Saturday, August 20, 2016

20 August 2016
“[God] does not deal with us according to our sins,
nor repay us according to our iniquities.
For as high as the heavens are above the earth,
so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him;
as far as the east is from the west,
so far he remove our transgressions from us.” Psalm 103:10-12 (NRSV)

“Seek the Lord while he may be found,
call upon him while he is near;
let the wicked forsake their way,
and the unrighteous their thoughts;
let them return to the Lord, that he may have mercy on them,
and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon.
For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
nor are your ways my ways, says the Lord.
For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways
and my thoughts than your thoughts.” Isaiah 55:6-9 (NRSV)

            Good morning, and happy Saturday. Hard to believe another week has come and gone so quickly. I’m thinking this might be a good time for us-for me, anyway-to sort of stop and catch our breath; to think about what we have seen so far in terms of the original intent of this blog. What I have found, since I began here, is when I sit down to write the blog takes on a life of its own. After a while I fall into a pattern-a habit, if you prefer. I fear I may be drifting away from my original purpose, which is simply to learn how He would have us be His presence in little spheres of influence. God’s transforming grace is nothing if not practical; there should be one thing we can do every to have some positive impact wherever we find ourselves.
            Our Scriptures today give us a couple important truths to keep in mind as we go about this work of being His presence. The Psalmist reminds us of God’s grace towards us; His total, complete removal of our sins. Keep this thought in mind; we will be coming back to it later on.
Isaiah first reminds us our God desires to be found-and known-by His children. Second-this is important-he reminds us God’s thoughts are not our thoughts; His ways are not our ways. In order to be His presence we must learn to think His thoughts and discover His ways-here is that mind renewal thing again. That is what we are aiming for-renewing our minds, making new habits, becoming disciples. We are learning these things together, on the job training, so to speak.
            That is why we started with the Sermon on the Mount. In it we have Jesus re-interpreting the Law and the Prophets, showing the deeper meaning. We saw, working through the Beatitudes, the heart attitudes God values in His children. Meekness, humility, purity of heart, peacemaking-these are God’s thoughts; God’s ways. These things stand opposed to most of what the world values; then and now. We saw that, as we demonstrate these qualities, we can expect some flack. People will feel threatened; people will resist. We must stand firm. Our efforts will not go unnoticed by God.
            Looking at the deeper meaning of ‘Thou shalt not murder’; ‘Thou shalt not commit adultery’, we saw a spiritual depth impossible to attain by human effort. Funny thing about that is, once we begin to let God’s grace transform us, those things we found so difficult begin to feel natural, become comfortable. Now, we will all stumble from time to time. Doesn’t matter; Jesus is our constant companion, our spiritual lifeguard. The Psalmist reminds us of the depth of God’s love for us. We receive from His goodness, grace upon grace, as John says, minute upon minute. This is another important point; we rely on His grace more than we will ever know, this side of eternity.
            Ok, so here’s the weekend assignment. Take some time, if you can, to read through the Isaiah 55 (and the servant songs, if you have some extra time), reflecting on the differences between God’s thoughts and ways, and your thoughts and ways. Go through our Matthew passages and see how Jesus fleshes this out. Then spend some time with Psalm 103. Remember
God’s complete removal of our sins? Spend some time letting the Psalmist’s words sink in deep. Give yourself permission to be forgiven, totally and completely; this is the foundation for the grace and forgiveness we extend to others. Then take that grace and forgiveness out and pass it around. Don’t worry too much about how or to whom-God will see to that. Thanks for being here. Don’t forget to worship with your sisters and brothers Sunday. Lord willing, I will see you back here Monday morning.

May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the Love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you this weekend. JRG

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