Category Archives: Sunday

Good News!

1 In the first year of Cyrus king of Persia, that the word of the Lord by the mouth of Jeremiah might be fulfilled, the Lord stirred up the spirit of Cyrus king of Persia, so that he made a proclamation throughout all his kingdom and also put it in writing:  2 “Thus says Cyrus king of Persia: The Lord, the God of heaven, has given me all the kingdoms of the earth, and he has charged me to build him a house at Jerusalem, which is in Judah. 3 Whoever is among you of all his people, may his God be with him, and let him go up to Jerusalem, which is in Judah, and rebuild the house of the Lord, the God of Israel—he is the God who is in Jerusalem. 4 And let each survivor, in whatever place he sojourns, be assisted by the men of his place with silver and gold, with goods and with beasts, besides freewill offerings for the house of God that is in Jerusalem.”  5 Then rose up the heads of the fathers’ houses of Judah and Benjamin, and the priests and the Levites, everyone whose spirit God had stirred to go up to rebuild the house of the Lord that is in Jerusalem. 6 And all who were about them aided them with vessels of silver, with gold, with goods, with beasts, and with costly wares, besides all that was freely offered. 7 Cyrus the king also brought out the vessels of the house of the Lord that Nebuchadnezzar had carried away from Jerusalem and placed in the house of his gods. 

My Cliff Notes:
That the word of the Lord by the mouth of Jeremiah might be fulfilled, the Lord stirred up the spirit of Cyrus king of Persia.  He made a proclamation and also put it in writing:  Whoever is among you of all his people, may his God be with him.  Let him go up to Jerusalem and rebuild the house of the Lord, the God of Israel.  Then rose up everyone whose spirit God had stirred and all who were about them aided them with all that was freely offered.  Cyrus the king also brought out the vessels of the house of the Lord that Nebuchadnezzar had carried away from Jerusalem.

Interesting things I learned:
God used one pagan king, Nebuchadnezzar, to punish the Jews and another, Cyrus, to return the exiled people to Jerusalem to restore their temple. It’s an odd bit of Good News that the success of Godless men does not affect the Sovereignty of God’s complete authority over all men despite their manipulative intent, despite hostile power grabs and despite distance and time. 

God returned His people to the very place His son must be born and to His Temple in the city where Jesus would come in order to accomplish His plans for the salvation of many.   Thanks to a small footnoteª I read these words, also from Jeremiah 29:10, “For thus says the Lord: When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will visit you, and I will fulfill to you my promise and bring you back to this place.”  It was curiosity that ‘stirred up’ my spirit to see a new connection between Old Testament history and the only verse I could quote from Jeremiah; the very next one after the one Ezra 1 references. It’s just one additional verse but it confirms the centuries old desire from the heart of God to His people that is still true today.  You probably know it too. “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.”  That one more verse makes Ezra more than history, it’s Good News for today!

Predestined in Him

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, 4 even as he chose us In Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love 5 he PREDESTINED us for adoption to himself as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, 6 to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved. 7In Him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, 8 which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight 9 making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ 10 as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth. 11In Him we have obtained an inheritance, having been PREDESTINED according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will, 12 so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of his glory. 13 In Him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in Him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, 14 who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.  ESV

“In the fullness of time” God “predestined us for adoption to Himself.”  I’ve struggled with that one word “predestined” and the idea of God picking and choosing who will be blessed.  I don’t presume the outcome of that debate with myself is absolute truth, but according to this Scripture I do absolutely believe this to be true: God made a plan “that we should be holy and blameless before him” to provide us a destiny…which He set forth in Christ…to the praise of His glory.”

I wonder if it’s our tainted humanity that has caused us to attribute to God some competitive nature that must decide who’s in and who’s out?  His plan for that difficult word, “predestined” is so much bigger than God picking and choosing individuals for whom that adoption will occur. “Before the foundation of the world” He predestined a perfect plan and one perfect man, Jesus, “to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth…
according to the purpose of his will,
according to the riches of his grace,
according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ,
according to the purpose of him who works all things,
according to the counsel of his will…so that

In Him you also,
when you heard the word of truth,
the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him,
were sealed
with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance
until we acquire possession of it,
to the praise of his glory.”

His Body, Made Visible

1:21 And you, who once were alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, 22 he has now reconciled in his body of flesh by his death, in order to present you holy and blameless and above reproach before him, 23 if indeed you continue in the faith, stable and steadfast, not shifting from the hope of the gospel that you heard, which has been proclaimed in all creation under heaven, and of which I, Paul, became a minister.  24 Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church…ESV

I understood the “once you were alienated” of verse 21.  I did have a curious little blip when I read “now reconciled in His body of flesh by his death” but I didn’t realize how lightly I’d skimmed over that phrase until I got down to verse 24.  Those Words were the shock factor that turned my blip into a full-on stop light.  The first thing I found was this wise statement from William Barclay. “It is one of the facts of the human mind that a man thinks only as much as he has to.” The Bible is filled with that “has to” factor. STOP! Look more, this is different, don’t just let this casually slip away.

I found myself wondering about the nature of reconciliation that requires a “body of flesh” as well as Christ’s death.  What made those words “what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions” so shocking is knowing even though we are the the body of Christ, the church cannot save people from their sins, or by baptism or communion make them holy and blameless and above reproach.  Only Christ can do that.  What could possibly be lacking in His afflictions?  What could possibly make someone rejoice in their suffering for the sake of His body, that is the church?  Paul knew the answer.  He wasn’t boasting when he said I am filling up what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his body, he was giving his testimony.  It’s a shared testimony for all us who are the part of the physical presence of Christ today, the church. 

What is lacking in Christ’s afflictions is our afflictions.
We are His physical testimony, His body, made visible to the world…
He has now reconciled [us] in his body of flesh by his death.

The Mystery In-Between

1 What then shall we say was gained by Abraham, our forefather according to the flesh? 2 For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God. 3 For what does the Scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness.” 

Romans 4 contains a timeless truth about righteousness.  I’ve removed Romans 4-12 from this post on purpose to stir up your interest in the mysterious truth that lies in-between those first three verses and verse 24.  I want you to read and ponder those verses for yourself because they are thought-provoking reminders of the visceral [felt in or as if in the internal organs of the body] reality of God’s intent to interact physically with His people not just instruct them.

Romans 4:4-12 is the reality of a physical interaction between God and Abraham that’s now uniquely part of our heritage as his descendants.  True to His word God has given all Abraham’s descendants a new seal  to verify what He has already done; the precise surgical procedurea  that purposely removed the barrier left in-between the heart and the righteousness He counts as His own.

Romans 4:24…It [Righteousness] will be counted to us who believe in him who raised from the dead Jesus our Lord, 25 who was delivered up for our trespasses and raised for our justification.

a Deuteronomy 30:6

Propitiation

Propitiation: appeasement of God’s just wrath
God is love √
Love is from God √
Jesus is from God √
God has created the human heart with a natural
“pacemaker” that sets the rhythm of a person’s heartbeats.
When we begin to recognize it was God’s Love that sent Jesus
as His provision to turn away His just wrath against our sin,
and to make amends for our guilt or wrongdoing, our hearts begin
to experience the rhythm of love from God’s own heart abiding in us.
Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another
knowing with every beat His love is being perfected in us.

Confession

Confession is so much more than saying words. It’s our promise to God that we will not pretend to ourself or to Him that we’ve cleared sin from our life.  Our confession is His evidence of our trust that his faithful desire is to be true to Himself.  He will hear our promises and forgive and cleanse us from the unrighteousness of our human attempts to be committed to Him…if we walk in His Light and continue to confess our desire is to claim our shared life with him.

Risen


Acts 13:32 And we bring you the good news that what God promised to the fathers, 33 this he has fulfilled to us their children by raising Jesus, as also it is written in the second Psalm, “‘You are my Son, today I have begotten you.’ 34 And as for the fact that he raised him from the dead, no more to return to corruption, he has spoken in this way, “‘I will give you the holy and sure blessings of David.’ 

“Wherever we bury Jesus, he comes back to life. We can bury him in the Bible or in stained glass windows. We can bury him in creeds and formulas and the heritage of our own tradition. We can bury him in movies and plays and music. We can bury him in our past. We can even bury him in bread and wine. And each time from each place he rises from the dead. He sheds the words and images and walks right on out into the world.a

a Br. Curtis Almquist, Society of St. John the Evangelist, a monastic community of The Episcopal Church.

Riches

It was kind of you to share my trouble. I’m thankful for your gift because it confirms our partnership in the beginning of the gospel.  I received your sacrifice as full payment and more because it came with the sweet aroma of the fruit of God to your credit and my benefit.  God was pleased, along with me, to accept your gift.  You are His riches in glory in Christ Jesus, and according to that He will supply every need of yours.  To our God and Father be glory forever and ever!

The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ
be with your spirit.
❤️

Rejoice!

Can I do all things through Christ?  Is it my strength or His? What have I learned?

I learneda a Greek word [αὐτάρκεια] which in English letters looks like “autarkes.”  According to Strong’s Concordance it comes from autos (“self”) and arkein (“sufficient”). It’s the word Paul used that is translated in Verse 11 as “content.”  The link I put at the end of the post is a good explanation of why Paul would choose a word that mentions “self” in relation to Christ, or being strengthened and being content.  The secret lies in three other words I want to share with you today that do relate to self — “I have learned…”   The Grace of God and daring to trust His Providence over every circumstance of life is the secret of being “autarkes.” 

The “secret” is the mysterious and wonderful reality that within myself God has placed HimSELF to help me learn “in whatever situation I am to be content”…because I am SELF-sufficient.  May it be so!

 a John Piper 

It’s Personal [Full Stop]


It seems radical to edit Paul, but if I were his editor I might advise him to begin with “The Lord is at hand” and then carry on with his first truth that connects “rejoice in the Lord” to reasonableness.  Then I’d suggest he connect “Let your reasonableness be known to everyone” directly to “by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving.” Right there, after “thanksgiving” I’d ask him to place a big “.” [a full stop].  There’s something  holy about connecting rejoicing to our “reasonableness”…reasonableness to our “prayer and supplication with thanksgiving”…and “prayer and supplication with thanksgiving” to our belief. Those are the connections of holy truth that verify we do believe “the Lord IS at hand” in our life for his purpose .

Did you notice how personal everything Paul writes is, even without my editing?  It’s about your rejoicing, your reasonableness, your prayer, your supplication and your thanksgiving.  Today if you dare to believe that, use my full stop and take a moment to rejoice over the Godly reality that sometimes His truth really is about you!  Then read on.  Paul is going to make your rejoicing even more personal with God’s promise to “guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus“.”

That’s very personal for God too! “Again I will say, rejoice!” Take my dare! “Rejoice” over what He is making known to, and about, you.  Rejoicing is reasonable evidence that you’re practicing “what you have learned and received and heard and seen” in your personal relationship with Him“.”  He’ll love it!