Tuesday, August 19, 2014

RESTING AMIDST THE RUBBLE

THE PROPHET JEREMIAH was asked by a remnant of Jews after the Babylonian destruction of Jerusalem what they should do now that the majority of the city was destroyed and the mass of people had been either killed or taken off into captivity. (See: Jeremiah 42:1-22)

Jeremiah wisely inquired of the LORD and ten days later brought back the answer: STAY WHERE YOU ARE AND GOD WILL PROVIDE FOR YOU.  The other side of the answer was that if you should choose to run to the relative safety of Egypt, "Be sure of this, you will die by sword, famine and plague in the place that you settle." (Jeremiah 42:22)  Sadly, the people chose Egypt, which seemed safer; security of a protected city, food and distance from Babylonian attack.

I personally know what it is to sit in the rubble and ruins of life and wonder if it would be better somewhere else? Somewhere that seemed safer, or at least farther from that which seemed to be relentlessly attacking. I too, have sought the Lord and wondered what would be better, and His answer, though delayed, seems to be stay in the rubble of the City, and I will be with you. Run to that which seems to be safer and easier and I can guarantee you life will be more difficult, not less.

So, my word for you, who find yourself sitting amidst the rubble of your Jerusalem; it may be better to stay within God's City, within the place of His Word, within the place where He has chosen to dwell, and there find your true safety.

It all comes down to a matter of trust. In what or Whom will you place your trust? In the relative safety of the world, or in the real security of the Living Word? (John 1:1-10)

I'd encouraged the latter.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

BEHIND THE BEDROOM DOOR

ON THE BACK OF OUR BEDROOM DOOR is a series of hieroglyphics. Names, numbers, various lines, dates, all of them related to the heights of our children, most often that of Lizzie and Jordan, with mom and dad marked for good measure.

We tried to measure our kids every year on their birthdays to see how they’ve grown, this year was no exception. One evening this past week, as I sat in my bedroom reading chair with the door shut I was drawn to the newest marking for Jordan who just turned fourteen. If I remember correctly he measured in at sixty-five and a quarter inches. What caught my eye next was his name toward the bottom of the door, a whopping thirty-four inches at age two. A difference of thirty-one and a quarter (and believe me, those quarter inches matter, especially when you’re working at passing up your sister!)

As I tearfully considered all the markings on the back of the door I was caught by the thought, when did he get so tall? Where did those thirty-one and a quarter inches pop into being? Obviously, it wasn’t over-night, though at times it seems like it was. When did he get from three to fourteen? It wasn’t in the blink-of-an-eye, or was it? The toddler was now continuing through his teenage years, and in four years, maybe off to college.

I pondered how I did thus far as a dad? Have I imparted any wisdom, have I helped move him toward physical, emotional, intellectual and most importantly spiritual maturity? I pray I have, but staring at the back of the door it’s all gone by so fast!

I’m humbled (he’s a great young man.) I’m challenged (there’s so much yet to know.) I’m scared (do I have what it takes?) You’d think that after four kids you’d have this down to a science, but I was never that good at science, though I love gazing into the star-filled night sky.  So, that’s what I’ll continue to do, stare up into heaven and pray, “Lord, help me raise this young man in the way that he should go, so that when he is old he will not depart from Thee.” (Proverbs 22:6)

Amen!

Sunday, August 03, 2014

THINGS THAT MOM SAID

“LET ME SEE THOSE HANDS!”  Mom didn’t just ask, “Did you wash your hands for dinner?” Because she knew that just because I said I did, didn’t mean that I did.  It was doubtful that any dirt would get on the food anyway. But no use arguing with mom, just show her your hands and they better be clean!

Jesus makes the same demands as my mother did. It was not enough to say something was done or not, Jesus wanted to see the action that proved out the statement. This is the problem He often had with the Pharisees, calling them white-washed tombs full of dead men’s bones. (Matthew 23:27)

Later, the Apostle Paul would call the church in Galatia into account by calling them to not just talk the talk, but walk the walk, seeing that God cannot be fooled. (Galatians 5:13-26; 6:7-10)  Even James would get into the act by reminding his readers that faith and deeds must work in concert. (James 2:14-26)

The reality is this, when it comes to confessing our sins, it’s not enough to say we’re sorry, we need to show a contriteness of heart and life. Now, I firmly believe that our sins, and their final effect where taken care through the atoning death of Jesus Christ. (1 John 2:1-2) Yet, we are also called to have, that is to show clean hands.

As we partake of the Lord’s Supper this day, let us do so with clean hands. Let them be washed in the atoning blood of Christ. (Isaiah 1:18) And also let us lift them up through our righteous acts to show to the Father that we are ready to sit and receive the Meal.

PARALYZED!

PARALYSIS CAN COME IN DIFFERENT FORMS. We can be physically paralyzed by some trauma producing accident. We can be emotionally paralyzed by some crisis producing event from our past. We can be spiritually paralyzed by the fear of God and some secret sin we keep hidden in the dark corner of our life. Trauma, fear, crisis, past hurt, future unknowns, all this things can paralyze us.

Sadly, some paralysis may be incurable, it is something we need to live with, but I also believe that God offers us a freedom from the effects of paralysis that far exceed the actual paralysis itself. I find God’s healing opportunity in Mark’s gospel chapter two where we witness the powerful setting free of a man bound to his mat.The account is as follows:

A few days later, when Jesus again entered Capernaum, the people heard that he had come home. They gathered in such large numbers that there was no room left, not even outside the door, and he preached the word to them. Some men came, bringing to him a paralyzed man, carried by four of them. Since they could not get him to Jesus because of the crowd, they made an opening in the roof above Jesus by digging through it and then lowered the mat the man was lying on. When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralyzed man, “Son, your sins are forgiven.”

Now some teachers of the law were sitting there, thinking to themselves, “Why does this fellow talk like that? He’s blaspheming! Who can forgive sins but God alone?”
Immediately Jesus knew in his spirit that this was what they were thinking in their hearts, and he said to them, “Why are you thinking these things?  Which is easier: to say to this paralyzed man, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Get up, take your mat and walk’? But I want you to know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins.” So he said to the man “I tell you, get up, take your mat and go home.” He got up, took his mat and walked out in full view of them all. This amazed everyone and they praised God, saying, “We have never seen anything like this!”

Now, herein lies the power of being set free from the paralysis in which we may find ourselves. It comes from receiving the forgiveness that Jesus offers. But it’s not just forgiveness, it is the love that prompts it and empowers it.

Jesus came not only to forgive sins, but more importantly to show us the love that God has for us. As the Apostle Paul writes in Romans 5:8, “But God demonstrates His own love for us in this: While we were still sinners Christ died for us.” The end game as not only the forgiveness of sins, or to “get us to heaven,” but it was to offer us the opportunity to know and experience the love that God has for each of us.
It is when you and I come to know that love. When we begin to believe that we are truly loved by the One who invites us to address Him as Father (Romans 4:14-17) we can begin the process that sets us free from the paralysis that binds us. This is why Jesus offered the man forgiveness first as part of the “healing package.” It does us no good to walk and jump without knowing the love of God that truly sets us free. When we come to acquire the Truth, and the love that Truth brings, we shall truly be set free. (John 14:6; John 8:32)

Therefore, if you find yourself paralyzed today, God grants you the gift of freedom which comes from knowing that you are greatly loved by the Father. (John 3:16-17) Maybe you know someone who also needs to know that love-based, sin-forgiving, freedom-granting power that the Master offers. If you do, it’s time to start to dig that hole in the roof and let your friend down to Jesus. (Luke 4:18; Romans 6:2)

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

SLOWING THE PROGRESS OF SIN

Penance
Penance (Photo credit: Lawrence OP)
AS AN EVANGELICAL CHRISTIAN the idea of doing penance is a little foreign to me, but after reading Martin Bucer's thoughts in his 1538 Reformation handbook, "This Little Book" [Now released as Concerning the True Care of Souls], he makes a good argument for the continued use of penance. He writes,
If we had the practice of penance in our churches, there would be greater aversion to sin. Who is lacking in understanding of the things of God and of human ways and follies as not to be able to recognize this? When grosser transgressions were subject to earnest penance . . . there was brought about in the children of God a more earnest aversion and detestation of sins and a very different zeal of true Christian living from that which, sadly, we discern among ourselves now. . . .This is how the ancients describe penance and satisfaction: satisfaction is rooting out the causes of sin and closing the doors to the incentives of sin. (pp.130-131)
I think he's got something there, "closing the door to the incentives of sin."  Maybe sometimes (?) we continue to make sin look more attractive than living righteously.  I suppose that's part of our responsibility, to continue to show sins destructiveness, while at the same time showing even more clearly the benefits of righteous living.  Maybe making sin "hurt" a little within the context and life of the church would help create a deterrent to returning continually to our old life. (Galatians 4:17-32)

Sunday, July 27, 2014

TO HOLD CREATION!

Photography by Elizabeth Kay, Push Pin Pictures 
GOD HOLDS CREATION in the palm of His hand (Isaiah 40:12). As Christians we believe that God created all things, and holds all things together (Colossians 1:16-17). When we consider this truth our minds often flow to the immensity and powerfulness of God. We dwell upon His omnipresence and His transcendence over His creation.  Creation is BIG, it is AMAZING therefore God is BIGGER and MORE AMAZING!

All this is true, early Sunday morning, July 20, 2014, I too held creation in my hands. Not the billions of galaxies with their billions of stars and planets, but I held the preeminent aspect of God’s creative act: a newly born bearer of His image, one made after the likeness of the Triune God. (Genesis 1:26)

Her name is Kiley Rose Garcia. As I held my newborn granddaughter I was not thinking about how much bigger or more powerful I was than her. I did not contemplate how much more I can comprehend than her, rather I was overwhelmed with how much I loved this little girl that I had only met minutes before. Yes, I marveled at the creation in my arms, her long fingers, tiny ears and a little tongue that likes to stick out, but more than anything I was grateful. I was grateful to hold another gracious gift from God’s loving hands and the newest member of my family.

Now, as I write this I wonder as God holds all creation in His hands if He thinks about how much bigger, wiser, stronger He is than all He created, or does He peer into His arms with a heart full of gratefulness, wonder and love? I believe it is the latter.

More than anything, God loves His creation, and that includes you, Kiley Rose.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

SONGS FROM THE HEART

1631 Book of Psalms
1631 Book of Psalms (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
STARTING A NEW SERMON SERIES THIS WEEK: Songs from the Heart. We will be looking at a variety of the Psalms to see how they do sing from the heart both in joy and lament, in praise and in anger.

As I was doing some "prep-work" I pulled an previously read book from my shelf by Eugene Peterson, "Answering God: The Psalms as Tools for Prayer" great book. It flipped right open to a page I had highlighted before in which Peterson writes about the "presumptuous prayer."  In grabbed me again, as it had grabbed me before and I thought it worth sharing.
   Presumptuous prayer speaks to God without first listening to him. It obsessively, anxiously, pr pretentiously multiplies human words to God, but with, at best, a distracted, indifferent or fitful interest in God's words to us. But God speaks to us before we speak to him. If we pray without listening, we pray out of context.
    Protection against presumption come is the editorial arrangement of the Psalms into five books, showing that prayer is a response to the Torah's five books.
I guess the Lord might say, Listen. Learn. Live. Too often, I get this backwards.

Speak Lord, for your servant is listening . . . I open my heart as I open Your Word.