Here is my sermon in blog format. Let鈥檚 see how this works. Thanks, Jerrell Jobe for the idea. He just suggested I try writing my sermon as if I were writing a blog post so that it would be easier for me to preach it without reading it and so it will sound more like me. Does that make sense? Thank you, also to PS (a.k.a. purple) for her sermon that I so enjoyed reading. I took some of her ideas and integrated them into my sermon. Also, thanks to St. Inuksuk for the bone idea. Lastly, thanks to Gino and 10b travelling on Flickr for use of their photos. Well, I will preach it tomorrow, so I will let you know if the knew format helps with the preaching. It was fun to write this way.

Today I want to talk to you about God life-giving breath. But first I have talk to you about dry bones. Ezekiel has a vision that is recorded in Ezekiel 37. Verses 1-6 say:

“The hand of the Lord was upon me, and he brought me out by the Spirit of the Lord and set me in the middle of a valley; it was full of bones. He led me back and forth among them, and I saw a great many bones on the floor of the valley, bones that were very dry. He asked me, “Son of man, can these bones live?” I said, “O Sovereign Lord, you alone know.” Then he said to me, “Prophesy to these bones and say to them, ‘Dry bones, hear the word of the Lord! This is what the Sovereign Lord says to these bones: I will make breath enter you, and you will come to life. I will attach tendons to you and make flesh come upon you and cover you with skin; I will put breath in you, and you will come to life. Then you will know that I am the Lord.'”

The Lord took Ezekiel to a valley of bones. Some commentators believe that this was the same valley that Ezekiel was commissioned at in chapter 3. That would make this vision seem very real to Ezekiel. Maybe God wanted him to know what an important real message this was.

The Lord led him around the valley. Ezekiel could have just glanced around and saw what he needed to see: a valley of dry bones, but God wanted him to feel full weight of the vision of bones. Ezekiel saw that there were many (probably thousands) of bones. Which meant that there were many people represented by the bones, perhaps an entire nation. He also saw that the bones were very dry. There was nothing left on them. These bones were dead. They were without hope.

Otis enjoying a ham bone by Gino on FlickrMost of us here have eaten ham. It is Pastor Chris and I’s favorite meat. He makes the world’s best double glazed honey ham. When we get done eating our ham, there is still meat on the bone, the bone is a dark color and there is still marrow and fat attached. These bones were clean and dry. These were more like a ham bone after you’ve given it to your dog and he has picked it clean, after it is has been bleached white with age and exposure.

The word “dry,” in the Old Testament, referred to raisins (dried out, shriveled), hungry people (dry, empty stomachs), chaff (the dry outer hull of wheat) and trees (especially in the desert climate they are in need of life-giving water).

I鈥檝e been waiting a long time for love by 10b travelling on FlickrThe Lord asked Ezekiel a question. Can these bones live? Ezekiel answers well. He could have said no, but that wouldn’t have given God credit for all He can do. Ezekiel was probably thinking, “Well, they are pretty dead. It’s not likely.” But he realized that God was powerful enough that He probably could do it. So, he answers, “O Lord God, you know.” It was a safe answer, but it also shows that he knew God was powerful.

The Lord then tells him to prophesy to the bones. Now that is a strange thing to do. Ezekiel probably thought, “God, why are you making me do this? You could do it. What do you need me for?” That’s what I would have thought. Who wants to talk to dry bones? I’d be afraid someone was hiding behind some rocks watching and they would start laughing. But Ezekiel is obedient and prophesied saying:

“Dry bones, hear the word of the Lord! This is what the Sovereign Lord says to these bones: I will make breath enter you, and you will come to life. I will attach tendons to you and make flesh come upon you and cover you with skin; I will put breath in you, and you will come to life. Then you will know that I am the Lord.”

Ezekiel did what he was told. I wonder what he thought would happen. It’s easy to be cynical and not expect anything. Especially since Ezekiel had prophesied many times before for God and he had always had to speak words of death, destruction and exile. Sometimes, as a pastor, I wonder if what I preach will stir anyone to action. I expect that while he did what God asked of him, Ezekiel felt the same way and didn’t really expect anything to happen. They were dry bones after all. You can’t get any worse audience than that! I think that might be worse than having no audience at all.

But, he says, “suddenly there was a noise, a rattling, and the bones came together, bone to its bone.” They were being resurrected! What an amazing moment that must have been! I know that when I see something happening in our church, like being asked to start a Sunday evening Bible study, I get excited. This rattling noise was like the sound of battle or an earthquake or of God’s impressive glory. The same word is used in chapter 3 when God lifts Ezekiel up and takes him where he is to prophesy. Ezekiel knew that the sound he heard was God behind him. Though he hadn’t seen it, he had heard God’s glory. So then, he looks at the bones and sees that they have muscle and flesh and skin. But, he notes that there is still no breath in them.

So God tells Ezekiel to prophesy again. Ezekiel prophesies saying,

“This is what the Sovereign Lord says: Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe into these slain, that they may live.”

“Breath,” in Hebrew is the same word that is also used for spirit and wind. The way God tells him to say it emphasizes the determined will of God to “cause (the breath/Spirit/life) to enter their bodies. Isn’t that powerful? They needed God’s Spirit, his life-giving breath.

And what happens? The once dry bones are now alive and breathing. Verse ten says that they “stood on their feet, a vast multitude.” Wow. In Hebrew, the verse uses the equivalent of two verys in other words, a very, very large group. An exceedingly large multitude of people.

So, what did this vision mean? Well, God tells us very clearly what it means. Sometimes, he’s not so clear as this instance. In verses 11-14, God says:

“Son of man, these bones are the whole house of Israel. They say, ‘Our bones are dried up and our hope is gone; we are cut off.’ Therefore prophesy and say to them: ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: O my people, I am going to open your graves and bring you up from them; I will bring you back to the land of Israel. Then you, my people, will know that I am the Lord, when I open your graves and bring you up from them. I will put my Spirit in you and you will live, and I will settle you in your own land. Then you will know that I the Lord have spoken, and I have done it, declares the Lord.'”

At the time of Ezekiel, the Israelites were far from their home, having been taken captive by Babylon. They were suffering physically as well as spiritually. This was all brought on by their own sin and God was working to bring them back to Him through these trials. But they wondered what had happened to God. They felt alone and didn’t know who they were. The Israelites felt hopeless. They felt like dried up bones, dead.

Ezekiel is to prophesy once again, but to his own people. This message was to give them hope and bring them back to God. Here God is promising them that he will resurrect them; bring them back to life and their home. He is foretelling his action so that they will now it was His doing when it happens. Through their political and physical restoration, He will restore them spiritually. He will breathe His life back into them. And this will start by breathing hope into them with the message Ezekiel will prophesy.

Not too many of the Israelites listened to him until some years later when Cyrus the Great of Babylon allowed displaced people to return home in 538 B.C.

Now that we understand the message and the meaning of the message for the Israelites, what is the meaning to us? There are all kinds of things that cause us to feel spiritually dried up. What have you let come between you and God? What fears and anxieties keep you from living the resurrected life? In John 11:25, Jesus, just before breathing life back into Lazarus, tells Martha, “I am the resurrection and the life.” God can breathe new life into you today.

So let go of whatever is keeping you from living the resurrected life. Maybe it’s concern over your finances or who the next president will be. Maybe you have medical issues or a relationship that isn’t healthy like it should be. Maybe you fear the violence in the world or are addicted to something that keeps you from God. Maybe you feel alone, you wonder if there really is a God. You wonder if God does actually care about you. Whatever is making you feel dry and dead, give it to God. He will breathe new life into you. He will bring restoration to your soul. He loves you deeply, more than we can even comprehend. He only longs to bring you back to a healthy life in Him. All you need to do is accept the gift of life he offers and give your problems and questions to Him. Don’t let your problems drag you into the grave any longer.

Well, the hubby came home on time and in time. I was coming down with a cold and I hung on till he got home, but then I kinda crashed. I’ve been sick all week. I feel draggy and groggy. That is why I haven’t been blogging. I didn’t feel like doing anything social at all. I’m on the mending end of things now, but still am rather out of it.

Chris and I have been playing a lot of games lately. On Facebook, we each play a game to see who gets the higher score. The MindJolt Facebook app keeps track for us. I’ve been trying to beat Chris’ score in a game called Numbers Reaction, but I’m really not so great at it. Tonight as I was playing, though, I realized that the game reminded me of being a Christian. It makes me feel like the missionary that each of us should be. We are trying to infect those around us with the gospel. So, now, I am more determined to do well on the game! I hear myself saying in my head, “You will be saved, bubbles!”

Each level of the game you have to try to pop more of the bubbles by choosing one bubble to start the process. I was hoping to be able to put the game in this post, but I didn’t find a site that offered that as an option, so you will have to be satisfied with a link. This is a link to the game on a free game site. I also added a Facebook link. I have no idea if it will actually work for you or not. Enjoy!

Numbers Reaction

Numbers Reaction on Facebook

Any comments on my sermon would be greatly appreciated. My normal “editor” is out of town. I have no idea if I’ll get talk to him at all in the next week. 馃槮 I sure do hope so, but even if I do get to talk to him, it won’t be about my sermon! I’m sorry it’s so hard to read. My outline just isn’t blog friendly.
Jesus came to save us all!
路 Date preached: 1/6/08, Sebewaing
路 RCL Epiphany 1A
路 Text: Matthew 2:1-12 & Ephesians 3:4-12
路 Subject: What is the significance of the Wise Men visiting baby Jesus?
路 Complement: God was revealing His son to the nations.
路 Exegetical Idea: Jesus came to save everyone.
路 Homiletic Idea: Jesus came to save everyone.
路 Purpose: Hearers will be reminded of Jesus鈥 saving grace meant for each of us and our neighbors.
路 Type: Deductive, Expository

o Ancient of Days
o We Want to See Jesus Lifted High
o Send the Light
o Shine, Jesus, Shine
o Shine on Us

We Three Kings

Read Matthew 2:1-12

I. Epiphany
A. Today鈥檚 scripture passage is summed up in this one word.
1 Epiphany is an 鈥渁h ha!鈥 moment
2 It鈥檚 suddenly being shown something that makes everything else clear.
3 This was Epiphany for everyone.
4 This was God revealing Christ to the nations!
B. God revealed himself, through Christ, to the world.
1 He did this by bring more light into the world
a.) 鈥淎 bright light shown鈥
i. star!
ii. Brighter than the rest
* I have here a Moravian star
* Called because created by Moravians originating in the 1830’s at the Moravian School in Niesky, Germany,
* most probably as a geometry lesson or project
* The Moravian or Advent Star recalls the Creator, Who said “Let the light shine in the darkness”
* it also recalls the messianic promise of God to Moses that “A Star shall arise out of Jacob”
* the Advent Star reminds us of the star followed by the 3 Wisemen
* and the Advent Star reminds us of the Risen Christ Who said “I am the bright and Morning Star”
* The many points point to the many nations in the world.
* Now the Star is widely accepted throughout Germany as an Advent and Christmas symbol.
b.) Jesus was a bright light to the world
i. He was a gift
ii. He was salvation
iii. He was for everyone

II. God鈥檚 Gift
A. God gave the gift of salvation through his only son.
1 The Jews knew through the prophets that a king was to come from Bethlehem.
a.) Micah 5:2 “But you, Bethlehem Eph’ra路thah, though you are small among the clans of Judah, out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel, whose origins are from of old, from ancient times.”
b.) They expected a ruler to come from Bethlehem that would rise up and secure their future as a sovereign nation.
c.) They expected freedom from their rulers.
B. Still, the gift was unexpected
1 They got more than a king
a.) God gave them a savior.
b.) Jesus was not going to save them from their rulers, but rather save them from their own sin and the bondage that they had created for themselves in their numerous laws.
2 The gift wasn鈥檛 just for the Jews.
a.) Jesus came to save everyone, not just the Jews.
i. Ephesians 3:5-9
ii. In reading this, then, you will be able to understand my insight into the mystery of Christ, which was not made known to men in other generations as it has now been revealed by the Spirit to God’s holy apostles and prophets. This mystery is that through the gospel the Gentiles are heirs together with Israel, members together of one body, and sharers together in the promise in Christ Jesus. I became a servant of this gospel by the gift of God’s grace given me through the working of his power. Although I am less than the least of all God’s people, this grace was given me: to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ, and to make plain to everyone the administration of this mystery, which for ages past was kept hidden in God, who created all things. His intent was that now, through the church, the manifold wisdom of God should be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms, according to his eternal purpose which he accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord. In him and through faith in him we may approach God with freedom and confidence.
b.) The Jews could not comprehend that. They still don鈥檛.
i. Matthew Henry writes, 鈥淭hose who live at the greatest distance from the means of grace often use most diligence, and learn to know the most of Christ and his salvation.鈥
ii. While the Jews felt they were close to God and knew Him well, the Wise Men were at a great distance from God.
iii. The Jewish shepherds came, but the wise men made a much bigger sacrifice of time and energy to come.
c.) The Wise Men signify every person who ever has lived and ever will live.
i. Salvation was meant for all of us
ii. Regardless of who we are or what we鈥檝e done.
iii. That means that salvation is also for every person we know. We must spread that great news!

III. Let鈥檚 take a closer look at the Wise Men.
A. Gentiles (not Jews)
1 God makes it clear in the Bible that the Jews were his blessed people.
2 The Gentiles were anyone else on the planet that wasn鈥檛 a blessed Jew.
B. Magi
1 May have been successors
a.) of the wise men
b.) that Daniel was chief over in Daniel chapter 2.
2 May have been of the Median tribe,
a.) a priestly tribe of the Zoroastrian
b.) from the Persia area, now east asia.
c.) They median tribe primarily studied astrology
i. At that time astrology was considered a science, yet God still warns against it several times in the Bible:
* Deut. 18:9-14 – When you enter the land the LORD your God is giving you, do not learn to imitate the detestable ways of the nations there. Let no one be found among you who sacrifices his son or daughter in the fire, who practices divination or sorcery, interprets omens, engages in witchcraft, or casts spells, or who is a medium or spiritist or who consults the dead. Anyone who does these things is detestable to the LORD, and because of these detestable practices the LORD your God will drive out those nations before you. You must be blameless before the LORD your God. The nations you will dispossess listen to those who practice sorcery or divination. But as for you, the LORD your God has not permitted you to do so.
Isaiah 47:13-14 – All the counsel you have received has only worn you out! Let your astrologers come forward, those stargazers who make predictions month by month, let them save you from what is coming upon you. Surely they are like stubble; the fire will burn them up. They cannot even save themselves from the power of the flame. Here are no coals to warm anyone; here is no fire to sit by.
This is a challenge
God is saying here that this things cannot save anyone.
ii. Yet, if the wise men WERE astrologists, God obviously still used them, as we shall see.
iii. He is not in any way condoning the practice by using these men.
iv. Yet, if they were successors of those that Daniel was over, they could have known about just that one star through what Daniel told them.
3 Either way, they were learned men
a.) They studied books,
b.) prophecies and
c.) possibly the stars
C. The wise men did several things that we should also do.
1 Humbled themselves
a.) You may have noticed that people did not humble themselves to Jews very often.
i. Most of the time, Jews were slaves or people to put up with
ii. In general, they did not deserve any honor.
b.) Yet, as soon as the wise men saw the star, they started their journey in search of a Jewish king in order to worship him.
2 They diligently sought him out.
a.) I always wondered why the wise men stopped and asked Herod where the king was if they were being guided by the star.
i. After a closer inspection of these verses, it would seem (and most of the research I did agreed with this) that the star appeared in the sky when Jesus was born, but then was not there while they were traveling.
ii. They stopped to ask directions because they needed the information that the Jews had about the birthplace.
b.) They did not give up when the star disappeared.
i. In fact, the journey took them about 2 years!
ii. It would have been easy to give up, but they did not.
3 When the Wise Men left Herod, the star shone again and they rejoiced.
a.) Vs. 9 says 鈥溾nd lo, the star, which they saw in the east went before them鈥︹
b.) They rejoiced because they saw that God was guiding them.
c.) They knew they were going the right way.
d.) They knew they were close to meeting the new king.
4 The wise men disregarded the poor conditions that they found the king in.
a.) Jesus was most likely living in a small upper guest chamber.
i. Basically a room,
ii. like they had wanted when they first arrived in Bethlehem.
b.) They were not bothered by where the king lived because they knew he was king even if no one else believed yet.
5 The Wise Men worshipped Jesus
a.) They 鈥渇ell down鈥
b.) They humbled themselves completely
c.) They gave Jesus great gifts worthy of a king.
i. Gold was known as a gift given to kings.
ii. Frankincense is used as an incense.
* Frankincense was frequently given to priests as a gift.
iii. Myrrh is also used for incense, but can also be dissolved in liquid to become a mild anesthetic.
* It was also used as perfume.
* It鈥檚 most common use was for embalming.
* It was given as a gift to prophets.
iv. As you can see, they gave gifts that were meaningful and useful.
* Jesus is our king, our high priest and the greatest prophet.
* The myrrh may also have been foretelling Jesus鈥 death on the cross.
* These would have also been provision from God for Mary, Joseph and Jesus鈥 escape to Egypt in the verses right after what I read.
last week FIL used the term providence and I wasn鈥檛 sure of it鈥檚 meaning
It means 鈥渃are or preparation in advance; foresight.鈥 These gifts show God鈥檚 providence in Jesus鈥 life and death.
v. These are all great gifts, but the wise men gave Jesus another gift 鈥 the gift of their hearts and lives.
* In humbling themselves, giving gifts and paying homage to Jesus, the wise men were giving themselves to Him.
* This is shown as they leave.
6 The wise men obeyed God
a.) God told them, in a dream, not to return to Herod
b.) He also told them to go home another way.
c.) We do not hear what happens to them after that, but I believe that is because they got away safely because they listened to God and obeyed Him. Their part in Jesus鈥 life was over, but ours isn鈥檛.

IV. So, I ask you now,
A. Have you humbled yourself before Jesus, lately?
1 Most of us here have given our lives to God some time ago.
2 That doesn鈥檛 mean that we are done with our job.
3 There are still many people around us that need to know what we know.
B. Have you diligently sought God out?
1 Have you stopped to pray and ask God what you can do?
2 Have you talked to Him about what is happening in your life?
C. Have you rejoiced and praised God lately?
1 It鈥檚 easy to go through life only thinking about the bad things that are happening around us.
2 But what about the simple stuff? I thank God for my family, my friends, all of you.
3 I also thank Him for even simpler things like the grass, trees, flowers in bloom and, even snow as if falls so prettily to the ground.
D. Have you looked past the conditions others are in to let them know about Jesus?
1 This is hard for most people.
2 Most of us have at least one type of person that is really hard to be friendly towards.
3 But Jesus was friendly towards everyone. God loves everyone. In order to be truly Christ-like Christians, we must love everyone regardless of their situations or attitudes. We must rely on God to work through our best and be a glowing light in this dark world.
4 Jesus came to bring us all together and into his saving grace.
a.) Another interesting thing I read while preparing my sermon was that the star that guided the wise men was most likely the conjunction of several heavenly bodies.
i. It was most likely Jupiter, the constellation Aries and possibly other constellations lining up that caused the bright light in the sky.
ii. God used his creation to guide the wise men
iii. He also brought his creation together just as Jesus was going to do.
E. We must worship God with our whole selves, as the wise men did, if we are going to really be a light in the dark.
F. We must also obey God, to the best of our ability, to be that light.
1 When we feel led, by that still small voice, to help someone or even just to talk to someone, we must do it. You may be just the thing they need that day.
2 And if you here God speak in a loud, clear voice. You better get a move on! Whatever He鈥檚 asking of you must be important!

Let鈥檚 pray:

o O Come All Ye Faithful

I honestly cannot personally give a strong theological dispute to people who say that pastors should not be paid a decent wage. I just have not studied it enough. So, this is my disclaimer: I am not in anyway saying that my husband and I should be paid more or less when I discuss this topic. I am not even referring to how much we get paid and whether it is enough or not. We are blessed by God continually and are always able to pay what is necessary. Please do not take this post as my being upset about our pay. I am not upset about our pay! The only reason I am even talking about this is because I have come across many people lately who do not feel that pastors should be paid a living wage. There are some who feel that, like Paul, every minister should be a tent maker. This post is my small attempt at giving you, my readers, what little information I have on the subject.

First of all, I believe that while Paul did not accept a regular payment for his services, he never told us that others shouldn鈥檛. In fact he says the opposite. Russell Earl Kelley (REK) quoted Acts 20:19-35. I think the really key verses he is referring to here are verses 33-35:

鈥淚 have not coveted anyone鈥檚 silver or gold or clothing. You yourselves know that these hands of mine have supplied my own needs and the needs of my companions. In everything I did, I showed you that by this kind of hard work we must help the weak, remembering the words the Lord Jesus himself said: 鈥業t is more blessed to give than to receive.鈥欌

I don鈥檛 believe Paul is saying what REK believes he is saying. Paul has provided for himself, but I cannot find where he ever condemned other Godly ministers for not providing completely for themselves. Here he is saying by hard work for God we will spread the gospel and be blessed. He doesn鈥檛 seem to say that if you receive payment you won’t be blessed. He says we must do what we can to help God鈥檚 cause with as little material things as possible. I am really not trying to make myself look good when I say that we don鈥檛 get paid a lot, but we make it with God鈥檚 provision and we are still able to tithe and give more than 10% to missions as well. So, through what others have given to the church, which has then been paid to us as salary, we have blessed others. We have also blessed others by living as frugally as we can and not demanding a high wage.

A second passage that I would like to highlight is Luke 10:1-16. (more…)

Doodaddy posted a great story about Boobaby today that reminded me of something funny Princess said the other day. I was upstairs checking on her and Little Man because it was awfully quiet…never a good sign! They were fine and being good. Whew!

Anyways, they were playing Barbies. Actually, they were playing Mary, Joseph and Jesus with Barbies. Barbies, mind you, no Ken dolls. P has this fascination lately with being pregnant. She will make LM pretend to be her husband and take her to the hospital where whe will have a cat(baby). The fact that she doesn’t even use a baby is wierd enough, but her brother is her husband? That girl has enough imagination for 10 kids I think; which I don’t deny is a good thing. Her teachers at preschool just went on and on last year about her imagination. Jesus was being portrayed by a McDonald’s Bratz toy. We are against her playing with Bratz. Isn’t the name enough to say no to? But then they wear skanky clothes and have bad attitudes on their faces. She was given this one by somebody and I couldn’t refuse it. I should have thrown it in the garbage when I got home, but it slipped through somehow.

Anyways (again), she wanted me to be the daddy (Joseph), but I was kind of in the middle of some work, so I said, “Why don’t you let Foster be the daddy and the baby?” And you will never believe what she said! She said, “That would be ridiculous!”

At first, I wasn’t sure I heard her right, so I asked her, “Did you just say ridiculous?” Of course, she said, “Yeah.” I about burst out laughing! I managed to hold it in, but I cracked up after I came downstairs.