1 John 2 My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have an advocate with the Father—Jesus Christ, the Righteous One. 2 He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world.
No matter how many times we are remonstrated against the idea of excluding people we must be forcefully brought back to one of the most fundamental of all Christian tenets. That is, that Jesus became the Christ, the Messiah, our deliverer from sin through his death on the cross, and that in accepting that sacrifice and His forgiveness none may ever be excluded. I don’t care if you don’t like them. I don’t care how they look. I don’t even care where they come from or what their cultural traditions are.
When we serve the Lord Jesus by witnessing and teaching, we are following his Great Commission. That is, to make disciples in all the nations. The principle of homogeneity which causes us to gather in little “church” enclaves of like individuals is not I believe what Jesus had intended when he said; “I will build my Church” (Matthew 16:18) He was telling Peter (-Greek-petros meaning little rock or per haps “Rocky”) that his testimony, thou art the Christ (ibid 16:16), would be the foundation stone, the petra on which the Church must be built. To that end, while I insist that we should not discontinue meeting together as often as possible we must, in our worship times “…spur one another onto good works.” (Hebrews 10:24)
Luke 2: saying: “Be on your guard against the yeast of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy. 2 There is nothing concealed that will not be disclosed or hidden that will not be made known. 3 What you have said in the dark will be heard in the daylight, and what you have whispered in the ear in the inner rooms will be proclaimed from the roofs.
We live in an era where the mainstream of Christian thought seems to remain “safely” behind closed doors spoken only in clandestine settings away from the hearing of the world. Or, so it would seem to the casual observer. There is perhaps some sort of wrong- headed thinking abroad that Christianity has had its day and that now is the time to explore other world views and perhaps amalgamate them into the thinking and perception of how the world works.
Jesus herein warns the disciples that all of their efforts to live a sub-rosa kind of faith will be unacceptable in reality. He attempts in this discourse to embolden them to the task for which they have been set apart. You will be my witnesses. (Acts 1:8) We have seen surely that we live in a time when it has become nearly impossible to lead any kind of life that is totally off the grid. The moment we begin to think that we can we are faced with the inevitability of discovery.
So then, why not take the risk, why not declare your faith to the world, and perhaps even more frightening to those you love? Be ready with an explanation. Be willing to love even in the face of rejection.
Lamentations 2:14 The visions of your prophets were false and worthless; they did not expose your sin to ward off your captivity. The prophecies they gave you were false and misleading.
‘Tis the season when all sorts of characters run around and jam up the phone lines, e-mails, social media and television with promises that they have the plan that will get us out of the mess their opposition has gotten us into. The sad fact is, that even many of our Christian pulpits have been given over to the whisperings and inferences of these false prophets.
Let me be clear. There is no remedy for the human condition save for the reckoning of repentance for sin and the redemption which is found only in Jesus Christ.
Why is it that the world has taken such an aggressive stance against Him? Why do the “prophets” of the day only appeal to the sensory temporal urgings of our inherent sin natures? Very simply, Jesus is the model for all righteousness. He is the perfect example of love, truth, acceptance, and purpose that everyone needs. Only by His sacrifice on the cross, only by His resurrection from the dead, only by the coming of His Holy Spirit may we be empowered to “ward off our captivity”. He is the light of the world.
“Let not the wise boast of their wisdomor the strong boast of their strengthor the rich boast of their riches,24 but let the one who boasts boast about this:that they have the understanding to know me, that I am the Lord, who exercises kindness,justice and righteousness on earth,for in these I delight,”declares the Lord.
I have noticed with no little bit of consternation the tendency that I, and those of similar age have to be overly proud of the “wisdom” they have acquired simply by living a long time. Living through several election cycles, seeing much social upheaval may tend to give us some small ability to see through the moment, but my question has become; Am I so wrapped up in my own “legend” that I am missing the greatest thing of all?
Jesus said : (Matthew 11:25) At that time Jesus said, “I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children. (Matthew 18:3) And he said: “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.
The more I watch and try to understand the world around me, the more I begin to understand that most of what I see doesn’t matter. What matters is the moment I’m living in. What can I do in obedience to the Lord in this moment? That is his gift to me. The right now is what matters.
I don’t know about tomorrow I just live from day to day I don’t borrow from its sunshine For its skies may turn to gray I don’t worry o’er the future For I know what Jesus said And today I’ll walk beside Him For He knows what is ahead
Mark 1:4And so John the Baptist appeared in the wilderness, preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.5 The whole Judean countryside and all the people of Jerusalem went out to him. Confessing their sins, they were baptized by him in the Jordan River.
Baptism has too often been divorced from the idea of repentance in the modern church. Too often t has become a social event and the spiritual imperative underlying the act has been relegated to an afterthought. The texts here alluded to herald the inauguration of Jesus’ earthly ministry, but often overlooked is the idea of many people coming out to the wilderness to experience the blessing of baptism brough on by repentance and forgiveness of sins.
Psalm 51:17 My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart you, God, will not despise.
Ask yourself. Is my heart so calloused, is my spirit so dead, that I see no need for repentance?
Isaiah 1: 12 “When you come to appear before Me, Who has required this from your hand, To trample My courts? 13 Bring no more futile[f] sacrifices; Incense is an abomination to Me. The New Moons, the Sabbaths, and the calling of assemblies— I cannot endure iniquity and the sacred meeting.
Have you ever been frustrated? Have you ever placed your hope in something or someone who has disappointed you? Have you ever watched as someone you love brings your love for them down to a series of meaningless interactions with little or no substance? If you have, then I think you might be able to understand the agony and sorrow of God’s heart as he looked out upon the one nation for whom he had made a vast exception in the world. He had chosen them. He had nurtured and redeemed them from a time of slavery. He had given them a structure of law and worship. He had given them a place to live and within that place a temple where they might even come into his presence. But, it seemed all was for naught.
Striving to bring meaning and a sense of God’s presence into the worship times we share may seem a noble objective, but somehow the effort misses the mark. When the goal is merely a desire to see a particular set of responses or to experience a particular sensation we are missing the mark. Worship is about God, not man. Worship is the outlet for our need to acknowledge the power and presence of God in what hopefully is a sanctifying moment of heightened awareness. Waiting for an evangelist to “bring revival” is sort of like waiting for the pizza delivery driver to get it there in thirty minutes or less. If revival happens it is not the preacher. It comes when the Holy Spirit is welcomed and sought after with the whole heart. From there, it is just possible that God may begin to build a community of believers.
Isaiah 1: 2 Hear, O heavens, and give ear, O earth! For the Lord has spoken: “I have nourished and brought up children, And they have rebelled against Me; 3 The ox knows its owner And the donkey its master’s [a]crib; But Israel does not know, My people do not [b]consider.”
Have you ever been so focused on something “important” to you and missed the blessing God was holding out to you? This was the story of the nation of Israel. God had lifted them out of slavery. He had set before them His law and provided a place for them to thrive. Still, they chose to supplant their love for God with the all important “trinity of dissolution”. First, although promised that they would prosper under His care, they continually withheld from God the spoils of the wars they fought. Second, they chose to adopt, construct, or trade in idols which were formed out of their own vain imaginings in favor of the God who had been ever present with them from the beginning. Third, although keeping a form of worship they allowed the temple and the priesthood to slide into ruin so that even the very Word of God was lost to them.
Today we are in danger of becoming like Israel. We are so distracted by the power we wield with our little devices that God appears to have receded into the background and is no longer present or meaningful on out lives. Do not be misled. The problem is not our technology. The problem is our hearts. Jeremiah 17:9 “The heart is deceitful above all things, And desperately wicked; Who can know it?
Proverbs 28:12 When the righteous triumph, there is great elation; but when the wicked rise to power, people go into hiding.
Surveillance. Paranoia. Watching. Being Watched. Did you ever wonder about the motivations of the ones who were constantly watching nearly everyone on the planet at one time or another? Many people have justified extremely intrusive surveillance in the name of fear in the years since the tragedies of 9/11/2001. Problem is, we have gone overboard in my opinion. When we curtail, limit, or otherwise obstruct basic human liberties in the name of “safety”, which in reality is an illusion, we, as a people are exchanging those freedoms for a lie. The world is not a safe place. Righteousness has been supplanted by a deadly demonic lust for power, control, and profit.
With all of the so called technical advances of the last fifty years and the growing paranoia and xenophobia rampant in the world is it any wonder that people are “forting up” arming themselves, and in general walking the streets with a heightened awareness of their surroundings, watching and waiting for any activity they might perceive as a danger.
Here’s the good news. We have a refuge. We have a haven of rest. We have a God who is watching even the watchers. If we live our lives in such a manner as to be of no interest to the finger pointing, shaming, pruriently interested wielders of cameras and microphones they will quickly move on to other targets. Righteousness shines like the sun, Light cancels out darkness. Let those live in the “outer darkness” (Matthew 22:13) who have chosen that for themselves.
Matthew 7:26 But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand.
Growing up around the Great Lakes area in upstate NY the sight of a house collapsing along the shoreline became something quite familiar. Sadly, in our mad quest for relaxation space, a quiet place for ourselves to retreat from the world, many built at great risk along the bluffs at the beach, only to be distressed to later learn that their dream now lay in a desolate heap at the bottom of a cliff.nSadly this is the case with many Church congregations today.
Today, we are faced with an election that has turned as nasty and evil as any I can remember in all my years. I was reminded by a great preacher yesterday evening that far too many groups of Christians have sold their pulpits to play politics in the house of God. We have forgotten that it is God’s house. God’s house, God’s rules. While it is our duty as citizens to exercise our franchise to vote, and to speak as well to the issues of the day, it is still God’s house. A haven of grace, a place to heal, and to learn, not. as some have done to try to turn God’s house into a platform to spew forth hatred. Teaching, with patience and love, speaking God’s truth in a forthright and clear manner leaves no room for any one person to claim spiritual superiority.
Sinners all we have found our way into the precincts of grace. With that fact clearly in mind, we must hold accountable those who teach something less than the whole counsel of God. The Spirit no longer dwells in the temples of men, but in the hearts of those who gather together in the Lord’s Name. But still, it seems that God will pronounce Ichabod (Heb. Lit. Where’s the glory 1 Samuel 4:12) over the houses of worship wherein the people indulge in worldly debate leaving behind the grace of God in Jesus’ sacrifice.
By all means vote. By all means b e in the public square and give Godly reasons for your hopes for the nation. But do not be disillusioned by the promises of any politician or ideology which promises to satisfy everybody with foolish rhetoric. God’s house. God’s rules.
Isaiah 43:11-12- I, even I, am the Lord, and apart from me there is no savior. I have revealed and saved and proclaimed— I, and not some foreign god among you. You are my witnesses,” declares the Lord, “that I am God.
You have probably seen this famous painting before. It is a portrayal of Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane. Painted by Heinrich Hofmann in 1890 and expresses well what is written in the gospel accounts of Matthew 26:36-46, Mark 14:32-42 and Luke 22:39-46.
I found a print of this painting in an antique shop in Great Valley New York and purchased it for the ridiculously low price of $10.00/ The print hangs in my dining room where I am able to glance at it from time to time and be reminded that it was there that Jesus prayed for me. It was there that He stepped up to the challenge of taking on the burden of my sin. It was there that He became my God. It was there that He resolved to wait for me to come to the end of myself and turn to find Him waiting there with outstretched arms.
The right to claim exclusivity as God, as Lord and Savior finds its legitimacy in the fact of the experience of the Garden. In the very words Jesus spoke to our Father, “Nevertheless, not my will, but Thy will be done”. That is why I love Him. That is why I praise Him. That is why I serve Him.