I’ve Got Questions – Can I Know God?

resized-400-x-300My new message series I’ve Got Questions continues this Sunday with the question, “Can I know God?”  Is it possible that we mere humans can actually have a relationship with the all-powerful, inscrutable, creator God?

This is a follow-up to last week’s question, “Who or what is God” where we looked at some of God’s attributes – what the Bible says about God’s nature and character.

If you want to get a jump on some of the Bible readings, you can check out Hebrews 1:1-3, Jeremiah 29:12-13, Philippians 3:10, Hebrews 4:12, and 2 Chronicles 5:11-14.

See you for worship on Sunday!

Pastor Mike DeLong

New series on Colossians

main-squareBeginning Sunday, July 12, I am starting a sermon series entitled “Living with Jesus at the Center” – a study of the New Testament book of Colossians.

Colossians is a short but rich book that has a lot to say about our way of thinking about God, Jesus, the world around us, and our lives.

Many of us call ourselves Christians, and we say we follow Christ. Colossians jolts us with the declaration that it’s not enough to have Jesus as a part of our lives; he must be central in every area of our lives.

According to Colossians, Jesus is our creator, our savior, the very image of God, the supreme ruler over all creation, and the one who wants to radically transform us.  So for the rest of the summer, join us on our journey through this wonderful book, and be prepared to open up your heart and life to the glory of Jesus that God wants to reveal to us.

Pastor Mike

Christ our Healer

Pastor Mike’s message on Sunday, May 31, 2009

I just returned from the C&MA General Council in Louisville, where the theme of the week was “Jesus Only.” In the Alliance, we have a 4-fold motto: Christ our Savior, Sanctifier, Healer, and Coming King. We look to Jesus Christ to be these things to us. The one I want to focus on this week is Christ our Healer.

There are some things I don’t know about divine healing. I don’t know why some are healed and some aren’t. I don’t know why there seems to be more miracles and healings overseas than in the United States. I don’t know why Jesus didn’t heal everyone in Israel when he was on earth. But I do know this: the Bible teaches that we can and should pray for healing. Here are four points to consider:

Healing is in the Atonement

Isaiah 53:3-6 prophcies about Jesus and says that he suffered for our sins and our healing. The sin of mankind at the garden of Eden brought brokenness, sin, death, sorrow, and sickness. The Good News is that Christ has come to restore us – to forgive our sins and to heal us. It is true enough that one day, when we are in heaven with glorified bodies, our sicknesses and diseases are gone. But I believe that healing of the body is available now, through the atonement.

Healing is from Jesus

Healing doesn’t come from the person praying, or from a special cloth you may buy – it comes from Jesus. Jesus demonstrated his power to heal all during his ministry. He healed all who came to him. Matthew 8:16-17 says:

That evening many demon-possessed people were brought to Jesus. He cast out the evil spirits with a simple command, and he healed all the sick. This fulfilled the word of the Lord through the prophet Isaiah, who said,   “He took our sicknesses and removed our diseases.”

In John 5, Jesus came across a man at the pool of Bethesda who was paralyzed. The man had to stop paying attention to the water, and focus on Christ, who was soon going to be his healer. Jesus asked, “Do you want to be made whole?” We are helpless and corrupted because of the fall, only Jesus can make us whole. And Jesus healed the man.

Jesus was beaten and crucified for our healing. Christ is our healer.

Healing is linked to faith

So many times Jesus linked healing to faith. Remember the woman who needed healing who said, “If I could only touch the edge of his robe, I will be healed.” She did, and she was. Often he said to those who came to him for healing, “You have great faith.” When Jesus raised Jairus’ daughter from the dead, he sent all the unbelievers out of the room and said to the rest, “Only believe.”

Although it is not right to blame people’s lack of faith for them not getting healed, somehow faith and healing are connected.

We are encouraged to pray for healing

In James 5 we are taught to call for church elders to pray and anoint us if we are sick. “And the prayer of faith will make them well.” Later in the same chapter we are encouraged to “pray for one another so that you may be healed.” It is good and right to pray for the healing of our fellow believers, which is what we did in today’s service. What a blessing that was.

The Discipline of Celebration

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Stop Look and Listen

This is the last in our series on Spiritual Disciplines. It has been a great study. We have covered these spiritual practices:

  • Meditation (ruminate)
  • Prayer (talk honestly with God)
  • Simplicity (don’t love things)
  • Solitude (get alone and quiet)
  • Study (dig deeper)
  • Submission (not always your way)
  • Service (helping others)
  • Confession (admitting sin)
  • Celebration

We’re almost finished reading through the Gospels during Lent. You can find a reading schedule here.

This is another “corporate” discipline – one we do together as a group of believers. Celebration and joy are important parts of the lives of believers. Psalm 150 gives us a picture of our celebration of the Lord God:

Praise the Lord! Praise God in his sanctuary; praise him in his mighty heaven! Praise him for his mighty works; praise his unequaled greatness! Praise him with a blast of the ram’s horn; praise him with the lyre and harp! Praise him with the tambourine and dancing; praise him with strings and flutes! Praise him with a clash of cymbals; praise him with loud clanging cymbals. Let everything that breathes sing praises to the Lord! Praise the Lord!

No one is exempt from this great call to praise: “Let everything that breathes sing praises to the Lord!”

I think we as Christians sometimes get a little too reserved, even boring. Some of us take ourselves too seriously. And in so doing, we may be presenting the wrong impression of our faith to other people. We should be the most alive, joyful, exciting, celebrating people on earth! As Augustine said, “The Christian should be an alleluia from head to foot!”

There is a lot in the Bible about Celebration. Here are a few examples:

  • Exodus 15 – Israel was led by Moses and Miriam in a great celebration dance to celebrate their escape from Egypt and the parting of the Red Sea
  • David in 2 Sam 6 danced and jumped before the Lord with all his might because the ark of the covenant had been returned, and led Israel in shouting and blowing trumpets
  • Jesus himself came with a joyful announcement, and even approached his suffering on the cross with a sense of eternal joy
  • Philippians 4:4 actually commands us to rejoice!

We shouldn’t be afraid of expressing joy and celebrating. The Bible not only is full of examples, but show us all kinds of ways to celebrate: singing, shouting, dancing, making noise, jumping, even laughter. So in this week’s service (April 5) our children and our worship team led us in a rather noisy time of praise and celebration. It was awesome!

Finally, celebration gives us strength – strength to live, strength to serve, strength even to suffer. Nehehiah 8:10 says “This is a holy day for the Lord your God – do not mourn or weep. Eat the fat and drink sweet wine..for this day is holy to our Lord, and do not be grieved, for the joy of the Lord is your strength!” Living for God will be easier when we are filled with joy and happy with our lives. Overcoming temptation will be easier when we are celebrating the goodness and greatness of God.

Don’t feel like rejoicing? Ask God to fill you with joy, and with his Spirit. Ask him to help you direct your mind and spirit to him and his beauty, so you can praise him! Look for reasons to celebrate this week, and then do it!

The Discipline of Confession

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Stop Look and Listen

So far we have looked at seven practices or disciplines:

  • Meditation (ruminate)
  • Prayer (talk honestly with God)
  • Simplicity (don’t love things)
  • Solitude (get alone and quiet)
  • Study (dig deeper)
  • Submission (not always your way)
  • Service (helping others)

We’re also reading through the Gospels during Lent. You can find a reading schedule here.

We now move to a more corporate kind of discipline: confession. Confession is simply the act of admitting your sin or wrong to God or to another person. Confession is necessary for the forgiveness of sins:

If we confess our sins to him, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all wickedness. (1 John 1:9)

All of us sin, all of us fail. All of us come short of what God requires of us. Fortunately, we have a loving and gracious heavenly Father who will forgive us and make us clean. Since Jesus is the only Mediator between us and God (1 Timothy 2:5), we don’t need a priest or someone to confess to in order to be forgiven. However, the Bible still talks about confessing to one another. Why?

We read in James 5:16 this command: Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. In church settings, often the only time we hear about the sins of others is when people are whispering about them. People are afraid to reveal sin or failure, so as a consequence we often present the image that we are perfect and have no problems. We don’t want to spoil the “perfect” Christian image.

But we all sin and mess up. And it is a beautiful part of church life to be able to go to one another, discreetly, and confess our sins, and to help each other become whole as part of the process. Yes, God readily forgives, but sometimes we need help to forgive ourselves, and to accept the gracious forgiveness of God. This is why James says that confessing and praying can help in our healing.

John Sanford, a pastor and a writer, goes so far as to say “when we unburden our souls to another human being, there takes place a kind of catharsis. It is an extraordinarily healing experience. In fact, if we have never experienced this, our life is not complete.”

Another aspect of Confession is corporate confession. This is where believers who are gathered together, as in a worship service, confess our sins aloud and together. We did this on Sunday, where we read Psalm 51 together, and recited this confession (written by Scot McKnight) together.

The four steps involved in confession are:

  • Recognition of sin
    • Ps. 51:3 “I recognize my rebellion”
    • It is important to examine our consciences and our lives
    • Be specific
  • Sorrow
    • Ps. 51:4 “It haunts me day and night.”
    • We need to take sin seriously
  • Ask for cleansing and forgiveness
    • Ps. 51:7 “Purify me from my sins.”
    • Confession and forgiveness should result in change
  • Restoration
    • Ps. 51:12 “Restore to me the joy of my salvation.”
    • Confession results in forgiveness and healing!
    • The burden is gone!

They say that confession is good for the soul – the Bible says they’re right!