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A Jesus Who Welcomes Outcasts
Luke 14:1-35
Sermon Discussion

-What is a unique talent or interest that you have?
-What was one of your favorite clubs or groups that you have ever been a part of? Why?

I. The Feast
-Jesus shares a parable about being invited to a wedding feast. His exhortation is not to seek out the places of honor, but to let others be honored before you.
-How do you tend to exalt yourself above others?
-How do we see our culture seeking to exalt certain races, classes, or categories of people in society?
-How can we as Christians honor, and exalt, those who are the outcast in society and in our church?
-What is the end goal of raising up others and seeking to exalt the downcast at the feast in the parable?

II. The Invitation
-Jesus proceeds to share another parable, similar to the one before, about a man who was inviting people to his wedding feast. The ones who declined were the ones of high social and political standing. The ones who were brought into the feast to share in the master's joy were the outcasts and marginalized. What does this tell us about the nature of God?
-Was there ever a time when you felt like an outcast or on the margins of a social group? What did that feel like?
-How do you tend to keep undesirable people out of your life? Why?
-How can the church be a place where the outcast, the socially marginalized groups of people find a home and find a place at the table of God's people?
-How can you be a person who is welcoming toward outsiders and the marginalized?
-Who are the crippled, the lame, the blind and poor of our city? Where do they live? How can we help?

III. The Cost
-Jesus finishes this text with the warning to count the cost of following Him. He spent two parables describing the glory of being with Him and eating at His wedding feast in heaven, not He wants His disciples to be aware that there will be a cost to following Him in this world? What is that cost?
-Was there ever a time when you worked on a project and underestimated how much it would cost to complete? What was that like?
-Have you ever felt the cost of following Jesus in this world? If not, why not? What might that say about your faith?
-Why is Jesus so much better than the world? Why is it worth following Him despite the cost?

IV. Pray for one another!

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A Jesus Who Points The Way
Sermon Discussion


We pick up this week in the middle of Luke 13. Duane read the story of Jesus teaching, and healing the people in a synagogue. Using this time in His ministry to point people to the way.

How we find our way in somewhere unfamiliar tends to be the same whether we're trying to find someplace in a new part of town or trying to reach a new landmark in our lives.

What kind of person are you? Are you an ask for directions kind of person, or an "I'll figure it out myself" type of person?


We see in the passage that Jesus took all this time to come down to earth, to meet us and give us directions. Because Jesus knows the way we need to go.

Let's read the passage and discuss:

[Luke 13:10-35 ESV]
10Now he was teaching in one of the synagogues on the Sabbath. 11 And behold, there was a woman who had had a disabling spirit for eighteen years. She was bent over and could not fully straighten herself. 12 When Jesus saw her, he called her over and said to her, “Woman, you are freed from your disability.” 13 And he laid his hands on her, and immediately she was made straight, and she glorified God. 14 But the ruler of the synagogue, indignant because Jesus had healed on the Sabbath, said to the people, “There are six days in which work ought to be done. Come on those days and be healed, and not on the Sabbath day.” 15 Then the Lord answered him, “You hypocrites! Does not each of you on the Sabbath untie his ox or his donkey from the manger and lead it away to water it? 16 And ought not this woman, a daughter of Abraham whom Satan bound for eighteen years, be loosed from this bond on the Sabbath day?” 17 As he said these things, all his adversaries were put to shame, and all the people rejoiced at all the glorious things that were done by him.

18He said therefore, “What is the kingdom of God like? And to what shall I compare it? 19It is like a grain of mustard seed that a man took and sowed in his garden, and it grew and became a tree, and the birds of the air made nests in its branches.”

20 And again he said, “To what shall I compare the kingdom of God? 21 It is like leaven that a woman took and hid in three measures of flour, until it was all leavened.”

22 He went on his way through towns and villages, teaching and journeying toward Jerusalem. 23 And someone said to him, “Lord, will those who are saved be few?” And he said to them, 24 “Strive to enter through the narrow door. For many, I tell you, will seek to enter and will not be able. 25 When once the master of the house has risen and shut the door, and you begin to stand outside and to knock at the door, saying, ‘Lord, open to us,’ then he will answer you, ‘I do not know where you come from.’ 26 Then you will begin to say, ‘We ate and drank in your presence, and you taught in our streets.’ 27 But he will say, ‘I tell you, I do not know where you come from. Depart from me, all you workers of evil!’ 28 In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth, when you see Abraham and Isaac and Jacob and all the prophets in the kingdom of God but you yourselves cast out. 29 And people will come from east and west, and from north and south, and recline at table in the kingdom of God. 30 And behold, some are last who will be first, and some are first who will be last.”

31At that very hour some Pharisees came and said to him, “Get away from here, for Herod wants to kill you.” 32 And he said to them, “Go and tell that fox, ‘Behold, I cast out demons and perform cures today and tomorrow, and the third day I finish my course. 33 Nevertheless, I must go on my way today and tomorrow and the day following, for it cannot be that a prophet should perish away from Jerusalem.’ 34 O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing! 35 Behold, your house is forsaken. And I tell you, you will not see me until you say, ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!

Duane taught about Jesus coming down and pointing us towards 3 things in this passage. Jesus points the way...

To Healing
To Growth
To Safety

TO HEALING (v 10-17)
As Jesus is teaching on the Sabbath He sees a crippled woman in the crowd, calls her over and heals her. This enrages the religious leaders of the day.

What can we learn about Jesus by seeing how He handles the crippled lady here?

What can we learn about Jesus by seeing how he handled the Pharisees here?


Duane pointed us to Luke 6:5 where we're told Jesus came to make the crooked things straight. Not just physically as in the story by spiritually also.

What are some crooked things in your story that you've seen Jesus make straight?

What are the crooked things that happened in your story that you have need to hand to Jesus?


TO GROWTH [v 18-21]

Jesus goes on in His teaching and points the way to growing. He tells some stories to illustrate growth, about a small mustard seed that becomes a great tree, and a small piece of leaven that affects a much greater piece of dough

Why do you think Jesus is sharing these stories with these people?

Duane went on to explain that God is inviting us to grow, and while we often think that it has to be dramatic and quickly, both of these examples illustrate that the growth can start small, stay steady, and over time the growth will be dramatic. Duane brought up 2 Corinthians 3:18 which says we “are being transformed…from one degree of glory to another.”

What are some small things you are doing that have created growth in your life?
What are some things you could be more steady about doing to continue your growth?


TO SAFETY [v 22-35]

Jesus goes on in the story to field a couple questions and tells the people that the way to heaven and safety is narrow and those who go through it will be agonizing to get there.

What do you think Jesus had in mind in v24 that we must "strive" to enter the narrow door?

He goes on to answer that He knows he will be killed, He's actually come to die, so that they can be safe, and He longs to be their safety and protector.

What do we learn about our relationship with Jesus in the word picture from v34 of Him as "the Hen" and us as "the brood"

What does a safe place look like for you physically?
What does a safe place look like for you relationally/emotionally?

How does Jesus make us safe?

PRAY

Thank God for being our all knowing Father who directs us to healing, to growth, and to safety. Pray for wisdom as we explore where He is healing and growing us. Pray that we would be turning to Jesus for safety, and enjoying His comfort.

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Learn To Be Loved
Rich Plass & James Cofield

When addressing the topic of awakening for the purpose of living aware that becomes foundational for in-depth change it would be easy to overlook the obvious. We awaken through love. The tendencies of our heart is to live from a posture of defensiveness. We are self-protective. The ego’s default is to be reactive. We either fight, freeze or flee. None of these options move us any deeper into transformation.  

We have often stated that the first movement of Christian spirituality is to learn to be loved. Learning to be loved is the reenactment of the first stage of childhood in which we learned to trust because we knew we were loved. God comes to us and in Christ declares we are loved by him. His love seeks for us not to fight, freeze or flee but to live openheartedly before him. He longs for us to welcome him, to receive him. William Blake said it long ago,

And we are put on earth with a little space,

That we might learn to bear the beams of love.

The security of God’s love will open our hearts. His love saves us, holds us and preserves us. He won’t forsake us. His love is not dependent on what we discover within ourselves or in our relationships. His love is not dependent on our level of awareness or the goodness of our behavior. His love is a faithful and everlasting love.

Love is the power that changes the human soul. Most of us believe this but only trust this truth minimally. Perhaps this is why deep change of the soul is slow and takes time. We are learning to trust that we are truly loved just as we are. We know love fosters change. We can see it when we express love in our ordinary relationships and watch the results. Most people respond to being loved with a willingness to be more than what they are. Perhaps nothing gets in the way of our being deeply transformed than our resistance to being deeply loved.  

Our defenses are stubborn and ornery. God’s invitation stands daily that we receive being loved from the Father, Son and Spirit. We rest in God’s love and in his love we are transformed. We live bearing the beams of God’s love. Change is anchored in the love of our Trinitarian God.

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The Gospel According To Luke
“A Jesus Who Gives Warning”
Luke 12:35-13:9
I. The Divine Responsibility (v.35-48)
II. The Divine Rescuer (v.49-59)
III. The Divine Ruling (v.1-9)

Opening Question: What is the biggest warning your parents or someone you trust ever gave you. Did you heed it?

[This is a long passage and lot to take in despite similarities in the message that Jesus is conveying. You might consider breaking it into sections to talk more specifically. There are questions following each natural break. You don’t have to spend a lot of time on the section questions, but get some general ideas of what’s occurring before moving on]

Luke 12:35-49
35 “Stay dressed for action and keep your lamps burning, 36 and be like men who are
waiting for their master to come home from the wedding feast, so that they may open
the door to him at once when he comes and knocks. 37 Blessed are those
servants whom the master finds awake when he comes. Truly, I say to you, he will dress
himself for service and have them recline at table, and he will come and serve them.
38 If he comes in the second watch, or in the third, and finds them awake, blessed are
those servants! 39 But know this, that if the master of the house had known at what
hour the thief was coming, he would not have left his house to be broken into. 40 You
also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.”
41 Peter said, “Lord, are you telling this parable for us or for all?” 42 And the Lord said,
“Who then is the faithful and wise manager, whom his master will set over his
household, to give them their portion of food at the proper time? 43 Blessed is that
servant whom his master will find so doing when he comes. 44 Truly, I say to you, he
will set him over all his possessions. 45 But if that servant says to himself, ‘My master is
delayed in coming,’ and begins to beat the male and female servants, and to eat and
drink and get drunk, 46 the master of that servant will come on a day when he does
not expect him and at an hour he does not know, and will cut him in pieces and put
him with the unfaithful. 47 And that servant who knew his master's will but did not get
ready or act according to his will, will receive a severe beating. 48 But the one who did
not know, and did what deserved a beating, will receive a light beating. Everyone to
whom much was given, of him much will be required, and from him to whom they
entrusted much, they will demand the more.

Questions about this section:
What stands out?
What seems to be Jesus’ tone here?
What is the answer to Peter’s question?
Is there a central message that stands out? [we have a divine responsibility before God]
Why does God give us rules and responsibilities as believers? [To show us our need for Jesus! Because they show us more about God and how to love Him]

Luke 12:49-59
49 “I came to cast fire on the earth, and would that it were already kindled! 50 I have a
baptism to be baptized with, and how great is my distress until it is accomplished!
51 Do you think that I have come to give peace on earth? No, I tell you, but rather
division. 52 For from now on in one house there will be five divided, three against two
and two against three. 53 They will be divided, father against son and son against
father, mother against daughter and daughter against mother, mother-in-law against
her daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against mother-in-law.”

54 He also said to the crowds, “When you see a cloud rising in the west, you say at
once, ‘A shower is coming.’ And so it happens. 55 And when you see the south wind
blowing, you say, ‘There will be scorching heat,’ and it happens. 56 You hypocrites! You
know how to interpret the appearance of earth and sky, but why do you not know
how to interpret the present time?
57 “And why do you not judge for yourselves what is right? 58 As you go with your
accuser before the magistrate, make an effort to settle with him on the way, lest he
drag you to the judge, and the judge hand you over to the officer, and the officer put
you in prison. 59 I tell you, you will never get out until you have paid the very last
Penny.”
Questions about this section:
What stands out?
What seems to be Jesus’ tone here?
What is the central message of this section? [Jesus comes as the true servant of God, faithful, wise, working hard, standing up for justice for all kinds of people, poor people, sick people,abused people, racially oppressed people...Jesus comes and is the only human being not to fail and instead to fulfill the divine responsibility we all have before God but then offers His life up on cross, baptized in blood as if He were the worst failure of all so that His blood might cover all the sins of His people and pay the debt we owe and the punishment we deserve to God. Jesus was extremely passionate about doing that. The cross was His mission.]
One reason people didn’t recognize Jesus as Messiah is that they were looking for more of a political leader, or majestic king. In what ways do people misidentify Jesus today?

Luke 13:1-9
In the following section, Jesus answers some questions and talks about some local stories and a fig tree, which is really representative of the nation of Israel:
1 There were some present at that very time who told him about the Galileans
whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. 2 And he answered them, “Do
you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans, because
they suffered in this way? 3 No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise
perish. 4 Or those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them: do you
think that they were worse offenders than all the others who lived in Jerusalem? 5 No, I
tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.”
6 And he told this parable: “A man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard, and he came
seeking fruit on it and found none. 7 And he said to the vinedresser, ‘Look, for three
years now I have come seeking fruit on this fig tree, and I find none. Cut it down. Why
should it use up the ground?’ 8 And he answered him, ‘Sir, let it alone this year also,
until I dig around it and put on manure. 9 Then if it should bear fruit next year, well and
good; but if not, you can cut it down.’”
Questions about this section:
What stands out?
What seems to be Jesus’ tone here?
What is the central message of this section?
Application Questions:
As we think about the passage as a whole, is there a central message or theme that Jesus seems to expose? [Jesus isn’t being mean, but actually a loving, caring, and grace filled rescuer- warning to us to trust that Christ is who He says]
What does this passage tell us about the state of our hearts? [We’ve been unfaithful servants, we have tendencies to abuse or mistreat others for selfish gain, sinners who fall far short of what God requires. We deserve judgment and we need Jesus.]
What does this passage reveal to us about Jesus and His character?
Why is hard for us to serve God & others?
What’s one step you can take this week to help you become the servant God calls you to be?

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Running Scared
Edward T. Welch

Think of the entire Bible as the unfolding story of God’s revelation about himself. As such, “Do not be afraid” says something about him even before it speaks to us.

At first, it could sound like God is the exalted King firing off edicts from his heavenly throne. He is the Lord; his word is final. When he speaks, he speaks with authority. We don’t necessarily like being bossed around, but we begrudgingly acknowledge that if anyone has the right to issue commands, the God who created us has that right.

But there are two different ways of saying, “Don’t be afraid.” one is as an edict to be obeyed, in which case it is a peculiar edict. It sounds like the King actually cares about us. He isn’t ordering us to make bricks without straw. Instead, it sounds as if he wants his people to know peace. So, even when seen as an authoritative command, this reveals something lovely about God. Unlike other kings, at least those who have despotic authority, God knows the concerns of those in his realm and commands things that are in their best interest. That is the most severe way to understand “Do not be afraid.”

Here is the other way: “[Jesus said] ‘Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father, has been pleased to give you the kingdom’” (Luke 12:32). It echoes the way God spoke to Israel hundreds of years before: “‘Do not be afraid, O worm Jacob, O little Israel, for I myself will help you,’ declares the LORD, your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel” (Isa. 41:14). No one inserts “little flock” into an inviolable command. No king talks about being “pleased” to give anything, let alone the kingdom itself, to his subjects. Jesus is invoking kingly imagery, indeed. But the one who sits on the throne is the Father, and that changes everything. He is your Father.

I would do anything for my daughters and sons-in-law within the bounds of wisdom and love. I would sacrifice (and have) time, money, and anything else necessary for their welfare. And I am just an ordinary, somewhat selfish father. If there is anything good in my fathering, it is because I mirror something of my good Father. 

He is the King. Now consider that the Father is also the King. “Your Father has been delighted to give you the kingdom.” As Father, God comes close to you. He knows your needs and you take comfort in his love. As King, he sovereignly reigns over his kingdom, and his bidding will come to pass. You take comfort in his power. If he is going to speak effectively to your fears, he must be both loving and strong, and indeed he is.

He is generous. “Your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom.” Fathers can give begrudgingly and kings can give simply because they made an oath, but God gives out of his pleasure and delight.

Sound too good to be true? Please understand that when God speaks in ways that are completely contrary to our expectations, then we have encountered something genuine. No one could invent a god who, in response to rebellion, is so generous that he gives his entire kingdom. Since this is too good to be true, it must be true.

Excerpt from Running Scared by Edward T. Welch

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Theology of Hope
Jurgen Moltmann

 

'Christianity' has its essence and its goal not in itself and not in its own existence, but lives from something and exists for something which reaches far beyond itself. If we would grasp the secret of its existence and its modes of behavior, we must inquire into its mission. If we would fathom its essence, then we must inquire into that future on which it sets its hopes and expectations. If Christianity in the new social conditions has itself lost its bearings and become uncertain, then it must once again consider why it exists and what is its aim. 

It is generally recognized today that the New Testament regards the Church as the 'community of eschatological salvation', and accordingly speaks of the gathering in and sending out of the community in terms of a horizon of eschatological expectation. The risen Christ calls, sends, justifies and sanctifies men, and in so doing gathers, calls and sends them into his eschatological future for the world. The risen Lord is always the Lord expected by the Church - the Lord, moreover, expected by the Church for the world and not merely for itself. Hence the Christian community does not live from itself and for itself, but from the sovereignty of the risen Lord and for the coming sovereignty of him who has conquered death and is bringing life, righteousness and the kingdom of God.

This eschatological orientation is seen in everything from which and for which the Church lives. 

excerpt from Theology of  Hope by Jurgen Moltmann

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All Things New
Sermon Discussion

For our first sermon of 2018 Duane hopped over to Revelation 21 to share some thoughts about this verse that had been on his heart for much of 2017 and provides great vision as we start a new year.

As we ended 2017 and began this new year, what do you find yourself most looking forward to in 2018?

Let's read the passage:


Revelation 21:1-8
1 Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. 2 And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. 3 And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. 4 He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”


5 And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” Also he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.” 6 And he said to me, “It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. To the thirsty I will give from the spring of the water of life without payment. 7 The one who conquers will have this heritage, and I will be his God and he will be my son. 8 But as for the cowardly, the faithless, the detestable, as for murderers, the sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars, their portion will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death.”


Was there any ideas, phrases or pictures in that passage that really jumped out to you?

The passage from very end of the Bible makes the promise that God in the future will make all things new. Duane had 3 things he wanted to address with this passage:

God Things
Broken Things
New Things

GOD THINGS

We first took a step back to acknowledge that all things are created and ruled over by God. And God has a mind blowing sovereignty over the world. He created it all, is not subject to time, and is not subject to the death and decay that ruin lives and things here on earth. The idea of anything becoming "new" again is absolutely impossible without God's help.

Why do you think we as humans want "new" things?

What is God promising here? Just new material possessions?

Duane pointed out that the "New" we need isn't a happening or a circumstance, it's a quality of life which we receive when we know that God is King over all?

What's an example of a happening or circumstance that you may be putting your hope in right now?
How does that knowing that God is King make things "new"?


BROKEN THINGS

God is going to make all things new, not just because they've gotten old and outdated, but because we've broken them with our sin. We now have to deal with tears, death, mourning and pain. Things that were not part of the world when announced it as "good." Broken things that affect everyone.


Psalm 147:3 and Isaiah 63:1-3 paint a picture of God as one who binds up wounds and verse 3 and 4 in our passage say that He comes down from His throne to wipe away our tears.

What do we learn about our relationship with God from these descriptions?

God is making all things new and He tells us here in His word so that we will look forward to it. In Phillipians 3:13-14 the Apostle Paul tells us “One thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead. I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus"

Why do you think we're told to stop looking back?

What are some things you have behind you that you can't stop looking back at?

NEW THINGS

Duane then went on to explain what it means to make things new. That God isn't offering to make new things for us, but to make all things new. Physical things for sure, but also relational things. In verse 3 and 6 of the passage we see God dwelling with us and satisfying our thirst.


What kind of thirst do you think the passage is talking about?

God promises us the thirsty that He will take care of that without any payment, we just need to go to him. Pastor Duane ended with a verse from Romans 6:4 “Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life.”

As we seek to have a future orientation, where we look ahead, what are some things you look forward to being made new?

PRAY

Pray with your group that we would be able to confess and bring God our broken things and look forward to the new things He has promised us.

 

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REGISTER HERE for LEADERSHIP DEVELOPMENT!


We have two time slots:
• Tuesday Mornings [w/Deacon JC Agajanian] from 6:30-8:00am beginning February 6.
• Sunday Evenings [w/Pastor Duane Smets] from 5:00-6:30pm beginning February 11.

In this cohort, we will read and discuss material related to sexual identity, male and female roles, parenting, and discipleship. Each week a different student leads a discussion on what we read and how it is playing out in the processes and work of our head, heart, and hands.

Schedule

The God of Sex: How Spirituality Defines Your Sexuality by Peter Jones
Week 1 - Ch. 6-7

Masculine Mandate: God’s Calling To Men by Richard Philips
Week 2 - Ch. 1-5
Week 3 - Ch. 6-13

The Accidental Feminist: Restoring Our Delight In God’s Good Design by Courtney Reissig
Week 4 - Ch. 1-3
Week 5 - Ch. 4-7

Shepherding A Child’s Heart by Ted Tripp
Week 6 - Ch. 1-6
Week 7 - Ch. 7-13

Following The Master: A Biblical Theology of Discipleship by Michael Wilkins
Week 8 - Ch.1-5
Week 9 - Ch. 6-8, 17-18

Summary, Debrief, and Future Planning
Week 10
___________________

What is Leadership Development?

We are a growing church that heavily emphasizes discipleship, especially in developing leaders. In Luke 10:2, Jesus says. “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few.” There is much work to do and we're looking for  good men and women. If you think you may have a calling from God to serve as a leader in the church some way, please consider applying for this round of Leadership Development.

Leadership Development Structure

Leadership Development is offered twice a year, once in the Spring and once in the Fall.   There are four course cohorts.  Each course meets every week for a 10 week segment. Thus, the entire curriculum will take a total of two years.

Once all four segments are completed, a third year of apprenticeship under an Elder or Deacon begins in order to work toward ordination and oral examination.

  • Leadership Development groups are no more than 12 people.
  • Groups will be overseen by a facilitator who has been through all four segments.
  • Each meeting will be led by a rotating member of the group who presents the material read and guides a discussion concerning it.
  • All those in leadership development must either be leading something in the church or being trained to lead in the future. 

 

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The Holiness of God

Here is an excerpt from The Holiness of God by the recently deceased, RC Sproul. Here, he talks about the utter holiness of God and the hope that the Jews longed for and the promise that we, as Christians, have; to see God face to face in his full glory.


 

Men are not allowed to see the face of God. The Scriptures warn that no man can see God and live. We remember Moses' request when he ascended into the holy mountain of God. Moses had been an eyewitness of astonishing miracles. He had heard the voice of God speaking to him out of the burning bush. He had witnessed the river Nile turn into blood. He had tasted manna from heaven and gazed upon the pillar of fire. He had seen the chariots of Pharoah inundated by the waves of the Red Sea. Still, he was not satisfied. He wanted more. He craved the ultimate spiritual experience. He inquired of the Lord on the mountain, "let me see your face. Show me your glory." The request was denied. 

And the Lord said, "I will cause all my goodness to pass in front of you, and I will proclaim my name, the Lord, in your presence. I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion. But," he said, "you cannot see my face, for no one may see my face and live." Then the Lord said, "There is a place near me where you may stand on a rock. When my glory passes by, I will put you in a cleft in the rock and cover you with my hand until I have passed by. Then I will remove my hand and you will see my back, but my face must not be seen." (Exodus 33:19-23, NIV)

When God told Moses that he could see HIs back, the literal reading of the text can be translated "hindquarters but never His face. When Moses returned from the mount, his face was shining. The people were terrified, and they shrunk away from him in horror. Moses' face was too dazzling for them to look upon. So Moses put a veil over his face so the people could approach him. this experience of terror was directed at the face of a man who had come so close to God that he was reflecting God's glory. This was a reflection of the glory from the back of God, not the refulgent glory of His face. If people are terrified by the sight of the reflected glory of the back parts of God, how can anyone stand to gaze directly into his holy face?

Yet the final goal of every Christian is to be allowed to see what was denied to Moses. We want to see Him face to face. We want to bask in the radiant glory of HIs divine countenance. It was the hope of every Jew, a hope instilled in the most famous and beloved benediction of Israel:

The LORD bless thee and keep thee: The LORD make his face shine upon thee, and be gracious unto thee: The LORD lift up his countenance upon thee and give thee peace. (Numbers 6:24-26)

This hope, crystallized in the benediction of Israel, becomes more than a hope for the Christian- it becomes a promise. St. John tells in his first letter:

Now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. (1 John 3:2)

Here is the promise of God: We shall see Him as He is. Theologians call this future expectation Beatific Vision. We will see God as He is. This means that someday we will God face to face. We will not see the reflected glory of a burning bush or a pillar of cloud. We will see Him as He is, as He is in His pure divine essence.

Right now it is impossible for us to see God in His pure essence.  Before that can ever happen we must be purified. When Jesus taught the Beatitudes, He promised only a distinct group the vision of God: "Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God." None of us in this world is pure in heart. It is our impurity that prevents us from seeing God. The problem is not with our eyes; it is with our hearts. Only after we are purified and totally sanctified in heaven will we have the capacity to gaze upon Him face to face. 

 

 

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Light From Light
Gerald O'Collins & Mary Ann Meyers

As we continue exploring the theme of light in scripture this Advent season, here is an excerpt from Light From Light by O'Collins and Meyers about the intersection of science and theology concerning physical and spiritual significance of light.


 

In biblical imagery "light" comes across as thoroughly interconnected with "glory," or the splendor/radiance of the divine presence. One can describe "glory" (kabod) as the light streaming from God and thus as the glory that makes its home in the Temple (Ps. 26:8). Hence the psalmist yearns to gaze on God in the sanctuary and see the divine power and glory (Ps. 63:2). The "glory of the Lord" visibly manifests and expresses the divine presence, the  overwhelming power, and majesty that settles on Mt. Sinai (Exod. 24:16), appears at the Tent of Meeting (Num. 14:10; 16:19), fills the tabernacle (Exod. 40:34-35), and eventually permeates the Temple built by Solomon (1 Kings 8:10-13). "Glory," for all intents and purposes, designates the divine reality. 

Human beings, while they cannot see the deity as such, can perceive the glory that symbolizes God's presence. Moses is granted a fleeting glimpse of God's"glory" (Exod. 33:18-23). This visible divine glory serves as a kind of envelope for the unearthly bright light that, paradoxically, veils GOd's being. ONe of the New Testament's pastoral letters expresses this conviction: "God dwells in unapproachable light; him no one has ever seen or can ever see" (1 Tim. 6:16) A screen of light hides God, who is utterly holy and beyond human perception. God remains an invisible figure. "Light" articulates and symbolizes this divine otherness and holiness.