A Thankful People-November 24, 2013pm

A Thankful People-November 24, 2013pm

Colossians 1:3-14

Be thankful for the larger body of Christ and the work that they are doing for His Kingdom.  Be thankful when we hear about their faith.  Be thankful not jealous.  Jealousy may be putting us at odds where God is blessing and in so doing we may be against the same kingdom we claim to love and serve also.

Paul speaks of faith, hope, and love that stored up in heaven which they have already heard about as believers, and which also God expects us to share.  Remember that we are not also that this gospel is already bearing fruit all over the world and you are a part of it so pray for your brothers and sisters in Christ around the world and down the street.

The gospel though does not bear fruit just through hearing alone but also through  understanding God’s grace in all its truth.  We will not bear fruit through hearing alone but in understanding, accepting, and living into God’s grace.  Until we understand who we are and our condition before God we do not truly understand grace.  We give thanks when we understand our place and the greatness of His grace.  It is this place of grace and thankfulness that we also learn to give thanks and pray for our brothers and sisters all over the world that are sharing the gospel and bearing fruit.

In learning to give thanks, we do not discover who we are but rather who God is.  In giving thanks we are able to see the blessings of others as God’s acts of grace upon their lives.  Paul says from the day they heard about the church at Colossae that have not stopped praying for them asking God to continue to bless through knowing God’s will, spiritual wisdom, and understanding.  Why would we pray this for our brothers and sisters?  So that they live a life worthy of the Lord and pleasing to Him.  What is it that is pleasing to the Lord?  Bearing fruit in every good work, growing in knowledge of God, and being strengthened with all power.  The reason that He desires these things for us is that tough times will come and when they do we will have endurance because we have learned to trust His grace in spite of our circumstances.  We will be able to live with patience, which is not the same as tolerating something, someone, or some circumstance, but is seeing with a larger view that one day does not make a lifetime.  The current circumstances are not the final word.

Trust God and thank Him for the blessings of His presence, His grace, and the promise of Kingdom.  His grace has rescued us from darkness to the Kingdom of light to share in the Kingdom of His Son.  That is more thank enough to give thanks not just at Thanksgiving but everyday.  Live a life of grace because God has been gracious.

Blessings from the King of Glory-November 24, 2013am

Blessings from the King of Glory-November 24, 2013am

Psalm 24

Who is this King of Glory? He is Creator, Lord, and King. The earth and everything in it is his. When we are tempted to question God or whether we are blessed I think Job offers some answers. When God speaks in Job 38 he first tells Job he intends to ask some questions. God begins with were you there at creation that you can instruct me about it? It is in creation we begin to see and understand the magnitude of his majesty. God continues making Job quite aware of who he is, God, and it makes Job more aware that he is not. Job responds with I spoke without understanding, things too wonderful for me to know. And I heard you but now I see you and repent in dust and ashes.

He is Lord and has no equal. He is the King of Glory and there is no end to his reign. Thanksgiving is understanding our place so that we understand his grace. He doesn’t bless us because he has to but because he desires to and is able to do so. All blessings flow from the throne of the King of Glory. His greatest and most powerful blessing is his presence, and for that we should all be thankful. Unless you do not know him as King.

He is Creator and able to bless and does so by giving us life and sharing his presence. He is Lord and to him there is no equal. To ascend to the hill of the Lord is only possible through his grace. He is th King of Glory. His Kingdom is eternal and so the blessing of the presence of the King.

Who is the King of Glory? You may have heard of him, the Lord Almighty. The better questions may be first, have you seen him and second, do you know him and third, is he your King? When we know he is Creator, Lord, and King it is easy to be thankful because we recognize the blessing of his presence in our lives and our presence in his Kingdom.

He is my King! I wonder do you know him today?

Psalm 24; Job; Rev. S.M. Lockridge (if you don’t know him it is well worth your time on YouTube).

Too Long

TOO LONG

It has been too long

The days, weeks

Moments were forgotten

Self-absorbed, turned away

 

It has been too long

Since these knees would bend

Hands clasp together

Finding life in your presence

 

It’s been too long

A hungry soul weeps

For the breath of creation

To recreate a new heart

 

Has it been too long

Do you still hear the prayers

Of this prodigal

Returning again to you

 

It has not been too long

The hands that bled

Are still the hands that bless

Restore again this soul with hope.

Grace-November 20, 2013

Grace-November 20, 2013

And he passed in front of Moses, proclaiming, “The Lord, the Lord, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness,   Exodus 34:6

This verse in the Bible perhaps more than any other captures the fullness of God’s grace.  Grace is favor, action, doing what one could not do for themselves, favor, and mercy.

Grace whether it is in human relationships or divine-human relationships “grace” a positive light toward another.  It is an undeserved gift or favor, which can requested, freely given, given without coercion, and can be withheld.  Grace is characteristically a favor for a specific occasion given by a superior to an inferior.  Grace is not passive but rather active.  It is action that is requested, God’s action for poor, oppressed, ill, forgiveness of sins, and even after repentance for restoration and promise.

Steadfast love (grace, hesed) there is no English translation that captures the full content of this term, the standard renderings include “kindness,” “steadfast love,” “covenant love,” and the like.  All passages mentioning this term concern the attitude and activity of God toward humankind, they can be understood to be speaking of divine grace.

Five Characteristics

1-      Grace is action usually one of deliverance or protection

2-      The action of grace is based on and performed in an existing relationship

3-      The action of grace is requested or expected by someone who is in a position of authority or plenty

4-      Grace is not a legal requirement, obligation, and cannot be coerced or compelled to action and remains free not to be given or performed

5-      Grace fulfills an essential need that the person cannot meet themselves, and which cannot be achieved any other way (it cannot be earned or acquired, only asked for and received).

In human relationships grace depends upon an unbroken relationship and in good repair between the two parties, with God grace is His unexpected decision to restore and repair the broken relationship.  With God grace happens and restores relationship, while we were yet sinners Christ died for us.

Mercy is like grace but involves the movement of one toward the other moved my love or pity.  It is mercy that we find both in the redemption and promises to Israel and us.

Grace is not what we say at a meal or Thanksgiving it is the work and love of God in redemption.  It is not what is said but the way in which we live.

Be Gentle

Be Gentle

Word of care falling rapidly from a careless tongue.  Ripping apart the fabric of many promises.  The ideal lines that had defined her life are now skewed by reality.  She walks gingerly with her heavy heart, as not to get hurt again.  Her soul cries what her lips can not say…”be gentle.”  Be as gentle as an eyelash falling on my cheek.  Her spirit is thin and clear like a fine crystal, beautiful yet fragile.

Without You

Without You

A seemingly endless cosmos is reduced to one simple reality.  A day has no meaning but that of absence.

New Heavens, New Earth, and A New Way of Life-November 17, 2013

New Heavens, New Earth, and a New Way of Life-November 17, 2013

Isaiah 65:17-25

In driving down the road the other day I recall a gas station that used to sit where now there is a large home improvement store.  I had not thought about the little place in some time.  It had gone out of business and then started to look run down and then one day it was gone.  It a few short weeks construction began on the new home improvement store.  I was reminded each day of the disrepair that the old gas station had fallen into, but when this new place had come, I barely remembered it at all.

Without a fresh new start the decay and dilapidation in our own lives is a reminder of how far we have fallen and how hopeless things can seem.  This constant reminder of our of hopelessness can weigh us down and make the will of God for our lives seem so distant.  God still speaks and moves, and we can call out to Him, but what about the early days of creation where God would walk with Adam and Eve in the cool of the evening.

When I was young my Sunday school teachers would tell me if I opened to the center of the Bible that I would find the book of Psalms.  Although that may be true (before study Bibles added so much material) I would contend that the book of Isaiah may be the theological center of the Bible.  Isaiah is like a hinge addressing the current day and culture with the reminders of the past and how they got to this place.  Isaiah though does not leave us there but looks ahead to what God will do to complete this work.  It is a broad picture of the movement of God through Israel and as well for those who trust in Him.  It is truly the hinge in the modern-day between those first walks in the Garden of Eden and His reminder in Revelation of the creation of a New Heaven and New Earth.

In Genesis we find described creation with way God desires for it to be.  It is uninterrupted time with God in an intimate way.  They were provided for in the garden, there were now labor pains.  There were no labor pains.

We are living in a world in a world that we have created and shaped it by our own sinful decisions.  This world is one that is dying and in decay much like the old gas station.  At our best we can never create (if we were able to) anything but a sinful world.  Unless we are good, perfect, and holy we will never to be able to create what is not in us.  However, God can and that is the story.

The opening chapters of the story the first man and woman choose the tree of knowledge (of good and evil) rather than the tree of life.  Their choice brought sin into their lives fractured their relationship with God, others, and creation.  It would not be harder to get food to grow, labor pain increased, etc.  The were removed from intimate walks and relationship with God and where a displaced people all the way back to the removal from the Garden.  Six chapters in things are so bad that this is the destruction in the flood.

Joseph was sold be his brothers into slavery in Egypt.  In Joseph’s time their act of harm was tied to their destiny.  Later he became very trusted and a high official in Egypt.  During a time of family Joseph’s brothers come looking for food and do not know that it is him, but he shows them mercy.  His family flourished in Egypt.  The opening chapters of Exodus states that there arose a new king over Egypt who did not know Joseph.  In his not knowing, he enslaved Joseph’s people.  They were a displaced people.

Forty years in wilderness, 200 years of conquest in the period of the Judges.  They ask for a king, and the Lord tells them they need no king they have the Lord.  This only halfway worked for 3 kings, then there is a split in the kingdom and a long period of conquests, occupation, and exile.  Assyria, Babylon, Persia, Greeks, a brief period of limited freedom was marred with infighting, and then eventually Rome.

This is a transitional time where the people are wondering if they will ever be a people again with a national home and a national identity.  In this God will make new and the former things will be forgotten as if they will never be remembered.  God speaks of restoring creation and natural enemies will come together in peace.  It is a restoration of all that was destroyed in the fall, most importantly the relationship of man to God, others, and nature.

God comes with a fresh start, creating anew.  Blessing is being proclaimed again over the place where curse had once stood.  This existence will be one where the very presence and Word of God will live in our hearts. It will be intimate, holy, complete, and joyous.  God is there for and with us even before we finish the need or ask the question.  These words of Isaiah are not just words of fancy but rather what is accomplished by God in and through Christ.

The word of God through Isaiah is pushing us forward to the new heaven and new Jerusalem in Revelation 21 where there is no more death, tears, everything is new and complete.  The tree of life makes a comeback and the Jesus announces that he is coming back soon.  May we echo those closing words of the Bible.  Amen!  Come Lord Jesus!