Thursday, September 20, 2012

Steadfast Thanks Hebrews 12:18-29

Mt. Sinai was the place of the publication of the old covenant and Mt. Zion was the proclamation of the new covenant of the gospel. Mt. Sinai and the old covenant represent dread and fear. But when you come to Mt. Zion, the place of the new covenant of the gospel, it represents joy and peace. Mt. Zion means that we can live in the presence of God and know him for ourselves.

Mt. Zion is a picture of the power of God over his creatures and the wrath of God against sinners. Mt. Sinai was the place to which God came to give the Law. But God did not remain there. Mt. Zion represents the gospel and God’s eternal dwelling.

Both Mt. Sinai and Mt. Zion say something to us concerning our relationship to God and the kingdom to which we belong. Mt. Sinai speaks of Israel as God’s covenant people. It is a picture of what God would do on Mt. Zion through Jesus Christ.

Mount Sinai—The Fear of the Law

For you have not come to a mountain that may be touched and to a blazing fire, and to darkness and gloom and whirlwind, and to the blast of a trumpet and the sound of words which sound was such that those who heard begged that no further word should he spoken to them. For they could not bear the command, "If even a beast touches the mountain, it will be stoned." And so terrible was the sight, that Moses said, "I am full of fear and trembling." (12:18-21)
The Old Covenant was associated with Mount Sinai because that is where God spoke to Moses when that covenant was instituted. It was a covenant of law, and it was also a covenant of judgment and of fear. It said, "Do this, or do not do that, or you will be judged." In some cases it said, "Do not do this, or you will die." That is not the place to which the New Covenant brings us. To that mountain you have not come.

The God of Sinai is truly a God to be feared, a God of judgment and of punishment. Sinai, representing the Old Covenant, was a mountain of fear and of judgment. The writer of Hebrews is saying to his readers, "If you go back to Judaism, you are going back to a covenant of law, fear, judgment, and death." Paul described it as "the ministry of death, in letters engraved on stones" (2 Cor. 3:7).

To stand at the foot of Sinai, even without touching it, is to stand under judgment and doom. It demands and it punishes. Since no man in himself can fulfill its demands, no man in himself can escape its punishment. At Sinai, sinful and unforgiven man stands before an infinitely holy and perfectly just God. Guilty, vile, and undeserving of forgiveness, he has nothing to expect from Sinai but God's condemnation. The symbols of Sinai are darkness, fire, trembling, and trumpets of judgment. For an unforgiven sinner, "It is a terrifying thing to fall into the hands of the living God" (Heb. 10:31). There is good reason to fear at the foot of Sinai.

Mount Zion—The Grace of the Gospel

But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to myriads of angels, to the general assembly and church of the first-born who are enrolled in heaven, and to God, the Judge of all, and to the spirits of righteous men made perfect, and to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood, which speaks better than the blood of Abel. (12:22-24)
The mountain of the New Covenant is Mount Zion, representing the heavenly Jerusalem. The opposite of Sinai, it is not touchable, but it is approachable. Sinai symbolizes law and Zion symbolizes grace. No man can be saved by the law, but any man can be saved by grace. The law confronts us with commandments, judgment, and condemnation. Grace presents us with forgiveness, atonement, and salvation.


Whereas Sinai was forbidding and terrifying, Zion is inviting and gracious Sinai is closed to all, because no one is able to please God on Sinai's terms—perfect fulfillment of the law. Zion is open to all, because Jesus Christ has met those terms and will stand in the place of anyone who will come to God through Him. Zion symbolizes the approachable God.

Sinai was covered by clouds and darkness; Zion is the city of light. "Out of Zion, the perfection of beauty, God has shone forth" (Ps. 50:2). Sinai stands for judgment and death; Zion for forgiveness and life, "for there the Lord commanded the blessing—life forever" (Ps. 133:3).

In coming to Mount Zion—that is, by becoming a Christian—we come to seven other blessings: the heavenly city; the general assembly; the church of the first-born; God, the Judge of all; the spirits of righteous men made perfect; to Jesus; and to the sprinkled blood.

For every man the choice is the same. Whether we are Jew or Gentile, to try to approach God by our works is to come to Sinai and to discover that our works fall short and cannot save us. Whether we are Jew or Gentile, to trust in the atoning blood of Jesus Christ is to come to Zion, where our heavenly High Priest will mediate for us and bring us to the Father, and where we find reconciliation, peace, and eternal life. And if you have truly come to Zion and received all its blessings, it is inconceivable that you would want to hold on to Sinai in any way.

In a day of Praise songs and Praise teams, I will sound very old and antiquated to say we used to sing the hymn, “We’re Marching to Zion.” There was something encouraging and refreshing to hear the saints repeat the words, “We’re marching to Zion, beautiful beautiful Zion, We’re marching upward to Zion, that beautiful city of God.” As imperfect as God’s people may be in this age, we are still citizens of heaven. We no longer live under the fear and condemnation of God’s law. We reverentially serve our Lord under the banner of the cross with our eyes fixed toward “…mount Zion, and unto the city of the living God.”

Owens

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Steadfast Fortitude, Hebrews 12:1-11 Sunday School Mid-Week Review

Our upcoming Sunday School lesson this week will deal with Hebrews 12:1-11 where we continue our look into Biblical Faith. Faith is not hoping or wishing that something I want we will come true. Faith is Certitude, Certainty, I know and the reason why I know is because "Faith comes by Hearing and Hearing by The Word of God".

The challenge of Sunday is the lesson really deals with two different thoughts: The Race and The Relationship:. For both the Race and the Relationship, there are requirements: For today's blog, I will deal with the race.

In Hebrews 12:1-3, the writer sets before us the fact that the Christian race is no stroll or sprint. It is a long distance run which requires running with durability, running without distractions and running with determination. Some of those who would receive this letter were running the risk of dropping out because of persecution. But the Hebrew writer encouraged them to remember that the faith of their ancestors had brought them through victoriously. These Christians were also reminded to consider Jesus.

In 12:1, I believe "let us" may be used to refer to Jews who have made a profession of Christ, but have not gone all the way to full faith. They have not yet begun the Christian race, which starts with salvation—to which the writer is now calling them. The truths, however, apply primarily to Christians, who are already running.

The writer is saying, "If you are not a Christian, get in the race, because you have to enter before you can hope to win. If you are a Christian, run with endurance; don't give up." Unfortunately, many people are not even in the race, and many Christians could hardly be described as running the race at all. Some are merely jogging, some are walking slowly, and some are sitting or even lying down. Yet the biblical standard for holy living is a race, not a morning constitutional.

Race is the Greek ag┼Źn, from which we get agony. A race is not a thing of passive luxury, but is demanding, sometimes grueling and agonizing, and requires our utmost in self-discipline, determination, and perseverance.

The writer of Hebrews told the Christians to lay aside every weight. This requires self-control. Self-control requires us not only to avoid sin but it also demands the discipline to give up good things. Good things can keep us from being and doing our best for God.

The Christian race is not a "come as you are" race. It is a race that requires special preparation. Those who run effectively are those who lay aside the encumbrances and the sins which easily entangle the runner. It is important for us to understand that an encumbrance or weight is not the same thing as sin. An encumbrance or weight is a bulk or mass that may impede the progress of the runner.

Sin is missing the mark of God’s will and character. There are some things that are not outside God’s will and character, yet they may hinder our effective running of the Christian race. Weights are things that restrict activity. The weight is a burdensome load. But sin is the thing that really stops our performances. If you will notice this verse, both the weights and the sin entangle without much effort. The Hebrew writer said that the weight and sin "so easily entangle us."  Once the weights and the sin have been laid aside, the runner is ready for the race.

Nothing is more encouraging than the successful example of someone who has "done it before." The cloud of witnesses are all those faithful saints just mentioned in chapter 11. We are to run the race of faith like they did, always trusting, never giving up, no matter what the obstacles or hardships or cost.

They knew how to run the race of faith. They opposed Pharaoh, they forsook the pleasures and prerogatives of his court, they passed through the Red Sea, shouted down the walls of Jericho, conquered kingdoms, shut the mouths of lions, quenched the power of fire, received back their dead by resurrection, were tortured, mocked, scourged, imprisoned, stoned, sawn in two, had to dress in animal skins, were made destitute—all for the sake of their faith.

Now the writer says, "You should run like they did. It can be done, if you run as they did—in faith. They ran and ran and ran, and they had less light to run by than you have. Yet they were all victorious, every one of them."

This writer is reminding his readers to be aware of those in the grandstand, but they should not focus their attention on them. He told them to keep fixing their eyes on Jesus, because Jesus once ran the same race. The Greek word translated "looking" or "fixing" (aphorao) is a word which means to look away from one thing to see another.

If the readers of this letter were watching the grandstand, they could not concentrate on the race. If they were to concentrate on the race, they needed to fix their eyes on Jesus. There are always rival attractions which seek to gain the attention of the runners, but we must keep our eyes on Jesus. Some rivals which seek our attention are; power, position, prosperity, poverty and pleasure.

Jesus is an important person if we are to successfully run the Christian race because he is the author and finisher or perfecter of faith. The word "author" (archegos) suggests one who takes the lead. The word "author" also suggests the source from which a thing proceeds. The word "finisher" or "perfecter" (teleiotes) suggests the accomplishment of the intended purpose in view. If we are to run the Christian race, it must begin, proceed and finish in Jesus.


Verse 3
“For consider him that endured such contradiction of sinners against himself, lest ye be wearied and faint in your minds.”

Because of all Christ accomplished we are urged to “consider him.” “Consider” is the Greek word analogizomai, and means “to think it over, ponder, and examine him completely and from all angles.” “Contradiction of sinners against himself” refers to the hostile treatment in both word and deed that Jesus received from the world.

This could possibly be a much needed encouragement for these young Hebrew believers who were on the receiving end of verbal and physical abuse for their new found faith. Thus, the warning, “lest ye be wearied and faint in your minds” was given to encourage the readers to not grow “weary” or fatigued and worn out which would result in “fainting” or collapsing in the race.

The next time the devil tempts you to quit, “consider” Jesus. The next time your employer makes your day difficult, “consider” Jesus. The next time your employees won’t work, “consider” Jesus. The next time you’re lied about, “consider” Jesus. The next time you fail to do the Father’s will, “consider” Jesus.

I will add the relationship requirements in another blog:

Owens

Monday, September 10, 2012

In Loving Memory of Rev. Arthur Glenn Woodberry


It was the best and worst week of my life. All ranges of emotions hitting all at once, literally the high of the mountain top to the low of the valley. I was at the 131st Annual Session of our National Baptist Convention USA INC., preaching in the Moderator's Division.

To be on the National Stage doing anything is an honor but I was twice blessed to be preaching the Close out Sermon for the Thursday Session of the Moderator's Division. When I first found out about this honor, I called Pop and I remember how proud he was, the advice he gave, the things he told me NOT TO DO, the protocol to follow and the reminder that although he wouldn't be able to be there, "remember I am always there".

The Lord blessed me on that day. I came off the stage on a major high only to be hit with the news my Pastor had died. I knew this wasn't true. For one, Pop can't die. It's not possible. He survived Vietnam, he survived his own personal demons, too tough, too strong, not happening. I called to find out that people had pronounced his death before the Lord had. I was encouraged the report was wrong. Said a few curse words about Face Book and the people on it, but happy all was well.

Flying back to Chicago, Saturday Morning waiting in the Orlando Airport, I received a call that put me back in the valley. Pastor Woodberry had died. I was in shock, no time to hurt so I started calling. The last voice I heard before I boarded the plane was Kelli, strong as always.

The Lord in providence fixed it that no one was sitting in the row I was in so I just cried all the way to Chicago. Regrets, things left undone and unsaid, needless testosterone between Dads and Sons, the arrogance of a Son with the stubbornness of a Father, the smiles, laughs, sermons, advice................

Plane lands, tears stop. Time to go back into Pastor/Son mode. I have been in that mode for an entire year.......until last week. Unexplained tears, anger, frustration, HIS VOICE, all of it came back, Couldn't function this week, didn't preach Sunday, barely was "there" at church. They really didn't know. I literally was in A.Glenn mode. Just push through.

I miss him. He was a PREACHER OF PREACHERS. He told Pastors the truth in private and in public. He said the things that needed to be said but no one had the guts to say. I thank God for all the Pastors who have called me this week to check on me. No one understands, Not really, Only Preachers do. Only Preachers understand that world of relationships between Father and Sons in ministry.

I Love you Pop. I wasn't the good son, that's Dr. Ricky D. Turner, I wasn't the educated son, that's Dr. Kevin Lee, I wasn't the chosen son, that's Pastor Ray Douglas. nor am I your Nationally known successful son, that's Dr. Joe A. Carter,  don't bear your name like others........................ but there is a son.............in spite of how so many people have tried to rewrite history............................there is a son that is getting stronger everyday, a son that is starting to find his voice in God.................I wouldn't be here today if it wasn't for you.

LOVE YA POP,

Owens


Saturday, September 8, 2012

Progress Part I









I haven't been inspired much lately to write within this forum. It certainly doesn't have to do with the power and provision of God because He has still been blessing me more than I deserve. I still Pastor a great church with a great people who love and support their Pastor. I am still blessed with children who love me and call me Daddy, but lately I have been stuck in a rut.

God gives Pastors vision. What He wants His church to be, how He wants it to look, how He wants us to behave. Many times we as Pastors see this vision as the master blueprint sitting in our office or on our vision wall or it is the vision that drives our sermon preparation or teaching moments. We work tirelessly to cast this vision so that the people will catch and communicate this vision to new converts and old Christian members.

I must admit it is personally frustrating to put so much work into trying to do what God wants me to do, only to look at something that doesn't resemble the vision that God has shown me. To show me the debt can be paid off but we are still looking at it, to see a comprehensive Christian education program offering a chance for members to receive a Diploma of Christian Education through our National Convention and yet see more hurdles than finish lines, to see men and women who return to their rightly spots reclaiming the Christian Home but to look at fragmented, divided homes where people would rather play house than build a Christian home. It's frustrating.

I retreated from my normal spots of communication with God as to be honest, I just didn't want to hear it. I withdrew from sage and sound preachers who I knew would tell me to be patient and hold on. It's hard to hold on when you are losing hope everyday. However, I am grateful that when you stop talking to God, GOD DOES NOT STOP TALKING TO YOU.

The pictures I posted are how God started talking to me. This is a Golden Corral. Praise be to God, they are building this down the street from where I stay. I already have my spot, my corner, my table, my sanctuary with my green beans, chocolate cake, fish,,,,heyyyyyyyyyyyyy glory. ANYWAY.

When they started digging dirt, I didn't know what they were doing. After a while I read the article in the newspaper. Golden Corral was coming but the more they dug dirt and overturned earth, it didn't look much like a Golden Corral. Then they laid the foundation, seemed awful small, framed it, still smaller it looked to me.

As I took pics the foreman saw me. I introduced myself to him. He told me the crew knew me as the Pastor who came by and brought water to them a couple times. Hey, least I can do, they are building me my green bean sanctuary. He showed me the plans for the restaurant. The plans were in his office. I told him what I saw didn't look like what was out there now.

I love what he said to me, IN MY OFFICE IS THE FINISHED PRODUCT, WE AREN'T THERE YET. THIS IS PHASE ONE. He then took me to the meeting area where he showed me the Phase I design and sure enough it looked just like what I had seen on the outside. We build in stages. It is not an overnight process. It takes time. The foundation must be right. The plumbing, wiring ,electrical must be right and checked off on. The framing bust be built to specificity and brought to rise the right way.

It takes time. Progress takes time. Don't trash the overall vision but learn to look at what Phase you are building now, not just the overall picture. You might see more growth that way. PART ONE!!

Owens