Showing posts from May, 2017

Because of Others

Scripture Romans 12:12 Rejoice in hope, be patient in suffering, persevere in prayer. 
This entire section in Romans is based on the demand of love for others. In the original the structure of the sentence above would be a little different — because of hope, we rejoice; because we suffer, we are patient; in prayer, we are persevering. Because of others we are willing to rejoice in the hope that we have been given. This is the hope of complete and total restoration in the image of God. This causes great joy in the life of the believer. 
Also, there is an understanding of suffering that will become commonplace in the life of early believers. Soon they would face martyrdom on a regular basis and this, they would suffer for the community as a whole. When one stood up for their faith it strengthened them all. They would all know and experience suffering for following Christ. Business people would begin to lose money, children would be taunted, their everyday lives would become ti…

For the Sake of the Whole

Scripture 1 Peter 4:10 Like good stewards of the manifold grace of God, serve one another with whatever gift each of you has received. 
In the faith community we are to show hospitality and serve one another. God gives gifts to each member of the community so that they may be shared among all. Talents and abilities are never to be used for the individual good, but are entrusted to be used for the sake of the whole. 
We live in a society that doesn’t often think about the community as a whole. Lately I’ve been disturbed as I think about the ways in which we treat people and things as disposable. Driving down the highways of Kansas City I’m stunned when I realize how many landmarks from just thirty years ago, no longer exist. Shopping malls flattened, restaurants torn down, and houses removed by the desire for greater progress. But is it really greater progress? In the spaces where the malls used to be there are simply open fields of dirt and gravel. What used to be …

Humble Dependence

Scripture 1 Peter 5:7 Cast all your anxiety on him, because he cares for you.
The challenge for the follower of Jesus Christ is to learn to live a life that is humbly submitted to God. It is only the person who has humbled themselves before God who is able to become completely dependent upon God. The verb for cast is quite vivid — it actually means to “hurl.” With all the power that is within us we are to throw off all of the worries and struggles of life and place them on Jesus — because he loves and cares for us. The is the picture of humble dependence. 
Many people struggle with anxiety, and it seems that as a society it continues to creep into our lives. Media has established unattainable expectations for humanity. Photoshopped pictures have led us to believe that people can look perfect and only remind us of our own inadequacies. The lives we portray on social media become a cover for the realities and struggles we may be facing. In the midst of it all God is …

Stubborn Insistence

Scripture 2Kings 2:1   Now when the Lord was about to take Elijah up to heaven by a whirlwind, Elijah and Elisha were on their way from Gilgal. 2 Elijah said to Elisha, “Stay here; for the Lord has sent me as far as Bethel.” But Elisha said, “As the Lord lives, and as you yourself live, I will not leave you.” So they went down to Bethel. 
We find here another moment in history where the baton is passed from one generation to the next. Just as Moses had passed on the mantle of leadership to Joshua, now Elijah is passing this on to Elisha. They make an interesting journey as Elisha refuses to leave the side of Elijah. It almost appears to be a test on the part of Elijah, whether with stubborn insistence Elisha will stick with him until the very end. The role of leadership which Elisha would be assuming would not be easy, often fraught with difficulties, and commitment to the task would be necessary.
The journey of Elijah and Elisha takes them through stops which are reminiscen…

Waiting for the Promise

Scripture Acts 1:4 While staying with them, he ordered them not to leave Jerusalem, but to wait there for the promise of the Father. “This,” he said, “is what you have heard from me;5 for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.”
Luke is setting the context for the book of Acts. Just before Jesus ascended into heaven he had given instructions to his disciples. He would be leaving them, but only in his going could they receive the promise of the Father. While for the disciples the ascension may have seemed disconcerting, it ushered in a period of waiting. They weren’t sure what they were waiting for, but they lived into the promises of Jesus. The promise was the comforter, the advocate, which would be the overwhelming sense of Jesus’ continual presence through the Holy Spirit. Looking up into heaven their hearts must have been heavy. Stepping into a period of waiting may have been difficult, but it would be worthwhile. Th…

Intentional Teaching

Scripture Deut. 31:9   Then Moses wrote down this law, and gave it to the priests, the sons of Levi, who carried the ark of the covenant of the Lord, and to all the elders of Israel. 10 Moses commanded them: “Every seventh year, in the scheduled year of remission, during the festival of booths, 11 when all Israel comes to appear before the Lord your God at the place that he will choose, you shall read this law before all Israel in their hearing. 12 Assemble the people—men, women, and children, as well as the aliens residing in your towns—so that they may hear and learn to fear the Lord your God and to observe diligently all the words of this law, 13 and so that their children, who have not known it, may hear and learn to fear the Lord your God, as long as you live in the land that you are crossing over the Jordan to possess.”
As Joshua was preparing to take on the mantle of leadership, Moses was providing intentional teaching. For the law of God to be passed down to the gene…

Seeking Peace

Scripture 1Pet. 3:8    Finally, all of you, have unity of spirit, sympathy, love for one another, a tender heart, and a humble mind. 9 Do not repay evil for evil or abuse for abuse; but, on the contrary, repay with a blessing. It is for this that you were called—that you might inherit a blessing. 10 For “Those who desire life and desire to see good days, let them keep their tongues from evil and their lips from speaking deceit; 11let them turn away from evil and do good; let them seek peace and pursue it. 12For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, and his ears are open to their prayer. But the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.”
The words from I Peter are powerful and profound. God’s people are called to unity and love. As a community of believers they are to find ways in which they can get along with one another. Evil will remain, but should not rule the day, nor become the barometer for our response. The follower of Christ does not repay evil with evil, nor abuse …

Faithfulness and Holiness

Scripture Psa. 93:5   Your decrees are very sure; holiness befits your house, O Lord, forevermore.
Over and again the Lord promises to be faithful. Whether the rainbow in the sky following the terrible flood, or the promise that no lives would be lost to Paul in the midst of a storm, God fulfills the promises made. God’s decrees then, are sure, and not to be doubted. The very nature of God is revealed in holiness. The God who lives in the house also lives among the people. God’s holiness is revealed in promises and decrees which transform the people. Faithfulness leads to holiness. 
If we simply took the title out of context we would think that our faithfulness to God will bring about personal holiness. The problem is that this is the way in which we have typically thought of holiness — a change in our personal behaviors. However, this is not what the Psalmist is saying. God’s faithfulness to humankind is what provides the opportunity for humanity to be made holy. It…

Sanctification and Witness

Scripture 1Pet. 3:13   Now who will harm you if you are eager to do what is good? 14 But even if you do suffer for doing what is right, you are blessed. Do not fear what they fear, and do not be intimidated, 15 but in your hearts sanctify Christ as Lord. Always be ready to make your defense to anyone who demands from you an accounting for the hope that is in you; 16 yet do it with gentleness and reverence. Keep your conscience clear, so that, when you are maligned, those who abuse you for your good conduct in Christ may be put to shame. 
The believers living in the period of the early church were facing new difficulties on a daily basis. The disciples were teaching these followers what it meant to live like Jesus, and this included ministering to the poor and the needy. They were to be engaged in doing good; doing the right things. Persecution was always a potential reality but they were not to allow that fear to inhibit their activities. 
There was a direct connection to sa…

More Than a Salutation

Scripture John 14:27 Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid. 
Often people will close a letter with a salutation such as “grace and peace” or just “peace.” This is a farewell greeting that expresses a desire for this person to experience peace. When Jesus gives this farewell salutation he does something altogether different. He doesn’t just wish his followers peace, he tells them that he is leaving his peace with them. This something radically different, for Jesus entered the world as the Prince of Peace, which describes something about Jesus’ very nature. It means that he is leaving this part of his nature here with his followers. This is what he will leave with them after his resurrection and through the empowerment of the Holy Spirit. 
This peace will transcend anything that the world has to offer. It becomes the peace that defines a Christian, who can exper…


Scripture Acts 27:33   Just before daybreak, Paul urged all of them to take some food, saying, “Today is the fourteenth day that you have been in suspense and remaining without food, having eaten nothing. 34 Therefore I urge you to take some food, for it will help you survive; for none of you will lose a hair from your heads.” 35 After he had said this, he took bread; and giving thanks to God in the presence of all, he broke it and began to eat. 36 Then all of them were encouraged and took food for themselves. 37 (We were in all two hundred seventy-six persons in the ship.) 38 After they had satisfied their hunger, they lightened the ship by throwing the wheat into the sea.
Paul and his traveling companions were on a ship that was bound to sink. They had been weathering storms for days and were now weakened from the onslaught. What was to come of them? Paul had been communicating with the Lord and again, reveals what it means to be a Christian in the midst of ordinary circum…

A Humble Supporter

Scripture Acts 27:1   When it was decided that we were to sail for Italy, they transferred Paul and some other prisoners to a centurion of the Augustan Cohort, named Julius. 2 Embarking on a ship of Adramyttium that was about to set sail to the ports along the coast of Asia, we put to sea, accompanied by Aristarchus, a Macedonian from Thessalonica. 
Luke provides us with a narrative of Paul’s journey to Rome. It appears that Luke is traveling with Paul, as well as Aristarchus. This portrayal of the journey allows us to have a glimpse of what it means to be a Christian in the world. For Luke and Aristarchus to travel with Paul to Rome would have been out of the ordinary. Luke may have gotten permission as Paul’s physician, but Aristarchus, coming as a voluntary companion of a prisoner, may have had to submit himself as Paul’s slave to be allowed to come on the journey. He has been a faithful companion through many difficult circumstances. He was present during the riots in Ep…

Room for the Word

Scripture John 8:34   Jesus answered them, “Very truly, I tell you, everyone who commits sin is a slave to sin. 35 The slave does not have a permanent place in the household; the son has a place there forever. 36 So if the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed. 37 I know that you are descendants of Abraham; yet you look for an opportunity to kill me, because there is no place in you for my word. 38 I declare what I have seen in the Father’s presence; as for you, you should do what you have heard from the Father.”
The Jews were fond of their genealogies. They loved to prove who they were by the people to whom they were related. Obviously there was great pride in being children of Abraham, but Jesus was messing with they held dear. He was saying that physical descent does not equate to spiritual maturity. When Jesus declared that they had no room for his word, he was implying that these children of Abraham had closed their minds to the truth. The result was that they had…

Speaking Boldly

Scripture Acts 7:51   “You stiff-necked people, uncircumcised in heart and ears, you are forever opposing the Holy Spirit, just as your ancestors used to do. 52 Which of the prophets did your ancestors not persecute? They killed those who foretold the coming of the Righteous One, and now you have become his betrayers and murderers. 53 You are the ones that received the law as ordained by angels, and yet you have not kept it.”
Stephen is bringing his speech to a close. Whether he meant this to be the end or not, we are uncertain, but the response of the crowd was so violent that there was no other option but to have been finished. 
Stephen had spoken with such boldness that the people were shocked. Obviously the words that he spoke pricked their consciences and they were troubled, and now becoming quite defensive. As he spoke of their history of resistance he brought home the point that they had substituted external worship for spiritual obedience. They had made it a common p…

Have Pity On Its Dust

Scripture Psa. 102:12   But you, O Lord, are enthroned forever; your name endures to all generations. 13You will rise up and have compassion on Zion, for it is time to favor it; the appointed time has come. 14For your servants hold its stones dear, and have pity on its dust.
The timing of this Psalm is unknown. Some would like to claim that it has to do with the return from exile, but others would argue that simply doesn’t quite fit the narrative. However, we do recognize that it is at a time when Jerusalem is struggling against her enemies. In the midst of that struggle the people of God remain strong in their reliance upon the LORD who is on the throne. 
There is the hope of compassion and mercy which is bestowed upon God’s people who still love and revere Jerusalem. Even if the city lies in ruins, they will hold its stones dear and have pity on the dust. These phrases articulate the love and devotion which remains for Jerusalem, even when she lies in ruin. 
Most comme…

What We Have Become

Scripture 1 Peter 2:10Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.
Because of the work of Christ in this world we have been gathered together and united as a people of God. This beautiful patchwork of unity is found because of the great diversity in God’s family. We become one when we are gathered from all peoples and grow together as we become more like the Messiah as we commune with him. The transformation results in Christlikeness and the uniting of those together who are like Christ, becomes a powerful people. A people who are merciful for they have received much mercy. What we become are citizens of the new kingdom inaugurated in resurrection power by the Messiah. 
As we continue in the season of Easter we reflect upon resurrection power. This power has the ability to create a new people, a people who find their identity in Christ. 
Yesterday I had the opportunity to celebrate with the …

The Place of Influence

Scripture Jer. 26:20   There was another man prophesying in the name of the Lord, Uriah son of Shemaiah from Kiriath-jearim. He prophesied against this city and against this land in words exactly like those of Jeremiah. 21 And when King Jehoiakim, with all his warriors and all the officials, heard his words, the king sought to put him to death; but when Uriah heard of it, he was afraid and fled and escaped to Egypt. 22 Then King Jehoiakim sent Elnathan son of Achbor and men with him to Egypt, 23 and they took Uriah from Egypt and brought him to King Jehoiakim, who struck him down with the sword and threw his dead body into the burial place of the common people.
Jer. 26:24   But the hand of Ahikam son of Shaphan was with Jeremiah so that he was not given over into the hands of the people to be put to death.
The king was very frustrated at the prophetic words of Jeremiah. The crowds were stirred up and the mobs were smelling blood. Jeremiah was not alone in speaking prophetical…

A Wise Response

Scripture Acts 7:1   Then the high priest asked him, “Are these things so?” 2 And Stephen replied:   “Brothers and fathers, listen to me. The God of glory appeared to our ancestor Abraham when he was in Mesopotamia, before he lived in Haran, 3 and said to him, ‘Leave your country and your relatives and go to the land that I will show you.’ 
Stephen’s response to the high priest’s question isn’t simply a “yes or no.” Instead he makes use of this opportunity to bring a rather lengthy address regarding the history of the Israelites. This entire passage begins right after we are told that Stephen’s countenance was like that of an angel. The glory of God was visible in the life of the one who had spent time in God’s holy presence. Now, he begins a discourse which would draw a connection between Christianity, the law, and the temple. With great wisdom Stephen is able to make the connection by way of Old Testament history. He takes them back to the core of Judaism, before the templ…