Thursday, May 31, 2007

(#4) John 16 Sermon: In order to Stay, he has to Go.

(This is my SECOND sermon on the Work of the Spirit in John. Read John 16:5-15 before reading.)
V6 – But because I have said these things to you, sorrow has filled your hearts.
Jesus is with his disciples for the last time. Within a couple of hours, he’ll be betrayed with a kiss; and within 24 hours, he’ll be crucified with a cross. The disciples don’t know this of course. But Jesus does, and he reads the face of the disciples and sees in their hearts.

And he is straight with them: 'All of what I’m saying to you is heartrending, isn’t it?' (Like saying Goodbye at the Airport, the words will almost always tear at the fabric of your heart.)

But I am telling you the truth, 'you’ll be better off if I go'. – V7:

It is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Advocate will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you.
What are Jesus’ words that are tearing at their hearts?

In Chapter 15, it’s this: You will be hated as you testify to me. You will not be liked one little bit. If they persecuted me, what makes you think that they will not persecute you?

And you will be my witnesses: What’s so hard about that? Well, you’ll be saying to Jewish people: Your Messiah has come and gone, and yet is alive today. And you’ll be saying to the Greeks: All your beauty and sophistry is summed up by a man on a Roman Cross.

You’ll be saying things that either people will find offensive or they’ll laugh you off. (And I’m not sure which is worse.) Or they'll kill you.

And more – you’ll be on your own! I’m going away (V5) and leaving you to it. So good luck, fellas. (At least that is what they hear.)

But I am telling you the truth – V7:
It is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Advocate (The Spirit) will not come to you.
Next: Why this is important...

PS Points for Blog comprehension: Where is this Pic taken, and what are the circumstances?

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

(#3) John 16 Sermon: Most will walk by...

(This is my SECOND sermon on the Work of the Spirit in John. Read John 16:5-15 before reading.)

So 1000 people walked past one of the finest violinists in the world. How similar, in some respects, Joshua Bell is to another Yeshua: to Jesus of Nazareth?
  • Jesus is the 'finest' person in the world (He is the risen and living Messiah of the whole universe);
  • He has the most wonder-filled message in the world (that this planet will be comprehensively and decisively renewed in Him);
  • He has the most valuable instrument of that renewal (The Gospel: The declaration of complete forgiveness thought the merits of Jesus and his cross.)
And yet most will not receive him.

What does John say? John 1:10

He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. He came to his own, but his own did not receive him.
So here is my question this morning: How will you be able to recognize Jesus as Messiah? Who will stop you from walking by and not recognizing Jesus?

And John says that there is only one reason why you might stop and listen: Only The Holy Spirit’s work in your life.

Let’s explore together from John 16:5-15: I want to touch on three paradoxes of the Spirit (these paradoxes may explain your experience of God’s Spirit in your life.)
  1. In order for Jesus to Stay, he has to Go. (V5-7 )
  2. In order Comfort, the Spirit has Convict. (V7-11)
  3. In order to teach Something New, he has to remind you of Something Old. (V12-15)
More to come...

PS For points, what is the name of the Garden near where this pic was taken? And what movie(s) were filmed nearby?

(#2) John 16 Sermon: Pearls Before Breakfast

(This is my SECOND sermon on the Work of the Spirit in John. Read John 16:5-15 before reading.)

Allow me to quote [With some edits] from last month’s Washington Post.

“He emerged from the METRO at the L'Enfant Plaza Station and positioned himself against a wall beside a trash basket. By most measures, he was nondescript: A youngish white man in jeans, a long-sleeved T-shirt, and a Washington Nationals baseball cap.

"From a small case, he removed a violin.

"Placing the open case at his feet, He shrewdly threw in a few dollars as seed money and began to play. It was 7:51a.m. on Friday, January 12 - the middle of the morning rush hour. In the next 43 minutes, as the violinist performed six classical pieces, 1,097 people passed by. Each passerby had a quick choice to make, One familiar to commuters in any urban area:

"Do I stop and listen?

"No one knew it", said the article. "But the fiddler standing there was one of the finest classical musicians in the world, playing some of the most elegant music ever written, on one of the most valuable violins ever made.

"All an experiment exploring this: In a banal setting at an inconvenient time, would beauty transcend?"

The Article was named: “Pearls before Breakfast

Who was he, and how did people respond?

His name is Joshua Bell , a non-descript person if you met him (A Jew interestingly), one of the finest violinists, playing a Stradivarius violin worth $3.5 million. And yet Only 7 people stopped to listen, 27 gave money, most nickels and dimes, and on the hop… For a total of $32 and change!

The obvious question is: How is that someone who in a future context (like at Carnegie Hall) will be adored, and yet at this point is ignored?

More to come...

(#1) John 16 Sermon: Prayer

This is my SECOND sermon on the Work of the Spirit in John. Read John 16:5-15 before reading.

Here is a good prayer, yes? >

Breathe on me, breath of God,
Fill me with life anew,
That as you love so I may love,
And do what you would do.

More to Come...

Pic is The Boy in February.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

(#10) John 14 Sermon: Speaking to the Holy Clutter

(This is the FINAL post in a Sermon on John 14:15-31. Read the passage and the previous posts first.)

B. He – the Spirit will tell you NOT new things, but old Truths in a fresh way.

26 But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything, and remind you of all that I have said to you.

The Spirit takes what Jesus says and makes it real today.

The Spirit doesn’t wonder off on his own. He is sent from the Father (in this text), in the name of the Son. So he’s not trying new paths and making you do things that would be unexpected in the Gospels. And the Spirit doesn’t speak in a way that is new to Jesus. He remind you of what Jesus said. And the disciples needed to be reminded, because most of the time it was just foggy.
He has more to say – and we’ll be exploring that next week from John 16.

JI Packer called the work of the Holy Spirit 'a floodlight minstry' in his book, Keep in Step with the Spirit. A floodlight is powerful and Bright; however, it points to its subject. And what is the Spirit’s subject: Jesus. Without the light, you’ll see nothing, but the point is not the light, but Jesus whom he floods with light.

The Spirit is not more insightful than Jesus himself. And the Spirit doesn’t provide you with experiences that end up taking you to the experience, rather than Jesus.

To my young friends, what to say and what to pray?

Its not going to settle every question and every confusion.

First – love God. Make that number one. Keep his commands.
Second – Claim by faith the illumination of the Spirit.

But make sure it is what Jesus said (his commands, his Word). Spend your time begging the God who is love. And the God you love. As hi to tell you more about Jesus. And that’ll be a good start….


Any comments?

(#9) John 14 Sermon: ANOTHER advocate

(This is the ninth post in a Sermon on John 14:15-31. Read the passage and the other posts first.

And so what does he promise when he comes to you?

2. He will stand beside you and guide you into all Truth.

  • V15 Jesus said, "If you love me, you will keep my commandments. 16 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, to be with you forever. This is the Spirit of truth…
  • V21 I will love them and reveal myself to them."

How will be reveal himself?

By sending the Holy Spirit.

  • V25 "I have said these things to you while I am still with you. 26 But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will …

Now, I will be spending more time on this next Sunday (sermon on John 16), suffice to say that the Spirit stands beside us. The Greek Word has been translated ‘Advocate’ is in our NRSVs. Is the word: Paraclete. [Not Parakeet (if that helps you to remember), but Paraclete]. But the NIV, it is translated 'Counselor', and in other translations: Comforter, Helper.

When a word is translated that many times from the original language, it may well mean that the word is too rich for one English Word. Literally what it means is to: "Stand Beside".

Like in a court, or in certain social services, when a person realizes that by their crime or their lack of knowledge, or their helplessness, they NEED someone to stand beside them and advocate for them; to fight for them and for their freedom.

You have Jesus, Yes. But you have ANOTHER advocate. One that will stand beside you NOW, and speak to you of your forgiveness in Jesus, whenever your heart condemns you. Or Satan accuses you, you have someone – The Spirit – telling you the Gospel.

More to come...

(#8) John 14 Sermon: The Grounds of that Love

(This is the eighth post in a Sermon on John 14:15-31. Read the passage and previous posts first.)

And what are the grounds of that love? It is this: to be caught up into the love of God; the love that God has within himself. As you read the text, did you notice the layering of persons and pronouns and personal pronouns (they's, he's, you's, I's, we's)? And did you find it hard to follow?

  • V15 Jesus said, "If you (disciples) love me (Jesus), you (disciples) will keep my (Jesus') commandments. 16 And I (Jesus) will ask the Father, and he (The Father) will give you (disciples) another Advocate (the Spirit of Truth), to be with you (disciples) forever.
  • V20 On that day you (disciples) will know that I (Jesus) am in my Father, and you (disciples) in me (Jesus), and I (Jesus) in you (disciples).
  • V23 Jesus answered him, "Those who love me (Jesus) will keep my (Jesus') word, and my (Jesus') Father will love them, and we (Father and Son) will come to them and make our home with them (Those who love me).

That feels a little crowded in there, doesn't it? (It is not crowded, by the way!)

The ground of the love of God is God himself. This passage is one of the key passages to drinking in the truth of the Trinity: that God is complex: he is not simple; that he is three persons, and one God. The Father – who loves the Son. The Son - who loves the Father and obeys him. The Spirit who proceeds from the Father and the Son, and who honors the Father and the Son by teaching about Jesus. Etc.

Now, the Trinity is Life Shaping. Life Shaping for at least one reason: It means that before God created a single person, he was already relating and already loving and already servant hearted within himself. God truly IS love; within himself.

What has this to do with our question of what to believe in a confusing array of choices?

You will only find a path froward if you Love Jesus as he is. Love the Father. Be caught up into his love, and 'they will make their home with you'…

And so what does he promise when he comes to you? More of the answer to come...

More to come...

(#7) John 14 Sermon: The Shape of that Love

(This is the seventh post in a Sermon on John 14:15-31. Read the passage and previous posts first.)

A question: What is the shape of that love?

It is not simply to be affectionate: to like him, or worse, to love the idea of Jesus. Its very concrete.

  • V15: If you love me, you will keep my commandments
  • V23: Those who love me will keep my word

So you’ll be committed to finding out what his commandments are; what his word is. And then be committed to living that way. And you’ll discover, as you read the Bible, its not simply ethical teaching; and it’s not just a morality; and you won’t find a stack of laws in the New Testament. But there’s plenty to do and plenty to be. But here's the thing: You cannot love Jesus while not doing what he says.

It is impossible.

More to come...

(#6) John 14 Sermon: A Word about Loving Jesus

(This is the sixth post in a Sermon on John 14:15-31. Read the passage first.)

Some of you are clear that you are not Christians. And you say – 'Well that doesn’t help me; I don’t believe in Jesus, so why would I love him?'

If you so desire, you’ve got some work to do. And that’s a good thing. Read the gospels asking yourself: Is Jesus a person I could love? And ask it honestly. But I promise you this: That you will not be settled on the God question in abstract. Nobody settles the God question in the abstract. Ask any Christian, and mostly will tell you that they were attracted to Jesus (they may not use that language), long before they gathered settled answers to all their very vexing questions.

And for some of us Christians: We hear 'Learn to love Jesus.' And we think 'that’s a language that I am not used to'. Here is the interesting thing: Jesus is used to it. V15: He wants you to love him. He wants you to entrust yourself to him... …Your soul, your heart, your decisions.

More to come...

(#5) John 14 Sermon: Love the love of God

(This is the fifth post in a Sermon on John 14:15-31. Do me a favor and read the passage first.)

1. Love the Love of God.

Throw yourself into his love. This is a theme running through this entire text.

  • V15: Jesus said, "If you love me, you will keep my commandments."

  • V21: They who have my commandments and keep them are those who love me; and those who love me will be loved by my Father, and I will love them and reveal myself to them."

That’s our question for the morning, right?

  • V22: Judas (not Iscariot, for the record) said to him, "Lord, how is it that you will reveal yourself to us, and not to the world?"

And here is the answer (it doesn't feel like an answer at first)

  • V23 Jesus answered him, "Those who love me will keep my word, and my Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them.

  • V28b If you loved me, you would rejoice that I am going to the Father, because the Father is greater than I.

So it would seem that in all the abstract discussion about what to believe…

Comes a simple truth: Learn to love Jesus.

More to come...

(#4) John 14 Sermon: Sermon Outline

(This is the fourth post in a Sermon on John 14:15-31. Do me a favor and read the passage first and maybe the introductory posts.)

I have only two things to explore today John 14. Because I think that there are two strands running through this text.; this very complex and theologically rich text.

There is a responsibility. And a promise. And we’ll be adding some more (very important things) next week when we look at John 16. I’m going to put it like this:

1. Your responsibility is to: Love the love of God.
2. And his promise is this: He will stand beside you and guide you into all truth.

More to come...

(#3) John 14 Sermon: A Holy Clutter

(This is the third post in a Sermon on John 14:15-31. Read the passage first and maybe the previous posts.)

What to say into this holy clutter?

The truth is that there is no simple answer to this problem. Of course there isn't. But there is a start. There is a door we can open. Look at John 14:18 (Click on text above). Jesus says to his disciples:

I will not leave you orphaned; I am coming to you.

In this text, we have some disciples of Jesus, confused about what to believe and fearful about the future. Everyone had been pressing 'edit' for their whole lives, and Jesus seemed to change all that. They thought their 'page' was clear. They thought that the Messiah of Israel had come, but NOW Jesus is talking about dying, and 'going somewhere' where they cannot follow. They are confused about what to now believe.

And Jesus speaks into that confusion. And what does he say?

I will not leave you orphaned (I’m not going to leave you alone in his world to edit your own page). I am coming to you.

So the most obvious thing to say into this Holy Clutter would be this: Do not leave God out of the picture as you work out your salvation. It is surprisingly easy to do: To include every idea; every book; every Blog; every person and to ' exclude God.

So – we must, must, must, pray to our God who illumines. Something like this:

Our great Father, we thank you that you did not abandon this world. You did not leave it alone to drift in the dark. Instead you sent your Son to show us your heart, your love, and the way back to you. Speak to us now of Jesus. Speak to us by the power of your Spirit, stand near us now, and beside us that we might know you. Amen.
More to come...

(#2) John 14 Sermon: Wikitheology

(This is the second post in a Sermon on John 14:15-31. Do me a favor and read the passage first, and maybe the previous post.)

There is a website called Wikipedia. It’s an online encyclopedia. And the incredible thing about it is that anyone can click on the 'edit' button and edit any article. So for example, there will be hundreds of people right now trying to edit the page on George W. Bush.

Now, I’m not (too) serious with what I am about to say. My tongue is lodged firmly somewhere near my cheek. But I reckon that most of us are suffering from what you might call 'Wikitheology' (h/t Tom Beecroft. Google it Here).

Wikitheology is this: Each of us are trying to put together a page of things we hope are true about God; things we believe; truths that give us hope.

But just about everyone else (My denominational past, my work, the media, my friends, my church, my mom and dad) are all pressing 'edit', 'edit', 'edit'. And so we’re not sure what to believe. For goodness sake, I’m pressing 'edit' now as I speak!

And its tiring for many of us. And the problem is this: the one who presses 'edit' the most gets my devotion. Or its a mixture of just about every book I read, every church I've been too or every person I meet. And I keep trying to find some middle ground that captures everything that everyone has said to me. But it simple doesn't work.

Some are just so tired that recently there has been a trend to become Roman Catholic. They do this because at least Catholics appear – and I stress the word appear – to have unity. Or we dumb down entirely and say: 'Well, I’m just a Follower of Jesus, and I just base my life on the gospels'; not realizing, of course, that people who say this have brought baggages of theology with them.

And the bottom line is this:

I want God to come to me and tell me what is true about him, that I might believe the truth about him and know him as he really is.

So, what word can we speak into this 'Holy Clutter'?

More to come...

(#1) John 14 Sermon: Choosing a 'Theology' in NYC

(This is the first post in a Sermon on John 14:15-31. The text is where Jesus speaks to his confused disciples about the coming of the Spirit (the Advocate). Do me a favor and read the passage first. I'll be posting once or twice a day. Shall we begin?)

Laurel and I hosted a group of young people in our apartment a few weeks ago. There were one or two who were at Christ Church NYC, but most weren’t. And we listened to them as they talked about their families; and their home churches (if they had one); but their coming to New York; and then trying to find a church (very hard for many in NYC); and we talked about hard it is to make that particular choice. And we listened as they talked about what they believed and didn't believe, about which books they read, and which authors they weren’t sure about; and which theologies they most resonated with. And after listening for a while, I said to them:
You know, I don’t envy you guys for one little bit. It is ironic how hard it is to decide what you are going to believe in this country.
And that’s partly because you’ve got so much choice. And for young people coming out of the family nest for the first time, and coming to NYC, let’s face it: They feel like one small deer facing a sea of headlights.

And perhaps you feel that way too.

In this country, we have so much choice about everything. And that’s certainly true in the matter of faith. And that’s good, right? It’s the first clause in the First Amendment of the US Constitution:
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; ...
But the flip side of this (and I’m not advocating any alternative!) is that there is so much out there for our personal consumption, we either become a consumer or just plain confused:
Bloated on choice, or starved because we don’t know which choice to make.

More coming...

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Nathan and Cassie

So, its been a lot of joy for us this month: we had Em-mma stay for three week, and then we had a good time with Nathan and Cassie Tasker last week. Nice. We had Nath play at our church, and Laurel and I hosted two 'house concerts' (Or you probably ought to call them 'apartment concerts'. And on Sunday, we hung out in Central Park, which is spectacular in springtime (See Pics of The Boy and The Girl.)

Being thankful to God is a must-activity for believers in Jesus.

If you click on the Pic of Nath and Cassie, you'll get a full report of their time with us.

Click away...

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Cheeky Monkey

I have some more serious posts coming up, but I'm taking vacation days.

Did you know that Dr Laurel had a teaching job this semester? She finished her dissertation last year and graduated in May 06. She's been at home with the kids since they were born, which has been her desire. But a school (tertiary college) called The King's College, who rent space in the Empire State Building, offered her a teaching job. So she’s been teaching a class for two mornings a week all semester. It's been great for her, and the students have been wonderful. Laurel and I went to The King's College formal last week (Laurel as a staff) and then we entertained her class in our apartment on Sunday afternoon. Or rather, they entertained us. Good times.

Anyways, the semester is over, and Laurel and Em-mma (from Sydney) are now in Nashville visiting Nathan and Cassie Tasker for a few days of Rest and Recreation. I'm taking care of the kids, so that Laurel can get some fresh air, spend some time with some great friends, and can actually sleep in etc.

So we had a play date with two of the toddlers from church on Monday afternoon in Battery Park City, and today we went to the Central Park Zoo. Please allow me to quote The Boy:

I like snakes. I want to see the snakes. Those snakes scare me. I don't want to see the snakes.
I think that pretty much sums up how every human being relates to their dreams and fears, don't you think?

PS I did not, repeat not, place those sunnies on The Boy! But I do want to know where he got that poke-the-tongue-thing from…


Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Not lost in Translation

A few days ago, in the post Lost in Translation, I found a reader in Rio de Janeiro, using the translating page. You are clearly not lost. You just logged on again.

Who are you, gentle reader?

jmoff at hotmail!