This week my thoughts have been centered around ”Return & Redemption.” One doesn’t have to look far into the Old Testament to understand the power of the grace and mercy we enjoy today. Time after time offenses against God ended with a person losing even their lives. Unfortunately, in addition in many instances it also cost the lives of the offenders family and livestock; which leads me to shutter as I reflect on the consequences they lived under. I hear people say all the time they want to see God, experience God, interact with God physically, like in the days of the Old Testament. While much of that would be wonderful, it carries with it another edge of the sword which is not pleasant at all, and that is what I characterize here as “instant judgment” and “consequences.” We fail to realize the presence of God, also brought the judgment of God, and when the adjudication of God came, the consequences were difficult.
I’m thankful today that Jesus died on the cross, so instead of life like it was under the Old Covenant, his blood covers us, and we live in the grace and mercy of God. That means he is a God of not just the second chance, but unlimited chances- when they are connected to a repentant heart. He also provides us safe passage home when we stray away and get lost in the world, as did the young man in the story of the prodigal son. Through our shame and guilt we walk right into the loving arms of our God who welcomes us home with a hug and a smile. Yes, consequences can follow these actions, but they are teachers to guide us into persisting in the joy of the Lord. So as we walk each day, thank God for second chances, because you just don’t know what is coming into your life that will require return and redemption. Praise God from whom all blessings flow! Blessings.
In Matthew 15, we find Jesus in one of many standoffs with the Pharisees. The Pharisees (Law keepers) witnessed Jesus’ disciples eating without washing their hands according to the ceremonial customs of the Jews. After listening to their accusations, Jesus neglecting to answer their indictment, offered one of his own. He asked them why they break the command of God to ”Honor your father and mother.” It was in verse 7 that he called them hypocrites, and said Isaiah was right when he prophesied about them, reciting those famous words taken from Isaiah 29:13: “These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me.” What an indicting statement. It was after pondering this scene that I thought, could I also be guilty of doing the same thing? Are there times when I honor God with my lips because it is the right thing to say or do, because of my religious traditions, when in reality my heart at the time is far from God. Could I also be so caught in my religiosity that my worship is vain in the sight of God? Lord examine my heart and search me, for I do not want to be guilty of the indictment of Jesus against the Pharisees. Teach me to love you from the depths of my heart and not just from my lips, so that my worship will honor you as my Lord and my Savior. Lord, please fix my heart that I may serve you. Blessings.
The message this morning is taken from John 4:7-26.
We are in our 3rd week of probing the subject “As for me and my house we will WORSHIP the Lord.” This very familiar text spoke to me this week in a way in which it has not in the past. In the big picture naturally is Jesus at Jacob’s well in Samaria, sitting in conversation with a woman, asking her for water. Let’s call that the “Initial attention grabber.” When you insert the historical fact that Jews and Samaritans were not exactly on speaking terms, the conversation begins to take on a different shape. Add to this that a woman would never engage a man in public conversation without her husband present, adds another layer to this intense drama. During the conversation Jesus, determined to get her attention, mentions the reality that she has had five husbands, and the one she is currently with is not her husband. Instantly, the conversation was diverted to speaking of worship because the woman didn’t want Jesus to focus on who she was- and that is what hit me. Many of us after disclosing the type of woman she was would have dismissed her as being a harlot, therefore ending the conversation. Jesus used this moment, to teach us that ALL are welcome in the kingdom, regardless their past or present condition. And if he, could sit, and talk to a woman of her background with the intention of helping her to become a true worshipper of God, who are we to give up on anyone? I thank God today for this reminder, and I will intensify my prayers for those who choose to turn their backs on God-even when a part of me, attempts to convince me, that it is time to write them off. Jesus, I thank you for the lesson this week, I really needed it. Blessings.
Someone once said “if I can see farther than other men, it is because I have stood on the shoulders of giants.” That is how I feel as I read the accounts in the Old Testament. Often God required great faith and trust from his people. Even though he was visible to them in many ways, he often defied human logic and reasoning; which required pure trust in God. It is easy to sit in 2019 and look back at those in the OT with smug attitudes of, “if I had been there and had witnessed what he showed them, I would have behaved much better than they did.” To that attitude, I say “really?” Do you really think they had it better than we? I think not. In fact, I know not! I say this for two distinct reasons. First, we have the advantage of learning from their mistakes. God in his great wisdom, allows us front row seats, as we watch the scenes in the OT unfold. So we have the added benefit of evaluating their actions, and in the end, seeing if they made the correct choices. Secondly, and most importantly, we have the whole story. Although we live in our part of the story one day at a time, God has laid out the entire story for us, from beginning to end. From the first day of creation, until the final amen of Revelation. It was the life, events, choices, and yes even mistakes of those who have gone before us in scripture, on whose shoulders we now stand, as we struggle to know an invisible God. So what is required of us? More! Without a doubt. We know more, we have seen more, so we definitely should do better than they. It shouldn’t take the voice of God in our ear to convince us, observing him in the ear of others should be sufficient. Perhaps we need to change our focus from one of why we can’t to one of we can because of what we have been shown; in the lives of those whose stories blessed us, in the accounts of the word of God. And on whose shoulders we now stand. Lord increase our faith! Blessings