Genesis in 50 Days

June 13, 2011 § Leave a comment

Yesterday, I started an initiative with my congregation on reading Genesis over the next 50 days (until July 31st).  I have created a different blog for this project, and will make daily contributions on that blog rather than this one.  Those contributions will be more explanatory than devotional, but if you are interested, please follow us on genesisjournal.wordpress.com.  I will continue the daily contributions on this blog in September 2011.

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When You Send Your Spirit

June 11, 2011 § Leave a comment

Tomorrow is Pentecost Day.  We celebrate God’s gift of the Holy Spirit.  Psalm 104:24-35 praises the power of the Spirit in our midst.  When we refer to the Spirit, we always point to the Spirit’s work in the entire creation (and not only in and through human beings).  “When you send your Spirit, they (God’s creatures) are created, and you renew the face of the earth” (104:30).  Through God’s Spirit, God creates (104:24-26).  But more than that, God also cares for his creation through the work of the Spirit (104:27-30).  God’s continued creation and every day provision require a response of praise (104:31-35).  Pentecost is our opportunity to embrace the work of the Spirit in our midst and to celebrate its power in our lives and environment where we live.  Blessed Pentecost!

Spiritual Gifts

June 10, 2011 § 4 Comments

The core of the Christian message for people who live this side of Christ’s resurrection is clear:  “no one can say, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ except by the Holy Spirit” (1 Corinthians 12:3).  We don’t have a natural ability within ourselves to know God through Jesus.  Nothing to boast about when the focus is on us.  We need the Spirit of God to enable God’s work within us (12:6).  We receive the knowledge and power of God as pure gifts from the Holy Spirit.  As much as individuals are not the origin but only the recipients of this knowledge and power, individuals are also not the purpose of these spiritual gifts.  The key for understanding the purpose of spiritual gifts is verse 7:  “Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good” (3:8).  Unfortunately, far too often the matter of spiritual gifts is individualized among Christians.  We think to discover our spiritual gifts is all about ourselves.  That is clearly not the case from Paul’s perspective.  The gifts come from the Spirit and the gifts returns to the community (“for the common good”).  What are your spiritual gifts?  How do you make it work for the sake of the larger community (church and society)?

From Fear to Joy

June 9, 2011 § Leave a comment

Retelling the Easter story of Jesus’ first appearance to His disciples after His resurrection (John 20:19-23) is like living into the truth of our own lives.  It is a story of transformation that provides the key to the power of the Easter reality in our lives.  The power of Jesus’ resurrection lies in God’s ability to turn death into life, or in the case of Jesus’ disciples, transforming a fearful room into a joyful one (20:19-20).  Jesus does not come into our lives to make it more difficult than what it already is.  As He did when He spoke his first words in the midst of the disciples, His presence brings peace.  God’s new life in and through Jesus’ resurrection is the ever-present reality of God showing up in our lives to surprise us with newness in the midst of stuckness.  God brings peace and joy in the midst of fear and anxiety.  But the story does not end there.  The transformation from fear to joy effected by the peace of new life in and through Jesus leads to a completely different purpose in life.  It is a transformational power that moves us into the world for the sake of bringing new life to others.  In the words of Jesus, “As the Father has sent me, I am sending you… If you forgive anyone his sins, they are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven” (20:21, 23).  The key verse between the previous two verses provide the crucial link for understanding God’s sending and our calling in the light of God’s power alone:  “… he breathed on them and said, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit'” (20:22).  May the Easter power of Jesus’ resurrection move you forward on the holy gusts of the Spirit and into the lives of others to bring peace, hope, and newness!

Becoming Greater, Becoming Less

June 8, 2011 § Leave a comment

One of the most difficult things is to be open for the possibility that your particular view on something needs to change.  In John 3:22-36, John’s disciples and some Jews had their own certainties about ceremonial washing (3:25).  John had to convince his own disciples that Jesus brings a completely new perspective on matters.  The way in which he did that was to address this different perspective as a matter of authority.  He does not get involved in a detail argument about the matter of ceremonial washing, but deferred to Jesus’ bigger authority than him.  “He must become greater; I must become less” (3:30).  Sometimes Christians act as if their certitudes give them the right to take Jesus’ place as the authority.  And sometimes they think they need to defend God with their strong beliefs.  However, John sets an example of a strong leader that realizes he needs to get out-of-the-way for the sake of pointing to the One who is the true authority.  You and I are called today to find every possible opportunity to point towards the authority of Jesus rather than proclaiming our own beliefs.

Between Life and Death

June 7, 2011 § Leave a comment

It is a natural reaction to walk away from messy situations in which you may feel somebody else has a better chance of doing something about it than you.  Especially when you are blamed for being partly responsible for creating the situation in the first place.  Aaron is a good example in Numbers 16:41-50.  After the Israelites blamed Aaron and Moses for killing “the Lord’s people” (16:41), the Lord commanded Moses to get away from the situation (16:45).  But Moses commanded Aaron “to hurry to the assembly to make atonement for them” (16:46).  Aaron did as Moses said and went right into the midst of a deadly situation of a plague that already started among the people (16:47).  “He stood between the living and the dead, and the plague stopped” (16:48).  It certainly is much easier, and many would argue much wiser, to live your life in ways that avoid any conflict or ignore any messy situations.  But sometimes we are called to be the ones standing between life and death.  That is what Christ did for us.  Are you called to take up a responsibility that you could easily avoid or ignore, but really you should be one of those (or maybe the only one) getting involved in cleaning up the mess?

Forgiveness and Punishment

June 6, 2011 § Leave a comment

“O Lord our God… you were to Israel a forgiving God, though you punished their misdeeds” (Psalm 99:8).  The relationship between God’s forgiveness and God’s punishment is a mystery not to be solved with formulas of cause and effect.  Those who set forgiveness over against punishment will confuse forgiveness with the tolerance of sin.  Loving parents also discipline their children.  But if you look at parental discipline as simply the evidence of an unforgiving attitude, then you do not understand what the purpose of such discipline is.  God’s forgiveness and God’s punishment have the same purpose, namely reconciliation with God.  Therefore, the apparent contradiction (which really is the healthy tension of a mystery that culminates in how God is revealed in Christ):  sinners do not deserve forgiveness, and sinners are not doomed to punishment.  Because we are sinners all the time, we will be disciplined and punished.  But because God is always a forgiving God, we can rely on God’s graceful presence and interventions in the midst of our punishment.  God’s mercy is always a gift.  The gift is always received under circumstances of punishment.  God will be God in our lives today for the sake of keeping us close to him as his beloved children.

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