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Kip Cone

Kip Cone

Friday, 09 July 2021 00:00

The Straightedge

TheStraightHedge

Hebrews 10:1-39

It’s a beautiful day in the neighborhood, and my wife and grandson, and I have been outside trimming our boxwood bushes. Over the past several months the bushes have developed some errant growth, which needs to be cut off and the bushes restored to their intended shape. One of the tools we’ve used is an electric hedge trimmer. It has teeth that go back and forth in a straight line along the blade. The blade is a straightedge.

Many people use various forms of straightedges. Carpenters, for example, would be hampered without a straightedge. Carpet layers sometimes use a serpentine straightedge (kind of an oxymoron, don’t you think?).

The problem with pruning our boxwoods is that most of the bushes do not have flat surfaces. Some of the bushes are barrel-shaped, some round, some more oval, some conical, and so forth. You can probably see what we’re up against using a straightedge to trim something that isn’t straight. We have to apply the straightedge over and over again to small portions of the bush in order to correctly trim and shape the bush.

The Bible has a lot to say about straightedges, particularly the Straightedge of all straightedges. Unfortunately, we bushes need the divine Straightedge applied to us over and over again so that we can be brought into the intended shape. We’d probably prefer a serpentine straightedge curved according to what we want. But that’s not the God of all straightedges.

“Be holy because I am holy”  (Lev 11:44). “By one sacrifice Jesus has made perfect forever those who are being made holy” (Heb 10:14).

One of the best worship choruses of all time is about being straight as the Straightedge:

Holiness, holiness is what I long for
Holiness is what I need
Holiness is what You want for me

Righteousness is what I need (that's what I need)
Righteousness, righteousness is what You want for me

Take my heart and mold it
Take my mind; transform it
Take my will; conform it
To Yours, to Yours, Oh Lord.

Life Application Questions

  • How serious am I and you about wanting the divine Straightedge to shape us into his image?
  • What did the sacrifice of Jesus’ body on the cross, in contrast to the sacrifices of bulls and goats, have to do with the straightedge? See Heb 10:1-14.
  • How should we respond to all that Jesus has done for us? Note the multiple statements, “Let us . . .” See Heb 10:19-25.
  • What can negate the effectiveness of Jesus’ sacrifice for our sins? Who should fear falling into the hands of the living God? See Heb 10:26-31.

~ dbs

Thursday, 08 July 2021 00:00

Few Immediate Answers

TheFinalAndGreatest

Hebrews 9:1 – 28

We wait.

Most of us like immediate answers. Ask for a hamburger now, and in less than two minutes it should be in our hands. 

Small children are headliners when it comes to patience. When the two-year-old says, “Now!” they really mean ‘It should have been in my mouth two minutes earlier.’

Disciples of Jesus are also waiting. Great anticipation surrounds the event which we believe alters everything—the return of Christ. About that glorious day songs have been written, prayers lifted and tears beyond counting rolled over cheekbones. Thankfully, Scripture provides world-class encouragement to waiters.

After a long and lengthy theological syntactical display, the 9th chapter of the Book of Hebrews deposits golden wisdom in faith’s vault. Speaking about that Day, Scripture declares the spiritual wealth of Christ Who “…bring[s] salvation to those who are waiting for him” (Hebrews 9:28). 

In our waiting, we join the heritage of believers like Abraham, “For he was looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God” (Hebrews 11:10). Abraham’s wait extends from the very long ago to a time perhaps ten thousand years from today; and, there is struggle in waiting for the Day. 

Disciples wait believing in the surety of Him Who is Christ. We were called and now choose to live believing in the One Who answers as we pray, “Come quickly Lord Jesus”. We wait (Revelation 22:20).

Life Applications

Which spiritual disciplines sustain your faith as you wait for the Day?

Are you aware of moments when waiting for Christ’s return is most challenging?

Are you able to help sustain others who struggle with the waiting?  

~ajs

Tuesday, 06 July 2021 00:00

Accept No Substitutes

AcceptNoSubstitues

Deuteronomy 18:15-22

    There is an old advertising slogan that tells us to: Accept No Substitute. Many companies, selling everything from chocolate to tea, to expensive automobiles, have used this slogan. What is it about this slogan that encourages us to buy products? Is it the desire to have the genuine article and not a cheap knock-off? Is it the prestige or brand recognition that will garner us a better reputation? What areas of your life will you absolutely not choose a substitute for what you consider to be the genuine article? In our house, there is no substitute for Diet Coke or homemade chocolate chip cookies. Israel had seen God demonstrate His love for them repeatedly, yet they chose to worship a golden calf over Yahweh. Why did they choose to settle for a substitute? 

    God desired for His chosen people to choose to be in a relationship with Yahweh. Israel didn’t need to experiment with new religions because God had revealed Himself and His Word through Moses, his prophet. Once you have the real thing, why go in search of substitutes. Moses promised the people that God would raise up other prophets as the nation needed them. “I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their fellow Israelites and will put my words in his mouth.” (Deuteronomy 18:18) God desired for His people to know Him and worship Him. He desired relationship. Why did Israel ignore God’s prophets and choose substitutes for their worship?

    Prophets were the genuine messengers from God-Accept No Substitute-they were not cheap imitations; they were his representatives. Prophets wrote down the messages for future generations: Moses, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Daniel, and the 12 men we call “the minor prophets”. These prophets not only rebuked Israel for sin, they encouraged them in holy living and pointed to a coming Messiah. Yahweh remained exactly true to His character. He never wavered in His love and justice toward His people. Yet, the substitutes glittered and gave the Israelites a false sense of security and they desired the imitations over the authentic God.

    God sent the ultimate genuine representative of Himself and Jesus was not recognized as the Messiah. Moses not only pointed to a whole line of prophets, he was also announcing the coming of the prophet, Jesus. “For Moses said, ‘The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among your own people…all the prophets who have spoken have foretold of these days…When God raised up his servant, he sent him first to you to bless you by turning each of you from your wicked ways.” (Acts 3:22-26) We hold God’s very words in our hands-Accept No Substitute. God has made a substitutionary sacrifice to restore our relationship with Him-Accept No Substitute. Yet, I reach for things on the shelves of my life that I hope will fill the God-shaped void in my life, busyness, the cravings of my heart holler to become substitutes for genuine obedience and relationship with the Abba Father. Why do substitutes try to gain control of your heart? Accept No Substitutes. Once you have the real thing, why go in search of substitutes?

lkb

Monday, 05 July 2021 00:00

He Cared Enough to Send His Very Best

HeCaredEnoughtoSendHisVeryBest

Hebrews 1:1-2:4

In today's world, fewer and fewer people take the time to select greeting cards which they then sign, hopefully with a personal note, address, stamp, and take to the mailbox or post office. Why go through that procedure or spend the time and money when you can "log on" and send an electronic card on which you've simply typed your name? Or, easier yet, you can just hit "like" when Facebook reminds you of someone's birthday.

The days of the Hallmark card and those wonderful, tear-jerking commercials are fast disappearing. Is it because we no longer "Care Enough to Send the Very Best”? Or are we just too busy with things that are more important to us? 

How do you stay in contact with friends and family these days? —letter-writing, email, social media? 

Well, God cared enough! He sent us His Very Best, his Son, Jesus! The first chapter of Hebrews continually reminds us of this amazing truth. 

Take a minute and count how many times the passage refers to the Son. 

The book of Hebrews is replete with examples of how Jesus is greater than anyone or anything else God could have given to reveal his desire to have a relationship with us, including Moses, the prophets, and angels. 

Can you recall three or more "angel sightings" from Scripture?

We hear occasional reports of people being rescued or helped by someone who disappears almost immediately, and they attribute their experience to angels. We can’t verify every anecdote we hear but we can be sure that angels do exist, and that they often had a significant role in what God was doing. Unseen angel armies won great battles and announced Messiah's birth. Certain majestic angels played significant roles in God’s plan. Both Gabriel and Michael revealed great prophecies to Daniel (8-12). And perhaps the most familiar to us is when Gabriel brought the astounding announcement of Jesus’ impending birth to Mary (Luke 1). 

Have you had an angel experience in your life? 

But when God planned to send someone to redeem lost mankind, he didn’t choose a mighty angel. Rather he sent someone far superior to an angel. Note these ways Jesus is superior.

  • They have the name of angels; his name is Son.
  • They are worshipers; he is worshiped.
  • They are creatures; he is the creator.
  • They are the ministers of salvation; he is the author.
  • They are the subjects; he is the ruler in the age to come.

Since God was pleased to send his very best, how can we do less than offer our best in serving Him?                                                                                                                

jbd & gmd                                                                                                                                                                                                          

Friday, 02 July 2021 00:00

Choices

ChoicesRevelation 21:1–8

Serpent of death. Tree of life . . .

Hunger of hopelessness. Manna from heaven . . .

Thirst of despair. Water from the Rock . . .

Naked in shame. Clothed in righteousness . . .

Life of foolishness. Eternity of happiness . . .

Playground of sinners. Palace of saints . . .

Satan’s perversion. God’s perfection . . .

                                                                        Take your pick.

Foolhardy. Faithful . . .

Rebellious. Respectful . . .

Selfish. Self-controlled . . .

Disobedient. Observant . . .

Pagan. Pure . . .

Idolater. Worshiper . . .

Godless. Godly . . .

Death. Life­ . . .

                                                                        It’s one or the other.

The last book of the Bible offers opposites, black and white. If you want black, this earth is headed there: plagues of disease, storms of devastation, fires of destruction, scorching heat, unrelenting famine, water unfit to drink, wars and rumors of war, trials and temptations—people disappearing, never seen or heard from again.

But if you want white, it’s beyond anything we can imagine: a new heaven and new earth, morning stars, evening rainbows, heavenly choirs, white robes, sea of glass as clear as crystal—people together in perfect harmony and peace!

Best of all, it’s a restored relationship: God and his people—back to the Garden of Eden! See Rev 21:3.

Life Application Questions

  • Do we want the worst of what this world has to offer or the best that heaven has to offer? If the latter, what do we need to do? See Rev 21:7-8.
  • How do we prepare in the present for the potential of the future? Is it now a dress rehearsal, fine-tuning everything in preparation for the grand finale? See Rev 22:10-12.

~ dbs

Thursday, 01 July 2021 00:00

God with Us

GodWithUsJohn 1:1–14

Loneliness challenges the heart. Isolated and without a personal or divine connection, a soul’s dry dryness causes us to shrivel. We become unrecognizable. When life is a desert we look for water and shade from the noon-day heat lest spiritual thirst destroys us. 

We drink deeply. Jesus, the refreshing Water of Life is the One to Whom the disciples call for refreshment because John reminds us, “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us (John 1:14). 

Our brother John will later observe Jesus teaching on faithfulness in life’s dry times. He insists Jesus taught disciples that God’s presence bubbles as an ever-flowing spring (John 7:38).

When refreshed by Him Who is the Water of Life we, the disciples, realize we are never-never-never alone. We are not isolated from the Father, the Son, and Spirit. All this occurs and is captured in the phrase we first noted: “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us.” The friendly plural pronoun causes us to rejoice and to wonder. Who are the us?

We know there is more to being a disciple than living in private spiritual practice. There is more than your individual relationship with God. There is the community. The beloved, the identified, the peculiar people, the called-out—these are the disciples whom you know best. Sometimes we call them a church—a congregation.

Life Applications and insight from Helen Steiner Rice 

  • Today, what confirmation do you have that God is present?
  • How does the group of believers you know best, help you in times of loneliness?
  • How do you, within the group of believers you know best, help others when they are experiencing loneliness?

The Gift of Friendship

Friendship is a priceless gift

            that cannot be bought or sold,

But its value is far greater

            than a mountain made of gold—

For gold is cold and lifeless,

            it can neither see nor hear,

And in the time of trouble

            it is powerless to cheer—

It has no ears to listen,

            no heart to understand,

It cannot bring you comfort

            or reach out a helping hand—

So when you ask God for a gift,

            be thankful if he sends

Not diamonds, pearls, or riches,

            but the love of real true friends.

~ajs

Wednesday, 30 June 2021 00:00

Exquisite Delight

ExquisiteDelight

Matthew 1:18-22

We’ve traveled with the Israelites over the past few months during this sermon series.

We’ve seen their hesitancy to leave the homes they knew for 430 years, even if it meant continued slavery in Egypt. We’ve watched Moses develop as a leader, first too shy to speak forth, so that Aaron had to accompany him. We’ve seen the miracles – a baby boy rescued from the bullrushes, plagues and a staff turning into a snake as the people prepared to leave, and the parting of the waters of the Red Sea, just to name a few.

What a journey that must have been! Six hundred thousand men on foot, not to mention women and children. That could be more than one million living souls. When I lived in Columbus, Ohio, the metropolitan population was estimated at more than a million. Imagine all them deciding to walk to Chicago, Dallas, or some other far-away place.

I can only imagine the amount of dust those six thousand pairs of feet (plus) kicked up as they made their way across the desert. They carried their own clothing and supplies – no Conestoga wagons like the pioneers in the American west. They stopped to pitch their tents at night (or did they sleep under the stars?).

It sounds like one dirty, uncomfortable, and long journey. (Not like driving across country with your kids moaning, “Are we there yet?)

But in an amazing way, God was with them – in the ark of the covenant, in the words of the prophet, and in the pillar of cloud or fire. All are visible signs of a loving, leading God, even if the Israelites didn’t always appreciate it.

Fast forward nearly 1,400 years. A simple carpenter, Joseph, learns his fiancé is pregnant – and the child is not his. He proposes to divorce her quietly. But God has other plans. In a dream, God tells Joseph rather to take Mary as his wife. Furthermore, he is to name the baby Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.

This fulfilled a prophecy first given in Isaiah 7:4 – the virgin will conceive and give birth to a son and they will call him Immanuel – God with us. (That is the first of only three times that word appears in the Bible.)

What a miracle of the incarnation – Jesus is God in us! Just as God’s glory filled the tabernacle in the desert, now he resides in each of us personally. He “tabernacled” among us as one of us, then paid the price for our sins on the cross.

Charles Spurgeon says it so eloquently, “But ‘God with us’ is the source of exquisite delight. ‘God with us’—all that ‘God’ means, the Deity, the infinite Jehovah with us,—this, this is worthy of the burst of midnight song, when angels startled the shepherds with their carols, singing ‘Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.’”

When have you experienced the presence of Jesus?

How is the presence of God an “exquisite delight” to you?

We can truly receive the give of “God with us” when he comes to live inside us. Have you experienced Jesus living in you? (Talk with one of our pastors if you want to know more.)

lcg

Tuesday, 29 June 2021 00:00

Accept No Substitutes

AcceptNoSubstituesDeuteronomy 18:15-22

    There is an old advertising slogan that tells us to: Accept No Substitute. Many companies, selling everything from chocolate to tea, to expensive automobiles, have used this slogan. What is it about this slogan that encourages us to buy products? Is it the desire to have the genuine article and not a cheap knock-off? Is it the prestige or brand recognition that will garner us a better reputation? What areas of your life will you absolutely not choose a substitute for what you consider to be the genuine article? In our house, there is no substitute for Diet Coke or homemade chocolate chip cookies. Israel had seen God demonstrate His love for them repeatedly, yet they chose to worship a golden calf over Yahweh. Why did they choose to settle for a substitute? 

    God desired for His chosen people to choose to be in a relationship with Yahweh. Israel didn’t need to experiment with new religions because God had revealed Himself and His Word through Moses, his prophet. Once you have the real thing, why go in search of substitutes. Moses promised the people that God would raise up other prophets as the nation needed them. “I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their fellow Israelites and will put my words in his mouth.” (Deuteronomy 18:18) God desired for His people to know Him and worship Him. He desired relationship. Why did Israel ignore God’s prophets and choose substitutes for their worship?

    Prophets were the genuine messengers from God-Accept No Substitute-they were not cheap imitations; they were his representatives. Prophets wrote down the messages for future generations: Moses, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Daniel, and the 12 men we call “the minor prophets”. These prophets not only rebuked Israel for sin, they encouraged them in holy living and pointed to a coming Messiah. Yahweh remained exactly true to His character. He never wavered in His love and justice toward His people. Yet, the substitutes glittered and gave the Israelites a false sense of security and they desired the imitations over the authentic God.

    God sent the ultimate genuine representative of Himself and Jesus was not recognized as the Messiah. Moses not only pointed to a whole line of prophets, he was also announcing the coming of the prophet, Jesus. “For Moses said, ‘The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among your own people…all the prophets who have spoken have foretold of these days…When God raised up his servant, he sent him first to you to bless you by turning each of you from your wicked ways.” (Acts 3:22-26) We hold God’s very words in our hands-Accept No Substitute. God has made a substitutionary sacrifice to restore our relationship with Him-Accept No Substitute. Yet, I reach for things on the shelves of my life that I hope will fill the God-shaped void in my life, busyness, the cravings of my heart holler to become substitutes for genuine obedience and relationship with the Abba Father. Why do substitutes try to gain control of your heart? Accept No Substitutes. Once you have the real thing, why go in search of substitutes?

lkb

Monday, 28 June 2021 00:00

The Glory of God

TheGloryOfGodExodus 40:1-38 

The repeated emphasis on the glory of God in our study of Exodus challenges us to gain a clear understanding of what God’s glory is and how it relates to followers of Jesus today. The term glory, whether in the OT or NT conveys the ideas of splendor, honor, dignity, praise, worship. Together they may give us some small picture of the magnificence and uniqueness of God.

What comes to your mind when you think of the glory of God?

In the Old Testament, the term is used to indicate the presence of the self-existing, self-sustaining, creator God. The Israelites, his chosen people, experienced the vision of God as promised by Aaron. In the morning you will see the glory of the Lord . . . And as Aaron spoke to the whole community of Israel, they looked out toward the wilderness. There they could see the awesome glory of the Lord in the cloud.” (Exodus 16:7, 10) We can only imagine what that was like, but it certainly was a rather frightening, but affirming and memorable event. 

Yahweh was making it known that it was always his purpose to dwell with his people. It was his plan when he brought the first man and woman to live in the Garden of Eden. He commissioned them to superintend his creation, and he walked and talked with them, no doubt a practice he desired to continue forever. Sin brought that initial fellowship to an end, but that didn’t thwart the ultimate plan.

In your imagination, what might it have been like for us today if our first parents hadn’t sinned?

The details for the tabernacle and its furnishings were followed to a “T,” and Exodus 40 records the setting up of this first structure for God to inhabit. And when the work was finished, “Then the cloud covered the tent of meeting, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle” (v. 34). So magnificent and holy was the symbolic presence of God that even Moses could not enter the new house of God (v. 35). But Leviticus 9:23 adds that when Moses and Aaron returned after they were able to enter the tabernacle, “… the glory of the Lord appeared to the whole community.” This riveting picture is to be repeated when the Temple (of which the tabernacle was a model) is built and dedicated (see 1 Kings 8:10-11 and 2 Chronicles 7:1-2). 

What do you suppose it was like for God’s chosen people to witness the dedication of the Tabernacle and later the Temple?

What should all of this mean to the people of the church today? The Apostle Peter sums it up for us: “In his kindness, God called you to share in his eternal glory by means of Christ Jesus (1 Peter 5:10). And the Apostle Paul adds these words: “He does this to make the riches of his glory shine even brighter on those to whom he shows mercy, who were prepared in advance for glory (Romans 9:23) and “The wisdom we speak of is the mystery of God—his plan that was previously hidden, even though he made it for our ultimate glory before the world began (1 Corinthians 2:7). 

It might be best summed up in this wonderful statement: “God has chosen to make known among the Gentiles the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory (Colossians 1:17). Because now, we are that precious dwelling place of God. “Do you not know that your bodies are temples [dwelling places] of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? (1 Corinthians 6:19)

How should the knowledge that God is dwelling in me affect my daily life and witness?

jbd & gmd

Friday, 25 June 2021 00:00

Home

HomeExodus 36:8-38

It’s life, it’s living, it’s surviving

Birds have nests, bears have dens, horses have barns

Fetuses have wombs, girls have doll houses, boys have tree houses

Campers in tents, college students in dorms, travelers in motels

Caring, protecting, resting—

                        Dwelling places.

Hut, apartment, mansion

Bread baking, soup bubbling, drink fizzing

Gathering, nourishing, flourishing

Love making, kindness doing, peace keeping

Family, friends, guests—welcome at the table

Home.

Pillar of cloud by day, pillar of fire by night, ark of the covenant

Father of light, Protector of souls, Provider of needs

Tabernacle, holiest of holies, divine manifestation

Glory beyond description, holiness beyond explanation, presence beyond expectation

Nations, tribes, peoples—welcome at the table

Home. God’s. 

Life Application Questions

  • Dwelling places define us. We often ask, Where did you grow up? Likewise, the kinds of homes we live in presently define us. So what does God’s home on earth, the tabernacle, reveal about him?
  • The devotion of the Israelites to building and furnishing the tabernacle was remarkable, like fifty Amish men raising a barn for one of their kin. What does the hard work and sacrifices of the people of Israel reveal about them?
  • God made his presence known in the tabernacle, but that was only the first stage. The tabernacle of the wilderness was the pre-cursor to the temple in Jerusalem, which was the precursor to Jesus’ incarnation, which was the precursor to the community of believers, the body of Christ. Each was (is) God’s presence on earth, the embodiment of divinity, ramped up to highest level. How are we doing?!

 ~ dbs

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"Your word is truth," said Jesus to his Father (John 17:17). We want to build our lives on this truth. The Bible is God's self-revelation, given to us so that we can know him and his Son Jesus.