May 8, 2016 / Happy Mother’s Day!
“A mother understands what a child does not say.” ~ Jewish Proverb
A Mother does so much more than anyone (especially a man) can describe: carrying and cherishing the child, bearing not only the pain of birth, but the weight of a human soul; the future of a life, and the health of another. These are only the tip of the proverbial iceberg when considering what a Mom is, and what she does. If we had a “Mother’s YEAR” instead of a “Mother’s DAY,” I would still not be able to give proper honor and place to this precious gift. Therefore, please allow me to join with your families in wishing each mom a Happy and Blessed Mother’s Day. We thank God for you; and we are honored to celebrate the treasure and gift that you are to your children, to the Body of Christ, and indeed, to Society as a whole.
With that said, not all “moms” are biologically linked to their children. Consider something the Apostle Paul wrote to the Church at Rome:
Romans 16:13 VOICE - Give my best to Rufus, clearly one of the Lord’s chosen, and also his mother. She’s like a mother to me.
We do not know exactly who this “Rufus” was, however, the Gospel according to Mark tells us that Simon of Cyrene, who was compelled to carry the cross of Christ, was the “father of Alexander and Rufus (Mark 15:21).” Maybe this is the same man, we do not know. What we do know, however, is that Paul acknowledged the mother of Rufus, was a woman “who has been a mother to me, too.”
Please let that sink in for a moment. An unnamed woman known to the congregation in Rome (and identified by her role as a mother), was being publicly esteemed by the Apostle Paul as a “mother to” him as well. This woman must have been a very special lady. My dear friends, the Church is described by many metaphors in the New Testament. We are the Body of Christ, the Flock of God, the Fellowship of the Saints, the House of the Lord, and maybe most tellingly…the Family of God! I am convinced that one of the great needs in our Society and within the Body of Christ is for the FAMILY OF GOD TO BE RESTORED.
It is imperative that Fathers and MOTHERS IN THE FAITH arise and be active in the Church and in our neighborhoods. One never knows when the next Apostle Paul or Billy Graham or Bebe Patten or John Wesley may be sitting in the Sunday School classroom, the balcony, or playing in the park down the street. We need mothers and fathers in the Church and in our Nation.
Beloved, I am convinced that not only is it appropriate to celebrate and honor our familial mothers on this day, but that the Body of Christ must acknowledge, honor, and esteem those women who may not share our genetic traits, but are nevertheless “Mothers in the Lord.” Likewise Ladies, you may have raised your children, but we all know that your work as a mother never ends. So too, within the church and society, we have an entire generation that needs your parenting. J
The importance of the Gospel of Jesus Christ cannot be overstated. It is the only remedy for a lost soul and the only hope for Humanity. As Believers should celebrate and we must freely proclaim this wonderful Good News: Jesus lived; He was crucified for our sins; He was buried in a known tomb; but, He is Risen! He Lives! Death could not keep Him. The Grave could not hold Him. Sin could not corrupt Him! OUR REDEEMER LIVES TODAY!
The Resurrection of Jesus Christ is the central doctrine of our Faith. It is the most important event in Human History, and frankly, and personally, it is far and away the most precious hope of my life. Without the resurrection, Christianity is just another philosophy: noble, but powerless (1 Cor. 15:14). However, the Resurrection of Christ is that singular moment in which the unmitigated evidence of the Divinity of Jesus becomes clear (Rom. 1:4). It is the assurance that our sins are forgiven and eternal life is ours in Him (1 Cor. 15).
But the Resurrection is even more than an even. Our Lord claimed that He is in and of Himself “LIFE,” and therefore, the “Resurrection.” Christ did not claim to have resurrection and life, or to simply understand secrets about resurrection and life. Instead He said that He is the resurrection and the life.
John 11:25 AMP - Jesus said… I am [Myself] the Resurrection and the Life…
The words “I am” are very significant. They remind us of The LORD speaking to Moses and declaring His Name from the Burning Bush (Exodus 3:14).
Jesus is making a DIVINE CLAIM. Most of us understand the resurrection as a doctrine, something believed about our future: an eschatological hope. The Lord Jesus states it as a fact and identifies it with His own Person. He does not say, I raise the dead; I perform resurrections, He says, “I AM THE RESURRECTION.”
These are not the words of mere mortal, certainly not one who is sane. No prophet, no priest, no King, no Teacher would dare make this statement and certainly not at the grave of a friend. Humanity’s capacity is amazing, but it is not this. Man can study the bone, the organ, the cell, even the complexities of DNA…the building blocks of life. But WE CANNOT CREATE IT, SUSTAIN IT, OR BRING IT FORTH ONCE IT IS TAKEN AWAY. We are the Created, Jesus is speaking as the CREATOR!
THIS IS THE PINNACLE OF A DIVINE CLAIM. Our Lord Jesus is claiming Divinity. He is claiming to be God in The Flesh with ALL Authority over Life and Death, because He is Himself…LIFE.
Happy Valentine’s Day! First attributed as a romantic holiday by the Medieval English poet Geoffrey Chaucer, Valentine’s Day has become big business in the USA. It ranks first in chocolate candy sales and floral arrangements, and second in the sale of greeting cards. Today, approximately 25% of all cards sent each year, are Valentine’s Day cards with teachers receiving the most, followed by children, mothers, wives, and finally sweethearts. Children ages 6 to 10 will exchange more than 650 million cards with teachers, classmates, and family members. Annual spending on this day is more than $20 Billion with a staggering 196 million roses produced for this single day.
Like many of our celebrations, the origins are often murky and this holiday is no different. However, what we can glean from the pages of history is a fascinating and moving story of faith and commitment whose echoes should impact our lives beyond candy and flowers.
The Latin name, “Valentinus” was quite common in Europe during the 2nd to 8th Centuries AD. This is because the moniker means: worthy, strong, and powerful; and these are virtues that parents wanted to see fostered in their children. For exhibiting these virtues in the face of horrific opposition, the Catholic Church would beatify a Roman Priest named, Valentinus.
It was for dubious military reasons that the Roman Emperor Claudius II issued an edict that young men could not be married. In a pagan culture that subjugated women and celebrated polygamy, the sacredness of a Christian Marriage: it’s elevation of the status of women, and the solemnity of the presence of the Spirit of Christ Himself represented by the priest, was not only unique but required great courage to celebrate.
Further, it went against the stampede of a culture and the whims of a tyrant. In this political and cultural setting, Saint Valentine would secretly perform the vows of marriage for these young Christian couples, in spite of the Emperor’s decree. Eventually, the Roman authorities arrested the priest and on February 14, 270 AD, Valentinus (worthy, strong, and powerful)…Saint Valentine…was martyred for the actions of his faith.
The obligations that love brings are far more than greeting cards, flowers, and candy. Beginning with Christ, the value of love is inexpressible, but its cost is immeasurable.
Romans 13:8 VOICE – Don’t owe anyone anything, with the exception of love to one another—that is a debt which never ends—because the person who loves others has fulfilled the law.
Our Faith is not built upon a Great Teacher, although Jesus is that. Our Faith is not built upon a Great Prophet, although Christ is that. Our Faith is not built upon a Miracle Worker, although our Lord certainly is not bound by any Law of Nature. Our Faith is LEGITIMIZED by the FACT that Jesus Christ ROSE from the Dead!
John 20:19-20 NIV78 - …When the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” 20 After he said this, he showed them his hands and side.
The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord. The disciples were not “overjoyed” because they had a pleasant meal, a safe house, or a vision of Jesus. They were overjoyed because the RISEN Christ came into the midst of their fears, behind the locked doors of their despair, and appeared in the fullness of the Power of His Resurrection! It was this message that legitimized their preaching and authorized their mission.
The Resurrection of Jesus Christ is the central doctrine of the Christian Faith, the most important event in Human History, and frankly, it is the most precious truth of my life right now. All of our ministry must have at its core the truth about Resurrection of Jesus Christ. It authenticates the Gospel and allows our Savior to declare Himself as the only way.
John 14:6 AMP - Jesus said to him, “I am the [only] Way [to God] and the [real] Truth and the [real] Life; no one comes to the Father but through Me."
Acts 4:10 & 12 NLT - Let me clearly state to all of you and to all the people of Israel that he was healed by the powerful name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene, the man you crucified but whom God raised from the dead… 12 There is salvation in no one else! God has given no other name under heaven by which we must be saved.”
“If Jesus rose from the dead, then you have to accept all that he said; if he didn't rise from the dead, then why worry about any of what he said? The issue on which everything hangs is not whether or not you like his teaching but whether or not he rose from the dead.” --Timothy Keller
The whole of our Faith and the entire destiny of Humanity hangs upon this grand miracle: “He is Risen from the dead (Luke 24:6 NLT)!”
John 20:21 VOICE – “I give you the gift of peace. In the same way the Father sent Me, I am now sending you.”
Our Lord Jesus said, “In the same way.” The work is HIS Work, the Love is HIS Love, the Glory is HIS Glory, the Ministry is HIS Ministry; and we must make this our Holy Passion and Mission. This understanding of the ministry is essential for us to be effective because there is a very fine line for the servant of the Lord, between Holy Faith and Vain Conceit; between Godly Passion and Selfish Ambition.
I believe that one of the remedies to stay on the correct side of that line is to recognize that His is the Kingdom, the Power, and the Glory! His is the Honor among the Nations and the Glorious Light of Heaven. He and He alone is Worthy of Praise, and whatever ministry He allows for our participation is by His gracious kindness and benevolent mercy. The Lord Jesus calls us because He wants us to be involved in His Great Mission: the reconciliation of Humanity to the Father and the restoration of all things under His Kingdom’s reign.
Christianity itself is a journey from SELF to CHRIST. The joy of Heaven is the full apprehension of God, the joy of Earth is the pursuit of God. We begin this journey in Self-Interest: I need a Savior; I want eternal life over eternal darkness. However, like children, we must not stay there. We must grow into Christ-Interest: the extension of His Kingdom, the glorification of His Name, the ministry of His Grace to others.
As long as life and ministry are perceived solely from the viewpoint of self-interest, it can never be lived to the fullest, nor will it bear the sweetest of fruit. We are called to see the higher, eternal purposes of God, and in turn share a deep, genuine concern for the needs of others. In so doing, we can then truly reflect His character into a sin-filled world. Therefore,
As we begin this Holy Season, may I be among the first to wish you a very MERRY CHRISTMAS! When we say, “Merry Christmas,” we are announcing that a wonderful celebration is taking place: Christ is Born! Salvation Has Arrived! God intends Good Will for all people, everywhere. Christmas is for the whole world; but for Christians, this is an especially glorious celebration, for we have been graciously saved! Therefore, I encourage you to say, “MERRY CHRISTMAS!”
Christmas is a Holiday; it is a HOLY DAY! It is the celebration of the Gift of God to Humanity…the Gift of Life, Joy, Peace, Hope, and Salvation…the Gift of Jesus!
Our Lord Jesus lived about 33 YEARS. That is 12,045 Days, 289,080 Hours, 17,344,800 Minutes, and 1,040,688,000 seconds in his life on earth. Nevertheless, there were three moments which forever changed the universe: The moment of His Death; The moment of His Resurrection; and of course, the moment of His Birth.
Galatians 4:4-5 NKJV - But when the fullness of the time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the law, 5 to redeem those who were under the law, that we might receive the adoption as sons.
Like pouring water into a glass, there comes a point in time, a moment, when the glass is full. When Jesus came to the earth, it was at precisely the right moment ordained by the Father. It was the fullness of time. God stepped into this human arena in one moment of time and that moment divides our calendar - B.C. and A.D. Suddenly, in a moment of time, a Savior is given.
Luke 2:11 NKJV - “For there is born to you this day in the City of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord…
To you today, a Savior is given. We all need the hope that comes from having a Redeemer, the knowledge that God is giving someone to meet me where I am, at the deepest point of my need, at just the right time!
A Savior is given Today…to win every tomorrow.
Philippians 4:4-8 NIV84 - Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! 5 Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. 6 Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7 And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. 8 Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy--think about such things.
My prayer is that in the midst of all of your holiday feasting, you had the opportunity this week to offer genuine thanks for all that the Lord has done in your life.
“THANKSGIVING – The act of giving thanks; a prayer expressing gratitude; a public acknowledgement or celebration of divine goodness.” --Merriam-Webster Dictionary
REAL THANKSGIVING is not simply a day on the calendar, but it is one of the essential keys to a fulfilled and healthy life, and a distinctive mark of the Christian Faith. This is particularly important now; for in our society, UNGRATEFULNESS has become the great sin of our time…leaving a cynical, calloused, and indifferent culture that cannot recognize the GRACIOUSNESS of GRACE.
In fact, almost everything that God wants to do in our lives BEGINS with cultivating a Heart of Thanksgiving, of Gratitude. Happiness is certainly a wonderful emotion, but Joy is a glorious decision! The Apostle Paul commands the Philippian Believers to “rejoice in the Lord always.” Therefore, rejoicing is something that can be governed by the Will.
Consequently, ours is to be a life filled with joy, NOT because of the absence of difficulty or even sorrow, but because we have a God who is with us in the midst of the difficulties and trials of this journey. Our Joy Flows OUT of our Thanksgiving.
This weekend, I am preaching at a service honoring one of our alumni who is now the Senior Pastor of a church in San Jose. I apologize that I will not be with you, but I am very grateful for the prayerful support of the Cathedral Congregation in all of our ministry endeavors. Dr. Gary Moncher will be bringing a powerful message from the Word of God this morning.
This week our nation will pause to celebrate the Holiday of Thanksgiving. Like many traditions we tend to forget the reason we have this holiday. Beginning with the Pilgrims, who in 1621 set apart a day for thanksgiving at Plymouth immediately after their first harvest; and continuing through George Washington and other U.S. presidents, a day for giving thanks was observed throughout the colonies and the young nation. It was not until 1863, however, that at the height of the Civil War, a national holiday of Thanksgiving was finally formalized by President Abraham Lincoln. In the midst of the most grim and bloodiest war in American history, Lincoln said:
“The year that is drawing towards its close, has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies. To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come, others have been added, which are of… the ever-watchful providence of Almighty God... No human counsel hath devised nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy. It has seemed to me fit and proper that they should be solemnly, reverently and gratefully acknowledged as with one heart and voice by the whole American people. I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States…to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens.”
--Abraham Lincoln, 1863
In many ways, gratefulness is a barometer of one’s soul. The more prideful we are over our good fortune or bitter over our misfortune, the less we will be able to express thanksgiving with any measure of authenticity. Lincoln offered this declaration during times of great personal and national loss; recognizing that God was not to be blamed for calamity, but that it was His Mercy that brought bounty.
How is your soul today? This has been a very difficult year for many, and yet we are called to be filled with Gratitude. As we begin this Holiday Week, please consider the words of Lincoln and celebrate the transcendent worth of THANKSGIVING!
Luke 5:18-19 NIV84 - Some men came carrying a paralytic on a mat and tried to take him into the house to lay him before Jesus. 19 When they could not find a way to do this because of the crowd, they went up on the roof and lowered him on his mat through the tiles into the middle of the crowd, right in front of Jesus.
I consider this passage in the Gospel of Luke to be one of my favorites because it serves as such a wonderful example of our role in the ministry. The world is full of hurting people. The size and scale of their brokenness is often overwhelming, so much so that many of us stop even trying to reach out.
This passage reminds us that the healing and the miracle come only from Jesus. So the supernatural activity is not our responsibility, it is His. Likewise, these men did not bring EVERYONE to the Lord, but they did bring SOMEONE. This is such a beautiful truth. The Lord knows that we are limited in both our ability and our spheres of influence. He never asks us to do what we can’t, He’ll do that; instead He asks us to do what we CAN, and he’ll do the rest. All of us can bring a friend to Jesus.
This brings us to the last part of ministry that I want you to consider today. The friends of the paralytic had to tear a hole in the roof to bring their friend to Jesus. Their effort is both commendable and rewarded: their friend is healed. But, someone has to pay for the roof! The Owner of the House who is hosting the “ministry event,” bears the cost of the ministry so that others can receive from the Lord.
This is part of what we do, even today. As we will have a luncheon this afternoon to celebrate the Holidays, but also it is designed to raise money to help others receive from Jesus during this Season. Sometimes we bring a friend to Jesus, and other times we have to pay for the roof. Please join us in some “roof repair work” at the Campus Community Center after service. :-)
The times in which we are living are difficult. We do live in a fallen world, and we do have an Adversary. But, we are not without remedy. We are not without hope. We are not without a solution. We are not without Good News: Beloved, we have JESUS!
Hebrews 13:8 NIV - Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.
“Jesus Christ is the SAME”: Full of Love and Compassion, bearing our sins on the Cross. Jesus Christ who comforts the Broken and gives grace to the Outcast. The SAME JESUS who broke the Powers of Darkness. The SAME Jesus who suffered and Died that we would Live and Overcome! The SAME JESUS: who is here and active today because He is The RISEN Jesus!
The same Jesus who is the Death-Conquering, Grave-Emptying, Slave-Freeing, Righteous-Bringing, Sick-Healing, Devil-Destroying, Comfort-Bringing, Love-Bearing, Miracle-Working…KING OF ALL KINGS, GOD OF ALL GODS, LORD OF ALL LORDS! The same Jesus who opens prison doors; builds His Church and plunders the very Gates of Hell; He Extends His Kingdom; and He is the Soon-Coming King who WILL be glorified in the Earth!
The SAME Jesus who holds Eternity in His Hand and will NEVER, NEVER, NEVER, NEVER relax His hold upon you or forsake you or leave you.
When we consider THIS SAME JESUS: His magnificent Work of Salvation and the grand expression of His Mercy…then and only THEN, can we begin to understand the great GIFT, NECESSITY, and REQUIREMENT OF WORSHIP! No wonder, the Apostle Paul would tell the Church at Rome:
Romans 12:1 VOICE - Brothers and sisters, in light of all I have shared with you about God’s mercies, I urge you to offer your bodies as a living and holy sacrifice to God, a sacred offering that brings Him pleasure; this is your reasonable, essential worship.
1 Corinthians 11:25-26 NIV - 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.” 26 For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.
The Passover meal featured several cups, each with a different title. The cup Jesus referred to was known as the Cup of Redemption. Now it is HIS Cup with redemption being written in His Blood. Every time we come to the Lord's Table, we "proclaim" the impact of the Lord's death which is our salvation and redemption, and that cost Him something. By taking the bread and the cup, we proclaim that Jesus purchased life for us, by pouring His out.
Hebrews 9:12 NKJV - Not with the blood of goats and calves, but with His own blood He entered the Most Holy Place once for all, having obtained eternal redemption.
“The new covenant in my blood.” Every aspect of Salvation: Forgiveness, Eternal Life, Healing, Wholeness, Peace, Provision…EVERYTHING comes from His Hand. Like Prisoners, released by a Benefactor, we are utterly dependent upon Him. We have no breath, unless He gives us breath. We have no Hope, unless He gives us Hope. We have no Life, unless He gives us Life. But not only has He given us these things, He has done so lavishly!
Ephesians 1:7-8 NIV - In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace 8 that he lavished on us…
We are REDEEMED! We are Free! We have received abundantly more that we shall ever need of His Grace…lavishly so! He is a magnificent God and a wonderful Savior!
Luke 10:36-37 NIV84 - “Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?” 37 The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.” Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.”
In the story of the Good Samaritan, our Lord Jesus reminds all of us that the Mission of the Church is a Mission of Mercy. We are in the Business of Being A Good Neighbor. We GLORIFY JESUS by being MERCIFUL to others.
But, what does it mean for us to be a Good Neighbor to our Community? Is it enough to keep the lawns mowed, the buildings painted, and the trash picked up? This is our neighborhood. Many times I have been told how Dr. Patten shared with you to “bloom where you are planted” and the importance of serving here, where we are, in the Fruitvale.
Priorities are NOT what we SAY are important, but what we actually DO! A priority is what we expend TIME, ENERGY, and RESOURCES to DO. Unfortunately, most Christians define their Christianity by what they don’t do; Christ wants us to define our Christianity by what we do!
Luke 6:31 NIV - Do to others as you would have them do to you.
God does not call us to simply come and pray, to enter His House and Worship, or to sit and listen to a message. He calls us to Go and Do. To reach out in love. To meet people where they are and reach them with the Love of Christ that is expressed in the most practical of ways: A cup of cold water, the bandaging of a wound, the payment for recovery, the grace and dignity of caring.
Beloved, to do this, we must see one another differently. We must see the Lost differently. We must somehow, by the Grace and Ability of God, get past the pigmentation of our skin, the origins of our forefathers, the cynicism of our politicians…and stop allowing our humanity to be robbed from us.
A Spirit of Division and Destruction has been unleashed in our Land, and the Body of Christ must respond and minister in the Opposite Spirit. We must behave differently to each other than the world is…we must feel differently about one another than the world does…and to do this, we must begin by SEEING EACH OTHER DIFFERENTLY.
In the story the Lord shared about the Good Samaritan, the Priest, the Levite, and the Samaritan were all presented with the EXACT SAME SET OF FACTS, BUT only the Samaritan SAW the man with the Heart of God. Only He SAW the man correctly. Only He looked passed the cultural biases and ethnic bigotry…only HE SAW CORRECTLY. By the Grace and Power of the Holy Spirit, may we, “Go and do likewise.”
Ephesians 4:16 NLT - He makes the whole body fit together perfectly. As each part does its own special work, it helps the other parts grow, so that the whole body is healthy and growing and full of love.
According to the National Congregations Study, a collaboration of Duke University, the University of Arizona, the University of Chicago, and the Hartford Seminary, found that the current state of church participation in America accentuates the challenges lying before us…
The great danger is that Christianity in the United States is rapidly approaching the same status that it has in Western Europe: an acknowledged part of history, but IRRELEVANT TO THE DAILY LIVES OF THE AVERAGE PERSON: a museum honoring the past, but not a light illuminating the future. For example: in the United Kingdom, the vast majority of the citizens are “Christian” in so much that they are members of the Anglican Church; and what that means for the average person is a Christian Christening, a Christian Wedding, and a Christian Funeral…a ceremonially Christian life, but no impact upon their daily lifestyle.
For over seventy years in this city, God has given to the Patten Community several wonderful opportunities and unique challenges. We are a church, but more than a local congregation. We are an Academy, but more than a school. We are developing a Higher Educational Leadership Institute, but more than just an Scholastic organization.
So as it was when Dr. Patten would speak of the “threefold cord (Ecclesiastes 4:12),” so it is now. We are still a “threefold cord,” with “each part doing its own special work (Ephesians 4:16).” The ministries of the Church, the Campus, and reaching our Community are more needed today than at any time in our existence. Today, we are committed to celebrating all that God has and is doing, but with great anticipation that the relevance and beauty of the Gospel will be declared in our city through all of the ministries of the Patten Community of Faith.
Acts 17:17 NIV84 - …He reasoned in the synagogue with the Jews and the God-fearing Greeks, as well as in the marketplace day by day with those who happened to be there.
By the time the Apostle Paul visited Athens, Rome was certainly the center of the Empire and the Political Hub. However, Athens was a highly cultured, educated, religious, and wealthy city that was very proud of its history and arts, and it was considered an intellectual center. Paul faced a very challenging audience in Athens.
As was his practice, Paul went into the synagogue to reason with those who would have had a value for, and understanding of, the Scriptures. First addressing those with similar culture, familiar and shared values, and a common language in order to foster communication and present the Gospel.
The ministry in the “synagogue” is valuable, and likely the most productive place to start the ministry in a city or region. But, we must also take the NEXT step and like the Apostle Paul, we must make it a point to step out of the comfortable surroundings of our “synagogue” and daily enter the market place to reach those who would not have had a value in, or reference to, the Christ of Israel.
Obviously, the modern Church Gathering, whether in a Cathedral, a tent, or a house, is like the ancient synagogues: an Outpost of Light within the Darkness, a Place of Worship, Learning, and Fellowship. However, it was never intended to be an isolated castle hidden behind moats and barriers. The Life of the Church and its Ministry is not simply somewhere we go, but it is something we are to BRING into the marketplace of our lives and community.
Our ministry to the Bay Area communities has many parallels with the mission of the Apostle Paul to Athens and Corinth. In many ways, our modern secular community views itself as the Athenians did so long ago; and unfortunately, many have deemed Christianity to be irrelevant, and even further they are no longer neutral regarding our Faith, but are in open opposition to it. Then need has never been greater for us to get back into “the marketplace day by day.”
1 Corinthians 11:26 AMP - For every time you eat this bread and drink this cup, you are representing and signifying and proclaiming the fact of the Lord's death until He comes [again].
On the night before He was slain, the Lord Jesus transformed the Passover Meal. More than a celebration of “yesterday” or a “ritual” observance, or even a foreshadowing of “tomorrow;” Christ made it a Communion Table in which He invited His disciples to partake of His fullness and life. It was here that the truth of our salvation, pre-figured in the deliverance of Israel from Egypt, would be fulfilled. As He broke the unleavened Passover bread and took the cup with them, He reinterpreted the practice that had been going on for centuries, applying it to Himself: the ultimate Passover Lamb.
There in the Upper Room was the last time the Passover would be celebrated before its prophetic elements would be fulfilled. The next day at Calvary, the Lamb would be slain, His blood spilled, and His body broken that there might come - as it had in Egypt long ago - protection from judgment and death, and deliverance out of the bondage of slavery.
“This do in remembrance of Me,” is a fundamental text we often consider at the Lord's Table. It is engraved on communion furnishings in churches everywhere. In every passage where Jesus was instituting communion, He says those words. But for many people, that call to remembrance is interpreted as almost being downhearted and melancholy; as if Jesus is telling us, "Remember only my agony." Instead Beloved, His suffering should remind us that His VICTORY was actually assured on the Cross!
I will readily admit that many times, I do not feel victorious. It is especially during those seasons, when the days are unpredictable, when life is fragile, and seasons of suffering can be excruciating, it is particularly at those moments that we should come to this Table of Remembrance. To remind ourselves that the Son of God has paid every price, defeated every Foe, and assured us of the final victory.
Today we will be going to the LORD’s TABLE to remember His Victory. As we do, please consider that every time we partake of the Bread and the Cup, we “are representing and signifying and proclaiming (1 Corinthians 11:26 AMP)” deep and unalterable truths about our Savior that each one of us has personally “received from the Lord.”
In 2015, our theme has been that…We must make the GLORIFICATION of Christ our Highest PRIORITY.
The times in which we are living are difficult. We do live in a fallen world that is constantly pining for our attention; and we do have a relentless Adversary. But, we are not without remedy. We are not without hope. We are not without a solution. We are not without Good News: Beloved, we have JESUS!
Hebrews 13:8-15 NIV - Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever… 15 Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise—the fruit of lips that confess his name.
It is THIS JESUS that the Writer of the Book of Hebrews testifies about and of whom we preach. This Jesus who is the Ultimate One. Greater than Abraham and the Patriarchs, greater than Moses the Lawgiver, greater than Joshua or David or Solomon or one of the prophets. Greater than the Priesthood of Aaron; He is greater than the saints and greater than the angels.
He is the Great mediatorial HIGH PRIEST and the SACRIFICE. Jesus Himself, who sacrificed his life for us in order to draw Humanity near to the Father. Therefore, since Jesus offered all of the Sacrifices Himself: Sin, Atonement, Consecration, Sanctification, Devotion, Fellowship… everything, there remains only ONE Sacrifice left for us to offer: THE SACRIFICE OF PRAISE!
We cannot make atonement for our sins. We cannot bring ourselves into right standing with God. We cannot provide for our eternal life…only Jesus can, and only Jesus did! But what we can do is Worship and Praise His Holy Name and bask in the Beauty of Holiness. It is when we consider THIS JESUS…THIS GREAT WORK OF SALVATION…THIS GREAT EXPRESSION OF MERCY…then and only THEN, can we begin to understand the great GIFT, NECESSITY, and REQUIREMENT OF WORSHIP! No wonder, the Apostle Paul would tell the Church at Rome:
Romans 12:1 VOICE - Brothers and sisters, in light of all I have shared with you about God’s mercies, I urge you to offer your bodies as a living and holy sacrifice to God, a sacred offering that brings Him pleasure; this is your reasonable, essential worship.
Mark 12:30 NKJV - And you shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength...’
Religion seeks to regulate behavior through repetition, rigor, and in a very real way, comparative analysis. Christianity, on the other hand, seeks to release dynamic and real relationships, first with God, and then with others based upon a simple guiding and over-arching truth: Love. In its truest state, Christianity is a relationship that restrains negative behavior and releases positive actions because of the love one has for his/her Creator, and the object of that Creator’s affection: His creation.
1 John 4:7-8 MESSAGE - …Let us continue to love each other since love comes from God. Everyone who loves is born of God and experiences a relationship with God. The person who refuses to love doesn't know the first thing about God, because God is love—so you can't know him if you don't love.
This is love that is a CHOICE, thus, Christ could command it and John could compare it the very Nature of God Himself. It is a sacrificial love. It is love that is the "deliberate assent of the will as a matter of principle.” It loves without condition. It simply says, "I Love You." This is the kind of Love God has for us, and the type of love He wants us to return to Him and express to others!
Dr. Ken Ulmer, Senior Pastor of the Faithful Central Bible Church in Inglewood, California, said it this way:
“God is love. Love is not just something that He does. It’s what He is. It follows then that we are never more godly, never more like God, than when we love…We cannot fulfill the first commandment to love God without obeying the second command to love our neighbor. Nor can we avoid this problem by narrowing our definition of ‘neighbor’ to people ‘in our neighborhood’ – that is, to those of our family, race, perspective, economic or intellectual level, value system, or religion. In the parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:29-37), Jesus made the world my neighbor by qualifying anyone God puts in my path, or who needs me, as ‘my neighbor.’”
My two youngest grandchildren were born a little over a year ago, in 2014. My dad was born over fourscore years ago, in 1934. When my youngest grandchildren reach eighty years of age (the same milestone my dad has achieved) it will be the Year 2094! At the age of 53, my personal lifespan: touching my dad and my grandchildren is over 160 years!
When we begin to think about the multi-generational realities of our lives, it changes everything about your life’s plan. Should the Lord tarry, what are we planning, preparing, and doing today that will have a positive and Godly impact upon our descendants? What kind of Oakland are we leaving? What kind of Bay Area Metroplex? What kind of America? What kind of World? Should the Lord tarry another 5 years, 25 years, 50 years, 100 years, or 500 years…what are we doing to prepare the future generations for the work of the Lord? Are we instilling in our children the belief and understanding that ALL THINGS ARE POSSIBLE TO HIM THAT BELIEVES!
Matthew 19:26 NIV - Jesus looked at them and said, "With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible."
Christianity is a journey from SELF to CHRIST. It is the pilgrimage from Self-Interest to Christ-Interest. We must intentionally focus on leaving a deeper understanding of Christ and a better world for those coming after us.
Proverbs 13:22 - “A good man leaves an inheritance for his children's children...”
Between the Lineage of Yesterday’s Promise and the Destiny of Tomorrow’s Possibilities, lies the Responsibility of PRESERVING, STEWARDING, AND PROTECTING THE WORK OF THE LORD TODAY…right here, right now. You and I are called to be the GUARDIANS of Today. We cannot return to yesterday; and while the possibilities of tomorrow are promised, our participation is by the Grace of God. Tomorrow is what we leave to our children; TODAY is the DAY to SERVE the LORD. TODAY is the DAY to Honor His Name. TODAY is the DAY to do His Will, and we must Guard today…Protect it!
This week marked the beginning of the Academic Calendar here on the Patten Campus. We are very grateful to the Lord for the work of Dr. Gary Moncher, Dr. Sharon Anderson and the many, many others who have worked with them (both past and present) to bring quality, rigorous, Christian Education to the City of Oakland for over 70 years!
Prayerfully, soon we will have a complete Day-Care Center, a Pre-School, a new Family Room here in the Cathedral, an expanded After-School program, and I am asking for the miracle of a tuition-assistance for those who are financially unable to pay the full cost at the Academy. Likewise, we are praying and working toward a powerful re-emergence of the Ministry of Higher Education focused extensively on leadership development.
Every Human Soul is profoundly important to God, and we will Love our City ONE soul at a time. However, from a STRATEGIC PERSPECTIVE, the most important TARGET GROUPS in reaching any Community with the Gospel are the CHILDREN and YOUNG PEOPLE. I want to say that again…to restore, renew, and rebuild what has been devastated for generations: WE MUST REACH THE CHILDREN, TEENAGERS, and YOUNG ADULTS. Like everything else in the Kingdom of God, this is a partnership between Heaven and Earth. We carry the ark and God parts the waters.
This is one of the reasons that we pause throughout the year to focus ourselves on this strategic component of our mission. It is important for all of us to understand and embrace the ministry of the entire campus; and through that campus, the ministry to our community. We are here in this hour, for this season, in this city to announce the Good News of Jesus Christ and to live our lives as citizens of the Kingdom of God!
Therefore, my friends: students and teachers, staff and congregation, pastors and leaders, servants in the House of the LORD…
Ephesians 4:1 NIV84 - …I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received.
This week marks the beginning of the Academic Calendar here on the Patten Campus. At the end of our service today, we are going to be praying for the faculty, staff, and students who are beginning the Fall Semester and asking for the great Grace of Jesus Christ to rest upon His Servants! Afterwards, everyone is invited to enjoy the barbecue at the Student Center Plaza on the west end of our campus.
For over seventy years of ministry in the City of Oakland, and 50 years at this location, the Ministries of our Campus have always been expressions of FAITH, fostering an environment of LEARNING, and born out of a Heart of SERVICE. This service (ministry) to the Campus, to the Community, and to one another is an outgrowth of our Service to the Lord Himself. For the Child of God, Service is not simply a nice idea, a quaint concept, a sociological catch phrase; nor is it something that allows us to somehow feel more noble about having less pay. :-) Rather, service is the embodiment of our Faith because it is the expression of Christianity chosen by our Lord Himself. Jesus said…
Matthew 20:28 ERV - Do as I did: The Son of Man did not come for people to serve him. He came to serve others and to give his life to save many people.
It is very important, therefore, to recognize that Christian Service is not just an act of benevolence, social awareness, or religious discipline. Serving is part of the Christian Mission. We are called to recognize both the Brokenness of a fallen world and the profound hope given in our Redeemer: the Lord Jesus Christ. Ultimately, all of our service must be done in His name, for His glory, and to draw people into a living relationship with the living Christ. In its most fundamental capacity, SERVING is GIVING, and GIVING is LIFE.
Matthew 10:42 NIV78 – And if anyone gives a cup of cold water to one of these little ones because he is my disciple, I tell you the truth, he will certainly not lose his reward.
Dr. Tobey Montgomery