Category Archives: Sunday

Moment of Obedience

I think I must have subconsciously remembered that the Feast of Dedication was also known as the Feast of Lights.  That got my attention. Don’t miss that timing here because I don’t  think Jesus did. The Feast of Lights is observed during the Winter solstice when the day with the least hours of light happens. The Light of the World choosing to be at the Feast of Lights during the darkest time of year to celebrate enduring light. Do you see where this is heading?

The Jews had been through a terrible time in their history when this feast first began. They’d endured nearly 200 years of wars, massacres, their faith being outlawed, the Temple in Jerusalem being desecrated and no new prophets raised to reveal new truths about God to them.  They were blinded by that loss until the Temple was recaptured and they were called to rebuild it and refocus themselves on the worship of the One true God, as instructed by Moses. The first Feast began as a commemoration to rededicate the Temple and themselves to God and to relight the menorah that was meant to provide light every day and night in the Temple.  The Jews knew they only had oil for one day but they chose to give that one day to God out of obedience.  And in that moment of obedience God gave them the miracle of enduring light that lasted eight days that they continued to celebrate each of the following 200 years.

Jesus is the new moment of obedience for them at this feast.  The same Lord they’ve honored every year since that first beginning has come into their midst.  Jesus, the Light of the World, has chosen to reveal the bold declaration of His identity: “I and the Father are one” and then later in verse 38 “the Father is in me and I am in the Father.”  At this point in time they’ve lived through a nearly 400-year period between the Old Testament ending with Malachi’s speaking of a new coming of the Lord and the New Testament’s beginning with John the Baptist’s testimony about Jesus as the Messiah. Now God has proven His silence is over…and they’ve missed the moment.  

Reading John’s scripture passage is like reading a familiar pattern of daily life. The recorded wisdom of history and the reality of life are all rolled into the two Testaments of His Word. The Bible doesn’t put a pretty face on every experience of life.  Sometimes it includes the reality of how easy it is to miss the moment of obedience.  And then it speaks of a new moment of hope in Galatians 2:19 TLB…for it was through reading the Scripture that I came to realize that I could never find God’s favor by trying—and failing—to obey the laws. I came to realize that acceptance with God comes by believing in Christ.

AND

This “cliff note” idea is not meant to be a definitive commentary of these verses. What I see now is just that — what I see now,  I spend each day between posts reading and re-reading the current verses.  I’m concentrating on looking for what catches my interest enough to make me ask “is this the truth I believe?”  My confidence is in one important thing; the Spirit of God is at work.  He’s the door opener. AND I want to get it right.  When I “ink” what I think I know, in plain sight for you to read, it’s a risk of obedience. I know the Spirit’s work is to teach AND correct.  That’s not an either/or it’s an AND.

Today’s notes are about the Shepherd, the Gatekeeper, the Father and the sheep that recognize them. The Gatekeeper is the guard, the Shepherd manages the sheep and His charge from the Father is to find the “sheep that are not of this fold…so there will be one flock, one Shepherd.”  That’s spot on!  However, I wondered why I’d ignored the last three verses of this chosen passage and realized I didn’t want them to mess up all that lovely truth-teaching with the hard fact of division and doubt. That’s when the “teach AND correct” kicked in. Sometimes it’s the ugly Words that remind me how much I need the Shepherd, the Gatekeeper and the Father to open my own eyes so I can recognize division is the thief and robber who will never “open the eyes of the blind.”

 

Stead Fastness

Where’s the joy I can count on when I’m at my most vulnerable? How in the world do “trials of various kinds” produce steadfastness?  Sometimes the meaning of a specific word becomes the catalyst of my heart when I’m unsure about where the Spirit is leading my thoughts.  Today that word is “steadfastness.”  

My thoughts began with steadfastness being about my strength and my survival.  I know everything is not supposed to be about me but honestly we’re talking about “my” trials and “my” joy. I know that is surely a vulnerable beginning to count on so I had to ponder…what is steadfastness?
stead: the place a substitute fills
fastness: being fixed and able to maintain it’s color without fading

I have some experience hand-dyeing fiber that has helped me understand how important the preparation of sheep’s wool is to color “fastness.”  I have much more experience with Jesus as my substitute. The delight of my heart is finding new meanings of old words to help me understand that preparation beforehand is what explains the relationship between various trials that produce steadfastness and joy.

Joy is more than just the result of having endured the “testing.”  I can “count it all joy” because long before any of those various trials became a reality I prepared my heart to trust that Jesus is there in my “stead” when I’m most vulnerable, being fixed and able to maintain the “fastness” of my faith without fading.  Amen!

The Mysterious Ministry

This is a mysterious truth about God choosing to advance His Gospel through the least likely of circumstances. What evidence do we have that supports Paul’s truth that what had happened to him had “really served to advance the gospel?”  We have his many writings including four epistles: Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, and Philemon written while imprisoned!  God had given Paul a unique history that preceded him to Rome.  He’d appeared and defended Jesus before so many powerful Roman leaders that he’d gained some notoriety.  “The whole imperial guard and all the rest” clearly knew his “imprisonment is for Christ.”  Paul had become a celebrity “criminal.”  He was allowed to have visitors and two-way communication about his many ministries.  It’s likely he was chained to his guards and they became his very personal in-prison ministry. People who would never have heard the truth of Christ in any other way became the captive audience of an “ambassador in chains” given one of the most mysterious opportunities for the Word to create new believers and inspire “brothers” to be “more bold to speak [the Gospel] without fear.” 

Dictionary Day

In: enclosed or surrounded by
Love: strong affection arising out of kinship or personal ties
Manifest: clear or obvious to the eye or mind.
World: the earth with its inhabitants and all things upon it.
Live: to exist
Through: able to move from one side to the other
Him: I=Jesus, Ch=Christ, Th=Theou (God’s), U=Uios (Son), S=Souter (Savior) ICHTHUS

Enclosed or surrounded by the strong affection of God, arising out of kinship or personal ties with Him, it becomes clear or obvious to the eye or mind that God sent Jesus to the earth with its inhabitants and all things upon it so we might exist knowing we are able to move from one side to the other of eternity because of Him.

 

New Year’s Day, 2023


2 Corinthians 5:17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. 18 All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; 19 that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself… ESV

One word in this short passage made me ask; am I ready for a New Year?   I remember a time when my whole focus of life was waiting for the new, yet-to-come, experience.  I wasn’t aware that focus often caused me to miss the blessing of the moment I was in.  Now it seems I’ve switched to the opposite focus.  It’s often the moments I can never experience again that I wish I’d cherished more.  Lord, make my thoughts compatible with yours [reconcile them] and teach me not to revel in the past that can’t be changed or long for the future which is out of my control, but to learn the Patience of Trust that your perfect timing is…NOW.   Lord, in this New Year, 2023 make me a “NOW” creation!

 

Christmas Day — The Surprise of Likeness

urprise!  It’s Christmas morning and here we are in Romans 8, the most surprising of all places.  Advent has focused my thoughts on the birth of a Holy Baby, Jesus, the Son of God so it was a surprise to read these familiar words in a whole new way because of what “God did: sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh” — ?? Sinful flesh…us??  It took a beat for my heart to realize this IS just how far God went “so that the requirement of the Law might be fulfilled in us.”  In order to do that, God filled that Advent cradle with Himself “in the likeness of sinful flesh and as an offering for sin” with the power to buy back our likeness to sin so we might “not walk according to the flesh.”  There’s an old story of a European ruler who would sneak away and walk among his people incognito.  It drove his security people nuts but his response was “I cannot rule my people unless I know how they live.” 

God chose to begin His walk among us on that first Christmas morning disguised as an ordinary baby, living and growing up in ordinary ways…walking among us incognito…until in His perfect timing He could reveal the surprise likeness of God “in us who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit.”

Fourth Sunday of Advent — A Shepherd Speaks

And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field,
keeping watch over their flock by night. And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord.  Luke 2:8-11  KJV

ach of us were taking our shifts through the night to keep watch over the sheep and lambs.  It seemed like an ordinary night, but honestly you’ll have to take my word for it, what happened next had all of us up and on our feet in an instant ready to defend our flock and ourselves.  The dangers shepherds face mostly kind of sneak up on them in the darkness so when the night sky was split apart by blinding light we were afraid. It seemed like all our worst fears had became reality. 

It wasn’t until we heard that voice say “Fear not: for behold, I bring you good tidings” that we began to wonder if this might be something special.  Sure, we’d heard there was a coming Savior, but this was a very odd situation.  Angels don’t just appear to bring news every day, especially to shepherds!  We don’t count for much except for those times we’re called upon to choose a perfect lamb for the Temple sacrifice.  We do know a perfect lamb when we see one!  I couldn’t help but wonder if that’s the reason the Lord chose us…of all people…to get first-hand news of the ”great joy, which shall be to all people” — because He trusted we would recognize the Perfect Lamb of His choice. 

The Third Sunday — The First Church

While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them. Luke 2:6-7

hurches today are definitely different than this stable, but in this season there are similarities that attract me to this idea: was this the first “church?”  This manger was not an accident that happened in an overcrowded village at a busy time.  God provided it.   Don’t be fooled into believing any details of the birth of Jesus were God’s last-ditch effort to provide a place for Jesus because there was no room in the inn. God chose that stable and that food trough as a sacred space. 

A stable isn’t the perfect structure I might have hoped for, but like every other church, availability matters.  That first church wasn’t meant to be a place for privileged and perfect people, but for people who needed a “place.”  A place where the curious could come and look to see whether what they’d heard was real. The things that made that “first” church perfect still matter.  God still chooses to make his Son available there.  There are still wise men and women who follow a Holy path and give the gifts they have.  We still have shepherds who rise and boldly tell the story of what they hear and see.  In this season we still sing “Gloria,” the music of praise-filled words we forget to speak the rest of the year.  Today’s “modern stable” still holds the same promise of that first church: God has chosen it as a sacred space where the needs of the people and the holiness of God finally can meet, and come together.

Second Sunday of Advent

 

The angel replied, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the baby to be born will be holy, and he will be called the Son of God.” Luke 1:35 NLT

…Joseph, son of David,” the angel said, “do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife. For the child within her was conceived by the Holy Spirit.”  Matthew 1:20 NLT

ou’ve heard it before; there is far more to Christmas than decorations and beautifully wrapped gifts. The Bible has given me a vivid picture of the glorious outcome of the journey to Bethlehem of the pregnant virgin and that ordinary carpenter.   Their journey has  become the “more” of my Christmas this year. I’ve found myself thinking of the less-considered details of the birth of the Son of God, Jesus. There’s the reality of two people who’ve each had to accept the word of an angel about their relationship and marriage despite improbable truths.  In addition to a surprise pregnancy, there was inconvenient timing that required them to obey the law of their heritage and go to the City of David to register.

Did they realize the birth was that close? How far could they go in a day? Did they sleep outside? How did they cook? How did they manage the required ritual cleansing? What about sanitation?  Weren’t there crowds of other people traveling that same road?  What about privacy?  I can imagine those needs might easily have challenged them on that journey of multiple days on dusty and bumpy roads…but they went.  I can also imagine the thankfulness they might have felt to finally have a pile of smelly straw, inside a stable, to sink into at the end of that hard journey.  They chose to be obedient even when their lives were filled with legitimate reasons to say “no.”  This year I’m grateful I spent some time imagining their journey.  It’s easy to celebrate the story of Mary and Joseph on the way to “O Little Town of Bethlehem” and the birth of a promised holy baby Away in a Manger and forget the harsh realities and risks involved in their circumstances.  Imagining just how real those less-considered details were, has made me realize my own thankfulness for the choices they made, and the impact of them on my identity in Christ today — because they said “yes” to God.