Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Trying to be Jewish: Dt 5:1-3

"Then Moses summoned all Israel and said to them: 'Hear, O Israel, the statutes and the ordinances which I am speaking today in your hearing, that you may learn them and observe them carefully. The Lord our God made a covenant with us at Horeb. The Lord did not make this covenant with our fathers, but with us, with all those of us alive here today.'" (Deuteronomy 5:1-3)

From time-to-time, I have meet Christians who are infatuated with Jewish culture, tradition, and law. For some, this infatuation borders on an obsession. They study and celebrate the Jewish feasts and festivals, they hold to Jewish customs, and some even abide by kosher dietary laws. While there is nothing inherently wrong with this, by trying to be Jewish, we can miss a simple truth. The covenant God made at Mount Horeb was not with all of mankind but rather with the decedents of Abraham, Issac, and Jacob. This covenant was not made with Abraham, Issac, or Jacob but rather with their decedents. This covenant was in force as long as the nation of Israel observed the conditions of the covenant. For about two thousand years God related to the nation of Israel based on the covenant instituted on Mount Horeb but after centuries of rebellion and sin, God declared an end to the covenant. In essences, God divorced the people of Israel and rendered null and void the covenant He once established with them. "They have turned back to the iniquities of their ancestors who refused to hear My words, and they have gone after other gods to serve them; the house of Israel and the house of Judah have broken My covenant which I made with their fathers." (Jeremiah 11:10)

God made a covenant with the people who stood that day at the foot of Mount Horeb and who heard His voice speaking to them. However, our covenant with God does not descend from that covenant but rather than from a promise made to Abraham, "In your seed all the nations of the earth shall be blessed, because you have obeyed My voice." (Genesis 22:18) God has not called us to become Jewish but to become children of Abraham by living the same lifestyle of faith that our father Abraham lived. God does not want us to become "hung up" on the rules and regulations of the "Old Covenant" but rather to live in the freedom of the "New Covenant". Instead of becoming Jewish, let us become Christians, or "Christ-like".

David Robison

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Sunday, March 25, 2007

Testimonies, Statutes, and Judgments: Dt 4:44-45

"Now this is the law which Moses set before the children of Israel. These are the testimonies, the statutes, and the judgments which Moses spoke to the children of Israel after they came out of Egypt" (Deuteronomy 4:44-45 NKJV)

When I first started studying the Book of Deuteronomy, I tended to skim over some of the terms used in the scripture and, as in the scripture above, tended to think of them as equivalent terms, but as I studied these terms more deeply I began to see that they each spoke of something distinct and different. There are many places in the scriptures where God refers to Testimonies, Statutes, and Judgments, here is a brief definition of those terms along with how they apply to us today, especially in regards to civil government.

Testimonies: This term applies most specifically to the Ten Commandments. Speaking of the arc that Moses was to construct to hold the tablets containing the Ten Commandments, God said, "You shall put the mercy seat on top of the ark, and in the ark you shall put the testimony which I will give to you. There I will meet with you; and from above the mercy seat, from between the two cherubim which are upon the ark of the testimony , I will speak to you about all that I will give you in commandment for the sons of Israel." (Exodus 25:21-22) Notice that God explicitly refers to the Ten Commandments as the "testimony" and the arc as the "arc of the testimony". The Ten Commandments represented the fundamental agreement, or contract, between God and the nation of Israel. This contract was the fundamental agreement upon which the nation of Israel was established. The Ten Commandments were more than a collection of statutes, they were more than just another set of laws, they were the fundamental principals upon which the nation was founded and upon which the nation would continue to prosper. Testimonies have their modern day equivalence in constitutional law. Every nation is built upon certain founding principals and, as for the United States of America and many other nations, these principals are codified in their constitution. Constitutional law exists at a higher place than statutory law in that it deals with the common governing principals and beliefs that gave birth to a nation. It is upon constitutional law that all others statutes are built and founded.

Statutes: This term applies to a written set of laws. Statutes go beyond "common law" in that they are a formal codification of regulations, obligations, and decrees to be observed by the citizenry. Upon founding the nation of Israel, God did not leave it to judges to decide for themselves what should be legal and illegal, rather He laid out an extensive list of statutes that each citizen of the nation of Israel was to obey. The right and authority to establish a written set of laws is a fundamental right of all governments and it is a fundamental obligation of every citizen to obey such laws. "Every person is to be in subjection to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God. Therefore whoever resists authority has opposed the ordinance of God; and they who have opposed will receive condemnation upon themselves." (Romans 13:1-2)

Judgments: This term refers to the judicial action and punishments taken upon those who do not obey the testimonies and statues. It is one thing to make stealing legal, but it is another thing to specify what should happen to someone who steals. God not only established for Israel the laws they were to obey but also the judicial action to be taken when those laws were broken. The right to trial, the rules of evidence, and the sentencing of punishments were not left to the discretion of judges but rather specified ahead of time by the Lord. It is the authority of nations to, not only establish their laws and statutes, but also to specify and execute punishment upon those who break their laws. "For rulers are not a cause of fear for good behavior, but for evil. Do you want to have no fear of authority? Do what is good and you will have praise from the same; for it is a minister of God to you for good. But if you do what is evil, be afraid; for it does not bear the sword for nothing; for it is a minister of God, an avenger who brings wrath on the one who practices evil." (Romans 13:3-4) However, it is also incumbent upon a nation to protect the rights of individuals during the judicial process. Judgments not only specify the consequences for the offender but also regulate the state as to how it conducts its judicial process and the right of the individual during that process.

David Robison

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Monday, March 19, 2007

A faith that fades: Dt 4:25-27

“When you become the father of children and children's children and have remained long in the land, and act corruptly, and make an idol in the form of anything, and do that which is evil in the sight of the Lord your God so as to provoke Him to anger, I call heaven and earth to witness against you today, that you will surely perish quickly from the land where you are going over the Jordan to possess it. You shall not live long on it, but will be utterly destroyed. The Lord will scatter you among the peoples, and you will be left few in number among the nations where the Lord drives you.” (Deuteronomy 4:25-27)

Moses knew that, while the faith of the people was strong at that moment, over time, the faith of the nation would wane. As the years would pass, as one generation would give way to the next, the people’s faith would fade and all that God had done for them would become nothing more than a distant memory. This fading of faith is common to many nations and cultures, even to nations where faith played such a predominate part in its inception. From its beginning, faith played an important part in the United Stated. Many people came here with the expressed purpose of finding religious freedom; escaping the religious persecution they experienced in Europe. However, over two hundred years later, faith has decreased in importance in the daily lives of many in our country today.

Why is it that faith seems to fade from generation to generation? For the nation of Israel, it was because, with each successive generation, the people became more distant from their forefather’s experiences with the Lord. Yes, they still had the Ten Commandments and, yes, they still knew about God, but they personally did not experience God as their forefathers had. They had received the faith of their fathers but they did not have their own experiences with God.
“Has any people heard the voice of God speaking from the midst of the fire, as you have heard it, and survived? Or has a god tried to go to take for himself a nation from within another nation by trials, by signs and wonders and by war and by a mighty hand and by an outstretched arm and by great terrors, as the Lord your God did for you in Egypt before your eyes? To you it was shown that you might know that the Lord, He is God; there is no other besides Him.” (Deuteronomy 4:33-35)
God was personally involved in the lives of those with whom Moses spoke. God appeared to them, He spoke to them, and His very presence went with them. “He brought you out of Egypt by his Presence and his great strength.” (Deut eronomy4:37 NIV) They did not just know about God, they knew Him and had experienced Him, but as each successive generation was further removed from those experiences, so was their faith. It is not enough to just know about God, we need to know Him and experience Him in our lives.

I have heard it said that, “there are no grandchildren in the Kingdom of God,” and I believe it to be true. We can pass on our values, principals, and beliefs to our children, but unless they themselves have an encounter with God, the faith we pass on will always be “our” faith and not “their” faith. When the Samaritan woman encountered Jesus at the well, saving faith was born within her heart. Afterwards, she returned to her village and shared that faith with everyone around her. They believed her word, but their lives were changed when they meet Jesus personally. “So when the Samaritans came to Jesus, they were asking Him to stay with them; and He stayed there two days. Many more believed because of His word; and they were saying to the woman, ‘It is no longer because of what you said that we believe, for we have heard for ourselves and know that this One is indeed the Savior of the world.’” (John 4:40-42) We must remember that information alone will never change anyone’s life. We can teach our children the Ten Commandments, we can teach them what it means to be a Christian, but until they meet Jesus themselves it will only be information. We must never allow a historical knowledge of God to replace the need for knowing and experiencing Him in our every day lives. Only through such a vibrant relationship with Jesus will our faith continue to grow. In this we will find a faith that grows rather than a faith that fades.

David Robison

Saturday, March 17, 2007

The End of Church as we Know It

This is a message I preached on 11-Mar-2007. In this message I challanged our church to consider if we are living focused lives or lives of clutter. I challenged them that even our religious life can be cluttered and lacked focus. I then spoke about three specific changes that God wants to bring to how we "do" church. The message is about 29 minutes followed by about 11 minutes of worship as we "engaged" God.

The End of Church ...

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Stumbling at the High Places

This is a sermon I preached on 24-Apr-2005. In this message I spoke about worship at the high places as demonstrated in the Old Testament. I also spoke about how, today, we too can be guilty of worshiping at the high places and the dangers it poses to our faith and our walk with God. This message is about 22 minutes.

Stumbling at the H...

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

God is not Mute

The following is a sermon I preached on 05-Jun-2005. It is titled, "God is not Mute." In this message, I challenged our church to become a church that embraces and welcomes the move of God and the power of God within our midst. I also spoke about the cost of becoming such a church. I hope this message challenges and encourages you. This recording is about 31 minutes in length.

God is not Mute.mp...

Monday, March 12, 2007

Beware of graven images: Dt 4:9-24

“Only give heed to yourself and keep your soul diligently, so that you do not forget the things which your eyes have seen and they do not depart from your heart all the days of your life; but make them known to your sons and your grandsons. Remember the day you stood before the Lord your God at Horeb, when the Lord said to me, ‘Assemble the people to Me, that I may let them hear My words so they may learn to fear Me all the days they live on the earth, and that they may teach their children.’ You came near and stood at the foot of the mountain, and the mountain burned with fire to the very heart of the heavens: darkness, cloud and thick gloom. Then the Lord spoke to you from the midst of the fire; you heard the sound of words, but you saw no form -- only a voice. So watch yourselves, that you do not forget the covenant of the Lord your God which He made with you, and make for yourselves a graven image in the form of anything against which the Lord your God has commanded you. For the Lord your God is a consuming fire, a jealous God.” (Deuteronomy 4:9-12, 23-24)

God revealed His voice to His people but not His form. God was very careful to not reveal Himself to Israel in a form that they could later craft into an idol. In some ways, it is hard to believe in, and follow, a God you cannot see. When Moses had gone up into the mountain to receive the Ten Commandments, he stayed so long that the people began to worry. With Moses gone, who would lead them? So the people approached Aaron with a request. “Come, make us a god who will go before us; as for this Moses, the man who brought us up from the land of Egypt, we do not know what has become of him.” (Exodus 32:1) So Aaron complied, making a golden calf from the offering the people brought him. He presented the calf to the people and declared, “This is your god, O Israel, who brought you up from the land of Egypt.” (Exodus 32:4) Aaron even built an altar for the calf and declared a day of feasting, “Tomorrow shall be a feast to the Lord.” (Exodus 32:5) When given a choice between a living, yet unseen God, and a lifeless idol which they could see, they opted for the idol.

So why is it harder to worship a God we cannot see rather than an idol? Serving an unseen God requires thee things from us:

Faith: Paul reminds us that “we walk by faith, not by sight.” (2 Corinthians 5:7) While we walk by faith, our faith is not a blind faith; it is a faith that is based upon the Word and Faithfulness of God. Walking by faith means that we do not walk according to our own understanding, nor do we live by what we think is right or wrong. Rather, walking by faith means living according to the word of God, accepting God’s word and perspective over the evidence and perspectives of this world. Walking by faith also means that we do not live by our emotions; rather we subject our will and emotions to the will and word of God.

Relationship: God is a jealous god. More than anything else, God wants to have relationship with His people. God could have given us an idol to worship and to follow, but instead He wants us to come to His; to seek Him and to know Him. None of this is possible with an idol. “And though you have not seen Him, you love Him, and though you do not see Him now, but believe in Him, you greatly rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory.” (1 Peter 1:8) You cannot love an idol but you can love a gracious and loving God.

Obedience: When you worship an idol, you get to make up all the rules. After all, the idol cannot speak, it cannot give commands, and it cannot check up on you to see if you’re keeping the commands. With God, however, it’s different. He speaks his words to us and commands us to obey Him. With God, we don’t get to decide what’s right or wrong, God Himself decides that. We can pay lip service to an idol, but God sees right through us into our heart. “And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are open and laid bare to the eyes of Him with whom we have to do.” (Hebrews 4:13) The question is, will we obey Him or follow a religion of our own choosing? As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.

David Robison

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Foundations of a great nation: Part 4 Dt 4:5-8

“See, I have taught you statutes and judgments just as the Lord my God commanded me, that you should do thus in the land where you are entering to possess it. So keep and do them, for that is your wisdom and your understanding in the sight of the peoples who will hear all these statutes and say, ‘Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people.’ For what great nation is there that has a god so near to it as is the Lord our God whenever we call on Him? Or what great nation is there that has statutes and judgments as righteous as this whole law which I am setting before you today?” (Deuteronomy 4:5-8)

A Moral Foundation for Government: One of the things that was to distinguish the nation of Israel from all the nations around them was the nature and quality of their laws and statutes. Upon entering the Promised Land, Israel was to establish a rule of law that was based upon righteousness; a law that was based upon a righteous and divine moral foundation.

A government, and the nation it governs, is judged not by the abundance of its laws and ordnances, but rather by the moral foundation upon which those laws stand. It is not the laws that determine the quality of a nation but rather the foundation which the nation has chosen upon which to establish is society that determines its greatness or its baseness. Consider what Ethan the Ezrahite spoke in psalm regarding God’s government and kingdom, “Righteousness and justice are the foundation of Your throne; lovingkindness and truth go before You.” (Psalm 89:14) Notice that the psalmist speaks about the “foundation” of God’s thrown. God’s kingdom is a kingdom of lovingkindness and truth but it is built upon a foundation of righteousness and justice. I personally believe that the effects and workings of a government are dependent and subordinate to its foundation. The reason that God’s kingdom is able to freely bestow the lovingkindness and truth of God upon its citizens is because of the solid foundation upon which that kingdom is built. A foundation of righteousness and justice produces a government of grace, mercy, and truth.

Today, within the United States of America, there is a move to replace the traditional Judeo-Christian moral foundations upon which our nations was built with a foundation that denies moral absolutes. This move is largely fueled by the shift in our culture away from belief in special creation to a belief in the evolution of man and the material world. With an acceptance of evolutionary theory, there is no longer anything special or elevated about mankind; mankind is merely the result of random changes and mutations. There is neither a transcendent creator nor a universal purpose for mankind; he is merely an “accident” of nature. There are no absolute truths and no external moral code upon which it is incumbent for man to base his life upon. In the absent of a creator and any divine moral reference, government and its laws are at best arbitrary. What is right and wrong is at the full discretion of those who have the power to govern. Right and wrong, truth and falsehood, are arbitrary and are subject to change depending on the situation and the whims of those in power. Such sifting sand is no foundation upon which to build a great nation. A nation should be built upon that which is sure, that which is unchanging. Such a foundation is only found in a creator God, one who is eternal, unchanging, and separate from man. “For I am the Lord, I do not change.” (Mal 3:6 NKJV)

While this battle for the foundations of the nation rages on within the United States, there is another battle being waged on a global scale. There are those among the more radical elements of the Muslim faith that are seeking to establish a rule of law that is based upon a foundation of violence and oppression. Their stated goal is to establish Islamic law as a basis of government and society throughout the world. Yet, as is evidenced in the places where such governments have been established, the foundation of this law is a foundation that preaches violence to those who refuse to conform and submit to their laws. It is also a foundation that teaches the oppression of women and relegates them to a lesser status within their societies. Such a foundation is far from a foundation of righteousness and justice. Nations build upon such a foundation may flourish for a while but will never reach greatness as witnessed by either the elevation of its people or the beneficial influence it projects upon the rest of the world. Such a movement should be soundly rejected, just as in previous decades, communism, with its foundation of authoritative and dictatorial control, was and is being rejected by countries around the world.

More to come… David Robison

Saturday, March 03, 2007

Foundations of a great nation: Part 3 Dt 4:5-8

“See, I have taught you statutes and judgments just as the Lord my God commanded me, that you should do thus in the land where you are entering to possess it. So keep and do them, for that is your wisdom and your understanding in the sight of the peoples who will hear all these statutes and say, ‘Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people.’ For what great nation is there that has a god so near to it as is the Lord our God whenever we call on Him? Or what great nation is there that has statutes and judgments as righteous as this whole law which I am setting before you today?” (Deuteronomy 4:5-8)

The Submission of Government: When I was in High School in rural Indiana, my Spanish teacher was a native Cuban. She and her husband and small child escaped from Cuba shortly after Fidel Castro took over. When they left, they were allowed to leave with only the clothes on their backs. In class, she related a story of how Castro was trying to brain-wash children from a young age. In kindergarten, the teacher would tell the students to close their eyes and pray to God for ice cream. Of course, upon opening their eyes, there was no ice cream. Then the teacher would tell the students to close their eyes again, but this time, pray to Castro for ice cream. While the kindergartener’s eyes were closed, workers would enter the class room and provide the children with ice cream. In essences, Fidel Castro was trying to take the place of God in the lives of these children. Castro wanted his subjects to see him, and his government, as the one who would provide all their needs. He wanted his people to become dependent upon him; to ensure his continued reign over them and their acceptance of him as their dictator.

While governments expect those over whom the rule to submit to them, they must also remember that they themselves are to submit to the one who rules over them. Even if they are kings, there is one who rules over them as the King of kings. “He who is the blessed and only Sovereign, the King of kings and Lord of lords.” (1 Tim 6:15) Those who rule must themselves submit to the one who rules over them. Those who judge must remember that there is one who judges them. When governments forget that they are subject to a heavenly government, they lose perspective of their calling. Governments who disregard submission to God will tend to try and amass authority, power, and possessions unto themselves. They stop being the servants of the people and begin to expect their subject serve them. There are many examples of this in the world today. Governments where the ruling class seeks to assume total authority, often by eliminating all political opposition and every dissenting voice. They seek that their rule might be total and absolute, even at times nationalizing private enterprise under their control.

This form of government is not that which God has intended. The Biblical foundation that governments must learn is this: Submission leads to humility, and humility to restraint.

More to come… David Robison

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Foundations of a great nation: Part 2 Dt 4:5-8

“See, I have taught you statutes and judgments just as the Lord my God commanded me, that you should do thus in the land where you are entering to possess it. So keep and do them, for that is your wisdom and your understanding in the sight of the peoples who will hear all these statutes and say, ‘Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people.’ For what great nation is there that has a god so near to it as is the Lord our God whenever we call on Him? Or what great nation is there that has statutes and judgments as righteous as this whole law which I am setting before you today?” (Deuteronomy 4:5-8)

The Inadequacy of Government: There are times in which a nation is faced with such significant crisis, calamity, or loss that government comes up short in its ability to meet the need of its people. This was a case for the people of Nineveh. Nineveh’s crisis was moral in nature and God was coming to judge her. “Then Jonah began to go through the city one day's walk; and he cried out and said, “Yet forty days and Nineveh will be overthrown.’” (Jonah 3:4) No intervention of government could stop or defer the pending disaster. Though the people might have turned to their king for help, he instead turned them to the Lord. “When the word reached the king of Nineveh, he arose from his throne, laid aside his robe from him, covered himself with sackcloth and sat on the ashes. He issued a proclamation and it said, ‘In Nineveh by the decree of the king and his nobles: Do not let man, beast, herd, or flock taste a thing. Do not let them eat or drink water. But both man and beast must be covered with sackcloth ; and let men call on God earnestly that each may turn from his wicked way and from the violence which is in his hands. Who knows, God may turn and relent and withdraw His burning anger so that we will not perish.’” (Jonah 3:6-9) There are times in every nation when the role of governments must be to direct the people to God; to call them to faith.

One of the things I have appreciated most about our current president, George W Bush, is that he is a man of faith. Over the past six years of his administration, our nation has experienced many times of “crisis”. First and foremost was the terrorist attack on September 11, 2001. Other times of great distress in our nation include the loss of the Space Shuttle Columbia and its seven astronauts, the destruction of New Orleans by hurricane Katrina, and the death of two presidents, President Ronald Reagan and President Gerald Ford. In each of these situations, President Bush rallied the people and call the nation to faith; faith in God. In response to the Shuttle disaster, President Bush had this to say,

“In the skies today we saw destruction and tragedy. Yet farther than we can see there is comfort and hope. In the words of the prophet Isaiah, ‘Lift your eyes and look to the heavens. Who created all these? He who brings out the starry hosts one by one and calls them each by name. Because of His great power and mighty strength, not one of them is missing.’

The same Creator who names the stars also knows the names of the seven souls we mourn today. The crew of the shuttle Columbia did not return safely to Earth; yet we can pray that all are safely home.

May God bless the grieving families, and may God continue to bless America.

In response to the death of President Regan, President Bush reminded us,

“He always told us that for America, the best was yet to come. We comfort ourselves in the knowledge that this is true for him, too. His work is done, and now a shining city awaits him. May God bless Ronald Reagan.”

There are times when, with all the authority and power a government can bring to bear on a problem or situation, it simply is not enough. At times like these it is incumbent upon a government to acknowledge its inadequacies and to point its people to the only one who can help. At times like these, government should call upon its people to pray to their God, to return to faithfulness, and to encourage themselves in their faith in God.

More to come… David Robison