“Fingerprints” by Rick Sons

We have been in a series over the past year regarding the body and how it compares to the body of Christ. 

We have spent time comparing each part and we have seen how each part works individually but also as a unit so that the body can live and grow.

Today I want to speak on the one part of the body that I have the most experience with – fingerprints.

In 1901, Scotland Yard established its first Fingerprint Bureau. The following year, fingerprints were presented as evidence for the first time in English courts. In 1903, the New York state prisons adopted the use of fingerprints for prisoner identification, followed later by the FBI. 

Today we have The Automated Fingerprint Identification Systems (AFIS), which enables law enforcement officials around the world to cross-check a print with millions of fingerprint records of anyone who has ever been fingerprinted around the world.

Take a look at your fingers.

Fingerprints are the tiny ridges, whorls, and valley patterns on the tip of each finger. In Law Enforcement they are referred to as loops, whorls, and arches. 

They form from pressure on a baby’s tiny, developing fingers in the womb. No two people have been found to have the same fingerprints they are totally unique. In fact the possibility of having only one fingerprint that matches someone else is 1 in 64 Billion.

Fingerprints can change over time, due to damage or outside effects from work or your daily activities. These changes add to the uniqueness.

The only exception to this rule is in the case of mirrored twins, not identical twins.  The term “mirror image” is used because the twins, when facing each other, appear as matching reflections. They have the same physical features but some are opposite.  Their fingerprints may be mirror images. We have a set of mirrored twins here in Atchison County that some of you may know. The Paris twins are mirrored and the prints on the left hand of one exactly match the right hand of the other. We found this out when they both came in for prints.

Once the first was printed AFIS would not accept the other.

Like I said, there’s only a 1 in 64 billion chance that your fingerprint will match up exactly with someone else’s. As of 2018, there are only 327 million people living in the US and only 7.53 billion people in the world. It is hard to determine since complete early records have never been kept but some historians agree that since creation (Adam and Eve), or should we say the birth of Cane, there have only been 108 Billion people born on earth.

Fingerprints, everybody has them.

Does God have fingerprints? 

I think that, at least figuratively, we have to say that He does.

Let me give you a few more facts about fingerprints before we get into the message today.

In about 2000 BC, Babylonians put fingerprints in soft clay to protect against forgery of important documents.

In ancient China impressions of fingerprints or (chop) were used as signatures of those who couldn’t write.

Fingerprints first appear on a fetus about four months into a pregnancy. So when someone tells you that these children are not people you can say that they already have a unique identity and they are people.

Each of you has a unique identity, take a look at your thumb, guess what you are all Thumbbody, and God knows you.

Scripture tells us in Psalm 139:13-16: “For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well. My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them.”

Even before you were born you had an identity and God knew you.

So now, back to fingerprints, what does a fingerprint do? Well, they positively identify a person.

A “latent” fingerprint, the image left behind by someone’s touch, (barely visible, but can be developed for study) is positive physical evidence that a person has been at a given location, or came in contact with an object.

So now, back to my original question, “Does God have fingerprints?”

To answer that question, let’s look at some of the body parts we over the past year have mentioned in scripture.

God has a face: Rev 6:16 says, calling to the mountains and rocks, “Fall on us and hide us from the face of him who is seated on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb,”

God has a hand: In John 10:29, Jesus teaches, “My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand.

God has arms: Deuteronomy 33:27 reveals, “The eternal God is your dwelling place, and underneath are the everlasting arms.”

God has fingers: In Exodus 31:18, the Bible tells us, “And he gave to Moses, when he had finished speaking with him on Mount Sinai, the two tablets of the testimony, tablets of stone, written with the finger of God.”

Let’s look back at this Scripture, the 10 Commandments were written by the “finger of God.” This not only gives a personal touch, but we could possibly make the argument that, in a way they are an example of the fingerprint of God.

Friends we are the Body of Christ. Ephesians 1:22-23, makes this clear. “And he put all things under his feet and gave him as head over all things to the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all.” 

The church is his body; we are the church so this tells us that as a body then we must have fingerprints.

So let me ask, does the Bible speak about fingerprints? I believe we can go to Job 37:7 and give a yes to that question.

Job 37:7 says, He seals up the hand of every man, that all men whom he made may know it.

(He Seals) I want you to remember that!

Now let me give you some definitions of some of the words from this Scripture.

Seals: A mark, seal, stop up, close up, make an end. 

Hand: Among many other things, it is a thumb. 

Know: To discover, to know by seeing. To know by sight.

Work: Action (good or bad), activity.

Now to help me make my point I want you to open your Bible to Revelation 7:1-8 and place the word “fingerprint” each time the word “seal” or “sealed” is used in the following verses.

Revelation 7:1-8 says, “After this I saw four angels standing at the four corners of the earth, holding back the four winds of the earth, that no wind might blow on earth or sea or against any tree. Then I saw another angel ascending from the rising of the sun, with the seal of the living God, and he called with a loud voice to the four angels who had been given power to harm earth and sea, saying, “Do not harm the earth or the sea or the trees, until we have sealed the servants of our God on their foreheads.” And I heard the number of the sealed, 144,000, sealed from every tribe of the sons of Israel: 12,000 from the tribe of Judah were sealed, 12,000 from the tribe of Reuben, 12,000 from the tribe of Gad, 12,000 from the tribe of Asher, 12,000 from the tribe of Naphtali, 12,000 from the tribe of Manasseh, 12,000 from the tribe of Simeon, 12,000 from the tribe of Levi, 12,000 from the tribe of Issachar, 12,000 from the tribe of Zebulun, 12,000 from the tribe of Joseph, 12,000 from the tribe of Benjamin were sealed.”

Again, let’s look at verse 3: Do not harm the earth or the sea or the trees, until we have sealed the servants of our God on their foreheads.

Side Note here: I want you to think about nature, the land, sea and trees.

Can anyone tell me straight that they can look at the Earth, the Sea and the Trees and not see God’s fingerprints?

I myself have seen wonderful sites all over the world, oceans and mountains.

Andy, and the rest, can tell you when we were driving through the waste land of Kenya, dry and brown, I will tell you that to me it was a lovely site and I could see God’s fingerprints.

Let’s return to the message.

A “seal” or fingerprint is a mark placed on something to mark it as private, personal, or for security and preservation. 

An example of a mark of security or preservation is found in Exodus 12:1-14, in speaking of the Passover. Verse 13, specifically says,

13 The blood shall be a sign for you, on the houses where you are. And when I see the blood, I will pass over you, and no plague will befall you to destroy you, when I strike the land of Egypt.

When we bring Passover up into the New Testament we find Jesus speaking in Luke 22:20 where He & His disciples were at their Passover feast.  He said, “This cup is the New Testament in My Blood which is shed for you.”

Again do you see the fingerprint?

So, what is this seal or fingerprint that I’ve been talking about? 

In my study I believe that it’s a combination of two things.

First: A fingerprint, if you will, is placed on our foreheads in the Blood of Christ at the time of our salvation. Think of it like this. At the exact time of our salvation, the time that we actually surrender our lives to Christ, God dips His thumb into the shed blood of Jesus Christ and places that fingerprint on our forehead (spiritually) as a mark of security. When He looks at us in the future, that mark is what He sees.

We spend our life asking if we will be in the book, when we get to heaven, in this case we must ask will the fingerprint of God be seen?

Second: The Holy Spirit who was sent to earth by Christ at His ascension into Heaven, is to protect us, teach us, and to represent Christ on this earth until His return.

John 14:16 says, I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever.

As we continue in Scripture, 2 Corinthians 1:21-22 says, And it is God who establishes us with you in Christ, and has anointed us, and who has also put his seal (or as we are now saying Fingerprint) on us and given us his Spirit in our hearts as a guarantee.

Again I say:

Think of this a seal or fingerprint, as God’s mark of ownership. The Holy Spirit, who guarantees that we’re the genuine article, protects us and teaches us.

For those of you who get my email, you know we have been hearing from Ephesians and how we are new.  I want to continue here in Ephesians chapter 1, verse 13, “In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed (fingerprinted) with the promised Holy Spirit.”

If you remember my last sermon it was on the restoration of an old car. With that idea, think of the paint on a car. 

If the paint is applied without the clear coat, it’ll begin to fade and pick up impurities from its exposure to the weather, or in our case the world. 

The clear coat seals the paint and keeps it pure and free from impurities, maintaining its original luster.

God’s fingerprint is our clear coat.

My friends you leave spiritual fingerprints on everyone you come in contact with.  Ask yourself, whose prints am I leaving, those of Jesus Christ or those of Satan?

2 Corinthians 3:2-3 says, “You yourselves are our letter of recommendation, written on our hearts, to be known and read by all.  And you show that you are a letter from Christ delivered by us, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts.” 

We are God’s fingerprint for all to see.

Brothers and sisters, I want you to hear this, as a Christian (a part of the Body of Christ which we have heard about all year), you need to “know” that you have God’s seal (His fingerprint) on your forehead & that this seal is your security, not only from Satan, but from God’s judgment. 

It’s also a mark showing God that you are genuine, the real thing.

In Law Enforcement a fingerprint is excellent evidence that you were at the scene. Only you no one else can leave your fingerprint. 

As a Christian you must always remember that you leave a mark (fingerprint) on the life of everyone you come in contact with, and the mark you should leave is the mark (fingerprint) of Christ.

JOURNEY

The Journey letter for today is J for Jesus, who left his mark on us so that we could leave his mark on others.

Hub Sunday – The Body Speaks

This week during the service, I wanted to hear from the body – that is, the church body…the body of Christ. Specifically, the body known as Fairfax Baptist Church.

The idea was to have church members share what they have been doing to engage with others in serving God. With a focus this year of seeking to have a healthy body, and thus a healthy church, I thought it was important to have the body be able to celebrate what others are doing, particularly, when some do not know what has been happening.

From the standpoint of Scripture, I draw my inspiration from Acts 14.24-28 (and elsewhere), where the people who have been out serving (in this case Paul and Barnabas) return to the church that sent them and proceed to give a report of their journey, and more importantly, all that God was doing. I wanted the church to know that it was not about going big (like to Kenya which would be the focus of a report that evening), but simply going. After all, it is God who judges what is important, not us.

So, I shared a few thoughts on the Scripture mentioned above and then made the microphone available.

We had a few people talk about visiting the home of a friend and another in a nursing home. Mention was made about stepping down after serving as a missions director for years and being encouraged that the work was still going. Another mentioned seeking how God would use her as a new member of the church while her son indicated that he is seeking to know if God is calling him as a youth minister.

One person mentioned the work that had been done during our recent Labor 4 the Son Day (Labor Day Sunday), and shared the idea that this type of help is something that could be done year round (although, obviously, not in place of our regular time to gather to worship with one another).

The final person spoke of how God has given her a passion to be a foster parent and some recent events that made the pull even greater. She also said that her husband, without knowing this set of events, told her it was time after he had not been willing for the past several years.

Then, during the evening, the team who returned from Kenya shared of their experience. It was a great time of testimony and encouraged all who came, and inspired some to ask about going on the next trip.

All of these moments are surely just a reflection of what God is doing in the life of His body at Fairfax Baptist Church. It was a good day. We serve a great God.

And this type of day is one that we must do again.

Post Renewal Update

Each year, during the week of our community fair, the four churches in the town gather together for a time to worship together. This past week was that service, and because the rotation meant another church was responsible for the message, this week’s blog will be different than usual.

On Sunday evening, August 4, our church began a series of discussions to evaluate every part of our ministry. As I have said repeatedly, we are putting “everything on the table.”

The first night was meant to create a culture for the discussions and lay out some very high level goals. My goal as pastor is to make sure we understand the WHY, and to help us clarify the WHAT, and then to release others to determine HOW to best accomplish what needs to be done WHEN, WHERE, and with WHO-ever should be involved.

Thus, our first night focused on gathering information of what the New Testament says that a church should do. I wrote the information on a white board and we will use these items to move forward in our evaluations and discussions. I will plan to share an update in the blog around the end of each month beginning at the end of September. (My handwriting is what it is, but the words are clearly typed out below.)

Share the Word
Care for Orphans and Widows
Keep from Being Polluted by the World
Make Disciples
Glorify God
Exercise Church Discipline
Be a Family of God
Be of One Accord
Love One Another
Love God and Others
Meet Needs
Prayer
Forgive
Worship
“Swallow”ship
Praise
Tithing and Giving
Be Filled with the Holy Spirit
Train Children
Meet in Homes
Self-Discipline
Expect Persecution

A Change of Plans

A couple of weeks ago I had an idea that we (the church) practiced yesterday.  Because of the weather, 2019 has made for a rough start regarding the ability for many (most) to be a part of Sunday School and/or worship. So, rather than have our normal time of worship, I called an audible and we had a time of singing (with requests), a devotion about the Body of Christ (Rom 12 and Eph 4) and a couple of opportunities for individual and corporate prayer.

A part of the time of prayer was related to specific request mentioned (as we usually do), but a second time of prayer followed to pray for those who were not present for whatever reason – whether they have been most weeks or whether the weather or some other issue has prevented them from coming so far in 2019. We mentioned each name/family and asked that a call be made to say we have not forgotten about them because, after all, they are a part of this local body of Christ known as Fairfax Baptist Church. Those who offered to call certain individuals then prayed for that person and we concluded that time with a corporate prayer and finally a couple of songs relating God’s authority and majesty.
It was a different day, but a very good day.
So, the normal post will return next week. In the meantime, if you have been able to be in consistent fellowship with your local church (whatever/wherever that church may be), thank God for that opportunity. If you haven’t, please know that someone in your church is missing you even if you think otherwise. And, whatever the weather situation where you live, or whatever other challenges you may be facing in life, remember, our joy comes from knowing Jesus has already done and our hope is firm because of God’s promises. So, remain steadfast because God is (still) in control.

“It Begins with the Head” by Pastor Andy Braams

As we gather on the first Sunday of 2019, many of you will have made resolutions for this new year. For most people, the essence of making a resolution is personal. What can make me feel better? What can make me look better? This is true whether the resolutions are about tangible items or intangible goals. But many resolutions have to do with health. And really health deals with both of the two questions I just mentioned – feeling better (physically, emotionally, spiritually) and looking better (to ourselves, in the eyes of others, etc.)

I can relate. I recently looked at my passport picture which was taken just four years ago. The picture on the left is from a little further back – just over seven years ago, shortly after we moved to Fairfax, and the one on the right was taken last week.

Pastor Andy in Oct 2011 and Jan 2019

Although my change in appearance was not due to a new year’s resolution, I definitely feel better and look better. And it is more than the eye test. My blood work and other numbers reveal that I am much healthier now than I was then. That does not guarantee that I will be alive tomorrow, but being healthy usually allows us to accomplish far more than when we are not healthy.

Over the past few months, we took a high-definition look at the modern church (including our church) against the early church. (That sermon series, The Church in HD, can be found on the blog’s previous host: ffxbc.blogspot.com.) Looking in high-definition allowed us to see more clearly the areas where we need improvement. Around the same time, God provided this year’s theme for our church, and thus 2019 is The Year of the Body. Just as individuals need to be healthy to reach our personal goals, the church needs to be healthy to accomplish the goals God has for us. After all, the church is the Body of Christ. So, this year we will be reviewing the major systems of the human body and compare those systems to the necessary processes (systems) that can help to make the church healthy. The eleven major systems of the human body are (in the order of review for us): Reproductive, Respiratory, Skeletal, Circulatory, Muscular, Lymphatic/Immune, Nervous, Endocrine, Digestive, Exocrine, and Excretory.

Before we move into our passage for this week, let me share one other picture that will serve as a reminder for us in 2019. The picture is of a bucket filled with water. The phrase “the weakest link” is a common expression meaning that a chain is only as strong as the weakest of the links. The picture of the bucket represents something similar. The bucket can only hold water up the point of the shortest part. Anything more begins to spill out.

Credit for the image to benleney.wordpress.com

Our goal this year as a church should be to strengthen all parts of the bucket, but in doing so, we must make sure that the sides of the bucket are patched, repaired, or whatever else is needed to make the bucket not only stronger, but we must make the sides taller as well. How do we do this? Well, it all begins with Jesus.

Jesus Is the Image of God (Colossians 1.15)

Paul’s words in Colossians 1, beginning in verse 15 are almost certainly part of an early Christian hymn. Scholars have not found evidence if Paul wrote the words originally or if the lyrics were borrowed from the hymn for inclusion here. Ultimately, that does not matter. What does matter is that these words represent a very high view of God, and Jesus.

Specifically, this part of the passage says that Jesus is the image of God. Why is that important for a discussion related to healthy bodies and healthy churches? Because Jesus had a body. John 4 tells us that God is Spirit. But Jesus is God in the flesh. The people alive in the 1st Century saw God living in the flesh when they observed Jesus. And not just any flesh, but human flesh. And not as isolated, but among us. You may know this conceptually, but does it grip you? Of course we just celebrated Christmas – the birth of God as man. But God became man. And Jesus was the man. And thus, Jesus had a body and needed to keep it healthy just as you and I need to keep our bodies healthy.

But as God, He was interested in more than the human body, He was interested in developing a body of people who followed Him and would represent Him through their lives when He departed. Thus, the body of Jesus may not be physically present now, but the Body of Christ (i.e. the Church) is now the image of the invisible God. We are the ones who make God known today.

Michael Lucaszewski says it this way. “The church is the closest representation of Jesus we have on earth. Jesus is invisible and I have never been to heaven. But the church is the body of Christ, and I can see that. When local churches love and serve their community, worship wholeheartedly, and give generously, it’s a very real picture of Jesus.”

So, Jesus is the image of God, and the body of Christ now serves as the image of Jesus.

Jesus Is the Head of the Church (Colossians 1.16-20)

Beginning in verse 16, Paul clearly presents the Son as having authority. Notice the terms Paul used.

  • 16a – Everything was created through Him
  • 16b – Everything was created for Him
  • 17a – Everything comes after Him
  • 17b – Everything is held together in Him
  • 18 – Everything is under Him
  • 19 – The fullness of God is in Him
  • 20 – Creation is reconciled through Him

And in verse 18, we have the term body referring the Church. Thus, the church is a part of everything that is under Him. Of course, our bodies are physiologically beneath our heads, but the Body of Christ should be figuratively under Jesus – as our head.

The term head is used intentionally here as Paul is referring to the church as a body. Why? Because Jesus came in the flesh. Paul has already made this clear in verse 15 – that Jesus is the image of the invisible God. Something that is invisible, does not leave a shadow, so it is not that kind of image. Jesus was truly flesh and blood (see verse 22), and the idea of Jesus as the head, and the Church as His body reflects that truth perfectly.

The question is: are we truly the Body of Christ? I don’t mean should we be; I mean are we functioning as His body? Let’s take a few moments to review what we must consider for us to be functioning best.

If Jesus is the head, then we should be developing the mind of Christ (Phil 2.5). That means we should:

  • make disciples – that is, generate new members of the Body of Christ (Reproductive System)
  • teach others to trust and follow Jesus as the head of the Body of Christ (Respiratory System)
  • develop leaders to better support the Body of Christ (Skeletal System)
  • share with others the sacrifice Jesus made for the Body of Christ (Circulatory System)
  • flex our muscles by serving others inside the Body of Christ (Muscular System)
  • create processes to better protect the Body of Christ (Lymphatic/Immune System)
  • show our care by responding to needs of others apart outside the Body of Christ (Nervous System)
  • improve the communication within the Body of Christ (Endocrine System)
  • focus on what we take into ourselves as the Body of Christ (Digestive System)
  • consider how to best care for the facilities used by this Body of Christ (Exocrine System)
  • evaluate and remove harmful or unnecessary components impacting this Body of Christ (Excretory System)

As we begin this year, I see two major problems with the ideas I just shared. First, we have a lot to consider. But we must begin somewhere. If you go to the doctor for a check-up, and you are told to “get healthy” that is too ambiguous to really help. Instead, the doctor might say, “Let’s start with your diet.” Now you have a focus. You still have to choose to do something but you have a starting point. That is what this year is…a starting point towards having a healthier church. And that leads to the second problem.

Second, to become healthy will take all of us. We do have a lot to consider, but what should we put aside? Like the human body everything mentioned above is important. Do we stop making disciples? Do we care for others who are part of His body? Do we stop teaching or serving? Of course not. Why? Because the Head, Jesus, said these aspects are important for the Church He wishes to build. Thus, we need everyone involved. We have reviewed 1 Corinthians 12 a few times over the past several months, and we need to keep the idea of all parts of the body working together fresh in our minds. As I mention a lot, our vision is to be a large church in a small town. Again, in this context “large” refers to the amount of influence we have. I believe that is what our Head, Jesus, wants from us – to influence Fairfax and beyond for His glory. But to do that will require this Body of Christ to be commited to following our leader – the head of the Church, and the head of this Church – Jesus.

Let me give you one more quote before we return to the idea of the bucket.

“I’m convinced that the influence a church has on its community will be determined in large part not by the personality of the pastor, the size of its building or how long the ministry has worked in the community. It will be determined instead by the percentage in the ministry of each member.” – Wayne Cordeiro

In other words, the impact of a church is based upon how active each member of the Body of Christ is. To remind us of that fact, it is likely that quote might surface a few more times during this series. For now, let’s consider the idea of a new year’s resolution once again.

CONCLUSION

I began this post with the thought that many (most?) resolutions have to do with people’s thoughts on feeling better, looking better, etc. But the idea of better is relative and depends upon our perspective. Of course, our perspective is how we think about things and we think with our brain. And our brain is in our head. Thus, it begins with the head.

And the head is Jesus! As the church – the Church – Jesus must be our perspective. With that in mind, have you ever considered the notion that Jesus might have a new year’s resolution? He might have one for you individually, but I am certain He has one for this, and every church.

For Fairfax Baptist Church, I am convinced His goal is for us to be healthier as a church body at the end of 2019 than we are at the beginning of it. That does not mean that we are not healthy in some areas, but it does suggest we need to improve in others. And even where we may be healthier, we should all be able to admit that we all have room to grow – individually and collectively – because we are not yet perfectly conformed to the image of Jesus.

So, let us not forget the bucket, but more importantly let us not forget the Head of all of our ministries, our systems, and everything that makes us a part of His Church.

JOURNEY:

The JOURNEY letter for today is:        JJESUS.

Jesus is the head – plain and simple. We are called to be His body. But it a choice we must make individually and collectively. However, nothing we decide will change the fact that He is the true Head of the Church. And thus, our first letter for the new year is J – for Jesus.

NEXT STEP(S):

LEARN: In 2019, take time to discover how you best fit into the Body of Christ.

LIVE: In 2019, take time to be an active part of the Body of Christ – perhaps by trying new areas of service, but serving faithfully as He has gifted you.

LOVE: In 2019, take time to love others within the Body of Christ – even if they may be very different from you.

LEAD: In 2019, take time to lead others to find their place within the Body of Christ. It takes a fully healthy body to do all that our true Leader wants us to do.