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First Presbyterian Church

  • Scripture: 2 Timothy 1:2-3; 4:1-8

    1.  Christians are to be strong, not weak. 

    The capacity for strength comes from grace. Soldier analogy Christians have to be strong in tough times and corporately in spiritual battle. Should train youth to be strong in the faith. Christ is with us in the struggle. No respect for wimpy servants. Tough in sense of being able to face problems.

    2.  Christians are for all seasons. Charged to be evangelists.

    Charged but not alone. God is watching to see how or if we accept the charge, Preach the Word. Be steady, do the work of an evangelist. Be urgent, don’t put things off in favorable or unfavorable times. Be constant. Christ saves sinners. Gospel says death is not defeat but victory. Highest hope of Christians. Speaking and living for God. Invitation to start a new life.

    3.  There are some in the Church and out who have itchy ears. Prefer myth to truth.

    Jeremiah said prophets prophesy falsely, priest teach their own myths. Societal sin today is greed, out of control desire to be rich. God followers teach truth, they punch holes in myths. Jesus is the antidote to itchy ears. Truth is in our actions and what we proclaim.

    4.  Paul is the model of the true Cross follower.  He finishes the race.

    The gift of faith is to everyone who lives and loves the fact that Christ appeared. We belong to a great world-wide society that loves God and loves His creations. Called to service and truth.


  • Scripture: Luke 1:46-55

    1.  Grace is prevenient in every commitment to God. 

    God seeks relationship with humans and gives a yes or no choice.  Christmas starts briskly focused in history.  “When Jesus was born in Bethlehem in the days of Ceasar Augustus.”  Mary first commitment. Call comes then relationship.  Might be a sermon, book, illness, but grace always comes before human steps out. One call or multiple calls. John E. Mitchell “If you can’t be anything else you can be a fool for God.”

    2.  The Magificant contains the core Gospel.

    Quite remarkable how sophisticated it is “My soul rejoices...He who is mighty has done great things...The whole universe will call me blessed.”  Then shifts to Gospel. “And His mercy is on those who hear His call.” Salvation. Baby not born yet, but she speaks in future past tense. “He has done this...”

    3.  Mary a model of faith but not immaculately conceived or bodily assumed.

    She was at beginning and end. “A sword will pierce your heart.”  Hard to see a child die. Nothing in the Bible for Doctrine of Mary.  She was not equal with Jesus, just his human mother.  Honor her for her witness and accepting God’s call.

    4.  The call of Christ is about life.  It is also about death.

    We also are called to declare mercy and justice. Life after death. Gift of relationship with God is peace at end. We need to increase invitation to friends and family. Come see what Christians really do. Must share great gifts of the Gospel.




  • Today’s lecture concerns the question - “Can Christians witness in Academia?”

    I want to talk about witness to Christ in “the real world.”  By that I mean in the extra-sanctuary, outside world.  I am going to talk about scientific academia, first because that is where I work and second, because that arena is widely perceived as resistant to religion.  

    I want to begin with a comment made by William Stringfellow.  He was a very perceptive, radical Christian.  He never conformed to the environment in which he found himself.  He simply witnessed in it by his lawyer skills and his Christianity.  I take the following statement from one of his books, An Ethic for Christians and Other Aliens in a Strange Land: “Incarnational theology regards this real world, in the fullness of its fallen state, as simultaneously disclosing the ecumenical, militant, triumphant presence of God.  The Bible deals with the sanctification of the actual history of human beings, in this world, as it is being lived.”  That is what I want to talk about in this lecture.

    Jacques Monod, who received the Nobel Prize in 1965 for his discovery of the formation of Messenger RNA seems to speak for those in academia who appear to be resistant to religious interest.  He wrote, “The ancient covenant between God and humans lies in pieces.  Man at last knows he is alone in the unfeeling immensity of the universe, out of which he emerged by chance.”  Now that is a tough statement, and one probably held by a large number of those in medical science.  

    What I want to say this morning, as hopefully an encouragement to you, is something about my experience in this scientific social environment.  And what I want to say is that to be a member of this environment does not preclude witness being made on behalf of Christ and the Church.  There are two reasons that this can be done.  First, there is a serious flaw in evolution that is widely recognized by scientists.  The evolutionary process is so clear and positive in physical and intellectual life – we adapt and run faster and think clearer.  Yet, it is so failed in human behavior.  There is this dichotomy which everybody is aware of.  Scientists will say, “There is nothing we can’t do” – we will solve cancer, etc.  And the second phrase is, “There is nothing we can do” – about crime, about drug use, about greed, about the absence of ethics, about illiteracy.  And the second reason is that life events occur, causing serious questions to arise unbidden.  And those events strip away the security and uncertainty of this empty and uncaring universe.

    I’d like to share some real life examples of opportunities to witness.  Because I work in a relatively small social universe (of medical science), it is fairly widely known that I am one of those “odd” people who holds to a religious faith.  A couple of anecdotes about how witness works – because I don’t initiate these myself:

    During a trip to a medical school in another city, a friend and famous scientist greeted me with, “I have to talk to you.”  This scientist’s prominent brother-in-law developed acute leukemia and died within three weeks of diagnosis.  The scientist said to me with desperation, “Tell me what this means.  Tell me why this happened to him.”  This scientist was not religious, but of Jewish heritage.  You always try to talk to someone at the level of where that person is.  So I did not talk out of the context of New  Covenant.  I talked out of context of Old Covenant.  I began to tell him about God and that this God functions in terms of I and thou and that this God knows personally each of the billions of humans that have ever lived.  I went on to say I believed that God knew not only the brother-in-law, but that he knew my friend as well.  After my visit, while taking me to the airport my friend asked, “You mean He knows me?”  Our dialogue has continued over a number of years.  Each time I see him my friend says, “We’ve got to pick up the conversation again.”  He tells me that he is now at the point of having felt the tentative movements of God in his own heart and that this would never have occurred without the crisis of this brother-in-law’s death.

    Second story – I was visiting another medical school.  Another friend informed me upon my arrival that his brother had died the night before.  I told him about my beliefs that the soul was immortal and we talked about that.  At a banquet that night my friend told me he was a lapsed Presbyterian.  He said, “Do you want to know why I am no longer a Christian?”  When I told him I did, he said, “Because you believe that the man sitting next to you, when he dies, is going to hell.”  The man next to me was my mentor and a Jew.  He was one of the kindest, most wonderful people I have ever known.  When I asked why he thought I believe that he said, “Because you are a Christian.”  I told him that I did not believe that. Then I told him that it was not for me to decide where God’s mercy lies, but my Bible tells me that when the pagans, who do not know the law, do what the law demands, they are counted righteous before God.  It is not possible that the billions and billions of people who have lived throughout the ages and never heard the gospel are automatically excluded from the kingdom of God.  And then I said what I always say - it is not possible that I, who learned mercy from the God who is love, could be more merciful than He.  The conversation between my friend and I went on for several hours and our communication has continued  

    My point with these examples is, in the context of serious questions, ears become unstopped - if the witness is valid.  

    Witness is not always around a crisis event.  Professors, who have not been religious, have scheduled appointments with me - to talk about faith.   Their motivation being that faith had seemed to be helpful in my life and they wanted to know more about it.  

    What I want to say from this is that there is a universal need of humans to address serious questions about life and death – and high intellect and the absence of formal religious beliefs do not render one exempt from these questions.  And I want to say further that you and I as Christians need not be ashamed of the unadorned gospel.  We can be terribly ashamed of the way we live it and the awful things that people who have taken the name have done.  But we don’t have to be ashamed of the unadorned gospel.  

    There are several requirements I think are important for witness:

    1. We have to be authentically Christian – our lives have to be consistent with our faith.

    2. We ought not run around giving answers to questions people have never asked.

       (We ought to be living lives that induce questions – the answer to which is Christ.)

    3. We must freely acknowledge the mysteries of faith and the unanswerable questions – 

        including the possibility that we might be wrong.  (Although I don’t believe we are.)

    4. We do not have to be intellectually gifted to witness – even to intellectually gifted people.


    I close with another quotation from Stringfellow: 

    “In the face of death (all around you), live humanly.  In the middle of chaos, celebrate The Word.

      Amidst babble, speak the truth.  Confront the noise and verbiage and falsehood of death with the

      truth and potency and efficacy of the word of God.  Know The Word.  Teach The Word.

      Nurture The Word.  Preach The Word.  Defend The Word. Incarnate The Word.  Do The Word.

      Live The Word.”


    It has been my experience that, even in a relatively hostile environment, it is possible to bring authentic witness to Him who is the savior of the world.


    Daniel Foster, M. D.

    Brown Lecture #4     1999       




  • Scripture: Hebrews 13:1-16; 20, 21

    1.  Christians called to love two targets: believers and strangers.

    Summary of how to live and die. Love is the primary command. Love merges the Church into one effective body. Hospitality to strangers important due to needs or might even be meeting Jesus!

    2.  Remember those who are in prisons.

    We should ministering to those behind prison walls, but many are prisoners of self -- without love, hope or peace.

    3.  Honor marriage.

    God instituted at the very beginning so deserves respect. Important to stability of community. Children need protection. Divorce is always costly emotionally, financially, and socially.

    4. Do not love money and be content with what you have.

    Christ will never forsake you, so nothing to fear. Money cannot save it is transient. Greed is a great problem. Church and those blessed with goods fill the gap for others.

    5. Remember those who taught you and that Christ is unchangeable.

    Bible must be passed on. Christ allows us to spread our wings and fly. What we think may change but Christ never does. Forever on the cross, forever Savior, instrument of grace, companion on the way, receives us unto Himself.

    6. Our primary duty is “outside the camp”.

    Christ was sacrificed outside the gate we should join Him there. In camp is worship, hope, and preparation to go out into world. There we express our faith and witness through word and deed. With Christ a triumph life is achieved.





  • Scripture: Luke 1:39-45; 76-79

    1.  Usual first step in commitment is belief without proof, definition of faith. 

    Angel Gabriel appears to Zacharias, “don’t be afraid, Elizabeth will bear you a his name John.” He is struck speechless due to unbelief. If we will only trust there are no limits to what God will do. Sometimes certainty comes only after a long journey. Those with a heart for God know His demands: love, justice and mercy. Paul said, “I know whom I have believed” not what or why, but WHOM!

    2.  While commitment has to be personal, it is strengthened when shared.

    His name is John. Gabriel had told Mary about Elizabeth and she went to share her joy. When she arrived, Elizabeth’s child leaped in her womb. Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. “Blessed are you among women...why has it been given to me to see the mother of the Lord.” Joy now, sorrow later. Never know what a commitment to Christ will cost us. One of the rewards on faith journey is the Church’s support, enhances strengths and shares burdens.

    3.  When commitment has been made it is expected to be shared.

    God expects action from us. Zacharias, a priest said, the dayspring of on high has visited us...bringing light to those in darkness. Pride is what destroys us, it is a cancer that eats up common sense. We move from a certainty in Christ...who transforms us to serve Him in the world.


  • Scripture: James 4

    1.  Passionate lusts lead to internal and external conflicts. May kill literally and spiritually.

    Societies and individuals want what they do not have. Some willing to kill to get their way. Coveting addressed early in the Bible. Wars come when nations covet. Individual passions create fights deep within us and can lead to spiritual death.

    2.  The ultimate battle is between love for the world or love for God.

    “Adulterers do you not know that friendship with the world makes you an enemy of God.” God will not tolerate unfaithfulness. Lusting passions have no power in the face of crisis or pain. Love for the world is doom, God is our help in crisis.

    3.  The solution to spiritual warfare is to return to God’s grace.

    “Submit yourselves therefore to God, resist the devil and he will flee from you. Draw near to God and He will draw near to you.” Loving the world and God is double-mindedness, need to repent. Everything in Scripture says, “God yearns jealously for us.” Don’t be defeated by evil. God is zealous for us to mature. 

    4.  Need to relearn two words from ancient church: Deo Valente: God willing.

    If the Lord wills we shall. Arrogant to assume we are in control. Life is a mist...short. Nothing wrong in wanting to live a long life. We should give thanks for yesterday and hope for tomorrow. Saying  I will live my mist fully for God -- Deo Valente. “Over to you Lord,” Reynolds Price said. 




  • Putting Our Faith to Work

    Scripture: Acts 17

    Dr. Dan Foster:    I consider Acts 17 one of the great chapters of The New Testament because of its emphasis on evangelism.  This chapter is very instructive for those of us who have to consider evangelism consistently.  

    Point one: Paul is the single most important person in bringing Jesus to the world.  Robin Griffin James, in The Gospel According to Saint Paul, subtitles his book “The Creative Genius Who Brought Jesus to the World.”  Paul took three long missionary journeys.  It is highly likely that, if Paul had not taken these very long journeys, the Christian faith would have been limited to Jerusalem and Israel.  The Christian faith would have been very small and probably not lasting.  So Paul is the primary evangelist of the early church.

      It is clear that evangelism is part of the charge to all Christians.  When Jesus sent out the non-ordained disciples, he told them they were to pronounce to all the villages where they went: 

    (1) That the kingdom of God is near (that is the evangelistic function, the evangelism of words).   (2) That they were to heal the sick (that is the ministry of love and mercy to all sicknesses – spiritual or physical).  So, evangelism and works of mercy and love are the unchangeable hallmarks of the Christian faith.  When there is a defect in one or the other, in the Church or in individual lives, then the defect has to be corrected.  If there is a defect in either the proclamation of the word or the evangelism of mercy, it is a death signal to individual churches and to the Church universal.  

      Paul’s evangelism was primarily an evangelism of the word because that is what his charge was.  You could also say he had an evangelism of the body.  He was lashed, he was jailed, he was starved and shipwrecked.  He had an evangelism of cost.  Anybody who looks at the life of Paul and then looks at one’s own life is hugely embarrassed at how little willing we are to pay the cost of evangelism relative to the great evangelist Paul.  But, primarily his was an evangelism of word.  

      I want to talk about the two episodes of evangelism of the word that are contained in this chapter and they are different.  One of the things I am going to say at the end is that we have to use wisdom about the techniques that we use in evangelism.  Point two: The evangelism to the Jews involved bringing a profound addendum to the First Covenant – the addendum of Jesus as the Christ.  Now, Paul’s modus operandi was always to go to the synagogue in the towns he visited.  That was the case here in Thessalonica.  The Jews in the synod are already in an act of faith.  They are in a First Covenant.   There does not have to be any explanation about the fact that there is a Bible, for example, or that there is scripture.  Paul goes to the synagogue and  he wants to expand and modify and complete the faith that is already there.  Luke says that Paul argued in Thessalonica from the scripture, “explaining and proving that it was necessary for the Christ to suffer and to rise from the dead and saying that Jesus, whom I proclaim to you, is the Christ.”  Now, when one looks at Paul’s letters and sermons, there are two central themes: One is the cross and the other is the new creature in Christ – the new being.  So it is highly likely that when he talks about Jesus suffering here, he was addressing the issues of the cross in his sermon.  Theodore Ferris said something vey interesting about the cross.  He said, first, that “the cross does something for us.  What the cross does is bring the grace that allows the forgiveness for our sins.”  It is the mechanism of redemption of our sins.  Ferris says, “The cross also does something to us and what it does is to call us to serve God, at cost, in gratitude for the fact that He has made us free and made it possible for us to live, in God’s terms, a very great life.”  Thirdly, Ferris says, “The cross does something through us.  Because of the cross and the people who follow, the cross has prompted the building of universities and hospitals, the establishment of thousands of charities, the administrations of millions and millions of acts of mercy and millions and millions of salvations.”  It is through the people of the cross that many things have happened.  So in this particular form of evangelism, which is a common evangelism that would occur in a country that knows something about Biblical faith, then the evangelism is usually to improve, to modify and to complete the faith.  That is what Paul was trying to do with the Jews.  We will see later his very great concern about why the Jews rejected the cross and Christ.  

      I want to say one other thing before leaving this event.  When Paul’s Christian converts were hauled before the city council of Thessalonica, the council said, “These Christians are the people who are turning the world upside down.  Moreover, they are against Caesar because they are saying Jesus is king.”  What I want to say is that it is a good thing, at least now and again, for the Church and for individual churches to upset the communities where they are and to turn things upside down.  Most churches are sort of anonymous.  But sometimes we are called on to upset things.

    Point three:  Evangelism differs, depending on the setting.  It is different in this synagogue than it is before the Areopagus in Athens.  True evangelists have to be flexible and wise about their evangelism.  In the synagogue there already existed faith and it only needed modification.  In Berea the Jews were nobler than those in Thessalonica, “For they received the word with all eagerness, examining the scriptures daily to see if they were so.”  They were open to having a modification of the First Covenant faith and they checked it out in the Bible.  So they were people who were already in faith and presumably, because they were open to the word, had their faith grow.  They didn’t have to learn a new language.  They didn’t have to have the Bible defined.  But that was not true in Athens.  At the time Paul was there, Athens was the seat of cultural and intellectual greatness in the world.  There were two dominant philosophies in the city.  These were the philosophical schools of Epicurean and stoic philosophies.  These are not religions.  The Epicurean view is a devotion to pleasure and tranquility, free of pain and superstitious fears and anxiety about death.  Stoicism focused on living harmoniously with nature, man’s natural rational thought and man’s self-sufficiency.  Paul realized this was a tough audience because it is one thing to speak about faith to people who have a need for faith and have a partial faith and it is another thing to speak to intellectuals who have no need for God.  Evangelism works most effectively when somebody is searching, has a need.  Paul recognized that he could not turn to prophecy or scripture.  He could not quote from a book they had never heard of – the Bible.  So, while in the synagogue he spoke to specific theology; in Athens he decided to speak from the standpoint of general theology.  He also decided he was going to make friends with them.  With resistant people it is good to not attack, but to try to frame some sense that we are together about something.  One can say to somebody who is hostile, “Well, you know, everyone has some kind of a faith.  I have one, you have one; maybe we can chat about faith.  Did you ever get a sense when you were looking at the stars that there might be something else out there?”  Perhaps their faith is science or maybe it is money, but you want to try to identify with the person to whom you want to bring the evangelism of the word.  That is what Paul did.  He said, “I perceive that you are very religious because I saw all the idols and then I saw an inscription to the god you call ‘unknown.’  I want to tell you about this God that you call unknown and I am going to proclaim to you what He is like.”  He then told them eleven things about God:

    1. God created the Earth and everything in it.  He is the Lord of Heaven and Earth.
    2. God does not live in shrines or temples built by humans.
    3. He does not need anything from human hands.
    4. He is the source of human life, giving humans breath and everything else.
    5. He not only created all human life, He placed them around the world, and allotted periods and boundaries of their habitation.
    6. He induced in humans the desire to seek God and hoped that they might find Him.
    7. He is not far away, for in Him we live and move and have our being.
    8. We are God’s offspring.
    9. The Deity is not like gold, or silver, or stone or art.   (God is not reflected by idols.)
    10. The times of ignorance, God overlooked; (If a person lives their whole life ignorant of the revelations of God, God overlooks that.  One is forgiven for ignorance.)                                                                                                                  but now calls everyone, everywhere to repent. 
    11. He has fixed a day on which He will judge the world in righteousness by a man He has appointed and given assurance by raising him from the dead.  

      Paul gave a great sermon to the rulers and intellectuals of Athens, but it wasn’t very successful.  When they heard about the resurrection of the dead, some mocked, some said they would like to hear more about this, and there were a few believers.  The Athens sermon has received wide criticism from commentators, particularly from fundamentalists.  Their argument is that Paul was too careful not to offend the intellectuals, that he didn’t have the courage to bring the whole Gospel.  He spoke about being in God, but not about being in Christ.  He appealed to Greek poets, but not to Biblical grace and redemption.  He talked about world history, but not about salvation history.  He mentioned resurrection, but not the cross.  Then, the argument is that most intellectuals are not going to be persuaded by reason; that usually conversion occurs with an emotional response to something one has seen or heard.  So what critics say is that Paul should have just preached the Gospel bluntly.  That is an approach we see today in fundamental evangelism – you know, “If you die tonight, will you go to hell?”  I don’t agree with this assessment because all conversions occur, not because of the messenger, but because of the presence of God to an open heart.  So, if there is a failure, it is because of a failure of the person who has heard the message not to open their heart.  Paul shouldn’t be blamed for this.  I have a lot of experience with witness to intellectuals and I have never seen one that was convinced by Biblical proof-text.  So you must take a different approach.  Conversion is not always instantaneous or quick.  I have had witnesses to intellectuals going on for years.  Now, that does not mean that you never need to be blunt or hurried.  I have also had a number of occasions where there was not time for anything except the briefest Gospel.  There are lots of rapid conversions in events like Billy Graham crusades, but that is where the general knowledge of the Bible is already known – it is the synagogue model.  You have to choose wisely how to approach people in different situations.

       In summary, Acts 17 is a great chapter for three reasons:

    It emphasizes to all of us that we are called to be evangelists, hopefully, evangelists of both word and deed.  You don’t have to eloquent to be an evangelist of the word, just be trustworthy.  If you are too shy to talk, then focus on the ministries of mercy and let those be a description of your evangelism.  Without evangelism of the word, the Church dies.  

    It emphasizes wisdom in evangelism.  I love the comparison of the synagogue model to the Athens model.  What that says is that Christians should be wise as they seek to be evangelists.  

    Then, if someone asks, “What is the God like that you worship?” A terrific thing to share is Paul’s description of the God who is unknown – those eleven points cover almost all serious theology except for the more specific addition of Jesus as the Christ.

    Here is a paragraph from Plato which is applicable in all sorts of places.  I have used it in talking to young physicians about the need to always be a life student:  

    “Some things I have said, of which I am not altogether confident.  But that we shall 

    be better, and braver, and less helpless if we think we ought to inquire than we should 

    have been if we indulged in the idle fancy that there was no knowledge and no use of seeking  to know what we do not know.  That is a theme I am ready to fight in word 

    and deed to the utmost of my power.”  

    Plato understood that humans, at the highest level, want to know,  they want to inquire.  That is why we come to church school.  We are continually inquiring about a deeper knowledge and understanding of the faith.  Plato says if you  think there is nothing new to learn, he is going to fight you on that. Plato would have loved the few in Athens that said they wanted to hear more about Paul’s message.   

    Let us pray:  Heavenly Father, we thank you for Luke’s story of the missionary journey.  Implant it in our hearts in such a way that we will wish to take our place at the end of the long line of those who are evangelistic in the best sense – evangelistic in proclaiming the word of the Gospel and salvation, and evangelistic in practicing mercy and love as a tool of evangelism as well.  Help us to recognize, Father, that anything in love that we do is a tool of evangelism and help us to do the things that we do best.  We ask you to bless our church and the Church universal, to be with us as we seek to be faithful in all that we do.  In Christ’s name we ask this prayer.  Amen. 

  • Scripture: Acts 6

    1.  The church is a body with different duties and multiple responsibilities. 

    Early church is growing, some widows neglected, Apostles busy with preaching and evangelism so have disciples elect 7 wise and Spirit-filled to take on daily duties. Greek diakonia - distribution of food and diakoneo - waiting on tables. Today deacons, younger leaders with daily responsibilities who then move to session/governing body. Church a Spiritual matrix holding all members.  Different gifts and duties, but all important functions for God.

    2.  Stephen is the model of the solitary believer in the church.

    Single believers set themselves apart from unbelievers, say I commit myself to this Christ. In early church confessions were often prelude to martydom. Stephen was full of grace and power, but died for faith. Said Lord receive my spirit and forgive those who kill me.  Most of us just called to give time and money. Best congregations live “I believe” lives joyfully taking on God’s duties.

    3.  Ideally the faith should not be steady state. There should be “leaps” in being.

    “Leaps in being” reactions that move in and out of steady state. Ruptures occur when Christ interferes in our lives. Change is sanctification, moving forward growing into maturity and faith...more Christ-like. Need to take leaps like Abraham, Apostles, Paul and Stephen. Start waiting tables then move to giving more.  Jesus model life - carpenter, taught locally, healed, described Father, died on cross and became Savior of the world. We all are called to be like Christ.


  • Scripture: Matthew 16:13-23

    1.  A crucial question in and outside the church is who we think Jesus is.

    Son of man is His favorite title, used over 80 times in scripture. His name is inescapable. Thought to be a prophet. Peter was right “You are the Messiah, the Son of God.” Jesus made sense out of the madness of an evil world. 

    2.  One cannot make full confession that Jesus is the Christ without divine revelation.

    Faith requires a flash of revelation, won’t come through reason alone. Procedure of intellect, emotion and consideration. The Spirit can witness in sermons or lessons, acts of mercy, joy or dripping tears.

    3.  The protestant view is that Peter’s confession is the foundation of the church.  Catholics believe that Peter as pope is the foundation.

    View only in Matthew, not Luke or Mark. James was the head of the early church and foundation of was Jesus, not Peter. Jesus demands a yes or no decision from each of us.

    4. The final role for the church is to defeat evil and the powers of death.

    “Going to build my church and the powers of evil and death will not prevail.” High calling for us evil and death fighters. Christ promises success.

    5. The duty of Christians is to focus on divine things, not human things.

    The Son of God is the source of grace, the ground of hope and worthy of prayer, adoration and confession. Follow him!


  • Scripture: Daniel 7:1-3; 9-18

    Hope 1: There is an Ancient of Days, the God who is God.

    Secular world is very interested in end times.  What is it like after the end of the world? Night is the time when hope is most needed. Four beasts devour humans, destructive evil are “four kings who will rise out of the earth.” Internal or external, evil is the problem and God is the solution. Calm figure of the Ancient of Days, sitting in purity and control, judges creation and creatures. God is not intimidated by beasts or humans. He alone is the answer.

    Hope 2: There is a Messiah, Savior, the Christ

    Son is given dominion and glory so that everyone in the world will worship Him and his kingdom. Revelatory event written even though writer did not understand what he was writing. In the Christ event we see a crucial element -- love, along with power, judging and intervening. Jesus gives us the power to conquer our own beasts. He makes it possible to defeat difficult sins and forgives them. Son of God fulfills and clarifies Daniels vision.

    Hope 3: The saints have an eternal destination, the kingdom of God.

    Saints will out last all enemies of God and possess kingdom forever.  About heaven or destination. Hope we must cling to desperately.  Have to be ready. Losses are not permanent.  Christians are the true revolutionaries, working for justice and truth, who expect a better world.  Hope for no more mourning, crying and pain. We say I have come home.  I have found what I was looking for all my life.  Heaven is not the end of our story but the first chapter and every other one is better than the one before.


  • Scripture: Luke 2:1-20

    1.  There is a huge difference between transient power and eternal power. 

    A decree from transient power Caesar Augustus, the most powerful man in the world. At the same time a baby was being born in a manger. Today Caesar is a footnote while baby is called King by millions. Mistake to think temporal power is better than eternal power. Baby wins.

    2.  God used shepherds to break the anonymity of the Child to the world.

    Parable about how God thinks and calls us. Angel appeared to shepherds, I bring you good news, the Savior is born. Working class people get message first. God gives joyful news of Salvation. God always gives directions to Christ. You don’t have to guess. Christians are map givers while sermons and deeds are map signs. Once you get the directions you have to go. If you don’t you miss the blessing. Angels cheered God!

    3.  The crowded inn is a parable for the human soul.

    We have finite space in our lifetime. Christ appears with a special call and there are no vacancies. We need to examine our rooms: family, job, charities, or pleasures. Good thing to save a guest room for God. Be ready when a special request comes.

    4.  After ecstasy with God you have to go back home -- different.

    Standing outside you get a different view of God and self  Sing great hymns, ecstatic events of worship at Church, but you have to go back to work on Monday. Shepherds went back to the fields. 



  • October 21st, 2007  Scripture: Luke 18


    Buddy Jordan:

    "That's position there for a reason or Patty interrupting me. On a serious note though, if you'll turn with me to Luke 18 and we'll get started because it's a long, it's the entire chapter. "And he told them a parable to the effect that they ought always to pray and not lose heart. He said, 'In a certain city there was judge who need to fear God nor regarded men and there was a widow in that city who kept coming to him and saying, 'Vindicate me against my adversary. For while he refused but afterward he said to himself, 'Though I need to fear God nor regard men, yet because this widow bothers me, I will vindicate her or she will wear me out by her continual coming.' And the Lord said, 'Hear what the unrighteous judge says and will not God vindicate his elect who cried to him day and night? Will he delight long over them? I tell you he will vindicate them speedily."

    "Nevertheless, when the Son of man comes, will he find faith on earth?' He also told his parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous and despised others. Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other tax collector. The Pharisee stood and thus prayed with himself, 'God, I thank thee that I am not like other men; extortioners, unjust, adulterers or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week. I give tithes of all that I get.' But the tax collector standing far off would not even lift up his eyes to heaven but beat his breast saying, 'God, be merciful to me a sinner.' I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled. But he who humbles himself will be exalted."

    "Now, they were bringing even infants to him that he might touch them, and when the disciples saw it, they rebuked them. But Jesus called them to him saying, 'Let the children come to me and do not hinder them for to such belongs the kingdom of God. Truly I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it.' And the ruler asked him, 'Good teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?' And Jesus said to him, 'Why do you call me good? No one is good but God alone. You know the commandments; 'Do not commit adultery. Do not kill. Do not steal. Do not bear false witness. Honor your father and mother.' He said, 'All this I have observed from my youth.' When Jesus heard it, he said to him, 'One thing you still lack. Sell all that you have and distribute to the poor and you will have treasure in heaven and come, follow me."

    "When he heard this, he became sad for he was very rich. Jesus looked at him and he said, 'How hard it is for those who have riches to enter the kingdom of God. For it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.' Those who heard it said, 'Then who can be saved?' But he said, 'What is impossible with men is possible with God.' Peter said, 'Lo, we have left our homes and followed you.' And he said to them, 'Truly I say to you, there is no man who has left house or wife or brothers or parents or children for the sake of the kingdom of God, who will not receive manifold more in this time and in the age to come eternal life.' And taking the twelve, he said to them, 'Behold, we're going up to Jerusalem and everything that is written of the Son of man by the prophets will be accomplished. For he will be delivered to the Gentiles and will be mocked and shamefully treated and spit upon. They will scourge him and kill him and on the third day, he will rise."

    "But they understood none of these things. This thing was hid from them and they did not grasp what was said. As he drew near to Jericho, a blind man was sitting by the roadside begging. And hearing a multitude going by, he inquired with this men. They told him, 'Jesus of Nazareth is passing by.' And he cried, 'Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me.' And those who were in front rebuked him, telling him to be silent. But he cried out all the more, 'Son of David, have mercy on me.' And Jesus stopped and commanded him to be brought to him. And when he came near, he asked him, 'What do you want me to do for you?' He said, 'Lord, let me receive my sight.' And Jesus said to him, 'Receive your sight, your faith has made you well.' And immediately, he received his sight and followed him, glorifying God. And all the people when they saw it gave praise to God." The Word of the Lord."

    Class: "Praise God."

    Dr. Dan Foster

    "I said at the beginning of this series that I was not going to pick the most popular chapters when we talk about great chapters from the New Testament. It would certainly be true that 18 Luke is not in most people's repertoire of being one of the great chapters but in fact, it is. I'm going to make six points from it. I think it's extraordinarily important for the faith. Just because of time, I'll skip over a few things. The third prediction of the passion, I'm not going to cover nor the promise to the disciples that they will have eternal life. I should warn you that this lesson is not going to be like probably like any commentary, most of the commentaries that you read. I still want to do it this way. The first thing that the lesson says is that disciples ought always to pray and not lose heart."

    "The first parable here is almost certainly due to the fact that Jesus is aware of the period of martyrdom that is going to come to the church. In the 16th chapter of John for example, he's already told them that they're going to be killed. He has seen the death of John the baptizer. He knew that he was beheaded. In the chapter before this in 17, he's talked about the end of the time when he would come again. His mind is on the fact that there will be great martyrdom and deaths of the church. Then it's against that background that he says "disciples ought to always pray and not lose heart." He begins with a parable which has no religious intent at all. It's about a secular judge who is not religious and does not respect humans. He's troubled by a widow. He keeps coming back to try and get justice. Finally, he says, "Just to get rid of her, I'm going to give her what she needs."

    "There's no religious illustration here at all. Jesus simply wants to pose the question about continual prayer and what that does mean religiously. The judge by the way is not a symbol or a model of God. He's just as he oftentimes does in parables talks about situations that people would understand from real life. He then trades this and turns it in to talk about God and says, "God will vindicate his people who cried to him day and night. Will he delay long over them? I tell you, he will vindicate them speedily." What does that mean? It certainly does not mean rescue or prevention of death for the martyrs. The statement does not apply primarily to our desire for rescue in trouble. It's not going to be that. It has to mean something else because all of us know that we frequently pray. We're told that we're to pray for and ask anything we want and yet people get killed in wars and they die from cancer. The martyrs, as I say, will all go down to death."

    "He must be talking about something else and I think that is correct, when he talks about this rapid vindication, something that comes quickly. I think what he is saying here is that what will be unequivocally and quickly given to you is the sense of the presence of God in your life. What he will give rapidly in the midst of difficulty is his presence, his transcendental presence in the life which gives courage and hope if not rescued. Ralph Harper and his wonderful little book on presence which he capitalizes says, "Presence is central to one trying to find and exit from boundary situations." That's a phrase that comes from Carl Barth that the serious questions are in boundary situations. The most serious boundary that we face is the boundary of impending death. Harper says, "Presence is central to one capitalized presence."

    "God is central to one trying to find an exit from boundary situations. Boundaries are the threshold of mysteries. None of us know in detail what life after death is like. It's a mystery there, where they're hints, we have clues to it. Boundary situations are at the border of mysteries, things that we don't fully understand. God the presence of being itself is the point of intersection between timelessness and time. The presence of God sits at the intersection between that which is timeless and that which is real time. He is at that intersection of all boundary situations. He is at the boundary between fear and courage. He is at the boundary between faith and sin. The presence is the symbol of God's participation in the lives of his followers. He says as "pray ceaselessly and do not lose heart."

    "The demand for us to do that is a connectional demand. When you are in a boundary situation, the one hope is to feel connected to the God who is God. I came across one comment that [Heidi Grath 00:12:55] think said at one time. He said, "At the very deepest of what I am is God." This parable is about that. What's absolutely fascinating to me, he's anticipating the time of the martyrs and they are about to begin is that when one looks at the records of their death, they never pray for rescue. They only pray that they can praise God in their death. It's very fascinating. If you look at all the records that have been put together, that going through what Jesus is predicting, they do not pray for rescue. A classic example when perhaps the best known and I know that I have read portions of this before is the great prayer of Polycarp of Smyrna in the arena. I'm going to shorten it for a time."

    "He says, "Oh Lord, omnipotent God. I bless you because you have taught me worthy of this day and this hour. To have a share amongst the number of martyrs in the cup of your Christ. May I be received this day among men before your face as a rich and acceptable sacrifice. Hence, I praise you and I bless you and I glorify you above all things through that eternal and celestial high priest Jesus Christ your beloved child, to whom glory to you with him and the Holy Spirit, now and forever in the world to come." Of course, we are also instructed to pray for rescue. I do not mean to imply that the emphasis here of connection and not rescue means that we should not pray from delivery, from the difficulties that we are in. Those are not promised to be fulfilled. The connectional presence of God is promised in answer to every prayer."

    "The first thing that comes from 18 is that we are to pray without ceasing and not to lose heart. The second thing that I want to say is that a profound question is whether faith will survive on earth. A yes answer is dependent on us. Having just assured the disciples that God would vindicate them speededly, Jesus then asked the most poignant question of his entire life on earth. Having said that God will hear the prayers of his people and rapidly vindicate them by coming, he asked the question, "When the Son of Man comes,' using his favorite title, 'will he find faith on the earth?" A very poignant question. Nevertheless, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth? I want to ask you today, is it possible that that will be true? Is it possible that at the Perusia the end of the world, the coming of Christ, there will be no faith or little faith in the world?"

    "Most religious people if you ask them that would say, "That's impossible. God is God and he would not allow that to happen." That's a misinterpretation of the structure of the universe at least as biblically provided. In the structure of human life according to Scripture, God has made humans in his image. As we noted when we were studying in Genesis, that meant that humans were free to choose about everything in life. God interacts with humans. He makes demands on them. He gives them great hope and reward and in the end, this turns out to be invitational. He commands us and blesses us and asks us to serve Him but it's invitational. Given the freedom to choose, one can say no to God. We see that all the time. It is possible to choose on faith instead of faith. Therefore theoretically, it is possible that faith in the world will disappear and be gone at Perusia. It is entirely possible. There were examples, illustrate to these examples."

    "At the time of Noah, faith had disappeared. In Sodom and Gomorrah, faith had disappeared. There is much in the world today that suggest faith. At least in the developed world, fading away. It is possible that there maybe no faith but it would be awful if that were true. One commentator said that if every memory of Christ were expunged from the world and every gift of Christ destroyed, the world would be worse than a morgue. If every memory of Christ was expunged from the world, if every gift of Christ like love was destroyed, the earth would become worst than a morgue. A yes answer to the question that there will be faith at the end when the Son of Man comes is dependent on the followers, is dependent on the disciples. It is dependent on those who serve Him because they pass the faith on. As people always say it's a generation away from disappearing. This is a very profound thought to me that salvation in the world, that faith in the world, the great gift of God is saved, will be saved by disciples. That's a very profound thing. We have no control."

    "Salvation come from God. It's his gift. It is his gift to the entire world, salvation is. To save it, to save salvation requires yes [sayers 00:21:39] to God in the faith. That's a very profound thought that salvation of salvation depends on the followers who continue to say yes. The third thing that I want to say is may sound strange. The danger of merit in any discipline including religious faith has the appearance of arrogance and pride. The danger of any merit is it renders the person of merit to have a sense of arrogance and pride about self. In the next discussion, there is a comparison between a religious person of merit and a person of no merit religiously speaking. There are variety of ways to look at human society. One of the ways is as a meritocracy, not widely held but by many great scholars as a desirable form of society."

    "The guiding principle of [meritritions 00:23:14] is the statement of the great English sociologist [inaudible 00:23:19] who said, "All humans are deserving of respect but not all humans are deserving of praise." In a meritocracy, there are persons who are deserving of praise. They are judged by the peers as being good or even the best in the world. There's a danger in merit as I've said. That danger is the arrogance and pride that comes from being recognized by peers and others as having merit. What it oftentimes results in is a looking down on those of lesser or no merit. Jesus detested arrogance and pride and hence this parable. The parable indicates that the pharisee is a man of religious merit. He follows the faith beyond what the faith demands. He fast twice a week, not once. He tithes everything."

    "Another passage in Matthew talked about the pharisee's tithing even the herbs that they grow, not just their money. He was a man of religious merit. Because he recognize himself as a man of merit, he thanks God that he is better than others, not just extortioners or the unjust or adulterers but also the tax collector who would not raise his eyes to heaven and beat his chest because he was so aware of his sin and asked God to be merciful to him. "Be merciful to me, God, a sinner." Jesus says that the tax collector was justified and the man of religious merit was not. He had cancelled his merit because of pride and looking down on those of lesser faith. One of the most important things that has to be recognized... I fairly often give a talk to honor students at medical schools who are being elected to honor societies."

    "I oftentimes start by talking about merit and then I warn of arrogance and pride. Most of what sets a person up for merit is out of their control. One may have high intelligence but one had no choice of one's genes. One maybe thankful if one is rich for the fact that one was lucky enough to be born in a developed world, developed country rather than in Bangladesh or Sub-Saharan Africa. The gift of religious faith oftentimes comes because one is lucky enough to have been born into a family of faith, where one learns at an early age about God and faith. Or that one has been gifted with knowing other people of faith or has heard of preacher of great promise or was lucky enough to go to a Billy Graham Crusade sometime. Almost everything that allows merit to occur is gifted. Now this is not to say that people of merit do not work."

    "You can have an intellect that's out of this world but you still have to study. That's true about faith too. The merit of faith develops because of work. As oftentimes I tell the students, one can take a quiet sense of pride that one used one's gifts to improve them but never arrogant. One understands that there are less gifted people because they did not have the gifts to start with. Jesus was intent on saying that humility was a very important thing in the Christian life. That's the third point why he use the... It was not that the Pharisee was not merited in his religious faith, it converted him into an arrogant and uncaring person who felt he was better than other people."

    "The fourth thing that the chapter says is that to be a disciple, one must be childlike but not childish. Reading was as follows, "Now they were bringing even infants to him that he might touch them." Just in passing and people have turned to this passage and others like it to justify infant baptism. For example, since he's seeing infants who have no moral choice and so forth and he's touching them and receiving them people, I'm not taking this view at all. I mean, baptism is a symbol for infants but I'm saying that this passage has been used by those who feel that it's acceptable to dedicate a child by baptism. He was seeing infants and the disciples saw it and they rebuked him."

    "Jesus called them to him the children saying, "Let the children come to me and do not hinder them for to such belong the kingdom of God. Truly I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it." Jesus thought the children were very important to take care of but also illustrate of the kind of people that he wanted in the faith. Now, I want to defend the disciples here. I don't think they were being mean. They've been hearing Jesus talk about all these serious things, the end of the world, about the martyrdom that's coming. They saw children as being trivial compared to the importance of this eternal thing. He said, "Look, let don't bother the Master here." He didn't think children were trivial and so he pulls then into his arms. He says, "Listen, this is a way you must be if you're going to be inherit the kingdom."

    "Children are trusting and dependent. In general, things are working well. They trust their parents and love ones and are dependent on it and know they're dependent on it, well, as with God. Children ask serious questions. I've quoted several times over the years here, Peter Medawar, the late Nobel Laureate who said that, "The only serious questions are the questions children ask." Is there a God, mommy? Where did we come from, daddy? Children ask serious questions. Jesus thinks we ought to ask serious questions. I post one earlier today, will there be faith at the end of the world? That's a serious question and they asked serious questions. Children are loving and respond to love which is what God wants from us, and finally, in their youth at least they're innocent. They have not devoted themselves to sin or evil. Jesus wanted his disciples and us to be like that, trusting and dependent on God, open to serious questions, innocent of major sin and loving God who is Father and all the siblings who are the neighbors."

    "Childlike but not childish. The fifth point I want to make is this, that the issue with Jesus, his issue with humans is not what we are but what we are not. Great is expected of us. The importance of the story of the rich man has to do with them. There is no question that is important, just covered in all three of the synoptic Gospels with little differences; he was young or he was a ruler and so forth. The same question and the same event is described. This ruler or this young man was a good man. He was a very good man. He was asking a serious question, "Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?" Jesus says, "You know the commandments." He lists six of them in Psalm 5 and the others. The young men said, "I've kept them since my youth.""

    "Mark says that Jesus loved him. He loved him because he was a good man who had kept the commandments since his youth. He was a good man as Jesus saw but Jesus also saw that he could be better. Jesus is not interested in what we are, he's interested in what we are not. He saw what this young man was not. He was not a person who was using his wealth and substance for the kingdom of God. Jesus thought that he could be better than he was. He never lets us be satisfied with what we are. He could be great. That's a phrase from Carl Barth. He says, "Christ calls us to be great." Not in sociological terms but in terms of the faith. He tells that the young man in essence, "You can be great. You're good not but you can be great. What I want you to do is to sell your wealth." He didn't say, "You can earn wealth again." He's just saying, "Use your wealth now and take care of the poor." He always looks to see what we can be and not what we are."

    "Now, it's interesting at the start of this he calls him good teacher. Jesus says to him, "Why do you call me good? There's only one who is good and that's God." Most of the commentators think that what he's saying is because he's been called good, that he's trying to say that he is also God, that he is also God. I wanted to find goodness in a different way. I said this in a speech last Friday night actually. I think it fits in with what I'm saying here. I'd said that I would define goodness not as a difference between good and evil in a moral sense. I defined goodness in God's sense as wanting to make things better, that we want to make things better for the poor. We want to make things better for the faithless. We want to make things better in every aspect of life. That's what Jesus was doing with the rich, young man. He was good to him because he wanted to make him better."

    "That's what the church is about, making things better. He couldn't do it, at least at the time. We don't know what happened that and he left feeling very sad. His staff kept him from being great, his staff did. That's not just the sadness, as Luke says it's a tragedy. It's not just a sadness, it is a tragedy to stop where one is when God calls us to greatness. The last thing I want to say from the chapter is that the fundamental duty of the church is to restore sight to the spiritually blind. These last verses are very beautiful. A blind beggar sitting by the road and a crowd is coming by and he says, "What's going on here?" Somebody says, "Maybe a disciple. Jesus of Nazareth is passing by." The beggar begins to cry out and says, "Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me." The crowd told him to be silent but he cried again, "Son of David, have mercy on me," and Jesus stopped."

    "I think that's a great statement. Jesus is a Savior who stops. He stops wherever there is a need and the blind man had a terrific need. He says, "What do you want me to do for you?" He switches from Son of David, he says, "Lord, let me receive my sight." Jesus said, "Receive your sight. Your faith has made you well." Immediately, he received his sight and followed him, glorifying God. All the people when they saw it gave praise to God. When the church is faithful, what it does, day after day, month after month, year after year, century after century says Jesus of Nazareth is passing by. Every act of mercy, every kindness, every verbal or other witness says, "Jesus of Nazareth is passing by.""

    "The aim of the church in saying that is that the person who hears this and is still spiritually blind will come to faith. The language of the church in a single sentence is that Jesus of Nazareth still passes by to the ones who have said yes to him. Every act of mercy as I say gives an eternal vision to the spiritually blind. One of the sadness is that sometimes the church is led it's language become trivial and is forgotten what it's core language is, that the Savior of the world is passing by. In summary, what this very powerful chapter says, we ought to always pray and not lose heart and aim in praying is to have the transcendental presence in our hearts and minds to give us courage and hope. That the salvation of salvation to put it that way is in our hands. If we are faithful in the message that I have just said, if there are in the world people who keep the faith, who says yes to God, there will be faith no matter how long the world last."

    "Thirdly, arrogance and pride are anathema to God. Charles, I said something about having an okay lesson last week and Charles can't bless his heart. He sent me an email and says, "Yeah, it's okay. You know me." The point is, the reason I say something like that is that there should be absolutely no sense of pride or arrogance when one is just trying to do what one's doing, one understands that it's not anything worthy of arrogance or pride. Thirdly, we're called to be children in the faith that is open, trusting, loving towards God. Fifthly, Christ is primarily interested not in what we are but what we're not, are the reverse of phraseology what we can be. Lastly, the language of the church or should be is that Jesus of Nazareth is passing by to give sight to the spiritually blind. It's a very powerful chapter."

    "I'm going to close, I read a good bit of Barth last night and very early this morning. He had a statement in the letter to the Romans that I thought was really good. In the sense of Jesus of Nazareth passing by, he said that, "There's a great truth." He says, you know, he says, "The Gospel is the question mark against all truth." That's not what I'm going to say but I remember that too. He said that, "The Gospel is the question mark against all truths, particularly all philosophies and faith." He said, "Here's a great truth, that the world is incapable of redemption." It's incapable of redemption, but there is redemption in the world through Christ. The world is incapable of saving itself. Look around us today. The world is incapable of redemption but there's redemption in the world."

    "Let's pray. Heavenly Father, we thank you for the reading today. We thank you for the great promises that are contained in it and the great lessons that you would have us see. We ask today, Father, very simply that you would make us better about saying yes to you and that we would have a vision of greatness in the faith with whatever talents we have. We ask that for the church universal. We ask that for our local church here because Father, we think it would be an awful tragedy for Christ to have been expunged from the world. We pledged ourselves like the martyrs of ancient times to invest our lives to see that this does not occur. Give us strength, in that we pray through Christ our Lord, Amen."


  • Scripture: Luke 4:31-37; 20:1-8

    1.  All recognized that Jesus spoke with authority and authenticity.

    Jesus was always teaching. Officer of Pharisees “no man ever spoke like this man.” He did not claim delegated authority. The prophets always began “The Lord said...” Jesus said “I say to you...All the people where spellbound (hung on) by His words.”  We should attempt to be authentic and authoritative.

    2.  Jesus is in the business of removing demons, evil spirits.

    All people have demons or sin and Jesus is in the business of removing sin. Rescue only happens if one wants to be delivered. Christ can cure you of all demons or sins.  Once you make the leap you must accept the gifts. Arrogant and render Christ’s death on the cross useless if we can’t accept forgiveness.

    3.  A good technique for witnessing is asking questions.

    Jesus was wise He ask questions instead of arguing or browbeat someone. We can do the same. “Are you happy with your life?” Are you ever afraid?” I am and share your personal feelings or experience.

    4. Followers of Christ are to cast out demons.

    If He is in the business of saving humans, we should be to. Paul Tillich said, “Rejoice that you have been called to the vocation of redeeming and rescuing humans from sin and helping renew relationship with God.” Rejoice that your sins are forgiven and pray to be a hopeful beacon of rescue for others.


  • Scripture: John 13: 1-20

    Buddy Jordan taught in Dr Foster’s absence.

    Last Supper

    1. Jesus’ love knows no limits and His central aim is for us to understand so we can believe.

    He gave many signs but still no total belief. Knowing He was going to God He could have been arrogant or proud but chose to love. 

    2. Love is service.

    Was slave’s position to wash the feet. Jesus shows true service in an ordinary event. The foot washing represents washing for repentance for recurring sin (our initial baptism was cleansing once for all).

    3. Jesus uses evil acts to open his followers’ eyes. 

    Foretelling of betrayal may have been the hardest thing up till this point for them to believe. Jesus wanted to ensure the disciples’ eventual belief so he uses this foreknowledge so they will look back some day and know. Jesus could have been bitter but chose love.

    4. Jesus wants us to be armed with fidelity when we go out into world to bring others into the flock. 

    We stand for him so Jesus wants us to know for an absolute certainty that He is who He says He is (using the foreknowledge of betrayal and foot washing). Jesus uses ordinary events (sharing bread and foot washing at a meal) to teach extraordinary lessons.


    The sine qua non of the Christian faith is that Jesus is the Christ.

    Matthew 16:13-28

    Scripture read carefully interprets itself.  The Spirit reveals outward Word through inner confirmation.  Peter's confession that "Jesus is the Christ the Son of the Living God" is in all three gospels.  Peter did not come by that answer through reason but revelation by the Holy Spirit.  Doesn't mean we can't think about God's Word or ask questions.  It would be silly not to continue to seek once we have discovered the greatest truth in the world. Seeking (study) leads to answers. Central truth that Jesus is the anointed one.


    2. The "firsts" of Peter is his confession (revelation) not his authority.

    Two high views of Peter: traditional disciple with timeless insight or the first papal leader as Catholics believe.  Peter was the first called by Jesus although his brother Andrew brought him to Christ. Bible is clear that James was the head of the Church at Jerusalem and had command function over John, Paul and Peter or sent them out to witness. Great figure in Christian history but not any higher than others.


    3. The church is the instrument of Christ's salvation. It holds the keys to heaven. 

    Church has defensive power, but all the translations are looking for a way to describe terribleness of being with out God. Hades, hell, death, Sheol, watery abyss, etc. Translate as death because of mans fear of death. The Church properly understood is protected from darkness, sin and death. Clear that they keys to heaven are in Christ's hands.  He frees believers from these fears. When Church is faithful in proclamation; it opens doors to seeker. If Church is fake, seekers turn away. Be faithful to God in all that you do.


    4. Salvation cost Jesus his earthly life after great suffering on the cross. 

    Jesus immediately (in all three Gospels) begins to show the disciples what he will suffer. Can't fast with the bridegroom here. No sign except story of Jonah three days in belly of fish.  Peter goes from Rock to stumbling block.  Typical problem of Church, our ideas are better than God's. We must seek to do God's will through prayer then action.


    5. Discipleship is about two crosses and two lives. 

    All Gospel teachings are followed with demands.  "What will one give for one's life?" Earthly life and eternal life second dependent on the first. Two crosses belief in first and taking action in the second. Jesus expects us to have a cross life showing mercy and love at cost. We have the chance to become players in salvation history.  Kingdom of God is close when we serve Him.



  • Scripture: Ephesians 1:1-14

    Special thanks to Mike Foster for teaching the lesson.

    I.  Mystery of Salvation.

    Paul talks about how we are suppose to live. Early in the Church there is still hostility between Jews and Gentiles and followers of different disciples.  

    II.  Exhortation.

    Paul wants them (and us) to know how to live.

    A. Unity of the Spirit.

    One Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God, Father of all, over all and connected through the Holy Spirit. We come to unity through Christ. When we put our diverse gifts together we can accomplish anything.

    B. New life in Christ. 

    We must give up our old life. No more lies, speak truth, never let sun set on anger, guard against false talk, do good to listeners, avoid spitefulness, be friends, be kind, forgive one another...try to imitate God.  

    C. Morals of the home (relationships).

    Husbands love your wives, sacrifice to make her holy, the two become one body, joined together. When divorce occurs it tears the two apart and the terrible pain of it makes people act badly. They must get through the pain to the other side before things get better.

    D. Spiritual war (against sin).

    Paul recognizes internal struggle. If there are times when you feel bad, sad, guilty, that is not weakness, but sign of a true Christian...God in you. We are blessed by God. Saints with gifts try to live life in Christ’s light and discover what God wants for them. Love sacrificially. Rely on God to protect and depend on the Holy Spirit for support.

  • Scripture: Philippians 2:1-11; 4:4-9

    1.  Self effacement, humility, is required of Christians. 

    Having the same mind in full accord means doing nothing in selfishness. Christians should be modest people working together to further God’s kingdom. Paul doesn’t want us to get caught up in petty arguments or pride, it interferes with God’s business.

    2.  The mind of the Christian as far as possible should be the mind of Christ.

    Paul turns to the model -- Jesus. Kenosis who empty Himself to become human. Dedicate your mind to God.  Take on the form of a servant like Christ.  “Became obedient unto death, even death on a cross. Every knee shall bow and every tongue confess” one day.  Can ignore Christ in life but not in death. Don’t mess with Christ!  

    3.  The operative life style of Christian begins with joy and ends in peace.

    “Rejoice in the Lord always, again rejoice,” Paul declared from jail. He speaks to joyful faith in difficult times. We rejoice because we know God, let our gentleness be known to everyone. Lord is near, have no anxiety. Sometimes it is hard. When we are anxious we should pray with thanksgiving. Peace with God keeps heart and mind.

    4.  There are merit badges in the Christian walk.

    Be true, just, honorable, lovely, pure like Christ, graceful and elegant. If lovely, not ugly, someone might think we are a Christian! From Melville’s Moby Dick “be a patriot to heaven and eternal delight will be his who says I have striven to be thine.”


  • Scripture: Daniel 3:10-25; 29-30

    1. Hubris (unlimited pride) has been a human problem since the Fall. Nebuchadiezzar’s gold statue is a classic example.

    Even though Daniel’s friends have been given high positions, when a golden statue is created and all told to worship it, the three confessors refuse so are thrown into the fiery furnace. Anre Noren Catholic scholar says, take the Holy scriptures and read for contemplation and meditation when your heart is open the Spirit will reveal God in the story.  We get caught up to much in little issues, parable or literal truth and miss the power of God’s message for living. The eternal is involved in the text so let the Spirit master you instead of the mastering the text. Consequence of hubris is aggressive hautiness, arrogance with expectation of privilege and power. Began in the garden and still a danger today. Who will be God? Will we choose self or God.

    2. In the arena of faith one must consider the cost. How much can I prepare to give to God?

    Advance decision needs to be made before crisis arises or challenge faced.  Three friends of Daniel made a decision early on that under any circumstances they would serve God. First test of diet was fairly easy. Second is a death sentence. Who is the God you will serve? “If our God delivers us fine, if not, we still will not worship your golden statues.” They had to decided to die for faith. Must also decide cost of lesser things. How often will you publically worship? How much time will you give to mercy or justice?  How much money? Will I witness to Christ when the opportunity arises. Response to ordinary the same as deep. Can’t be said, but must be a lived defense.

    3. Lives lived bravely in crisis by the faithful can reveal God even to unbelievers.

    One of the beautiful symbols is the fourth figure in the fire. The inivisible God always becomes visible to His followers in crisis. Crisis with God is very different from crisis without God. Our companion is the God who is our hope. Nebeccanezzer also saw God in the young men’s triumph. Fourth appeared like the Son of God. Afterwards the King blessed the God who delivered them. For a period of time, the king and people saw the greatness of God because of the followers. The idol disappears from the story. Life is a whole journey back to the one who loves us...God. Daniel not present in story. Strong testiment that God uses followers as well as leaders for His work. We in God’s view are equal to heroes of faith. Different gifts with different effect, but all with great potential to be used. We should examine again our commitment to God and ask should it be more?


  • Scripture: Exodus 25:17; Isaiah 58:3; Matthew 19:13 and 1 Peter 1:3-9

    1.  Mercy begins with God. Initial worship was at the mercy seat of the ark.

    Hebrew “kapor” meaning to cover over -- atonement. God said, “I will meet with you...speak with you.” From very beginning...mercy is what God is. Constitutive, always on, constant.

    2.  Human mercy is derived from divine mercy. Its absence blocks a valid relationship with God.

    Humans can choose, mercy on or off. Isaiah says, “you seek your own pleasure and oppress your workers...fasting like this will not get your voice heard on high.” You want to worship God, feed hungry, bring poor in, clothe naked. Do this and God will be your rear-guard. Heaven doesn’t need money. “I desire mercy and not sacrifice.” 

    3.  Rewards of God’s mercy have a different vision, new feelings and a willingness to act.

    Seeing God’s vision brings new emotions: compassion, desire to do good, express unmerited love. When we see and feel, we ACT. Acts of mercy can be big or small. Everyone of us is called to be a steward of mercy on God’s behalf.

    4.  To love human beings is the only true sign one is a Christian.

    Soren Kierkegaard asks, “What is all this that would hinder you from loving?” What excuses. “To love human beings is the only thing worth living for...Truly a profession of faith is not enough.” Like for like. When we practice mercy, we receive mercy. In time and eternity, God expects us to manage His mercy business.