“You who bring good news to Zion, go up on a high mountain. You who bring good news to Jerusalem, lift up your voice with a shout, lift it up, do not be afraid; say to the towns of Judah, “Here is your God!”
Today is the beginning of Advent, 2017. Advent may not be a familiar name to you. It’s really just a time set aside leading up to Christmas to acknowledge the fullness of what has become the “Big Event” of our life, the birth of Jesus. I’ve come to love the daily moments that catch my heart and focus my mind on the Who, What, Why, When and How the Bible records of that Big Event but the season is filled with many other things that catch my eyes and ears. It’s starting to sound like a whole body experience isn’t it…heart, mind, eyes and ears? That’s exactly what the purpose of the month-long celebration of the Big Event is about.
The words Isaiah spoke way back then have added one more facet to the fullness of this year’s celebration of the Big Event for me. This might be the best part. The weeks leading up to Christmas are one of those rare seasons when the hearts of complete strangers are softened by music, lights, food, parties, friends, family…and gifts. Softened enough that what Isaiah says to us may touch them as well. “You who bring good news…lift up your voice with a shout, lift it up, do not be afraid… Here is your God!”
We are what is popularly referred to as snowbirds. Around Thanksgiving each year we pack our 35’ RV and head for warmer climate for a few months. That’s where my celebration of the Big Event happens each morning. Instead of a Christmas tree I have a hanging tree branch, a Jesse Tree [see above] that I decorate. It’s very simple. Today I hung an origami star with some off Isaiah’s words folded into it. I need those words to challenge myself, and maybe you too, to experience the fullness of a whole body celebration in one more way…voice!
There will never be a better time to “lift up your voice”…and bless someone. I’m not talking about a soapbox in a park or snagging someone on a street corner or even quoting scripture to them [although that might be appropriate in the right situation]. I’m only asking you to notice and respond to the people that cross your path between now and Christmas with a gift from God; a blessing given with your own voice and from the fullness of your own heart to make this year’s Big Event a whole body experience for yourself and maybe them too.
This doesn’t come naturally to me so I’ve been sitting here jotting down ideas of ways to fearlessly speak a blessing to a complete stranger. Ten minutes have gone by and after a lot of typing and a visit to look up the definition of blessing, Isaiah’s timeless truth [this is the “do not be afraid” part] has finally dawned on me. There is only one way to begin this blessing…God bless you…
…for your kindness
…for your help
…for your cheerful greeting
…for ringing that bell
…for opening that door
…for caring to ask
…for doing your job well
You get the idea, right? Make it part of your preparation during the days leading up to the Big Event to watch for opportunities to let your voice be a blessing for others. It’s really true you are blessed to be a blessing. May God bless you with his own heart, mind, eyes and ears…may he bless you with the courage to speak…may he bless you for pondering my thoughts and then coming up with your own.
Posted in Isaiah, Sunday, The Big Event
Tagged Blessing, Ears, Eyes, Fullness, Gift, Heart, Mind, Simple, Voice
Mark 3 The Red Thread – Rag Tag Unity
•“Stand up in front of everyone.”
•“Which is lawful on the Sabbath: to do good or to do evil, to save life or to kill?”
•“Stretch out your hand.”
•“How can Satan drive out Satan? 24 If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. 25 If a house is divided against itself, that house cannot stand. 26 And if Satan opposes himself and is divided, he cannot stand; his end has come. 27 In fact, no one can enter a strong man’s house without first tying him up. Then he can plunder the strong man’s house. 28 Truly I tell you, people can be forgiven all their sins and every slander they utter, 29 but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will never be forgiven; they are guilty of an eternal sin.”
•33 “Who are my mother and my brothers?”
•“Here are my mother and my brothers! 35 Whoever does God’s will is my brother and sister and mother.”
1. untidy, disorganized, or incongruously varied in character.
“a ragtag group of idealists”
What an varied assortment of characters there are in this chapter. First and foremost is Jesus, a carpenter turned itinerant minister from an obscure background causing a stir everywhere he went. The ragtag list continues: a man with shriveled hand, the “them” watching to find a way to accuse Jesus, crowds from all over, impure spirits, 12 ragtag men we call disciples, some of Jesus’s own family who are worried about his behavior and teachers of the law who find him both irritating and threatening. It doesn’t sound like the makings of a book that is still the world’s best-selling and most widely distributed according to Guinness World Records.
That’s the story though. God assembling his own ragtag community of people then…and now…for the essential purpose of keeping them close to himself. Essential ragtag people who manage to live together in ragtag unity because of one essential person, Jesus, the son of God, our Savior.
There’s an argument still made today those essentials are fine, “if you need them.” Recently I asked my pastor about how to respond to that. He gave me an answer I’ve never even considered before – embrace the need. I can’t give you proof that God exists or that Jesus can really change you. I can tell you about the need of one woman with a ragtag history who’s heart is being rebuilt with these red letter words of Jesus. It’s a ragtag unity I share with other “untidy, disorganized, or incongruously varied” people who find red letter words filling in the blanks of their lives too.
“In Essentials Unity, In Non-Essentials Liberty, In All Things Charity” Rupertus Meldenius, author of the 17th century tract in which the quote first appeared.
Posted in Mark, Sunday, The Red Letter Version
Tagged Community, Essential, Heart, Jesus, Need, Ragtag, Rebuilt, Story, Unity
Matthew 15:15 Peter said, “Explain the parable to us.” 16 “Are you still so dull?” Jesus asked them. 17 “Don’t you see that whatever enters the mouth goes into the stomach and then out of the body? 18 But the things that come out of a person’s mouth come from the heart, and these defile them. 19 For out of the heart come evil thoughts—murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander. 20 These are what defile a person; but eating with unwashed hands does not defile them.”
Par·a·ble: a simple story used to illustrate a moral or spiritual lesson, as told by Jesus in the Gospels.
“The things that come out of a person’s mouth come from the heart, and these defile them” is a red-letter Biblical truth from Jesus. We need to believe it and let it change us. Without a doubt we’ve all spoken words and done things that defiled us. Is that flaw part of the muscle memory stored in all hearts since Adam and Eve decided they should figure out the difference between good and evil for themselves? Was that where we began to depend on “rules” to erase what defiled us?
Long before medical science had proof of how central the heart is to the healthy functioning of the body Jesus knew the heart he’d helped create. The muscle memory of God was still there and could be remembered, renewed and redeemed by his truth.
Romans 2:13 Hearing the law does not make people right with God. It is those who obey the law who will be right with him. 14 (Those who are not Jews do not have the law, but when they freely do what the law commands, they are the law for themselves. This is true even though they do not have the law. 15 They show that in their hearts they know what is right and wrong, just as the law commands. And they show this by their consciences. Sometimes their thoughts tell them they did wrong, and sometimes their thoughts tell them they did right.)
It was only when I pasted these three verses into my digital journal that I noticed the close parenthesis at the end and realized the enclosed explanation was twice as long as the sentence it was clarifying. That simple fact seemed like a Biblical object lesson for me to think about.
Being right with God is more complicated than just knowing what the law is. Obeying the law isn’t a matter of separating the have’s from the have not’s at all. Instead, God makes a connection to what he’s written in the heart. “They [those who do not have the law] show that in their hearts they know what is right and wrong, just as the law commands.”
The object lesson: “Right with God” is the complicated relationship between being obedient to what the brain knows about the law and the obedience of the heart desiring to freely respond to it.
Hosea 6: excerpts from v.1-3
He will heal us
He will bind up our wounds
He will restore us that we may live in his presence
Let us acknowledge the Lord;
Let us press on to acknowledge him.
He will appear
He will come to us
6:4 Your love is like the morning mist, like the early dew that disappears…6 For I desire mercy, not sacrifice, and acknowledgment of God rather than burnt offerings.
7:13 Woe to them, because they have strayed from me! Destruction to them, because they have rebelled against me! I long to redeem them
but they speak about me falsely. 14 They do not cry out to me from their hearts but wail on their beds.
8:2 Israel cries out to me, ‘Our God, we acknowledge you!’ 3 But Israel has rejected what is good…5b How long will they be incapable of purity?…
I’m glad I’m reading Hosea knowing that God is going to provide the answer for us in Jesus. It’s hard to read of the disconnect between what God required and what “those” people were willing to give. Still the point of reading this book or any other of the Bible is to consider what possible difference it makes for life today.
Look at the statements pulled from the first part of Chapter 6. Don’t they sound like faith? The reality is they’re only a sacrifice of words. The next two chapters are a frustrated God calling them on it. Isn’t it interesting that God looks at those same statements that sound so good and adds “but they speak about me falsely?” The truth is God pays attention to the words we offer him and their connection to the what he sees in our heart.
There’s sort of a cart before the horse idea here that’s really important to remember. Acknowledging God with words before our hearts are connected to them won’t get us anywhere. We’re fooling ourselves if we think words are all it takes to convince God we’re putting him first and willing to move forward with him in the lead.
TLB Hosea 6:6 I don’t want your sacrifices—I want your love; I don’t want your offerings—I want you to know me.
Psalm 119:153-160 ר Resh – Head
153 Look on my suffering and deliver me,
for I have not forgotten your law.
154 Defend my cause and redeem me;
preserve my life according to your promise.
155 Salvation is far from the wicked,
for they do not seek out your decrees.
156 Your compassion, Lord, is great;
preserve my life according to your laws.
157 Many are the foes who persecute me,
but I have not turned from your statutes.
158 I look on the faithless with loathing,
for they do not obey your word.
159 See how I love your precepts;
preserve my life, Lord, in accordance with your love.
160 All your words are true;
all your righteous laws are eternal.
The Psalmist’s knows where to turn for help. That’s good, but stress and pain have created a disconnect between his heart and what he knows God can do that shows up in the see-saw emotions of these verses. That’s not good.
The same heart that knows God can save him out of his evil circumstances, judges “Salvation is far from the wicked, for they do not seek out your decrees.” The same heart that on one hand says “Your compassion, Lord, is great; preserve my life according to your laws” says …”I look on the faithless with loathing for they do not obey your word.” That’s heart trouble that’s hard to ignore…even for a Psalmist.
Maybe he’s chosen Resh – head, to title this section because in his heart he knows the promises, laws, statutes and decrees of God stored in his head are more trustworthy than his emotions. “All your words are true; all your righteous laws are eternal.”