February 16, 2014

How Can I Have A Life Of Joy? (Readings Epiphany 6)

One of the things we are learning in the Alpha Course is the interest there is in practical teachings on Christianity. Each week we have a teaching on an important life question. After my teaching on Righteousness at Ascension last week my wife reminded me to explain why we try to live our lives in right-relationship with God. So let me begin by stating the reason is not to make people feel guilty for their sins, but to teach them how to identify, repent and confess their sins so they can be free of guilt and shame and live a life of Joy. In the Gospel Reading (Mt. 5.21-37) Jesus is continuing a sermon that began with the Beatitudes, challenged us to be like salt and light in our righteousness in keeping the Hebrew Law. This is an Epiphany Moment for many people who assume Jesus came to replace the Law of Moses. Last week (see www.spirituallieteaching.info) I explained how the Ten Commandments are tests of our love of God and our neighbour. This week we are focussing on Jesus teaching on Murder, Adultery and Oaths.

1. Murder in the heart
Most of us skip over this command – we have never murdered anyone. But we forget Jesus is almost always talking about the spiritual dimension. As Jesus teaches, if you have been angry you have committed murder in the heart and need to repent.

·         If you do not repent and confess, your anger turns to guilt and shame that remains like pollution in your soul.

·         This pollution poisons your soul, prevents having a life of joy

·         Gossip for example can murder a reputation – Bible Study example of ‘why I did not attend services in the Cathedral’ (I was leading worship in a sister church)

 2. Adultery in the heart
Turn on your TV and you are often watching “soft” pornography disguised as soaps, drama or action movies. Jesus is giving us a deep teaching about temptation and how our hearts can be distracted from the love of God, neighour and self. Adultery is not just about sex. Adultery is about polluting something pure and holy.

February 8, 2014

Jesus Came to Fulfill – Not Abolish the Law (Readings Epiphany 5)

It is quite amazing how many people seem surprised when you remind them that Jesus was a Jew. We all know this - but we seem to forget it - along with most of the Old Testament. We can become too narrowly focussed on a “me and Jesus” form of Christianity. During my two years as an Elder in a Messianic Jewish congregation I saw the other side of this as Jesus was seamlessly added to ancient Hebrew worship practice. In the Healing Ministry we are now going back to teachings on the “Ancient Paths” to learn how to bless and pray for people who have separated themselves from God and opened themselves to spiritual attack and oppression. In the Readings, Jesus (Mt. 5.13-20) challenges us to be more righteous than the Pharisees and teaches of the Law if we want to enter the Kingdom of God.

1. Jesus expanded the Covenant of Moses
Messianic Jews are horrified at the ‘me and Jesus’ / ‘replacement’ Theology taught in some Christian churches, which suggests the New Testament has replaced the Old Testament and Christians have completely replaced Jews as God’s Chosen People. Jesus in fact came to fulfill not replace the Old Testament Law and Prophecy.

February 5, 2014

Love Connects Us to Each Other and God (Celebration of Life)

I may be the only person here who never knew Amanda so all I can do is offer some words of comfort as you struggle to understand the tragic death of a beautiful young mother. The Reading (Corinthians 4.4-18) is a letter written in the first Century to the Christian Community in Corinth, Greece. Like you they were struggling with the problem of evil – why would an all powerful loving God allow them to be persecuted and even killed for their faith? The Apostle Paul is trying to get them to see the long view - the unseen and eternal view. He uses the metaphor of “treasure in clay vessels’ to explain the gift of eternal spiritual life they have been given as Christians – and how their lives are connected by love to the life, death and resurrection life of Jesus. All the people who have actually seen a vision of heaven report it is so beautiful and so wonderful nobody would rather go back to Earth.

February 1, 2014

Jesus Saves Us from Spiritual Pollution and Death (Readings for Presentation of Jesus)

The Readings (Mica 3.1-4; Heb. 2.14-18; Luke 2.22-40) for the Celebration of Jesus Presentation in the Temple remind us of the holiness of God and the need for human purification. This was an Epiphany moment for Mary and Joseph who knew God was doing something special but did not know Jesus was the long expected Messiah or Saviour of Israel. The Readings explain how Jesus sacrificial death broke the power of Satan - sin guilt, from leading us to spiritual death.

1. Every firstborn male is to be consecrated to God (Ex. 13.2, 12)
Mary and Joseph were carrying out their responsibilities as parents living under the Covenant of Moses and the Hebrew Law. This was similar to the New Covenant responsibility of baptized parents to prepare and bring their children for Baptism. Israel was a Theocracy where God was the supreme ruler or king.

·         God was holy so the people needed to protect and maintain their personal holiness to be in relationship to God

·         Sin led to spiritual pollution that meant a person could not be in the Hebrew Covenant relationship with God

·         People naturally rebel, sin and separate themselves from God

·         People needed  a way to forgiveness and restored relationship

·         Hebrew Covenant provided forgiveness through animal sacrifices in the Temple by priests

·         Sacrifices required a lot of priests so firstborn males were to be dedicated to God for religious responsibilities in families

·         Reminder that many men in our time have never been taught or have abandoned their role as priests for their family

2. Epiphany Moment for Mary and Joseph - Jesus the Messiah
Mary and Joseph knew God was doing something special with their son. They were astonished to learn that Jesus was the long expected Messiah. (Notice the personal holiness of both prophets).