July 14, 2020- God is Faithful, David’s Son is On the Throne – Jeremiah 33:14-26

Jeremiah weeps

“Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will fulfill the promise I made to the house of Israel and the house of Judah. In those days and at that time I will cause a righteous Branch to spring up for David, and he shall execute justice and righteousness in the land. In those days Judah will be saved, and Jerusalem will dwell securely. And this is the name by which it will be called: ‘The Lord is our righteousness.’

“For thus says the Lord: David shall never lack a man to sit on the throne of the house of Israel, and the Levitical priests shall never lack a man in my presence to offer burnt offerings, to burn grain offerings, and to make sacrifices forever.”

The word of the Lord came to Jeremiah: “Thus says the Lord: If you can break my covenant with the day and my covenant with the night, so that day and night will not come at their appointed time, then also my covenant with David my servant may be broken, so that he shall not have a son to reign on his throne, and my covenant with the Levitical priests my ministers. As the host of heaven cannot be numbered and the sands of the sea cannot be measured, so I will multiply the offspring of David my servant, and the Levitical priests who minister to me.”

The word of the Lord came to Jeremiah: “Have you not observed that these people are saying, ‘The Lord has rejected the two clans that he chose’? Thus they have despised my people so that they are no longer a nation in their sight. Thus says the Lord: If I have not established my covenant with day and night and the fixed order of heaven and earth,then I will reject the offspring of Jacob and David my servant and will not choose one of his offspring to rule over the offspring of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. For I will restore their fortunes and will have mercy on them.” – Jeremiah 33:14-26

Jeremiah, often called the weeping prophet, was sent to Israel at a rather trying time.  As Israel was being taken into captivity by Nebuchadnezzar, God spoke prophecy to Jeremiah that was devastating. The temple would be destroyed, the city of Jerusalem would be laid waste, the people would be carried off to Babylon and made captive.

God also spoke to Jeremiah of hope.  He spoke of the One Who is also our hope- the Son of David, the Son of God.

God made a covenant with His people through Abraham, in which He promises that Abraham’s descendants would be as the stars in the sky or the grains of sand in the oceans.  The covenant He made with Abraham was a covenant of faith- faith that is a gift of God.   We see God’s faithfulness in His provision clearly in Genesis 22.  God provided the lamb for the offering and spared Isaac.  In Christ, God provides Jesus, the Lamb of God, Who takes away the sin of the world forever.

And this is the name by which it will be called: ‘The Lord is our righteousness.’

The same Lord Who Jeremiah spoke of is still faithful to us.  After all, God’s promises are not like human promises that can be broken and forgotten.  Jesus warned us that in this world we will have trials.  We will suffer.  We will be betrayed.  We will know loss. Even in the middle of these trials we have confidence not in ourselves but in the One Who has conquered death for us.  We have the assurance directly from the Author of Life Himself, the Provider of the Lamb, that his promise is good.

Lord, help us to rest in the knowledge that our life now and forever, and our redemption is based on Your faithfulness, not in our merit.  We deserve death, destruction and hell, but You have promised to save us from the condemnation we have earned. Forgive us for all the times we break Your laws and fall short of Your will and fail to meet Your expectations for us.  We can only be faithful because You are faithful and You provide us the gift of faith as well as You have provided the Lamb.  Help us to stay faithful and to follow You.

 

April 27, 2020 Trust God to Forgive, as We Forgive Others- Psalm 107:1-16, Luke 17:1-4

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Photo by Magda Ehlers on Pexels.com

Oh give thanks to the Lord, for he is good,for his steadfast love endures forever!

Let the redeemed of the Lord say so, whom he has redeemed from trouble and gathered in from the lands,from the east and from the west, from the north and from the south. Some wandered in desert wastes, finding no way to a city to dwell in; hungry and thirsty,their soul fainted within them.

Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble, and he delivered them from their distress. He led them by a straight way till they reached a city to dwell in. Let them thank the Lord for his steadfast love, for his wondrous works to the children of man!

For he satisfies the longing soul, and the hungry soul he fills with good things.Some sat in darkness and in the shadow of death, prisoners in affliction and in irons, for they had rebelled against the words of God, and spurned the counsel of the Most High.So he bowed their hearts down with hard labor;they fell down, with none to help.Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble,and he delivered them from their distress.

He brought them out of darkness and the shadow of death,and burst their bonds apart. Let them thank the Lord for his steadfast love, for his wondrous works to the children of man. For he shatters the doors of bronze and cuts in two the bars of iron. Psalm 107:1-16 (ESV)

And he (Jesus) said to his disciples, “Temptations to sin are sure to come, but woe to the one through whom they come! It would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck and he were cast into the sea than that he should cause one of these little ones to sin. Pay attention to yourselves! If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him,and if he sins against you seven times in the day, and turns to you seven times, saying, ‘I repent,’ you must forgive him.” Luke 17:1-4 (ESV)

For here we have no lasting city, but we seek the city that is to come.- Hebrews 13:14 (ESV)
The writer of Hebrews reminds us that anything we build in this world is temporary. For some people the temporary nature of this life is a comfort, because they have lived their lives in material poverty or in pain and suffering.  For others it’s a sadness to know that in a hundred years we will long since be dead and forgotten, and we can’t take our stuff with us. We wander and strive and work (and overwork) only to discover, as the Teacher of Ecclesiastes writes, that we are chasing after wind.  (Ecclesiastes 2:18-26)

Some wandered in desert wastes, finding no way to a city to dwell in; hungry and thirsty,their soul fainted within them.

Jesus is leading us to the lasting city: Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble, and he delivered them from their distress. He led them by a straight way till they reached a city to dwell in. Let them thank the Lord for his steadfast love, for his wondrous works to the children of man!

We are reminded that Jesus forgives us. Jesus brings us out of darkness and delivers us from the shadow of death (as we also learn in Psalm 23.) He brought them out of darkness and the shadow of death,and burst their bonds apart. Let them thank the Lord for his steadfast love, for his wondrous works to the children of man. For he shatters the doors of bronze and cuts in two the bars of iron.

Now that we see what Jesus has done for us and continues to do for us, we turn to our neighbors for whom Jesus also bled and died to save. Now it gets tricky for us because that old Adam who was buried in the waters of our baptism doesn’t like to stay drowned. When we remember the promises of Jesus are not just for us but also for all those other simul justus et peccators out there, our perspective on our neighbor has to change.

Because we are all saints and sinners at the same time,  as long as we draw breath on this earth, we are going to sin. We are going to do things that bring harm to our neighbors, and that will cause them to sin right along with us. Other people are going to do things that harm us as well.  Jesus gives us His remedy for our constant friction and discord with others: Pay attention to yourselves! If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him,and if he sins against you seven times in the day, and turns to you seven times, saying, ‘I repent,’ you must forgive him.”

We love because He first loved us. 1 John 4:19 (ESV)

Dearest Jesus, forgive us for those times when we have failed to love our neighbor as You love us.  You are with us no matter how many times we fail, and no matter how many valleys of shadow we must go through. Don’t let us forget that this world is not the lasting city that You are leading us toward. We are completely reliant upon You for all things, and you provide for us abundantly and graciously. Help us to pass those gifts along in Your Name.   Give us the gift of faith to trust You, and create clean hearts in us that are filled with Your love and joy.

 

April 22, 2020 – The Invitation to the Banquet- Luke 14:15-24

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When one of those who reclined at table with him (Jesus) heard these things, he said to him, “Blessed is everyone who will eat bread in the kingdom of God!” But he (Jesus) said to him, “A man once gave a great banquet and invited many. And at the time for the banquet he sent his servant to say to those who had been invited, ‘Come, for everything is now ready.’ But they all alike began to make excuses. The first said to him, ‘I have bought a field, and I must go out and see it. Please have me excused.’ And another said, ‘I have bought five yoke of oxen, and I go to examine them. Please have me excused.’ And another said, ‘I have married a wife, and therefore I cannot come.’ So the servant came and reported these things to his master. Then the master of the house became angry and said to his servant, ‘Go out quickly to the streets and lanes of the city, and bring in the poor and crippled and blind and lame.’ And the servant said, ‘Sir, what you commanded has been done, and still there is room.’ And the master said to the servant, ‘Go out to the highways and hedges and compel people to come in, that my house may be filled.For I tell you, none of those men who were invited shall taste my banquet.’” Luke 14:15-24 (ESV)

Some of us find great enjoyment in large gatherings and in ceremony and in wearing fine clothing.  Others of us are uncomfortable with and avoid large gatherings and formality.  Some of us have a hard time slowing down long enough to enjoy the feast that is spread in front of us, because we are too busy tending to all the peripheral and not-so-important things.

Jesus’ invitation to His banquet is a great honor.  It is one that requires us not necessarily to abandon the necessities of this life, but to prioritize them. Tending to one’s business and property is something we all need to do. At one time or another in our lives most people do get married, and it is important to spend time with and to cherish one’s spouse. Those are good things and parts of our vocations, but they become idolatry when we put them in a higher priority than Jesus.

The Ten Commandments show us where we fail to obey God’s Law.  We are always putting material things and activities before the things of God. Jesus reminds us of this tendency of ours to put off the invitation to His banquet because we are so distracted by the things of this world.

The other point that Jesus brings to light is that those who are poor in material things are free to be far more attentive to the things of God.  When we are in places where we are alone, hurting, or struggling, we are drawn to Jesus’ banquet.  In our loneliness and poverty and grief, God in His mercy puts us in the place where we can slow down and taste and savor the rich sweetness of His provision.  In our times of crisis and wondering, we are reminded that all provision comes from Him, and the illusion that our gifts are given apart from the grace of the Giver falls away.

In these times where our priorities have changed overnight, we can hear the call of Jesus much more clearly.  Come to the banquet! All is ready! This is a meal none of us want to miss.

Lord, we thank you for the banquet that You graciously provide for us.  Let us come to Your banquet with joy, and create in us clean hearts that long for You.  Forgive us for those many times when we forget You or put other things in the place where only You should be.  Thank You, Jesus, for giving Your life to save us, and thank You for the faith to trust that  You will never leave or forsake us.

March 24, 2020- Jesus, Friend of Hypocrites, Tax Collectors and Garden Variety Sinners- Psalm 78:36-39, Luke 7:31-35 and Mark 2:16-17

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But they flattered him with their mouths;
they lied to him with their tongues.

Their heart was not steadfast toward him;
they were not faithful to his covenant.

Yet he, being compassionate,
atoned for their iniquity
and did not destroy them;
he restrained his anger often
and did not stir up all his wrath.

He remembered that they were but flesh,
a wind that passes and comes not again. Psalm 78:36-39 (ESV)

(Jesus said:) “To what then shall I compare the people of this generation, and what are they like?  They are like children sitting in the marketplace and calling to one another,
“‘We played the flute for you, and you did not dance;
we sang a dirge, and you did not weep.’
For John the Baptist has come eating no bread and drinking no wine, and you say, ‘He has a demon.’  The Son of Man has come eating and drinking, and you say, ‘Look at him! A glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’  Yet wisdom is justified by all her children.” Luke 7:31-35 (ESV)

There are those who avoid participating in a church, citing that “the church is full of hypocrites.”  To that the answer should be, “there’s always room for one more.”

All of us are hypocrites, Christian or not, because all people are sinners.  We all fall short of what God demands of us.  We all “flatter God with our mouths” but don’t follow through with our lip service.  We don’t love God with our whole heart.  We don’t love our neighbors as ourselves.

This reality underscores our need for Jesus, the Suffering Servant, who the prophet Isaiah foretold, (Isaiah 53) who was pierced for our transgressions, crushed for our iniquities, and who purchased our healing and redemption through His wounds.

All of us wayward sheep have gone astray and need Jesus- the Son of Man who came eating and drinking and befriending tax collectors and sinners and garden variety hypocrites like us.

And the scribes of the Pharisees, when they saw that he was eating with sinners and tax collectors, said to his disciples, “Why does he eat with tax collectors and sinners?”  And when Jesus heard it, he said to them, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.” Mark 2:16-17 (ESV)

Jesus is our greatest friend.  We can trust Him in all things.

 

March 5, 2020- Repentance, Judgment, and Thank the Giver- Micah 2:1-5, 1 Corinthians 10:12-14, 1 Timothy 6:10

micah

Woe to those who devise wickedness and work evil on their beds!
When the morning dawns, they perform it, because it is in the power of their hand.

They covet fields and seize them, and houses, and take them away;
they oppress a man and his house, a man and his inheritance.

Therefore thus says the Lord: behold, against this family I am devising disaster, from which you cannot remove your necks, and you shall not walk haughtily, for it will be a time of disaster.

In that day they shall take up a taunt song against you and moan bitterly, and say, “We are utterly ruined; he changes the portion of my people; how he removes it from me! To an apostate he allots our fields.”

Therefore you will have none to cast the line by lot in the assembly of the Lord.

Micah 2:1-5 (ESV)

Micah was a prophet from Moresheth-a rural town in south eastern Judea- who was active from about 737-696 BC.  He was a contemporary of Isaiah, Amos and Hosea, and he is considered one of the twelve minor prophets.

When God sent Old Testament prophets, they were sent to warn God’s people that judgment was coming to them.  In this season of Lent we are reminded that apart from Jesus we are far removed from God.  We are brought back to God through Jesus. His death on the cross paid the price for our sins.  In Christ we are set free from a life of sin that leads to death, and are given the gift of forgiveness and eternal life with God.

As a part of our life with God we are called to examine our lives against God’s Law (any questions on what constitutes God’s Law, see Exodus 20:1-17) and to confess our sins. When we pray we ask for forgiveness for our sins, we repent of them every day, and we trust that Jesus forgives us and gives us what we need to live according to our calling as His followers.

The apostle Paul teaches us:

Therefore let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall. No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.  Therefore, my beloved, flee from idolatry. 1 Corinthians 10:12-14 (ESV)

Micah in particular addressed the corruption of the government and commerce of Judah in his day.  Even though we may try to separate what we do and how we act in the left hand kingdom (things having to do with government and commerce) from who we are and what we do in the right hand kingdom (having to do with spiritual and religious things,) our integrity must be established and consistent in both areas.  One can’t just be a Christian on Sunday, and then be a scoundrel the rest of the week. Faith and trust in Christ is reflected outward in our actions.

Corrupt business dealings, abuse of governmental power, and squandering public resources are sinful even when those sins take place in the left hand kingdom.  Some may think that what he or she does as an employee, or as a representative of government is somehow beyond one’s own personal responsibility. The reality is that our obligation to follow God’s Law does not end when we punch a time clock, join a nation’s military, or take an oath of office.

Befehl ist Befehl (orders are orders,) or the “Nuremberg Defense” can stand in a court of (human) law, but it does not stand up to God’s Law. Even in the left hand kingdom, if “orders” from human employers or governments violate God’s Law, then God’s Law must prevail.

When government causes harm to its citizens by stealing from them, by building up certain individuals with ill-gotten wealth and engaging in graft, that harm is a sin against God. One of the sins that Micah protested against, and prophesied God’s judgment toward was the exploitation of the poor.

Exploitation of the poor through unethical business practices such as usury (lending with exorbitant interest) or price gouging is an affront to God.  It is also an affront to God to live in the lap of luxury and to set wealth and power up as idols while ignoring the very things that God has put us here for- to love Him and to love our neighbors as ourselves.

When the apostle Paul wrote to his young protégé Timothy, he warned:

For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs. 1 Timothy 6:10 (ESV)

Resources in and of themselves are good gifts from God, but loving the gift more than the Giver is a pernicious form of idolatry to which we all succumb at times. The reality is that left to our own devices we do not love God with our whole hearts, and we do not love our neighbors as ourselves.

The answer to the forces that wish to destroy us – our own sinful flesh, the world and Satan- is always found in Jesus.  Our salvation and life come from Him – not through power and resources, and certainly not from taking power and resources from others.

The good news of repentance is clear- God is the Giver and Source of all.  There is only death and destruction to be found in trusting in ourselves or scheming dishonest and wicked ways to “get ahead.”

Lord, forgive us when we forget You are the Source and the Giver of all things.  Forgive us when we want what other people have, when we take what is not rightfully ours from others, and we fail to be thankful for Your provision for our daily bread. Help us to be thankful all you provide us, as well as for our salvation and life with You forever.

 

February 7, 2020- Wisdom, Love and Reflecting Light- Psalm 36

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Transgression speaks to the wicked deep in his heart; there is no fear of God before his eyes.

For he flatters himself in his own eyes that his iniquity cannot be found out and hated.

The words of his mouth are trouble and deceit; he has ceased to act wisely and do good.

He plots trouble while on his bed; he sets himself in a way that is not good; he does not reject evil.

Your steadfast love, O Lord, extends to the heavens, your faithfulness to the clouds.

Your righteousness is like the mountains of God; your judgments are like the great deep; man and beast you save, O Lord.

How precious is your steadfast love, O God! The children of mankind take refuge in the shadow of your wings.

They feast on the abundance of your house, and you give them drink from the river of your delights.

For with you is the fountain of life; in your light do we see light.

Oh, continue your steadfast love to those who know you, and your righteousness to the upright of heart!

Let not the foot of arrogance come upon me, nor the hand of the wicked drive me away.

There the evildoers lie fallen; they are thrust down, unable to rise. Psalm 36 (ESV)

For with you is the fountain of life; in your light do we see light.

The moon can only reflect the light of the sun.  It is muted, a satellite, a mirror, rather than the source. All that as we as creatures can do is act as satellites or mirrors to God, our Source of light.

The summary of the Law- the Shema- taught in Deuteronomy 6:4-5, “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might,” is the primary wisdom lesson taught in Scripture.  The next most important wisdom lesson of Scripture is taught in multiple places- the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom– (Proverbs 9:10) and is one that points us back again to the foundational truth of the Shema. 

We learn the converse of this corollary in Psalm 14:1, “The fool says in his heart, “There is no God.” They are corrupt, they do abominable deeds; there is none who does good.”

Contrary to popular knowledge, human beings apart from God have nothing but darkness to offer.  Just as the moon cannot reflect light unless the sun shines on it, we cannot reflect light apart from having the light of God shine on us.

Jesus Himself taught that: No one is good but God alone. (Luke 18:19)

We know that the Law is good, but we are powerless in our own strength to obey it.

The children of mankind take refuge in the shadow of your wings.

It seems a little odd that this Psalm both affirms the reality that all we can do is to reflect God’s light, and seemingly opposite reality that we take refuge in the shadow of His wings.

Even as God was speaking to Moses, we learn God did not reveal Himself to Moses entirely, but shielded him from the fullness of His glory.  The purity and the intensity of the full on light and power of God would destroy Moses and any other sinful, mortal human.  We cannot stand alone in the presence of God and live.

And the Lord said to Moses, “This very thing that you have spoken I will do, for you have found favor in my sight, and I know you by name.”  Moses said, “Please show me your glory.”  And he said, “I will make all my goodness pass before you and will proclaim before you my name ‘The Lord.’ And I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show mercy on whom I will show mercy.  But,” he said, “you cannot see my face, for man shall not see me and live.”  And the Lord said, “Behold, there is a place by me where you shall stand on the rock,  and while my glory passes by I will put you in a cleft of the rock, and I will cover you with my hand until I have passed by.  Then I will take away my hand, and you shall see my back, but my face shall not be seen.” Exodus 33:17-23 (ESV)

Jesus is our Light and Life, but also our Refuge.  In Jesus, we are shielded from God’s wrath- as our sins have been paid for by Him- even as we reflect His light in the world.

Lord, we thank You both for the light You reflect off of us, and for the safety of Your refuge in Jesus.  Give us the wisdom to “put on our baptism as daily wear” and to trust in you that we are forgiven and that You will give us what we need to stay faithful to you and to serve our neighbors in all we do.

 

January 2, 2020- Numbering our Days, A Heart of Wisdom- Psalm 90:12, John 1:14-18

jesuswisdom

So teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom. Psalm 90:12 (ESV)

And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.  (John bore witness about him, and cried out, “This was he of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me ranks before me, because he was before me.’”)  For from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.  No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father’s side, he has made him known. John 1:14-18 (ESV)

Every January rolls around and it seems we want to take up New Year’s resolutions.  “This is the year we stick to a budget or to a diet or to an exercise program!”  Until the first of February or so, when we realize that the budget, diet or fitness regimen isn’t happening the way we wanted it to.  Even if we are disciplined enough to do things right most of the time, as we learn in Psalm 90:10- The years of our life are seventy, or even by reason of strength eighty; yet their span is but toil and trouble; they are soon gone, and we fly away.

Fallible human beings are not the greatest at keeping resolutions.  Life happens.  Discipline and order are good things, but so are forgiveness and flexibility when situations call for those.  We need discernment, the wisdom that can only come from the power of the Holy Spirit, far more than we need one time resolutions that most often fail.

Solomon, the son of David prayed for wisdom- not for riches or conquests or power and land, even though God added those to him. (2 Chronicles 1:7-13)  Yet even a person with the wisdom of Solomon was not able to live according to the Law.  As Solomon got older he got enamored of foreign women and took wives who worshiped idols, and even he was not completely faithful to God.

The apostle John leads us to the answer to the wisdom question: The Word. We do not have wisdom on our own apart from God.  Wisdom is found in the fear of the Lord, Jesus Christ, the Word who became flesh, bringing the fulfillment of Moses’ law, and providing the grace and truth that we do not have.

Our life on this earth is both joy and sorrow, paved with good decisions and not so good decisions.  We live with one foot in God’s kingdom, but the other foot still mired in this world of “not yet.” We journey through our seventy or eighty years knowing that our time here moves faster than we ever thought it would.

A new year is going to bring us all some blessings, some burdens, some joy, and some heartbreak. But only Jesus Christ brings us the forgiveness of our sins. Only Jesus Christ makes us worthy to be called children of God.  Only Jesus Christ makes the number of our days worthwhile, as well as the innumerable days we will spend with Him in the age to come.

 

 

 

December 22, 2019- Advent 22, Luke 22- Judas, the Last Supper, Peter Denies Jesus, Jesus is Handed Over to the Council

upper room

Read Luke 22.

Jesus knew that Judas would betray Him. Unfortunately for Judas he had a rather notorious role in the story of Jesus’ suffering and death.

Then Satan entered into Judas called Iscariot, who was of the number of the twelve. He went away and conferred with the chief priests and officers how he might betray him to them. And they were glad, and agreed to give him money. So he consented and sought an opportunity to betray him to them in the absence of a crowd. Luke 22:1-3 (ESV)

The Son of Man, Creator of the Universe, betrayed for a few coins.

The disciples come to the Upper Room to celebrate the Passover:

And He, (Jesus) said to them,I have earnestly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer. For I tell you I will not eat it until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God.” And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he said, “Take this, and divide it among yourselves. For I tell you that from now on I will not drink of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes.” And he took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” And likewise the cup after they had eaten, saying, “This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood.But behold, the hand of him who betrays me is with me on the table. For the Son of Man goes as it has been determined, but woe to that man by whom he is betrayed!”And they began to question one another, which of them it could be who was going to do this. Luke 22:15-23 (ESV)

Jesus says this IS my body.  This IS my blood.  A mystery to be sure, but a mystery to be taken at His world.  We may not understand how the elements of bread and wine become Jesus’ body and blood, but the word is means is.  Given and shed for us so that we may have life in Him.

A dispute also arose among them, as to which of them was to be regarded as the greatest. And he said to them, “The kings of the Gentiles exercise lordship over them, and those in authority over them are called benefactors.But not so with you. Rather, let the greatest among you become as the youngest, and the leader as one who serves.For who is the greater, one who reclines at table or one who serves? Is it not the one who reclines at table? But I am among you as the one who serves.

“You are those who have stayed with me in my trials, and I assign to you, as my Father assigned to me, a kingdom,that you may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom and sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel. Luke 22:24:31 (ESV)

We do not decide who believes, who stands, who falls, or who is accorded what position in God’s kingdom.  God decides.  Satan asked to sift Peter like wheat.  Peter, who denied Jesus 3 times was forgiven and made to stand in witness to Christ.

“Simon, Simon, behold, Satan demanded to have you that he might sift you like wheat,  but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned again, strengthen your brothers.”  Peter said to him, “Lord, I am ready to go with you both to prison and to death.” Jesus said, “I tell you, Peter, the rooster will not crow this day, until you deny three times that you know me.” Luke 22:31-34 (ESV)

Peter meant well, but he could not stand in his own power. None of us can stand unless the Lord makes us stand.

And he (Jesus) came out and went, as was his custom, to the Mount of Olives, and the disciples followed him. And when he came to the place, he said to them, “Pray that you may not enter into temptation.” And he withdrew from them about a stone’s throw, and knelt down and prayed, saying, “Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done.” And there appeared to him an angel from heaven, strengthening him. And being in agony he prayed more earnestly; and his sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground.And when he rose from prayer, he came to the disciples and found them sleeping for sorrow,and he said to them, “Why are you sleeping? Rise and pray that you may not enter into temptation.” Luke 22:39-46 (ESV)

Jesus prayed that the cup of suffering would be removed from Him.  We know that it was not.  He had to take the cup of suffering and drink it to the dregs- He was arrested, stripped of His clothes, humiliated, spit on and hung on a Roman cross.  He could have said no to the way of the cross at any time.

Yet Jesus chose to come into this world for the very purpose of taking the cup of God’s wrath and allowing it to be poured out on Him instead of on us, as our transgressions deserve.

When day came, the assembly of the elders of the people gathered together, both chief priests and scribes. And they led him away to their council, and they said, “If you are the Christ, tell us.” But he said to them, “If I tell you, you will not believe, and if I ask you, you will not answer.But from now on the Son of Man shall be seated at the right hand of the power of God.” So they all said, “Are you the Son of God, then?” And he said to them, “You say that I am.” Then they said, “What further testimony do we need? We have heard it ourselves from his own lips.” Luke 22:66-71 (ESV)

Lord, forgive us when we forget that it is only by Your overwhelming love for us and Your grace that we can stand and believe in You.  You came to redeem us and save us from our sins.  You bind our wounds.  You forgive us. You feed us with your Own Body and Blood.  Thank you, Jesus.  Stay with us and keep us in these evil days, until Your return.

November 14, 2019 Spiritual Discernment and the Mind of Christ- 1 Corinthians 2:6-16

wisdom1

Yet among the mature we do impart wisdom, although it is not a wisdom of this age or of the rulers of this age, who are doomed to pass away.  But we impart a secret and hidden wisdom of God, which God decreed before the ages for our glory.  None of the rulers of this age understood this, for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.  But, as it is written,
“What no eye has seen, nor ear heard,
nor the heart of man imagined,
what God has prepared for those who love him”—
these things God has revealed to us through the Spirit. For the Spirit searches everything, even the depths of God. For who knows a person’s thoughts except the spirit of that person, which is in him? So also no one comprehends the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might understand the things freely given us by God.  And we impart this in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Spirit, interpreting spiritual truths to those who are spiritual.
The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned. The spiritual person judges all things, but is himself to be judged by no one. “For who has understood the mind of the Lord so as to instruct him?” But we have the mind of Christ. 1 Corinthians 2:6-16 (ESV)

The apostle Paul underscores what he taught in yesterday’s study verses- that wisdom is found in Christ.

The “secret and hidden” wisdom of God is that faith is a gift from God to us.  It comes from Him, not from our own minds or designs.  The power of the Gospel is in hearing it, but without the illumination of the Holy Spirit, we can study the Scriptures and make them say anything we want them to say.  A good case in point is when people take individual verses out of context, i.e.

And (Judas) throwing down the pieces of silver into the temple, he departed, and he went and hanged himself. Matthew 27:5 (ESV)

“You go, and do likewise.” Luke 10:37b (ESV)

Obviously these two verses were pulled out of their original context!  If we read the surrounding context to these verses (Luke 10:25-37 and Matthew 27:3-10) we see that these verses do not imply that since Judas hanged himself that we should hang ourselves too.

The study of Scripture is not purely an intellectual pursuit, rather, it is primarily a spiritual one.  Our own rational minds and our own interpretations are subject to what God is saying to us through the text.

To have the mind of Christ is to trust that He does speak to us in His revealed Word- the Bible.  We are called to seek a right understanding of what the full counsel of Scripture has to say whether we like it or not, or whether we agree with it or not.

The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned.

There are times when it is difficult to explain Scriptural authority.  Do we believe that because Jesus is referred to as the Lamb of God that He is a sheep? Do we take Scripture so literally that we impose the Jewish ceremonial laws of Leviticus on today’s Christians (even though the apostle Paul spoke against this sort of teaching in the book of Galatians…)  Should we be afraid that we are wearing fabrics made of cotton-polyester blends?  This would be the error of legalism- thinking that we are justified by following all the rules.  The problem with legalism is that nobody can follow all the rules, and if we are honest with ourselves we break all 10 of the Commandments on a pretty regular basis.  If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us… 1 John 1:8 (ESV)

Do we fall on the other side of the fence and turn the entire narrative into metaphor, even when it is clear that there are historical truths and absolutes communicated in Scripture?  Antinomianism (literally means “against the law”) is alive and well not only in the greater society, but in the church as well.  “If it feels good, do it” is not a healthy approach to life.  Ice cream is fantastic, but a steady diet of it is not healthy.

Doing what we want may be harmful to ourselves and others.  When properly applied, rules serve as boundaries to protect us and others from actions that will cause harm.  There are absolute truths that are absolutely true all the time.  For instance, we cannot break the natural law of gravity without consequences.  We might believe we can fly off a 50 foot tall building, but the landing will not be pleasant.   Some rules were not made to be broken. The wages of sin is death.

Thankfully Jesus paid our sin-wages by going to the cross and suffering the penalty of death in our place.

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.  If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us. 1 John 1:9-10 (ESV)

The good news is that in Christ He gives us the Holy Spirit and the discernment to “stay on the path.”  When we sin and fall short He calls us to confess our sins to Him and ask for forgiveness. The Holy Spirit is always there for us to help keep us from going off into the ditch on either side of the road.

For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 6:23 (ESV)

ditch

Dearest Jesus, we thank You that by your grace and through the Holy Spirit you give us the gifts of discernment and wisdom.  We pray that the Holy Spirit would illuminate our study of Scripture so that we will understand  your will for us and not go into the ditch on the right or the left. We pray that You would keep us balanced and on the road with You.

 

 

 

 

 

 

November 1, 2019- Dia de los Muertos- (The Day of the Dead) – Remembering and Forgiving- Lead Us to Jesus -1 John 3:1-3, Matthew 5:1-12

day of dead

See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are. The reason why the world does not know us is that it did not know him.  Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is. And everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure. 1 John 3:1-3 (ESV)

Seeing the crowds, he (Jesus) went up on the mountain, and when he sat down, his disciples came to him.
And he opened his mouth and taught them, saying:
 “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
 “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.
 “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.
 “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.
 “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.
 “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.
 “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.
 “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
 “Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account.  Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you. Matthew 5:1-12 (ESV)

Those of us who observe the church year may find the feast of All Saints to be one of the most difficult days to commemorate.  On this earth, death still has a very real sting.  The pain and longing of separation from those we love and those who have been big parts of our lives is a heavy burden to bear.

We also endure the pain of regret when loved ones go before us.  We may wonder if our loved one died in Christ.  Sometimes we carry grudges or unforgiveness toward those who hurt or wronged us before they died because we never had a chance to resolve the issues we had with that person when he or she was alive.  Sometimes our remembrance of a family member is tainted either by our regret that we were evil to them, or the pain we suffered due to their evil toward us.  The world is one big pack of sinners, after all.  We have all fallen short of the glory of God. We all desperately need the grace of God in our relationships with others.

We do not have to resolve the issues with someone in order to forgive them. They may never “forgive us back.”  We are called by Jesus to let go of our anger, resentment and unforgiveness toward others regardless of their response to us.

Forgiveness does not necessarily mean reconciliation.  There are situations in which reconciliation is impossible in this life- the death of the other party, or situations in which one’s health or life may be endangered through contact with the other party. Those who are living with physical or emotional abuse, or are enduring life with a loved one who abuses alcohol or drugs may have to separate themselves from and completely cut off contact with that person for the sake of their own life and health. In Christ we can pass on the gift of forgiveness, but we are not compelled to keep enduring abuse.

God gives us the grace to forgive those who have wronged us, as Jesus has first forgiven us- even if there is no reconciliation, or even contact with the other party.

Jesus has sweet comfort for His own when we have to encounter earthly death, unforgiveness, disappointment and separation. He is walking with us, even through the valley of the shadow of death (Psalm 23:4.)

Many people read the above verses from the Gospel of Matthew and look at the Beatitudes as a “to do” list, things that we need to pull up our bootstraps and just do.  On one level, that is not necessarily a bad thing, but like the Ten Commandments teach us God’s Law, (that are also seen as a sort of “to do” list,) and show us our inability to keep them, Jesus teaches these blessings so that we may see how we are not the source of any of the blessings of the Beatitudes.

Only in Christ can we receive these attributes.

He is the one acting upon us so that we do see our own complete inadequacy and our desperate need for Him.

He is our comfort and our companion in our mourning.

He is the champion of the meek and lowly, as He came to serve, not to be served.

He is the Bread of Life who feeds us with the most sweet and holy bread of heaven- His very own Body and Blood.

He is the source of all mercy.

He is complete and total holiness and purity.

He grants us peace that is beyond all understanding.

He gives us the confidence to stand up for things that are right even when they are not  popular and may lead to our own personal harm.

He suffered the ultimate persecution and punishment (Isaiah 53:5) in our place, so that we would be blessed with salvation and life with Him forever.

The Beatitudes point us to our utter dependence on Jesus.

As we remember those who have gone before us, we thank God for those who passed along the faith to us, those who loved us, and those who we have confidence in Christ who we will see again.  We ask God for the gift of forgiveness toward those who have hurt us, not because they deserve it, but because Jesus first forgave us. We ask that Jesus brings us healing and peace for the injuries from relationships that cannot be reconciled, especially those relationships that we have had with those who have died.

We pray for the gifts of the Beatitudes because they are the attributes of Christ.

Today is remembered in Mexico as Dia de los Muertos, or the Day of the Dead. Part of that tradition involves honoring one’s ancestors.  Another part of it is acknowledging that death isn’t the end.  It is a celebration of remembrance and anticipation.

We will see those who departed in Christ again in the next world, in the new heaven and earth.

According to the message of Genesis 3  we are all dead- every person living will die.  In Christ we have His promise of eternal life.  The Day of the Dead is for those who went before us, the great cloud of witnesses that the writer of Hebrews speaks of. (Hebrews 12:1-2)  We celebrate their lives.  We mourn their absence.  We think about what we may have done differently.  We pray for the grace to forgive where we need to forgive. But ultimately the lives of those witnesses serve to point us to Christ, the Author and Perfecter of our faith, the One Who is beside us and with us always, the One Who broke the curse of death so that we may live.