The Resurrection Reality of An Extraordinary Moment

The Resurrection Reality of An Extraordinary Moment; Luke 24:36-49, Preached @ Harambee Church by Pastor Michael Gunn on Easter Sunday, April 4th, 2010

“The Resurrection of Jesus Christ is far more important than out ticket to paradise! It’s the dawning of a new creation and the kingdom of God!”
Dave Fairchild

On July 20th, 1969 Apollo 11 landed on the moon, and Neil Armstrong first step into the history records as he recorded his famous line, “That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.” The world was riveted to their radios and TV’s in anticipation of this historic event.

Four months later on November 19th 1969 another moon mission was under way, and the world hardly cared. By the time Apollo 13 came about (The 3rd attempt to place men on the move), the TV stations barely covered the event, as there was no audience interest at all. That of course changed when a mid-mission oxygen tank rupture caused sufficient damage and forced the lunar landing to be aborted. People were glued to their sets once again to watch the multi-day rescue of our astronauts.

What’s equally interesting is a true event that occurred during the Apollo 11 mission. Second man on the moon (Buzz Aldrin) wanted to do something special after they landed on the moon, so 2 ½ hours after landing and before their famous stroll on the moon, Buzz Aldrin said, “This is the LM pilot. I’d like to take this opportunity to ask every person listening in, whoever and wherever they may be, to pause for a moment and contemplate the events of the past few hours and to give thanks in his or her own way” and then he continued on to take communion. He was planning on announcing this to people back home, but NASA was being sued by famed atheist Madalyn Murray-O’hara for Apollo 8 astronauts reading from the book of Genesis during their journey around the moon. As cool as walking on the moon is, it should never take a back seat to the reality of Jesus’ death, burial and resurrection…

It’s all too easy to come to the gathering today as just another day. Easter has become more about eggs and bunnies that it is about the resurrection of our Lord. We have done the worse thing; we have made the sacred “Ordinary.” Just like future moon missions, we have taken a “Been there, done that” attitude to the most amazing historical event in cosmos history! We give far more credence to human achievements (As great as some of them are) than we do, to God coming to earth, as a fulfillment of years of prophecy, then dying for our sins, and raising from the dead as a the ‘First Born’ into the new kingdom that His resurrection inaugurated. Man, I pray that we see this day as far more spectacular than this!

From the Head…

The Resurrection Witnessed As Real (Luke 24:Luke 27-35 + 36-37)
Our verse starts out with “These things.” What are “these things?” This refers backwards to vv. 27-35. In v. 27 we see that Jesus goes back into the OT and uses the prophets to verify the veracity of His existence and works. The early disciples began to recognize that “The Lord has really risen, and appeared to Simon.” What’s interesting though is how they first reacted. It’s one thing to hear about their “Experiences,” but seeing Him was something different altogether. The story language is not couched in the language and story-form of mythology and fable. What He was, and what He looked like “Startled and frightened” them! Why? Was His body different? A lot of this confusion has to do with our pre-conceptions of heaven. As we will see, this is a “Physical” body, but it’s a physical body that has been changed (See 1 Corinthians 15:42ff). Paul struggles to explain this concept in 1 Corinthians 15. When God gets a hold of us, we are moved from one kingdom to another (Colossians 1:13), yet before we are physically changed, we remain as “Aliens” in this world (Acts 1:6; Hebrews 11:13; 1 Peter 1:1; 2:11). So in one sense we are like Christ, and we are called to operate in both worlds, but when we are physically changed, we will be able to live in the multiple dimensions that God has created, which is why in Revelation 21 we see a “New” heaven and earth coming together and God rules among humanity. What a fantastic picture; the resurrection embodies something totally different. It’s way more than our ticket to heaven; it describes a “Transformation” that takes place as a result. The resurrection also gives us a great picture of our new bodies in the resurrected body of our Lord Jesus Christ. There has been way too much argument that His resurrection wasn’t physical, based on verses that He ostensibly walked through walls, and people didn’t really recognize Him, etc., but in reality, as we will see in this passage, Jesus was physically raised from the dead in His “Eternal” body, just like we will be some day, which is our great hope. Most of the argument surrounding a non-physical resurrection of Jesus comes from a liberal attempt to find other more “rational” explanations for texts like this, but this was not a major issue in church history until the “Enlightenment.”

Some Thoughts on the Resurrection’s Reality
• If the resurrection didn’t happen in reality, why did the previously devastated and scared apostles die a martyrs death for the proclamation of the “Resurrected Christ?”
• If the resurrection didn’t happen, why was it the dominant message of the early church?
• If the resurrection didn’t happen, why did the early church (Which was made up of Jews) change the day of the week they worshipped from the Holy Sabbath (Saturday) to Sunday AM?

The Resurrection Demonstrated As Real (Luke 24:38-43)
Now Jesus’ response to the disciples incredulity was not, “Oh don’t worry, I’ll set you straight,” it was “Why are you troubled, and why do doubts arise in your hearts?” This is interesting. The word for “Doubts” is the Greek word dialogismos, which we get our English word “Dialogue” from. It has the idea of “Inward Reasoning.” The core of a lot of anxiety is our own doubts. We don’t believe God is “Good” enough. We spend time in worry and over-controlling, “Dialoging” the issues in our lives. To this Catholic Monk Henri Nouwen writes:

“The choice you face constantly is whether you are taking your wounds to your head and heart. In your head you can analyze them, find their causes and consequences, and coin words to speak and write about them. But no final healing is likely to come from that source. You need to let your wounds go down to your heart. They you can live through them and discover that they will not destroy you.”

Where does Jesus take them to deal with their fears and pain? The demonstration of the effects of the cross and His subsequent Real Resurrected body. Talking about and worrying about the pain you have faced doesn’t heal it; it just exacerbates the horror of them. If Jesus’ death on the cross was a hoax, and his resurrection was a mere phantom of someone’s imagination, it has nothing to say to us today; but if His death and subsequent resurrection was real, then it has immense implications on reality, and our pain and suffering at the moment, which is fleeting compared to the Kingdom that has been inaugurated as a result of His work on the cross. Amazingly our text says “And while they still disbelieved,” but their disbelief was connected to their “Joy and amazement.” Basically, “It was too good to be true” (Acts 12:14-17), but Jesus one more time demonstrates the fact that He was more than an apparition or Spirit; He was real and asked for something to eat. The people that were present for this event were absolutely astonished, because this sort of thing didn’t happen in their day and age either, and “rational” people didn’t believe people rise from the dead then either!! It was an astonishing, frightful, joyful event, but we’ve made it in to another day worrying about the roast after church than realizing the immensity of this moment.

This passage definitely refutes the idea that His resurrection wasn’t real, or as some liberals say, “He is resurrected in our hearts,” often citing verse 32 as their proof text. The resurrection of Jesus was a “Physical” resurrection, inaugurating the kingdom of God, which will be completely realized in the end (Revelation 21). Our resurrection will be physical, but we will be able to exist eternally with God in our new bodies. Thus heaven isn’t a place that spirit-winged fairies fly from cloud to cloud, heaven is a place that has God present as ruler, and humans glorifying Him with the work they were created to do in the first place.

The Resurrection Prophesied As Necessary (Luke 24:44-46)
This is quite important, in that it demonstrates to us that the cross of Jesus Christ and His subsequent resurrection was not an afterthought, but it was a very necessary action so that His justice could be demonstrated (See Romans 3:25). The Old Testament pointed to it, and the New Testament reminds us of its reality, and it’s power in our lives. Luke carefully emphasizes this here, because it demonstrates that this event is the fulfillment of God’s story and His promise to humanity (See Genesis 3:15; 12:3). Notice that Jesus had to “Opened their minds to understand the scriptures,” which is crucial to coming to repentance and forgiveness; the result of understanding the plan of God…

The Resurrection Results As Necessary (Luke 26:47-53)
The resurrection was the inauguration of a new body, and new kingdom plan, and the results of that kingdom plan was life as God intended it. What our world desperately needs right now, is a world that lives this plan, and not our own. Our desires to live as the world lives, leave this world empty of gospel grace, and replete with humanistic moralism, therapeutic nonsense and political power, thinking that somehow, these will change our world. We literally need Jesus to “Open our minds” and extricate us from the land of the dead, into the land of the living, which will radically rearrange our thinking (See Romans 12:1-2). When Jesus enters our thoughts and minds, and transforms our life, at the very least, the following becomes a reality:

• Repentance and Forgiveness (v. 47)
• Witness of the truth (vv. 48-49)
• Worship of the truth giver (vv. 50-53

…to the Heart

What began in the latter days of Jesus’ life is picked up in Luke’s volume 2; the book of Acts, showing us what the “Power from on high” does to its subjects, and how the kingdom of God present acts and looks like; the good news is proclaimed to the poor, liberty is proclaimed to the captives, the blind recover their sight, liberty is given to the oppressed, and the year of the Lord’s favor is proclaimed. In a nutshell, the world is set upside down! Happy Lord’s Resurrection Day! Don’t make it ordinary!


The Acts of the Holy Spirit; Acts 6:1-7

The Acts of the Holy Spirit; Acts 6:1-7
Preached @ Harambee Church (Renton Gathering of Soma Communities) by Pastor Michael Gunn on March 20th, 2010

Here is a passage that can sometime be misused as a passage that defines deaconate structures in the church. While we can glean some insight into leadership issues in the church, this passage is way more closely related with the authors intent, and the theme of the book, which centers on the gospel mission before them, and the Keys to the Establishment and Expansion of the First Century Church.

The question for us here is why did Luke include this story on his narrative? How did this relate to his intent? The issues surrounding this story are relevant for every church plant I have ever seen. Almost every plant begins with its ideals and values, and there is often excitement at first, but once the church begins to grow into an “Institution” it faces some enormous growing pains that are familiar to all human institutions, and the church unfortunately is not immune to the problems. I think it is at this point, how the church handles this movement usually can make or break whether or not that church will remain effective for the gospel in their community.

: Some important background info here helps us understand the issues besetting the Jerusalem church at this time. No nation at the time of Christ had a more vigorous sense of responsibility to the poor than the Jews. The synagogue had a routine custom that would send 2 collectors out to private households and the market every Friday (Called the Kuppah or Basket) to collect for the poor, and they would later distribute it to those in need. First, to those that just needed help for the moment, they would give a daily ration, but those who were permanently unable to care for themselves they would get enough for 2 meals a day for the week (14 Total Meals). In addition to that, a collection went out every day (Called the Tamhui or Tray) for those in pressing need. Now it seems obviously that the Christian church continued this custom in the early Jerusalem church, but the problem occurred when the Aramaic speaking Jerusalem/Palestinian Jews merged with the Hellenist (Greek speaking Jews). The former had prided themselves on the fact that they were “Pure,” and that there were no “Foreign” mixes in their midst. Most of these Hellenist had been away from Palestine for so long they had forgot their native language. Many of them were saved during Pentecost (See Chapter 2).

Let’s take a look at the passage and see how the apostles handled the problem…

From the Head…
Basically what we have seen so far is that Jesus had told the church to be His “Witnesses” to Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria and the whole world (Acts 1:8). This is the command and it is congruent with Jesus’ ‘Great Commission in Matthew 28:19-20. This is why the church exists, yet the church continually falls away from this mandate to formulate other identities more suitable to those that “Pay the bills.” The church is often more concerned with its personal survival than it is with the mission, which is to proclaim the gospel to the nations. Subsequently it falls into a privatized quest for personal spirituality instead of doing the work it was commissioned to do.

The early church continued to grow in Jerusalem (See chapters 4-5), but as usual, the problems that beset the church is more often from the inside than the outside. It’s funny how churches can easily be distracted by worrying about how the “World” is going to destroy the church, when the problems that hurt the most come from the people on the inside. It’s also interesting to note that the story Luke tells right after this one is the Story of Stephen and of persecution, and how God used the “Outside” issues to actually spread the church (See Acts 8:1-4).

The Problem of Disunity and Bickering (Acts 6:1)
Once any church plant begins to grow, dissent sets in. Someone is going to be frustrated at something the church does. Complaints start early and they often become the focal point of the pastor’s attention instead of the gospel itself. It’s at this point that the leadership has to make a decision; which is more important? The Mission? Or the complainers? This issue is a common one; it’s racially and ethnically motivated. I would say this is common to every church in one way or another. “Why are you so concerned with ‘those people’ when you aren’t doing enough for me/us?” As soon as we put our race, ethnicity, national origin, country, political affiliation, self-righteous pandering in front of the gospel and the mission God has for us, we kill off what we are called to do. The church doesn’t reach outside of its own race, values, etc. because deep in its heart, it is prejudiced against the “Others.” Luke’s intent was to show how the church began to fulfill Acts 1:8. Right away it encountered ethnic pride and “Tribal” issues. “We don’t associate with those people” became more important than the call itself to “GO” to “ALL the WORLD!” The church was never told to segregate itself into the “Homogenous Unit Principle.” Ephesians reminds us that the 2 worlds were placed together as the fulfillment of the “Mystery” of God that would proclaim His glory (See Ephesians 2:11-22). Sin separated humanity into factions, and God later scattered humanity into languages because of sin and pride. It is the “Mystery” of the gospel that God comes here to reconcile that and show His glory by bringing humanity back together through the gospel of Jesus Christ. To this theologian Ajith Fernando writes:

“The solution was not to divide and have separate churches…Rather they sought to ensure that the Grecians were cared for…Eastern and western cultures were in contact and conflict in Antioch. The relationship between Jews and Gentiles in the church was debated and decided here (Acts 15; Galatians 2:11-13). Yet the early believers remained as a single church. Recent studies also show that the churches founded by Paul had a mixture of social levels in each congregation and reflected a fair cross section of urban society.””

Here is a key to the Establishment and Expansion of the church into the gentile world. The early church did not try and create separate churches for the different ethnic groups (In spite of language and custom differences), but as Ephesians 2 reminds us He made both groups into “One new man” (Ephesians 2:15). Church growth principles tell us to reach only one group of people because it grows faster and it’s easier. That is for sure, but it doesn’t seem to be the model of the “God Glorifying” gospel that we have been handed. We are so tied into “Our Style” and “Our Music,” that we are inflexible and indifferent to anyone who does it differently.

The Priority of Mission and Flexible Structures (Acts 6:2-4)
The hardest thing for any pastor/leader to do in the church is to stay on point and move the mission, not giving in to the mass pressure to become internalized. The church has become a consumer nightmare, because church leaders have become mesmerized by size rather than expansion. There is a difference. Expansion is way larger in scope, but possibly smaller in part. The disciples had Acts 1:8 before them when they made their decision to not be derailed, yet deal with the problem before them. They new 2 things: First they needed to do what they were called to do, which was to pray and teach the word, and secondly, someone needed to deal with the problem that was fragmenting the church and the subsequent expansion of the gospel to the gentile world. Here we have a very key principle that often is lost in church management. Structures serve the mission, the mission should never serve the structures. So often people are so comfortable in the “Way we have always done it,” that they are inflexible and begin to paralyze the mission of the church. Here we see the disciples making a decision that allows the problem to be solved, while at the same time, they continue to do what they are called to do; pray and minister the word of God. Pastors are not functional saviors, defined by the culture as “Chaplains to the community.” They are called by God to preach the word, and move the mission of the gospel forward by “Equipping the saints for the building up of the church” (See Ephesians 4:11-12). Simply, the mission does not go forward without the leadership being bathed in prayer and the word (Hearing from God, the head of the church). The problem is many pastors see themselves as counselors, managers, etc. instead of men who know the word, and can feed that word to their people with authority. The leadership cannot guide the movement along the will of God without consistently hearing from God. This is why one of the qualifications of the elder is the “Ability to teach” (1 Timothy 3:2; 2 Timothy 2:2; Titus 1:9). Paul himself told the church at Ephesus that “I have not refrained from setting before you the whole will and purpose of God” (Acts 20:27).

The criteria the Apostles used to find the men to “Serve Tables” is important. “Men of good repute, full of the Spirit and wisdom.” Not men that have the world’s abilities, but men that that the congregation knows, and already sees as solid because they have seen them in community, and it is evident that they are men filled with the spirit and wisdom. This can only be done in close proximity, which is why the Apostles were smart enough to give this duty to the people that knew the men the most. Church leadership is meant to come from within, by others that already view the qualities needed in a spiritual leader.

The Plan Executed (Acts 6:5-6)
As soon as they are asked the congregation chose men that represented them well, and the Apostles laid hands on them and commissioned them to do the mercy ministry needed to bring unity and ethnic equity back so that they could move the mission forward. It is interesting that the first leadership position recorded in the NT is one of Mercy, and “Social Justice.”

And what we see as a result is the end of this first section of Acts in v.7 “And the word of God continued to increase and the number of disciples multiplied greatly in Jerusalem…” What is interesting is what happens after this. Chapter 7 records the martyrdom of one of these choices (Stephen) and the scattering of the church in persecution, yet chapter 8 begins with explaining to us that the persecution is what furthered the gospel (Acts 8:1-4), which is clearly the intent of this book.

…to the Heart

I think the heart check this week is to check how fervent we are to the call of God in our lives? Are we “Doing Church?” Why come? For your own personal gain? Does church exist to further our own agenda’s or to be a comfort for you? Or is the “Church” the people that God has called from all nations to be a witness to the resurrection and His power in the transformed lives of the body loving one another and living in unity, which reflects His glory best?

The Acts of the Holy Spirit; Acts 2:42-47

The Acts of the Holy Spirit; Acts 2:42-47
Preached @ Harambee Church (Renton Gathering of Soma Communities) by Pastor Michael Gunn on February 14th, 2010

“This was not a break away movement from Judaism, but the true Israel, where the Spirit was powerfully at work fulfilling God’s end time promises”
David G. Peterson (Commentator)

“We are constantly disconnected from the affections of the heart that come from knowing what God has done in you, and then seeing what God is doing through you! “
From the Sermon

We just finished Peter’s stirring sermon clearly outlining the prophetic fulfillment of Christ’s death, burial and resurrection, and how that was a predetermined act of God to display His glory, and save a people unto Himself for His purposes. It also displayed the incredible power and glory of the Holy Spirit, who is not only responsible for raising Jesus from the dead, but is equally responsible for transforming and regenerating the hearts of millions who have called Him Lord and Savior. Without the power of the Holy Spirit, there is no church expansion.

Now Luke shifts his thoughts from the sermon to the early community forming. Summary passages like this remind us that the growth and development of His kingdom begins with the preaching of the gospel and the Power of the Holy Spirit, and secondly, He is building a kingdom of unified believers, not individual “Spiritual Beings.” This power is being released to build these communities that honor Him, not for personal gain.

There are a couple of important things that we need to know here.
First, we are called to community, because God is a community. We reflect Him the best when we are unified and loving one another. Community is not the end game, Jesus and His mission is. Sometime I think we are aiming at being in fellowship because of our needs, versus being in fellowship (“Koinonia”) for His purposes.

Secondly, this community is shaped by gospel and mission (See Philippians 1:5), and the people walking in step with the Spirit of God. In chapter one, we see the community waiting, listening before doing.

Our goal isn’t to form community, but to form communities shaped by the gospel, mission and the direction of the Holy Spirit!

From the Head…
So often Christian people argue over things like, “We are too concerned with teaching, which stunts the Spirit,” or “You’re too emotional and feeling oriented in your faith,” and “We need to do more works for the Lord.” I think it’s confusion over something that is way more holistic than that. Our passage reminds us today of the fact that the gospel encompasses the cognitive, volitional and affective nature of the human heart. It’s not an either or, it’s both/and. It is our engagement with the word and prayer that releases our godly affections that move us toward kingdom living values.

Early communities of God met regularly to:

Engage their Mind (Acts 2:42)
“They devoted themselves to the apostles teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of the bread and the prayers.”

Teaching was a common staple of the early church; both Jewish and gentile (Acts 3:11-26; 5:21; 11:25-26; 18:11; 19:9-10; 20:7-12, 20, 21, 28-32; 28:30-31). It is imperative for growth and for a proper understanding of the God we love. The word used for “Teaching” here is the Greek word Didache, which is the body of teaching that the early church saw was necessary for the establishing of the church in the faith. The teaching was practical and a key part in the ongoing mission of the church. The teaching expressed here was most likely done in the synagogues (See v. 46), but it probably was done in some form in the houses too. Too often it is believed that the teaching was done in houses, but early church gatherings were done is the synagogues and they use the Jewish style of teaching/preaching we see throughout the NT (See Luke 4:16-21; Acts 13:5, 13-52; 14:1; 17:1, etc.). This doesn’t negate teaching in smaller settings, but it doesn’t mandate this either as prescriptive.

Fellowship was equally important and I believe a result of understanding the gospel. The word used here is the Greek word koinonia, which comes from the word Koina meaning “Common.” The context bears out its meaning, which has the idea that all of the believers stuff was open for others to have/use. Because they understood the gospel well enough to realize that it was God/Jesus who saved them, and they didn’t need something else for their joy and peace, they were able to part with the things that God had blessed them with for the sake of the community and the mission, because they knew it blessed and glorified God, which became their aim. Fellowship isn’t hanging out with friends, it’s people on a “Common” mission, and they are willing to sacrifice for that mission. This is true biblical fellowship.

Breaking of Bread is a reference to the common meals shared amongst the early believers on a regular basis. Some see here a reference for the Lord’s table, but the context seems to indicate that this was nothing more than the simple sharing of meals together.

The Prayers mentioned here are most likely specific prayers done in a Jewish fashion of timed prayers (See 3:1), as well as the giving of thanks for God’s provision and meals (v. 46) that made them continually aware of what God had done, and what He was continuing to do through and in them. Note that these prayers are more corporate and liturgical, and have an element of waiting on God to see what He says.

Express Their Affections (Acts 2:43)
There is no wonder that awe and majesty filled their souls. This wasn’t a hyped up emotional roller coaster, that was drummed up by human means so that people could “Feel” the presence of the Lord. The presence of the Lord was real, and was felt as a natural result of what He was doing through the Spirit in the lives of the believer. We are looking for wonder and awe in all of the wrong places; through techniques, retreats, and manipulated experiences in our worship, but we are constantly disconnected from the affections of the heart that come from knowing what God has done in you, and then seeing what God is doing through you! We ought to be emotive, and will be when we have our minds full of His word, we have interfaced with Him in prayer (Corporately and privately), and have spent time with one another in hearing from God and one another, and then seeing God work His plan and not the plan of the church or the individual. Our affections are moved by our minds that are on fire, knowing what God has done for us, and how our identity is truly in Him, and not a program, or some other thing.

Enable Their Will (Acts 2:44-47)
Lastly, we see that a refreshed mind, whose heart is aflame with the love of God and the love of others is now ready for mission. Until we can say God is the gospel and the joy of my life, we can’t proclaim with gladness and passion! The lifestyle we see in these verses is a direct result of the gospel in their hearts, and transforming their hearts to care and ultimately share with those around them with “Glad and generous hearts” made possible by the gospel re-shaping their hearts! They accepted and were content with what they had, because they knew they had it all in Christ. They could sacrifice, because anything the world can offer pales in comparison to what Christ offers; the forgiveness of sins, the restored relationship with or creator, and the hope of eternal life with Him forever!

…to the Heart
It is too easy to fantasize and romanticize the early church. I believe much of the emerging church has done that. They so badly want to “get back” to an era that seemed so simple and easy, but Luke didn’t record this so we could covet, he expressed the reality of a community smitten with the gospel, and passionate about the mission the gospel gives us. They loved God and were so grateful that they were willing to suffer great persecution as a result. We want the crown and the glory, without the suffering and the pain, which they rejoiced in for the sake of Jesus!

The Acts of the Holy Spirit; Acts 2:22-41

Preached @ Harambee Church by Pastor Michael Gunn on February 7th , 2010

“It was by God Jesus was sent. We may put it this way—the Cross was a window in time allowing us to see the suffering love which is eternally in the heart of God”

We are in part two of Peter’s first sermon (Actually the church’s first sermon). Last week we saw that Jesus had to leave so that the church could be born as promised in the OT and by Jesus Himself (Matthew 16:18; John 16).

This reality came at the time of Pentecost, which wascelebrated 50 days after the Passover, and was a celebration of thanks for the 1st fruits of the harvest (Deuteronomy 16:10). It became a great pilgrimage to Jerusalem over the years to offer thanks to God, the “Lord of the harvest.” The timing of this was no mistake! It insured that Jews from over 16 different ethnic/language groups would be present, and it guaranteed large “First Fruits” harvest. It was the beginning of the biggest harvest, which has been going on for 2000 years, and represents the fulfillment of Jesus’ words in John 16, which reminds us that it was advantageous for Him to go away, so the church could/would spread to the nations as planned.

Another significant find of last week was that a when Jesus left, He was sending the promised Spirit to empower His people for the task. Previously in the OT, the Spirit was given sporadically for His purposes, and sometime taken away (1 Samuel 16:14), and the Spirit of God “Lived” in the temple. Now the same fire that rested upon the tabernacle to guide the Jews by night (Exodus 13:21), took up residence in every believer (See Acts 2:3; 1 Corinthians 3:16; Ephesians 2:20-21).

Now, Peter turns to the defense of the cross, because just like our own day, the cross is a foolish stumbling block to many people. To the Jew the cross of Christ was a “Stumbling Block” (1 Corinthians 1:23). The word “Stumbling Block” (Scandalon) meant “Scandalous.” Their law taught them that a “Hanged man is accursed by God.” (Deuteronomy 21:23). The cross has always been “Foolish (See too 1 Corinthians 1:18, 23) and a sign of cursedness. This is the point of Peter’s sermon and of the cross. It is a curse; it is an abomination. Galatians 3:1-14 reminds us of this reality. Jesus “Became sin” so that we would be made righteous (2 Corinthians 5:21; 1 Peter 2:24). Let’s see where Peter takes us??

From the Head…
It is sometime taught that sermons in the first century were not logic, or propositional based, but the snippet of sermon we hear from Peter today is just that. He defends the faith with logical and propositional preciseness.

God is Sovereignly In Control (Acts 2:22-23)
The first thing that Peter wants to defend is against the idea that Jesus’ death was a per chance accident. Jesus Himself said that His death was no accident, but a voluntary action of His in order to fulfill His Father’s plans (John 10:14-19). This is precisely what Peter wants his Jewish brothers and sisters to know. This death was the culmination of the Father’s “Definite plan and foreknowledge” (v. 23; see too Acts 4:28, 29). God killed Jesus! Yet, God holds man responsible. How can that be? Well we will never fully understand it, but the fact is, God’s eternal decrees cannot be thwarted or rejected (Even though His permissive will can, and is). Throughout scripture, we have this weird antinomy; God is sovereignly in control of everything (And uses everything for His purposes), yet man is responsible for his willful actions (See John 1:12-13; 6:35 + 44). Even though it was God’s will and plan to have Jesus crucified for our sake, it was still within the framework of humanity’s sinful choice. God’s will and plan encompasses everything to fulfill it. God can, and does use evil for His purposes (Genesis 50:21; 1 Samuel 16:15; Habakkuk 1:1-11).

This is how God “Work out everything to the good of those that love God and are called to His purpose” (Romans 8:28). There is no doubt in His “Permissive Will” He allows choices to be made, but only as He uses them to weave His plan into the fabric of this finite world.

The beauty of this though is the reality that God is providentially in control of our crazy world! Everything is purposed in a greater plan that God is working out toward our own good. The killing of Jesus was the most horrid thing ever thrown on a person, yet it accomplished God’s will to save the many undeserving.

God Raised Him From the Dead As a Fulfillment of Prophecy (Acts 2:24-32)
Peter argues from a logical base here, as he Quotes Psalm 16:8-11, which appears to be a Psalm from David requesting that he wouldn’t see decay after his death, but Peter argues that David is dead and in his grace (V. 29), and that this verse speaks of the future (Now fulfilled) resurrection of Jesus Christ.

In some sense the Jews were right, God doesn’t curse His loved ones on a tree, but Jesus became that for us, but God didn’t allow Jesus to decay like humans, instead He was exalted because of His obedience on the cross (Philippians 2:3-9).

God Exalted Him and Made Him Lord As a Fulfillment of Prophecy (Acts 2:33-36)
As a result of Jesus’ obedience in fulfilling God’s plan, He was exalted and seated at the “Right hand” of the Father making both “Lord and Christ” (V. 36). Again Peter uses the Psalms (Psalm 110:1) as the prophetic reference pointing to the coming Messiah, and not to David himself. This one is clearer in that it was weird that David (Who would have had no Lord above him, since he was king), would refer to his “Lord.” It is interesting because the NT quote is from the Septuagint (LXX), which uses the Greek word “Kurios” for both of these references to Lord, but when David wrote it in Hebrew, he used the Hebrew word “Yahweh” for the first Lord (Depicted in all caps in your Old Testament), which was the personal name for the Jewish God, and then used the Hebrew word “Adonai” for the second Lord (Depicted in your Hebrew Old testament with a capital L and lower case “ord”). So what we have David saying literally is “My Yahweh, said to my Adonai.” That’s a strange statement for David to make, because his use of Yahweh would have been normal, but there was no sense that he had another “Lord” on earth. Peter is saying that this reference, was referring to Jesus, whom God placed on His right hand making this a prophecy of what would happen in the Christ.

God makes lowly the proud and exalts the humble (James 4:6). We humbly come before His, acknowledging His regency. Jesus humbly gave of Himself, for us to live in His righteousness. It has to be our guide to how we interact with one another.

Peter showed us today that the preaching (Kerygma) of the gospel is simple; He gave us a Historical Presentation of the Death, Resurrection and Exaltation of Christ, emphasizing the fulfillment of prophecy and man’s responsibility, and then he gave us a Theological Evaluation of Jesus as Both Lord and Messiah (The Christ), and finally he summoned everyone there Believe In Him, for the Forgiveness of Sins!

The last few verses are the response to this message. 3000 were added to the as the “First Fruits” of the harvest, here at the celebration of the “Feast of Weeks.”

…to the Heart
The Response (Acts 2:37-41)
Where do you stand right now? Are you trusting in the sovereignty of the Lord in the direst time of your life? Do you believe He is “Good” and that He is working everything out to the “Good of those that love Him…?”

Do you understand the magnitude of this story? Do you see it’s prophetic accuracy, and how it has culminated with Jesus’ death and our forgiveness of sins??

Do you see your sins as an affront to a holy and righteous God? Have you been playing church/religion in order to gain God’s favor?

Do you have numerous idols that take up your time and attention, leaving no time for God?

Do you need to repent of bitterness and a heart that hasn’t trusted in the sovereign work of Jesus on the cross?

Are you influenced by a culture that thinks the idea of a cross for the forgiveness of sins is barbaric and idiotic?

Are you, Like the Jews before Peter, asking, “What shall we do” (To be saved)? If so, please make today as the day of your salvation and join us in communion and make us aware, so we can baptize you, as commanded in the scriptures (V. 38 cf. Matthew 28:20).

The Acts of the Holy Spirit; Acts 1:12-26

The Acts of the Holy Spirit; Acts 1:12-26
Preached @ Harambee Church by Pastor Michael Gunn on January 24th, 2010

“The spiritual history of a mission or church is written in its prayer life.”

“Much of what constitutes Christianity is not what we do, but what we receive.”
Mark Driscoll

Our passage today dives into the moments after Jesus promised the Holy Spirit and ascended into the heavens (Acts 1:8-11). It is important to remember that this book was written with the intent to demonstrate how the early church was established and then expanded into the “Other parts of the world” ala Acts 1:8.

Our goal then is to see all of its parts as pieces that make up the whole, and search for the clues that take us to the author’s intent. We’re looking for keys to help guide us, especially keys that are more “Normative” for use in our day and age.

Acts is a book reminding us of the power of the Spirit and His goal to establish God’s kingdom through His power and the obedient actions of His people.

In today’s passage we are reminded about the importance of prayer, and the sovereignty of God. The two often don’t seem to mesh, and actually appear to be contradictory. This is true if we believe that prayer is to move the hand of God rather than take the time to listen to what He has to say. Too often in the Christian community, we use prayer as a cliché to “Prove” our decisions. I pray that this passage helps us become more fervent and enduring in our prayers until we come enmeshed in God’s desires for us, and not our desires for ourselves…

From the Head…

The Necessity of “One-Minded” Prayer (Acts 1:12-14)
The disciples (120 of them) returned from the Mount of Olives, which was a “Sabbath’s journey away” (Approximately a half mile). They went together, and the 120 included women (V. 14), and they “with one mind, were continually devoting themselves to prayer” (NASB). First the idea of being of “One Mind” (omothumadon) is a compound word literally meaning “Together passionately.” I’m not sure we can extract more than this word should supply, but it’s used 10 out of its 12 occurrences in this book, and it highlights a key to the expansion of the church; fervent community.

Secondly, the word for “Continually” (proskarterountes) carries the idea to remain faithful or cling to…

Thirdly, we are to cling to “Prayer” (proseuche). This is a prayer that prays until an answer is given. It takes patience, endurance, waiting, time; many things that we struggle with. This kind of prayer blows away our five minute variety , which in of itself is not wrong, but we are often called to a fervent, enduring prayer, that may wait on God for years, but we remain faithful, knowing that we are praying for the will of God.

The disciples were given a promise by Jesus in Acts 1:8 and they were praying for that fulfillment, knowing that what Jesus promised, He would deliver.

God’s Sovereignty and The Choice of Judas (Acts 1:15-20)
God’s sovereignty and the “Free Will” of humanity has often been a huge road block to faith in the Christian tradition, but in this narrative, we see a perfect antinomy developing between the human “Choices” of Judas, and the divine sovereignty and predictive will of the Holy Spirit. One question often asked is what was the motivation behind Judas’ actions? Though we can’t know for sure, the following scenarios may give us some insight:

(The below scenarios are taken from Barclay’s “Daily Bible Study”)
(i) It has been suggested that Iscariot means man of Kerioth. If it does, Judas was the only non-Galilean in the apostolic band. It may be that he felt himself the odd man out and grew so embittered that he did this terrible thing.

(ii) It may be that Judas turned king’s evidence to save his own skin and then saw the enormity of what he had done.

(iii) It may be that he did it simply out of greed for money. If he did, it was the most dreadful bargain in history, for he sold his Lord for thirty pieces of silver, which was less than £4 (About $7 USD).

(iv) It may be that Judas came to hate Jesus. From others he could disguise his black heart; but the eyes of Jesus could penetrate to the inmost recesses of his being. It may be that in the end he was driven to destroy the one who knew him for what he was.

(v) It may be that Iscariot is a form of a Greek word, which means a dagger-bearer. The “dagger-bearers” were a band of violent nationalists who were prepared to undertake assassination and murder in a campaign to set Palestine free. Perhaps Judas saw in Jesus the very person who could lead the nationalists to triumph; and when he saw that Jesus refused that way he turned against him and in his bitter disappointment betrayed him.

(vi) It is likeliest of all that Judas never meant Jesus to die but betrayed him with the intention of forcing his hand. If that be so, Judas had the tragic experience of seeing his plan go desperately wrong; and in his bitter remorse he committed suicide.

Basically we will never know, and we can only speculate. What we can know is how easy it is for a sin-ridden heart to turn on Jesus. We are good at justifying ourselves, and our sin, and before we know it, we have drifted away from our savior.

This is an interesting situation where God’s providence and the heart of men come into agreement to fulfill God’s will and the scriptures written years before. Judas’ actions were the result of God’s will and the “Fulfillment” of the word of God (Acts 1:16), as well as his own sinful desires. I believe that this is here to remind us that the expansion of the kingdom of God is a result of God’s sovereign will, and the actions of His chosen witnesses. The Holy Spirit is involved in God’s work, but so are the actions of those that are part of His story.

The two Old Testament quotes in verse 20 are from Psalm 69:25 and Psalm 109:8, which are messianic Psalms reminding David that God is going to re-right the wrongs done to the righteous, which can only be realized in Jesus, not David. The Psalms often reflect the despair of life in a sinful world, but they also demonstrate the hope that is found in waiting on the Lord for our comfort.

This idea of divine sovereignty and human will is seen so clearly in Acts 4:27-28 where we see that it is both human will (Motivated by personal; glory) and Divine will (Motivated by the glory of God) come together to accomplish God’s ultimate will.

And what these verses remind us of are that we are responsible for our choices even though they are used to establish God’s will. The execution of Jesus was paramount to the plan of God (See Isaiah 53) and the desires of sinful humanity. God working with human choice is nothing new to scripture (See Genesis 50:21).

Note: Any alleged discrepancies in regards to Judas’ suicide accounts (See Matthew 27:5) can most likely be understood in light of reporting two parts to the same event. It is quite possible that Judas hung himself outside of the temple walls on weak branches that overhung the Kidron valley and the branch broke hurdling Judas down onto the rocky surface below. It is discrepancies like this that would be easy for redactors and scribes to clean up, but this is not what we see happen, because eyewitness accounts vary in details, giving the witness more veracity, and less corroboration.

The Choosing of Leadership (Acts 1:21-25)
While Acts gives us the same list of Apostles as the gospels, Luke puts Peter, James and John in the forefront most likely to highlight their early leadership in the establishment and the expansion of the early church. The rest of the 12 aren’t even mentioned in the book from here on in, while Peter (Especially) and John and James play a more significant role. None of them are mentioned past chapter 15 of Acts. What we can deduct from this is the fact that Peter felt it was proper to have 12 men represent the “Witness” of the life and resurrection of Jesus Christ since Jesus Himself chose that many (Acts 1:21-25).

It is important to note that Luke includes women as part of the 120 in the upper room, which is typical of His gospel, and shows the veracity of the claims since including women wasn’t a positive for that culture, and shows Christianity’s inclusion of women in the life of the early church, which was monumental for their time frame. Paul would later expand on this type of thing in verses like Galatians 3:28.

Another thing that is important to note is the fact that being an “Eyewitness” to the resurrected Christ is a stipulation to hold an apostolic position (Acts 1:21-25). Thus the “Office” of apostle has ceased with the death of the twelve plus Paul.

It may seem to us that Peter, James and John would advocate for a “Casting of lots” to find their leaders, but this method was not foreign to locate temple workers. Three things re important here:

1. Fervent Prayers (V.24)
They had two men they felt were “Qualified,” (Joseph and Matthias), and they chose to pray, and then let God intervene in the election of the person to join the apostles as a witness of the life and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

2. Redeemed Hearts (V.24)
Both of these men represented hearts that were transformed by the power of the resurrection in their life. This is what it meant to be a “Witness” (Acts 1:8, 22). Paul would later build on the qualifications of church leadership as the need became obvious (1+2 Timothy; Titus).

3. Sovereign Will (V. 24).
All through scripture God has done the choosing. He chose Adam, Abram, Modes, Israel, etc. and He chooses kings and leaders. The casting of lots is weird to a people that make “Free Will” supreme, but the apostles trusted God’s sovereign choice than they did their own.

We usually choose leaders based on their individual calls, and our corporate needs., and most often do not stop to think and pray, and ask God what He wants. We move, take jobs, spend money apart from seeking the will of the Lord, and the help of our spiritual communities. Our “Choices” are made by whim, or self-preservation. If God were sovereign, maybe it would make more sense to “Cast Lots” and seek His face as we move forward with big choices in our lives. I’m not just advocating making all decisions by casting lots, but I do believe that we could use more of a prayerful approach to making choices and deducting God’s will than personal experience or preference.

…to the Heart
Prayer and community are two things that appear antiquated and impossible for a culture that has way too much to do. I’m not sure what the disciples were praying for other than the fact that they were asking for direction. We are a body too geared to “Doing” and are not very conditioned to receiving. How much of your life is spent in “Fervent” clinging prayer, with others and alone? How much of our choices are made with much prayer?? It is so cliché to say “I prayed about it, and…” when in reality it was just the Christian thing to tack on to our lives to justify the decisions we have already made. Do you pray with God’s sovereignty in mind, or do you pray in despair?

Born to Bring Life – Newness of life in the Resurrection: Romans 6:3-4 and other selected texts

Born to Bring Life – Newness of life in the Resurrection: Romans 6:3-4 and other selected texts
Preached by Pastor Caleb Mayberry @ Renton Gathering of Soma on December 27th, 2009

Every year we often reflect on our many shortcomings and failures and experience regret for not having been more disciplined to do what we wanted to do. And so every New Year we believe that January 1st will be the date that signifies the beginning of long and lasting change. We create another list of things that we will vow to do or not do in hopes that we will perhaps make up for past transgressions or that we will finally prove our worth to ourselves, someone else, or God. And yet a month goes by, or two weeks, or sometimes just a few days and we have already been owned by the list. January 1st is not our hope. A new list and a new resolve is not our hope. Our strength and resolve to follow our lists will ultimately fail. Real hope of lasting change can only be found in Jesus. In this sermon, we’re going to see how the Resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead is foundational to our hope to walk in newness of life.

From the Head…

Peter’s Resolve: Luke 22:33 “Lord I am ready to go with you both to prison and to death.” Peter makes a very bold and courageous statement. Peter is part of Jesus’ inner circle of his three most trusted friends. If anyone had Jesus’ back, it would be Peter right? Well Jesus new that Peter would not be strong enough to live up to his bold statement, at least not now. In the following verse Jesus foretells of Peter’s threefold denial of Christ.

Peter’s Denial: Luke 22:54-62 – Here we see Jesus prediction of Peter’s denial come true just as Jesus has stated. Afterwards Jesus looks at Peter, and Peter remembered what Jesus said, and so he wept bitterly.

• Question for Reflection: Have you ever done something sinful that you thought you never would do? How did you feel afterward? How do you think Peter feels?

Peter’ Problem: The problem with Peter and with us is that we are still sinful. We do not yet have perfect and glorified bodies and so when we trust in our own strength to do the things that we want to do, we inevitably fail. Paul articulates this struggle in fallen man in Romans 7:21-24 “So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand. For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, but I see in my members another law waging a war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in me. Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?”

That’s the question we must ask ourselves. Who will deliver me from this body of death? Certainly it cannot be ourselves, because we’re the problem! The solution must look outside of us.

Jesus’ Prayer for Peter: Luke 22:31-32 “Simon, Simon, behold, Satan demanded to have you, that he might sift you like wheat, but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned again, strengthen your brothers.”

Jesus knew that Peter would deny him. And so Jesus prayed beforehand that his faith would remain. The hope for Peter is not based on his own resolve, but in trust in Jesus. But why is faith in Jesus hope for Peter? The reason is because Jesus was raised from the dead!

Resurrection is foundational to our faith: 1 Corinthians 15:14 “And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain.” Why because of verse 17, “And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins.”

Like Peter we are also dead in our sins. Our hope is not just in a Jesus who died, but in a resurrected Jesus. We need hope that the death that our sins deserve has been fully paid for and conquered. The literal, historical, resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth proves that God has accepted his sacrifice as having satisfied the wrath of God and demonstrates that our ultimate enemy, death has been conquered. Through faith we, like Peter, are united with Jesus not only in his death, but also in his resurrection.

Newness of Life in the Resurrection: Romans 6:3-4 “Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.”

Question: What motives us to walk in this newness of life?

…to the Heart

Love for Jesus motivates us in the newness of life

First, Jesus provides a hint of what this is in his prayer for Peter that we read earlier. Jesus prays that when he turns again, he is to strengthen the brothers. Another way to say this is that when Peter’s faith is strengthen again or as he places his trust in Jesus, he will be motivated to then strengthen the brothers. Our motivation for living out the life that God wants us to live is rooted in the object of our affection, namely Jesus. Jesus is not as concerned about our natural resolve to do good or the vows we make to become better people. But Jesus is concerned with our heart.

Read John 21:15-19. In this passage, we see that Jesus is not trying to get back at Peter for denying him. Jesus just wants to know one thing from him, does Peter love him? And that’s his question to us. Do we love him? If so, then we will, by his grace, do the things that he asks of us not out of a motivation of guilt, shame, or trying to prove oneself, but out of a motivation of love. So I pray that we would not look to New Year’s Day as our hope for new life, but that this day and every new day might serve as a reminder of God’s amazing grace and the new life that we now have as we love and trust in Him who rose from the dead.

Born to Bring Life By Death

Born to Bring Life By Death, Luke 2:28-35 and Selected
Preached @ Soma Harambee by Pastor Michael Gunn on December 20th, 2009

“For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”
2 Corinthians 5:21

“Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. 2 Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. 3 More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, 4 and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, 5 and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.n6 For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. 7 For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die— 8 but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. 9 Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God.”
Romans 5:1-9

“34“Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. 35 For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. 36 And a person’s enemies will be those of his own household. 37 Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. 38 And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. 39 Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.”
Matthew 10:34-39

We have been taking a look at the birth narratives in the book of Luke, and we have seen Luke craft a story surrounding Jesus the king/messiah promised throughout the ages as the “Savior” of humanity. Jesus is born to die for the sins of collective and individual humanity. He has come to inaugurate a new kingdom, with Himself as the king of that kingdom. One would think that Luke would paint a better picture of this savior-king. After all, aren’t regents regal? If He is going to dominate the world, shouldn’t He be born into power? But Dr. Luke doesn’t paint the Christian picture in the usual way. He does tell us that this little baby is the future world leader, the savior of all of mankind, yet He’s going to be born in a manger, rule through humility and weakness and save the world by dying. Hmm, isn’t that kind of reign impractical, naïve and an invitation to becoming a doormat? But this is the picture we get from Luke and the other gospels; this baby will change the world, and He will do so through a completely different power than the world operates under. After all, aren’t all historical narratives written by the powerful?

From the Head…
The Dedication of the Life Giver (Luke 2:22-27)
Here we see a couple of interesting things about Jesus’ first days of life. First His parents were devoted to the law of the Lord (vv. 22-23), next, we see that His parents were poor (v. 24) and lastly, Jesus went through some standard religious ceremonies that every Jewish male went through: Circumcision, which identified Jewish males with Yahweh, The Redemption of the Firstborn, which was performed on firstborn human males and unclean animals (Numbers 18:15-17), showing Christ’s identification with the human race and all of its impurity, and lastly The Purification After Childbirth, which the woman went through after giving birth. She could only be restored into the temple community after the allotted days, and then sacrificing a lamb (Leviticus 12:6) or, as is the case in this passage, if she is poor she would sacrifice to “Turtledoves (Pigeons; V.8).

All of this demonstrates the devotion of Jesus’ parents, but also Luke’s emphasis that this gift from God is being manifested in the temple (The metaphoric place for the house of God). Jesus’ life was manifested in a place, with humans. The emphasis on place here is significant, in that Jesus’ rule is in space in history, and His end game is the redemption of all things including place.

A Song of Life (Luke 2:28-33)
Simeon begins his song in praise of the God that kept His word (vv. 28-29). Here God not only keeps His immediate word (Luke 2: 26), but He has kept His promise from the past (See Isaiah 40:1-5; 42:6; 46:13; 49:6; 52:10; 56:1; 60:1). Simeon is praising God for bringing salvation to the world (Jews and Gentiles), which has also brought glory on Israel, since salvation came from the Jews (See John 4:22). This salvation to the gentiles had Mary and Joseph marveling over this prophetic word from Simeon.

Death’s Reaction to Life (Luke 2:34-35)
Simeon then moves from praise to prophecy reminding Mary and Joseph of the blessing and heartache Jesus will become. When Jesus’ kingdom confronts the kingdom of this world death will become inevitable, as it did in the life of Jesus. Conflict and chaos dictated much of Jesus’ life, and those that desired to live in comfort running in the direction of the world’s kingdom became the enemy of the savior. Jesus came to bring abundant life (John 10:10), yet that life is found in death (2 Corinthians 5:21; Romans 5:1-9; Matthew 10:34-39).

…to the Heart
Religion (Any meta-narrative that makes claims to answering man’s deepest issues) can be an enemy of the gospel of Jesus Christ. When it places its traditions and customs ahead of the gospel and the person of Jesus Christ, and adds works to the gospel equation, it crushes the gospel that comes to us through the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ. Christmas is a brutal anti-gospel. The god of Christmas (Santa) gives gifts (Blessings and salvation) to those that are “Good,” and have behaved. Religion thrives on this, and it is created by the powerful to guarantee public obedience and compliance to cultural norms. This is what religion has been relegated to in our culture; moral structuring, but anyone who has been around the church long enough knows that religious morality is a façade, a smokescreen that is laid bare as the smoke clears.

Christmas is our cluttered with a cultural gospel, that good people get blessed, while evil people don’t. This is culturally insensitive, as most of this world is not blessed in the way many in the west are. Religion preaches a damaging, crushing gospel of restriction and self-made righteousness; Jesus is a life giver, that promises life abundant, through His suffering, and He calls us into the joy of His suffering, for His glory, and our happiness.

The Advent Conspiracy
The “Advent Conspiracy” is a reminder to believers to “Worship Fully, Spend Less, Give More and Love All.” Christmas has become a shameful ode to capitalism and materialism, and have replaced the Hope of the gospel, with the materialistic hope of more stuff. We have been duped into believing that hope comes from what we (The ones that are hopeless) create. We live in a “Please me now” culture that has an insatiable desire for more. Advertisers promise way more than they can deliver, and christmas has become their “Holy” season. The advent conspiracy helps us recall that this simple gospel story is the ultimate story offering more joy and hope than any of man’s hopes can deliver. Let’s work in our Missional Communities to recapture this meaning, and to find out who we can bless this Christmas with the money that we are saving from spending less on ourselves. If you can’t find anyone to bless, then please consider giving your money to “Living Water International” (, and agency that helps bring clean water to the millions who are without it (1.8 Million people die every year from unclean water related illnesses. This figure includes 3900 children a day).

To find out more about “The Advent Conspiracy” please go to:

Born to Bring Peace; Selected Text

Born to Bring Peace; Selected Text
Preached @ Harambee Church (A Soma Communities Expression) by Pastor Michael Gunn on December 6th, 2009

“…and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross.”
Colossians 1:20

Throughout church history, Christians have struggled to deal with the implication of the Jesus event here on earth. The verses we are going to look into today have some potential for incendiary and potentially misguided interpretations. When Jesus preached the “Gospel of the kingdom” (Matthew 3:2; 4:17; Mark 1:14), what was preaching about? What exactly was “Fulfilled” by Jesus when He read from Isaiah in the temple (See Luke 4:18-21)? What is His kingdom? What does this have to do with me? What does this have to do with Christmas Advent season? All good questions, and ones that the church needs to wrestle with, and come to some very biblical convictions in regard to its implications on our lives.

I pray that this Advent/Christmas season is the first one that converts you to a new relationship with the risen Christ. For some that is going to be a first time conversion as you are hearing the gospel either anew, or for the first time in your life. For others, it will mean a conversion to God’s kingdom purpose here on earth, right now!

From the Head…
An OT Prophet Is Born to Proclaim the Coming Rule of Peace (Isaiah 9:6-7)
This is one of many astounding prophecies of the coming Messiah, who will bring peace, and rightly govern this world with proper justice. While God had fulfilled this prophecy in a micro sense through some for the rulers that were born at that time, history reminds us that none of Israel’s rulers fulfilled this, including David, Israel’s greatest king. They were types of the one who would come to bring forth the peace that this world so badly needs.

Then word peace in the Old Testament is the word “Shalom,” which carries the idea of “Wholeness,” not the absence of conflict. The words from the pen of John (John 16:33), remind us that in this world, we will have conflict and tribulation, but “In Him, we will have peace.” God’s peace brings us beyond our circumstances to a “Shalom” that brings peace as we become closer to the people that we were created to be by God, for His glory in the first place.

A NT Prophet Is Born to Proclaim The Coming Forgiveness and Peace (Luke 1:76-79)
God had promised that He would send one to “Prepare the way of the Lord” (Isaiah 40:3 cf. Luke 1:76; 3:4), which this passage shows was preparing the people to know that their sins were being forgiven by the “Tender mercy of our God.” True peace comes from being forgiven of our sins by the mercy of God. Our salvation makes us reconciled to God and therefore at peace with Him (See Romans 5:1, 9).

An Angel Visits to Proclaim The Glory of the Lord in the Good News About the Son (Luke 2:8-21)
First we note that this “Good News” is for “All People” (v. 10). Next, we note that this baby is both “Savior” and the Messiah, as promised in the Old Testament (“Christ the Lord, v. 11). This designation “Savior” and Messiah” is one that was reserved for God only (Isaiah 43:11; 45:21). While this is true, we are also told that a “Savior” will be sent in the future (Isaiah 19:20). Thirdly, this Messiah/Savior was going to be born into humble means (v. 12). Fourthly, we see that this promised peace comes to those “Whom He is pleased” with (v. 14). This goes back to last week’s findings. He is pleased with His Son (Luke 3:22), and as we are “In Him,” we too are pleasing to Him.

We Are Reminded By Paul That Our Peace Comes Through The Cross (Colossians 1:20)
Peace is not something that we obtain by mitigating conflict in this world. As we saw in John 16:33, conflict is a part of this upside down, sinful world. While we are called to be “Peacemakers” it is clear that all of man’s efforts have not brought this world into the very state of peace that so many of us claim we desire. Man’s greatest need is the peace that comes from the bloody cross of Christ, because it is the idolatry that the cross is there to crush that is responsible for the horrors humanity unfolds on one another.

…to the Heart
So what do we do? First we must realize that our salvation is both spiritual and physical. Second then, we must begin to see our role here on earth as peacemakers since we have been given the gift of peace between God and ourselves through the cross of Jesus Christ. The good news of Jesus Christ is that He has come to inaugurate a new kingdom, with a new ethic, and a new way to power and transformation. We no longer do this through the world’s system of power and force, but through the “Good News” of Grace, repentance and forgiveness. This news of Jesus coming the first time is “GOOD NEWS!” He has come to begin His liberation of the poor and the captives (Luke 4:18-21) and because we are now free from the need to gain our identity in our stuff and reputation, we are then free to live for His purposes in this world, and proclaim the peace of the new kingdom of God, made possible in the cross of Jesus.

Born to Bring Hope, Luke 1:39-56

Born to Bring Hope; Luke 1:39-56
Preached @ Harambee Church (A Soma Communities Expression) by Pastor Michael Gunn on November 29th, 2009

What gives you hope? Or maybe a better question is “What is hope?” Does “Finite” hope bring lasting satisfaction? The Christmas story is an ancient story. It’s a story of hope copied by many different folklore, movies, books, etc. (Movies like the “Terminator” and the “Matrix” are a good example). So often in the past, I have been reluctant to preach this story, because it has become mythology in a culture that believes in Santa Clause. As a matter of fact neo-Atheist Richard Dawkins fondly refers to the belief in a god as equivalent to believing in “Santa Clause, the Easter Bunny or the Great Spaghetti Monster.” What he fails to recognize is that neither of his co-equals provides the world with real hope, nor have any of these other myths (The “Spaghetti Monster” is his own sarcastic creation, without any mythical meaning), had the world-wide impact that the Jesus story has had on this world for 2000 years!

This story has eternal implications! This story was the result of a promise that had been embedded into the hearts and minds of the ancient Israelites, and told to the nations through their witness (As weak as it was), and has now been delivered to His Church (His gathered people for His glory). Our story reminds us that ultimate Hope can only come from believing in Christ, and recognizing that He is the promised one who has come to give hope to the lowly and the humble. He has come to re-right a severe wrong. He has come to establish His own kingdom, which operates upside down, where the weak are strong, and the first shall be last.

From the Head…
A Contrast of Hope (Acts 16:19; 26:6-7)
It has been felt for quite some time in biblical scholarship that Luke and Acts are written by the same author and that the book of Acts is a continuation of Luke’s treatise on the story of Jesus and the acts of His church for the first 30-40 years of expansion into the gentile world. I am using this as a contrast between biblical and earthly hope, and using it as an intro into an understanding of biblical hope, that only comes “In Christ,” and anything else will only bring forth disappointment, bitterness, stress, anxiety, etc.

The Story of Hope: A Reminder (Genesis 1-3; 12:1-3)
In order to better understand this story in our passage today, we must have at least a basic understanding of the “Promise” that our story is centered around. There is so much recent controversy in regards to the birth story of Jesus being a rip off from other pagan religions, and it has been documented that the use of the 25th of December and many of the traditions associated with Christmas are a conglomeration of pagan myths from a few mythologies over the years. The fact is Christianity has always used cultural festivals and stories to better communicate and incarnate the truth of their own story. This in no way mitigates the truth of the gospel story, but the gospel story is a fulfillment of humanities greatest hopes. There is nothing that man can deliver in religion, philosophy, psychology, technology, rehab, or anything that can provide the hope of Jesus, who is born into our world as a humble servant who ultimately inaugurates a new kingdom, that reaches the humble and the poor and the hurting. Jesus’ story comes with centuries of prophecy, promise and anticipation.

Hope’s Journey (Luke 1:39-41)
Mary has just accepted her glorious fate (See Luke 1:38) in humble obedience, and her life will never be the same. Our passage says she, “Arose and went with haste into the hill country.” Maybe it was a time to be with familiar faces and remove herself from the stress that would most likely follow her for the rest of her life. God has to do a miracle to show Joseph the truth, but it is apparent that most people did not believe that Mary was a virgin with child (See John 8:41), and as a matter of fact the rumor has always been that Mary had sex with a Roman guard named Pantera. Being in Christ brings forth a hope that is beyond imagination, and beyond a hope that ends here on earth with your own life. Can you imagine Mary’s life, and can you imagine holding her son’s limp body in her arms wondering, “Where is the hope?” The hope God offers is a surprising hope! There is a paradox in the Christian story of Hope. This hope comes with death. Mary’s joy, was a life of suffering, and her hope came with a price. We so often look for hope in short term solution, because the hope the gospel promises comes with death (Of ourselves) and sacrifice (Of our time, talent and treasure). This is what it means to “Know the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings.”

Hope’s Song Part 1: Elizabeth’s Song (Luke 1:42-45)
Our passage tells us that Elizabeth is “Filled with the Holy Spirit,” and she breaks into song blessing Mary, and God, and reminding Mary that she is blessed because God has found favor in her and because of Her “belief” that there would be a fulfillment of the promise. Mary and Elizabeth were poor, but their joy came in knowing that Jesus came to overcome the evil and oppression that enslaves others, and creates poverty and destruction in this world. They were aware that Jesus is the one to fulfill Isaiah 61:1-2, and that He was there to bring forth a kingdom that would reward the humble and judge the proud oppressors; but this would come through believing “That there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her from the Lord.” Was this always easy for her? After all Mark seems to indicate that not even his own kinsmen always believed in Him (See Mark 3:21, 31-35). And it is possible (Given the context) that Mary may have had her moments of doubt??

Hope’s Song Part 2: Mary’s Song; The Magnificat (Luke 1:46-56)
This song is known as the “Magnificat,” which are the Latin words expressing her exaltation and praise of the Lord in verse forty six. This song is reminiscent of so many other women who gloried in their pregnancies (1 Samuel 2:1-10; Genesis 21:6-7), and a reminder of God’s faithfulness to His promise (See too Isaiah 54:1-5). Mary’s song is filled with her memory of the many Psalms she uses to construct her praise toward God for His favor upon her, and His fulfillment of the promises He had made to her forefathers. Her praise and her glory is to God for the fact that He has sent His Son and He has brought forth His kingdom, incarnate in the person of Jesus Christ. This is the fulfillment of many prophecies and God’s promise to redeem this world of sin and the destruction it has caused. Jesus’ birth story is a story of humility, because ultimately power is gained through weakness in this upside down kingdom.

…to the Heart
If our hope is in anything but the coming of our Lord Jesus and Christ, and the joy that produces in our lives, then we will be living under a “Secondary” and inferior hope, that will only produce a momentary hope and sense of meaning. What are you “Hoping” for? What story is building your trust, and promising to deliver joy, happiness, a new identity?? Is the Jesus story a passé mythology, told once a year in order to assuage the guilt of a spending nation? Or is this story still the defining story in your life? IS the Jesus event, the story that dominates your story, or is it another story competing against many others in a world still waiting for what it’s looking for?

I pray as we consider the Jesus story this time of year, we consider the consequences of that story; lives transformed to bring Him glory by being enraptured with the joy He gives us, so we can in turn, lavish blessings on others. During our advent time, we are requesting that you seriously consider what you “Need” and refrain from spending on just what you want, so that you can bless others with the money saved. Below is information re: the “Advent Conspiracy” that can help you think through this.

The Advent Conspiracy
The “Advent Conspiracy” is a reminder to believers to “Worship Fully, Spend Less, Give More and Love All.” Christmas has become a shameful ode to capitalism and materialism, and have replaced the Hope of the gospel, with the materialistic hope of more stuff. We have been duped into believing that hope comes from what we (The ones that are hopeless) create. We live in a “Please me now” culture that has an insatiable desire for more. Advertisers promise way more than they can deliver, and christmas has become their “Holy” season. The advent conspiracy helps us recall that this simple gospel story is the ultimate story offering more joy and hope than any of man’s hopes can deliver. Let’s work in our Missional Communities to recapture this meaning, and to find out who we can bless this Christmas with the money that we are saving from spending less on ourselves. If you can’t find anyone to bless, then please consider giving your money to “Living Water International” (, and agency that helps bring clean water to the millions who are without it (1.8 Million people die every year from unclean water related illnesses. This figure includes 3900 children a day).

To find out more about “The Advent Conspiracy” please go to:

What Are You Living For?

What Are You Living For? Colossians 2:6-15
Preached @ Harambee Church by Pastor Michael Gunn on October 4th, 2009

“Why am I fighting to live, if I’m just living to fight
Why am I trying to see, when there ain’t nothing in sight
Why am I trying to give, when no one gives me a try
Why am I dying to live, if I’m just living to die”

Tupac, Runnin (Dying To Live)

Do you ever stop and consider what you are living for? What’s the point? What is that one thing that gets you up in the morning excited about the day’s prospects? I’ve often heard a certain phrase iterated differently, but basically has the idea that “We only have one life, we need to live it to it’s fullest!” Man that sounds so right on, but what doe is mean? Is it a hollow exhortation uttered by slick motivational speakers, or is there a way to really “Live” our lives? We just completed three weeks on biblical stewardship, and discussing giving as an act of grace in response to the grace we are lavished with in Christ, but what is that grace??

In our passage today, Paul exhorts the Colossians to “Continue to live in Him (Jesus)” in the same way we have “Received” Him. I want to ask three questions I think the text answers as it relates to living in Christ.

From the Head…
How Are We To Receive Jesus? (Colossians 2:6-7)
It is easy to think that “Receiving” Jesus in this text means “Inviting Him into out heart,” but this would prove to be an anachronistic way to read this text. The word “Received” in this text (Paralambano) is a technical term that has the idea of the “Transmission of teaching from one generation to another” (See 1 Corinthians 15:3-4). This exhortation almost explodes in the face of an American church that desires experience over facts, but what Paul exhorts the Colossian believers to do is contemplate the truth of Christ, not just the “Experience” or feeling of Christ. This idea is supported in the context (See v. 7). Thus receiving Jesus in this text doesn’t mean coming to salvation, but it means for us to dwell on the things we have been taught that are true about Jesus. Paul lists four characteristics of what it means to “Live in the Lord:”

“Rooted ”
“Built up”
“Strengthened in the Faith”
Overflowing with Thankfulness”

The first three verbs are in the Passive Voice, which carries with it the idea that the objects are being acted upon by the subject. In this case we (The objects) are being acted upon by God (The subject); but the fourth verb is in the Active Voice, which means that the object is active in the action of the verb. This may seem like a grammar lesson until we understand the significance of it in Paul’s theology. He doesn’t begin with prayer that we all become more thankful and contented; this “Overflow” of thanksgiving is the result or reaction to the truthful reality of what God has given (Or done) for us. If we are looking for an experience without understanding the truth of what God has done, we will always miss the blessing we have in Jesus, because we make the experience, not Him preeminent. Thankfulness is a completion of the giving circle, where the one gifted gives back to the giver. This is the only way we can give; cheerfully, resulting from what we have been given. Thanksgiving is a prerequisite to living “In Christ,” because it is a sign of a healthy spiritual condition, knowing the truth of God’s word and the depth of His love for His people (See Ephesians 3:17)

This idea of being rooted in Christ is found in Jeremiah 17:7-8, where Jeremiah says that a person of faith is like a “Tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream. It does not fear when heat comes, its leaves are always green. It has no worries in a year of drought and never fails to bear fruit.” This kind of life is a result of being “Rooted” in Christ and His love for us, and being thankful for it. This is the result of a content life, which allows us to handle stress in a different kind of way.

What Is The Killer Of This Life? (Colossians 2:8)
Simply looking to other worldviews (“Hollow, deceptive philosophy) for our happiness. These are the lies we believe. The world’s marketing pleas that promise much and provide little. This warning is centered around empty religious panderings. Religion promises too much, with little return, and it is a frustrating lie that many are truly sick of. Religion doesn’t provide what it says it provides, and so many are thankfully leaving religion, but unfortunately they are leaving religion for another set of religious lies; the lie that we do not need God to be happy. Paul is exhorting them to leave religion and its powerless promise to feast on Jesus, who is not a promise, but a reality.

What Ignites This Kind of Life? (Colossians 2:9-15)
What is it that causes one to have an abundance of thanksgiving? While the pagan religions that Paul was combating in this letter rooted their salvation stories in ahistorical myths, Paul and the early Christians rooted their stories in stated historical truth (The Teachings). In this passage Paul connect everything to an event in Jesus’ life; His death, burial and resurrection (See 1 Corinthians 15:1-6; 14). Some commentators try to mitigate Paul’s message by pointing out that Paul doesn’t talk about other aspects of Christ’s life, but Paul knows that it is His cross and His resurrection that matter. These are true, historical realities or “Our faith is in vain!!” It is on the cross of Christ only that you are Spiritually circumcised; it is in faith in the “Power of God” (v. 12) to raise Jesus from the dead that we will be raised with Him in eternity also. It is on the cross that our sinful nature has been “Put off” not with a religious ceremony, or moral grandstanding, but through the glorious cross of Christ. It is at the cross that we (Who were DEAD) are made alive since all of our sins were forgiven, and all our debts were canceled; ON THE CROSS!; and then last, but not least, He destroyed evil powers ON THE CROSS. These are the realities of what we have “Received” and Paul says LIVE IN THEM!! Yes I have used CAPS and exclamation points, because this is what “Roots you in Him, and establishes you and brings forth real thanksgiving, because we are grateful for His act of grace in our own lives, so we can live contently knowing that a loving God is present, when all hell breaks loose. He is our joy and our strength and our rock, when the world is collapsing underneath us. Knowing that Christ is supreme and His love for us is unending is what IGNITES us to a thankful joy in the midst of our pain, because we know that HE has felt that pain on the cross, and that all the crap that life can throw us is part of a glorious purpose that w aren’t privy to, but gives us hope and joy in a crazy world.

…to the Heart
What broken and empty philosophy are you living? What marketing scam are you believing that forces you to be cynical about the truth of the glory of the cross in your life? What idol has you convinced that you need something other than the love of Jesus and His glorious cross to make you happy. Please place it on the cross today, and allow it to be “Nailed” to Jesus’ cross as you repent of this idol, and place your faith in Christ for the “Fullness of the deity lives in bodily form.”