together is so important for the Christian. We not only receive God”s blessing…we are encouraged by sharing prayer requests and needs. God can move among our midst when we open pour hearts together in worship.
            This spiritual  hunger must be more than the physical hunger we sometimes have. Aaron Wilborn wrote some new words for a song from the 1980’s.
“The pastor preached until 1:45,  I could kill for a burger and fry,
don’t worry, be happy!”
.Leonard Ravenhill , an English pastor who has passed on recently remarked:
“I'm sick to death of the so-called Christianity of our day. What's supernatural about it? When do people come out of the sanctuary awed and can't speak for an hour because God has been in glory there? Dear God, as soon as they get out, they're talking football, or sports or something or there's going to be a big sale downtown or somewhere. We are not caught up into eternity.”
Yes, that does sound harsh. But I feel it does describe the Laodician or luke warm attitude present in many of today’s churches.

The Rev. Tommy Tenney, the author of “The God Chasers” had some thoughts about spiritual hunger also. Tenney called hungering after God, ”The secret path to God’s presence.”
 Matthew 6:33 tells us
“Instead, desire first and foremost God’s kingdom and God’s righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.”
When people asked John Wesley how he drew such large crowds during the first Great awakening he replied, “I set myself on fire, and the people come to see me burn.”
        That’s the kind of hunger those in God’s hall of faith possessed. That’s the kind of hunger we need today in the church. God used different methods at different times throughout the history of His church. Someone well said that history should be a guiding post, but not a hitching post. While I believe this to be true, I’m not a slave to dispensationalism. What do I mean when I make that statement.  The Bible tells us that Jesus is the same yesterday, today, and forever. Dispensationalism to me is a twenty five dollar word for excuses. Some believe that all miracles ceased with the disciples. I believe that God still heals today, saves today, and can work miracles in our everyday life. Yes God moves, works, and heals at His pleasure and within His will. But we can also limit what he does by our lack of prayer and lack of faith. We must thirst for Him as Psalms tells us the deer thirsts after water. He will then either answer our prayers or give us the supernatural strength from only He can give to endure what comes our way.
        Smith Wigglesworth, often referred to as ‘the Apostle of Faith,’ was one of the pioneers of the (Pentecostal) revival that occurred a century ago. Pastor Wigglesworth mentored Lester Sumrall. Some of you will remember hearing Dr. Sumrall on the radio in the past.

Without human refinement and education he was able to tap into the infinite resources of God to bring divine grace to multitudes.
Thousands came to Christian faith in his meetings, hundreds were healed of serious illnesses and diseases as supernatural signs followed his ministry.
A deep intimacy with his heavenly Father and an unquestioning faith in God’s Word brought spectacular results including three documented cases of individuals being raised from the dead.

Why does God use some this way and not others? Why are some healed and not others? I don’t know the answer. There is something in common …individuals like this did share a spiritual hunger for God’s presence and a resolve to be persistent in prayer.

4. RESOLVE:  The dictionary defines the word resolve as, “To make a firm decision about.” Or to bring to a usually successful conclusion.”  Listen to what paul says in Phillipians 1:27-29
27 Most important, live together in a manner worthy of Christ’s gospel. Do this, whether I come and see you or I’m absent and hear about you. Do this so that you stand firm, united in one spirit and mind as you struggle together to remain faithful to the gospel. 28 That way, you won’t be afraid of anything your enemies do. Your faithfulness and courage are a sign of their coming destruction and your salvation, which is from God. 29 God has generously granted you the privilege, not only of believing in Christ but also of suffering for Christ’s sake.”
 The familiar song, “I Have Decided to Follow Jesus” was written by someone who truly knew what it meant to have resolve in face of persecution.

The lyrics are based on the last words of a man in Assam, north-east India, who along with his family was converted to Christianity in the middle of the 19th century through the efforts of a Welsh missionary. Called to renounce his faith by the village chief, the convert declared, "I have decided to follow Jesus." In response to threats to his family, he continued, "Though no one joins me, still I will follow." His wife was killed, and he was executed while singing, "The cross before me, the world behind me." This display of faith is reported to have led to the conversion of the chief and others in the village.[1]
The formation of these words into a hymn is attributed to the Indian missionary Sadhu Sundar Singh.[2] The melody is also Indian, and entitled "Assam" after the region where the text originated.[3] The fierce opposition is possible as various tribes in that area were formerly renowned for head-hunting.[4]
An American hymn editor, William Jensen Reynolds, composed an arrangement which was included in the 1959 Assembly Songbook. His version became a regular feature of Billy Graham's evangelistic meetings in America and elsewhere, spreading its popularity.[5]
            We have taken a look today at members of God’s Hall of Faith.” Many who have gone on before us have made great sacrifices. WE may be called on to do the same in the course of our lives. We may not always know the reason, but God knows. You see, Christianity may not have all the answers. Christianity is the only religion that asks all the right questions. As we close today, let’s turn to page 385 and sing “I Have Decided to Follow Jesus.” Maybe you are facing a trial today. Jesus is still the answer.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Remembering Christ with Advent

Thanksgiving 2012 is now history. Most of us are probably having ham or turkey sandwiches today along with the usual leftovers. Some may even complain about leftovers while much of the world is still hungry. Christmas decorations have been hanging in the Big*Box stores since Halloween, their second biggest retail season only to Christmas, due largely to our culture's fascination with the occult and the vampire craziness of late in television and motion pictures. Black Friday is now being pushed to Thursday, even sooner on some internet shopping sites. Jesus and His birth are almost forgotten by much of our quasi-religious and atheistic culture.

A good way for the individual and the church to remember the signifigence of this Christmas Season is the observance of the four Sundays of Advent. Our Catholic and most of our mainline churches already observe Advent. Sadly, many of our Wesleyan and sister churches do not. At best, some will celebrate with a service after Thanksgiving such as"Hanging of the Greens." This is great, but why stop there.

Advent Dates for 2012
• December 2 - First Sunday of Advent
• December 9 - Second Sunday of Advent
• December 16 - Third Sunday of Advent
• December 23 - Fourth Sunday of Advent

In Western Christianity, Advent begins on the fourth Sunday prior to Christmas Day, or the Sunday which falls closest to November 30, and lasts through Christmas Eve, or December 24. When Christmas Eve falls on a Sunday, it is the last, or fourth Sunday of Advent.

In Eastern Orthodox churches which use the Julian calendar, Advent begins earlier, on November 15, and lasts 40 days, rather than 4 weeks.

Why not light a candle and read the complimentary Scriptures leading up to Christmas? This only takes a few minutes during the morning worship service and helps us to focus on what happened two thousand years ago. Its also great to hear Scripture in our Bible starved society. of today. That's what I think anyway...what are your thoughts? keith 1 Cor 13

Keith Kiper is an ordained minister in The Wesleyan Church. He currently serves as Media Pastor at Boonville Wesleyan Church. He is married to Vicky. The Kiper's have  a grown daughter Kristen, a Maltipoo named Opie, a Cockerpoo named Jackson and two cats.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Beams, Bigots, and the Beatitudes...My Thoughts

It seems that everyone is "coming out of the closet" these days. This is even happening in the world of Gospel Music."Coming out"  the common phrase used today when someone who is a homosexual decides to let the world know their sexual inclinations, usually someone from the Hollywood culture. Although usually not a surprise many of us would rather not know. This is considered free speech and expression. Sadly the same standards don't seem to apply when the conservative Christian doesn't agree with the ungodly lifestyle of others and expresses their opinion. The Bible has a lot to say on this matter  also, we will get to that later.

We are told we should not judge others. Quotes will show up in blogs about the beam in our eye when we are focusing on the speck in our brothers eye. Some of the newer ones in response to"Love the sinner, hate the sin" tell us we should focus on hating our own sin. Of course, only the quotes of Jesus about this are given, none about helping our brother out of sin, or the authority of God's Word. And yes, there is some truth here as it sounds good at face value. Our preaching should point to Christ in a loving way, but sometimes we have to be specific, something lacking in many of today's sugar coated sermonettes.

Theologians have a term for focusing only on the words of red while ignoring the rest of the New Testament. They term this the Christological Fallicy. Romans Chapter one warns of the consequences of the ungodly lifestyle. The rest of Chapter One is o surprisingly up to date.

18 God’s wrath is being revealed from heaven against all the ungodly behavior and the injustice of human beings who silence the truth with injustice. 19 This is because what is known about God should be plain to them because God made it plain to them. 20 Ever since the creation of the world, God’s invisible qualities—God’s eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, because they are understood through the things God has made. So humans are without excuse. 21 Although they knew God, they didn’t honor God as God or thank him. Instead, their reasoning became pointless, and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22 While they were claiming to be wise, they made fools of themselves. 23 They exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images that look like mortal humans: birds, animals, and reptiles. 24 So God abandoned them to their hearts’ desires, which led to the moral corruption of degrading their own bodies with each other.

The Bible does hold the Christian responsible for speaking the truth in love to others. As Christians and as Wesleyans we are obligated to do so. We have practiced civil disobedience in the past when man's law conflicted with God's law. We may have to do so again in this upside down world. I close with what James had to say about the matter. I love James' practical insights into Christian living.

" My brothers and sisters, if any of you wander from the truth and someone turns back the wanderer, recognize that whoever brings a sinner back from the wrong path will save them from death and will bring about the forgiveness of many sins." James 5:19,20 CEB

Keith Kiper is an ordained minister in The Wesleyan Church. He currently serves as media pastor at Boonville Wesleyan Church. He is married to Vicky. The Kiper's have  a grown daughter Kristen, a Maltipoo named Opie, and two cats. Keith manages several facebook pages, blogs, and websites.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Getting a "Round Tuit!"

Keith Kiper
Media Pastor
Boonville Wesleyan Church

I recently bought an old book in a consignment shop written by James Samuel Knox. I still like books, especially old ones. Guess I haven't quite caught the I-pad fever. The title of the book is Personal Efficiency. I believe this was written as a companion to a book on salesmanship. Although some passages are humorous, because they are dated, specifically to the life and times of 1920. I like what Mr. Knox says in his chapter on time capital.

Everyone has a definite income of twenty four hours a day. This income is constant and is the same for rich and poor alike. It can neither be increased or diminished. Out of this income must come certain fixed charges. The use of time, the richest legacy bequeathed to man, determines whether an individual shall merely exist or by careful study...and increase his usefulness.

Wise words, especially for 2012! He evens mentions John Wesley, who rose at 4:00AM in order to have time for prayer and the deeds of the day. Was it old Ben Franklin who said,"Time is money?"

Either extreme has its consequences. Busying oneself too much and then forgetting appointments or meetings isn't much better than idle time simply wasted. I admit in this stressful world, that can become easy to do, especially for those of us in ministry. Facebook, computer games, the list goes on. Recent surveys suggest 8-18 year-olds devote an average of 7 hours and 38 minutes to using entertainment media in a typical day. The average church gets these kids for only 1.2 percent of the week.

Of course, those who know me well, also know that I must close with a John Wesley quote,"You have nothing to do but save souls. Therefore spend and be spent in this work."

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Spiritual Adoption-Its a Bible Thing

“The Biblical Principle of Spiritual Adoption”

by Keith Kiper

A Message from Romans 8:18-25

Life sure goes by fast, doesn’t it? Our daughter Kristy is 22 years old and a college student. Those of you with children can relate I’m sure. Just seems like yesterday she was only a baby. I can still remember her first day of school, sweet sixteen birthday parties, and then High School graduation. But you see, December 15th, 1989 was a very special day for Vicky and myself. Our daughter Kristy came into our lives that year. Although we will probably never meet her, Vicky and I thank God every day Kristy’s biological mother chose life. There were a couple of times the agency thought they had a child for us, but things just didn’t work out. At the time it was hard to understand why. We were even willing to take a child with medical problems. But you see, God always knows what is best for us, even when WE can’t see the big picture!

The Bible talks about adoption. When reading what Paul tells us in Romans chapter eight we quickly learn that Spiritual adoption is a very important Biblical principle. Our key verse 23 tells us, ”And it’s not only the Creation. We ourselves who have the Spirit as the first crop of the harvest also groan inside as we wait to be adopted and for our bodies to be set free.” (CEB) The NASB calls this being set free, ”the redemption of our body”

You see, the one who does yet not know Christ, or have God’s Holy Spirit dwelling within-groans from their innermost being until they are adopted into the family of God. The Greek word used in this passage to describe adoption is arraboon. We can also find it in 2 Corinthians 1:22 and Ephesians 1:14. In the common Greek usage it would mean the same as a pledge, much so as with an engagement ring. In the Roman world of that time, an adopted son could not be deprived of his father’s inheritance. The son was recognized legally in the same way as one born naturally. Paul was explaining God’s love to them in a way that they could understand. The English word for adoption is derived from the Latin word meaning to choose - option is derived from the same word). The translation simply means the acceptance of another person's child as one's own. Adoption is very ancient, and is commonly found everywhere in the world among many cultures. The Bible perspective on adoption expands the principle of natural adoption to include national and spiritual adoption. The last one, spiritual adoption, is "the point" of God's offer of eternal life, made available to everyone of all nations who will exercise their option to genuinely repent and truly obey Him

Paul used adoption to illustrate his point because Natural adoption was common during Bible History. Some Bible examples are:

"And the child grew, and she brought him to Pharaoh's daughter, and he became her son; and she named him Moses, for she said, "Because I drew him out of the water." (Exodus 2:10 RSV)

"He had brought up Hadassah, that is Esther, the daughter of his uncle, for she had neither father nor mother; the maiden was beautiful and lovely, and when her father and her mother died, Mordecai adopted her as his own daughter." (Esther 2:7 RSV)

Spiritual adoption is available to all who will repent and obey God:

"His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us to His own glory and excellence, by which He has granted to us His precious and very great promises, that through these you may escape from the corruption that is in the world because of passion, and become partakers of the divine nature." (2 Peter 1:3-4 RSV)

"But to all who received Him, who believed in His Name, He gave power to become children of God" (John 1:12 RSV)

"For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the spirit of sonship. When we cry, "Abba! Father!" it is the Spirit Himself bearing witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with Him in order that we may also be glorified with Him" (Romans 8:15-17 RSV)

Romans tells us the whole earth groaned in travail after sin entered God’s perfect Creation through Adam’s disobedience. Because of Adam’s sin our sin separates us from God. Death, disease, sin, and sickness are in the world because of our spiritual death through our biological parents, Adam and Eve. Adam did not die immediately after he sinned, he lived to be several hundred years old. And yes, when we correctly understand Genesis, we know that Adam really lived this many years. Spiritual death was immediate for Adam, physical death came later. Physical death will come for all of us here today save the return of Christ.

You can stop watering a plant, or cut it from its stem. It will eventually die. It is the same way with all humankind. Sin separates us from God. Without Christ in our life, through Spiritual Adoption, we are dead spiritually and then will die physically. Just as we can water the dying plant, the Bible tells us Jesus is the living water! Jesus restores our relationship with the Heavenly Father. We are then justified. Remember the old familiar bromide, “Just as if I never sinned?”

When our daughter Kristy first came into our life, she was 2 ½ months old. There is a reason for this. The state of Florida has some of the best adoption laws in the nation. I believe that is one of the reasons why God led us there in 1983. When a child’s biological mother contacts an adoption agency, the child is placed with foster parents for 2 ½ months. After 2 ½ months the agency places the child with the adoptive parents. The main reason is this allows the mother and/or father time in case there is a change of heart. After this passage of time and the judge drops his gavel, it’s a done deal as they say. Not even the president of the United States can reverse his or the parent’s decision. If every state did this, it would save a lot of heartache. Kristy was our daughter the same as if she was biologically ours…birth certificate and all. Can you see the Spiritual application here? It’s the same with God’s love through Jesus His Son. When we accept Christ’s forgiveness, we are born into God’s family. We become His son or daughter. Just as if we never sinned! There is then the heavenly birth certificate called the book of life. Our name is entered there. No one can remove it but we ourselves.

This doesn’t mean we will then be without trials and tribulatioins. They will come but they will pass. God provides the Comforter the Holy Spirit to live in and through us if we will allow and submit.

From now on, our sense of significance derives not from our performance but our position in Christ. Who we are, and indeed what we are, derives from the fact that we are adopted by grace. From this knowledge flows our sense of value. No longer are we preoccupied with the way others see us. We are wholly taken up with the way God sees us.

Mark Stibbe the Vicar of St Andrew’s, Chorleywood. Mark was adopted as a child and has authored a book on the doctrine of adoption, From Orphans to Heirs. In closing, listen as I read his list of privileges from his book that we have when we are adopted into the family of God.

I have been given the right to be [called] a child of God (John 1:12).
I am no longer a slave but a friend of Christ (John 15:15).
I have been bought for adoption through Christ’s blood (I Corinthians 6:20).
I was predestined for adoption (Ephesians 1:5).
I am a child of Abba by adoption (Romans 8:15).
I am God’s work of art (Ephesians 2:10).
I am no longer under any condemnation (Romans 8:1).
I cannot be separated from the Father’s love (Romans 8:35).
I am loved by the Father himself (John 16:27).
I have been redeemed and forgiven (Colossians 1:14).
I am a citizen of heaven (Philippians 3:20).
I have not been given a spirit of fear (2 Timothy 1: 7).
I am no longer a slave but a son (Galatians 4:7).
I am seated with the Son in heaven (Ephesians 2:6).
I am of the same family as Jesus (Hebrews 2:11).
I am a brother of the Lord Jesus (Hebrews 2:11).
I can approach the Father with confidence (Hebrews 4:16).
I am a brand new person in Christ Jesus (2 Corinthians 5:17).

Saturday, October 29, 2011

"Jumping the Shark!"-Part One

What comes to your mind when you think of Martin Luther and the Diet of Worms? Was this an early form of a fad diet in 15th century Germany? After all, just a few years ago you could find advertisements in magazines for tapeworms. Just swallow a few of these, the ad would say, and you can lose weight without really trying. Our brand is even hygienic for your good health, it would say! But, a Diet of Worms? Our form of the English language can be a fascinating thing. We can only imagine how strange it seems to others when they attempt to learn and speak our brand of English.

Martin Luther, as many of you well know was the father of the Protestant Reformation. Martin was born in eastern Germany in 1483. This was only some forty years after Johann Gutenberg invented the printing press. Martin Luther protested some of the practices in the Catholic Church of that time. A diet was a judicial hearing or court. Worms was the German city where the trial was to be held. And now, as the late Paul Harvey would often say, you know the rest of the story.

History demonstrates that at various times and different locations, the Christian church has veered off and even jumped the track. God calls out men and women, grounded in His Holy Word, the Bible, to steer the Christian Church back into the right direction. He has done this from Old Testament times until the present age in which we now live. The bigger question is whether or not the church of today will listen.

Recently, a well known television pastor and evangelist (Click for the interview) was asked what he thought about the Mormon faith. This was in response to recent criticism of a particular political candidate. The tele-evangelist’s answer seemed logical, and probably sounded OK to much of today’s Biblically illiterate culture. He said he probably would not agree with everything he Church of Latter Day Saints would teach. He went on to say that they were probably not the purest form of Christianity…that recognizing Jesus as the Son of God was the most important thing. The thing this well known evangelist neglected to consider is that the Mormon Church does not believe that virgin birth of Jesus Christ happened by any miraculous means.

All genuine Christianity is built on the foundation of what seemed to be a small detail to him. God sent His perfect, sinless Son, born of a virgin to be a sacrifice for mankind’s sin. Christ became sin for us on the cross at Calvary that we might have eternal life. The virgin birth is of utmost importance because sin is passed through the blood of each generation. Because Mary was impregnated by the Holy Spirit, Christ was born without sin!

Back in the 1970’s there was a popular television called Happy Days. As with most television shows, ratings decline the longer a program remains on the air. In an effort to gain a ratings boost, the Happy Days gang went on a beach vacation. In one particular scene Fonzi is seen wearing his famous leather jacket while on water skis. Still on the skis he then jumps over a shark to the cheers of everyone on the beach. Because of this particular scene, movie and television critics invented a new name for programs that leave common sense behind and go off into a strange direction. It’s called “Jumping the Shark!” My friends, there are many churches today that have jumped the shark!

The bigger question today is…how do we as a The Church get back on track? I would like to focus on several things today that I personally believe would get our church and nation headed back into the right direction based on God’s Word.

I. A Return to Christian Community: When I say church, I’m talking about the church as a whole. I’m not criticizing our church, Boonville Wesleyan Church. We are just a part of a much larger picture, Christ’s church, the entire Christian Community. Union with Christ establishes our membership in His Church, the community of the faithful. I’m afraid that because many times we as Christians have put so much emphasis on a personal relationship, that we forget we are all called to work together to be the light of the world. As an individual we belong to Boonville Wesleyan Church. Our church is part of the Indiana South District of The Wesleyan Church. Our district is part of The Wesleyan Church USA. And of course, all churches that believe that Jesus is Savior and Lord are part of the Kingdom of God. The first step the church of today must take in getting back on track is accountability. We must remain true to the Word of God and in fellowship with the entire Christian Community of believers that are striving to do the same.

II. A Return to Christian Social Witness: What do I mean when I speak of a social Christian witness? John Wesley once said, ”Any religion that can be concealed is not Christianity.” What do you think Wesley meant when he made that statement? As you study his life it becomes quite clear. The England of Wesley’s day had become very corrupt. Alcoholism was very rampant in the streets. Children could be hanged for stealing rabbit from a gentlemen’s estate. Not much different than today is it? Florida is the leading state to treat children as adults with over 300 under the age of eighteen in the adult prison system. Florida is followed closely by Texas. I’m sorry folks, regardless of the crime, a twelve year old boy is not an adult and does not deserve life in prison! I would not want to be in the judge’s shoes who sentenced a child for personal political gain when the King of Kings judges him. Jesus tells us about the fate of those who mistreat children. And just as the early Wesleyans constantly decried the evils of slavery…we should cry out to God for our leaders who justify the nearly 4000 thousand children who are murdered each day in their mother’s womb. God tells us clearly that the children’s innocent blood cries out from the ground to Him.

Early Wesleyans and like-minded Christians of other faiths worked to reform the prison system, end slavery, and feed the poor. A Social Gospel is putting into action what we believe and know in our heart is right based on what the Bible clearly shows us. . That is what it means to be salt and light. This is putting the golden rule into action. True revival brought about the needed social change in England. The answer to America’s problems is true spiritual revival, not more laws and political rhetoric.

Many would look for a political or presidential candidate to solve the problems.

Someone once said,” Why do we choose from just two people to run for president and fifty for Miss America?” Good question!

Both major political parties have had periods of time when they experienced complete control with the presidency and both houses of congress. If being democrat or being republican were the only answer, then our problems should have been solved by now. If you seek God in honest prayer, He will guide you in selecting a candidate, nationally or locally.

In spite of billions of dollars pouring in every year, our public school system has become a disaster. Abraham Lincoln said that the classroom of one generation will become the government of the next one. The great reformer Martin Luther recognized the problem nearly 500 years ago when he said, “I am afraid that the schools will prove the very gates of hell, unless they diligently labor in explaining the Holy Scriptures and engraving them in the heart of the youth.”

Dr. Leon Henson said, Whenever the Christian lives an authentic life, the world around is permeated with God’s presence… The pure in heart not only see God, but become letters through which society sees Him.”

Check back later for Part Two...God Bless -Keith 1 Cor 13