January 31, 2011 § Leave a comment
It is so easy for God’s people to get preoccupied with the existence of wickedness in the world. It is a natural response for Christians to become frustrated, angry, or even wrathful in the face of the many shapes and forms of evil, sin, and wickedness. However, even though it is important to be concerned about all these things, Psalm 37 suggests the response of God’s people can go too far on these matters. Three times in the first eight verses of the Psalm (37:1, 7, 8), the writer warns, “Do not fret“. If you are getting overly disturbed by what is wrong in the world, you can easily get consumed by these problems to the extent that it takes your focus away from God’s presence, work and control in the world. A self-consuming vexation with what is wrong can have a negative impact on your relationship with God that lead to a mistrust of God and even a doubtfulness about God’s power in the world. Therefore, it is no surprise that twice during these first eight verses there is also the encouragement to “trust in the Lord” (37:3, 5). Our trust in the Lord amidst the world’s wickedness come in the form of being still before the Lord and to wait patiently on Him (37:7), and to continue committing ourselves to Him by doing what is right (37:3-5). Are there any self-consuming concerns that you have to relinquish to God by trusting Him with the future?
January 30, 2011 § Leave a comment
This morning’s sermon in 7 slides:
January 29, 2011 § Leave a comment
Unfortunately, “going to church on a Sunday” to worship make some believe that is all that church membership entails. If that is the case, then the worship experience on a Sunday (with maybe an additional Sunday School class) is just one more aspect of an already fragmented life and one more thing on my to-do list for the week. Psalm 15 warns against such a lack of an integrated life in the presence of God. And this does not refer to necessarily adding more “church activities” to our already busy weeks, but it challenges us to be Christian in every single aspect of our ordinary lives. Psalm 15 begins with the question, “Lord, who may dwell in your sanctuary? Who may live in your holy hill?” Already in how the question is asked, the integrated link between worship and life is implied. “Sanctuary” refers to the worship experience in the presence of God, and “holy hill” refers to a public life in the presence of God. The rest of the Psalm then names the life of a person who takes his/her worship experience out the door of the sanctuary into the routines of every day. May our worship experience tomorrow make a significant difference to how we live our lives seven days of the week!
January 28, 2011 § Leave a comment
The prophet Micah spoke to very religious people who publicly paid loud lip service to their religion (Micah 3). So it must have been a shock to them when Micah summoned them to God’s legal case against them (Micah 6:1-5). The people’s reply to God’s charges against them includes no attempt to defend themselves (Micah 6:6-7). Deep down they know they are guilty. Instead, they try to figure out if they can please God by paying Him off: “With what shall I come before the Lord”? (6:6). They hope they can come up with some sacrificial offerings that will make up for their transgressions (6:7). As some writer commented so well, what we have here is an attempt “to appease God through a form of score-keeping that tries to put a price tag on God’s mercy.” But God wants none of that. We can’t get away by just writing a check. God requires something different from the usual talking-the-walk kind of religion. What God requires is “to act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God” (6:8). We cannot keep God off our backs by checking off some prescribed religious practices. We are called to walk the talk with a lifestyle of love, mercy, and justice for each other and the world. How are we doing with that?
January 27, 2011 § 1 Comment
The Beatitudes of Matthew 5:1-12 – the collection of Jesus’ teachings that introduce His Sermon on the Mount – are more than just moral rules to live by. The key refrain that runs through them is blessedness. These Jesus sayings are first of all a radical Kingdom perspective on life. It starts with “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (5:3) and it ends with “Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (5:10) These two beatitudes represent the bookends for the rest of them, indicating that the kingdom of heaven is the controlling perspective of the entire section. Therefore, these sayings describe the blessed life of those who possess the kingdom of heaven. Blessedness does not refer to either “holiness” in some spiritual sense or “happiness” in the sense of a good mood. Rather, it refers to a fortunate state of life. That is exactly what make these sayings so ironic and so radical, because they refer to circumstances that seem so desperately “unfortunate”: those who are poor in spirit, who mourn, who are meek, who hunger and thirst for righteousness, who are persecuted. They represent Jesus’ promise to all of us who find ourselves in unfortunate circumstances, and not only as a future reality but as a perspective that transform the way we live our sometimes “unfortunate” lives today.
January 26, 2011 § Leave a comment
Together with other songs in Luke – Mary’s song in 1:46-55 and Simeon’s song in 1:1:29-32 – Zechariah’s song in Luke 1:68-79 rates among the great praise songs in the Gospel of Luke. What is most interesting about this song is that originates in the midst of all kinds of turns of events. God is praised after the birth of a son (John) that happened completely unexpected given the fact that his parents (Zechariah and Elizabeth) were “both well on in years” and his mother “was barren” (1:7). And when everyone expected the usual course of events after the birth of a son (1:58-62), it became evident that there is something extraordinary about this child. Not only is this reflected in an unexpected name (1:60, 63), but it was clear from the beginning that there is something special about this child’s character and calling (1:15-16). “The neighbors were all filled with awe” and “people were talking” about him (1:65). Zechariah’s song follows directly on the question of expectation that was on everyone’s lips: “What then is this child going to be”? (1:66). In Zechariah’s song the answer is clear: he is going to be among the greatest because He will prepare the way for the Lord (1:76). You and I should still expect the unexpected as God continues to turn the events of our lives into His purposes for us. Adding another day to our lives is no accident, because every day God calls us out of our mediocrities of self-centeredness into the greatness of a people who prepare the way for Him.
January 25, 2011 § Leave a comment
Gideon lived during a time when the presence of God was not that evident at all (Judges 6:11-24). When the angel greeted him with “the Lord is with you” (6:12), Gideon reacted in a way that many people still do today: “if the Lord is with us, why has all this happened to us?” (6:13). The good things people tell about God do not make sense when it seems like God has abandoned us (6:13). The way in which God wants to proof His presence during times like this is very surprising though. God turned to Gideon and said, “Am I not sending you?” (6:14). God sends his people to represent Him during times when people doubt His trustworthiness or even that He exists at all. We may find the same excuses that Gideon uttered, namely that we are too weak or not important enough to represent God (6:15), but the fact remains that throughout the ages God used fragile human beings to represent Him among other people. God’s power is best illustrated through those who recognize the weakness in themselves, but understand that God are able to equip them with everything they need to be God’s representatives. People like you and me – vulnerable with plenty of limitations – are the very people who God empowered through his Spirit to be His representatives today. Where is God sending you today?