Saturday, April 21, 2018

Saul or Paul?

"Meanwhile Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest and asked him for letters to the synagogues at Damascus, so that if he found any who belonged to the Way, men or women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem."
Saul, convinced he was doing a great service to God, heads out with a fist full of warrants intent on rounding up men and women and taking them to the Jerusalem detention centers.

"Now as he was going along and approaching Damascus, suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him. He fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?” He asked, “Who are you, Lord?” The reply came, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting."
Most commentators point out how closely Jesus identifies Himself with His people; what if Jesus identifies Himself that closely with all people?

" hurts you to kick against the goads."
We always manage to find someone to persecute (or bully, depending on your point of view) in the name of Jesus. Ironic, considering we all belong to God whether we realize it or not. Jesus, for His part, reminds us who this hurts.

"...Lord, I have heard from many about this man, how much evil he has done to your saints in Jerusalem..."
Saul's transformation is shocking to those who know about him. He does not deny it or hide it; it becomes part of his testimony-"...punishing them often in all the synagogues I tried to force them to blaspheme...I was so furiously enraged at them..."
Jesus says 'No, you were not furiously enraged at them. You were furiously enraged at me'.

"But the Lord said to him, “Go, for he is an instrument whom I have chosen..."
At this point Saul's rage against The Way becomes Paul's passion for the The Lord Jesus. Paul, like his Lord, will suffer ridicule rejection. Some things never change.

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Open for Business

"...therefore the Lord God sent him forth from the garden of Eden, to till the ground from which he was taken. He drove out the man; and at the east of the garden of Eden he placed the cherubim..."
Genesis 3:23-24

"...that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting the message of reconciliation to us. So we are ambassadors for Christ, since God is making his appeal through us; we entreat you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God."
2 Corinthians 5:19-20

When God drove the man and woman out of the garden it was not an act of vengeance or Divine retribution. It was an act of mercy-God would not allow His creatures to live forever knowing good and evil without love. Sin looks only to self; love ever looks to the other. For this reason sin is a barrier between humankind and God. Paul says in Christ that issue has been dealt with; the barrier and all it’s attending baggage has been stripped away by God Himself. What is left is the new creation; reconciled with God into a loving relationship, free to roam about the countryside furthering God’s interests, advancing God’s program, proclaiming what God has done. The Kingdom of God is at hand and open for business.

Free to Love

"Am I a God near by, says the Lord, and not a God far off? Who can hide in secret places so that I cannot see them? says the Lord. Do I not fill heaven and earth? says the Lord."
Jeremiah 23:23-24

“The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases,
his mercies never come to an end;
they are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness.”
Lamentations 3:22-23

Jeremiah's first message was a warning to those who claimed to speak for God but “...[prophesied] lies in my name...”. It was threatening, intimidating and pretty much ignored. It should frighten us as well-no where to run, no where to hide. Everything is done in God's presence. But then comes Jeremiah's follow-up-God's steadfast love and compassion are never ending and ever renewing. We no longer need fear God's presence; for us-even those of us who continue to speak without spending enough time "...[standing] in [God's] council..."-it should be a great comfort. No hiding necessary. We are free to enjoy our God.

Living life

Jeremiah 29:5-7
“Build houses and settle down; plant gardens and eat what they produce. Marry and have sons and daughters; find wives for your sons and give your daughters in marriage, so that they too may have sons and daughters. Increase in number there; do not decrease. Also, seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the Lord for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper.”

God was determined that His people would reveal Him by being His presence; He was not about to let their captivity stop Him. Since the entirety of the Mosaic Law was too difficult for the people to keep, God would distill it down to a few basic commands.

Build a house. Plant a garden. Start a family. Eat what you grow. Live your life-“If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone”. Above all, pray for the peace of your community. If it prospers you will too-the peace and prosperity of captives and captors is linked by Divine Fiat.

 “I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.. And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.”

The End Result

The End Result

"In my Father’s house there are many dwelling places. If it were not so, I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you."
John 14:2
"Come to him, a living stone, though rejected by mortals yet chosen and precious in God’s sight, and like living stones, let yourselves be built into a spiritual house..."
1 Peter 2:4-5

The Father's house is not some mansion in the sky accessible only after death.The dwelling places are us, right here, right now. Christ in you, your hope of glory is both the result and the reward of the weekend's events. The sin issue has been dealt with. All barriers have been removed. There is nothing left but to abide.
"Abide in me as I abide in you...I am the vine, you are the branches. Those who abide in me and I in them bear much fruit, because apart from me you can do nothing...My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit and become my disciples."
John 15:4-5;7

By what means?
"Do not be conformed to this age, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God—what is good and acceptable and perfect."
Romans 12:2
"You were taught to put away your former way of life...and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to clothe yourselves with the new self, created according to the likeness of God..."
Ephesians  4:22-24

What fruit?
"By contrast, the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness gentleness, and self-control.."
Galatians 5:22
“...clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience. Bear with one another and, if anyone has a complaint against another, forgive each other; just as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive.”
Colossians 3:12-13

Jesus spent three years showing us how to live. Now He helps us live what He has shown. This is why we are here. This is how we bring glory to God. "I glorified you on earth by finishing the work that you gave me to do...Jesus answered them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.”
John 17:3; 6:28.
Believe (not about, in). Now the relationship-and the adventure-begins.

He Is Risen

He Is Risen!

For I know that my Redeemer lives,
and that at the last he will stand upon the earth;
and after my skin has been thus destroyed,
then in my flesh I shall see God
Job 19:25-26

Lift up your heads, O ye gates;
even lift them up, ye everlasting doors;
and the King of glory shall come in.
Who is this King of glory?
The Lord of hosts, he is the King of glory.
Psalm 24:9-10

He will swallow up death in victory;
and the Lord God will wipe away tears from off all faces;
and the rebuke of his people shall he take away from off all the earth:
for the Lord hath spoken it.
Isaiah 25:8

He is not here; he has risen, just as he said. Come and see the place where he lay.
Matthew 28:6

Praise the Lord!
Praise God in his sanctuary;
praise him in his mighty firmament!
Praise him for his mighty deeds;
praise him according to his surpassing greatness!
Praise him with trumpet sound;
praise him with lute and harp!
Praise him with tambourine and dance;
praise him with strings and pipe!
Praise him with clanging cymbals;
praise him with loud clashing cymbals!
Let everything that breathes praise the Lord!
Praise the Lord!
Psalm 150

We remember the cross; we live the resurrection.
He Is Risen Indeed!

Saturday doesn't get much press.

Saturday doesn’t get much press.

“What’s the buzz, tell me what’s happening”
Jesus Christ Superstar

“But they will have to give account to him who is ready to judge the living and the dead. For this is the reason the gospel was preached even to those who are now dead, so that they might be judged according to human standards in regard to the body, but live according to God in regard to the spirit.”
1Peter 4:6

Perhaps this is what God had in mind when He sent Jonah to Nineveh; when Jeremiah wrote his letter to the captives. Peter says the Gospel was preached; he does not say how. Or when.

“The heavens declare the glory of God;
the skies proclaim the work of his hands.
Day after day they pour forth speech;
night after night they reveal knowledge.
They have no speech, they use no words;
no sound is heard from them.
Yet their voice goes out into all the earth,
their words to the ends of the world...”
Psalm 19:1-4

“And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.”
John 12:32