Luke 6:27-38 Do Unto Others

Katie ran into the kitchen out of breath. She poured a glass of cold water and gulped it down. A few minutes later, her sister walked in.

“Why didn’t you wait for me?” Kennedy asked.

Katie shrugged. “I saw you were walking home with Seth, so I decided to go for a run.”

Kennedy sighed. “Are you still mad at him for what he did last month?”

“He tripped me on purpose and made me get a big scratch on my face on picture day!” Katie exclaimed.

“But he apologized,” Kennedy reminded her. “He’s having a birthday party at his house this weekend and told me to invite you.”

“I’m not going!” Katie said firmly. “Not after what he did.”

Dad walked into the kitchen and poured himself a glass of water. “Not going where?” he asked.

“To Seth’s birthday party,” said Kennedy. “Katie’s still mad at him for tripping her over a month ago.”

Just then a fly landed on the rim of Dad’s glass. “Ew!” said Dad. He poured the rest of the water in the sink. “I’ll teach that fly to try swimming in my water. I’m never drinking water again!”

Katie stared at her dad, puzzled. “Dad,” she said, “it’s just a little fly! And besides, you have to drink water–your body can’t survive without it.”

“So giving up water would hurt me more than the fly?” Dad asked. Katie nodded. “Well, it sounds to me like you’re trying to hurt Seth for what he did to you, but you’re just going to end up hurting yourself a lot more. I know that what he did was wrong, but he said he was sorry. And Jesus tells us to forgive others because He forgave us. He tells us to do that so we can show His love to others, but also because He knows that when we hold on to bitterness and anger, we hurt ourselves more than anyone else. You’re trying to get back at Seth, but you’re going to be the one sitting home by yourself while your sister and friends are having fun at his party.”

Katie sighed. “Okay, Dad,” she said. “Maybe it’s time I finally forgive him.”

When someone treats us badly, how do we respond? How do we treat them? The answer matters a lot. Negative responses such as back-stabbing don’t solve conflict. They don’t give us peace. Christ tells us to pray for those who persecute us. When we pray for them, God sets us free from the anger, the resentment and the pain. Sometimes the enemy changes, and sometimes they don’t, but praying for our enemies changes us.

When we are persecuted or harassed, we need to respond with a blessing. This is what God wants us to do. It isn’t easy, but it’s the most powerful witness we have about God’s love. When we respond to hatred with love, God will be pleased and we will be blessed.

Loving our enemies doesn’t mean we condone their actions or letting a pattern of abuse to continue. Loving someone who doesn’t deserve it is hard to do, but if love and mercy were given only to people who deserve it, all of us would be lost. God’s love and grace are like rain-they fall on both the just and the unjust. Because of Christ’s death, all of us have been judged by God. We receive His mercy even though we are unworthy and don’t deserve it.

Jesus has introduced something new. Loving everyone, even if they don’t deserve to be loved, is contrary to what the world teaches. If we follow Jesus’ new way of life, we will be energized by a new Spirit. We will act in a new way because of the God we worship. He changes us and encourages us to be to others what God has been to us.

Jesus was not speaking to a general audience but to those who were aligning themselves with Him. To them He gave a standard of behaviour impossible to achieve except through the Holy Spirit. Christians should respond to hatred with love and to antagonism with blessing. This rule applies to individual believers, not to states or governments assigned with keeping the peace.

The Golden Rule cited here did not originate with Jesus, although He gave it its most memorable form. He put this principle in a positive context. He tells us to accept our suffering. We will dishonor God if we retaliate. God will deal with those who persecute us in His own time and in His own way. Forgiveness is like a muscle we have to exercise. It’s proactive. It’s doing.

A person’s behaviour reveals the true nature of his or her relationship to God. The first-century world operated by an “I give to you so that you might give to me” equation: Jesus turned such thinking on its head. Those who are children of God will behave in an others-centered way.

When Jesus tells us to give, most of us think He is referring to giving to the church, but that’s not always the case. If He puts something else in our heart, or if He places someone in need in our lives, it’s okay to give to that person. This involves doing the Lord’s work because it involves giving to our neighbour, and no one knows our neighbours as well as we do.

Remember that failing to tithe is the same as robbing God. It reflects our spirit toward God. If we aren’t willing to give of our money, time or talents, we’re probably not willing to give our whole hearts and lives to God. He won’t let us have a key to His house and steal from Him at the same time. Can we afford not to give to God?

Another reason to give to those in need is because what we have is a gift from God, and God is concerned about how we use those gifts He has given us. Many of us have the philosophy of “get all you can, can all you get, sit on your can.” One instant is all it takes for us to lose what we’ve hoarded. Someday we might need help. What we sow is what we reap-and that has been proven countless times throughout history. The Law of Investment- “Give and it shall be given”-works whenever it is put into practice. A person who puts this principle into practice will know some measure of God’s blessing in this realm.

A good example of how God blesses those who give to Him is found in the story of Elijah and the widow, which is found in 1 Kings 17:10-16. When Elijah arrived at the gate of the city of Zarephath, he saw a widow gathering sticks. He asked her to bring him some water. When she did, he asked her to bring him a morsel of bread. She replied that she only had a little flour and oil, and that she was going to prepare them for herself and her son so they could eat it and die. Elijah told her to go ahead with her plans, but to make him a small cake and bring it to him first. He promised that in return God would provide flour and oil until the rains came. She did what she was told to do, and God did provide flour and oil.

Throughout Luke’s presentation of the Beatitudes, the underlying theme remains the same: those who claim to know God should act as God does. Since God is merciful, His children should be merciful.

The principle expounded by Jesus in verse 37 extends through all of life: those who judge others should not be surprised when they are judged in return. The command to “judge not” does not relieve Christians of their responsibility to be discerning but instead warns against harbouring a contemptuous, condemning attitude.

Following Christ leads us away from the logic of the world. It requires a divine amount of grace-laced empowerment. Christ will bless us for allowing His mercy to flow through us in a way that brings good things to those who don’t deserve it.

When it comes to God’s blessings, the measure we use is what is measured back to us. If we use a serving spoon, we will get an overflowing serving spoon. If we use a shovel, we will get an overflowing shovel back. If we do things for the right reasons, they will come back to us.

Jesus teaches us the true managing of God’s grace. It’s an attitude of kindness, mercy and love toward us that God has chosen, not because of what we have done for Him but because of His decision to show kindness, mercy and love.

A few years ago, someone put together the Paradoxical Commandments. Here they are:

  1. People are unreasonable, illogical and self-centered. Love them anyway.
  2. If you do good, people will accuse you of ulterior motives. Do good anyway.
  3. If you are successful, you win false friends and true enemies. Succeed anyway.
  4. The good you do today will be forgotten tomorrow. Do good anyway.
  5. Honesty and frankness make you vulnerable. Be honest and frank anyway.
  6. The biggest men and women with the biggest ideas can be shot down by the smallest men and women with the smallest minds. Think big anyway.
  7. People favour underdogs but follow only top dogs. Fight for a few underdogs anyway.
  8. What you spend years building might be destroyed overnight. Build anyway.
  9. People really need help but may attack you if you do help them. Help people anyway.
  10. Give the world the best you have and you’ll get kicked in the teeth. Give the world the best you’ve got anyway.

We have to love. It’s the only weapon we have against our enemies. Love creates a barrier against bitterness and cynicism. It’s an antidote to hatred and indifference. We don’t love people because they are likeable. We love them because we and they are children of God.

Bibliography

 

  1. Jeremiah, David: The Jeremiah Study Bible: New King James Version (Brentwood, TN: Worthy Publishing; 2013; p.1396-1397)
  2. “Giving Up Water.” Retrieved from info@keysforkids.org
  3. Paul Estabrooks, “Cross-Turning the Other Cheek.” Retrieved from Crosswalk@crosswalkmail.com
  4. Pastor Bobby Schuller, “Give to Your Neighbour.” Retrieved from hourofpower@hourofppower.org
  5. Harold Sala, “Why Should I Give?” Retrieved from info@guidelines.org
  6. Pete Briscoe, “The M in BEMA Stands for Mercy.” Retrieved from Crosswalk@crosswalkmail.com
  7. Berni Dymet, “Love Thy Enemy.” Retrieved from christianityworks.com
  8. Berni Dymet, “Generosity.” Retrieved from christianityworks.com
  9. Vikki Burke, “Positioned for the Supernatural.” Retrieved from christianityworks.com
  10. Berni Dymet, “Forgive and Forget.” Retrieved from christianityworks.com
  11. Mary Southerland, “To Forgive or Not to Forgive.” Retrieved from girlfriendsingod.com
  12. Tony Evans, “The Restitution and Reversal of Theft.” Retrieved from Crosswalk@crosswalkmail.com
  13. Jim Burns, “Go for It.” Retrieved from homeword.com
  14. Bayless Conley, “What’s Your Measure?” Retrieved from Crosswalk@crosswalkmail.com
  15. Bayless Conley, “Giving to Get.” Retrieved from Crosswalk@crosswalkmail.com
  16. Pastor Mark Justice, “What do You Mean ‘Grace’?” Retrieved from christianity.com/devotionals/grace-moments-devotions/
  17. Pastor Rick Warren, “Do Good to Those Who Oppose You.” Retrieved from connect@newsletter,purposedriven.com
  18. Jude Siciliano, OP, “First Impressions, 7th Sunday, -C-.” Retrieved from preacherexchange,org

 

 

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Luke 6:17-26 Jesus Turns Things Upside-Down

Have you ever heard of a man named Charles M. Schultz? He wrote a comic strip called Peanuts which has been appearing in daily newspapers since 1950. The main characters in the comic strip are Charlie Brown, Lucy, Linus, Schroeder and a dog named Snoopy.

Charles Schultz also wrote a lot of books, including one titled “Happiness Is A Warm Blanket.” The book is mostly about a little boy named Linus who carries his cuddly blue blanket with him wherever he goes. Linus carries that blanket to make him feel secure. According to Schultz, “Everyone has things that make them feel secure. “You know what? When we feel secure, we are also happy!

Jesus had something to say about being happy. The passage from Luke 6:17-26 is one of those times. The lesson begins with Jesus surrounded by a huge crowd of people. Have you ever noticed that wherever Jesus went, he drew large crowds of people? Why do you suppose that was? Maybe it was because many of them were sick, crippled, or injured and wanted Jesus to heal them. Perhaps some of them had a troubled mind and they had heard that Jesus was able to cast out demons and evil spirits just by speaking a word. In other words, many people came to Jesus because they had heard what he could do for them. The Bible says that people crowded around Jesus and tried to touch him because power was coming from him and healed them all. Do you think that made the people happy? It sure did!

Notice that Jesus didn’t say, “Happy are they who have a lot of money “or “Happy are they who have plenty to eat and dine in fancy restaurants.” He didn’t even say, “Happiness is a warm blanket.” What he did say was, “When you follow me, happiness will come. Leap for joy! A great reward awaits you in heaven.”

Jesus’ teachings were radical. They were a window into God’s values and priorities. He blessed those who were poor, who hunger now, who weep, who were hated and excluded. He warned those who were rich, full, happy and popular. Conventional wisdom, then and now, says quite the opposite.

The rules for living that Jesus gives us are revolutionary. Most of us don’t like rules, but at the same time we need and demand rules. For example, imagine how many traffic accidents would happen if we didn’t have traffic rules. These teachings tell us how we must live in order to fulfill Jesus’ mission, which is also our mission. Without these teachings, there is no alternative to our modern society.

The word “blessed” doesn’t mean happiness. Happiness is a gift God bestows on us. We don’t earn God’s blessings. We just need them and God notices. Those who have nothing and those who are weeping will receive God’s favour.

To be blessed means that we have God’s attention. We will never be alone. We are valued and important because God has made us priceless. God stands with the poor when they are used and abused by the rich. This is a reversal of our usual world view. The world blesses the rich and looks down on the poor. God came in the form of Jesus to live among the poor and announce the Good News to them. Woe to those who oppose God’s rule and Jesus’ message. He is firm in His statement that because He came the world as we know it is turned upside-down.

Being poor means more than just being poor financially. It also means being poor spiritually. In that sense, Jesus has come for all of us because we are poor spiritually. The poor are those who recognize that they depend on God. The rich don’t want to commit themselves. They are comfortable with the way things are now.

In Luke’s Gospel, it is clear that only God can align our lives and realities to make us whole and healthy, and to give us a life worth living. In Jesus’ mind, poverty and its accompanying hunger and sadness is powerful because it frees us from maintaining earthly power and control. God’s kingdom is not of this world, so it goes against the world’s view of what is logical or sensible. Poverty is powerful because it strips us of the illusion that power is anything but a temporary thing. Poverty involves a lack of worldly power. For the poor, being without power frees them from the need to maintain human structures of power. They are free to redefine the meaning of power and re-define their ideas of what is healthy, life-affirming and valuable.

The hungry will be blessed because they will be filled. The weeping will be blessed because there is a real chance they will cease being poor. Many of Jesus’ teachings are about how change can take place right now. It includes sharing food and resources, especially as represented by Holy Communion. The blessings are all about possessing the Kingdom of God, of being eternally satisfied in union with God, of experiencing the joy of possessing a reward in Heaven.

The poor, hungry and weeping are in a better position to receive and respond to the Kingdom than those who have security in riches, a stable environment, and personal well-being. They are in a better position to be open to spiritual matters because they are not hindered by material prosperity or self-sufficiency.

If we understand the rules Jesus outlined, what then? We might feel discouraged because we know we won’t keep all of them. We could also be like the Pharisees and the scribes, who were pleased to hear rules because they are smugly certain that they have kept them since childhood. We might also look for loopholes.

Knowing and keeping the rules doesn’t mean that we should use them to keep others out. That’s the attitude the scribes and Pharisees had at that time. They uses their elaborate set of rules to keep out people who didn’t follow them. Jesus refused to exclude people who didn’t obey the rules. He hung out with sinners and outcasts because God’s Kingdom is open to everyone who believes.

Because we know Jesus’ rules, the Holy Spirit points out the sinful areas in our lives, and we can be forgiven and brought back to life. If there are no rules, then we can’t repent. We are lost in our sins. The sin against the Holy Spirit is to say that we are innocent when He says we are guilty.

If we live for God, we will face times of adversity. Many of us have suffered from the maladies Jesus referred to in this passage. When that happens, we can trust God with our lives. It will make us better followers of Jesus. Luke tells us that Jesus has entered into our condition and will restore us to health if we will have faith. Whatever problems we may have, we can give them to Jesus and then get some rest. We might not feel better right away, but we will be healed in God’s time.

Even when we are persecuted, we are to continue witnessing and sharing about Christ. We are to love everyone, even those who criticize us, hate us or reject us. Even when our outer peace has crumbled, we are to speak the truth of the Gospel. Jesus doesn’t tell us to accept or receive persecution gracefully. We are to rejoice because the persecuted disciples of Jesus will receive great rewards in heaven. We will also be in the company of the prophets who were persecuted.

Jesus is placing a choice before us. Will we choose to live according to His beatitudes or according to the world’s beatitudes? What the world values is worthless. God blesses the poor, hungry and weeping. They will be filled at God’s banquet table.

Churches must make certain that they don’t neglect the poor or the marginalized. If churches really follow Jesus, they will use their resources to help the poor and marginalized. The choice is theirs and ours, and the new life Christ gives us makes such a choice possible.

When we come to worship, we come down from the stratosphere broken, bloody and hungry people. We feast on God’s Word, get up and go again as God directs our paths. Instead of criticizing the minister or the choir when we leave church, we should ask ourselves, “What did God say to me? What would God do with me?”

Bibliography

 

  1. Jeremiah, David: The Jeremiah Study Bible: New King James Version (Brentwood, TN: Worthy Publishing; 2013; p.1396)
  2. Larsen, B. & Ogilvie, L.J.: The Preacher’s Commentary Series, Vol. 26: Luke (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Inc.; 1983, pp. 120-127)
  3. Macarthur, J.F. Jr.: The Macarthur Study Bible: New American Standard Bible (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers; 2006)
  4. “Rejoicing in Persecution.” Retrieved from Crosswalk@crosswalkmail.com
  5. Jim Woodrum, “Luke’s Prescription of Hope.” Retrieved from www.ssje.org
  6. Jack Graham, “Iron in Your Soul.” Retrieved from www.PowerPoint.org
  7. Michael Youssef, Ph.D., “Responding to Rejection.” Retrieved from mydevotional@leadingtheway.org
  8. Jude Siciliano, OP, “First Impressions, 6th Sunday -C-.” Retrieved from preacherexcchange.org
  9. “Happiness Is…” Retrieved from sermons4kids.com
  10. Christy Randazzo, “The Paradox of a World Turned Upside-Down-Luke 6:17-26.” Retrieved from https://politicaltheology.com
  11. William Loader, “Epiphany 6:17 February Luke 6:17-26.” Retrieved from http://wwwstaff.murdoch.edu.au/~loader/LkEpihany6.htm
  12. “Sunday 6C, Epiphany 6C, Gospel.” Retrieved from lectionarystudeis.com/studyg/Sunday6cp.html
  13. “Sixth Sunday After Epiphany.” Retrieved from crivoice.org/lectionary/YearC/Ceiphany6nt.htm
  14. The Rev. Mark Larsen, “We Deserve to Weep.” Retrieved from http://day1.org/8331/-mark_larsen_we_deserve_to_weep.print

 

 

 

Luke 5:1-11 Follow Me to a Great Catch

The story of Jesus teaching from the boat in Luke 5:1-11 occurs early in his earthly ministry. He preached to the crowd, and then he asked Peter to do something that did not make sense to Peter. He asked Peter to go fishing in the daytime. As someone who had fished in this particular area for most of his life, Peter knew that the best time to catch fish was at night, because during the day the fish went deeper into the water to keep cool and stay out of the light. Peter didn’t catch anything the night before. He was hesitant to obey Jesus at first, but eventually he obeyed Jesus’ request. The result was a catch so big that he needed help from other fishermen to bring it ashore.

Obeying orders leads to success. For example, several years ago General Dwight Eisenhower, the man who led the Allied invasion of Normandy during World War II, told an interviewer how the decision was made to go on June 6, 1944. He wanted to go on June 4th or June 5th, and June 4th, 1944, was a beautiful, starlight night. The commanders of the Allied troops were gathered with General Eisenhower at their command post in England. The chief army weatherman was there also, and he told General Eisenhower that gale-force winds and high tides would be hitting the Normandy beaches by the next morning.

General Eisenhower had a decision to make. Should he believe what he saw-a beautiful, clear starlight night-or should he listen to the man who knew. His answer was “No go”, even though it would have cost him his first choice and prolong the wait for the troops who were waiting on the ships. On the next day-June 5th-the weather was stormy, just like the weatherman had predicted. The weatherman came in and said, “We’re going to have improved weather tomorrow with moderate winds and tides. It’s going to be a good day to go.” General Eisenhower had to decide to go by his senses or by the man who had the authority. The general paused for about 30 seconds, and then he said two of history’s most famous words-“Let’s go”. The room was clear in two seconds, and the rest is history.

Peter also had a decision to make. Would he obey Jesus’ request? Workers like Peter usually hate to obey orders unless they recognize the authority of the person who is giving the order. I know how they feel, because when I worked at a local lumber mill, I had many bosses that I hated to take orders from, but I still obeyed their orders because I respected their authority even if I didn’t respect them as people. Peter respected Jesus and therefore he obeyed Jesus’ orders. The result was a huge reward. When Peter saw the catch of fish, he saw a miracle. He knew that he was in the presence of a holy person, and he was ashamed because of his sinful nature. If we obey Jesus, he will clean us, make us whole, and give us the tools we need to do his work in our world.

God often calls us to do things that are often simple for us to do but important to him. The simplest tasks we do for God can result in a revelation, discovery or even greater faith. Obedience to even the simplest of orders results in great rewards from God. All we have to do is look at the staff who work at a nursing home. They do God’s work by taking care of the residents’ needs, and their reward is the satisfaction they get from a job well done.

Peter obeyed Jesus’ order to become a fisher of men. After Jesus ascended to heaven, Peter became the leader of the disciples and the early Christian church. In fact, the Roman Catholic Church traces its origins to Peter. Peter’s small step of obedience led to the miracle that changed his life. God prepared Peter for the call just like he prepares us for our call. He allowed Peter to endure failure by not catching any fish. He also allows us to endure personal failures.

Once we realize who Jesus is, we can see ourselves in a new light, just like Peter saw Jesus in a new light when he realized who Jesus was. Sometimes that sight is too much for us to handle, but we need to see ourselves in that light so we can be changed by God and be prepared by God for the work he wants us to do. God shook up Peter because he wanted to shake up the world. He can also shake all of us up so he can shake up the world-and boy does it ever need to be shaken up. When we obey God, we will become fishers of men, and the catch we will get will be even greater than Peter’s great catch of fish.

Bibliography

 

 

 

Isaiah 6:1-13 The Power of the Trinity

The reading from Isaiah 6:1-13 asks a curious question: “Who will go for us?” Why was this phrase used? It is because it is a foreshadowing of the Trinity. This passage is the most famous call of a prophet in the Bible. It is regularly offered as one of the readings for Trinity Sunday, apparently due to the thrice-repeated cry of “Holy.” The three cries were made to the three members of the Trinity.

The Trinity is a necessary part of salvation. In John’s Gospel, Jesus talks about having descended from heaven, being the only-begotten Son of the Father (who loves the world and has sent him to save it), and of the Spirit who blows like the wind, bringing new life and new truth. The Trinity tells us who God is, what God does and what God is like. The relationship between the members of the Trinity is part of a crucial way of understanding not only God but His involvement in the world.

God eludes our grasp, so we make God into something we can manipulate. We try to fit God into the confines of reason or locate God in our established institutions, moral codes and household idols. We pay lip-service to God with hearts that are far from God. The Trinity was created in an attempt to describe God. God may be unseen, but He is revealed in Isaiah’s vision. Isaiah said that he saw the Lord. The doctrine of the Trinity is expressed here. We, like Isaiah, confess that God has been seen in Jesus.

The story of salvation in Jesus Christ teaches that we can’t talk about God in only singular terms. There is relationship with God. Three persons in a dynamic relationship that is held together by love. The relationship between God and the world flows out of a relationship of love that exists between Father, Son and Holy Spirit. A changed world reveals the gracious God who walks among us in Jesus and is present in and with us through the Holy Spirit. This is the God who wants to draw us into the divine life. We can’t help but continually set out the clear invitation to come and find life. Come and love and worship the Living God-Father, Son and Holy Spirit, to whom be glory in the world and in the church forever.

Isaiah’s vision was one of the most powerful witnesses to an encounter with God’s breaking into human life in a life-changing way. God is always present, moving gently and sometimes dramatically in people’s lives. For Isaiah, being unclean relates to sin, or what people do to hurt others. Isaiah said he was unclean, lost and in desperate need of forgiveness-just like all of us. God heard Isaiah, and Isaiah was forgiven. Isaiah proclaimed God’s promise that those who have seen the Lord and confessed their sins are forgiven and made free. God’s presence doesn’t destroy. It cleanses, liberates and commissions. Jesus was God incarnate. The Holy Spirit is God among us today.

Isaiah’s vision revealed his own sinfulness. He saw himself as a man of unclean lips whose sinfulness disqualified him from joining the seraphim in praise. This experience of God’s majesty in verses 1-4 led to Isaiah’s repentance in verse 5 as well as forgiveness and commissioning for God’s work. Anyone who would tell God’s people to repent must first experience God’s forgiveness.

Isaiah sensed God’s holiness. Sovereignty is the powerful nature of God. Holiness is the moral nature of God. He is pure, complete and whole. Isaiah also saw that God’s holiness is a matter of “doing”. God’s will can’t be known. His purity can’t tolerate sin.

It is for these reasons that our worship must focus on God’s character. We must wait in God’s Holy presence until the Holy Spirit comes. We should expect a glimpse of His glory. Our holiness begins in His glorious presence. It gives us the promise that we are imprinted with His character.  God’s loving forgiveness leads to a response of service. That is our pattern as Christians: we love and serve and give in thankful response to what God has given us in Jesus Christ.

So how should we react when we see the Holy character of God? We should feel anguish for our sin. When we see God, our sin is exposed. We can only cry “woe” not for others but for ourselves. Our spiritual sensitivity to sin is dulled because we have lost sight of a holy God. We need to see His holiness, feel the shaking pillars and smell the rising smoke that causes us to cry, “Woe is me, for I am undone.”

If our lips are unclean, so are our hearts. When we see God’s holiness, we are reminded that we are unworthy and deserve judgment. For Isaiah, the term “unclean lips” had another meaning. Whether he had already been pronouncing “woes” upon the people of Israel, or would soon do so, he was called to speak for God. But, upon seeing the holiness of God and catching a glimpse of God’s glory, Isaiah asked, “How can I speak for God without a heart like God?” Every preacher, teacher and witness for the Word of God must ask the same question. If there is sin in our hearts, our lips will betray us.

We are spiritually bankrupt. We may have all the good works in the world in our bank account, but apart from Christ, they’re worthless. It’s like going to the grocery store and trying to pay with Monopoly money. The only solution we have is to trust in the currency we’re given in Christ, who credited our account with an unlimited supply of grace. In Him, we’re no longer bankrupt. We get to experience His riches for eternity.

The live coal from the altar of God reminds us that behind the love that takes our guilt and the forgiveness that atones for our sins is a Cross that extracted a cost-no less than the life of the Son of God. Once we are touched by God’s purifying fire, we can hear God speak with a passionate fire-a passion that is missing from many Christians today. Satan flees before people who are ignited by the fire of God.

All of Israel needed to be shaken by Isaiah’s vision of the Lord. The vision reinforced His sovereignty over all the universe. God promised to preserve a remnant through whom He would come to set up an ultimate reign of peace and justice. Scripture reveals the unfolding story of God’s plan to redeem the world. From the very start, the plan took shape in the lives of people like Abraham, Moses, David and countless others. God looks to people today to live out His plan. Will you let Him use you? You don’t have to be afraid. Our fear decreases as our understanding of God increases. God can do what we can’t do.

Our hearts need to be cleansed so we can represent Him with the words of our lips. This is a continual process. It’s easy to be swayed away and think we are being used by God because of our works of righteousness. It isn’t about us. It is about Jesus, God and the Holy Spirit. We need to ask them to send us. We need to respond to their call and set our eyes on their majesty, awesomeness and purity. We are not worthy to be used but they have made a way to wash us through the blood of Christ so that we can speak for them from a cleansed heart. All we have to say is, “Here I am! Send me.”

As Isaiah carried his message to his people, giving them a vision of hope in a time of judgment, so God today calls the church into action, to be a people with eyes to see, ears to hear, and consciences no longer dulled, moving into the world, like Jesus to touch others, bringing healing to the lost, sight to the blind, life to the dying, that all the world might bow down before the Holy One and then be lifted up to praise the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

So how can we be certain that we have a true call from God? We can’t rest until we step out from the safety of our lives and launch into what we believe God is calling us to do. A good test is to ask if we are gifted for what we believe we are being called to do. God will give us the skills and resources we need. We possess one of three things-time, resources and unique abilities. We can be the people God uses to reach the unreached.

Another test of God’s call is to try doing in a small way what we feel we are being called to do. For example, if someone feels called to be a teacher, he or she can learn a subject well and offer to teach a small class in his or her church. If God has called or led us to do it, He will help us. But we need to do our part too. No matter what skills we may have, we can’t help someone unless we are available.

Over 200 years ago, a humble shoe cobbler named William Carey stood before a group of ministers in London, England. He said to those men, “God has put it on my heart to reach the masses with the Gospel message and take seriously the command of Christ to take the Gospel to the world.” One minister stood up and said, “Young man, sit down. When God chooses to save the pagan, He’ll do it in His own time and in His own way.” That didn’t stop William Carey. He went to India, led countless people to Christ, and sparked the modern missions movement.

All it took was one little shoemaker in England to change the world for Christ. And he did it even though many people, even Christians, were against Him going. That was a bold testimony of faith!

What would our lives look like if we served God with that kind of enthusiasm? Where would we go? What would we do? We need to take a bold step of faith today and tell God, “Wherever…whatever…I’m yours!” Isaiah was told to go into the world. Our own involvement in the world, its people and its transformation can never be separated from our faith in the missionary God we discover in Jesus and through the Spirit.

There is so much that God wants to do in our lives through His word. He wants to change us by renewing our minds. He wants to empower us through the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives. There’s an aspect of the transformation He wants for us that doesn’t come from renewed minds, or by greater dependence on the Holy Spirit, but only through a personal spiritual encounter with God himself. God might not give us the same kind of vivid experience that Isaiah had, and He will probably meet us through His word and through prayer, or maybe in a meeting, maybe even in a totally unexpected place, but He will reveal Himself to us personally.

For people today to answer the call of God, there must be an awareness and acceptance of the pain and suffering that comes with the call. It is a tough place to live, especially in a world that is engrossed in comforts and pleasures. Why answer God’s call if we don’t have to? We can be saved, live a nice life and wake up in heaven. Why answer God’s call? There is only one reason, one answer, to that question: to have the experience of standing before the throne of God and hearing His voice. We must be willing to step out and be sent. Are you ready? Do you want more? if so, then start praying. Read the books of Isaiah and Jeremiah to learn more about their lives and how God called them. You will never know all God has for you until you let go and ask Him to send you out. That is our great Commission.

Bibliography

 

  1. Jeremiah, David: The Jeremiah Study Bible, New King James Version (Brentwood, TN: Worthy Publishing; 2013, p. 887)
  2. McKenna, D.L. & Ogilvie, L.J.: The Preacher’s Commentary Series, Vol. 17: Isaiah 1-39 (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Inc.; 1993; pp. 106-116)
  3. MacArthur, J.F. Jr.: The MacArthur Study Bible: New American Standard Bible (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers; 2006)
  4. “Use Me.” Retrieved from support@leadlikejesus.com
  5. Max Lucado, “God is Able.” Retrieved from com@crosswalkmail.com
  6. “Here am I! Send Me.” Retrieved from dailydisciples.org
  7. Jack Graham, “What It Really Means to Surrender Your Life.” Retrieved from www.jackgraham.org
  8. Harold Sala, “Missions.” Retrieved from www.guidelines.org
  9. Richard Innes, “The Baffling Call of God.” Retrieved from actsweb.org
  10. Jack Graham, “The Only Cure for Spiritual Bankruptcy.” Retrieved from www.jackgraham.org
  11. “To See Him Face to Face.” Retrieved from dailydisciples.org
  12. Epiphany Esources, Trinity Sunday (B). Retrieved from info@epihanyesources.com
  13. Micah Pearsons, “Isaiah 6:1-8.” Retrieved from communic@luthersem.edu
  14. “Choose Somebody Else! Reflections on Isaiah 6:1-8.” Retrieved from http://www.patheos.com/progressive-christian/choose-somebody-else
  15. “Disclosing New Worlds, Trinity Year B.” Retrieved from http://disclosingnewworlds.net/trinity-year-b
  16. Ron Starenko, “Holy Trinity Sunday.” Retrieved from http://crossings.org/text-study/holy-trinity-sunday-2/
  17. Pastor Ed Markquart, “An Awesome Holiness: Isaiah.” Retrieved from http://www.sermonsfromseattle.com/series_c_awesomeholiness.htm

 

Galatians 3:1-14 Justification

The entire third chapter of Paul’s Letter to the Galatians was devoted to the subject of justification. The word “foolish” refers not to inadequate intelligence but a lack of wisdom. It is living by the world’s rules rather than according to God’s Word.  Paul realized that the Galatians didn’t lose faith because of judgment and reason. He knew that they were influenced by false teachers. He emphasized the fact of Christ’s death and resurrection should have had the same influence on the Galatians as if they had seen Him die in person.

Paul knew the Galatians began their walk of faith with the Holy Spirit, but they soon fell under the influence of the world. The simplicity of their early faith was gone. The Galatian believers were spiritually dull, not understanding the impossibility of salvation based on works. Paul had preached so vividly that the Galatians could almost see Jesus crucified for them on the cross. If the Galatians had only kept their eyes fixed on Christ, they would have been immune to the deceitful words of their opponents.

Paul talked not about the content of faith, or the believer’s state of mind, but of the believing kind of hearing that is open to the Gospel, welcomes it and leads the hearer to yield to Christ and entrust his life to Christ. To put it simply, faith comes by hearing. In verses 2-5, Paul asked a series of rhetorical questions designed to cause the Galatian believers to return to the true foundation of their faith: Christ alone. Circumcision is not the mark of God’s people; the reception of the Spirit is the true mark. No other is needed!

The Galatians had already received the Holy Spirit. He is every believer’s most unmistakable proof of salvation and greatest guarantee of eternal glory. The presence of the Holy Spirit comes at the moment of belief, not later, as a result of obedience. Any Christian who believes he or she does not have the Spirit is either untaught or unsaved.

The word “perfect” means mature, not sinless. Spiritual maturity has the same starting point as salvation: faith in Jesus Christ. Faith changes the motivation of our hearts from seeking to be acceptable to God through our own efforts to wanting to live for Him.

One reason why the Galatians lost faith was that they were persecuted for their faith. If they returned to the law, their suffering would have been meaningless. Paul reminded them that they came to faith because of God and not because of obeying the Old Testament law. If someone broke one law, they broke all of the laws. This is the curse of the law-a curse that Christ freed us from. He paid the sin debt. He did something that we can’t do for ourselves.

The law is like a chain that ties a ship to the dock. Just like a broken link causes the entire chain to fail, so one transgression of the law breaks the entire law. Since this is an all-or-nothing proposition, no amount of work can save us-only God can declare us just.

Abraham represented faith. He showed both Jews and Gentiles what was meant by faith. He responded to God’s call. He trusted in God’s promises. He obeyed God’s commands. The fact that Christ died outside of Jerusalem means that there is no one outside the domain of His powerful, suffering love. The Cross shows that God is free to justify the whole human race. His justification doesn’t depend on our readiness or our achievements or on our own merits. It depends on God’s grace alone.

The Jews were proud of being children of Abraham. Paul asked them how Abraham was justified or made right with God. The answer was that Abraham was counted as righteous when he believed God’s promise to give him descendants as numerous as the stars.

There was no stronger argument for a Jewish Christian at that time than that Abraham had been justified in exactly the same way Paul was declaring. Faith is not a work that makes one righteous, but by faith we are united with Christ who is our righteousness. Like Abraham, we are justified, or counted as righteous, by believing God.

When Paul refers to Genesis 12:1-3 in Galatians 3:8-9, he states that Abraham was taught the good news of salvation is for all people, not just the Jews. Therefore, Gentiles were not required to become Jews in order to be saved-that would be salvation by works, which Paul has already said is not the truth of the Gospel.

The phrase “under the curse” is taken from Deuteronomy 27:26. The phrase “works of the law” refers to an argument Paul made in Galatians 2:16. The Jews were in a tough spot. They could not live up to God’s law, yet they would not submit to His grace. Our only hope is to receive God’s grace.

In order to be considered a keeper of the law, one must obey the law perfectly and completely. Only Jesus Christ has ever accomplished such perfect obedience.  To be justified or declared righteous before God, we must place our faith in Jesus and His sinless perfection, letting Him bear our rightful curse and be our righteousness. The Christian experience is to be lived by faith from start to finish. We are justified, sanctified and glorified by grace through faith.

The Jews boasted of being sons of Abraham-direct descendants of the father of their faith and thus members of God’s chosen people. But now that Christ has come, all who put their faith in Jesus receive the promise of the Spirit and become spiritual sons and daughters of Abraham. The gift of the Holy Spirit-and His mighty power working in us-depends on faith. The Christian life is a supernatural one that shows the supernatural power of God.

Faith is linked to forgiveness. Forgiveness occurs when we go to Christ and confess our sins. He forgives us. We are justified when God acknowledges the forgiveness that Jesus has extended and accepts Christ’s payment of our sin debt. We plead “not guilty” to God the Father because Jesus the Son has paid our sin debt. We have sinned, but He deals with us as if we are sinless. He treats His Son as the sinner and us as the righteous, and we receive the riches of His grace.

Bibliography

 

  1. Jeremiah, David: The Jeremiah Study Bible: New King James Version (Brentwood, TN: Worthy Publishing; 2013; p.1626-1627)
  2. Barnes, Notes on the New Testament. Part of Wordsearch 12 Bible software package.
  3. Dunnam, M.D. & Ogilvie, L.J.: The Preacher’s Commentary Series, Vol. 33: Galatians/Ephesians/Philippians/Colossians/Philemon (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Inc.; 1982; pp. 51-66)
  4. Stanley, C.F.: The Charles F. Stanley Life Principles Bible: New King James Version (Nashville, TN: Nelson Bibles; 2005)
  5. Ed Young, “The Debt Jesus Has Paid for You.” Retrieved from ministry@winningwalk.org

 

 

Luke 4:21-30 Rubbing People the Wrong Way

There was once an evangelist named Billy Sunday. He was the Billy Graham of his generation. He was conducting a crusade in a particular city, and in one sermon he said something critical of labour conditions for workers in that city. After the service, several businessmen sent him a message which read as follows: “Billy, leave labour matters alone. Concentrate on getting people saved. Stay away from political issues. You’re rubbing the fur the wrong way”. Billy Sunday sent this message back to them: “If I’m rubbing the fur the wrong way, tell the cats to turn around”.

I wonder if the congregation in this morning’s gospel reading was just as upset by Jesus’ comments as the businessmen were by Billy Sunday’s message. After all, here was Jesus, a simple, common local man who was saying such profound things………things that they didn’t want to hear. He was welcomed as a hometown hero……..until he exposed the darkness of their souls. That darkness included the view that they were “holier than thou”. They thought that Jesus should save his miracles and teachings for them, instead of including people they regarded as human trash; namely the Gentiles and others who were rejected by society.

They did not realize something that we often fail to realize today. The church is not a club or a membership organization. It is a place where Christ is preached and proclaimed, where disciples are made and nurtured, and a place where we confront ourselves. We have to realize that we are not who we think we are, but instead we are sinners who have been redeemed by a God who sent his son to die for us. The church is where we gather as sisters and brothers who are different from each other but who are one people gathered at the font and the table and sent out to serve in so many different ways.

Jesus came to free sinners from the bonds of guilt, sin and corruption. He is the servant referred to in the passage he read from Isaiah. Now the Jews had been waiting for centuries for a Messiah to rescue them from the bonds of oppression, but they weren’t ready for him when he came. They expected a military-type of Messiah who would drive the Romans out and return Israel to the glory days of the reign of King David. Instead, what they got was someone who was far from their expectations-a simple, common man from a simple, common background who would do extraordinary things such as heal the sick, cure the lame, save sinners and associate with outcasts such as sinners and tax collectors. They did not realize that in fact they were the ones who needed healing and saving.

When someone is different or doesn’t meet our expectations, how do we treat them? Do we accept them for who they are, or do we reject them because they are different or because they don’t belong? I found myself in a situation like this when my family moved in 1973. When I started school that year, I was shunned to the point of being bullied, largely because I didn’t fit in and because of where I was from.

The people in the congregation were indeed “holier than thou”. They thought that they were better than everyone else. They wanted to keep Jesus for themselves and away from the social outcasts. We are the same today. We sometimes think that we are better than others because we belong to the right church or club, or go to the right schools, or live in the right neighbourhood. When we meet other people who do not go to the same church, club or school, or live in the wrong neighbourhood, we sometimes look down on them. For example, I heard my father tell the story one time of an incident that happened before my family moved here. One day he was in the post office in the community we were living in when a lady came in and started having a conversation with him. At one point, she asked him which church he went to. When he told her, she said, “Well, that’s what I was afraid of!” and stormed out of the post office.

We often judge people because of prejudices that are caused by the other person’s family, social status or other reasons. Jesus met with a similar reaction. He was welcomed by the hometown crowd when he returned, but when he turned the spotlight on their sins, they wanted to kill him.

Jesus told the crowd what they needed to hear instead of what they wanted to hear. He challenged their way of thinking and the status quo. He came to “upset the apple cart” called their way of life. He told the crowd that they did not have an exclusive relationship with God. He reinforced John the Baptist’s claim in Luke 3:8 about God being able to use stones to raise children of Abraham. Jesus reminded them of times when God passed judgment on Israel but saved a Gentile woman. He reminded them of God finding favour with Naaman the leper-a leper who was a Gentile. All told, his message was a reminder of the old adage that “the truth hurts”. In this case, the truth hurt the congregation.

Jesus dragged the margin boundaries of race, creed and colour to include all people. This was part of his ministry. The Jews were not necessarily at war with Jesus the man. They were at war with his ministry, just like the world is often at war with modern Christian ministry. The Jews felt threatened by the Christian movement, just like many in our world today feel threatened by the Christian climate. Christians are threatened throughout the world today, especially in places such as Iran, India, China and North Korea.

For centuries, people in India have lived under a rigid caste system in which every person is born into a set social group or caste. People who are born into the highest social group receive the benefits of honour and respect. Then there are different levels below this. A person’s caste at birth will determine what job he can have, who he can marry, and what rights he has in society. The very lowest caste is the Dalits, whose name actually means “broken, crushed”. The Dalits are targets of violence and discrimination in Indian society.

And now, they are targets for discrimination for another reason: their faith. The Christian faith is quite attractive to the Dalits. In fact, 80% of Christians in India are Dalits. They choose to follow Christ even when they know the consequences they might face. Why would they invite this treatment by becoming Christians? They do so because in Christ, we meet a God who loves and lifts up those who would be torn down by society. His heart is with those who suffer. He cares about those who are hurting, who are helpless, who are brokenhearted, and who are in bondage. He will not abandon us to despair. God is a God of hope. God is a God of justice.

Today, where do we see the church behaving like the congregation in the synagogue? Where do we see any group suffering from a toxic case of in-group loyalties, otherwise decent people making furious fools of themselves? Any group that considers itself to be favoured can behave in this way, from a congregation to a nation. Where do we see outsiders who welcome the good news and new life that Christ offers?

Jesus read the hearts of the congregation just like he reads our hearts today. How do we respond to war, abortion, divorce, conspicuous consumption, concern for the poor, racism, sexual orientation or child abuse and exploitation? Do we respond out of prejudice or out of Christian love? In our hymn book there is a hymn with this line: “Will you come and follow me if I but call your name?” Jesus calls us to come and go with him, to become servants, fishers and followers, witnesses—in other words, to become more than we are.

We are called upon to speak and act on God’s behalf, especially when we see injustice in our world. Do we feel up to the task? Can we face opposition? Can we do anything to bring about change? Yes, we can, especially with faith and God’s help. We are to see that the broken, bound and bruised are set free and made whole. By doing so, we show the radical nature of God’s love. God does not love just US. God does not love just people WHO ARE LIKE US. God does not just love people WHO LOVE US. God loves even OUR ENEMIES—people who hate us—people who hurt us

When we reject Jesus, we miss the opportunity of a lifetime. There is no guarantee of a second chance. Today, there are only two continents in the world on which Christianity is not growing–Europe and North America, two of the most prosperous places in the world where our faith was planted long ago. Today, many refuse to believe in the miracles of the Bible, including the resurrection, so God has sent the Gospel elsewhere. Jesus asks us the same question he asked Peter long ago at the shore of the Sea of Galilee; namely “Do you love me?” What he is really asking is “Do you love me more than anyone or anything else? Do you have faith enough to let me cleanse you of myth and prejudice, rearrange your priorities and set your agenda?”

Works Cited

ESV Study Bible

International Christian Concern (2010, January 15). North Korea on Top Persecution List-Again. Retrieved January 15, 2010, from Persecution.org: http://www.persecution.org/suffering/newsdetail.php?newscode=11488

Dunnam, M. (n.d.). The Word and Words. Retrieved January 13, 2010, from eSermons.com: www.esermons.com

“Even when there’s a will, there’s no way house sale can be discriminatory, court rules”, The Halifax Chronicle-Herald, Jan. 27, 2010

Exegesis of Luke 4:21-30. (n.d.). Retrieved January 13, 2010, from Sermonwriter.com: http://www.sermonwriter.com

Henry, M. Matthew Henry Concise Commentary.

Kegel, Rev. D. (n.d.). Not Just Inside. Retrieved January 13, 2010, from Sermonwriter.com: http://www.sermonwriter.com

Molin, Pastor  S. (n.d.). What About Us? Retrieved January 13, 2010, from Sermonwriter.com: http://www.sermonwriter.com

People’s New Testament. (n.d.).

Psalm 71:1-6 God is Our Refuge and Strength

Have you ever been afraid?

It doesn’t have to be an occasion when you were physically scared. It can be an occasion where you were afraid for your health or your finances or even for a loved one. How did you feel? How did you react? 

There are different ways to react. Some say God is dead. Some say God is in control. Some can withstand the grasp of their situation because they pray to God like the writer of Psalm 71 did. They pray to be delivered from their situation, and if we are Christians that is the proper way to respond.

Psalm 71 is an individual lament. It’s suitable for a faithful person who is in danger. The psalm seems to be an elderly person’s plea. One of our greatest challenges as we get older is the decline of our physical strength. For example, people who lead worship services in nursing homes, care facilities and hospitals know the staying power of the psalms and familiar hymns. People who struggle with Alzheimer’s or dementia may have forgotten almost everything, but some of them still remember the psalms and hymns they learned as children.

The psalmist’s enemies plan to hurt him by taking advantage of his weaknesses. The Hebrew word for cruel suggests leaven or yeast, and just like yeast ferments, the wickedness of the psalmist enemies was fermenting. One of the reasons for life’s trials is ungodly foes. Our wise response is to fully rely on the character and compassion of God. James reminds us in James 1:2 and 12 that God uses trials to refine our faith. God can take someone who is overcome by stress and build into his/her life insights which will enable them to live above and beyond its paralyzing grip. The faithful person receives assurance from God’s covenant promises. God is faithful. He keeps his promises, and these promises give us hope.

If we have faith in God and believe in his kingdom, we will face hardships, including hatred and persecution. God will deal with those who attack and persecute him and his followers. These hardships won’t last, but God’s strength will last. The psalmist’s cry for deliverance is based on God’s character. When he delivers his people, the results will be praise and worship. God has been faithful, he is faithful, and he will be faithful.

The psalm is a declaration of our trust and the hope we have in God throughout our lives. Psalm 71 is a sturdy statement of hope and trust. It will only happen when we depend on God and his righteousness.

It’s in God’s nature to provide refuge, deliverance and rescue to those who believe in him. In return, we are to depend on him. He is our one true source of hope and support. The only possible response to God’s steadfastness and grace is to make praising God the most important part of our lives.

Psalm 71 brings forth the theme of childlike trust. We have to trust God just like a child trusts a parent. Trust is not easy. We have to confront our reluctance to trust God. That reluctance is a barrier and an enemy to our faith. We have to confront all of our enemies constantly. When we fail to praise God, frustration builds. God is saddened. We miss a great opportunity to be blessed. God has been with us forever. He never forgets his promises. He never abandons us when we need him, and that gives us confidence.

Children build their child-like trust in God by coming to God, and that is how we as Christians are to build our trust in God. Some people argue against leading children to Christ at an early age, and some denominations will not baptize children or infants. If we don’t teach our children to have faith in Jesus, someone else or something else will convince them to trust something else or someone else.

When we take time to praise God, fear, doubt and frustration fade. Praising God doesn’t mean that our problems aren’t serious or that our problems won’t go away, but praising God forces us to lift our eyes to God. He has the power to lift our hearts and offer us eternal hope. He is our refuge and our strength, especially in times of trouble.

Bibliography

 

  1. Jeremiah, David: The Jeremiah Study Bible, NKJV (Brentwood, TN: Worthy Publishing; 2013; pp. 751-752)
  2. ESV Study Bible. Part of Wordsearch 11 Bible software package.
  3. Williams, D. & Ogilvie, L.J.: The Preacher’s Commentary Series, Vol. 13: Psalms 1-72 (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Inc.; 1986; pp. 511-514)
  4. MacArthur, J.F. Jr.: The MacArthur Study Bible, New American Standard Bible (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publisher; 2006)
  5. Eric Mathus, “Commentary on Psalm 71:1-6.” Retrieved from http://www.workingpreacher.org/preaching.aspx?commentary_id=2753
  6. Bobby Morris, “Commentary on Psalm 71:1-6.” Retrieved from http://www.workingpreacher.org/preaching.aspx?commentary_id=1532
  7. David Jeremiah, “Digging Deep.” Retrieved from turningpoint@davidjeremiah.org
  8. Michael Youssef, Ph.D., “Life Gets Better with Praise.” Retrieved from leadingtheway.org
  9. Selwyn Hughes, “When Broken by Stress.” Retrieved from Crosswalk@crosswalkmail.com
  10. Mark Ellingson, “Lectionary Scripture Notes, Proper 16, Ordinary Time 21, Pentecost 13, Cycle C (2016).” Retrieved from http://www.lectionaryscripturenotes.com
  11. Johnson, “Bible Study, Proper 16(C)-August 21, 2016.” Retrieved from http://episcopaldigitalnetwork.com/stw/2016/08/01/bible-study-proper-16c-august-21-2016
  12. JoAnn Haynes, “Commentary on Psalm 71:1-6.” Retrieved from http://www.aplainaccount.org

 

 

Psalm 19 The Word of the Lord

As Ryder and Josh set plates and forks on the table for lunch, a dog started barking outside. “There Sarge goes again,” said Ryder with a sigh. “He’s always barking.”

“This bark sounds different than usual,” said Mom. “Maybe one of you boys should go check it out.”

“Aw, Mom, we’re busy,” said Josh. “Besides, Sarge barks at everything–squirrels, people, cars. You name it, he barks at it.” Since Mom didn’t insist, no one checked to see why Sarge was barking.

When Josh and Ryder went out to ride their bikes later that afternoon, they stopped and stared at the empty garage. “Where are our bikes?” asked Josh.

“I don’t believe it!” cried Ryder. “They’re gone! Who would have the nerve to come into our garage in broad daylight and take our bikes right out from under our noses?”

“After all the work we did mowing lawns to buy those bikes,” said Josh. “Now this!”

The boys rushed into the house. “Our new bikes are gone! Someone stole them!” Everyone hurried out to see for themselves.

Dad returned to the house to call the police department and report the loss. When he came back outside, he stopped to pet Sarge. “Didn’t we hear Sarge barking a couple hours ago?” he asked. “He was trying to warn us, and we didn’t listen to him.”

That evening Dad read aloud from Psalm 19. “Warnings are important,” he said after he finished reading. “Today Mom warned you boys to check on Sarge, but you didn’t. Sarge was warning us about the bikes getting stolen, but we didn’t listen. In this psalm, we see that God speaks through His Word not only to teach us about who He is and how much He loves us, but also to warn us about sin.”

“You mean how sin separates us from God, and only trusting in Jesus can free us from sin and give us eternal life?” asked Josh.

Dad nodded. “Yes, the Bible definitely warns us about sin in that way. But it also warns those who already trust in Jesus about the consequences of sin and how disobeying God can mess up our lives and keep us from living the life God wants for us. Let’s be sure to listen.”

How about us? Do we take warnings seriously? God warns Christians about the dangers of sin in the Bible. Listen to Him and obey His commands. Is God warning us about something today? If we think He is, we must pray and ask Him to help us know what action to take and get advice from someone we trust. God’s warnings are one of the ways He helps us and guides us through life.

Psalm 19 points out two areas where God has chosen to reveal Himself. The entire universe testifies of the Creator and brilliantly displays the glory of God. If we look for Him in the beauty of the world around us, we will find Him. God has placed the sun (which was an object of worship among the pagans) in the heavens and is therefore supreme over it. The figures of the bridegroom and the runner picture the sun’s glory and power as it moves across the sky. Since it is so glorious, how much more glorious must its Creator be.

Psalm 19 reveals a God who always communicates through His word and His works. They show us the loving heart of God seeking our hearts. As we listen to the heavens and nature, we hear God’s glory. The heavens and nature worship God with their praise and witness His glory to us.

God isn’t limited to words in His communication with us. He uses dreams, angels, visions, impressions and mental pictures. Since He is the communicator, we need to hear Him speaking to us beyond our limited mental capabilities.

God communicates with us through the Old Testament law. The law converts us and restores us to God. It drives us to despair so that we may be driven to Christ. The process is completed when we accept the crucified and risen Christ as our Saviour.

All of the means God uses to communicate with us have the same goal. God wants us to know Him, to worship Him, to love Him, and to obey Him. When God speaks, He speaks the truth. His commandments are just and righteous. They tell us what to do and how to please God. The knowledge of God is for the worship of God. His commandments are pure. They transmit the light of God to our souls. In Christ we become light and we are to live in that light.

Testimony, statutes, commandments and judgments are all synonyms for God’s law, the Bible. The connection between the previous verses with their references to creation and God’s Word here is that as the sun is the centerpiece of creation, so must God’s Word be the centerpiece of believers’ lives.

David prayed for cleansing and help that he might be blameless and innocent. He wanted more than just forgiveness. He prayed that his future words and thoughts would always be acceptable in the sight of God, who was the source of David’s strength and redemption. This is a good prayer for us as well. Words are powerful and rarely neutral. If we want our words to bless other people, they must always be spoken in truth and love. We should think before we speak and look for ways in which our words will bring God glory.

David’s question in verses 12 to 14 expresses that without God’s Word, it is difficult for people to know if or when they violate God’s will. The Word brings hidden faults to light and offers strong warnings about what displeases God so that the believer’s actions, words and thoughts may receive God’s favour. We need God’s Word so that we can understand the works of God. General revelation holds us accountable, but it also condemns us because in our sin we deny the Creator. But in the darkness, God speaks. When we commit our lives to Jesus and trust Him alone for our salvation, God forgives us of all our sins, even the ones we don’t remember.

Because of sin, God’s Word is not our natural instruction nor our natural delight. The real reason why many people in the Western world reject Jesus is repression and rejection of what they instinctively know to be the truth-that there is one, true, living God who created us all and has revealed Himself through the Person of Jesus Christ. God’s Spirit has to bring conviction of sin and cleansing of sin. The Holy Spirit will control our lives.

The liberating message of God’s Word is ours every moment. Satan may attack us, but we have the Sword of the Spirit. The world may tempt us, but we can hide God’s Word in our hearts. Obeying God’s Word gives us three rewards:

  1. The reward of doing God’s will.
  2. The reward of living a fulfilled life.
  3. The assurance of being ready to stand before Christ’s judgment seat.

If we want to live lives that honour God, we must put God at the centre of our lives and we must do things God’s way. God’s Word should be the most valuable thing in our lives. To hear His Word and to do it is to build our spiritual lives upon the rock. Seeking, studying and obeying His Word helps us to lay up for ourselves treasures in heaven.

Are we living in fear because we aren’t following God? Could it be that peace won’t come because practical obedience isn’t the pattern of our lives? Is disobedience producing fear and dread in our hearts? It’s time for us to come home to God. On the way back, God will drive, we will ride shotgun, and our fears will be packed in the trunk.

Bibliography

 

  1. Jeremiah, David: The Jeremiah Study Bible: New King James Version (Brentwood, TN: Worthy Publishing; 2013; p.718)
  2. Sarah Young, “You Will Find Me.” Retrieved from Crosswalk@crosswalkmail.com
  3. “A Curious Incident (Part 1)” Retrieved from info@keysforkids.org
  4. Williams, D. & Ogilvie, L.J.: The Preacher’s Commentary Series, Vol.13: Psalms 1-72 (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Inc.; 1986; pp. 157-166)
  5. Stanley, C.F.: The Charles F. Stanley Life Principles Bible: New King James Version (Nashville, TN: Nelson Bibles; 2005)
  6. MacArthur, J.F. Jr.: The MacArthur Study Bible: New American Standard Bible (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers; 2006)
  7. Steve Arterburn, “The Power of Words.” Retrieved from com@crosswalkmail.com
  8. The Rev. Billy Graham, “How Can You Ask Forgiveness for Things You Don’t Remember?” Retrieved from arcamax.com
  9. Michael Youssef, Ph.D., “Champions Do Things God’s Way.” Retrieved from mydevotional@leaadingtheway.org
  10. Anne Graham Lotz, “Instinctive Recognition.” Retrieved from info@angelministries.org
  11. David Jeremiah, “Turning the Page.” Retrieved from turninngpoint@davidjeremiah.org
  12. Ron Moore, “Clean and Clear.” Retrieved from Crosswalk@crosswalkmail.com

 

 

 

Nehemiah 8:1-10, 1 Corinthians 12:12-30, Luke 4:14-21 Listen and Obey

There is a common thread in Nehemiah 8:1-10 and Luke 4:14-21 and it is freedom from slavery. In the case of the reading from Nehemiah, the story takes place after the Israelites have returned from captivity in Babylon. In Luke’s Gospel, Jesus mentions that he has come to free us from the captivity of sin.

Jesus came to give us our jubilee-our freedom.  We are all captives to our sinful, human nature. The readings from Nehemiah and Luke show us that we as Christians have to come together to hear God’s Word and be taught what it means and how it applies to us. The only way the passage from Isaiah that Jesus read can be fulfilled is if we all come together and work together. We are all part of the one body of Christ that Paul refers to in 1 Corinthians 12:12-30. We are stronger when we are united and work together. Locally, we are stronger when we work with other churches in such ventures as the recent Shepherd’s Walk and the annual Good Friday Walk of the Cross.

The story from Nehemiah is part of a story about rebuilding. The temple has just been rebuilt following the Israelites’ return from captivity in Babylon. There were roughly 50,000 people in the congregation that day. They were hungry for God’s Word. They were not anxious for the service to conclude-unlike many churchgoers today. God gave the Israelites some wonderful gifts: land, security, abundance and prosperity. The memory of those gifts bound the people together; but over time they grew cynical and careless about their faith. The people called on the prophet Ezra to read from the Law of Moses, and they responded to God’s Word. They were eager to hear the Word of God. When they heard the Word of God, they cried because when they looked at their history and compared it to God’s Word, they realized that they screwed up big time!!!!!!!

Unfortunately, the same could not be said for the congregation Jesus preached to in the reading from Luke’s Gospel. In Luke 4:22-30, the crowd was ready to kill him after he said that he was the long-promised Messiah. They could not accept that he was the Messiah. To them, he was just a gifted preacher who was the son of a carpenter. They were ready to hear God’s Word, but in contrast to the congregation who heard Ezra’s preaching, they were not moved by the Holy Spirit. They were out for profit and the status quo, even though both Jesus and the passage from Isaiah told them that the status quo wrong! Jesus dared to tell them that God’s love was for everyone. He illustrated that his message was for everyone by referring to Elijah being sent to the widow of Zarapeth, who was a Gentile. Elisha healed Naaman the Syrian-not a Jew, but a Gentile. If God can be so gracious and quick to attend to the needs of a poor widow in Sidon and an undeserving Gentile in Syria, what gave the Jewish elders the right to say who belongs in the kingdom and who doesn’t? They wanted to hear how the Jews were God’s chosen people and how salvation belonged only to them.

We can understand a little of how they felt. They were God’s chosen people. They had been persecuted all of their lives because they maintained God’s word and kept up the Jewish customs. They built the temples and synagogues and tried to live as God wanted them to live because they were God’s chosen people. It is true that when you are persecuted people you have to develop a sense of pride in order to survive. When pride becomes exclusive, it becomes dangerous. It’s hard for persecuted people to hear that others will be included in the same grace that they will know and feel they have deserved.

It’s hard for us also. It’s okay as long as food is delivered to our door, but what about when grace is extended to our neighbour. It’s hard for us to accept that Christianity is growing in all areas of the world except for North America and Europe. It’s hard for us to hear that other people are prospering in the Word of God.

The people of Nazareth rejected the Gospel because its vision included both Jews and Gentiles. Paul even argued in 1 Corinthians 12:14 that “For the body is not one member, but many”. We are all members of the one body of Christ. Jesus came to restore sight to the blind, but the people of Nazareth wanted to keep their narrow vision.

The people in Galilee had an expectation of what the Messiah could be. They expected him to be a military ruler who would drive out the Romans and restore Israel to the glory days of the reign of King David. They did not expect a Messiah who would urge them to care for those whom they considered to be unclean-the poor, the sick, prostitutes, etc. Unlike the congregation Ezra preached to, the congregation in the synagogue did not accept the concept of grace.

The Scriptures were long neglected by the Israelites, and they were neglected by the people in the synagogue. The people were nearly illiterate when it came to the Scriptures, and many of us are also scripturally illiterate. It is like the story of the pastor who visited a Sunday School class one day. He asked the students, “Who broke down the walls of Jericho?” One child answered, “Not me, I didn’t do it, Pastor”. The pastor asked the teacher if that answer was typical of her students, and the teacher replied, “I know that student. If he said he didn’t do it, he didn’t do it!”

The pastor then went to the Sunday School superintendent and told him what happened. The superintendent replied that it was the best class, and that he was sure that no one in the class was guilty. A few days later the pastor told the story to the church’s board, and the treasurer spoke up, “Pastor, I move that we pay for the damage and charge it to upkeep!”

We, like the people who heard the prophet Ezra speak, need to be always ready to hear God’s Word. The only way we can discover God’s true nature is to study and hear Scripture and apply it in our lives and our world. By worshipping on our knees or with our faces to the ground, we remind ourselves that he is our sovereign and we are his subjects. While we need to study God’s Word on our own, we also need to gather with fellow believers on a regular basis to hear God’s Word explained-just like Jesus and Ezra explained God’s Word to the people. God’s Word and God’s joy give us strength because when we feel weak (as we often will on our Christian walk of life) he loves us enough to step in and help us. He loves to save us and forgive us. He loves to show his love to all believers.

The reading of Scripture has great influence on each generation that hears it, but how each generation hears Scripture and interprets its relevance is always a source of debate and conflict. Scriptures are often complex and rooted in a particular time, and therefore they require interpretation-interpretation provided by people like me and our ordained clergy. We need to know not only how the Scriptures applied in the time they were written, but also how they apply to our lives today, especially since we live in a different time and place.

The crowd in the synagogue knew that the text Jesus read from Isaiah was a prophecy about the coming of the Messiah. Jesus announced to the crowd that he was the Messiah Isaiah referred to. Jesus ushered in a new age with his words, just like Ezra’s words ushered in a new age. When the people heard the Word of God from Ezra, it became a source for reform and a means of new life for the community. The people in the rebuilt temple were prepared to throw a party to celebrate their return to a godly way of life, and they were prepared to share their goods with the poor. The passage Jesus read from Isaiah said the same thing-show concern for the poor. The Israelites longed for the world to be a better place, and we also long for the world to be a better place. The only way it will be a better place is if we hear and obey the Word of God, especially the part about showing care and compassion to the poor.

When Ezra and Jesus read from the Old Testament texts, they preached in God’s power. God’s power was unleashed, but the people had to stop and listen. We also have to stop and listen to God’s Word carefully. Paul said in the reading from 1 Corinthians 12:12-30 that we have to listen carefully to God’s Word without distraction. The freedom promised in God’s Word is only available when we are not absorbed in ourselves or self-centered or isolated. The freedom comes when we come together as part of one body of Christ. The people who heard Jesus speak in the temple did not know how to listen to the Word of God because they were isolated. They believed that they were God’s chosen people, and they also believed that they were better than other people, especially the Samaritans and the Gentiles and other people that Jesus cared for. The people who heard Ezra speak were hungry for the Word of God. God’s Word has the power to change the lives of those who hear it.

The light of Christ that resides in us should attract others to us. We need to be the most positive people on earth, and we need to see opportunity in the midst of life’s challenges. That is what Jesus tried to tell the congregation in the synagogue. Paul states in 1 Corinthians 12:12-30 that we are all part of the one body of Christ. We are all united. We have to work together to do his work in the world.

Jesus and the Word of God will fix everything that sin has ruined. They will make everything new, including the reversal of Satan’s curse. This is done through the church, the body of believers. The anointing of the Holy Spirit will give us the tools we need to turn to God and do his work in our world. The readings from Nehemiah and Luke show us that it is one thing to quote the Scriptures, but it is another thing to believe in what the Scriptures teach us. The good news is not just for the poor, the blind and the oppressed. They will receive it more gladly than others because they have much to gain and little to lose. The rich, the powerful and the elite will not be nearly as receptive.

The Scriptures should fill us with the Holy Spirit so we can spread joy in the world, just like Jesus came to spread joy in the world. By referring to the Holy Spirit, we express the active presence of God in the world. The Holy Spirit empowered Jesus for his task in the world, and it empowers us to continue to do his work in our world.

Both readings also symbolize the renewal of covenants between God and his people. Nehemiah led the Israelites in the rebuilding of the temple, and in the process there was a spiritual renewal. Jesus came to restore our relationship with God by projecting a vision of hope. God’s Word restores our relationship with him when we take part in the Eucharist. We become different people when the Holy Spirit comes upon us. We celebrate and share with humanity’s children. We have been set free and we enjoy the special favour of God. God’s Word shines a light into our darkness and continues to set us free. Since we have experienced the freedom God offers to us, we must encourage others to seek and accept the freedom God offers to everyone.

Bibliography

 

  1. Preaching Magazine, November/December 2012 (Nashville, TN: Salem Publishing Inc.; pp. 55-56)
  2. Stanley, C.F., The Charles F. Stanley Life Principles Bible, NASV (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson. Inc.; 2009)
  3. Jude Siciliano, O.P., “First Impressions, 3rd Sunday, Year C”. Retrieved from preacherexchange.org
  4. John Shearman’s Lectionary Resource, 3rd Sunday After Epiphany, Year C. Retrieved from http://lectionary.seemslikegod.org/archives/third-sunday-after-epiphany-year-c.html
  5. Exegesis for Nehemiah 8:1-3, 5-6,8-10. Retrieved from sermonwriter.com
  6. Mark D. Roberts, “Mardi Gras?” Retrieved from Newsletter@ThehighCalling.org
  7. Michael Demkovich, O.P., “In Your Hearing”. Retrieved from torch.op.org
  8. Diane Swinger, “The World is About to Turn”. Retrieved from colsoncenter.org
  9. Os Hillman, “How is Your Joy Quotient?” Retrieved from Crosswalk@crosswalkmail.com
  10. Michael Craven, “Why Did Jesus Come to Earth?” Retrieved from caw@donationnet.net
  11. B. Meyer, “Our Daily Homily”. Retrieved from Crosswalk@crosswalkmail.com
  12. Mike Benson, “Memorize”. Retrieved from http://forthright.net
  13. Rebecca Barlow Jordan, “Joy”. Retrieved from com@crosswalkmail.com
  14. Charles F. Stanley, “How to Listen to the Word of God”. Retrieved from Crosswalk@crosswalkmail.com
  15. Jimmy Gentry, “A Lifetime of Days Holy to the Lord”. Retrieved from preaching.com
  16. The Rev. Dr. Mark Anschutz, “Sermon for the Third Sunday”. Retrieved from day1.org
  17. The Rev. David Jones, “Everything Depends on Remembering”. Retrieved from day1.org
  18. Lectionary Worship Resources, Year C-Epiphany 3. Retrieved from http://sacredise.com/lectionary/2010/01/year-c-epiphany-3/
  19. Sarah Dylan Breuer, “Dylan’s Lectionary Blog. Third Sunday After Epiphany, Year C”. Retrieved from http://www.sarah;aughed.net/lectionary/2007/01/third-sunday-after-epiphany-year-c.html
  20. Exegesis for Luke 4:14-21. Retrieved from sermonwriter.com
  21. Swindoll, Charles R., Swindoll’s New Testament insights on Luke (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Inc.; 2012)
  22. MacArthur, John, et al: How to Preach Biblically (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Inc.; 2005)
  23. Gary L. Carver and Tom Garrison, “Prophet or Profit?”. Retrieved from esermons.com
  24. Cynthia E. Cowen, “Love Walked Across the Field”. Retrieved from esermons.com
  25. Robert A. Hausman, “The Call of the Tradition: Remember and Return”. Retrieved from esermons.com
  26. Ron Lavin, “The Water Gate and The Word Proclaimed”. Retrieved from esermons.com
  27. Philip W. McClarty, “When Preaching Turns to Meddlin'” Retrieved form http://www.sermonwriter.com
  28. Philip W. McClarty, “Jesus’ First Sermon”. Retrieved from http://www.sermonwriter.com
  29. Gary L. Carver and Tom Garrison, “The Bible: Head and Heart”. Retrieved from http://www.sermonwriter.com
  30. Exegesis for 1 Corinthians 12:12-31. Retrieved from http://www.sermonwriter.com

 

 

 

 

Luke 4:14-21 Part of the Family of God

Hello boys and girls!

How many of you like to go out on a nice, sunny day and play with your friends? Has anyone ever said that they can’t play with you because they don’t like you, or because of where you live, or because of who your parents are? Well boys and girls, I certainly know how you feel because I was shunned at times when I was your age.

Jesus also knows how you feel because he was often rejected because of what he told people. For example, in Luke 4:14-21 he attended worship services in the synagogue in his hometown. He was asked to read a portion of Scripture, and the reading he chose was written by the prophet Isaiah. That particular reading talked about the long-promised Messiah.

After he finished his reading, he told the people that he was the long-promised Messiah that Isaiah talked about. The people couldn’t accept this statement because they saw him only as the son of Mary and Joseph, or as the son of a carpenter. That was a shame, because when they rejected him, they rejected someone who was part of the body of Christ that the apostle Paul refers to in 1 Corinthians 12:21-31.

Boys and girls, someone else who knows about rejecting people is a  little boy named Johnny. Johnny was lying in his bed after a nice bath getting  ready to go to sleep. His mommy and daddy were seated on the bed beside him.  They were talking about things that had happened that day. Johnny’s daddy  asked him, “Did you play with the new boy next door, today?” “No, he’s weird,” said  Johnny.

“What do you mean?” asked his  father. “He talks funny.” said Johnny  trying to copy the way the new boy talks. Johnny made himself laugh, but his  parents didn’t laugh. “I think the boy has trouble starting  words,” said his Mother, “but if you wait for him, he can say anything anyone  else can say. You just have to wait for him.”

“I still think he’s weird,” said  Johnny.

“Well,” said his father, “God gives  different gifts to different people. You learn soccer fast, but you learn piano  slowly. You start words quickly, but he starts words slowly. Starting words is  not one of his gifts. Do you know what gifts God has given him?”

“No, I didn’t think about it,” said  Johnny.

“When you think someone is weird, you  aren’t looking for the gifts God has given them, so you won’t find them,” said  his mother. “Tomorrow, you can find out one of his gifts. Maybe he is good at a  game.”

“Maybe he can play marbles,” Johnny  said.

“Remember in Church the story of  Pentecost where God gave something to each of the disciples that made their  faces light up, gave each one something wonderful?” asked his father.

“Yes!” said Johnny. “They all  caught on fire.”

“The Bible doesn’t say they caught on  fire,” said his mother. “It says there was something like fire on their heads.  Maybe it was like fire because it was a bright light.” “Maybe it was like fire because it  warmed their hearts,” said his father. “We do know that God gave them the gift  to love one another, and God has given you that gift too, Johnny. God has  given you the gift of playing nicely with the boy next door.”

Johnny had never thought about  that. He’d thought about other gifts from God but never the gift of playing  happily with the boy next door. So, he thought about that. But first they said a  prayer , and boys and girls, I’d like to you to close your eyes, bow your heads and repeat that same prayer after me.

Dear God, thank you for  giving us the gift of loving you and loving each other. Help us play happily  with the people next door. Amen.