Category Archives: Sunday

Second Chance: I Corinthians 2

√ Re·new·al: the replacing or repair of something that is worn out, run-down, or broken

NIV…2 For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. 3 I came to you in weakness with great fear and trembling.  4 My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power, 5 so that your faith might not rest on human wisdom, but on God’s power…7 No, we declare God’s wisdom, a mystery that has been hidden and that God destined for our glory before time began…10 these are the things God has revealed to us by his Spirit. The Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God. 11 For who knows a person’s thoughts except their own spirit within them? In the same way no one knows the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. 

¶ Who would ever imagine the “demonstration of the Spirit’s power” might be Paul’s testimony “For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified.”  God has taught this teacher, who dedicated so much of his life to knowing and obeying the law, a powerful truth about human nature: words can be used to target changing the listener’s convictions instead of their hearts.   Human nature is still about the law and “wise and persuasive” words can still become an easy substitute for the reality of renewal.  Paul chose to avoid those persuasive words “so that your faith might not rest on human wisdom, but on God’s power.” 

¶ Here’s the big word for the day – litigious: unreasonably prone to go to law to settle disputes.  

¶ I’ve recently become sensitized to how important Paul’s words are to life today.   The airways are filled with persuasive hot-button words about laws, politics and current events.   It’s important to remember those words have power designed to influence convictions and distract but it’s only the “demonstration of the Spirit’s power” that changes hearts.  We are not renewed by the words we hear or even by our deeply-held convictions.  We are renewed by our relationship to Jesus “so that [our] faith might not rest on human wisdom, but on God’s power.”

¶ “These are the things God has revealed to us by his Spirit. The Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God.”

Second Chance: Acts 2

√ Re·new·al: the replacing or repair of something that is worn out, run-down, or broken

NIV Acts 2:2 Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. 3 They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them.  4 All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit…

Courage :
• from the prophet Joel  Acts 2:17 “‘In the last days, God says, I will pour out my Spirit on all people…21 And everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”
• from David the king 2:28 “You have made known to me the paths of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence.”
• from Peter 2:32 “God has raised this Jesus to life, and we are all witnesses of it. 33 Exalted to the right hand of God, he has received from the Father the promised Holy Spirit and has poured out what you now see and hear.

A big part of renewal in a life of faith is having the courage to come to grips with the Holy Spirit.  Identifying the Holy Spirit as wind is familiar but I’ve never noticed the word “violent” before [other versions use “mighty.”]  The idea that the indwelling of the Holy Spirit might not be a gentle and virtually invisible interaction at all but the surgical  removal of the sin within us that’s so violent it might even require fire to cauterize the wound.  That’s just my theory.  The truth is the moment the Holy Spirit enters into us the dramatic renewal and  healing within us begins.  ‘God has raised this Jesus to life, and we are all witnesses of it.”

Second Chance: Luke 2

√ Re·new·al: the replacing or repair of something that is worn out, run-down, or broken

Three Circumstances:
The census of the Roman world replaced the legal status of Joseph and Mary as individuals and recognized them as a couple.  The shepherds became the first witnesses of God’s own testimony proclaiming a Holy purpose for their lives, renewal through the birth of Jesus. The ancient ceremonies observed for Jesus’s birth THEN have been renewed through His life.  They’ve become modern day testimonies for us NOW of the reality of God’s Holy purpose for our life…Renewal

CIRCUMCISION THEN • Luke 2:21 “Eight days later, when the baby was circumcised, he was named Jesus, the name given him by the angel even before he was conceived”
NOW • Colossians 2:9 “For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity  lives in bodily form, 10 and in Christ you have been brought to fullness. He is the head over every power and authority. 11 In him you were also circumcised with a circumcision not performed by human hands.”

REDEMPTION THEN • Luke 2:22 “When the time came for the purification rites required by the Law of Moses, Joseph and Mary took him to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord…4 and to offer a sacrifice in keeping with what is said in the Law of the Lord: “a pair of doves or two young pigeons”
NOW • Galatians 2:20 “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”

DEDICATION THEN • Luke 2:34 “Then Simeon blessed them, and he said to Mary, the baby’s mother, “This child is destined to cause many in Israel to fall, and many others to rise”
NOW • Romans 12:1 “Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. 2 Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.”

Second Chance: Matthew 2

√ Re·new·al: the replacing or repair of something that is worn out, run-down, or broken

It did occur to me I could read through all the second chapters of the New Testament but it wasn’t until the first few inspirational thoughts this morning that “what’s next” became “why not?  If those “Firsts” during Lent and Easter were God’s theme to direct my thoughts toward the goal of Easter – renewal – then maybe these second chapters are God’s Second Chance to explore the mystery of how renewal happens.  You already know this story so here’s the cliff notes from Matthew 2.

Matthew 2:1 Jesus was born in Bethlehem…Magi from the east came…2 and asked, “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him”…3 When King Herod heard this he was disturbed…8 He sent them to Bethlehem and said, “Go and search carefully for the child. As soon as you find him, report to me, so that I too may go and worship him”…11 On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him…12 And having been warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, they returned to their country by another route…16 When Herod realized that he had been outwitted by the Magi, he was furious, and he gave orders to kill all the boys in Bethlehem and its vicinity who were two years old and under, in accordance with the time he had learned from the Magi.

We’ve come from the victory of Easter Sunday only to be reminded  of the reality of a worn out, run-down and broken world…then.  The magi were powerful men who dedicated themselves to search for the King of the Jews: God’s provision that would renew the heart of a whole nation and ensure it’s survival.  Their desire was to become part of that renewal and worship “that” King.  Herod was a powerful king who’s only desire for renewal was to make certain of his own survival as king of the status quo. Fast forward from that star and the dreams that guided them to the worn out, run-down and broken world…now. 

There is a definite relationship between desire and survival that can misdirect our continuing need for  renewal.  Renewal is the lifelong challenge of being dedicated to developing the ability to judge desires and circumstances of our world in accordance with God’s will [discernment].  Discernment is our guide today and it’s God’s provision that will renew the heart of a whole nation and ensure it’s survival. 

He is Risen Indeed!

Christ is Risen!  Lent has reached it’s apex.  Thanks to Pastor Carl Franzon for sharing this meaningiful writing from Br. Curtis Almquist, SSJE. It’s the ultimate revelation of the truth of Easter.  We have a Savior who will not remain buried even by the whims of our humanity and the reality of a broken world. 

“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.”

Matthew 28:6 He is not here; he has risen, just as he said. [NIV]  

The Firsts: Jude – Complete

“Jude 1: 3 Dear friends, although I was very eager to write to you about the salvation we share, I felt compelled to write and urge you to contend for the faith that was once for all entrusted to God’s holy people.” [NIV]

We walked into the arms of a Savior who promised grace and mercy if we would repent…and we did.  We are “those who have been called…to contend for the faith that was once for all entrusted to God’s holy people.”  The accountability of our faith is what we’re being challenged to fight/contend for.  

Faith opened our eyes.  We recognized we couldn’t live without God’s guidance [at least in some areas].  Then we found ourselves with nagging thoughts that were undeniable evidence we ARE still living like we can do it on our own [at least in some areas].  We are victims of one last flaw, we’re still human. It’s easier to contend for the doctrine we can easily identify than it is to deal with the reality that repentance is still a work in progress.  Complete repentance is the internal struggle we “contend” for on behalf of the faith “that was once for all entrusted” to us. 

This is our plan of action…
“Jude 1:20 But you, dear friends, by building yourselves up in your most holy faith and praying in the Holy Spirit, 21 keep yourselves in God’s love as you wait for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to bring you to eternal life. 22 Be merciful to those who doubt; 23 save others by snatching them from the fire; to others show mercy, mixed with fear—hating even the clothing stained by corrupted flesh.”

This is God’s plan of action…
“Jude 1:24 To him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you before his glorious presence without fault and with great joy— 25 to the only God our Savior be glory, majesty, power and authority, through Jesus Christ our Lord, before all ages, now and forevermore!  Amen.”

The Firsts: 2 John 1 – War

2 John1:3 Grace, mercy and peace from God the Father and from Jesus Christ, the Father’s Son, will be with us in truth and love…6 And this is love: that we walk in obedience to his commands. As you have heard from the beginning, his command is that you walk in love.

John doesn’t say “grace, mercy and peace from God the Father and from Jesus Christ, the Father’s Son” are his prayer, or his hope for us.  He says they “WILL BE with us IN truth and love.”

This is a challenging time for me.  I struggle with agitation. irritation and embarrassment about situations and people that have intruded into my world view to pull my focus away from the truth I know and disturbed my own grace, mercy and peace.  I hate this harsh reality in which I have to continually spend time questioning what is truth and then figure out how to walk in obedience to the one command I really need to practice: to “walk in obedience to his [Jesus’] commands. 

It feels like a war right now with these warning signs: 
Who is controlling the things that direct my focus?
Who values control more than grace?
Who values influence more than mercy?
Who values power more than peace?
Who celebrates when I’m agitated. irritated and embarrassed at the world around me?

The answer to any of my questions is ugly but John’s assurance is real and “will be with us in truth and love…Grace, mercy and peace from God the Father and from Jesus Christ, the Father’s Son.”