I Peter 2:9 But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. 10 Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy. 11 Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul. 12 Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation. [ESV]
I learned the meaning of the Greek word “eleos,” translated “mercy” in reading my commentary resources for this post. Eleos also means pity and compassion so the Scripture could be read “but now you are God’s people; once you had not received pity and compassion but now you have received pity and compassion.”
“Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles:” remember why you’ve been chosen! You’ve been chosen to be a visible and undeniable display of God’s eleos, virtue and perfection. The powerful, all-knowing, ever-present God of the universe looked at your separation from Himself and rather than exercise His power to punish you, chose to trust the power of His pity and compassion to change you. You are chosen to be witnesses of that change: “Conduct yourselves properly (honorably, righteously) among the Gentiles, so that, although they may slander you as evildoers, [yet] they may BY witnessing your good deeds [come to] glorify God in the day of inspection [when God shall look upon you wanderers as a pastor or shepherd looks over his flock].” AMPC v12.
This is the day that the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it. [Psalm 118:24 ESV]
Remember that chorus? I needed to sing it out loud in my own living room this morning. I needed it’s reminder! I needed to re-read this quote from a sermon by C.S. Lewis in 1942 and be reminded that in Jesus own plan it’s more than OK to rejoice; it’s critical for “this” day. I think you may need all those things too.
“If you asked twenty good men today what they thought the highest of the virtues, nineteen of them would reply, Unselfishness. But if you asked almost any of the great Christians of old he would have replied, Love. You see what has happened? A negative term has been substituted for a positive, and this is of more than philological importance. The negative ideal of Unselfishness carries with it the suggestion not primarily of securing good things for others, but of going without them ourselves, as if our abstinence and not their happiness was the important point.
I do not think this is the Christian virtue of Love. The New Testament has lots to say about self-denial, but not about self-denial as an end in itself. We are told to deny ourselves and to take up our crosses in order that we may follow Christ; and nearly every description of what we shall ultimately find if we do so contains an appeal to desire.
If there lurks in most modern minds the notion that to desire our own good and earnestly to hope for the enjoyment of it is a bad thing, I submit that this notion has crept in from Kant and the Stoics and is no part of the Christian faith. Indeed, if we consider the unblushing promises of reward and the staggering nature of the rewards promised in the Gospels, it would seem that Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are far too easily pleased.” [C.S. Lewis – Weight of Glory]
I am the door. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly. I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. John 10:9-11 [ESV]
THIS is the day….REMEMBER?
2 Samuel 11:1-5 It happened in the spring of the year, at the time when kings go out to battle, that David sent Joab and his servants with him, and all Israel; and they destroyed the people of Ammon and besieged Rabbah. But David remained at Jerusalem. Then it happened one evening that David arose from his bed and walked on the roof of the king’s house. And from the roof he saw a woman bathing, and the woman was very beautiful to behold. So David sent and inquired about the woman. And someone said, “Is this not Bathsheba, the daughter of Eliam, the wife of Uriah the Hittite?” Then David sent messengers, and took her; and she came to him, and he lay with her, for she was cleansed from her impurity; and she returned to her house. And the woman conceived; so she sent and told David, and said, “I am with child.” [NKJV]
“While Joab is busy in laying siege to Rabbah, Satan is [laying seige] to David, and far sooner prevailed.” [Trapp]
God’s plan for marriage
The condition,1 the promise2 and the blessing.3
Genesis 2:24-25 For this reason a man shall leave his father and his mother.1 and be joined to his wife; and they shall become one flesh.2 And the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed.3
The reality of the relationship…Deuteronomy 17:17a He must not take many wives, or his heart will be led astray.
The evidence of accumulated sin…2Sa 3:2-5 Sons were born to David in Hebron: His firstborn was Amnon by Ahinoam the Jezreelitess; his second, Chileab, by Abigail the widow of Nabal the Carmelite; the third, Absalom the son of Maacah, the daughter of Talmai, king of Geshur; the fourth, Adonijah the son of Haggith; the fifth, Shephatiah the son of Abital; and the sixth, Ithream, by David’s wife Eglah. These were born to David in Hebron.
News flash! Deceit and cover up from a position of power are not new and the consequences of sin are not normalized by repetition or by calling it by some gentler name. How does a nation deal with the complete moral failure of its leader? Consequences aren’t just a dismal surprise resulting from corrupt acts, they’re a given. Heart-breaking consequences were the result for a whole family and a whole nation as a result of the accumulated sins of the very king who had captured God’s own heart. Satan found a way to expose those accumulated sins into the tragic reality of consequences that included adultery, murder and death.
Here’s the Good News from 2 Samuel this Sunday: God did provide for the king’s heart to remember the grace of repentance and restoration that could forgive accumulated sins even in the midst of heart-breaking circumstances. That should sound familiar to our heart too. God has provided for our hearts to remember the grace of repentance and restoration we have through the death of another child, His own Son. Jesus, is God’s provision for our hearts to find repentance and restoration in every circumstance.
NIV Hebrews 3
• 1…think carefully about this Jesus whom we declare to be God’s messenger and High Priest…
• 7 That is why the Holy Spirit says, “Today when you hear his voice, 8 don’t harden your hearts as Israel did when they rebelled, when they tested me in the wilderness…
• 15 Remember what it says: “Today when you hear his voice, don’t harden your hearts as Israel did when they rebelled.”
There’s a mystery involved in hearing the unspoken Word of this book we call our Bible. We know the mystery involves our training to recognize guidance and respond to Word that can speak truth into the human heart. “There is a beautiful story in the Old Testament where the prophet stands at the mouth of a cave and the Lord is passing. There is thunder, and the Lord is not in the thunder. There is an earthquake, and the Lord is not in the earthquake. There is fire, and the Lord is not in the fire. Then there is a still, small voice, and the Lord is in that voice. (See 1 Kings 19: 11–13.)” Intro to Following Jesus [Finding Our Way Home in an Age of Anxiety] by Henri Nouwen
OK, it’s the Holy Spirit…√. Do you imagine the writer of Hebrews was just casually writing “think carefully about this Jesus” or “today when you hear his voice” or “remember?” The answer of course is no! The Holy Spirit is the vital voice that teaches us to consciously respond to that mystery. The “gentle whisper” that happens “today” when you allow Jesus to teach you is the Holy Spirit speaking the reality of the Word within you despite the noise of the world around you.
The passage from 1 Kings ends with the question of the day. “And after the fire came a gentle whisper. When Elijah heard it, he pulled his cloak over his face and went out and stood at the mouth of the cave. Then a voice said to him, “What are you doing here Elijah [insert your name here]?” I hope your answer is thinking, hearing and remembering.
1 Thessalonians 2 [TLB]
√ Re·new·al: the replacing or repair of something that is worn out, run-down, or broken
8 “We loved you dearly—so dearly that we gave you not only God’s message, but our own lives too…11 We talked to you as a father to his own children—don’t you remember?—pleading with you, encouraging you and even demanding 12 that your daily lives should not embarrass God but bring joy to him who invited you into his Kingdom to share his glory.”
13 “And we never stop thanking God for this: that when we preached to you, you didn’t think of the words we spoke as being just our own, but you accepted what we said as the very Word of God—which, of course, it was—and it changed your lives when you believed it.”
Thank God for those who speak on God’s behalf. Thank God for renewal. Remember that first Word you heard that broke through to your heart? I do. It wasn’t a flowery testimony about the saving grace of God or the penetrating conviction of sin in my life. I remember because it was embarrassment that God used to open the door to my renewal. [read that story here]
Embarrassment is certainly less comfortable than the encouragement of grace and less obvious than the demand for repentance but I’m living proof renewal can begin in a most unexpected way. There’s so much more to the purpose of renewal than knowing the right answer. Have you ever considered “that your daily lives should not embarrass God but bring joy to him who invited you into his Kingdom to share his glory[?]” If you haven’t thought about your invitation into His Kingdom for a while, it’s time to remember: God has a very personal stake in your renewal.
There’s no greater gift for God than a heart that remembers the embarrassment of riches He’s pouring into your daily life. Renewal is God’s personal, long-term investment plan for you…so you’ll be “equipped to share his glory.”
Remember the Image
I’ve been making these beaded memory wire bracelets for the Operation Christmas Child boxes our church will pack in November. They’re so pretty I decided to wear one to church last week. In an inspired moment I gave the bracelet I was wearing to a woman I know almost nothing about except she is a sister in Christ. I wanted her to know, and believe, I understood that about her. It made perfect sense to me to remove it from my arm right there in the church pew and place it on hers with a hug and the phrase “we’re a circle of sisters.” At that moment a simple piece of coiled memory wire with a lot of different beads became an object lesson for me. Memory wire is interesting because no matter how many times you test it by uncoiling it to put it on or take it off it remembers the shape it was created in. That’s both the basis and the beginning of my object lesson.
Memory wire is like the image of God created in us. It’s a shape we may forget but God remembers. We are the beads. The beads are only accents that make the bracelet a visible and beautiful reminder of that remembered shape. I hope that woman will wear her bracelet and let it prompt her memory: God remembers his image in her and so do I…AND….she’s a beautiful “bead” in the circle of sisters.
I’ll probably never see any of the girls who’ll receive one of these bracelets next winter but my heart is filled with that same hope for them. I know God remembers his image in each of them. My hope is that bracelet wrapped around their arm may help them remember too.
John 1: In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was with God in the beginning. 3 Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. 4 In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind…14 The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.
“The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us.” Jesus always “was” but it took the Big Event to remind people to notice. This year it was odd to notice Christmas things beginning to show up in stores in October. It was a confusing reality that just didn’t seem right. Couldn’t we just get through Halloween and Thanksgiving first? In fact I wonder about that.
Remember the times Jesus makes reference to eyes that see and ears that hear? Remember all the things that are associated with our celebration of Christmas that impact our senses: sight, taste, touch, sound, smell. Remember when that “other” Joseph told his brothers in Genesis 50 “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.”?
What if the reality is God has not lost control of the celebration of the birth of his Son, our Savior to commercialism? Maybe God is using retail to remind us to notice it’s his reality on display even though the stores may have a different plan.
• What if those beautiful illuminated trees decked out with ornaments and flashing lights are meant to remind us of a long ago star?
• What if the Christmas music playing everywhere is really the modern-day version of the angel choir?
• What if Christmas hoopla is God using the money, time and effort retailers put into Christmas to appeal to our physical senses to remember HIS reality?
• What if crowded aisles full of people searching for the perfect gift is God reminding us Christmas is the reality he chose “to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives,” the Big Event.
God bless reality.
Isaiah 11:1 A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse; from his roots a Branch will bear fruit. 2 The Spirit of the Lord will rest on him— the Spirit of wisdom and of understanding, the Spirit of counsel and of might, the Spirit of the knowledge and fear of the Lord—3 and he will delight in the fear of the Lord.
My only other “Jesse Tree” was made for a church decoration years ago early in my own faith journey. I was caught up with the idea of a simple branch as a decoration. This year it’s different. The origami Stars are folded around the Word of Light for each post to help me remember. The ornaments for the days in between posts represent ways I do remember God has worked in my life. This year the Jesse Tree is more than a decoration.
Isaiah told about gifts the Savior would receive, “The Spirit of the Lord will rest on him— the Spirit of wisdom and of understanding, the Spirit of counsel and of might, the Spirit of the knowledge and fear of the Lord—3 and he will delight in the fear of the Lord.”
There’s a little piece of knitting to remember my first real awareness that God could use ordinary hands and a pair of knitting needles for his purposes. Prayer Shawls were knit with nothing more than those hands and trust that God would open my eyes to recognize a connection he’d made between his heart and my hands to know who should receive that shawl. Giving away those shawls was an unexpected gift that changed my life in ways I could never have imagined.
This year the Jesse Tree is my visual reminder of why I choose to spend these days remembering the Big Event; the birth of our Savior. I can see with my own eyes how the branch is changing as the ornaments are added each day. They are the gifts received, remembered and returned that make the branch beautiful and add Isaiah’s capital “B.” God bless the fruit of the Branch.
• 26 “This is what the kingdom of God is like. A man scatters seed on the ground. 27 Night and day, whether he sleeps or gets up, the seed sprouts and grows, though he does not know how. 28 All by itself the soil produces grain—first the stalk, then the head, then the full kernel in the head. 29 As soon as the grain is ripe, he puts the sickle to it, because the harvest has come.”
• “What shall we say the kingdom of God is like, or what parable shall we use to describe it? 31 It is like a mustard seed, which is the smallest of all seeds on earth. 32 Yet when planted, it grows and becomes the largest of all garden plants, with such big branches that the birds can perch in its shade.”
Get it? You’re the seed! A tiny speck planted in the kingdom of God that grew. Nothing emerges from the dirt full grown. Growth is a combination of day and night in the soil of “thy will be done” for this crop to grow. Growth is almost imperceptible except for comparing then to now. Remember then? Remember now?
You’re the crop! You grew and became one of “the largest of all garden plants, with such big branches that the birds can perch in its shade.” But wait, there’s more! God isn’t finished with you yet.
You began as one small seed planted in good soil and inexplicable growth happened. You became part of the crop and now “the harvest has come.” Here’s the Lightning Flash: as inexplicable as it may be, you’re the evidence there really is a kingdom of God happening “on earth as it is in heaven.”
Remember? You’re the harvest!