Archive for January, 2016


Thy Kingdom Come; Pt.1

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“Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing”

The scripture passage I want to look at today comes from Luke 4:14-30. We will look at the first half this week and finish with the second half next week.I want to look at these verses in relation to the Kingdom of God, what it is, where it is, and what it really has to do with us.

Now, I have to admit, that growing up and hearing this scripture, I thought, wow! Jesus just laid it down for these people. Some might understand when I say that this sounds like a “mic drop” occasion. Jesus stands up, reads this short passage from two different places in Isaiah, sits down and says; “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.” Bam! The people were happy with him, some even surprised, and then Jesus kept talking and opinions changed, but that’s next week. Let’s focus on what Jesus proclaimed in the synagogue that day.

But really, Jesus reads the scripture and then sits down, not to signify that he is done, but that the time for teaching is beginning. The time for discussion, study, and reflection is upon them and it is now time to search for meaning.

The passage quoted from the scroll of Isaiah in this passage is speaking about the Kingdom of God. It is giving us a picture of what this kingdom will look like and what will happen there. But what is the Kingdom of God? Are we talking about heaven here? These are difficult questions and ones that require a lot of thought and reflection.

Let me say this, I believe that the Kingdom of God or Heaven, is both here and now as well as in the future, when Christ comes again in glory with the re-creation of this earth. It is not just the place we go after we die. Scripture is full of imagery of this earth being recreated at the end of the age. What we know here will change, as it is recreated into the place it was designed to be, God’s kingdom.

So what does the Kingdom of God look like? Jesus gives us five attributes in this passage today.

  1. Good news to the poor.
  2. Liberty to the captives.
  3. Sight for the blind.
  4. Liberty for the oppressed.
  5. Year of the Lord’s favor.

We find this in Revelation; there will be no more sorrow, no more pain, no more tears. There will be no more poor, no more blind, no more oppressed, because we will live into God’s will for this creation, all of us.

We are called to help the poor and the less fortunate, free those who are in chains of addiction, oppression, abuse, or even loneliness. This is what it’s like to be living in the Kingdom of God.

So let me emphasize that this Kingdom is here and it is there, ahead of us. It is near and far, it is already and not yet. But this is what we pray for, this is what we hope for, this is what we strive for, every time we share together the Lord’s Prayer. “Thy Kingdom come, they will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.”

With this prayer, we ask not to escape this world, not to just be transported to heaven, but for us to be part of God’s plan to transform this world! God has asked us to “make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of this world.” Not just the transformation of heaven, because I don’t think we have that much power. But we can influence and transform this world by our actions, our words, our prayers, and our love.

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Redeemed!

crucified3I’m not sure how many of you have ever heard the story of Hosea, an Old Testament Prophet who was presented with a few strange requests from God. Well let me tell you a little bit about him.

Hosea, a prophet in the Old Testament, had an interesting life, a life that Hollywood would be grateful to portray in the movies. The plot line has twists, turns, ups and downs, and a request that seems unapproachable.

You see, Hosea is commanded by God to go, find a promiscuous woman, and marry her. What a strange request, I mean couldn’t he just pick one that he was attracted to, from a good family, and maybe even one he would meet in the synagogue? No, God has a plan and His plan foreshadows something that is incredibly important for our lives today, but I am getting ahead of myself.

Well Hosea finds and marries a woman named Gomer and she bears him two sons and a daughter. Well, after all of this, Gomer becomes unfaithful to Hosea. She leaves him to go back to her previous life of promiscuity.

I can only image how Hosea would have felt. “God, you told me to marry this woman, to bring her out of the life she was living to a good life, a life where you are glorified. Now she has left me and gone back to her old life. Why God?” Then the Lord speaks again. “Go, search out your wife, wherever she may be, whatever she may be doing, and show her your love again.”

What? Hosea needs to find his adulterous and unrepentant wife, and take her back? Now, at this point, she doesn’t even know that Hosea is looking for her, she might not even want to go back home, why would God want Hosea to do this? To show us something of God’s love.

Well, Hosea listened to God and found Gomer, but instead of just calling out to her and bringing her home, he needed to do something. He needed to redeem her. You see, she was living as a prostitute and therefore couldn’t just leave, she needed to be purchased back. Hosea bought her freedom with silver and barley, he redeemed her.

This is what it means to be redeemed. The dictionary explains it as “to gain or regain possession of something in exchange for payment. Hosea redeems Gomer by purchasing her back.

This sounds incredibly familiar. We fast forward to the New Testament, to Jesus Christ, to a redeeming action unlike no other. There are many times that we act like Hosea’s wife Gomer and go back to our lives, living with the sin that we continually commit. But then God searches us out, like Hosea, and when he finds us, he purchases us back, he redeems us.

God sends his only son to redeem us, to purchase us back, but not without a price. That price is Jesus’ death on the cross, a ransom for our broken and sinful lives. But thanks be to God, just like Jesus can take ordinary vessels of water and dramatically change them into good wine. Jesus can take ordinary lives, like you and me, and transform them into redeemed lives, living for a purpose, living for our God.

So let me remind you today that you are redeemed. You are not who you used to be. You may have been shackled and bound by failures and sins of the past, but there is great news here. We don’t have to continue living where we were, we are not who we used to be, we are redeemed.

What Difference Can I Make?

tumblr_lcf1kdN3bY1qcd3beo1_500Matthew chapter 25, verse 34-40 says; “Then the king will say to those on his right, Come, you who are blessed by my father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me. Then the righteous will answer him, saying, Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you? And the king will answer them, ‘truly I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these of my brothers and sisters, you did it to me.”

A brief story. There once was a little boy who was walking along the seashore when all of a sudden he came upon thousands and thousands of starfish that had washed up on the beach. Even though the tide was going out, for some strange reason these starfish ended up stuck on the beach, unable to make their way back into the water. There were all doomed because they couldn’t make it back and they would not be able to survive being out of the water in the hot sun until the next high tide. The little boy realized what was going to happen to these star fish, so he began to pick them up, one by one, and throw them back into the ocean, saving them from certain death.

Well just at that time, a man was walking along this same beach and notice what the boy was doing. He yelled out to the boy, “Son, what in the world are you doing?” The boy replied, “I am saving these star fish because they will certainly die out here on the beach in the hot sun.” Again the man spoke to the boy, “Don’t you know, there are thousands and thousands of these starfish on this beach? And don’t you know that this beach goes on for miles and miles? There is no way in the world that you will save all of these star fish.”

For a moment the boy looked down at all the star fish and appeared defeated. “That man’s right, I can’t save all of the star fish.” But as he looked at the star fish, and he couldn’t help but think that he could do something. He reached down and picked up another star fish and turned to the man and said; “Yep, I know I can’t save all the star fish, but I CAN save this one!” And he threw the star fish back into the ocean.

Have you ever felt that same way, that there was too much to do and you would never be able to accomplish it all. That maybe there are too many people and too many problems out there in the world and therefore, what kind of difference can I as one person, or one group of people, or one community, make in this world. You begin to feel defeated and think that you should not do anything.

I don’t know about you, but to that one star fish, that little boy meant the world to him. So, think about this, the next person you meet might be your star fish and you can make a difference in their lives. Don’t leave them dying on the beach, give them what they need to live.

Epiphany

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This past Sunday was Epiphany Sunday, but I always wondered what that meant.  Epiphany can be such a strange word. Miriam-Webster defines it as; “a moment in which you suddenly see or understand something in a new or very clear way.”

I see this as an encounter with Jesus Christ, when we see our lives in a new and very clear light.

In our scriptures from this past Sunday, we heard about the three wise men. It’s called the Epiphany of the Lord and it marks the day when Jesus Christ is manifested to the Gentiles, represented by the wise men. The wise men come and encountered Jesus Christ and are changed, they have an epiphany moment, and are changed, how could they not be? I can’t imagine anyone encountering Jesus Christ and not being changed in one way or another.

Let’s look quickly at three different people or groups of people from the story of the wise men, and their responses to their encounter with Jesus, King Herod, the priests and scribes, and the wise men.

King Herod’s encounter with the Christ child doesn’t even come in a face to face encounter, he never meets the boy, but he hears about him. But what is Herod’s response to this testimony, this witness of Jesus Christ? Hostility, anger, jealousy, rage, and violence. Jesus Christ becomes a threat to his way of life, to his current lifestyle, so Herod decides to get rid of the threat by killing all the first born sons in Bethlehem. He eliminates Jesus Christ from his life, doesn’t want to have anything to do with him.

The priests and scribes of the Temple are called on by Herod in order to find the place where Jesus was to be born and they also had a response to the birth, although it might not have been very noticeable. Their response to this birth was complete indifference, they could care less that this birth happened, why?

We see this talked about throughout the gospel accounts. Jesus was consistently talking about what really matters in this life, and at the same time, revealing what the chief priests and scribes felt was important. They were so engrossed in their rituals, their buildings, their programs, or anything that seemed more like a tradition to others, they wanted to maintain the image of “the club.”

The Priests and scribes are inwardly focused on themselves, they are looking for what makes them happy and not to the needs of others.

We finally come to the wise men. They have come from the east and are searching for the child born to be the Messiah. When they finally found the place where Jesus was born, what did they do, what was their response to their encounter with Jesus? Worship! They presented the child with gifts and bowed down to worship him.

They were changed, like the others were changed, but in a much different way. Their lives were dramatically altered because of this encounter. Their lives changed direction. It is said that they returned home, but not by the same path. Herod was waiting for them down the original return trip, but they were new men with new lives. They no longer lived like they used to.

When the change happens, we don’t want to live like we used to anymore. We don’t want to take that trip back down the same path which brings pain and misery. The wise men didn’t want to travel back home by the path which led to Herod, they wanted to go another direction.

Have you encountered Jesus Christ? Have your lives been changed by the Christ child who brought light to this world? It is a very real question, a question that needs an answer. Other questions arise from this, why are we here? Who are we? Who am I?

If you have encountered Jesus, what is your response? Are you hostile towards his calling for change in your life? Are you indifferent, looking more towards what you are doing here in this building than to a relationship with Jesus? Or are you joyful, worshiping God for the change he has brought into your life? What is your response?