Previous sermon notes and newsletter articles can be found on the right-hand menu, organized by category and by date published.

Monday, June 15, 2015

Bible Storying at Brown Deer - Sept. 12, 2015

Jesus always used stories and illustrations like these when speaking to the crowds. In fact, he never spoke to them without using such parables. This fulfilled what God had spoken through the prophet: ‘I will speak to you in parables. I will explain things hidden since the creation of the world.’” (Matthew 13:34-35, NLT)

If you’ve read many pastor articles in the last six years here at Brown Deer, you may have noticed something:  Pastor Larry likes to tell stories. People connect with stories. People remember stories. You can give someone a list of facts to memorize, and the task may seem ominous. But tell them a story or a joke, and they can remember intricate details verbatim.

That is why it gives us great pleasure to announce Brown Deer will be hosting a Bible Storying workshop this fall. Please mark your calendars for Saturday, September 12, 2015 and guard that date! This valuable training will better equip VBS workers, Sunday School teachers, small group leaders, parents, and anyone who’d like to understand how they can use Bible stories when their own children, friends, or co-workers ask spiritual questions.

Not just for international missionaries. While it’s true Bible Storying methods were originally embraced by our mission staff overseas to better engage non-literate cultures with the gospel, church leaders in the United States have realized that our American culture is swiftly changing into a more oral learning culture as well, and are scrambling to adapt. You may have experienced this yourself if you’ve ever typed up a detailed, carefully-worded e-mail and received a question 5 minutes later from someone who barely skimmed your masterpiece containing the answer to that question.

I still vividly remember the typing class (ermmm.. keyboarding, sure it was keyboarding class, haha!) I took my senior year in high school. Most students took it as a freshman, but my learning goals were more complicated and this was my only opportunity. So, I had the privilege of taking that class in an electric room with 15 freshman boys.

I’ll spare you the details of the pranks I endured and the images in my mind I still to this day cannot un-see. But there was one boy in particular whom I still remember both for his laughter at those pranks, and for the predictable question he asked everyday of our teacher. Let’s call him, “Dave”.

At the beginning of almost every class, our teacher would review or introduce new skills, then she’d hand out an assignment with directions printed at the top. Every other student would read the instructions and begin typing. A few moments later, “Dave” would look around in confusion at everyone else typing, and exclaim, “What do we do?”

I’d always smirk and shake my head; but looking back, it’s obvious that “Dave” was an oral learner. If you watch how-to videos instead of reading printed instructions, or if you prefer to have someone show you how to cook a dish rather than to follow a written recipe; you may be an oral learner as well.

In Real Life Discipleship, Jim Putman notes that the Holy Spirit has used Bible Storying in the church he serves to change hearts in ways he’s not seen with other teaching methods nor curriculum. “Even if people like learning through reading,” he writes, “reading by itself is not the best way to move information from the head to the heart.”

So on behalf of Pastor Larry, I invite you to come and learn how you can better apply the stories of the bible practically in your own lives, in the lives of your children, and in the lives of the community whom we are serving together.


Friday, August 1, 2014

The Blessing of Faithful, Humble Service

“…I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children, on the third and the fourth generations of those who hate Me, but showing lovingkindness to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My commandments.” --Exodus 20:5-6  (NASB95)

  My son likes to play chess. I don’t play chess against him very often because I don’t like routinely losing to him. I think he stays awake at night dreaming of new strategies for beating me. I’m not sophisticated at chess and rarely think more than a move or two ahead. My son, on the other hand, is thinking many moves ahead and that is why he wins. He envisions the entire game. Frankly, when I play chess I do well to remember the “horsey” goes two and one to the side. Or, is it one and two to the side?

  There is one thing I have noticed about playing chess. Once the game is over, the king and the pawn go back into the same box. There is a lesson to learn in that observation. In life, whether you are the most rich and powerful or the most poor and weak, we all end up in the same box when it is over. So, after I’m in the box what kind of legacy will I  leave for those who come after me?

  I don’t need to worry about that because God has taken care of it. He promised in Exodus 20 that if I will simply love Him and live by His truth, God will visit the generations that follow me with His lovingkindness. I don’t have to be a king in the eyes of men to leave a lasting legacy. I just need to be faithful pawn in the eyes of God. 

  Warren Wiersbe writes of John Wesley's father, Samuel, who was a dedicated pastor. There were those in his parish who did not like him. On February 9, 1709, a fire broke out in the Wesley home at Epworth, set by one of Samuel Wesley’s enemies. Young John, not yet six years old, was stranded on the upper floor of the home. Two neighbors rescued the lad just seconds before the roof crashed in. One neighbor stood on the other's shoulders and pulled young John through the window. Samuel Wesley said, "Come, neighbors, let us kneel down. Let us give thanks to God. He has given me all my eight children. Let the house go. I am rich enough." John Wesley often referred to himself as a "brand plucked out of the fire" (Zechariah 3:2; Amos 4:11). In later years he often noted February 9 in his journal and gave thanks to God for His mercy. Samuel Wesley labored for 40 years at Epworth and saw very little fruit; but, what his family accomplished!

  Let us all seek to be like Samuel Wesley: faithful and humble servants of God. God will then bless a thousand generations after us!
Pastor Larry

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Rest is Commanded Because We NEED It & God Loves Us

“The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath.” Mark 2:27 (NASB95)

  Friday, January 17, 4:00 PM – The group of pastors on the recent Israel were at a baptismal site at the Jordan River. We had to hurry because the gates would close at 5:00 PM even though there was plenty of light left in the day and plenty of people wanting to rent robes in order to be immersed in the icy waters. Why was this place closing? If you have been to Israel, you already know the answer is found in the dateline. The Jewish Sabbath begins at 6:00 PM on Friday evening. The workers at the site needed to leave at five o’clock in order to be home when Sabbath began. It is not just a tradition there—it is an expectation of society based on the Law of Moses.
  After drying off and warming up, we drove back to our hotel on the Sea of Galilee. All the shops in Tiberias, a bustling tourist city, were closed. Even the gas station and convenience store along the highway in little Magdela was closed. By the time we reached the hotel it seemed that our tour bus was the only vehicle on the roads. At the hotel which was located on a kibbutz (Israeli collective farm) I could hear the singing and worship in the synagogue on Friday night. It was so beautiful and peaceful.
  On Saturday morning the tour continued on to Tel Dan and Caesarea Philippi. Again, I was struck by how deserted the sidewalks were and how few cars were on the roads. It was as if the people had disappeared—actually they were sleeping and resting quietly at home. The morning haze burned away by midday and the people began to emerge. The traffic was still light but the sidewalks were filled with families taking walks together. The parks were filled families picnicking and playing games together. The trails were filled with families riding their bikes together. Families. Together. 
  I suspect that the divorce rate is pretty low in Israel. I also would not be surprised to learn that Israeli teens have fewer addictions, social maladjustments, and other similar problems as their American counterparts. Could it be that God knew what He was doing when He commanded us to keep the Sabbath (the 4th of the 10 Commandments)? Of course! God made the Sabbath for us because we need it.
  I was convicted about our breaking of this commandment even when we worship on Sunday. We don’t rest on Saturday night. We rush and fuss to get to church. We are impatient if Sunday school and worship takes too much time. We rush to lunch and then families scatter in different directions. I challenge the families of BDBC to rest on Saturday evenings and enjoy worshipping as a family. I challenge you to spend time playing together on Sunday afternoons. Our families need the Sabbath. God made the Sabbath for us because He loves us!
Pastor Larry

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Wednesday Evening Programs Cancelled (Jan. 30, 2013)

Dear BDBC Family,
  After speaking at length to Rob this afternoon, we believe it would be best to cancel Wednesday evening classes for the safety of our church family. A new system of snow has developed and conditions are deteriorating rapidly just north and west of the area.

I am in the process of contacting the news stations...

                                                                                          Love and stay warm,
                                                                                          Pastor Larry

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Thanksgiving: Focus on God; Not News

“To You I shall offer a sacrifice of thanksgiving, and call upon the name of the Lord.” Psalm 116:17 (NASB95)

   I am a news “junkie”—I have followed news closely for many years. I read newspapers (online) and listen to news radio when I am driving. My kids suffer through news radio when they ride in the car. Their only hope of deliverance is when Ramona is in the car too. Their predictable pleas are, “Mom, please make Dad put music on or turn the radio off.” Being a man who wishes to avoid intense family fellowship while driving, the music plays and leaves me wondering things such as “What if there is a traffic alert…What if bad weather is approaching…What if animals escape from the zoo…What if zombies are on the loose…What if our political leaders suddenly decide to put the interests of the country ahead of their own interests?” (I know the zombie thing is more likely to happen than the politicians getting their acts together.)

   Having confessed to being a news-aholic, I have noticed that I’m not paying as much attention to news lately as I used to. You know the reason. As with most people, giving heed to the news leaves me depressed and despondent. I don’t dare ask if things can get worse because I know they most certainly can get worse—much worse. Here’s a radical thought: instead of griping about what we think is wrong, focus on Who is right. That is the key to truly being thankful at Thanksgiving. God has blessed us. We have lost sight of those blessings because we have lost sight of the Blesser.

   The first official observance of Thanksgiving for the United States of America was issued by George Washington in 1779:

   Whereas, it is the duty of all nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey His will, to be grateful for His benefits, and humbly to implore His protection and favor; Whereas, both the houses of Congress have, by their joint committee, requested me "to recommend to the people of the United States a day of public thanksgiving and prayer, to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many and signal favors of Almighty God, especially by affording them an opportunity peaceably to establish a form of government for their safety and happiness!" Now therefore, I do recommend next, to be devoted by the people of the states to the service of that great and glorious being, who is the beneficent Author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be, that we may then all unite in rendering unto Him our sincere and humble thanks for His kind care and protection of the people of this country.

   If you noticed the date, you realized that in 1779, we had not yet won our independence and war filled our land. Yet, Washington reminded us to focus on God and not the news of the day.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Pastor Larry

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Hear it! Believe it! Connect it! (Romans 10:8-17)

Theme Verse for This Week's VBS/Kid's Camp:

So faith comes from what is heard, and what is heard comes through the message about Jesus Christ. — Romans 10:17 (HCSB)

     It is amazing how little people know about the Word of God, especially here in America where virtually everyone has access to the Bible. This was demonstrated by Tonight Show host Jay Leno. Leno frequently does "man-on-the street" interviews, and one night he collared some young people to ask them questions about the Bible. "Can you name one of the Ten Commandments?" he asked two college-age women. One replied, "Freedom of speech?" Mr. Leno said to the other, "Complete this sentence: Let he who is without sin..." Her response was, "have a good time?" Mr. Leno then turned to a young man and asked, "Who, according to the Bible, was eaten by a whale?" The confident answer was, "Pinocchio."

 Such misunderstandings, while seeming to be humorous, are tragic. The importance of God’s Word is reiterated throughout its pages and no more powerfully than in Romans 10:17 where it states, "So faith comes from what is heard, and what is heard comes through the message about Christ."

[Romans 10:8-17]
8  On the contrary, what does it say? The message is near you, in your mouth and in your heart. This is the message of faith that we proclaim:  9  If you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. 10  One believes with the heart, resulting in righteousness, and one confesses with the mouth, resulting in salvation. 11  Now the Scripture says, Everyone who believes on Him will not be put to shame, 12  for there is no distinction between Jew and Greek, since the same Lord of all is rich to all who call on Him. 13  For everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved. 14  But how can they call on Him they have not believed in? And how can they believe without hearing about Him? And how can they hear without a preacher? 15  And how can they preach unless they are sent? As it is written: How beautiful are the feet of those who announce the gospel of good things! 16  But all did not obey the gospel. For Isaiah says, Lord, who has believed our message? 17  So faith comes from what is heard, and what is heard comes through the message about Christ.

Romans 10:14 declares, "…how can they believe without hearing about Him?..."

Proverbs 29:18   "Without revelation people run wild, but one who listens to instruction will be happy. "

Romans 10:17 declares that faith is the result of hearing God speak through the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

   The Word of God produces faith in the matter of Salvation. In 1 Corinthians 1:17-18 the Apostle Paul says, "For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel, not in cleverness of speech, so that the cross of Christ would not be made void. For the word of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.”

   As a pastor, sometimes I feel like I’m in sales and promotion. Help me remember at the heart of it all, is not to "get" the word out, but to "let" the Word out. The Word of God produces faith in the matter of spiritual growth.

   Dwight L. Moody once wrote, "I prayed for Faith, and thought that someday Faith would come down and strike me like lightening. But Faith did not seem to come. One day I read in the tenth chapter of Romans, ‘Now Faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God.’ I had closed my Bible, and prayed for Faith. I now opened my Bible, and began to study, and Faith has been growing ever since."  (Dwight L. Moody, Leadership, Vol. 10, no. 4.)

   2 Timothy 3:16-17  "All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness;  so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.”

   John R. W. Stott said, “A man who loves his wife will love her letters and her photographs because they speak to him of her. So if we love the Lord Jesus, we shall love the Bible because it speaks to us of him.”

Other books were given for our information; the Bible was given for our transformation.

   You can read the Bible everyday of your life and still be unaffected by its pages and unchanged by its power, unless you are willing to believe it and receive it. Again, Dwight L. Moody said, “The Bible was not given to increase our knowledge but to change our lives.”

   Notice how Paul says you must believe before you can have saving faith in Romans 10:8-11.

8  On the contrary, what does it say? The message is near you, in your mouth and in your heart. This is the message of faith that we proclaim:  9  If you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. 10  One believes with the heart, resulting in righteousness, and one confesses with the mouth, resulting in salvation. 11  Now the Scripture says, Everyone who believes on Him will not be put to shame…”

   Paul also wrote in 1 Thessalonians 2:13, “For this reason we also constantly thank God that when you received the word of God which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men, but for what it really is, the word of God, which also performs its work in you who believe.”

   Long before contemporary authors Josh McDowell and Lee Stroebel researched the truth of the Bible, American Jurist Salmon P. Chase (1808-1873) wrote, "There came a time in my life when I doubted the divinity of the Scriptures, and I resolved as a lawyer and a judge I would try the book as I would try anything in the courtroom, taking evidence for and against. It was a long, serious, and profound study; and using the same principles of evidence in this religious matter as I always do in secular matters, I have come to the decision that the Bible is a supernatural book, that it has come from God, and that the only safety for the human race is to follow its teachings."

   Remember the plea of Colossians 3:16. “Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you, with all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with thankfulness in your hearts to God.” 

Notice again Romans 10:14-15.

14  But how can they call on Him they have not believed in? And how can they believe without hearing about Him? And how can they hear without a preacher? 15  And how can they preach unless they are sent? As it is written: How beautiful are the feet of those who announce the gospel of good things!
Jesus commanded us in Mark 16:15 to “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation.”

   Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a German Christian leader who gave his life opposing the Nazis, studied for a year in New York City. He was uniformly disappointed with the preaching he heard there: "One may hear sermons in New York upon almost any subject; one only is never handled, namely, the gospel of Jesus Christ, of the cross, of sin and forgiveness."

   Don McKenzie told this story. One night very late in the evening, a pastor was called to the hospital. As he was walking down the semi-dark hall, with no people around, a man suddenly ran out of one of the patient rooms. He ran up to the pastor – the pastor had never seen him before--and said to him with joy in his face, "She’s going to make it. She’s better. She is going to make it," and then he made his way on down the hall. The preacher has not seen the man since. He does not know who the man was talking about. Apparently “she” was someone very near and dear to him, and he had just received good news. He could not wait to share it. He did not even have to know the person with whom he shared it; it just flowed from him because he had received good news, and good news is to be shared.

   The Apostle Peter said to those who opposed the Gospel in Acts 4:20, "We cannot stop speaking about what we have seen and heard.” 

   Luigi Tarisio was found dead one morning with scarce a comfort in his home, but with 246 exquisite violins, which he had been collecting all his life, crammed into an attic, the best in the bottom drawer of an old rickety bureau. In his very devotion to the violin, he had robbed the world of all that music all the time he treasured them; others before him had done the same, so that when the greatest of his collection, a Stradivarius, was first played, it had had 147 speechless years. Yet, how many of Christ’s people are like old Tarisio?

   In our very love of the church we fail to give the glad tidings to the world; in our zeal for the truth we forget to publish it. When shall we all learn that the Good News needs not just to be cherished, but needs to be told? All people need to hear it.

  The value of the Bible is not knowing it, but obeying it. Knowing the Bible is of little benefit unless you practice it.

   The best thing to do with the Bible is to know it in the head, stow it in the heart, sow it in the world, and show it in the life.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Godly People Will Have Trials

But Jews came from Antioch and Iconium, and having won over the crowds, they stoned Paul and dragged him out of the city, supposing him to be dead. But while the disciples stood around him, he got up and entered the city. The next day he went away with Barnabas to Derbe. After they had preached the gospel to that city and had made many disciples, they returned to Lystra and to Iconium and to Antioch, strengthening the souls of the disciples, encouraging them to continue in the faith, and saying, “Through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God.” Acts 14:19-22 NASB95

Godly people WILL have trials. It is not optional! God promises that His people will be a tested and tried people. We are forged into spiritual warriors in the furnace of affliction instead of being pampered with peace and pleasure. Jesus said that as long as we are in this world, we will have troubles.

I know what some of you are thinking: “Pastor, I don’t like what you have written and now you’re making me depressed.” If that’s your line of thought, you are missing the point. Don’t misunderstand me—I don’t go out of my way to find trials because I enjoy them. But, when those tribulations come, I know that God has turned up the furnace’s heat because He is doing some refining and purifying of my faith.

Can you name one great man or woman of faith in the Bible who didn’t find themselves broken by hard times? You know the answer. There isn’t one. Do I possess a faith stronger than Job? David? Abraham? Noah? Elijah? Jeremiah? Peter? Paul? John? What makes me think that I shouldn’t have seasons of testing like those fellows?

Yes, if those great men of faith went through the fire, surely I will find myself sweating at times in my life too. Mother Theresa once said, “God will never give you more than you can handle, but there are times I wish He didn’t trust me so much!” While that quote is humorous, it is wrong. In fact, God often gives us MORE than we can handle! It is that moment of being so burdened that you break that your faith finds its legs and stands. You learn that God is real and He keeps His promises. Your faith grows. The metal of your character becomes more refined and the steel of faith is strengthened.

From ancient times, those who made useful tools from forged metal have left a personalized mark in the metal. For example, look at a quality knife or a gun and you will see the manufacturer’s mark imprinted in the metal. God leaves his mark on you after the forging in the furnace of trials so that others will know Who made you into a person of great faith!
Pastor Larry

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

No Classes Tonight

Brown Deer Baptist family: All classes and family supper are canceled for tonight. Authorities are warning of snow drifting/blowing onto roads into the evening hours and discouraging travel. Stay warm and see you Sunday!

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Family Devotionals For Today

Good morning!

Since services are canceled today, I thought I would encourage you to have a family Bible & worship time today.  I will share the message planned for today, "It's a Wonderful Life" from John 9, on December 26. Until then, meditate on the 9th chapter of John's Gospel and think about the  parallels between the blind man, yourself and the main character George Bailey from the movie from which the sermon title is taken.

A Plan for Family Worship:
Gather the family and offer prayers of thanksgiving and praise.
Ask each family to share a favorite Christmas hymn and discuss why it is special to that person.
Read John 1:1-18. Discuss why John's Christmas story is so different from its presentation in Matthew & Luke.
What are the main ideas God wants us to get in John 1 about the coming of Jesus?
Have every member of the family pray for another member of your family.
Sing one of the favorite Christmas hymns together.

  Pastor Larry

BDBC Church Cancelled This Morning

Dear BDBC Family,
  After speaking at length to Benjamin this morning, we believe it would be best to cancel church services today for the safety of our church family. It was a difficult decision to reach. I was willing to have services, but we agreed that it might be dangerous to travel home after services. The weather is supposed to deteriorate through  the morning with additional snow, falling temperatures and icing roads. The winds will be blowing snow in Milwaukee soon. Visibility is greatly reduced at my house already.

  Christmas music practice for adults and children will be moved to Wednesday night at 6:45 PM. The adults who are not part of the Christmas music programs will have a prayer meeting. Supper will still be at 6:00 PM on Wednesday.

                                                                                        Love and stay warm,
                                                                                          Pastor Larry

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Blizzard Alert for BDBC

Dear BDBC Family,

  As you may be aware, at 2:00 PM this afternoon the National Weather Service has issued a blizzard warning for Milwaukee and surrounding counties for tonight through 6 PM Sunday. I will make a determination regarding whether we will have Sunday services at 7:00 AM. Should services be canceled, I will send another email. There would also be a notice posted on the church website. The following media outlets will have information regarding a possible cancellation of our services:

Television Stations:
    WITI- Fox 6
    WISN-12 (abc)
    TMJ-4  (nbc)

Radio Stations:
    WTMJ 620 AM
    LAKE 94.5 FM
    WKLH 96.5 FM
    102.9 FM
    98.3 FM
    106.9 FM

Please call me if you have any questions or concerns.
God bless you and stay warm!
Pastor Larry

Monday, November 1, 2010

The Fellowship of Faith

“I pray that the fellowship of your faith may become effective through
the knowledge of every good thing which is in you for Christ’s sake.”
Philemon 6

Sunday afternoon was my favorite time of the week when I was the “preacher boy” pastor of the country church during my college years. Following the morning worship I was invited to a member’s home for lunch. As a single college student, I definitely enjoyed the down-home cooking--especially at the Musgrove homestead. Guy and Myrtle Musgrove were in their mid nineties and had been married for 75 years. They were both spry and full of life from country living. The “kids” (70 year old Odell and wife Ada Faye) lived in a house about a hundred yards away.

When it was the Musgrove’s turn to host me for Sunday dinner, Myrtle always butchered one of her chickens and made sure it was fried to perfection. Myrtle also believed that instant mashed potatoes and gravy made from a mix in an envelope was sinful and had to be condemned somewhere in the Bible. Homemade biscuits and vegetables from the garden rounded out the meal. Dessert was coconut cream pie topped with a meringue about six inches thick.

We used to joke that when the chickens in the yard saw my maroon car coming down the lane through the pasture they all ran under porch to hide—those Rhode Island Reds knew that the slowest one might be lunch! The food was great, but the fellowship was even better. Oh, how we laughed about the time Guy caught a possum and put it in a daughter’s-in-law car. There was also the time when 95-year-old Myrtle “got caught” painting the ceiling in her kitchen. She was standing on the counter in the kitchen when her son found her. She had posted Guy on the porch to be the lookout, but he had fallen asleep.

Yes, we had a great time laughing about the adventures of the Musgrove bunch. Sooner or later each Sunday, someone would say something like, “Preacher, I was readin’ in the Bible the other day where Jesus said…” “What do you think He was sayin’?” It was at this point that teaching deeper than any sermon would take place. Their faith and my faith grew as we explored the Scriptures and had real-life discussions about living for Christ. We would pray together and encourage one another. Ada Faye is the only one still living in this world, but we still keep in touch and she prays for me and my family daily—what a blessing because of fellowship!
This is part of what Paul is speaking of Philemon 6 as he writes of “the fellowship of your faith.” Christians grow stronger in the faith through fellowship. At Brown Deer Baptist Church, our small family group ministry is having a new beginning. One group has begun to meet at the Geiger’s home twice per month. Other groups can be formed. If you are interested in hosting or being part of a new small group ministry, please let me know. The study does not require extensive preparation and the Bible study is fresh and leads to great discussions. Groups can set their own meeting times and determine how often they will come together for fellowship, study and prayer.

Pastor Larry

Monday, May 10, 2010

Funeral Details

Visitation and funeral will be on church premises.

Visitation: Sunday at 5:30 p.m.
Funeral: Sunday at 6:00 p.m.

A fellowship meal will follow the funeral service.
Private burial will be Monday at 10 a.m.

-- Ramona

Sunday, May 9, 2010

A Mother On Mission (Mother’s Day) -- 2 Timothy 1:1-5; 3:14-17

An army officer who had 9 children all under the age of 15 had been stationed in Germany. His wife and all nine of his children traveled from the U.S. to Germany to live on base. The mother and her 9 children traveled by commercial airlines to Germany. After three airports and 24 hours of layovers and flight time, they all stood all in line before the customs official in Germany. The German customs officer asked, “Are all these children and these twenty suitcases yours?” The mother tiredly replied, “Yes.” The official then asked, “Do you have any weapons or drugs?” The mother answered, “If I did, don’t you think I would have used them already?!” The official nodded in agreement and the whole family was waved right through without a single suitcase being searched.

Today, we honor our mothers and give thanks to God for all the blessings mother’s bring to our lives. Mother’s Day is a good day to review the basics of a mother’s priorities. We find these in 2 Timothy. Paul is writing to a young pastor which he had taken under his wing to train. Let’s look-in on the review Paul conducted with his young friend, named Timothy. We will examine two passages of Scripture found in 2 Timothy. First read with me 1:1-5:

1 Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, according to the promise of life in Christ Jesus,
2 To Timothy, my beloved son: Grace, mercy and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord.
3 I thank God, whom I serve with a clear conscience the way my forefathers did, as I constantly remember you in my prayers night and day,
4 longing to see you, even as I recall your tears, so that I may be filled with joy.
5 For I am mindful of the sincere faith within you, which first dwelt in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice, and I am sure that it is in you as well.

Next, look at 3:14-17.

14 You, however, continue in the things you have learned and become convinced of, knowing from whom you have learned them,
15 and that from childhood you have known the sacred writings which are able to give you the wisdom that leads to salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus.
16 All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness;
17 so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.

Eunice was a single mother in a scary world. She was a Jewish believer in Jesus. She’d been married to a Greek unbeliever, who’d either left or died. Like today, raising a child in a single parent home was no picnic.

Then again, there are times of compensation. A little boy invaded the dress department of a big department store and said to the salesperson, "I want to buy my mom a dress, but I don’t know what size." "Is she tall or short, fat, or skinny?" asked the clerk. "Well, she’s just perfect," answered the boy. She wrapped-up a "size 8" for him. Two day’s later Mom came and exchanged the dress for a "size 16."

Eunice’s boy Timothy was that kind of compensation. And there were good reasons. Eunice was a wise and spiritually-strong mother. She had three priorities she taught young Timothy. Her priorities were learned at her mother Lois’ knee, and passed along to Tim. The world pushes temporary and transitory values - money, position, power and fame. You can sense that with a quick look at the TV lineup for most evenings - American Idol, Millionaire Matchmaker, and many more. Let’s examine these three priorities of godly mothers:

Priority #1: Savior

…and that from childhood you have known the sacred writings which are able to give you the wisdom that leads to salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus.
2 Timothy 3:15 (NASB95)


Eunice led her boy Timothy to know the Lord Jesus Christ. She taught him about Jesus, and expected that he would accept Christ as Savior.

The word "leads" in this verse speaks of anticipation. When a mother anticipates, prays and leads toward Christ, she has every right to expect the cooperation of God in bringing her child to the Lord. This sounds simple; but it is not easy...or cheap.

Susannah Wesley, mother of John and Charles Wesley, is said to have prayed one hour every day for her children. She was strict. But she was unselfishly faithful. She had six rules for teaching her children the priority of the Savior:

1. Subdue self-will in a child.
2. Teach him to pray as soon as he can speak.
3. Give him nothing he cries for, and only what is good for him when he asks politely.
4. Punish no fault confessed, but let no sinful act to go unnoticed.
5. Reward good behavior.
6. Strictly observe all promises you have made to your child.

What is so familiar about these rules is it is exactly the way the Lord treats us. Knowing the love of the mother up-close and personal, the children will learn to love the love of the Father in heaven.

An exasperated mother sent her naughty son to his room to discipline him. He stormed up to his room and defiantly hid under the bed. When the boy’s father got home, he went up to check on his wayward son. The father entered the room but did not see the little guy. He wandered around the room for a moment and then looked under the bed. When he looked under the bed, he saw two eyes looking back at him. Then he heard his son’s voice: “Hi, Daddy. Is Mommy trying to get you, too?”

Mom’s tend to be the enforcers of the rules in most homes. Mothers, if you want to know what rules to set for your home, the Scriptures are God’s guidelines for the home.

Priority #2: Scripture

15   and that from childhood you have known the sacred writings….
16   All Scripture is inspired by God…
2 Timothy 3:15a, 16a (NASB95)


Eunice taught her son the scriptures starting at a very young age. Jewish boys start formal instruction in the Scriptures at age 5; younger than that is not too soon. It is said that Susannah Wesley had 19 children. (Whew!) What is more, this mother of Charles and John Wesley took each child aside for an hour every week to discuss and teach them the principles of spiritual living. Those two sons touched two continents for Christ.

The best formula I know for teaching children is to
a. Bring them to church on Sunday;
b. Apply what is learned on Sunday all throughout the rest of the week.

Mothers, nobody will MAKE you do this. In fact, it is just the opposite today. With God removed from public places and the schools faithfully teaching secular humanism, your child has little chance of growing up to be a Timothy, or with any kind of Christian values, unless YOU teach him!

With all the demands of today’s world, is this just another pressure, a burden, a further complication? When do single mothers and working mothers have time for "Susannah Wesley mothering?" Relax, dear mother. If you will have a priority in your own life for God’s Word, and simply live it before your children, and be ready to answer their questions, you will be teaching them.

On the other hand, if you won’t live it, don’t bother to teach it in any other way. They will learn what you live. A child that sees her mother carry a Bible to church, but never opens it from Monday to Saturday knows that Christianity is only for Sunday.

Dad was watching television after supper. Mom was doing the dishes while another load of laundry was in the washing machine. The children were in the den looking at pictures from the family album. The older brother pointed to the wedding picture and said to his younger sister, “This was the party they had when Dad hired Mom.”

Ladies, I know you get tired doing all the things you do for your family. Wouldn’t it be nice to take a break from it all. But, you know it will all be waiting for you when the break is over. Husbands and children, one the best things you can do for the lady in your home is help lighten the load of household chores.

Moms, you know it is important to teach your children (and husbands) how to help around the house. But, it is also important for you to teach your children how to serve the Lord through the church.

Priority #3: Service

16  All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; 17  …so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.

2 Timothy 3:16-17 (NASB95)

All of Timothy’s instruction prepared him for service to the Lord.

As we learn in Acts 16:1-5:

1 Paul came also to Derbe and to Lystra. And a disciple was there, named Timothy, the son of a Jewish woman who was a believer, but his father was a Greek,
2 and he was well spoken of by the brethren who were in Lystra and Iconium.
3 Paul wanted this man to go with him; and he took him and circumcised him because of the Jews who were in those parts, for they all knew that his father was a Greek.
4 Now while they were passing through the cities, they were delivering the decrees which had been decided upon by the apostles and elders who were in Jerusalem, for them to observe.
5 So the churches were being strengthened in the faith, and were increasing in number daily.

Timothy’s good reputation had its start in his mother’s good reputation. Often the best legacy we can leave our children is not a pile of pennies or possessions, but the simple fact of a good name. Eunice’s reputation replicated itself in her son, and Paul had no trouble taking a chance on this young man. Eunice served, Timothy followed.

Many good men and faithful servants of God have the same testimony. The great Baptist preacher, G. Campbell Morgan had four sons. They all became preachers. At a family reunion a friend asked one of the sons, "Which Morgan is the greatest preacher?" With his eyes beaming with delight, the son looked over to his father and said, "Why, it’s Mother!"

Mother, is your child ready to serve God?
*Are you leading that child to the Savior?
*Are you preparing that son or daughter with Scripture, learned by you both at church and practiced at home?
*Are you leading that child to His Service? Or is he unmotivated, unequipped and undirected; is he unprepared to meet the spirit of this age?

What will your child say when the world, peer pressure, and the culture challenges his faith and drives home its message against Jesus with materialism, relativism and rationalization?

If the truth be known, when a child is born there are at least two emotions - great joy (A CHILD IS BORN!)....and Oh MY! (NOW WHAT DO I DO?) As wonderful as being a mother is just that scary to raise a child today. There are thousands of books from Dr. Spock to Dr. Phil. We are bombarded with suggestions and authority from our own mothers to Oprah. What’s a mother to do?

Dump the trends and fads.
Be a godly woman.
Get your priorities in order: SAVIOR...SCRIPTURE... SERVICE

Mother and Father are not honorary titles - they are working job descriptions.

Mothers (and Dads), don’t leave the mission to the preacher, Sunday School teacher or anyone else when it comes to your precious children. An ounce of mother is worth a pound of clergy. YOU lead them to the Savior; YOU teach them the Scripture; YOU prepare them for service. You be a mother on mission!

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Jesus’ Financial Report (Mark 12:41-42)

Financial statements are an important part of church life. We receive periodic reports keeping us up to date with how we are doing in meeting our budget and expenses. Did you know that just a few days before Jesus died on the cross, He also issued a financial statement? Jesus reported on the income of the temple treasury. However, Jesus said nothing about large contributions made by the rich. He reported on the receipt of “two small copper coins, which amount to a cent.”

In Mark 12:41-42 we read:

41 And He sat down opposite the treasury, and began observing how the people were putting money into the treasury; and many rich people were putting in large sums.
42 A poor widow came and put in two small copper coins, which amount to a cent.
43 Calling His disciples to Him, He said to them, “Truly I say to you, this poor widow put in more than all the contributors to the treasury;
44 for they all put in out of their surplus, but she, out of her poverty, put in all she owned, all she had to live on.”

If you had been with Jesus that afternoon, would the large amounts of money offered by the rich distracted you from noticing the widow with the seemingly insignificant coins? It shouldn’t surprise you that Jesus’ attitude about an offering is different from the attitude of most of us.  Just as Jesus watched the offering that day and called his disciples to a proper perspective on giving, Jesus watches our offerings today and calls us to view the offering from a right perspective.

There are three mistaken attitudes about giving which seem to be common within the church today. As I expose these wrong beliefs, it is my prayer that you will find that giving an offering is one of the rewarding experiences of the Christian life. The weekly collection is not a necessary evil; it is an exciting part of worship.


As people saved by faith, we understand that an offering is not for the purpose of acceptance before God. The offering is a means of demonstrating our love, faith and obedience to God. It is also a way of giving praise and glory to God.

A. The Master’s Teaching About the Offering

In the first few pages of the Bible (Genesis 4:3-7) we find Cain and Abel bringing a sacrificial offering to God.

3 So it came about in the course of time that Cain brought an offering to the Lord of the fruit of the ground.
4 Abel, on his part also brought of the firstlings of his flock and of their fat portions. And the Lord had regard for Abel and for his offering;
5 but for Cain and for his offering He had no regard. So Cain became very angry and his countenance fell.
6 Then the Lord said to Cain, “Why are you angry? And why has your countenance fallen?
7 “If you do well, will not your countenance be lifted up? And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door; and its desire is for you, but you must master it.”

In that first offering, we see that God accepted Abel’s offering and rejected Cain’s. Why? God accepts or rejects our offering according to the attitude of our heart.

Noah made an offering when he could finally stand on dry ground after the flood. There are many examples of offerings being presented to God from the very first pages of the Bible, through the Law of Moses and the remainder of Old Testament history.

In the New Testament, we find that it is appropriate to present an offering to the Lord. The parents of infant Jesus brought the prescribed sacrifice for a firstborn son (Luke 2:24). When Jesus healed the leper in Luke 5, He instructed the healed man to offer the expected sacrifice. Jesus presented offerings to the Father. He even gave Himself as the ultimate sin offering.

The practice of giving an offering to God is practiced by the New Testament church, the Apostles and throughout church history. Virtually every reference in Scripture to an offering demonstrates that it is a positive expression of thanksgiving and commitment to God.

Just as Cain had the wrong idea about giving an offering, Jesus warns us about giving with wrong motives in Matthew 5:23-24, “Therefore if you are presenting your offering at the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your offering there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother, and then come and present your offering.

B. The Modern Thinking About the Offering

There is a disturbing trend within the church today that communicates that an offering is an uncomfortable necessity. It is declared in many ways, most often unintentionally, by what is said and the attitude with which it is presented.
In an attempt to make visitors at a worship service feel welcome, they will sometimes by told that they are not expected to participate in the offering. We invite them to share in every other aspect of the worship experience—sing the hymns and choruses, pray, listen to the sermon, and fellowship with others present. Yet, we are afraid that if they are are asked to worship by giving they will not return next Sunday.

At times, I have been guilty of emphasizing that the offering is for the members to support the ministry and program of the church. While it is true the church needs money to operate, the primary purpose of the offering portion of the service is worship! We give as an expression of praise and worship, not to pay the bills. When Christians understand the true nature of an offering, there will be a sufficient amount to meet the financial obligations of the church.

Remember, the most offensive thing that occurs in our worship service is not the offering, but the preaching of Christ. “For the word of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God” (1 Corinthians 1:18).

The offering time of the worship service is one of the most visible expressions of worship. It not only declares our faith and appreciation to God, but it also serves as a testimony to those around us. When the heart is right, we can avoid the temptation of “Pharisee giving” to impress others (Matthew 6:1-2).


Some Christians believe that tithing is an Old Testament practice that is no longer valid for the Christian. They reason that it is part of the Law of Moses which was made obsolete with the ultimate sacrifice of Jesus. Therefore, according to their thinking, there are no guidelines about how much God asks His people to give to the offering.

Some point to the truth that Jesus demands a total commitment, so ultimately everything belongs to God. This idealistic position allows individual to make his own determination as to how much should actually be placed in the offering plate. It is somewhat reminiscent of the Pharisaical practice of “corban,” where money was dedicated to God but retained for personal use.

A. The Reality of the Tithe

The tithe definitely belongs to God. Leviticus 27:30 says, “Thus all the tithe of the land, of the seed of the land or of the fruit of the tree, is the Lord’s; it is holy to the Lord.”

God lays claim to ten percent of what we have from the very beginning. For those who think that the tithe is no longer expected by God because it was part of the Law of Moses, I want to show you two facts.

First, the tithe predates Mosaic Law. In Genesis 14:20, Abraham offered the tithe.

Second, Jesus commanded the tithe to be given. Notice what Jesus said in Matthew 23:23, “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cummin, and have neglected the weightier provisions of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness; but these are the things you should have done without neglecting the others.”

Jesus criticized the Pharisees for not practicing the qualities of justice, mercy and faithfulness; but He also commanded them not to ignore the tithe. The fact that the Pharisees did not accuse Jesus of neglecting the tithe seems to indicate that Jesus also tithed.

There is no reference in the New Testament writings which questions the continuing practice of the tithe. Other Old Testament laws, such as eating regulations and sacrifices, were clearly set aside by the writers of the New Testament. However, the tithe is not nullified.

B. The Reward of the Tithe

God teaches the tithe is the most basic component of His economic system. To fail with the tithe is to not only miss the blessings of God, but it also brings about difficulties. Most studies indicate that most Christians only give 2.5% of their income to the church. In other words, most Christians only give ¼ of what God asks with the tithe. Listen to Malachi 3:8-12,

8 “Will a man rob God? Yet you are robbing Me! But you say, ‘How have we robbed You?’ In tithes and offerings.
9 “You are cursed with a curse, for you are robbing Me, the whole nation of you!
10 “Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, so that there may be food in My house, and test Me now in this,” says the Lord of hosts, “if I will not open for you the windows of heaven and pour out for you a blessing until it overflows.
11 “Then I will rebuke the devourer for you, so that it will not destroy the fruits of the ground; nor will your vine in the field cast its grapes,” says the Lord of hosts.
12 “All the nations will call you blessed, for you shall be a delightful land,” says the Lord of hosts.

God established the tithe for your benefit, not for His. God does not need your money. Tithing teaches you to master your money instead letting your money master you. There is actually a difference between a tithe and an offering. The tithe (10%) was what God expected. The offering (anything above the tithe) was what God encouraged. Don’t shoot the messenger, but if you aren’t faithful with the tithe, then you have never actually given an offering to God!

Did you notice that God said they were running short of their personal budget because they were greedy (v. 9)?

Did you see God’s promise to bless you for faithful tithing (vv. 10b-11)?

Did you see God’s promise to bless our church when members tithe faithfully (v. 10)?


There was a pastor who stood before his congregation on a Sunday morning to encourage them to give to a special offering. The pastor exposed the discomfort of the situation by reassuring everyone that no one would be asked to make a significant sacrifice. He said it had been calculated that if everyone would simply gather up the spare change from their pockets and purses each week and bring it to the church, the goal would be met in several months. His final words were, “You’ll not even miss the money!”

Are we moving toward the ultimate offertory experience—one that does not cost us anything? There is a movement to make the offering as painless and unnoticed as possible. Have we become uncomfortable with the idea of sacrifice when it comes to giving an offering? The idea of offering without sacrifice is foreign to the teaching of the Bible.

A.    Sacrifice Was Expected in the Old Testament

The word “sacrifice” is used more than 140 times in the Old Testament. It was always expected of God’s people. When King David was presented with the opportunity to give an offering to God which would not cost anything, he replied with these words in 2 Samuel 24:24, “I will not offer burnt offerings to the Lord my God which cost me nothing.” David refused to present an offering to God that did not cost him something.

It would be difficult to explain to Abraham that God did not require sacrifice as he stood over his son, Isaac, ready to plunge a knife through Isaac’s heart. God is not afraid to ask for our best and most significant possession.

B.    Sacrifice Is Exemplified in the New Testament

Jesus commended several people who gave offerings. In each instance, the offering was characterized by sacrifice. Think of some of these examples.

There was the boy who gave five small barley loaves and two small fish to feed the multitude. Barley was the grain of the poor and from this we know the boy was from a poor family. His meager lunch was a very sacrificial gift to Jesus.

And then there was the widow who gave two insignificant coins. Her great sacrifice has been remembered for 2,000 years. She certainly sacrificed because she could have kept one coin and still have given 50%. Instead, she willingly gave everything. The wealthy, who put in large sums of money, were not praised by Jesus because they did not sacrifice.

Giving that is not costly sounds more like the world than the Christian faith. We must be careful that we don’t present the Gospel of Jesus Christ as a “good bargain.” Jesus spoke of taking up our cross. I don’t think Jesus would encourage us to give only our loose change because we would never miss it.

Remember, just as Jesus sat and watched the offering on that day recorded in Mark 12, He watches as we give every Lord’s day. Jesus is not concerned so much with how much we give. Jesus looks at our hearts to see why we give and how we give.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

The Feasts of the Lord #7: The Feast of Firstfruits (Part 2) --1 Corinthians 15:20-24

If you will recall, the Feast of Passover is a picture of the Lamb of God, Jesus Christ, dying as our substitute for sin. Jesus went to the cross on Passover. The Feast of Unleavened Bread is picture of Jesus’ sinless body not undergoing decay while in the grave. And, last Sunday, I introduced the Feast of Firstfruits and illustrated how this feast is a picture of Jesus rising from the dead. Jesus rose again on the exact day of the Feast of Firstfruits.

The Apostle Paul wrote of the Feast of Firstfruits in 1 Corinthians 15:20-24:

20 But now Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who are asleep.
21 For since by a man came death, by a man also came the resurrection of the dead.
22 For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all will be made alive.
23 But each in his own order: Christ the first fruits, after that those who are Christ’s at His coming,
24 then comes the end, when He hands over the kingdom to the God and Father, when He has abolished all rule and all authority and power.

First things are an important and oft-repeated theme of Scripture. God declared that, in general, the firstfruits of all agricultural produce belonged to Him—grain, wine, oil, and even fleece. In fact, all seven of the major crops grown in ancient Israel were included: barley, wheat, grapes, figs, pomegranates, olives and dates.

According to Mosaic Law, each firstborn son was to be presented to the priest at one month of age (Num. 18:16). In His mercy, the Lord made provision so that the firstborn could be redeemed from a lifetime of service in the Temple. At this dedication ceremony, called a Pidyon Haben (Heb. “Redemption of the Son”), it was possible to redeem the son out of full-time service through the payment of five shekels (pieces of silver) to the priest (Num. 18:16). The Pidyon Haben held true for all except the firstborn of the priests and the Levites. They were obligated to serve in the Temple and, therefore, could not be exempted.

At one month of age, Jesus was taken to the Temple for His Pidyon Haben. Mary and Joseph presented Him to the Lord: “As it is written in the law of the Lord, ‘Every male who opens the womb shall be called holy to the Lord’” (Luke 2:23).

It was on this occasion that Jesus was first publicly declared to be the Messiah. The godly Simeon took the child in his arms and blessed God: “For my eyes have seen Your salvation” (Luke 2:30). As a second witness, the godly Anna, declared His messiahship “to all those who looked for redemption in Jerusalem” (Luke 2:38).

The meaning of the Pidyon Haben ceremony was given by the Lord in Numbers 3:13, “For all the firstborn are Mine; on the day that I struck down all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, I sanctified to Myself all the firstborn in Israel, from man to beast. They shall be Mine; I am the Lord.”

When God redeemed Israel out of Egyptian bondage, He did so through the blood of the Passover lamb. All firstborn were under the curse of death and judgment. Escape was possible only by exhibiting faith in God through the blood of the innocent Passover lamb (Ex. 12:12-13).

So, too, in the spiritual sense, all of mankind is firstborn. All are sinners just as Adam and, therefore, are under the curse of death and in need of redemption (Rom. 5:17, 19; 1 Cor. 15:22). Escape is possible only by exhibiting faith in God through the redemptive blood of the Messiah, the true Passover Lamb, sacrificed as our substitute. Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 5:7, “…For Christ our Passover also has been sacrificed.”

Seven Examples of Firstfruits in the New Testament

Although Firstfruits is not as strongly emphasized in the Hebrew Scriptures as the other Levitical feasts, the Feast of Firstfruits forms an important backdrop to New Testament teaching. It is directly mentioned on seven occasions in the New Testament.

First, Paul spoke of Epaenetus as “the firstfruits of Achaia” (Rom. 16:5).

Second, Paul later spoke of the household of Stephanas as the “the firstfruits of Achaia” (1 Cor. 16:15). These were some of the first believers in the large harvest that followed in that part of ancient Greece.

Third, Paul used the concept of the firstfruits pinched from the dough to teach: “For if the firstfruit is holy, the lump is also holy” (Rom. 11:16). By this he meant, if God chose and accepted the patriarchs, then the whole lump of dough (Israel) belonged to Him. Therefore, “God has not cast away His people” (Rom. 11:2).

Fourth, speaking of believers as set apart to the Lord, James taught in James 1:18: “Of His own will He brought us forth by the word of truth, that we might be a kind of firstfruits of His creatures.”

Fifth, Paul again used this imagery when he spoke of salvation as the “firstfruits of the Spirit” (Rom. 8:23). By this he meant that the indwelling of the Spirit of God is the guarantee, or pledge, that there will be a final redemption. Our bodies will be glorified and the creation redeemed from the curse. The present reality of the indwelling of believers by the Holy Spirit assures, or guarantees (is the firstfruits of), the future promise of Heaven!

Sixth, in the Book of Revelation, John described a special group of 144,000 Jewish men who will be sealed just prior to the opening of the seventh seal (Rev. 7:1-8). There will be 12,000 from each of the 12 tribes of Israel, sealed and protected from God’s wrath at the commencement of the Day of the Lord. Later, John describes these 144,000 as “the ones who follow the Lamb wherever He goes. These were redeemed from among men, being firstfruits to God and to the Lamb” (Rev. 14:4).

But how are these 144,000 considered firstfruits? Immediately after the Rapture of the Church, the 144,000 will be God’s first working with the nation of Israel. They will be the proof, guarantee, or pledge (the firstfruits) of a future harvest within the nation of Israel. God will burn away the chaff and impurities in the fiery blast furnace of His wrath to bring the remnant of Israel to repentance at the end of Daniel’s seventieth week. Paul summarizes the result in Romans 11:26, “And so all Israel will be saved.”

Paul longed for Israel’s final harvest and spoke of himself as “one born out of due time” (1 Cor. 15:8). The imagery was that of a fig tree which would occasionally yield prematurely ripened figs out of season. These early figs were few and rare. Paul viewed himself as one of these whom God had graciously saved before the final harvest.

The seventh reference to Firstfruits in the New Testament is the most significant because it tells us of its fulfillment. Like Israel’s other spring feasts, the Feast of Firstfruits found its fulfillment in the first coming of Jesus Christ. Paul gloriously declared in 1 Corinthians 15:20, “But now Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who are asleep.” Revelation 1:5 refers to Jesus as “first born” from the dead.

How was Jesus our firstfruits? Jesus rose again on the third day (literally, the third day of the Passover season, Nisan 16), on the day of Firstfruits. But His resurrection had far greater implications beyond himself. Paul explained in 1 Corinthians 15:22, “For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all will be made alive.”  The resurrection of Jesus is the guarantee and the beginning (firstfruits) of the final harvest, or resurrection, of mankind! Jesus fulfilled the prophetic meaning of this holy day by rising from the dead to become the firstfruits of the resurrection, and He did it on the exact day of Firstfruits!

The Bible clearly teaches that there is life after death. The human soul does not cease to exist, nor does it float aimlessly as part of some “cosmic consciousness,” nor is it reincarnated. All will be resurrected. Only the quality of that eternal existence remains in question. The Hebrew prophet, Daniel, prophesied in Daniel 12:2, “Many of those who sleep in the dust of the ground will awake, these to everlasting life, but the others to disgrace and everlasting contempt.”

Jesus further explained in John 5:28-29, “Do not marvel at this; for an hour is coming, in which all who are in the tombs will hear His voice, and will come forth; those who did the good deeds to a resurrection of life, those who committed the evil deeds to a resurrection of judgment.” 

Just as there are two parts to the harvest, the wheat and the chaff, there will be two parts to the final harvest. Some will inherit eternal life and dwell in the house of the Lord forever. Those who do not give their hearts to Christ will inherit separation from God and be confined to the Lake of Fire—forever.

If you have put your faith in Jesus Christ, you will be resurrected to life at His coming. Jesus provided the ironclad guarantee when He rose from the dead. It will happen, of that we are sure, because “…Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who are asleep.”

Sunday, April 18, 2010

The Feasts of the Lord #6: The Feast of Firstfruits (Part 1) -- Leviticus 23:9-14

Many Christians are blessed in their studies of what is known as Eschatology, or literally, the study of last things. This vital area of biblical doctrine delves into future prophetic events in Scripture such as the Rapture of the Church, the Day of the Lord, the return of the Messiah, the restoration of Israel, and the messianic Kingdom. Many people spend countless hours studying the last things.

Although not a major discipline, nor often examined for very long by very many, the subject of first things is one about which the Bible has much to say. Somewhat obscure and essentially unobserved for almost two thousand years, Israel’s Feast of Firstfruits was an ancient holy day solely devoted to first things.  Its powerful message and timeless truths provide a rich lesson for God’s people.

Firstfruits marked the beginning of the cereal grain harvests in Israel. Barley was the first grain to ripen of those sown in the winter months. For Firstfruits, a sheaf of barley was harvested and brought into the Temple as a thanksgiving offering to the Lord for the harvest. It was representative of the barley harvest as a whole and served as a pledge or guarantee that the remainder of the harvest would be realized in the days that followed.

1. The Regulations for Firstfruits

There were specific regulations for this feast outlined by the Lord in Leviticus 23:9-14.

9 Then the Lord spoke to Moses, saying,
10 “Speak to the sons of Israel and say to them, ‘When you enter the land which I am going to give to you and reap its harvest, then you shall bring in the sheaf of the first fruits of your harvest to the priest.
11 ‘He shall wave the sheaf before the Lord for you to be accepted; on the day after the sabbath the priest shall wave it.
12 ‘Now on the day when you wave the sheaf, you shall offer a male lamb one year old without defect for a burnt offering to the Lord.
13 ‘Its grain offering shall then be two-tenths of an ephah of fine flour mixed with oil, an offering by fire to the Lord for a soothing aroma, with its drink offering, a fourth of a hin of wine.
14 ‘Until this same day, until you have brought in the offering of your God, you shall eat neither bread nor roasted grain nor new growth. It is to be a perpetual statute throughout your generations in all your dwelling places.

A sheaf (Hebrew omer, meaning “measure”) was to be brought to the priest at the Temple. The priest would wave it before the Lord for acceptance. There were also to be sacrifices: an unblemished male lamb of the first year, a drink offering of wine, and a meal offering of the barley flour mixed with olive oil.

The people were forbidden to use any part of the harvest in any way until after the firstfruits were offered to the Lord (Lev. 23:14). The neglect of these firstfruit offerings (or any others) were considered robbery of God according to Scripture (Mal. 3:8).

2. The Ritual for Firstfruits

The ceremony was detailed in Deuteronomy 26:1-10:

1 “Then it shall be, when you enter the land which the Lord your God gives you as an inheritance, and you possess it and live in it,
2 that you shall take some of the first of all the produce of the ground which you bring in from your land that the Lord your God gives you, and you shall put it in a basket and go to the place where the Lord your God chooses to establish His name.
3 “You shall go to the priest who is in office at that time and say to him, ‘I declare this day to the Lord my God that I have entered the land which the Lord swore to our fathers to give us.’
4 “Then the priest shall take the basket from your hand and set it down before the altar of the Lord your God.
5 “You shall answer and say before the Lord your God, ‘My father was a wandering Aramean, and he went down to Egypt and sojourned there, few in number; but there he became a great, mighty and populous nation.
6 ‘And the Egyptians treated us harshly and afflicted us, and imposed hard labor on us.
7 ‘Then we cried to the Lord, the God of our fathers, and the Lord heard our voice and saw our affliction and our toil and our oppression;
8 and the Lord brought us out of Egypt with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm and with great terror and with signs and wonders;
9 and He has brought us to this place and has given us this land, a land flowing with milk and honey.
10 ‘Now behold, I have brought the first of the produce of the ground which You, O Lord have given me.’ And you shall set it down before the Lord your God, and worship before the Lord your God…”

3. The Reason for Firstfruits

Firstfruits was an early spring feast, the third in the Jewish festive cycle. On the Hebrew calendar, it occurred on the 16th day of Nisan, the first biblical month (March or April), only two days after the beginning of the Passover season.

Firstfruits was preeminently seen as a time marker. It marked the beginning of the grain harvest in Israel, but even more importantly, it marked the countdown to the Feast of Weeks, the fourth of Israel’s annual feasts. Beginning with Firstfruits, 49 days (or seven sevens) were counted, and on the 50th day, the Feast of Weeks was celebrated. The Lord commanded in Leviticus 23:15-16:

“You shall also count for yourselves from the day after the sabbath, from the day when you brought in the sheaf of the wave offering; there shall be seven complete sabbaths. You shall count fifty days to the day after the seventh sabbath; then you shall present a new grain offering to the Lord.”

As a result, this period of time was, and still is, known as the Sefirat Ha-Omer (Heb. “the Counting of the Omer”) because of the ritual of counting the days from the omer (sheaf, measure) to the Feast of Weeks.

Scripture does not specify the actual calendar date of Firstfruits, but merely prescribed its time of observance to be “on the day after the Sabbath” (Lev. 23:11). This led to various interpretations and considerable debate as to which Sabbath was in view.

The Sadducees, and later Karaite Jews, understood it to refer to the first weekly Sabbath (Saturday) which occurred during the week of Passover season. However, the word Sabbath also designated any holy day on which work was prohibited, no matter on which day of the week it occurred (Lev. 23:24, 32, 39). The majority opinion, held by the Pharisees, was that the Sabbath in question was Nisan 15, the first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread. That day was to be a “holy convocation” (Lev. 23:7) on which no work was performed. This same description was given to the weekly Sabbath (Lev. 23:3) and to holy-day Sabbaths held on other days of the week (Lev. 23:24-25, 28, 32, 36, 39).

Ancient Jewish observance agreed with the Pharisees. Josephus, the first-century Jewish historian, wrote: “But on the second day of unleavened bread, which is the sixteenth day of the month, they first partake of the fruits of the earth, for before that day they do not touch them” (Antiquities of the Jews 3.10.5).

Thus, the chronology of the Passover season consisted of: Passover (Nisan 14), the Feast of Unleavened Bread (7 days, Nisan 15-21), and the Feast of Firstfruits (Nisan 16). The second day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread (Nisan 16) was also Firstfruits, a day simultaneously shared by both holidays.

Why is the date of Firstfruits so important? Remember, the 7 feasts of the Lord picture the redemptive work of Jesus Christ. Jesus is our Passover Lamb and died on Passover (Nisan 14). Unleavened Bread pictured the sinless body of Jesus that did not decay while it was in the tomb on the 14th, 15th, and 16th of Nisan. Jesus rose from the grave on Nisan 16—the day of the Feast of Firstfruits. We shall see why this is so important.

4. The Record of Firstfruits

Firstfruits sacrifices and offerings are not offered today since there is no Temple. The only Firstfruits ritual which has survived to modern times has been the counting of the omer, the days from Firstfruits to the Feast of Weeks (Pentecost).

In ancient times the feast was observed on two levels.
-First, the priests would observe the feast for the entire nation.
-Second, each farmer was to observe the feast for his family farm.

I will describe to you the ceremony observed by the priests. But remember, each farmer was required to do the same for his individual crop.

A. The Preparation for Firstfruits

In Temple days, Nisan 14 brought the painstaking preparations for the Passover season to completion: lambs had been chosen for Passover sacrifices, houses had been purged of all leaven in preparation for the Feast of Unleavened Bread, and barley sheaves had been marked in the fields for the Feast of Firstfruits.

With each passing week, the weather in Israel turned warmer. Winter rains had ceased, and cloudy days had quickly become few and far between. Looking eastward from the Temple, one could see the breathtaking panorama of the Mount of Olives and the intervening Kidron Valley basking in the bright golden rays of the springtime sun. Across the Kidron Valley in an area known as the Ashes Valley, a small, open field of amber barley nestled itself against a background of grassy, green slopes and misty gray olive trees. The ripe grain, swaying gently in the soft breeze, created a relaxing, mesmerizing pattern of warm gold. At one end of the field, several bundles of barley were conspicuously marked and tied together, still uncut, in anticipation of the coming Feast of Firstfruits.

This barley field was a special field, cultivated solely for the national Firstfruits offering and kept strictly in accordance with all rabbinic traditions. It had been plowed in the autumn and sown with barley some seventy days earlier during the winter months. Constant oversight assured that the crop had grown naturally, with no artificial watering or fertilization. In the days leading up to Passover, several sheaves were selectively marked and bundled by representatives from the Sanhedrin, Israel’s ruling religious body. With that, the preparation for Firstfruits was complete.

B. The Procession of Firstfruits

Several days later at sundown on Nisan 15 (the beginning of the new Jewish day, Nisan 16), a three-man delegation from the Sanhedrin emerged from the Temple area, accompanied by a multitude of excited observers. The procession made its way down to the barley field to perform the Firstfruits reaping ceremony. With sickles in hand and baskets under arm, the three chosen reapers positioned themselves in readiness before the predetermined bundles of barley. As they did so, a hush fell over the crowd in recognition of the solemnity of the moment. Only the soft whisper of the swaying grain could be heard.

Suddenly, the unison voices of the reapers broke the stillness of the evening with a series of questions to the onlookers: “Has the sun set?” “With this sickle?” “Into this basket?” “On this Sabbath?” “Shall I reap now?” To each question the crowd would respond “Yes!”

The series of questions was repeated two more times as a safeguard to make sure the sun had indeed set. The marked sheaves were then reaped until one ephah of barley (approximately 2/3 bushel) was obtained.

C. The Presentation of Firstfruits

In the Temple court, the grain was threshed with rods rather than oxen-drawn sledges so that the barley corns would not be broken. It was then parched over an open flame and winnowed in the wind to remove the chaff. Finally, the barley was milled and put through an intensive sifting process until sifted very fine. This sifting ceremony continued until one of the Temple inspectors could plunge his hand into the flour and remove it without any flour adhering to his hands (Talmud, Menahot 8:2).

On the morning of Nisan 16, the firstfruits were presented to the Lord. One omer (about 5 pints) of the barley flour was mixed with ¾ pint olive oil, and a small amount of frankincense was sprinkled upon it. This became the Firstfruits offering. The priest waved it before the Lord in accordance with Leviticus 23:11-13 and burned a small amount upon the altar. The remainder was given to the Levites.

D. The Picture of Firstfruits

The Feast of Firstfruits is a picture of the resurrection of Jesus. The feast is a celebration of the rest of the harvest. I will go into greater detail of this next Sunday.

Did you see the picture of Jesus in the Firstfruits offering?

The barley is set apart for the harvest…Jesus was pure and sinless, set apart from the world’s sinfulness.

The barley is harvested by being “cut off” by sickle…Jesus was “cut off” by being crucified.

The barley is threshed with rods to separate the grain from the chaff, without breaking the kernels…Jesus was beaten, but none of His bones were broken.

The grain is then parched over fire…Jesus took our judgment upon Himself.

The grain is ground to a fine flour…Jesus did not take any shortcuts to end or relieve His suffering on the cross. He refused the narcotics that would have dulled the pain.

The flour sits overnight….Jesus was buried in the tomb.

At daybreak on Nisan 16 the flour is offered to the Lord after being mixed with olive oil and sprinkled with frankincense…Jesus’ body was placed in the tomb after being anointed with frankincense. Next, at daybreak on Nisan 16 Jesus was raised from the dead by the Spirit of God (pictured by the olive oil).

The Firstfruits offering was a celebration that the remainder of the harvest still in the fields would be brought in to the storehouse…The resurrection of Jesus is a guarantee that all who trust in Him will one day be resurrected in the likeness of Jesus and brought to the Father’s house!

Do you know if have a part in the resurrection of Christ and will be brought to the Father’s house?

Sunday, April 11, 2010

The Feasts of the Lord #5: The Feast of Unleavened Bread--Exodus 12:14-20

Remember, the first four feasts in the spring are a picture of what Jesus has already accomplished for us. The last three feasts in the fall are a promise of what Jesus will do for us in the future.

As we continue our examination of the “Seven Feasts of the Lord,” Israel’s second feast is named after the bread which is required to be eaten during the holiday.

The Hebrew Scriptures call this feast Hag Hamatzot.  Matzah and the plural Matzot are the Hebrew words for “unleavened bread.” Therefore, this holiday is known as the Feast of Unleavened Bread.

14 ‘Now this day will be a memorial to you, and you shall celebrate it as a feast to the Lord; throughout your generations you are to celebrate it as a permanent ordinance.
15 ‘Seven days you shall eat unleavened bread, but on the first day you shall remove leaven from your houses; for whoever eats anything leavened from the first day until the seventh day, that person shall be cut off from Israel.
16 ‘On the first day you shall have a holy assembly, and another holy assembly on the seventh day; no work at all shall be done on them, except what must be eaten by every person, that alone may be prepared by you.
17 ‘You shall also observe the Feast of Unleavened Bread, for on this very day I brought your hosts out of the land of Egypt; therefore you shall observe this day throughout your generations as a permanent ordinance.
18 ‘In the first month, on the fourteenth day of the month at evening, you shall eat unleavened bread, until the twenty-first day of the month at evening.
19 ‘Seven days there shall be no leaven found in your houses; for whoever eats what is leavened, that person shall be cut off from the congregation of Israel, whether he is an alien or a native of the land.
20 ‘You shall not eat anything leavened; in all your dwellings you shall eat unleavened bread.’ ”

1. The “What?” of the Feast

The Feast of Unleavened Bread is a reminder of God’s miraculous deliverance from Egyptian bondage, for when Israel fled from Egypt in the middle of the night, there was no time for bread dough to rise. So the Lord commanded, “Seven days you shall eat unleavened bread with it, that is, the bread of affliction (for you came out of the land of Egypt in haste), that you may remember the day in which you came out of the land of Egypt all the days of your life” (Deuteronomy 16:3).

The biblical record gives only three instructions for the Feast of Unleavened Bread:

--Special sacrifices were to be offered in the Temple each day of the feast (Lev. 23:8; Num. 28:19-24).

--The first and seventh days of the feast were Sabbaths with prohibitions on all work (Ex. 12:16).

--Leaven was strictly forbidden.

The Hebrew word for leaven is hametz, which literally means “sour.”  Leaven (usually yeast or baking powder) is used to produce fermentation in bread dough. As leaven sours the dough, tiny gas bubbles are produced which cause the dough to rise.

Not only is the eating of leavened foods forbidden during the feast, but even the presence of leaven within one’s house is unlawful. The Lord commanded Moses in Exodus 12:15, “Seven days you shall eat unleavened bread, but on the first day you shall remove leaven from your houses; for whoever eats anything leavened from the first day until the seventh day, that person shall be cut off from Israel.”

Disobedience to the divine command carried severe consequences! Did you notice the consequences of disobedience in Exodus 12:15 & 19? To be “cut off” meant to be put to death. An ancient Jew who did not keep this feast was guilty of a capital crime! Leaven was even forbidden in all the territory of the Israelites (Deuteronomy 16:4).

God’s command allows no room for debate. Any leaven, no matter how small the amount or how discreet its presence, is not permitted during the Feast of Unleavened Bread. It is not enough to simply refrain from eating leaven, or from touching leaven, or even from looking at leaven by storing it in a hidden place. All leaven must be purged out. Failure to do so is a serious breach of Mosaic law.

2. The “When?” of the Feast

The Feast of Unleavened Bread is observed in the early spring (March-April). It begins on the 15th day (evening of the 14th day) of the Hebrew month of Nisan and lasts for seven days.

Because the Feast of Unleavened Bread (a seven-day holiday) begins the day after Passover (a one-day holiday), often the two holidays are blurred together and collectively referred to as “the eight days of Passover.” In the days of the Second Temple (Jesus’ time), it was also common to call all eight days the Feast of Unleavened Bread (Luke 22:1, 7).

Like Passover, this feast was instituted before the other feasts in Leviticus 23.

The Feasts of Unleavened Bread/Passover, Weeks, and Tabernacles were the three annual pilgrim feasts and all Jewish men were expected to present themselves before the Lord at the Temple if at all possible.

3. The “How?” of the Feast

Observant Jewish households begin their painstaking preparations weeks before the arrival of Passover. Walls are washed and sometimes even painted. Cooking utensils are scalded. Clothing is washed with pockets turned inside out. Carpets are cleaned and vacuum bags are discarded. Everything in the house is cleaned and aired in preparation.

On the night before Passover eve, after evening prayers in the synagogue, the father of each household will perform the Bedikat Hametz, or “Search for Leaven,” ceremony. This ancient ceremony purges the last vestiges of leaven from the house. Earlier that evening, a few bits of leavened bread are placed in several corners or on window sills of the house.

After reciting the benediction for the occasion, the father begins the search. He uses an old wooden spoon in one hand and a goose feather in the other. By candlelight, he searches from room to room to discover the distributed bread scraps. The children follow behind with great excitement as he carefully uses the feather to sweep the bread he finds onto the wooden spoon. Finally, the bits of bread, the wooden spoon, and the feather are placed inside a bag or wrapped in a cloth. This is tied with a thread and set aside to be burned the next morning.

4. The “Why?” of the Feast

Sin is often pictured as leaven in Scripture (Mt. 16:6,11; Mk. 8:15; Lk. 12:1; Gal. 5:9). The ancient rabbis believed that “leaven represents the evil impulse of the heart” (Talmud, Berachot 17a).

Leaven is well-suited as a picture of sin since it rapidly permeates the dough, contaminating it, souring it, fermenting it, and swelling it to many times its original size without changing its weight. In fact, this souring process (the first stage of decay) of sin is part of the curse of death decreed by God when Adam sinned (Genesis 3:19).

Since leaven pictures sin, only unleavened bread was used in the Temple. Offerings had to be pure, and anything leavened was deemed impure and unfit.

As with the other feasts of the Lord in Leviticus 23, the prophetic meaning of the Feast of Unleavened Bread is found in the work of the Messiah, Jesus Christ.

Passover pictures the substitutionary death of the Messiah as the Passover Lamb.

The Feast of Unleavened Bread pictures the burial of the Messiah.

The Hebrew prophets foretold a day when the Messiah would be a sacrifice for sin. He would be the Lamb offered up by God as the once-for-all sacrifice. The prophet Isaiah declared of the Messiah: “Surely He has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows…the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all…When You make His soul an offering for sin” (Isa. 53:4, 6, 10).

 Isaiah also predicted Messiah’s amazing burial in Isaiah 53:9…
 “His grave was assigned with wicked men, Yet He was with a rich man in His death, Because He had done no violence, Nor was there any deceit in His mouth.”

Normally, one who dies a criminal’s death receives a criminal’s burial. But this was not the case with the Messiah. Jesus was executed as if He were a criminal, but God did not allow His body to be cast outside the city onto the garbage heap. The Messiah was honored in His burial because He was a pure, sinless (without leaven) sacrifice.

Jesus did not die for His own transgressions (He was innocent), but for ours (we are guilty). Therefore, God honored the Messiah with burial in a rich man’s tomb. Jesus was buried in the tomb of Joseph of Arimathea (Mt. 27:57-60). He was a rich man. God was making a statement about the innocence of the Messiah.

But there is further significance surrounding the burial of the Messiah in that His body did not return to dust. King David prophesied of the Messiah in Psalm 16:10,  “For You will not abandon my soul to Sheol [the grave]; Nor will You allow Your Holy One to undergo decay.”

Obviously, King David did not prophesy this of himself. His grave has been a revered site in Jerusalem for almost 3,000 years. David’s body did decay, just like the body of everyone else who has died. But the Messiah’s body did not decay. The sons of Adam are sinners under the divine curse: “To dust you shall return” (Genesis 3:19).

As a pure, sinless sacrifice, Jesus was not under the curse to return to dust. Therefore, Jesus came forth from the grave on the third day after He had carried our sins far away. Psalm 103:12 tells us, “As far as the east is from the west, So far has He removed our transgressions from us.” 

Hebrews 9:24-28 reads, For Christ did not enter a holy place made with hands, a mere copy of the true one, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us; nor was it that He would offer Himself often, as the high priest enters the holy place year by year with blood that is not his own. Otherwise, He would have needed to suffer often since the foundation of the world; but now once at the consummation of the ages He has been manifested to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself. And inasmuch as it is appointed for men to die once and after this comes judgment, so Christ also, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time for salvation without reference to sin, to those who eagerly await Him.”

Jesus fulfilled the Feast of Unleavened Bread in that He was a pure, sinless sacrifice (unleavened bread). Seven is the number of perfection. The unleavened bread (Jesus) was eaten for seven days while sacrifices were offered (Jesus was the perfect sacrifice for our sins).

God validated this by the Messiah’s burial in a rich man’s tomb. Furthermore, the body of Jesus was not permitted to decay in the grave (like dough soured by leaven), but was brought forth because He was not a sinner under the curse of death and decay.

5. The “So What Now?” of the Feast

It is interesting that Paul used the purging ceremony, the Bedikat Hametz, or “Search for Leaven,” to convey spiritual truth to the believers in the city of Corinth in 1 Corinthians 5:7-8.
“Clean out the old leaven so that you may be a new lump, just as you are in fact unleavened. For Christ our Passover also has been sacrificed. Therefore let us celebrate the feast, not with old leaven, nor with the leaven of malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.”

Paul’s message is simple and direct. For believers who have, by faith, accepted the sacrifice of the Passover Lamb upon Calvary, Passover is past history. The deliverance by Messiah, the true Passover Lamb, has already been experienced in their lives. They are now living in the Feast of Unleavened Bread where purity and separation from leaven are required.

It does no good to simply get rid of the large conspicuous loaves on the table and leave the little pieces of leaven scattered on the floor. A little leaven will contaminate everything else. “Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump?” (1 Corinthians 5:6). He commands them to purge it out—all of it. In other words he pleads: “How can you enter into the Feast of Unleavened Bread still eating your leavened bread? It is not kosher. It does not belong. The two do not go together. It is an outrage! Get rid of it!”

Paul is simply stating what he later taught in Romans 6:1-18. The believer is no longer under the power (dominion) of sin—those chains have been broken. The believer is no longer a helpless slave to sin. A Christian chooses to sin when he is drawn away by his own lust (James 1:14-15).

The tragedy is that far too few believers realize this truth. They continue to be duped by the flesh into thinking and acting as if sin is still the evil taskmaster that they are obligated to obey.

In God’s sight we are now unleavened (justified and pure) and are called to lives of holiness. So Paul questions, “Why keep living as if we are not?

The presence of any leaven during Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread is an absolute outrage. Even the mere sight of it is a very serious matter.

Just as is done in the purging ceremony, we need to thoroughly sweep out our lives. It is not sufficient to simply throw out the conspicuous loaves on the table and hide the favorite sourdough loaf in the cupboard or allow the unnoticed crumbs to remain under the table.

We need to take the candle of God’s Word and search our lives. Every corner, every crack, and every window sill must be scrutinized in its light. The task is not complete until every speck of leaven is purged. Why? Paul gives us the motivation: “For indeed Christ, our Passover, was sacrificed for us” (1 Cor. 5:7).