Jeremiah 33:14-16 A Beacon of Hope

Several years ago a minister mentioned that many of the prophecies in the Old Testament were fulfilled in the New Testament. One of these prophecies is mentioned in Jeremiah 33:14-16. The prophet Jeremiah mentioned that God would provide a descendant to King David. This descendant, who was Jesus, would bring justice and righteousness to the earth.

The beginning of the church year is the beginning of consideration of the end of all things. Jeremiah’s message is urgent and is also a call for people to listen to him. The coming of Jesus is the arrival of the end. Human history and providence meet to reveal the Word made flesh, through whom all things were made, all things are guided, all things are brought to their consummation in God. Jesus is the centre of all things, the purpose in all time, and He directs all things toward the heart of God.

Jeremiah’s message is one of reassurance. We need this reassurance in order to absorb what will follow throughout Advent. Many messages in this season of Advent are filled with words of doom and gloom. A good example of this is found in Luke 21:25-36. God’s new era will emerge out of the Israelites’ history and life experiences. He will fulfill His promises in ways that are in line with His previous promises.

Jeremiah spoke this message to a people living with disaster, uncertainty, and guilt over their unfaithfulness to God. The prophecy was a beacon of hope during a dark time in Israel’s history. The Israelites had lost their humanity. Israelite kings were supposed to reign for God as His anointed, modeling for the people the justice and righteousness of God and caring for the people as a shepherd. Many of the kings led the people in destructive worship of foreign idols, used their position for their own advantage, and depended on the strength of military power and foreign alliances to secure their position.

In his best moments as a king after God’s own heart, King David was the shepherd king, a king who led the people to be the people that God had intended them to be. This is the type of king that the prophetic hope longs for. Not only is the king to execute justice, but the king is also to lead the community to be a people who actively do justice themselves. Thus, not only will this king be called righteous and just, but the people will also be called righteous and just as well.

The passage from Jeremiah, like much of the Old Testament, has righteousness and justice going hand in hand. Righteousness refers to uprightness in the eyes of God, which is to be in right relationship with God and with each other. Justice is not about retribution as we so often diminish it in our society; it is about restoration. Specifically, it is about restoration to right relationship or community. Even the retributive acts of God that Jeremiah so often speaks of have restoration as the goal.

By the time Jeremiah wrote his letter, Jerusalem was under siege by the Babylonian king Nebuchadnezzar and the people would shortly go into exile.  Jeremiah was in prison. The people were about to lose everything that gave meaning to their lives-the temple, the city, the king, priesthood, their homes, family, etc. God seemed to be silent, absent, and preoccupied with judging the people for past wrongs. Jeremiah 33:14-16 was written to give hope to the people. The coming Messiah would become righteous for the Israelites and for us. Jeremiah told the Israelites the same thing he tells us. We are to have hope in God, who will restore us. God does not give up on us no matter how far we stray from Him.

There are times when we wonder if God will answer our prayers. He is perfect, and He can’t do anything that is outside of His character. Everything He does is motivated by love. If we have to wait for Him to answer our prayers, then His reasons for making us wait are based on His love for us. If we are praying for His return and it is not coming when we want it to come, it is because of His love for us. He loves us so much that He wants to give us plenty of time to repent. Also, only God knows when Jesus will return. His timing is perfect. In His own time and in His own way He will fulfill His promises of restoration, salvation, and safety. These same promises are ours for today.

Advent is a season of waiting. We often find waiting a waste of time. We get jumpy if we have to wait for anything. While we wait we become fearful. That’s why we try to keep busy so those fears will stay below the surface.

What if we embraced our waiting and focused on spirituality? Advent gives us time to do just that, especially when we are anxious. Jeremiah wrote during another anxious time to a divided nation. The people hoped for a unified nation. While Jeremiah speaks about the future work of God, he also addresses the present situation for the Israelites. Can we trust that God has not forgotten us and left us on our own with our own fears and dread? When we look at the hopeless, present world situation can we trust that God sees it also and is giving us strength and a reason to hope? We need Advent to force us to slow down, catch our breath and watch and wait patiently. Advent invites us to look forward to God acting on our behalf not only now but in the future.

The phrase “the days are surely coming” means the day isn’t here yet. And while we may sit on the other side of this text and proclaim that the hoped-for shepherd king has come, we’d be missing the true message of this story if we ignore the deep pain and despair behind the text. What can help illustrate this is for us to consider that this hoped-for king didn’t come until some 500 years after Jeremiah wrote his message. 

When God grafted Jesus into the human family tree, He gave us a branch that changes all of the other branches. Since we as Christians are part of that family tree, we are also changed by Jesus. Because He has changed us, we can be righteous. When God looks at us, He sees righteous branches and not bad branches bearing rotten fruit.

God knows that we can’t make ourselves righteous, however hard we try. That is why He gave us the promise of Jesus. Jesus, the Son of David, came to fulfill all God’s promises and to make us righteous—not by our power, but by His. He is the One who laid down His life for us, to remake us as clean, pure, whole human beings—people the way God meant us to be. That is what the cross was about. He took our brokenness upon Himself. He died from it, and then He rose from the dead, victorious over all that—and shares His Easter victory with us.

Advent is a time when God calls on us to embrace the message of hope that is the centre of our faith. It is a period of waiting in the darkness. It is a season in which we are caught between joyful expectation and the harsh realities of our present lives while we wait for God’s promises to be fulfilled. The discipline of Advent puts the church at odds with our modern culture in which the holiday season consists of bright lights, celebrations and packages tied with neat bows. There is no room for darkness and little patience for prayerful expectation when holiday carols blare from every speaker and the neighbourhood is glowing with displays of lights. Ironically, this experience of being out of sync with our surroundings may attune us more deeply to the nature of Advent. In Advent, we live in the unsettling tension between what is and what will be.

God promises in Jeremiah’s message that He will renew us-not just on the inside, but on the outside as well. He promises that He will renew the world. He will create a new future because of His forgiveness. This is the Good News that the church and the body of Christ are called on to spread to the entire world. It is the message of assurance of God’s promises that were raised to life in Christ.

Bibliography

  1. Jeremiah, David: The Jeremiah Study Bible, New King James Version (Brentwood, TN: Worthy Publishing; 2013; p. 1009)
  2. Guest, J. & Ogilvie, L.J.: The Preacher’s Commentary Series, Vol. 19: Jeremiah/Lamentations (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Inc.; 1988; pp. 221-223)
  3. Lucado, M.: The Lucado Life Lessons Study Bible (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson; 2010)
  4. “Hope for the Promises.” Retrieved from info@dailydisciples.org
  5. Jude Siciliano, OP, “First Impressions, 1st Sunday of Advent, -C-, Dec.2, 2018.” Retrieved from firstimpressions@lists.opsouth.org
  6. Paul A. Herpich, “Jeremiah 33:14-16.” Retrieved from communic@luthersem.edu
  7. Dr. Kari Vo, “Strange Branch.” Retrieved from www.lhm.org
  8. Jude Siciliano, OP, “First Impressions, 1st Sunday of Advent, -C-, Nov. 29,2015.” Retrieved from firstimpressions@lists.opsouth.org
  9. Michael J. Chan, “Commentary on Jeremiah 33:14-16.” Retrieved from www.workingpreacher.org
  10. Anne Stewart, “Commentary on Jeremiah 33:14-16.” Retrieved from www.workingpreacher.org
  11. Melinda Quivik, “Commentary on Jeremiah 33:14-16.” Retrieved from www.workingpreacher.org
  12. Bruce Epperly, “The Adventurous Lectionary-The First Sunday in Advent-December 5, 2021.” Retrieved from www.patheos.com/blogs/livingaholyadventure
  13. Karen G. Brockelman, M.Div., “Jeremiah 33:14-16.” Retrieved from communic@luthersem.edu
  14. “Another Coming.” Retrieved from https://livingchurch.org
  15. Tyler Waters-Smith, “Jeremiah 33:14-16.” Retrieved from www.aplainaccount.org
  16. Dr. Kari Vo, “Righteousness.” Retrieved from www.lhm.org

Revelation 1:4-8 Christ Our King

This coming Sunday-Nov. 21, 2021- is Reign of Christ Sunday. It marks the end of the church year, so it is the church’s version of New Year’s Eve. It is the day when we remember that Christ is our King and that He will return one day to claim his kingdom here on earth.

It is not an ancient festival in the Christian calendar. In fact, it was only established by Pope Pius XI in 1925. It was established at a time when Europe was in chaos. Inflation was rampant, and colonialism was at its worst. The seeds of evil that would eventually grow into the Holocaust and World War II were being planted. Pope Pius XI established the Festival of Christ the King to declare that Jesus Christ is King

The Book of Revelation is the story of Jesus himself. After the opening greeting, John gives us a prophetic description of Christ’s Second Coming. Although each of the seven churches received a special letter from Christ through the Book of Revelation, each congregation could read what was written to the others because everything was contained in one large letter. God’s people have the same advantage today. To have the same perspective of the divine Head of the church is convicting. Modern churches could solve some of the problems they face today by reading God’s recommendations to each of the seven churches.

When sinners come to Christ in faith, they receive eternal salvation through God’s grace. We don’t have to do anything or promise anything. Salvation is God’s gift to us. This new relationship with Christ will overcome any trials we have in this life, just like Christ overcame death. This new relationship is due to the work of the Holy Trinity.

All three members of the Trinity-Father, Son and Holy Spirit-were involved in the creation of the Book of Revelation, including the passage we heard from Revelation 1:4-8 earlier in today’s service. John refers to God as “the One who is and who was and who is to come.” God is in control of our unpleasant past, our unnerving present and our uncertain future. Jesus has the authority to rule as the promised King from the line of David. The Holy Spirit represents God and gives us wisdom, understanding, advice, strength, knowledge and fear of the Lord. We can take comfort in the knowledge that Jesus reigns now and forever during the good times and the bad times.

Jesus is described as the one who loved, loosened and lifted the people up. The word “washed” could be more literally translated as “loosed” or “freed.” John 11:44 describes Lazarus as being loosed from his grave clothes. The word also recalls that the Israelites were freed from slavery in Egypt. Jesus has likewise freed believers from their sin. He conquered death and gave us new life. Consequently we can share his authority as Priest and King through our union with him through the Holy Spirit.

In our present, sin-filled world, guilt is something we avoid. We run from it frantically, drown it in alcohol, escape from it through entertainment, talk about it to a therapist, blame it on someone else or suppress it through mental gymnastics, but we can’t avoid it. It’s like a stain that won’t come out of our clothes no matter how many times we wash them or what type of detergent we use. Salvation is God’s gift to undeserving sinners such as us. We must never forget that. This grace gives us a relationship that offers us true peace and that peace helps us overcome any problems we face. Jesus is the only thing that can wash away our sins. God has given us a conscience with a guilt alarm that goes off when sin enters so that we will go to Jesus for cleansing.

When people are shuffling for power, prestige and wealth, Jesus reigns. He is the only person who can get rid of the plagues of terrorism, poverty, crime and disease. If we let Christ be our King, we don’t have to be kings. We don’t have to rule our world. We also don’t have to let things such as money or fame rule our lives. These things can’t make our lives worth living. Only Jesus makes our lives worth living. Jesus gives us our greatest freedom-freedom from death. That freedom gives us the freedom to live. In return, we are called to serve until Christ returns to claim his earthly kingdom.

Only in Revelation is Christ given the title of “faithful witness.” He was a genuine martyr, faithful until death, and his followers must also be faithful to death. The phrase “ruler over the kings of the earth” refers to Christ’s present reign, not the future one. He is the King of Kings now because he has triumphed over death and he is sovereign over all earthly powers.

Revelation 1:7-8 presents the theme of the entire Book of Revelation-the return of the King and establishment of his rule over the kingdom. “Coming” describes the arrival of the King and the changes in the situation that his arrival proclaims.

Alpha and Omega are the first and last letters of the Greek alphabet. Here they point to the eternity of Christ and his all-inclusive power. Christ is the supreme sovereign. There is nothing that he doesn’t know, so there are no unknown factors that can sabotage his return. Jesus is the beginning of all history and the goal for whom all things are made. Jesus is the boundless, tireless and powerful One. God is eternal, and he will come again at the end of time to judge and to save.

The purpose of our Christian lives is based on our faith in a God who is eternally past, present and future. It starts in the present. Each of us must encounter and experience the presence of God in our own lives on a daily basis. He continually reaches into our lives and transforms us. He gives us a future to look forward to. We need to look forward to this royal inheritance. We need to begin practicing for the perfected life that will be ours someday. We need to act like the children of a king, because that’s who we are. God ordained the nation of Israel to witness to his glory, majesty, and power. He calls on us as members of his kingdom to do the same.

Our understanding of who Jesus is determines our eternal destiny after death. Of all the pursuits in this life, the knowledge of who Jesus is will be the greatest. To know Jesus is to know who we are and what we really are in this world. To know Jesus is to know the security of purpose and the assurance of peace. Jesus is both Lord and Saviour. He has allowed us to know Him personally like never before.

Ordinary people who receive Christ’s love and freedom are willing to become Christ’s servants and ultimately his very kingdom in the world. We will witness Christ’s return, and we will have the right to enter God’s kingdom. Jesus made us to be both a kingdom here on earth and priests. We are both a kingdom and priests because Jesus loves us and frees us from our sins by dying on the cross. The word “kingdom” refers to the body of believers throughout the world, and that Christ is the King of that kingdom. We as believers are priests who have direct access to God. He is our hope, our refuge and our salvation. His return will be a joyous occasion because it is the event we’ve been waiting for. On the other hand, his return will be mourned by his opponents. Everything will change. Evil will be shut down, order will be restored, and justice will reign.

God’s reign is the power that keeps our world turning, the rain falling and the seasons returning. It is an expression of God’s faithful, everlasting love-the love he has for us as our King. God cares about the ultimate details of our loves. No matter what comes against us in this life, no matter if all of the power of pain and chaos of the universe seems to overtake us all at once, no matter if we can’t control one single thing or fix one single thing in our lives, the worst is over and the healing has begun, because the Lamb of God is on his heavenly throne.

The Book of Revelation gives us hope in a God we can trust and expectation for a future that God has created. That’s because Jesus is the beginning and the ending, the dawn of the world and its dusk. The Book of Revelation tells us to lean into our faith in a Christ who holds the future in his hands. Nothing can frustrate his eternal will, and that eternal will includes us who will be spending eternity with him in his eternal kingdom here on earth.

Bibliography

  1. Jeremiah, David: The Jeremiah Study Bible, NKJV (Brentwood, TN: Worthy Publishing; 2013)
  2. ESV Study Bible, Part of Wordsearch 11 Bible software package.
  3. Palmer, E.F. & Ogilvie, L.J.: The Preacher’s Commentary Series, Vol. 35: 1,2&3 John/ Revelation (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Inc.; 1982)
  4. MacArthur, J.F. Jr: The MacArthur Study Bible, NASV (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers; 2006)
  5. Anne Graham Lotz, “Washed in the Blood.” Retrieved from angelmin.info@angelministries.org
  6. Pastor Jack Hibbs, ”Oh, To Know Him!”  Retrieved from wttw@calvarycch.org
  7. Ron Moore, “The Action of Jesus.” Retrieved from www.ronmoore.org
  8. Pastor John Barnett, “The Safest Spot.” Retrieved from enews@dtbm.org
  9. Steve Preston, “When Jesus Returns.” Retrieved from bibletalk@freegroups.net
  10. The Rev. Eugenia Gamble, “Saltwater Apocalypse.” Retrieved from http://day1.org/821-saltwater_apocalypse.net
  11. Steve Arterburn, “The Grandness of God.” Retrieved from Christianity.com@crosswalkmail.com
  12. Swindoll, Charles R.: Swindoll’s New Testament Insights on Revelation (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan; 2011)
  13. Jeremiah, David: Agents of the Apocalypse (Carol Stream, Illinois: Tyndale House Publishers; 2014)
  14. Dr. J. Howard Olds, “The Lord of All.” Retrieved from https://www.esermons.com/sermon/the-lord-of-all/1442836
  15. Patrick Rooney, “The Perfect Sacrifice.” Retrieved from https://www.esermons.com/sermon
  16. Leonard Sweet, “The God Who Is, Who Was, and Who Is To Come.” Retrieved from https://www.esermons.com/sermon/the-god-who-is-who-was-and-who-is-to-come
  17. King Duncan, “Nobless Oblige.” Retrieved from https://www.esermons.com/sermon/noblesse-oblige//1347099
  18. Dr. Keith Wagner, “Thanks Be to God.” Retrieved from www.lectionary.org/Sermons/NT/27/Rev/Rev-01-04-8-ThanksBe-Wagner.htm
  19. Eric Baretto, “Commentary on Revelation 1:4-8.” Retrieved from http://www.workingpreacher.org/preaching.aspx?commentary_id=1623
  20. Swindoll, Charles R.: Swindoll’s New Testament Insights on Revelation (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan; 2011)

Revelation 1:4-7 Jesus Christ-Alpha and Omega, First and Last

“A, B, C, D, E, F, G, H, I, J, K, L, M, N, O, P, Q, R, S, T, U, V, W, X, Y, and Z.” Hailey looked at her three-year-old brother. “Okay, Curtis, now you try.”

Curtis looked like he was thinking intensely. “A!” he suddenly shouted, and then, after a pause, “Z!”

“Ugh!” Hailey put her hand on her head in frustration.

Dad, who was watching the whole thing, began to laugh.

“I’m glad you think this is funny,” Hailey said. “I’ve been working with him for an hour, and he’s just not getting it.”

“Why is it so important that he know the alphabet right now anyway?” asked Dad.

“Jenny and I are having a race,” replied Hailey. “I’m trying to get Curtis to learn the alphabet before she teaches her dog to sit and roll over. If Curtis learns the alphabet first, I get to pick the movie we watch this weekend.”

Dad chuckled and shook his head. “You guys are silly.”

Hailey laughed. “Yeah, I guess.” She put her head in her hands and sighed. “Yesterday Jenny asked me a question that made me feel really silly. She asked me how old God is. I didn’t know what to say.”

Curtis walked over to where Dad was sitting, and Dad picked him up and put him in his lap. “Well, Curtis just told you the answer,” he said.

Hailey gave her dad a confused look. “But all he said was, ‘A, Z.’ That’s not a number.”

“In the Bible, Jesus says He’s the Alpha and Omega–the beginning and end. Alpha and Omega are the first and last letters of the Greek alphabet, like our A and Z. God is A to Z, just like Curtis said. He always was, is, and will be. He doesn’t have an age.”

“So God has no beginning or end?” Hailey asked.

“That’s right.” Dad’s eyes twinkled. “And yet, He was born–and also died.”

“But wait, you just said…” It took Hailey a moment to realize what Dad meant. “Oh, I get it–you’re talking about Jesus! He was born as a baby and died on the cross for us.”

Dad nodded. “Jesus is God, who is eternal with no beginning or end, but He was willing to become human and die for us so we could have eternal life.”

“Wow,” said Hailey. “He really sacrificed a lot to save us!”

All three members of the Trinity-Father (“Him who is and who was and who is to come”), Son (“Jesus Christ”) and Holy Spirit (“seven Spirits”)-were involved in creating the Book of Revelation.

They were present at the beginning of time, and they will be there at the end of time. God is Lord over all of history-past, present and future. There is more to be expected from Him than what we have experienced so far. God the Father is described as Yahweh, the One who ultimately is, and who makes Himself known, the One who is author of grace and peace. The Holy Spirt is described as being in fellowship with the Father and Son, and who from that presence also sends grace and peace to the churches and to us.

The words “Alpha” and “Omega” are the first and last letters of the Greek alphabet. In this passage they point to the eternity of Christ and to His all-inclusive power. Jesus is the boundless, timeless and powerful One. Unlike humans and everything else, God doesn’t have an age–there was never a time when He didn’t exist! But even though He has no beginning or end, He still chose to be born on earth and die on the cross so we could be saved. He made that sacrifice so we could be with Him forever.

Although each of the seven churches received a special letter from Christ through John, each congregation could read what was written to the others because everything was contained in this one, larger letter. God’s people have the same advantage today. To have the perspective of the divine Head of the church is convicting. Modern churches could solve some of the problems they face by reading the Lord’s recommendations to these New Testament congregations.

How do we hear a word for us even though the letter is clearly addressed to them? We don’t need to be persecuted or enslaved by temporal powers like the early Christians were in order to desire freedom. We are all in bondage to sin and can’t free ourselves. Wholesome people may face an imminent end. All of us will eventually die and will find comfort in the knowledge that Jesus opened a way for those who believe in Him. The promise of Jesus’ return is a promise that the sufferings in this world will come to and end and a world of peace, joy and love will take its place.

Both John and Paul use the phrase “grace and peace” in their letters. John makes the connection that grace and peace come from God. Grace is the surprise gift from Him. Peace is wholeness and health. The result of grace is peace whereby the walls of hostility are broken and we see ourselves as belonging to a new world view ruled by all three members of the Trinity.

Jesus Christ is described as the one who loved His people, freed them from the bondage of sin and lifted His people up. The term “washed” could more literally be translated as “loosed” or “freed.” John 11:44 describes Lazarus as being loosed from his grave clothes. The word also recalls that the Israelites were freed from slavery in Egypt. Jesus has likewise freed believers from their sin!

Only in the Book of Revelation is Christ given the title of “faithful witness”. He was a genuine martyr, faithful unto death. The phrase “ruler over the kings of the earth” refers to Christ’s present reign, not His future one. He is now the King of Kings.

Revelation identifies Jesus as a faithful witness as the “firstborn of the dead.” Revelation ties Jesus’ glorious reign to his most inglorious death. If Jesus reigns through His faithfulness, His followers will inherit His kingdom through their own faithful testimony.

Verses 7 and 8 present the theme of the entire Book of Revelation: the return of the King and establishment of His rule over the kingdom. The word “coming” expresses Christ’s return. It describes the arrival of the King and the changes in the situation that His return produces. Jesus is the most important person in the universe. He thinks we are so important He gave His life for us. In His eyes we are important.

In Revelation we are introduced to ourselves and we learn of our own worth, the meaning of our lives and the task of our living in the world. We also learn about the meaning of history, which is one of the theses of Revelation. We also learn about God’s love. When we see God’s love for creation, we see what we have to do to care for creation as His priests. When we see how God controls the future, we don’t have to worry about our own future. We are encouraged to take hold of our time as followers of Jesus. What we do and say has lasting significance because of Jesus.

Priests are mediators between people and God. They represent humanity to God and God to humanity. That’s our role on earth. We introduce to people to God and help them grow in their relationship with God. Jesus will return to earth and make all things new. It’s an exciting message. Until He returns, we have to tell the world that there is a God, we matter to Him, and He has a plan for our lives. If we cooperate with Him and serve Him, He will change our lives for the better.

God’s grace has set us free from our sins by Christ’s costly grace. This gift of freedom is a daily experience and obligation for those who receive it. People who receive this gift are the ones who are willing to become Christ’s servants and His kingdom in the world.

In our pleasure-driven society, guilt is frowned upon. We try to avoid it through frantic activity, alcohol, entertainment, talking to a therapist or blaming someone else, but we can’t get rid of it. It’s like a stain in our clothes that we can’t get rid of no matter how many times we wash it. The stain has become part of our fabric. The only way we can wash away our sin and guilt before God is through Christ’s shed blood. God has given us a conscience with a guilt alarm that goes off when sin enters so that we can go to Christ for cleansing.

Will all of our problems vanish if we give our lives to Christ? No, not necessarily. But we will no longer be alone. Christ will give us wisdom and courage to tackle our problems.   We are on a journey where we will encounter cancer, death, hunger, wars, terrorism, AIDS and other dangers. We will be tested with idols. At times we will be tempted to compromise with the world, but if we put our trust in God, He will lead us to a place where He lives.

Bibliography

  1. Jeremiah, David: The Jeremiah Study Bible: New King James Version (Brentwood, TN: Worthy Publishing; 2013; pp.1838)
  2. “How Old Is God? (Part 1)” Retrieved from info@keysforkids.org
  3. Palmer, E.F. & Ogilvie, L.J.: The Preacher’s Commentary Series, Vol. 35: 1,2&3 John/Revelation (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Inc.; 1982; pp. 110-114)
  4. Dale Melenberg, “A Kingdom and Priests.” Retrieved from today@thisistoday.net
  5. Anne Graham Lotz, “Just Think on Jesus.” Retrieved from angelmin.info@angelministries.org
  6. Pastor Allen Jackson, “An Exciting Message.” Retrieved from contact@intendministries.org
  7. The Rev. Billy Graham, “Will Jesus Make My Problems Go Away?” Retrieved from www.arcamax.com
  8. Anne Graham Lotz, “Washed in the Blood.” Retrieved from angelmin.info@angelministries.org
  9. Israel Kamudzandu, “Commentary on Revelation 1:4-8.” Retrieved from www.workingpreacher.org/preaching.aspx?commentary_id=2825
  10. Greg Carey, “Commentary on Revelation 1:4-8.” Retrieved from www.workingpreacher.org/preaching.aspx?commentary_id=2683

John 18:33-37 Long Live the King!

This coming Sunday, November 21,2021, Christians will celebrate the church’s version of New Year’s Eve-also known as Reign of Christ Sunday. The following Sunday-December 5th, 2021-marks the start of Advent and Year C in the three year cycle of readings from the Revised Common Lectionary. It is a day when we remember that Jesus is the king of our lives. It is not an ancient festival in the Christian calendar. In fact, it was only established by Pope Pius XI in 1925. It was established at a time when Europe was in chaos. Inflation was rampant, and colonialism was at its worst. The seeds of evil that would eventually grow into the Holocaust and World War II were being planted. Pope Pius XI established the Festival of Christ the King to declare that Jesus Christ is king. He is the goal of human history, the joy of all who hear, and the fulfillment of man’s aspirations.

The conversation between and Jesus and Pilate allows John to proclaim in his Gospel that Jesus is a king with a divine authority. Jesus was accused of plotting to overthrow the government, and he was being questioned by Pilate. This gave Jesus a chance to tell his side of the story. Jesus argues that his kingdom is founded on truth. This is in contrast to earthly kingdoms which are founded on power.

In fact, Pilate’s “kingdom” was based on power. In his mind, truth was what the powerful said it was-and the same is often true today. Jesus offered Pilate the same choice he offers us today-advance your status on earth or walk in the light of truth. The choice we make will determine which kingdom we will serve-God or man.

Jesus saw the world differently that the way the world sees the world. He defied logic by the way he lived and by what he taught. He taught that truth is the cornerstone of healthy relationships and strong communities. If something or someone claims to be truth and has violent intentions or acts in a coercive manner, then it is not truth. Truth may be attacked but it cannot be harmed. It is not “of this world”. This is how the gospels speak of truth, and this is why John’s Gospel calls Jesus “the true and living way”.

Healthy relationships require confidence that both partners will tell the truth. We have to trust that individuals will do what they promise to do. Unfortunately, this is not always the case, especially with politicians. We often manipulate the truth to serve to serve our purposes-both by what we say and what we don’t say. In contrast, Jesus always speaks the truth.

It is hard for us to know what truth is in today’s world. To make matters worse, it is also hard for us to know who to trust. There are few honest heroes anymore. There are few authority figures anymore. Everyone seems to have his or her own agenda. Truth is essential to life. It is essential to a successful marriage. Society needs integrity in order to survive. Think of the terror that would exist if police officers were thugs. What would happen if pharmacists were to dilute our prescription drugs in order to sell contraband out the back door?

We must remember that we are citizens of another realm, with a different ruler and a different rule. When it comes to spiritual things, truth is Christ. We leave behind anything else that has power over us. We follow the one who gives us a freedom that no political power can grant. This kingdom is one where Jesus will rule over our lives and the new heaven and the new earth.

One day Jesus will return to earth to set up his kingdom-one where he will rule firmly and deal justly with sinners. Until then, his kingdom focuses on redeeming the hearts of the lost. So what does it mean to say Christ is the King of this world? It means that this is an unfinished world. There is unfinished business because the world is made up of unfinished people. Even when we are at our best, we are not all that Christ intends for us to be. Christ came into this unfinished world and made the ultimate sacrifice for us. He has commissioned us to be in his army to see that this unfinished world becomes the kingdom over which he will reign forever.

Our gospel text focuses on part two of the dialogue between Pilate and Jesus. When Pilate asked Jesus if he was the king of the Jews, it was a political question. If Jesus presented himself to the people as a king,  he was a rebel in Pilate’s eyes and needed to be dealt with accordingly. Jesus was a king, and indeed he is still a king. He is a king who has come to judge all earthly kings and kingdoms. He is the king of heaven and earth. He is full of grace and truth. He is our champion. He fights our battles for us. He leads us to victory over Satan and sin. He sets us up to lead his kingdom on earth until he returns. His kingdom occurs when we freely choose to serve him. This is in contrast to a worldly kingdom where power is obtained by self-centeredness and self-esteem. To love God is to become humble by paying the price of leaving people free to be who they will be.

Jesus does not wink at our sins. Paul reminds us in Romans 1:18-32 that even now Jesus is pouring out his wrath against those who think they can make better sense of their lives than he can. As his ambassadors on earth, we have a duty to live consistently by our Christian faith and speak against anything and everything that is contrary to it.

This text is about the clash between the earthly kingdom and the heavenly kingdom. We have to choose which kingdom we will serve, but we must remember that if we choose to serve an earthly kingdom, we will lose the struggle, because just like Christ was victorious over death, he will be victorious on earth when he returns to set up his kingdom. Jesus was a king, but he was not a typical king. He was a servant king. The symbol of his kingdom is the cross. Jesus takes the worst we have to offer-and the worst form of torture imaginable-and changes it into life and hope.

The challenge of the kingdom is for each of us:

  1. To let God be God…in us
  2. To let God be God…in our church
  3. To let God be God…in our neighbourhoods
  4. To let God be God…in our lives, our families and in our world

In order to find meaning, peace and purpose in our lives, we must keep asking ourselves, “What is Jesus telling me to do with my life?” When we do ask and listen for the answer, then we are experiencing the power of his kingdom in our lives.

It is the duty of us as Christians to represent Jesus here on earth. The church does best when it imitates Jesus who had no place to lay his head and who brought sight to the blind, helped the lame to walk, cleansed the lepers, made the deaf hear, raised the dead and brought good news to the poor. Just as Jesus’ power was in the cross, so the church’s most effective witness is in service and sacrifice to people in need. It is not in political connections, spectacular connections or great architecture.

When we are in Christ’s presence, we should feel a sense of humility. Christ is our friend and our big brother, but we can’t appreciate Christ’s friendship and Christ’s role as our big brother unless we acknowledge that he is our Sovereign, our Saviour and our Lord.

In John 18:37, the themes of John’s Gospel are restated-incarnation, glory, truth. John’s Gospel is more concerned with Jesus’ origin than his birth story. Although he was born of the Virgin Mary, the greater reality is that he came from God. He came from a great king, and he is a great king. He came into this world to show us a new kind of king. His was the power of love, not the power of the sword. He came to rule not from a throne, but from the cross. He came not on a great horse, but on a donkey. He came not catering to the powerful but catering to the poor and the less fortunate. He chose his inner circle not from the powerful, but from the lowly and the meek. He calls us to be just like him. He calls us to take command and wield authority like he did. He has called us to give instead of take. He calls us to love instead of judging others. He calls us to care instead of ignoring the plight of the less fortunate.

The truth to which Jesus testifies is the truth of the cross. Ever since the dawn of Christianity it has seemed strange that a man would become king by dying on the cross. Paul called it the foolishness of the cross, but Jesus called it the truth.

I’m going to close this message with a story from World War II. Sportsman and best-selling author Pat Williams, in his book The Paradox of Power, tells about one man who deserved to bear the name Christian. In fact, that was his name, Christian X, king of Denmark during World War II. The people of Denmark remember him the way any of us would want to be remembered, as a person of character, courage, and principle. Every morning, King Christian rode without bodyguards in an open carriage through the streets of Copenhagen. He trusted his people and wanted them to feel free to come up to him, greet him, and shake his hand.

In 1940 Nazi Germany invaded Denmark. Like so many other European nations, this small Scandinavian country was quickly conquered. But the spirit of the Danish people and their king proved unquenchable. Even after the Nazis had taken control of the nation, King Christian X continued his morning carriage rides. He boldly led his people in a quiet but courageous resistance movement.

On one occasion, the king noticed a Nazi flag flying over a public building in Copenhagen. He went to the German commandant and asked that the flag be removed.
“The flag flies,” the commandant replied, “because I ordered it flown. Request denied.”
“I demand that it come down,” said the king. “If you do not have it removed, a Danish soldier will go and remove it.” “Then he will be shot,” said the commandant.
“I don’t think so,” said King Christian, “for I shall be that soldier.” The flag was removed.

On another occasion, the order came from the Nazis that all Jews were to identify themselves by wearing armbands with the yellow Star of David. King Christian said that one Danish person was exactly the same as the next one. So the King donned the first Star of David, and let it be known that he expected every loyal Dane would do the same. The next day in Copenhagen, almost the entire population wore armbands showing the Star of David. The Danes saved 90% of their Jewish population.

Later, the Nazis decided that all eight thousand Jews in Denmark would be rounded up and sent to concentration camps in central Europe. A German diplomat with a troubled conscience secretly informed King Christian of the Nazi plans. So the king organized a resistance effort that smuggled 7,500 Jews to Sweden within a single two-week period. The remaining five hundred Jews were rounded up by the Nazis and sent to an internment ghetto in Czechoslovakia. King Christian interceded on their behalf and all but fifty-one survived their treatment at the hands of the Nazis.

King Christian paid a price for his bold courage. The Nazis imprisoned him from 1943 until the fall of the Third Reich in 1945. An old man in his seventies, imprisonment was hard on his health. He died two years after his release, but he willingly paid the price for truth, as did other World War II heroes such as Corrie ten Boom. If people like King Christian, Corrie ten Boom and Jesus can willingly pay the price for what they believe in-namely, the truth-shouldn’t we as Christians also be willing to pay the price, especially when we are called by Christ to fight for the truth? After all, he is the final authority and power in the universe. Christ is King!

Bibliography

  1. Swindoll, Charles R.: Swindoll’s New Testament Insights on John (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan; 2010)
  2. Stanley, C.F.: The Charles F. Stanley Life Principles Bible, NASV (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, Inc.; 2009)
  3. Pete Briscoe, “How to Live a Life that Defies Logic”. Retrieved from Crosswalk@crosswalkmail.com
  4. Jude Siciliano, O.P. “First Impressions, Christ the King (B)”. Retrieved from www.preacherexchange.org
  5. Michael Youssef, PhD, “Thy Kingdom Come”. Retrieved from www.leadingtheway.org
  6. T.M. Moore, “Ambassadors from another Realm”. Retrieved from www.colsoncenter.org/thecenter/columns/viewpoint/15752-ambassadors-from-another-realm
  7. Dr. Philip W. McLarty, “What is Truth?” Retrieved from www.sermonwriter.com
  8. The Rev. Dr. Wiley Stevens, “Thanksgiving in Three Tenses”. Retrieved from www.day1.org
  9. Lectionary Homiletics, Oct./Nov. 2012 (St. Paul, MN: Luther Seminary)
  10. Exegesis for John 18:33-37. Retrieved from www.sermonwriter.org.
  11. King Duncan, “Christ the King”. Retrieved from www.esermons.com
  12. King Duncan, “Held Hostage”. Retrieved from www.esermons.com
  13. King Duncan, “What is true and Who Can You Trust?” Retrieved from www.esermons.com
  14. King Duncan, “A Strange Kind of King”. Retrieved from www.esermons.com
  15. Steven E.  Albertin, “Having the Last Word”. Retrieved from www.esermons.com
  16. John Shearman’s Lectionary Resource, Year B, Season after Pentecost, Reign of Christ. Retrieved from www.lectionary.seemslikegod.org/archives/year-b-season-after-pentecost-the-reign-of-christ.html
  17. Roland McGregor, UMC, McGregorPage #886, Pentecost 25, 11/25/12. Retrieved from www.mcgregorpage.org
  18. Daniel B. Clendenin, PhD, “Yes, I am a King”: The Anti-Politics of Christ the King. Retrieved from www.journeywithjesus.net

John 18:33-37 Jesus, the Servant King

Hello boys and girls!

This coming Sunday-November 21, 2021- is a very special day in our church year. It will be Reign of Christ Sunday, and that’s the day when we celebrate the fact that Christ is the King of our lives. Now there are good kings and there are bad, evil kings.

It will also be the church’s version of New Year’s Eve. The following Sunday-December 5, 2021- will be the first Sunday of Advent. Not only does it mark the beginning of another year in the life of the church, it also marks the beginning of the season where we prepare to celebrate the birth of Jesus. In other words, we prepare ourselves for Christmas.

Now, at the risk of upsetting your parents and grandparents, I’m going to ask you a question. Are you starting to get excited for Christmas? Well boys and girls, I’m going to tell you a little story about someone else who got excited.

How many of you have seen the movie “The Lion King”? Well then, you might remember that Simba was anxious to become king because he did not want anyone to tell him what to do. He didn’t want to hear anyone saying, “Do this” or “stop that.” He wanted to be free to run around all day doing everything his way.

It wasn’t just that Simba didn’t want anyone to tell him what to do; he was also looking forward to telling everyone else what to do. Just listen to what he says! “I’m going to be a mighty king so enemies beware! I’m going to be the main event like no king was before. I’m brushing up on looking down. I’m working on my ROAR! Oh, I just can’t wait to be king!”

I think that Simba had a very poor idea of what it means to be a king. You see, the real role of a king is to look after the needs of his people. A good king is more concerned with caring for his people than he is in being served. [1]

During his last days on earth, Jesus was arrested and put on trial. When he was asked by Pilate if he was a king, Jesus answered, “You are right in saying I am a king. In fact, for this reason I was born, and for this I came into the world.”

Yes, Jesus was a king, but he wasn’t interested in running around free and doing things his way. He was only interested in doing the will of his Father. In other words, he did what his Father told him to do.

I’m going to tell you a story about someone else who did not like being told what to do. It’s about a boy named Johnny. Now Johnny’s father took him to the park to play in the big sand pile. “Johnny,” he said, “you stay here and play in the sand while I sit on the bench over there.” So, his father took his newspaper and sat on the bench. Johnny took his little shovel and put sand in his bucket.  Then he went over to a girl who was also playing in the sand.

“Want some sand?” he asked. “Okay,” the little girl said. Johnny put his shovel in the bucket and scooped out some sand. “Hold out your hand,” Johnny said to the little girl. The little girl held out both hands, and Johnny poured the sand into her hands. It ran down her arms and through her fingers and she laughed.

“You want some more sand?” asked Johnny. “Okay,” said the little girl. So, Johnny took another scoop of sand, but this time when she put out her hands, he poured the sand on her head. She began to cry. Her mother came right over. She got down so she could look right in Johnny’s eyes and said, “That was not nice. If you can’t play nice, you may not play in the sand pile.” You know what Johnny said back to the lady? He said, “You aren’t the boss of me.”

That night when Johnny and his father were getting ready to say prayers, they talked about what had happened that day in the sand pile in the park.  “That lady isn’t the boss of me,” Johnny said again. 

“Who is the boss of you, then?” said his father. “You are,” said Johnny. “And who else?” asked his father. “I don’t know,” said Johnny.

“What about Jesus? Is Jesus the boss of you?” asked his father. “I guess so,” said Johnny.

“So what would Jesus say to you when you dumped sand on the girl’s head?” asked his father. “I don’t know,” said Johnny. “Think again,” said his father.

“Maybe he would tell me to stop,” said Johnny.

“That’s good,” said his father. “I’m proud of you. You know what Jesus would say. Now, what would you do if Jesus said stop?” “I would stop,” said Johnny.

“So, maybe that lady was telling you for Jesus,” said his father. “Did you think about that?”

“No,” said Johnny. “I didn’t think about that.” “Johnny,” said his father, “you know when we bow our heads in church; you know what that means?” “It means we are praying,” said Johnny. “Yes,” said his father, “and it also means Jesus is the boss of us.”[2]

Boys and girls, Jesus was born to be king, but his kingdom is not on this earth — it is in heaven. He only came to earth to make a way for us to live with him in heaven.

Let’s bow our heads and close our eyes for a moment of prayer. Dear God, thank you for being our king. Thank you for telling us what to do, what to say and what to think. Give us the wisdom to always obey you, even though at times we don’t want to.  We ask this in the name of your son our Saviour Jesus Christ, AMEN

Bibliography

  1. “Crown Him King!” Retrieved from www.Sermons4Kids.com
  2. Children’s Sermon for Pentecost 26, 11/25/2012. Retrieved from www.mcgregorpage.org

Psalm 16 Trust God

Have you ever had difficulty trusting someone or something? If so, you’re not alone. Psalm 16 is a psalm of trust. King David was the writer, and he trusted God. He tells us that we can trust God as well. God has asked us to trust him in the midst of the trials of life. We can trust God because He is present with us in every moment of life. We can be confident in a God who counsels and makes us secure and promises eternal pleasures. In contrast, those who go after the pleasures of the world reap nothing but sorrow. Nothing can shake us loose from the grip of God’s grace if we remain close to Jesus and our hope remains focused on His return. Only Jesus can provide the cure for the loneliness many of us experience in life today.

Psalm 16 is also an Easter psalm. It is full of hope. God will preserve us because of His goodness. God is our inheritance. He is always before us. God gives us hope. He is the God of life. Psalm 16 embraces the true meaning of life: God and people. When we love God and love people, we fulfill the two Great Commandments.

Verses 1 and 2 include three different names for God: powerful creator, covenant-giver and the Lord and Master of Life. David saw in all of these names the personal presence of God in his life.

David saw the idols of the Moabites and the Philistines, and he heard of his own people’s history of idolatry. The principles of God’s holiness kept him from giving in to the same temptations. God’s presence is seen in the moral instructions we receive. It is His assurance of stability. David gives us three benefits of God’s presence:

  1. Our hearts will be glad with the joy of His presence.
  2. Our tongues will speak kind and wise words.
  3. Our bodies will rest secure because God will carry our burdens and reduce our stress.

David challenges us to live differently, to live a life in which God is the only god for us, for all. How would our daily lives change if we looked to God as the only god that we have? How would our lives be oriented if we believed that God is the only source of any good we have?

It might seem strange to us, but God tells us to bless our competitors and our enemies. We can do this because our security is based on doing what God calls us to do. It is not based on pitting ourselves against other people. When we give to others, we often receive something for ourselves. When we bless others, we are often blessed ourselves.

Blessing our enemies is part of God’s plan for our lives. He understands the plan even if we can’t understand it. If we seek His will, He will make His plan known to us in His own time and in His own way.

The word “lot” means circumstances, or the place where God has put a person. People do well to recognize, as David did, the daily provisions of God.  God often gives his counsel when we are quiet enough to listen to Him-for example, while in bed or getting ready for sleep. We must be ready to listen at all times because He may be ready to speak at any time.

When we accept Christ, we will experience joy. Joy is a fruit of the Spirit of God within us. Joy will automatically be evident on our faces. God gives us the gift of joy so that we may experience fullness in Him. Living within God’s boundaries provides a joy and fulfillment we can’t find anywhere else.

Joy is one of the greatest things our world needs today. Joy brings things like enthusiasm for life, determination to never give up, and a strong desire to encourage others. It will give us the strength to face life’s challenges. The greatest joy we have is the knowledge that Christ conquered death through His resurrection. That knowledge is part of the great joy of Easter. We don’t have to be afraid of death any more.

Jesus came as God’s heir to establish our eternal inheritance. This is part of our resurrection hope. God was always at Jesus’ right hand. Jesus was kept secure through death and into eternal life by His resurrection. Jesus took the pains of life into the presence of God. He fulfilled the promise of victory over the grave. Chris was preserved by God, given His inheritance, not moved or shaken, secured from death and ushered into God’s presence where there is eternal life.

All of us have times in our lives when we need something or someone to help us. Sometimes these things become crutches to us, but at other times they give us the confidence and support we desperately need. God is the only support we truly need, and we can rest assured that He will always be close by.

Nothing is good until it is connected or reconnected to God. When it comes to our lives, we were created and redeemed from sin so that we could be with God. He is the source of life and love. He is always with us and sees our best. We were not created or redeemed to go it alone. God is Emmanuel-God with us. Because of Christ’s death and resurrection, we don’t have to go it alone.

Psalm 16 is an expression of God’s care and presence We will not rot in the grave. We know a life that is stronger than death. God has shown us the way of life, and we enjoy the pleasures of living with God now and forever. When we sense God’s presence in our lives, we enjoy the pleasures of living with God now and forever, and we can face the challenges of life because we know that God is with us.

I want to close my message today with this story. It’s called “Just Checkin’ In,” and it ties in quite nicely with the theme of my message.

A minister passed through his church in the middle of the day.

Decided to pause by the altar and see who had come to pray.

Just then the back door opened, a man came down the aisle.

The minister frowned as he saw the man hadn’t shaved in awhile.

His shirt was kinda’ shabby and his coat was worn and frayed.

The man knelt, bowed his head, then arose and walked away.

In the days that followed each noon time brought this chap

And each time he knelt just for a moment, a lunch pail in his lap.

Well, the minister’s suspicions grew, and robbery was his main fear.

He decided to stop the man and ask him, “Whatcha’ doing’ here?”

The old man worked down the road. Lunch was half and hour.

Lunch time was his prayer time, for finding strength and power.

“I stay only moments, see, ‘cause the factory is so far away;

As I kneel here talkin’ to the Lord, this is kinda’ what I say:

‘I just came again to tell You, Lord, how happy I have been,

Since we found each other’s friendship and You took away my sin.

I don’t know much of how to pray

But I think about You every day.

So, Jesus, this is Jim just checkin’ in.’”

The minister feeling foolish, told Jim, that this was fine.

He told the man he was welcome to come and pray just anytime.

“time to go,” Jim smiled, said “Thanks.” He hurried to the door.

The minister knelt at the altar, he’d never done it before.

His cold heart melted, warmed with love, he met Jesus there.
“I just came again to tell You, Lord, how happy I have been,

Since we found each other’s friendship and You took away my sin.

I don’t know much of how to pray

But I think about You every day.

So, Jesus, this is me just checkin’ in.’”

It was past noon one day, the minister noticed that old Jim hadn’t come.

As more days passed without Jim, he began to worry some.

He went to the factory and asked about Jim and found out that he was ill.

The hospital staff was worried, but he’d given them a thrill.

The week that He was with them, brought changes in the ward.

His smiles, a joy contagious, changed people, his reward.

The head nurse couldn’t understand why Jim was so glad,

When no flowers, calls or cards came, not a visitor he had.

The minister stayed by Jim’s bed, he voiced the nurse’s concern;

No friends came to show they cared; Jim had nowhere to turn.

Looking surprised, old Jim spoke up and with a winsome smile;

“The nurse is wrong, she couldn’t know, that everyday at noon

He’s here, a dear friend of min, you see,

He sits right down, takes my hand, leans over and says to me:

‘I just came again to tell you, Jim, how happy I have been,

Since we found each other’s friendship and I took away your sin.

I always love to hear you pray

I think about you every day.

And so my dear Jim, this is Jesus checkin’ in.’”

Bibliography

  1. Jeremiah, David: The Jeremiah Study Bible, New King James Version (Brentwood, TN: Worthy Publishing; 2013, pp. 714-715)
  2. ESV Study Bible. Part of Wordsearch 11 Bible software package.
  3. Williams, D. & Ogilvie, L.J.: The Preacher’s Commentary Series, Vol: 13: Psalms 1-72 (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Inc.; 1986, pp. 129-135)
  4. Stanley, C.F.: The Charles F. Stanley Life Principles Bible, New King James Version (Nashville, TN: Nelson Bibles; 2005)
  5. Joni Eareckson Tada, “Do You Ever Miss the Lord?” Retrieved from www.joniandfriends.org
  6. Michael Youssef, Ph.D., “King Solomon’s Warning.” Retrieved from www.ltw.org
  7. Os Hillman, “Competition in the Kingdom.” Retrieved from www.marketplaceleaders.com
  8. Dawn Mast, “Lifting my Spirit.” Retrieved from Christianity.com@crosswalkmail.com
  9. Steve Arterburn, “A Renewed Sense of Purpose.” Retrieved from www.newlife.com
  10. Charles R. Swindoll, “Outrageous Joy.” Retrieved form www.insightforliving.ca
  11. Jim Burns, “Just Checking In.” Retrieved from www.homeword.com
  12. Pastor Jesse Bradley, “When God is Near.” Retrieved from Crosswalk@crosswalkmail.com
  13. Dr. David Jeremiah, “Victory is Ours!” Retrieved from www.davidjeremiah.org
  14. Pastor Ken Klaus, “It’s All Good!” Retrieved from www.lhm.org
  15. Pastor Ken Klaus, “You are the Best, Lord!” Retrieved from www.lhm.org

Mark 13:1-8 The End is Near, and so is a New Beginning

We’re getting closer to the end of our church year. In fact, Sun., Nov. 21, 2021, is Reign of Christ Sunday, which is the church’s equivalent to New Year’s Eve. As we draw closer to the end of the church year, our Gospel readings begin to emphasize the signs of Christ’s Second Coming. In fact, Jesus talks about some of these signs in Mark 13:1-8.

In a sermon often called the Olivet Discourse (because it was delivered on the Mount of Olives), Jesus gave the disciples and us a look into the future. The sermon spoke to both the destruction of the temple by the Romans in 70 AD and the destruction to come when Christ returns. Jesus’ sermon focused attention on preparedness, readiness to suffer, and trust. Jesus began his description of the events to come by emphasizing that many people will claim to be Him. All of them will deceive the people. As the time of Christ’s return draws near, wars and rumours of wars will escalate in number or intensity or both. These conflicts will involve both nation states and ethnic groups. Natural disasters will gain more worldwide attention.

One of the signs Jesus talks about is the destruction of the temple, and he uses that sign to describe what things will be like on earth as the Second Coming draws closer. Many of the stones in the temple were the same weight as a large jet. When the disciples commented on the size of the stones, they were likely expecting a messianic takeover of the temple. They were looking forward to a life of power and prestige. Unfortunately, they still did not realize the true nature of Christ’s kingdom.

The destruction of the temple was the result of its misuse by its leaders. The sacrificial system of the temple could not make sufficient atonement for the sinfulness of mankind. The disciples could not believe that one of the architectural wonders of the world had lost the grandeur of the spirit. Jesus’ conversation about the destruction of the temple was symbolic of the systems and institutions that oppress and exclude people. He was talking about the end of the status quo and the beginning of justice, freedom, and the redistribution and/or redefinition of power and wealth.

When our world is falling apart, God is not through with us-not by a long shot! Jesus reminds us not to create treasures here on earth. We must create treasures in heaven. Things that we think are permanent in our lives are only temporary. Material goods are temporary. They can be taken away. Our journey through life is short. We are travellers passing through. Our true home is in heaven and our true wealth is in knowing Jesus’ love and care for each of us.

The false teachers represented the religious cultism that results from man’s search for spiritual meaning outside of God’s world and word. Man’s self-interest often leads to social upheavals. Natural disasters often occur when the ecological system is upset by things such as pollution. These signs are constantly happening, so Jesus told the disciples not to see them as signs of final judgment. He told them that these signs are precursors to the end-time wrath.

Jesus expects his disciples to be the first people to counter false prophets, condemn war and show compassion to the victims of natural disasters. False prophets arise in every war, cult or natural disaster. If we ignore what they teach, they won’t survive. The main reason why false teachers can thrive is because of our secular society. People do what they please, and they have no time or place for God. All we have to do is look at our congregations on Sunday mornings to see that this is true. People make time for other activities on Sunday, but they don’t make time for God. People want to do what they please, and God makes that uncomfortable. They try to gain satisfaction from earthly things such as possessions, status, position or wealth, but the only thing that gives us true satisfaction is faith in God.

When Jesus referred to the pains of childbirth, he was referring to the frequency of the signs of the end time. When a woman is in labour, her contractions are infrequent at first and become more frequent as the baby comes closer to entering the world. In the same way the signs of the end times will be infrequent at first but will escalate to massive and tragic proportions just before Christ’s return.

God’s answer to trouble is trust. He wants us to trust him in times of trouble, especially as the Second Coming draw closer. Faith is the link between heaven and earth. This world is a place where our faith will be refined and where our hope will rest on our future heavenly home-one that will never perish or be destroyed. God is up to stuff that is beyond our ability to understand. Our job is to be alert for it.

This passage from Mark’s Gospel was not meant to make us worry about the future. It was written to offer comfort to first century believers who were struggling to make sense of their world and their lives.  We have the same struggles, so this passage gives us comfort as well. A prophet speaks both to their own generation and to future generations. When Jesus spoke to the disciples about the destruction of the temple, the troubles leading up to that day and of the signs that the terrible day was upon them, he was speaking to both their generation and ours. We live in the interim between Christ’s ascension and his return, and in this interim we will experience the same circumstances that Jesus promised his disciples. We will experience false prophets, wars and rumours of wars, natural disasters and persecution.

Jesus reminded the disciples that buildings are only stones and bricks. What really matters is what goes on inside. Life-giving waters are splashed and stories from the Bible are told-stories that are meant to give us guidance while we are on our faith journey. A simple meal of bread and wine is given to all of us, and we gather together to bring all of our joys and concerns and thanksgivings to God.

The destruction of the temple was not the end. It was the beginning. It was not about dismantling God. It was about new beginnings in faith. A building may be destroyed, but the place where God dwells can’t be destroyed because God lives in Jesus and his word as well as in the hearts and minds of all believers.

Our hope is in Christ’s return, which will be the main event of the end times. We must be careful not to be deceived by world events. Instead, we must look forward to the greatest event in history-Christ’s return for his church!

Thanks be to God, AMEN

Bibliography

  1. Jeremiah, David: The Jeremiah Study Bible, NKJV (Brentwood, TN: Worthy Publishing; 2013)
  2. Collin Wimberly, “Life in the Last Days.” (Preaching Magazine, September/October 2015, pgs. 49-50)
  3. ESV Study Bible. Part of Wordsearch 11 Bible software package.
  4. McKenna, D.L. & Ogilvie, L.J.: The Preacher’s Commentary Series, Vol. 25: Mark (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Inc.; 1982)
  5. MacArthur, J.F. Jr.: The MacArthur Study Bible, NASV (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers; 2006)
  6. David Jeremiah, “Troubled by trouble.” Retrieved from turningpoint@davidjeremiah.org
  7. Pastor Bob Coy, “Earth: Don’t Get Too Comfortable.” Retrieved from www.activeword.org
  8. Micah D. Kiehl, “Commentary on Mark 13:1-8.” Retrieved from http://www.workingpreacher.org/preaching.aspx?commentary_id=1419
  9. David Lose, “Apocalypse Now.” Retrieved from http://www.workingpreacher.org/craft.aspx?post=1629
  10. Brian P. Stoffregen, “Proper 28-Year B; Mark 13:1-8.” Retrieved from www.crossmarks.com/brian/mark13x1.htm
  11. The Rev. Dr. Kathi Martin, “Flip the Script.” Retrieved from www.day1.org/490-flip_the_script.print.
  12. Dr. Mickey Anders, “Everything Nailed Down is Coming Loose.” Retrieved from http://www.lectionary.org/Sermons/NT/02-Mark/Mark-13.01-8-NailedDown-Anders.htm
  13. Pastor Vince Gerhardy, “The End is Still to Come.” Retrieved from http://www.lectionary.org/Sermons/NT/02-Mark/Mark-13.01-08-EndCome-Gerhardy.htm
  14. The Rev. Dr. James D. Kegel, “Sic Transit Gloria.” http://www.lectionary.org/Sermons/NT/02-Mark/Mark-13.01-08-SicTransit.-Kegel.htm
  15. Dr. Jeffrey K. London, “Joy Ahead.” Retrieved from http://www.lectionary.org/Sermons/NT/02-Mark/Mark-13.01-08-JoyAhead-London.htm

Ruth 3:1-5, Ruth 4:13-17, Mark 12:38-44 Blessed are the Poor Widows

When I was preparing this message, I found a story about a little boy who went to church one Sunday morning to get out of the cold. He had been trying to sell newspapers, but no one had passed by. He entered the church, hoping to pass an hour unnoticed in the back row. The minister delivered a powerful sermon about Jesus and his love for us. At one point during the service, they took an offering.

One of the ushers stopped right in front of the boy and held out the offering plate. After a long pause, the boy asked the usher to put the plate on the floor. Then the little boy did something unusual. He stepped into the offering plate, first one foot and then the other. He slowly looked up and with tears streaming down his cheeks said, “Mister, I don’t have any money. I haven’t sold a single newspaper today, but if Jesus did all that the minister said he did just for me, I will gladly give my life to Him”.

The story of Ruth and Naomi and the Parable of the Widow’s Mite provide some very interesting contrasts between the Christian’s way and society’s way. Both are stories of how God uses the culture of Jesus’ time to do his will in our society and teach us how we are supposed to care for each other.

In Old Testament times, the Law of Moses stated that the poor, orphans and widows were to be cared for, but in most cases the care that was provided was the bare minimum that was required. For example, farmers who grew grain were to leave the grain in the rows at the edges of their fields for the widows and orphans, but that was it. The farmers did not have to take the grain to the widows, nor did they have to bring the poor to their fields so they could pick the grain.

That was what Ruth and Naomi were doing in the field. They were picking the grain that was left for widows such as Naomi. Now Naomi had a big problem. Not only was she a widow, but both of her sons were dead, so it was just Naomi and her daughter-in-law Ruth. Naomi was planning to go back to her homeland, and Ruth was going to go with her, so Naomi decided to play matchmaker by encouraging Ruth to “introduce” herself to her distant relative Boaz, who happened to own the field that they were working in. Ruth followed Naomi’s advice, and the result was that she and Boaz married and became the parents of Obed, who became the father of Jesse, who became the father of King David…and from that lineage of David came Jesus. God took a bad situation for Naomi and used it to fulfill his purpose.

Jesus later used another widow to fulfill his purpose-namely, to teach us the value of giving to God’s work. The Parable of the Widow’s Mite took place in Jerusalem during the week before Jesus’ crucifixion. Jesus taught his disciples to beware of those who act pious and holy on the outside but who are evil and corrupt on the inside. He used the example of the scribes. They wore long flowing robes and enjoyed the privileges of their position. They enjoyed the adoration they received from the ordinary people in the street, and they had the best seats in the synagogues. They also used crooked schemes to force widows out of their own homes.

Even today, those in power sometimes lose compassion and take advantage of others, including widows, orphans and the poor. They do not have a heart to love and serve God. In fact, they often stand between us and God. In contrast, both widows revealed faith in a caring God. He will not overlook them, and he does not overlook us. The widows encourage us to hold on to our faith in a God who will not disappoint us. 

Jesus always championed social justice, which means caring for the less fortunate in society. He and the disciples were sitting in the area of the temple treasury. The treasury contained thirteen trumpet-shaped chests where people could deposit their gifts and the temple tax. Jesus could see how much money people gave. He could see the large sums of money that the scribes and the wealthy gave, and he could also see how much the widow gave. He used a comparison of the gifts to illustrate their significance.

The wealthy gave out of their abundance. That is, they gave out of what they had left after they paid their bills and purchased the necessities of life, including food. In contrast, the poor widow gave all that she had. By putting all of her money into the temple treasury, the widow probably had to go without food for at least one meal. In Jesus’ eyes, she gave more than all the rich people simply because she gave everything to God.

Many large donations are given at least in part because of the public relations value. Jesus doesn’t condemn large gifts from wealthy people, but he does say that the effect of the widow’s small donation is even bigger than any large donation because she gave out of what she had. She put God first and she is a good example for us to follow. We must always put God first.

Love and giving describe our lifestyles and what we were made for. Life is meant to be lived outward to the world, not inward to ourselves. God has hardwired us for generosity. When we live generously, it shows in our faces and in our lives. People in the health care profession are a good example. They show genuine care and compassion for their patients. They are not in the profession just for show. They are in the profession because they care.

God measures giving not by what we give, but by what we keep for ourselves. He measures the gift by the sacrifice involved. That is why Jesus valued the widow’s gift. She sacrificed her well-being in order to show her love for God-just like Jesus showed his love for us by dying on the cross to save us. Ruth also sacrificed her own plans for her life to stay with her mother-in-law, and God rewarded her by making her the great-grandmother of King David. If Ruth, the widow, and Jesus can make sacrifices for others, surely we can make sacrifices for others.

Bibliography

  1. Matthew Henry Concise Commentary. Part of Lessonmaker 8 Bible Software package.
  2. Wycliffe Bible Commentary. Part of Lessonmaker 8 Bible Software package.
  3. ESV Study Bible. Part of Lessonmaker 8 Bible Software package.
  4. The Rev. Francis Wade, “Against Giving”. Retrieved from www.day1.org
  5. Exegesis for Mark 12:38-44. Retrieved from www.sermonwriter.com
  6. McKenna, D.L and Ogilvie, L.J., The Preacher’s Commentary Series, Vol. 25: Mark (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Inc.; 1982)
  7. Jude Siciliano, O.P., “First Impressions, 32nd Sunday (B)”. Retrieved from www.preacherexchange.org
  8. Steve Preston, “Great Riches”. Retrieved from bibletalk@freegroups.net
  9. Bishop Kenneth L. Carder, “The Lavish Gifts of the Poor”. Retrieved from www.day1.org
  10. Micah D. Kiel, “Mark 12:38-44, Twenty-Fourth Sunday after Pentecost, Year B”. Retrieved from www.workingpreacher.org/preaching_print.aspx?commentary_id=1418
  11. Dr. Philip W. McLarty, “The Widow’s Might”. Retrieved from www.sermonwriter.com
  12. “Giving our All”. Retrieved from http://sermons4kids.com/giving_our_all_print.htm

Mark 12:28-34 The Two Great Commandments

Do you enjoy playing games? I do. Every game comes with its own special set of rules. To really enjoy the game as it was intended, everyone must play by the rules. Have you ever played a game with someone who didn’t follow the rules? Do you always follow the rules?

There are rules that we must follow in the game of life too. The Bible is the rulebook we must follow in life. To really enjoy life the way God intended, it is important to follow His rules.

Prior to the destruction of the Second Temple in 70 CE, various factions within Judaism were vying for control of religious practice in Roman occupied Israel. While the Chief Priests and Herodians held control of the Temple, they were viewed with suspicion by the majority of Jewish people because of their associations with the Romans. The Sadducees, while not directly connected to the Temple, insisted that the proper focus for Jewish devotion to God remained in the Temple—even under Roman control. They also followed only the written books of the Law, which they often interpreted differently from the Pharisees. The Pharisees disagreed with the Sadducees on many points, following a written and oral Law and studying God’s Word in synagogues, thereby deemphasizing the role of the Temple.

Each group had scribes whose job it was to interpret the law. However, these scribes were not the rabbis or priests in charge of the interpretation; they were more generally associated with the proclamation of the law for the group with which they were associated. And so the people often saw scribes as lacking in authority.  It is into this environment that Jesus was born; and it is in this environment that Jesus taught.

The religious leaders of Jesus’ day liked to sit around and discuss the law. They would sometimes ask Jesus questions about the law to try to trick him into saying something that would cause people to turn against him. One day they were questioning Jesus and he answered them with one good answer right after another. A Jewish teacher of the Law came in and heard that Jesus was giving good answers and he asked him, “Of all of the commandments, which is the most important?”

Jesus answered him, “The most important one is this, ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.'”

There are a lot of rules in the Bible. It may sometimes be difficult to remember all of them. If we can just remember and obey the two commandments that Jesus said were the most important, all of the rest would follow. Then we would enjoy life the way God intended it.

A scribe of the Pharisees would find it particularly difficult to make their laws simple and meaningful: 613 statutes comprise the oral law with 365 prohibitions to coincide with the number of days in the year and 248 commandments to equal the reputed number of generations of man. Attempting to make this morass meaningful, scribes divided the statutes into “weighty” and “light” categories and cross-classified them as “ritual” or “ethical” laws. The need for meaning in the Law also kept before them the challenge to develop a single, simple, working principle that would encompass all of the other statutes. When the scribal expert asked Jesus, “Which is the first commandment of all?”  he must have had this challenge in mind. At least, Jesus’ answer made that assumption.

After Jesus answered in a few short sentences the question that absorbed centuries of scribal time and energy, His intellectual protagonists lost their daring and left, knowing that He would have to be faulted on something other than His words. From that point on, no one dared to ask Him a question.

When Jesus answered the scribe’s question, there was a great meeting and agreement between the Christian and Jewish traditions: that love of God had precedence over all other religious requirements, observances, and loyalties. This love of God requires that we give all of ourselves, and when that is given, love for our neighbours will be the visible symbol of our love for God.

Jesus took the Pharisees’ question one step further by identifying the second greatest commandment because it was critical to an understanding of the complete duty of love. This commandment, also from the books of Moses is of the same nature and character as the first. Genuine love for God is followed in importance by a genuine love for people.

The Law of Moses was a burden for the people, but faith in Christ is simple and light. God was willing to forgive us and love us. In return, He expects us to love Him and our neighbour. The more we understand God’s love, the more we will love Him back, the more time we will spend in prayer learning about Him and developing a relationship with Him, and the more our love for Him will grow.

Christianity is all about love. How do we define love? What does it mean in practice? The answer to both of these questions involves discernment. The Holy Spirit will tell us how, when and where to love. We can love God with our emotions, our actions, and our minds. God’s love seeps into every area of our lives and challenges us to love others with our head, our heart and our hands.

The phrase “love as I have loved you” makes Jesus the standard by which to measure our love. Jesus doesn’t love people who deserve love, and God’s love isn’t based on our worthiness or performance but upon His choice. This type of love is what a husband should have for his wife, parents for their children, and Christians for each other.

This type of love can be hard to show, especially when we’re going through life’s trials. People are going to hurt us, do unfair things, abandon us when we need them the most, and say things that will hurt us, but we can let it go. We can give it to God. God has blessed us too much to spend one moment of life being angry. There will be times when we have to fight and argue, but most of the time we can just let it go. We don’t need to hold a grudge. We can love people just where they are. No one is perfect.

There are ten ways to love other people:

  1. Listen without interrupting.
  2. Speak without accusing.
  3. Give without sparing.
  4. Pray without ceasing.
  5. Answer without arguing.
  6. Honour others above yourself.
  7. Enjoy without complaint.
  8. Trust without wavering.
  9. Forgive without punishing
  10. Live and love as a child of God.

When the people we know think of Christians what do they think? Do they think of Jesus’ love and kindness, or do they think of people who are judgmental, opinionated or hypocritical?  Jesus is clear about the impression he wants us to make in the world. That is why Jesus created the two Great Commandments.

Are you letting your light shine? This beat-up world is watching us and wondering if our faith is genuine. They don’t expect us to perfect, but they do expect to see some evidence that the love of Christ is real. How can they know it is real unless we let it shine? The kingdom of God is built and maintained by love. Christ’s love for us is the only hope and remedy for our sick world. If we are Christians, Christ’s love is ringing very loudly for us to remember it and practice it.

Bibliography

  1. Jeremiah, David: The Jeremiah Study Bible, New King James Version (Brentwood, TN: Worthy Publishing; 2013, p. 1366)
  2. Amy Lindeman Allen,” To Love and to Disagree.” Retrieved from https://politicaltheologytoday.com/to-love-and-to-disagree-mark-1228-34/
  3. “Rules to Live By.” Retrieved from https://www.sermons4kids.com/rules_to_live_by.html
  4. McKenna, D.L. & Ogilvie, L.J.: The Preacher’s Commentary Series, Vol. 25: Mark (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Inc.; 19822, pp. 242-245)
  5. Macarthur, J.F. Jr.: The MacArthur Study Bible: New American Standard Bible (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers; 2006)
  6. Jude Siciliano, OP, “First Impressions, 31st Sunday (b), Nov. 14, 2018.” Retrieved from www.preacherexchange.org
  7. David Peary, “Beyond the Rule Books.” Retrieved from mail@hope1032.com.au
  8. Bill Crowder, “Power of Simplicity.” Retrieved from noreply@rbc.org
  9. Skip Heitzig, “Christianity in a Nutshell.” Retrieved from Crosswalk@crosswalkmail.com
  10. Bobby Schuller, “From Blessed to Worry.” Retrieved from hourofpower@hourofpower.org
  11. Carol Around, “No Other Commandment is Greater than These.” Retrieved from www.carolaround.com
  12. The Rev. Dr. Charles Reeb, “Lose the Cape.” Retrieved from http://day1.org/8293-charley_reeb_lose_the_cape.print
  13. The Rev. Genechis Desta Buba, “Kingdom Built by Love.” Retrieved from http://day1.org/492-kingdom_built_by_love.print

Psalm 34:1-8 Praise God and Give Him Credit

Laughter erupted as the Spencer family finished a rowdy game of charades.

Jill, a neighbor girl who had joined them in the game, got ready to leave. “I wish my family liked each other better and had fun together like yours does,” she told Cara. “We argue and fight all the time. Why is your family so different?”

“I guess we’re just happy people,” replied Cara with a shrug. “And maybe we work harder at it than some people do.” Noticing her mother looking at them, Cara hurriedly told Jill goodbye before Mom could say something embarrassing.

That evening, Mom served a chocolate cake for dessert. “This tastes great, Mom!” exclaimed Kirk, Cara’s brother. “You should make it more often.”

“It’s one of the best cakes I’ve ever tasted,” agreed Dad.

“Thank you,” responded Mom. “I appreciate your compliments.”

“Mom! No fair!” complained Cara. “You know I . . .”

“Oh, that’s right.” Mom interrupted her. “You made this cake, didn’t you?” Turning to Dad, she added, “Cara made this cake today all by herself.”

“You did, Cara?” Dad asked. “It’s delicious!”

“I don’t care who made it,” Kirk mumbled through a full mouth, “as long as I get to eat it.”

After eating, Cara and her mother cleaned the kitchen. “You know, honey, I have to admit something,” said Mom as she put the rest of the cake away. “I deliberately accepted the praise and compliments you deserved–but only temporarily and for a purpose.”

“You just wanted to tease me, right?” Cara asked. “That’s okay, Mom.”

“Actually, I want you to see that you did the same sort of thing today,” said Mom. “I heard you and Jill talking, and you didn’t tell her the real reason our family is different. The peace, love, and joy–and the fun–in our home isn’t just because we work hard at it. God deserves the credit for that–not us.”

Cara bit her lip. “I know, but . . . Jill wouldn’t understand that,” she argued.

“Maybe; maybe not,” said Mom, “but give God the credit He deserves.”

“So I should tell Jill it’s because of Him–whether she can understand or not?” Cara asked thoughtfully. Then she smiled and added, “Maybe she’ll want to know more about Him. That would be good!”

The background of Psalm 34 is found in 1 Samuel 21-22. In jealousy, King Saul pursued David and threatened his life, forcing David to live on the run. In one of the loneliest times of his life, David sought refuge with the Philistines. When they realized who he was, he feigned insanity to protect himself.

David was poor physically and without the help of others. He was also poor spiritually. He was weak and aware of his sin. In spite of his poverty, he sought the Lord. God heard him and delivered him from all of his fears. Only through prayer can fear be overcome by faith.

Psalm 34 is a witness to God, who has delivered David from adversity. David has seen God’s presence and power. This power has led David to respect God and praise God. Life is found and lived in the praise of God. David found life in praising God, and so can we.

David is calling us to verbal, public, personal praise. He is calling us to worship that lifts our hearts and draws us into a spontaneous, robust chorus of delighting in the name of the living God. The angelic vision in the Psalm creates proper respect and reverence before God’s glory. Those who have seen God’s glory will find that the best reaction is to respect God.

To bless the Lord at all times comes easily in times of prosperity, but David sang this psalm in the midst of a time of adversity. When God’s people are afraid, they should worship God. When they are filled with panic, it is time to praise God. When worry overwhelms God’s people, the time for worship has arrived.

The phrase “the angel of the Lord” appears only three times in the Psalms. Jesus appeared on several occasions in the Old Testament in this form. Not only has God promised to deliver His people, but He has also promised to give them the Deliverer! Jesus Himself draws near to believers in their fear.

The call to “taste and see that the Lord is good” is the call to test. We are not just to believe in God’s goodness. We are to experience it. That goodness includes both His deliverance and His gifts. When we experience God’s goodness we will not lack any good thing. Even when the devil attacks us, God will protect us and provide for us. God wants to deliver us from any and all fears that may be plaguing us today. He promises to keep us in perfect peace when we keep our minds on Him.

In the 1970’s a popular commercial for a brand of cereal introduced a catch phrase that is still popular today. In the ad we see three brothers at the breakfast table. Two of them did not want to try this new cereal. The youngest of the three, who was the pickiest of the eaters, was given the bowl of cereal. After a moment of hesitation, he began to eat the cereal-and actually enjoyed it!. The other two brothers exclaimed, “He likes it! Hey Mikey!”

Today we still refer to this commercial when we say phrases like, “Try it! You’ll like it!” or “Mikey likes it!” To a picky eater, trying new foods can be an unpleasant experience and foods are often rejected. Those that are not picky find this behaviour ridiculous. We find ourselves In similar situations today when we try to share the Gospel of Jesus Christ with non-believers. We know that we have a delicious platter that is filling and delightful to the taste, but most non-believers are reluctant to try it for themselves and ultimately reject it.

What is our relationship to God? Do we believe He is good? Do we believe we are blessed when we take refuge in Him? Do we expect God’s goodness in our lives when we wake up in the morning? Do we set the tone of the day for success and every blessing with our words? Life and death are in the power of our tongues. That’s why we should praise God throughout the day.

Following Christ is often a series of sweet and successful errors. Some of these errors will seem even more bitter than sweet, but if we understand that we are on a journey with Jesus, following closely to Him and reaching for the dream He has placed in our hearts, then we are right where we belong. When we shift our perspective to focus on God, faith will rise in our hearts and we will live knowing the truth that we serve a big God who can do big things.

So what does it mean to praise God? It means to be thankful and seek to be aware of God’s presence in every situation. It means looking for God in unexpected places. It means being God’s eyes, ears, hands, and feet in the world. It means letting God use us to tip the balance from death to life, from hate to love.

How do we praise God? We praise Him with our voices-either speaking or singing. Genuine worship and praise allow God to fill our hearts and minds with His presence. How do we magnify God? We do this when we share the stories of how He has worked in our lives. Our lives aren’t perfect, but when He uses our stories for the healing and growth of others, that becomes part of the redeeming of our mistakes. When we share our own imperfections instead of hiding them, we have a chance to shine the spotlight on Jesus. He has healed our wounded places and changed the ashes of our sins into beauty.

We experience joy when nothing from our past can condemn us or sadden us, when our memories are only positive because we trust God and His goodness toward us. We can never give to God more than He has given us.

As we love God, experience Him and allow His life to fill us, His personality changes our personalities. The timid become bold, the bold become patient, the patient become fierce, the uptight become free and the religious become good. They look to Jesus and become like Him. Loving Jesus helps us to become what we were meant to be.

Who has encouraged you to walk by faith? Have you ever thanked those people for offering life-giving encouragement? Do you remember to give God credit as you accept His blessings? Let friends know that He deserves the praise when things go well for you. Let them know the credit goes to Him when you experience peace even through difficult times. Let them know that He deserves all honor and glory. Give Him credit for watching over you at all times and–as David did in today’s Scripture–express thankfulness for His power at work in your life. Use every opportunity to point your friends to God.

Bibliography

  1. Jeremiah, David: The Jeremiah Study Bible: New King James Version (Brentwood, TN: Worthy Publishing; 2013, p. 728)
  2. Williams, D. & Ogilvie, L.J.: The Preacher’s Commentary Series, Vol. 13: Psalms 1-72 (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Inc.; 1986, pp. 269-274)
  3. Bruce Epperly, “Faith in a Time of Pandemic-Blessing God.” Retrieved from www.patheos.com/blogs/livingaholyadventure
  4. Jerry Savelle, “Continual Praise.” Retrieved from paul@ncmcanada.com
  5. Richard Innes, “Try It, You’ll Like It.” Retrieved from www.actsweb.org
  6. Joel Osteen, “See the Lord.” Retrieved from devotional@goto.joelosteen.com
  7. Joel Osteen, “Constantly Speak.” Retrieved from devotional@goto.joelosteen.com
  8. Leslie Snyder, “A Sweet and Successful Error.” Retrieved from www.homeword.com
  9. Christine Caine, “Shift Your Focus.” Retrieved from www.christinecaine.com
  10. Sharon Betters, “Radiant Faces, Part 2.” Retrieved from dailytreasure@markinc.org
  11. Amy Carroll, “Finding a Happy Ending to Our Sad Story.” Retrieved from Crosswalk@crosswlakmail.com
  12. Dr. Charles Stanley, “Expressions of Praise.” Retrieved from www.intouch.org
  13. “Transformation.” Retrieved from dailyreadings@wildatheart.org
  14. “Cara’s Cake.” Retrieved from keys@lists.keysforkids.org