Sunday, June 27, 2010

The Year of Jubilee - Freedom

Romans 5:15-23 So, since we're out from under the old tyranny, does that mean we can live any old way we want? Since we're free in the freedom of God, can we do anything that comes to mind? Hardly. You know well enough from your own experience that there are some acts of so-called freedom that destroy freedom. Offer yourselves to sin, for instance, and it's your last free act. But offer yourselves to the ways of God and the freedom never quits. All your lives you've let sin tell you what to do. But thank God you've started listening to a new master, one whose commands set you free to live openly in his freedom!
 I'm using this freedom language because it's easy to picture. You can readily recall, can't you, how at one time the more you did just what you felt like doing—not caring about others, not caring about God—the worse your life became and the less freedom you had? And how much different is it now as you live in God's freedom, your lives healed and expansive in holiness?
As long as you did what you felt like doing, ignoring God, you didn't have to bother with right thinking or right living, or right anything for that matter. But do you call that a free life? What did you get out of it? Nothing you're proud of now. Where did it get you? A dead end.
But now that you've found you don't have to listen to sin tell you what to do, and have discovered the delight of listening to God telling you, what a surprise! A whole, healed, put-together life right now, with more and more of life on the way! Work hard for sin your whole life and your pension is death. But God's gift is real life, eternal life, delivered by Jesus, our Master.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Fathers’ Day 2010

2 Timothy 2:1-13 “You therefore, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. The things which you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses, entrust these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also. Suffer hardship with me, as a good soldier of Christ Jesus. No soldier in active service entangles himself in the affairs of everyday life, so that he may please the one who enlisted him as a soldier.
Also if anyone competes as an athlete, he does not win the prize unless he competes according to the rules. The hard-working farmer ought to be the first to receive his share of the crops. Consider what I say, for the Lord will give you understanding in everything.
Remember Jesus Christ, risen from the dead, descendant of David, according to my gospel, for which I suffer hardship even to imprisonment as a criminal; but the word of God is not imprisoned. For this reason I endure all things for the sake of those who are chosen, so that they also may obtain the salvation which is in Christ Jesus and with it eternal glory.
It is a trustworthy statement: For if we died with Him, we will also live with Him; If we endure, we will also reign with Him; If we deny Him, He also will deny us; If we are faithless, He remains faithful, for He cannot deny Himself.”

Prisca and Aquilla (Romans 16:3-5). One of my claims to fame is that I am Bonnie Grove’s husband. Her debut novel won the Best Contemporary novel at the Word Guild awards this past week. When you read the back cover copy you see the words “…blah blah blah Grove, and her pastor husband, Steve blah blah blah…” That’s what I am talking about. I got mentioned on the cover of a real book – how much better can it get? I know it is not all about me, that it is really all about Bonnie – but in her ministry there are people who pray and support her. In every celebrity’s life there are all the unfamous who do all the background stuff. Sometimes they get mentioned, sometimes not. We like to focus on the celebrities, the famous ones. I can talk of Joseph and David and even Gideon who was famous partially because he wasn’t famous. He was the last of the last, yet God used him. There are whole stories behind those other names, the behind the scenes regular people.  For example, who are Prisca and Aquilla? We find them mentioned in the closing of Paul’s letter to the Romans. There are two things we note in Paul’s comments. The first is that they risked their necks for Paul. What? Isn’t that a story you’d want to know? Here we know all about Paul. Paul goes to the Gentiles. Paul almost dies a zillion times. Paul is almost shipwrecked. Paul is beaten. Paul this and Paul that, yet here is an unknown couple that sounds like they saved Paul’s life. If they didn’t do what they did, we may not have heard about Paul past Acts 16! How many of his letters would not have been written if these two unknowns hadn’t put their life in harm’s way on Paul’s behalf? God likes to use the unknowns. He likes to use you and I.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

The Year of Jubilee - Foundation of Prayer

1 Timothy 2:1-8 “First of all, then, I urge that entreaties and prayers, petitions and thanksgivings, be made on behalf of all men, for kings and all who are in authority, so that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity.

This is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. For there is one God, and one mediator also between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave Himself as a ransom for all, the testimony given at the proper time. For this I was appointed a preacher and an apostle (I am telling the truth, I am not lying) as a teacher of the Gentiles in faith and truth. Therefore I want the men in every place to pray, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and dissension.”

The Year of Jubilee is about freedom: freedom from the past; freedom for both land and people to be restored. When you think about it, things were always leased or borrowed, not bought and sold. When you understand the truth of that, you come to realize the truth that you and I are stewards. The stuff we have is not really ours. Anything we have when we are born is a heritage, and anything we gain in life is a blessing; both gifts from God our Creator. As stewards we look after the things we have on behalf of God. The question is how we can better utilize our gifts and strengths, our possessions and time for the Kingdom of God. We start by having the best foundation possible.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

The Year of Jubilee: The blind shall see

John 9:24-34 So a second time they called the man who had been blind, and said to him, "Give glory to God; we know that this man is a sinner."
He then answered, "Whether He is a sinner, I do not know; one thing I do know, that though I was blind, now I see."
So they said to him, "What did He do to you? How did He open your eyes?"
He answered them, "I told you already and you did not listen; why do you want to hear it again? You do not want to become His disciples too, do you?"
They reviled him and said, "You are His disciple, but we are disciples of Moses. We know that God has spoken to Moses, but as for this man, we do not know where He is from."
The man answered and said to them, "Well, here is an amazing thing, that you do not know where He is from, and yet He opened my eyes. We know that God does not hear sinners; but if anyone is God-fearing and does His will, He hears him. Since the beginning of time it has never been heard that anyone opened the eyes of a person born blind. If this man were not from God, He could do nothing."
They answered him, "You were born entirely in sins, and are you teaching us?" So they put him out.

I am only one, but still I am one. I cannot do everything, but still I can do something; and because I cannot do everything, I will not refuse to do something that I can do.
Helen Keller, atheist

Albert Einstein once said, "Imagination is more important than knowledge." What he meant was this: knowledge is finite. Imagination can take a person into the infinite. Knowledge includes only what has been already developed. Imagination is about our dreams, our visions, which have no limits.

So we have this story of some guy born blind. He was minding his own business, when along comes Jesus and “poof” he can see. Up to that point he could hear the noises, but not understand what much of it was. Everything he understood came by feeling and listening. He would turn his face to the sun and feel the warmth. He would plunge his hand into the water and fell the coolness of it. Someone would try to describe how the liquid was clear and he would struggle with that reality. The colors of cloth and the world around him were confusing, for red and green and brown all felt the same. I can’t imagine the shock to his brain when his eyes were opened. The colors I think would have been the first thing. Then the shapes, the three dimensions of site. His world that used to be as big as his reach was now boundless to the horizons and beyond. The stars at night that would have been just imagination were now the reality of sparkling lights. Can you imagine being blind from birth and then suddenly seeing? God did that. As you read the story, you see the man not only had his sight, but he had understanding. The whole situation pointed to Jesus being God. When he stated the simple fact, he got in big trouble.