Weekly Seed of Faith 4-30-20

Seed of Faith – Shepherd Lord   By Pastor Dave  

“The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.” Psalm 23:1

Dear Faithful Friends and Saintly Seed-Sowers,

Grace and peace to you during this time of the Covid-19 shutdown and slow down. For the next six weeks, we are going to walk slowly through Psalm 23. Psalm 23 is only six verses and 117 words.  During your stay-at-home time, or go and work and go home time, why not open your bible and slowly read and pray this Psalm? When I was in seminary, a group of us got together and taught ourselves how to pray the psalms. We picked a psalm and went line by line, reading it out loud and then pausing to see if we were inspired to pray. You know what? It was an amazing experience. I encourage you to pick up this Psalm and pray a word or a sentence. Ask God to fill your heart and mind on how to pray for those you love. The Holy Spirit will move you and lead you. I’m praying for you! Let me know how it goes!

Martin Luther called this psalm “a little Bible,” and he just might be right. There are six verses, 117 words but we will certainly come to know the Lord as we study this psalm.  Once we know him as our shepherd, we can find it easier to trust him. The twenty-third Psalm is the most beloved Psalm in the Psalter and possibly is the best- loved chapter in the entire Bible. The great Baptist preacher, Charles Haddon Spurgeon, called it “the pearl of Psalms.”[i]

Millions of people have memorized this Psalm. Ministers have used this Psalm to comfort those going through personal trials, suffering illnesses, and facing death.  Max Lucado has a way with words, he described Psalm 23 this way, “Do more beloved words exist? Framed and hung on hospital walls, quoted by the young and whispered by the dying. In these lines, sailors have found a harbor, the frightened have found a father and the strugglers have found a friend. And because the passage is so deeply loved and widely known can you find ears on which these words have never fallen? Set to music in a hundred songs, translated into a thousand tongues, domiciled (God makes his home) in a million hearts. One of those hearts might be yours.”[ii]   

King David, the shepherd boy, gives us 115 words to explain the first two words of his psalm, “The Lord.”  In the opening of his book, “A Shepherd Looks at Psalm 23”, Phillip Keller presents us with probing questions, “The Lord! But who is the Lord? What is His character? Does He have adequate credentials to be my Shepherd — my manager — my owner?”

The word “Lord” is the English translation of the great Old Testament personal name for God. This name for God was first revealed to another shepherd of long ago–Moses. To read about Moses, go back to Exodus 1! Moses—the baby born and set in a basket floating on the Nile. Moses—found by pharaoh’s daughter. Yes, THAT MOSES! By now Moses is an adult, he has run away from the palace and is on the backside of the wilderness when he encounters a burning bush. In this encounter with the burning bush, God reveals His name to Moses as “Yahweh.”  The word “Yahweh” is a verb and it literally means “I AM who I AM — I will be who I will be.”  The word “Yahweh” appears over 6,800 times in the Bible. “Yahweh” was so holy of a name that the Hebrew people didn’t use it, instead they used the names “Jehovah” and “Adonai” in place of “Yahweh.”

This is the name “Yahweh” that David gives us in Psalm 23.  What the shepherd King is telling us is that the Shepherd Lord is inexhaustible, self-sufficient, all powerful and timeless.  “I am who I am” needs no power, He is all powerful.  “Yahweh — I AM who I AM” is UNCHANGING!  Unchanging means that God was, is, and will always the same. Yahweh was the same yesterday, Yahweh will be the same today, and Yahweh will be unchanged and unchangeable tomorrow and forever and ever.  Yahweh is our great “I AM.”

I have a poster in my office that reminds me that no matter what I am going though, Yahweh is with me: “I was regretting the past and fearing the future.  Suddenly my Lord was speaking: ‘My name is I AM’ He paused.  I waited.  He continued, ‘When you live in the past with its mistakes and regrets, it is hard.  I am not there.  My name is not I WAS.  When you live in the future, with its problems and fears, it is hard.  I am not there.  My name is not I WILL BE.  When you live in this moment it is not hard.  I am here.  My name is I AM.’”[ii]

This is exactly the promise that David is giving us when he begins Psalm 23 by saying, “The Lord is my Shepherd.”  The Lord is our Shepherd NOW — not just in the past or in the future. The Lord is with us now and He is Yahweh– UNCHANGING! The Lord wasn’t your shepherd yesterday and turned the job over to a new shepherd. NO. The LORD is your shepherd from all your yesterdays, todays, and tomorrows!

Friends, this is Good News! This is grand news! This is glorious news as we find ourselves in the middle of a stay-at-home order with only essential people working. As we wonder what will happen to our future, we are to remember that no matter what changes are happening around us, one thing is certain: our God will never change.  His love for us is unchanging–even in the middle of a pandemic. YAHWEH remains the same despite everything else around us. YAHWEH, I AM, our GOD is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow. We can rest secure in who God is.  We can exclaim with David — “The Lord is my shepherd” — no matter what else is going on in the world. Say it with me, “THE LORD IS MY SHEPHERD!”

POINT 1: GOD IS UNCHANGING. GOD IS THE SAME YESTERDAY, TODAY AND TOMORROW.

So What?
We have a God who is all-knowing, all-powerful, everlasting, and unchanging. We have a God who hears us, we have the love of Christ who died for us and rose again, and we have the power of the Holy Spirit within us. That is our SO WHAT for today!  If only we could learn to fully trust “The Lord is MY Shepherd”, we would have more than enough grace for every sin, more than enough direction for every decision and more than enough healing for our hurts.

I’ll write more in a few days and tell you a story about the little child who exclaimed, “The Lord is my shepherd, that’s all I want!” For now, I want you to pray, “THE LORD IS…” We are just about to find out that the holiest name on the planet is MY SHEPHERD, my personal shepherd.

Baa?

See you Sunday on our online church ….
theseedchristianfellowship.online.church at 10 A.M. Pacific Time

Or you can tune in to our YouTube Channel — The Seed Christian Fellowship
https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCsvcuFYZUngDyH1Y-D_F3gw

God loves you and so do I,
Pastor Dave
www.theseedchristianfellowship.com

[i] C. H. Spurgeon, The Treasury of David, vol. 1, Psalms 1-26 (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1968), 335

[ii] Max Lucado, Safe In The Shepherd’s Arms, (Thomas Nelson, Inc. 2002) 10

[i] Phillip Keller, A Shepherd Looks At Psalm 23, (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1970), 1

[ii] Helen Mallicoat

Copyright © 2018 THE SEED CHRISTIAN FELLOWSHIP, All rights reserved. May you be blessed by God’s grace and love. You are receiving this email because you signed up for our weekly devotionals.   Our mailing address is: 6450 Emerald Street Alta Loma, California 91701   Want to change how you receive these emails? You can update your preferences or unsubscribe from this list.

Romans 7:14-20 Who is the “Man” of Romans 7?

 

This is a section of the letter in which Paul is speaking of himself, describing a fierce internal struggle with sin. And the question is: Of what stage in his life is he speaking? Is he speaking of the present, that is, of the time of his writing the letter – when he was a mature Christian, indeed an apostle? Or is he speaking of himself as he was in the past, before his conversion? Or is the true answer somewhere in between? Who is the “man” of Romans 7? This has divided Bible students from the earliest days of the church and continues to divide them today. Paul is discussing the Christian life in which he seems to be answering two related questions: How can I live a triumphant Christian life? How can I achieve victory over sin? Any true Christian wants the answer to those questions. In this study we will present four main interpretations of these verses and evaluate each one.

The “Man” of Romans 7 is Unsaved: The first view is that the “man” of Romans 7 is Paul when he was not yet a Christian. According to this view, Paul could not say the things he says here if he were truly a Christian. What things? Well, that he is “a slave to sin,” (v. 14). Paul also says, “Nothing good lives in me” (v. 18). A bit further on Paul cries, “What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death?” (v. 24). In spite of the appeal of this interpretation the view has several major flaws. Let me suggest a few. (1) What Paul says of himself in Romans 7:14-24 is not what Paul says of his pre-Christian state in other passages. Paul is distressed over his inability to fulfill the law’s demands. He is wretched as a result of his failure. He is calling out for deliverance by someone outside himself, What unbeliever ever thinks like that? (2) Paul’s delight in God’s law, expressed in this passage, cannot be found in unbelievers. The “man” of Romans 7 is one who has moved beyond the hostility to God’s law exercised by the unregenerate person. (3) The present tense is used throughout the second half of Romans 7, and this is an apparently meaningful contrast with the past tense employed earlier. In these verses, it’s hard to deny that this speaking of Paul’s present, and therefore a truly Christian experience.

The “Man” of Romans 7 is a “Carnal Christian”: The second view is a very popular one today. It is best known by the phrase “the carnal Christian.”It holds that Paul is indeed speaking of himself as a Christian but that he is speaking of himself (or of himself theoretically) as being in an immature or unsurrendered state. The chief weakness of this view is the doctrine of “the carnal Christian” itself. This view postulates a two-stage Christian experience in which, in stage one, a person accepts Jesus as Savior only, without accepting Him as Lord of his or her life, and then later, in stage two, goes on to receive Him as Lord. This is just not biblical. Above all, it’s not what Paul is saying or has been saying in Romans. Paul is describing the struggle between himself as a new creature in Christ, the new man, and the old man, sinful, un-Christian nature that nevertheless retains in some measure. The struggle is part of what it means to be a Christian in an as-yet unperfected state. It does not mean that there is a first or early stage in the Christian life that may be described as “carnal.”

The “Man” of Romans 7 is under Conviction: A third view takes everything that has been said thus far with full seriousness, drawing the apparently paradoxical conclusion that what Paul says here can be said of neither the unregenerate nor the regenerate man. But where does that leave us? If Paul is not speaking of a regenerate or an unregenerate person, of whom is he speaking? Some have said that Paul is speaking of one who has been awakened to his personal lawlessness and spiritual inability by the Holy Spirit but who has not yet been made a participator in the new life of Jesus Christ. The work has been started, but it has not yet come to fruition. This sounds reasonable, but it still has problems. (1) It does not account for the change from the past tense of the verbs in verses 1-13 to the present tense, beginning with verse 14. (2) It is not true that the “man” of Romans 7 does not yet know who can deliver him. Paul is writing of a struggle we all feel at times, wanting to do what is right while being unable in himself to do it. But as soon as he cries out, “What a wretched man I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?” he has the answer: “Thanks be to God – through Jesus Christ our Lord!” (vv. 24-25).

The “Man” of Romans 7 is a Mature Christian: The final view which is that of most reformed commentators is that Paul is writing of himself as a mature Christian, describing the Christian’s continuing conflict with sin, which we all experience, and teaching that there is no victory in such struggles apart from the Holy Spirit. To put in other words, since Romans 7 is discussing the function and limits of the law, Paul is saying that just as the law of God is unable to justify a person (justification is made possible by the work of Christ), so also is the law unable to sanctify a person. Sanctification must be accomplished in us by the Holy Spirit.

In Romans 6, Paul discussed the deliverance that is ours through our having been crucified and raised with Christ. But he also acknowledged the continuing presence of sin in us through our bodies and reminded us that we must struggle against it. It is the same in Romans 7, though here Paul is emphasizing the futility of the struggle if it is in our own strength. The mature Christian knows that he is always in Romans 7 apart from the Holy Spirit. Moreover, he knows that dependence on the Holy Spirit is not something that is attained once for all but is the result of a daily struggle and a constantly renewed commitment. Sanctification is the growing sense of how sinful we really are, so we will constantly turn to and depend upon Jesus Christ. This is the definition of being mature in Christ.

Romans 7:14-20 Reflection Questions:

Verses 13-20 are often misunderstood, and many Christians struggle to discern the period of Paul’s life that is being described in this passage. But these verses were not intended as an exact description of Paul’s, or anyone else’s, actual experience, though it finds echoes in many places both in human life and in ancient and modern literature. In these verses, Paul moves into the present tense, to describe the actual situation (as opposed to the felt experience) of Israel living under the law. Granting this perspective, what happens when Israel, having been given the law, does its best to live under it?

Why would God (who is often implicated in Paul’s “in order that” clauses) want sin to grow to its full height (v. 13)?

Because much of the discussion in chapter 7 is about Israel, it may seem remote to many modern Christians. Many of us do not stop to ponder the situation of Israel under the law – though perhaps we should. How is this section relevant to us as believers today?

Weekly Seed of Faith 4/24/20

Seed of Faith – Stop, Look, Listen   By Pastor Dave  

Again Jesus said, “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.”  And with that he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive anyone his sins, they are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.”  John 20:21-23

Dear Faithful Friends and Fellow Seed-Sowers,
The above Scripture verses are powerful to ponder. We recently celebrated Easter and we celebrated that death has been conquered! The tomb is empty! Jesus is alive! The empty tomb declares, once and for all, that no matter what our deepest fears are we have victory. The empty tomb tells us that darkness is defeated and the light of Christ will forever shine.  Because Jesus lives, we live! He is risen! He is risen, indeed!

So what? do you believe about the resurrection?  What do you see during this pandemic and crisis?

These are great questions for us to pray about as we sit in our homes and look outside. Unless you are an essential worker at work during this time, you have been ordered to stay home, stay inside, stay away from others, and keep your social distance. Many of us are growing weary. Worry, fear, doubt, anxiety, and concern about our health, finances, families, and friends are beginning to mount. Many of us know friends and family members who have forever been traumatized by COVID-19. Life has changed. Many of us wonder if we will recover and get back to “normal.”  We see crisis and chaos. We see a worldwide pandemic that has claimed the lives of so many and is changing our world forever. We are helpless to control any of it.

A pandemic is “an outbreak of a disease that occurs over a wide geographic area and affects an exceptionally high proportion of the populationa pandemic outbreak of a disease?”  Yes, there has been a pandemic that has spread over this world, not just the coronavirus but I am talking about the fall of Adam and Eve in the Garden. This ancient, global pandemic is called “death.” This is the bad news but the good news is that Jesus came to earth to conquer death once and for all. And this is what Easter is all about: Jesus Christ died on the cross for our SINS, He was buried and the tomb is empty! Over 500 people encountered the risen Christ after He rose. Hallelujah! Death, hell and the grave have been defeated forever!

My “so what?” question comes early in today’s SEED OF FAITH:

So what?  Do we say to this ancient pandemic? So what? Do I believe about God’s resurrection power?  If God can resurrect our lives from the grave, hell and death, can God get us through this current epidemic?

Ever since my mother-in-law passed away, I have been spending a lot of time sitting quietly on my father-in-law’s covered porch. They call it a LANAI down here in The Villages. I was with Mom when she passed, and then I flew to see my Dad in Rochelle, IL. Then I returned for Mom’s funeral in mid-March and I have been here ever since due to the global epidemic. I’ve been helping my wife as she is caring for her dad. During my quiet times on the lanai, the Lord has impressed upon my heart to STOP, LOOK, and LISTEN. 

Do you remember when you learned to cross the street? Stop. Look.  Listen.

These simple words are true today as we face the pandemic called  the Corona-virus.

STOP:  Stop worrying, stop fearing, stop doubting God’s goodness.
LOOK: Look up! Instead of looking down, look into God’s word. Instead of looking into the world’s ways, look around and count all of the blessings you’ve been given.
LISTEN: Listen for the still, small voice of God. Listen to Christian music, radio or television. Listen to the sounds of silence. As I sit on the lanai and I STOP, LOOK and LISTEN, I am hearing so many things! I am hearing the voice of the Holy Spirit as I read God’s word. I am hearing the voice of the Holy Spirit whisper names of those who need prayer, a letter, text, email or phone call. I hear the sounds of nature: songs of many different birds–blue jays, wrens, finches, cardinals, mockingbirds, mourning doves and even an egret, who stops by daily. This morning I listened to the sounds of lightning, thunder, wind and rain.

STOP — LOOK — LISTEN! I am praying for you, too, to join me. I want to know what God is doing in your lives as you stop, look and listen. I think of those essential workers and the bravery it must take to rise up and go be essential! How is their STOP, LOOK and LISTEN different from mine?

Maybe with this pandemic and crisis, your vision has been diminished, decreased, devastated, depleted and/or darkened.

I am sure this is how Jesus’ disciples felt. They watched as they saw their leader and teacher, Jesus, betrayed, beaten, crucified, and buried. They were part of the darkness that covered the earth for three hours on Good Friday. I am sure darkness covered the disciples’ dreams, hopes, and vision. Much like the darkness of this pandemic has covered our lives. The disciples were hiding away in the Upper Room. Afraid. Unsure. I think we can relate!

Today I encourage you to STOP and take some time to read the Gospel of John, chapter 20. Look what Jesus does!  Listen to what Jesus says!  See how the early disciples responded! Put yourself into this story.  How would you respond if Jesus walked into your house today, doors closed from fear, and said to you, “PEACE BE WITH YOU”?

I want to close out today’s SEED OF FAITH with the main theme of last Sunday’s message:
Never put a final period on your life. Instead, put a comma…and let God finish the story. God is the best storyteller I know!  Do you feel finished? Down and out with only a few seconds left? Go out for the pass, get in the end zone–and LET GOD THROW THE HAIL MARY! WHY? Because it’s not over until it is over.

This is precisely what God showed the women at the tomb on Easter morning. They were not expecting the stone to be rolled way. They were not expecting to see an empty tomb. They were not expecting to see angels, let alone HEAR them speaking. They were not expecting Jesus to be raised from the dead. They were carrying 100 pounds of spices to anoint Jesus’ body for burial. They thought the game was over. They thought darkness had won. They expected death had spoken the final word. The disciples were not expecting Jesus to enter through the locked doors. Everyone had put a period on their lives and Jesus’ life! “Jesus died. He is buried.”

FRIENDS, there’s no period here in this story, there’s a comma.  There’s a pause. We call it Holy Saturday!

STOP. LOOK. LISTEN.

GOD IS AT WORK. IT AIN’T OVER TIL IT’S OVER. Let the greatest storyteller of all finish your story. Let the greatest storyteller of all, finish THIS story.

Is that a period I see in the story of your life?

STOP —- worrying and doubting.
LOOK — to God and to the Words of Life. 
LISTEN —  Jesus says it all, 
 “PEACE BE WITH YOU!”

Here we sit. We each have our very own kind of STAYCATION 2020. Do you remember that we started 2020 with a challenge to see our life more clearly? We did. We asked for 20/20 vision regarding our lives. Wow. Are you beginning to see your life in a new way now? Are you realizing what is most important?

I have a 2020 vision passage for you: John 20:20 (get it, John 20:20?)
“After he said this, Jesus showed them his hands and side. The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord.” John 20:20

STOP. LOOK. LISTEN.  Drop the period at the end of this global pandemic and put a comma there instead. Let God finish the story.  I can guarantee you from reading the Bible what God is saying. Here it is:
“(Put your name here), I’m the greatest quarterback of all time. Somehow you cut free from all the confusion of your life, and get into the end zone! It ain’t over until it’s over. It ain’t over until I say so and even then, it ain’t over! I bring LIFE from DEATH. There’s no grave that can hold you. Hell cannot claim you. JESUS IS RISEN FROM THE DEAD. THE TOMB IS EMPTY! I have plans for you that no one can STOP…so LOOK…and LISTEN. I’m resurrecting YOU in 2020!”

Let’s pray: “Jesus, I believe you are God’s one and only SON. I believe you died on the cross for my sins. I believe I am forgiven. Jesus, I want YOUR LIFE TO LIVE IN MY HEART and I want your plans for my good, with a hope for today and hope for all the tomorrows of my life. I believe in eternal life and that one day I will live with YOU in heaven. My heart is yours, your life has cleansed me whiter than snow. I’m ready for the end zone pass! Amen.”

See you Sunday
God loves you and so do I,
Pastor Dave
www.theseedchristianfellowship.com

Copyright © 2018 THE SEED CHRISTIAN FELLOWSHIP, All rights reserved. May you be blessed by God’s grace and love. You are receiving this email because you signed up for our weekly devotionals.   Our mailing address is: 6450 Emerald Street Alta Loma, California 91701   Want to change how you receive these emails? You can update your preferences or unsubscribe from this list.

Romans 7:7-12 Sin’s Sad Use of God’s Good Law

 

In the earliest chapters of Romans Paul has shown that the law cannot justify a person. In the later chapters of Romans he has shown that neither can the law sanctify anyone. Therefore, if we are to be delivered from sin’s penalty and power, it must be by the work of God in Jesus Christ and by the Holy Spirit. Since the law is from God, and God cannot do evil or produce anything that is evil, the gospel Paul teaches seems to collapse. The verses to which we come now show emphatically why the law is not sinful. In particular they speak of three good things the law does, even though it is powerless either to justify or sanctify a person.

The first thing the law accomplishes, according to verse 7, is to reveal sin as sin. There are two problems here, and it’s important to understand both. The first problem is that if left to themselves, people never naturally think they are sinners. Genesis 6:5 is a description of sin as God sees it – every inclination of the thoughts of our hearts only evil all the time. But who believes that his or her every inclination is to do evil? No one believes that unless from a supernatural illumination of his or her mind by the Holy Spirit. The second problem is this: Even if, by some means, we are able to admit that we have done bad things, we are never able to recognize those things as “sin” unless we can also be shown that they transgress the law of God. We don’t call either morally wrong behavior or the criminal acts “sin” unless we see that these also violate God’s law. So the first good thing the law does is reveal that we are sinners. It does this by showing that the bad things we do are an offense to God.

The second good thing the law of God does is provoke sin, thereby drawing forth the realization of how bad sin really is (v. 8). This is what I call “sin’s sad use of God’s good law.” We see it in several areas: (1) Sin, seizing the opportunity afforded by the commandment, creates a surge of rebellion in our hearts. The rebellion has been there all along, of course. That is what it means to be a sinner. It means to be a rebel against God. But when the law comes, this dormant rebellion is aroused from its slumber, as it were, and we discover what we are at heart. (2) Sin, seizing the opportunity afforded by the commandment, creates a desire to sin in ways that were not even thought of before. In telling us not to do something, the law actually sets us to thinking about it, and because we are sinful people we soon find ourselves wanting to do that very thing. That is what the law does. It provokes wickedness. Moreover, in doing so, it shows us not only that sin is sin, a violation of the law of God; it also shows how strong sin is. It must be very powerful if it can use even God’s good law for such ends.

The third good thing the law does is bring us to the end of ourselves – to “death.” This is what Paul is talking about in verses 9-11. There was a time in Paul’s life when Paul thought he was in good standing before God. When the law finally began to get through to Paul to do its proper work, he saw (1) that he was guilty of having broken it and (2) that his nature was such that, instead of wanting to keep it, he actually wanted to break it. Instead of driving sin out, the law awakened sin. He saw how hopeless his sinful condition was. But that was a good thing! As long as Paul thought he was doing all right, he was on his way to perdition. It was only when he learned he was lost that he was ready to hear God’s words about the Savior.

So is the law sin, then? That is the question with which Paul started out. Here is his answer: “Certainly not!” (v. 7). Rather, as we have seen, “The law is holy, and the commandment is holy, righteous and good” (v. 12). The law does exactly what God sent it into the world to do, and that purpose, actually a threefold purpose, is good.

This leads to a couple important conclusions: First, the law can never save anyone. It never has saved anyone and it never will. It was not meant to. Therefore, if you have been thinking of yourself as a fairly decent person – who generally measures up to whatever moral standards seem reasonable – and believe that God should be glad to accept your self-assessment, bless you in life, and in the end receive you into heaven, it is not the case that you have been hearing and obeying the law. Rather, you have not really begun even to understand it. The law is condemning you, but you, in your ignorance, are supposing that everything is all right. What is happening to you is what Paul describes in verse 11. “Sin, seizing the opportunity afforded by the commandment, deceived” you. How? By making you think that everything is fine, when actually you are perishing.

Second, we need to teach the law to awaken people to their sinfulness and show them their need of a Savior. People need to know the uselessness of their own good works and so-called righteousness. They need to know how utterly hopeless the situation is without a Savior. They need to be convinced in their bones that Jesus Christ is the only hope they have. The law was given to drive out all self-righteousness so that we might embrace Jesus Christ alone as our Savior.

Romans 7:7-12 Reflection Questions:

How can the law as depicted in verses 7-12 be holy, good and upright while also producing death at the same time?

Inn verses 7-12, Paul describes the time when the law arrived in Israel in such a way as to reflect also the time when Adam was given the commandment in the Garden (Gen. 2:15-17; 3:17). What are the similarities between the story in Genesis and Paul’s argument here?