Bible


This prayer from Hebrews was recently brought to my attention and it was quite meaningful with all that is going on in our lives. I pray it is a blessing for you too.

May God, who puts all things together,
makes all things whole,
Who made a lasting mark through the sacrifice of Jesus,
the sacrifice of blood that sealed the eternal covenant,
Who led Jesus, our Great Shepherd,
up and alive from the dead,
Now put you together, provide you
with everything you need to please him,
Make us into what gives him most pleasure,
by means of the sacrifice of Jesus, the Messiah.
All glory to Jesus forever and always!
Oh, yes, yes, yes.

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]
Meditation
Image by VeNiVi via Flickr

Friday night David shared from the Old Testament book Nehemiah at Seward Church.  His focus was again on the community found within the Biblical story.

As a community the people listened attentively to Ezra’s reading of the Law (Neh 8:1-3). As a result of hearing the Law the people were grieved for their sin and as a result are making a covenant together to focus on pleasing God – through the law. (Neh 9:38)

I had a little trouble following David this week, but even though the Israelites were very focused on works-based salvation through the law – God had already offered them His radical love and salvation.  Even before they deserved it.  9:9-11 and 9:13

One of the purposes of the law is to create a community.  Whenever one person in the community suffers – the whole community suffers.  When we have an unraveling in our lives it is because our relationship with God is unravelling.  This too can have a negative impact on the community of believers.  Hearing the Word of God stirs something within us – as it did many times throughout the Old Testament stories.  Together and with the Holy Spirit’s help we can live together in community and carry each other’s burdens.  God doesn’t forsake us (9:17) even though we are all sinners (9:27,30) God has enduring patience and mercy.

David’s final point was that we should all continue to PRESS ON TOGETHER with Christ as our center.  Look at last week’s message to see more about God’s community.

Technorati Tags: , ,

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]
Image from Flickr

David went a little off-topic for Friday’s message at Seward Church. Instead of the usual story of grace this week focused more on faithfulness and community, which does connect with grace!

In John 13:34 Jesus commands the disciples to love one another in the same way that He has loved us.  This is the basis for a community that serves Christ and functions well together both internally and externally.  David shared an image of a lighthouse (similar to this) which I had never thought of before. Jesus is the light that is shining out across the sea, serving as a beacon for all to see.  But it takes people (in community) to go out and be the light touching lives and rescuing or searching out people to help draw them into the lighthouse.  Does that make sense to you?

In  Ezra (3:1,8-9) we see that the Isrealites have placed their faith in God again.  Building the temple was their expression of faith.  Building the temple or a church also represents the people coming together in a community.  All believers should come together and be made more holy (sanctified) as seen in John 17:17-22.    Ephesians4:3 says that we should do everything to keep the bonds of peace.  David really emphasised that community is a gift not a right.  As a gift we also have to work to stay unified – but also let the Spirit do its powerful work in us.

A little more controversial statement is that the community is strengthened not by looking at each other but by looking towards Jesus for His strength.  We are all imperfect beings and will annoy the heck out of each other – which could cause problems.  When we place Jesus at the center we tend to focus more on His love and grace for each one of us.  We also need to make sure that the focus doesn’t get turned towards the community we are trying to serve, because then we become all about service – not Jesus.

We all need or want to be in a community and having friends isn’t a problem but a sign of maturity.  In Genesis 2:18 God realized that man couldn’t do everything by himself – so He created the woman.  David extrapolated that to be that we shouldn’t be trying to do good works alone (individually or as a married couple) but together within the community of our church.  Community is by no means easy (as I mentioned above), I’m sure we all annoy each other!  But being in a community and having to deal with the idiosyncrasies of others helps draw us closer into the heart of God.  I’m sure we annoy Him alot!  Ultimately, community makes us better people.

While building the temple, the Israelites ran into some conflict.  Basically the king withdrew their building permits and made it illegal for them to keep working.   Ezra 4:17-21 makes it clear that soldiers were sent to stop the building process. Even though they were given clear direction by God to build the temple, the Israelites caved in to the pressure.  If construction was a sign of faithfulness, then halting construction was a sign of faithlessness.  They were concerned about their relative safety and not focused on God’s Safety.

Similarly if the church today focuses on self-preservation above following God’s calling they are acting without faith.  You can read many stories of Christians around the world standing up admist persecution and losing everything, even their life.  Almost as bad is when the church focuses only on building itself up.  Building new gyms, adding expensive stained glass, creating church schools or home-school co-ops, and forgetting to focus on the external community.  Building a fitness center within a church campus says two things – 1) community we don’t want to smell your sweat or touch your machines and 2) God you are unable to protect us from those “evil” people who live out there.  Both of these are false.  David shared an interesting analogy with manure.  Manure is an excellent fertilizer, but only when spread out across an entire field.  When kept in a manure pit it will actually kill all the grass around it, not too mention that it reeks!  Christians are like manure – we are best when we are spread out around town.

The anaolgy breaks down a little bit because we are actually at our best when we are spread out in community with other Christians who can love and support our endeavors. But the point of the analogy is pretty clear.  Again, Jesus must be at the center of our field – maybe He is the manure spreader!

Even when we forsake or forget about Him, God continues to be faithful to us.  God really wanted a place for His people to come together in worship to Him, He wanted the temple built.  In Ezra 5:1-2 we see that Haggai and Zechariah were sent to kick the Israelites back into gear. They began rebuilding the temple.  The Book of Zechariah captures some of the prophesy, specifically 4:6-7 which includes the phrase – “Grace, Grace to It.” The NIV says, “God Bless It.”  Even after turning their back on Him, God gave them a second chance.  He has given us a second chance and the ultimate act of grace by letting His Son die for our sins.

We finished the evening with communion – the ultimate symbol of Christ’s life and death and a symbol of community. David said, “Communion is an act of kneeling together and looking at Christ.”  As 1 Corinthians 11:17-26 says, “For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.”

Let us each proclaim the love of God to all we meet and rely on God and the community He has given us to love those who are hard to love.

Technorati Tags: , , , , ,

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]
Jesus rescuing Adam and Eve from the grave
Image by wwhyte1968 via Flickr

Who are you? That always seems like a tough question – are you American, Somali, your father’s son, a husband, brother… who are you really?

During the time that 2 Chronicles 1 Chronicles was written the Jews were living in exile and were beginning to forget their heritage and the important stories of their history.  Ezra begins the book with a geneology – 9 chapters long from Adam all the way to David.

Remember last week when Josiah found the law?  Ezra was also bringing back the ideas surrounding the covenant made in Genesis 15.  Part of the covenant’s promise was that God would continue to provide for the Israelites as long as they followed His dictates.   The covenant was ultimately fulfilled in Jesus’ death (Is 53:5).  We need to remember that the covenant is both relational and legal.

Sometimes we let things get in the way of God’s work in our lives.  For example by Jesus’ day the Jews were creating all types of rules and laws to “help” people follow God.  Ultimately, these had the opposite affect placing barriers in the way of a relationship with God.

We can find great hope in this Hebrews passage (1:1-5)

Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world. He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, having become as much superior to angels as the name he has inherited is more excellent than theirs.

For to which of the angels did God ever say,

“You are my Son, today I have begotten you”?

Or again,

“I will be to him a father, and he shall be to me a son”?

Jesus is the King forever. He iniaited the original covenant and fulfilled it. Ezra was trying to bring the Israelites back to a story of Grace through the covenant.

Technorati Tags: , , ,


Reblog this post [with Zemanta]
"The Jews' Passover"—facsimile of a ...
Image via Wikipedia

This is actually a week late.  It is from March 6th.  Stay tuned for the 13th’s recap.

Second Kings is full of stories about kings, obviously.  Sadly it is a story of human kings who continue to screw up on a regular basis.  These kings ultimately face justice for their actions.  But during Friday night’s service in which Tim shared the story of grace from 2 Kings we focused on a king who was doing a lot of the right things.

King Josiah’s story is found in 2 Kings 22-24.  He was a pretty young king at 8 years old.  We are told that at age 16 he was seeking after God and by age 20 was waging military campaigns to expand the southern kingdom’s boundaries – into the northern kingdom.  Part of this campaign was dismantling idolatry,  especially temple prostitution.  When he was 26 some of his administration rediscovered the Law (vs 8-11).

This was a pretty big deal because God’s people had strayed pretty far from God’s desires and the law included judgement – the wrath of God.  Josiah was quite distraught and tore his clothes.  He then sought to restore God’s order throughout the kingdom.  It took between 6-8 years to destroy all the idols.

King Josiah even went so far as to restore the celebration of Passover (23:21), which for the Jewish people was the centerpiece of grace in their year and lives.  David, a man after God’s own heart, didn’t even really celebrate the Passover. It seems similar to many of the holidays we celebrate today – like Memorial Day or even Easter.  It is just another day on the calendar that we mark by getting some time off work.

Sadly, we see in verse 26 that this wasn’t enough.

Nevertheless, the LORD did not turn away from the heat of his fierce anger, which burned against Judah because of all that Manasseh had done to provoke him to anger.

For the Jewish people of the time and even today, the Messiah is seen as a person who will come and be an earthly king.  You can see this in some of the Gospel stories where Jesus was treated as a conquerer coming to overthrow the Roman government.  Unknowingly, the Romans called Him King of the Jews at His death.  Truthfully, Jesus was the promised King that would offer hope and salvation to the Jews – but they rejected Him.  Jesus also represents the perfect and final Passover for the Jewish people.

Ultimately God’s wrath came down on the Israelites and they were forced into exile for their sins.  Sin is always causing problems – putting us into exile from God.  Adam and Eve were “exiled” from the Garden of Eden and we continue to put sin between ourselves and God.  We will never be perfect while we walk the earth, but when we knowingly sin we are intentionally turing our back and walking away from Him.  When you sin you are saying that the object of your sin is worth more than God and you elevate it to a position of power in your life.  You can only have one God.

He is always there to accept and love us when we turn to Him in repentance.  We can see this in 22:18-19

Tell the king of Judah, who sent you to inquire of the LORD, ‘This is what the LORD, the God of Israel, says concerning the words you heard: Because your heart was responsive and you humbled yourself before the LORD when you heard what I have spoken against this place and its people, that they would become accursed and laid waste, and because you tore your robes and wept in my presence, I have heard you, declares the LORD.

Jesus is from the lineage of earthly Kings (Matthew 1) and the son of God, representing our eternal King who will lead us away from exile.

Jesus has freed us from the dictates of the law and fulfilled the promises made to the Isrealites.  He offers us freedom, grace, and love.   Will you accept it today?

Technorati Tags: , , , , , ,

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]
William Wilberforce (1759-1833)
Image via Wikipedia

We continue to steadily go through the Bible at Seward Church looking for themes of grace and Jesus. This week David shared from the story of 1 Kings.   He began with a story about William Wilberforce and his amazing perseverance trying to abolish slavery in the United Kingdom. You may recall the excellent movie about him, Amazing Grace. David said of Wilberforce that he showed “exemplerly perseverance.”

The book of 1 Kings is about Solomon and the transfer of power from David to his son.  With the passing of the torch came many responsibilities and directives.  One important one was treasuring God.  Something we try to do is be a loving church that perseveres in loving our community.

In 1 Kings 2:1-5 Solomon was told to persevere in the faith so that David’s lineage would continue to reign over Israel.  As if this wasn’t burden enough, in the same breath David asked Solomon to take care of some unfinished business – killing people David had promised not too!  Yikes, David may have had some problems!  We all think to ourselves that we want to be heros like Solomon and David, but we really just need to live a life following Christ and loving Him.

One of Solomon’s first actions was also one of his smartest – asking for guidance and help from God (3:3-9). Unfortunately, the passage also indicates that Solomon was struggling to keep the faith by offering “sacrifices and offerings at the high places”.  High places were where pagans went to worship their gods.  Sometimes we fall under the great burdens placed on us, whether by ourselves or by someone else.  The great thing is that no matter what God accepts us radically for who we are even when we fail.

Another inspiring action by Solomon was when after a dream he “stood before the ark of the Lord’s covenant and sacrificed burnt offerings and fellowship offerings” (3:15).  This is important because standing before the ark was similar to standing in the presence of God.  The Ark also contained a copy of the 10 Commandments, a pot of Manna, and Aaron’s rod.  Respectively, these stand for God’s justice, grace, and intercession all things that Solomon and we need to remember on a regular basis.

Yet today we don’t need to offer sacrifices or offerings to God, we have free grace through Jesus.  We can’t earn it through religiously based acts of worship but through a change of heart.  This grace is the same grace that allows us to accept our broken neighbors – even those who seek to harm us.

Sadly, Solomon didn’t persevere in the faith – look at the differences of language in Song of Solomon and Ecclesiastes.  Small compromises such as those we saw in 3:3 begin to pile up and really impact our lives, resulting in something like 11:1-2 where Solomon began putting his wives before devotion to God.  David gave a great analogy, using adrenaline versus the steady pounding of the heart.  The adrenaline rush is like a mountain top experience or quick burst of energy about an idea or topic while the steady pounding is a life-long devotion to change someone or something.  Think back to Wilberforce – many in his day thought slavery was bad and got excited for a short period of time (adrenaline) while few like Wilberforce were willing to commit their entire life to the cause (steady pounding heart).

Jesus gives us lots of hope, even when we fail miserably.  Romans 5:1-5 has this to say:

1Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, 2through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. 3Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; 4perseverance, character; and character, hope. 5And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.

Jesus gives us hope.

We ended the evening singing the song Amazing Grace, but I couldn’t help but think of another song, My Hope is Built.  The first verse is below:

My hope is built on nothing less
Than Jesus’ blood and righteousness.
I dare not trust the sweetest frame,
But wholly trust in Jesus’ Name.

Technorati Tags: , , , ,

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

Much was written in the Gospels about the connection between Jesus and David.  He was called the Son of David several times and the geneology says he was the son of Abraham and the son of David.  Thus David must be an important character in the Old Testament.  So it is no surprise that a lot was written about him, specifically in 2nd SamuelTim chose a section from the book that I’m sure we are all  familiar with – Chapters 11 & 12.  If you can’t recall the topic, one word will suffice to remind you – Bathsheba.

You might recall that David was enjoying the view from his rooftop when he spotted a beautiful woman bathing across the way.  He quickly sent his staff to inquire about her.  I had never realized the importance of the characters in the story:

* Uriah (Bathsheba’s husband) was one of the top 37 soldiers (mercenaries) out of millions of soliders

* Eliam (Bathsheba’s dad) was another of the top 37.

* Bathsheba’s grandpa was actually a top advisor to David

I think the point here is that David knew the family surrounding this  “beautiful woman.”  This should have been a second opportunity for him to realize the folly of his desires.  In this chapter alone David broke at least 7 of the 10 commandments.  To finish the story recap David slept with Bathsheba, got her pregnant, brought Uriah home to try to pretend like it was his doing, and killed Uriah – who had too much honor and integrity to indulge himself while his comrades were suffering in a war.

It is a little ironic that while David, God’s chosen, was full of deciet and lies that this Hittite or foreigner, would have such high honor and integrity.

In 12:1-7 we see that David has the moral capacity has Nathan tells him a story and David is very angred.  This is a demonstration that we have the moral capacity but that we don’t neccessarily act morally. We like David often pronouce strong judgments on our immoral actions (Romans 2:1 and Genesis 3:4-5).  But it is our actions that slowly erode our moral compass.  Like Romans 1:18 says we “suppress the truth by our wickedness.”

We watch ourselves sin, know it is wrong, and then judge ourselves.  Sadly, a new moral compass won’t help.  Many today just thing we need to fix the compass or try some new programs to reteach morality – it won’t work.  It is actually also part of the problem.  We love to sin but don’t like to face the consequence – death. Fortunately we have a Savior who died so that we wouldn’t have to.

Who is most like Jesus? In this story who is most like Jesus?  Is it David? Uriah? Bathsheba? or Nathan (he confronted David about his sin)?

It is actually Uriah, he shows us the suffering side of Jesus.

  • Uriah refused to take the easy path, enjoying life while others suffered.
  • Uriah refused to have his feet washed, instead staying with the servants/body guards – Jesus washed feet as a servant
  • Jesus kissed Judas as He was being betrayed – Uriah honored David by staying with the servants/body guards.
  • Jesus was betrayed by one close to Him Uriah was betrayed by the whom he served
  • Uriah made the right decisions
  • David used someone else, war to kill Uriah.  The Jews used Roman law to have Jesus killed.

Are we willing to admit that we are morally bankrupt and in need of a Savior? It is hard to say that we are screwed up and don’t know right from wrong in the depths of our heart.  We need Jesus’ help to make sure we avoid temptations.

Technorati Tags: , , , , ,

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

Next Page »