Message: Promises

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MUSINGS

Message: Promises

Every year I sign at least two contracts: one with Cutty’s for work in the fee booth and one to work as Santa at a mall. These contracts are full of “if/then” stipulations. If I fulfill my side of the promise, then the other signers of the contract are legally obligated to fulfill their promise.

There is another type of contract called a covenant which binds one party in the contract to fulfill their obligation regardless of the actions or inactions of the other party or parties. Read Genesis chapter 17 and you’ll see the Covenant that God gave to Abraham. God’s promise was to Abraham and all of his descendants regardless of how those descendants behaved. At times, when his descendants acted outside the will of God, he would withdraw His support but never cancel his promise.

Listen again to Deuteronomy 30:9 through 14 and the Lord Our God will make you prosperous in all the work of your hand, in the fruit of your body, and then the fruit of your cattle, and in the fruit of your land, for good semicolon for the Lord will again enable you to prosper as he rejoiced over your ancestors if you will listen to the voice of the Lord your God, to keep his Commandments

follow his statutes which are written in this book of the law

The commandments of God are not too hard. Moses said, “This command I’m giving you today isn’t too hard for you or beyond your reach. It’s not in heaven. This command isn’t on the other side of the sea. These words are very near you. They’re in your mouth and in your heart so that you will obey them.”

The apostle Paul wrote, “If God’s Spirit lives in you, you are under the control of your spiritual nature, not your corrupt nature.”

Speaking of things being too hard or maybe too easy, I had a psychology professor hand out a multi-page test with these words written at the top, “Sign your name and stop, the test is completed.” Surprisingly, only a few in the class followed those instructions. By the time we reach college, we’ve taken hundreds, maybe thousands, of tests. We (quote) know how tests are to be taken, so, many students just continued to plow through the test questions even though they were made unnecessary by the first line on the page.

Charles Stanley tells a similar story of a professor who wanted to teach his students a lesson about grace.

“One of my more memorable seminary professors had a practical way of illustrating to his students the concept of grace. At the end of his evangelism course he would distribute the exam, and caution the class to read it all the way through before beginning to answer it. This caution was written on the exam as well. As we read the test, it became unquestionably clear to each of us that we had not studied nearly enough.

“The further we read, the worse it became. About halfway through, audible groans could be heard through out the lecture hall. On the last page, however, was a note that read, “You have a choice. You can either complete the exam as given or sign your name at the bottom and in so doing receive an A for this assignment.”

“We sat there stunned,” Stanley said. “Was he serious? Just sign it and get an A? Slowly, the point dawned on us, and one by one we turned in our tests and silently filed out of the room.

“When I talked with the professor about it afterward, he shared some of the reactions he had received through the years. Some students began to take the exam without reading it all the way through, and they would sweat it out for the entire two hours of class time before reaching the last page.

“Others read the first two pages, became angry, turned the test in blank, and stormed out of the room without signing it. They never realized what was available, and as a result, they lost out totally.

“One fellow, however, read the entire test, including the note at the end, but decided to take the exam anyway. He did not want any gifts; he wanted to earn his grade. And he did. He made a C+, but he could easily have had an A.”

The lawyer in our gospel reading asked, “Teacher,” he said, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”

Jesus said to him, “What is written in the law? What do you read there?”

He answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself.”

And he said to him, “You have given the right answer; do this, and you will live.”

But wanting to justify himself, he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”

This lawyer, like the students in my class and doctor Stanley’s class can’t take the esay win. What must I DO? Christ had answered the lawyers question by saying, “Do this (what the lawyer had told him) and you will live.” Many Christians, like this lawyer, think we have a contract with God, full of “if/thens” that are too hard to follow. Nothing could be further from the truth. Through Jesus Christ, God made a covenant with us. The promise was and still is all His. Our only duty is to accept or reject the promise. Certainly, all who are guided by God’s Spirit are God’s children.

Many Christians today seem to assume that keeping God’s law is impossible and is meant to be too hard for us to keep, in order to show us that we can only be saved through God’s work and not by our own efforts to keep the law. It is an old argument. The early non-jewish christians were often expected to keep all 613 of the Law of Moses. I like what James wrote in his small letter. “Faith by itself is dead if it doesn’t cause you to do any good things.” His point was not (as some have claimed) that it was the works that lead to salvation. It is the opposite salvation ought to lead to works. We are, after all, called to be servants. A servant who doesn’t serve is nothing.

This text from Deuteronomy challenges the assumption that we cannot follow God’s commandments. In this powerful segment of Moses’ speech, Moses makes three statements to encourage the people of Israel that they can, in fact, keep God’s law.

This made me think of times I’ve told my children to do something that might challenge them but was within their ability to accomplish. How often I heard, “I can’t do that, it’s too hard!”

I’d ask, “Have you tried?” The answer would come back, “No!” I’d tell them, “Go, do as much as you can – if you get to where you really can’t do it alone – come get me!”

They seldom came back and when they did, I would act as an adviser more often than finishing the job myself. I’m proud to say that all of them have moved mountains that they didn’t think they could do.

Moses’ first promises the people that “All the work of your hand” will be blessed by the Lord. There will be fruitfulness: of children, of livestock, of produce. Moses asks them to look to the past for the proof of the future. “The Lord will do this for you, just as the Lord did for your ancestors. You can trust that the Lord will act this way in the future because the Lord acted this way in the past.

God was referred to as “your God” three times in verses 9-10. God was not like the false gods of the other nations. He was their God and they were His people. Jeremiah 32:38 This passage echoes the Shema, the prayer that observant Jews pray twice daily, which begins with this well-known passage from Deuteronomy 6: “Hear, O Israel: The Lord is our God, the Lord is one. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might. Keep these words that I am commanding you today in your heart. Recite them to your children and talk about them when you are at home and when you are away, when you lie down and when you rise” (Deuteronomy 6:4-8).

Moses explains that the people are to obey God by observing God’s commands, turning to God with all their heart and soul. Manybible versions translate 30:10 as, “if you obey…” making the promise of the future blessing in verse 9 contingent on the people’s obedience, in other words a contract where both parties had to observe the terms of the contract. However, other versions translate it as “when,” suggesting that the promises of future abundance will happen WHEN God’s people obey. In the Jewish Publishing Service Tanak, Deuteronomy 30:10 reads, “SINCE you will be heeding the Lord your God…” which would also signify that God’s blessing is a response to our actions. Yet, this translation presents it as a given, instead of only a possibility.

In some ways, however, the different translation possibilities are made moot by Moses’ third statement, when he assures the people that they can keep God’s commandments. Even if we translate 30:10 as “if,” which could allow that the people might not obey, Moses declares in verses 11-14 that they can. Or, if the word in 30:10 is “when, for,” the move is still one of assurance. You can obey! You will obey!

It is a choice, Deuteronomy says, a choice that we can make — to obey or not to obey. To obey means blessing and life. Not to obey means death. “I call heaven and earth to witness against you today that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Choose life so that you and your descendants may live” (Deuteronomy 30:29).

Moses gives this assurance by explaining to the people that it is not too hard for them nor is it too far away. If the people object that the commandment to obey God is too hard for them, Moses is pushing that aside. “It’s not too far away” (30:11) — can be understood as part of Moses’ assurance. Here, he is allaying fears that the commandment is in a place beyond their grasp — it is not in the heaven, nor is it over the sea. In both verses 12 and 13, Moses imagines someone saying, “Who can go to that place, take the commandment for us, cause us to hear it so that we can do it?”

These people were about to enter a new land. And those who knew that Moses was speaking his final address must have been worried about the presence of a leader who could help them to act in a certain way. Moses anticipates those fears and faces them directly, and in the final verse he completes his encouragement that the people can and will follow God’s law. Instead of being far away, the command is so near to them that it is inside them, inside their heart.

Such language recalls the new covenant described in Jeremiah 31:33, “I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts.” Certainly, many people understood God’s promise in Jeremiah as yet to be ultimately realized. But, the language of a command inside the heart of God’s people occurs here, at almost the beginning of their story as a people. The new covenant, then, certainly has connections with the old one. Also compare this to Jesus saying in John 16:13, “When the Spirit of Truth comes, he will guide you into the full truth.” The same God who made the original covenant with Abraham doesn’t discard the covenant He reinforces it with Jesus. Jesus said I come to fullfill the Law.

Moses affirms two things: that it is both in the people’s mouth and heart to do it (30:14). The language that it is in their “mouth,” suggests that the people are able to speak it, perhaps to speak their own words of assent to follow God (cf. Exodus 24:3, 7; Joshua 24:16-24). And the language of heart can suggest a yearning to do what God has asked. When it is in their heart to keep God’s law, what may have seemed impossible becomes not only possible but desired.

If the Israelites cannot love God with all their heart and soul, then God himself will make it possible for them to do so. God will circumcise their hearts, removing their disobedience and their callused disregard for God’s covenant, so that they might indeed love God and thereby live.

Ezekiel speaks of God giving Israel a new heart — “I will remove from your body the heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh” (Ezekiel 36:26). Jeremiah speaks of a new covenant — “I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah” (Jeremiah 31:31). Likewise, Deuteronomy speaks of a circumcised heart and a word that is “very near to you; it is in your mouth and in your heart for you to observe” (Deuteronomy 30:14).

In all of these instances, it is God, not Israel, who makes it possible for Israel to be in relationship with God.

“The more God’s grace empowers their lives, the more they know their need of his pardon. And the word of pardon carries with it God’s commitment to make us people who will want to live in his presence — to make us what he says we are. Hence, God’s promise is embedded in his command: ‘You shall be holy.’”1

God’s promise is embedded in God’s command: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might.”

It is a word of law. It is also a word of promise. You shall love the Lord your God.

God doesn’t love to forgive sin. God loves sinners. God calls sinners to love him in return, and God through Jesus Christ gives them the grace to do so, to become the people God says that they are: freed, forgiven, sent out.

“Costly grace,” writes Bonhoeffer, “is the call of Jesus Christ at which the disciple leaves his nets and follows him … Such grace is costly because it calls us to follow and it is grace because it calls us to follow Jesus Christ.”

“The word is near you, on your lips and in your heart,” writes Paul, quoting Deuteronomy. And what is this word? “The word of faith that we proclaim” (Romans 10:8). Gift of God for the people of God.

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Call To Duty

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MUSINGS

Message: Call To Duty

Luke 10:1-16

Jesus appointed seventy-two other people. These are not the twelve apostles that were the inner circle of his followers. Yet at the same time they were indeed followers that had been found fit to be his disciples.

He prepared to send them out, two by two, to every town and village where he intended to go.

To the Jewish people, all numbers carried special significance. It has been said that one in every five scriptural verses contain a number. The number one of course signifies the oneness of the Godhead. Hear O, Israel our God is one God. The number 7 signifies completeness, as in the seven days of creation.

Two is important because byJewish law a thing may be proven true or false by the witness of two. Deuteronomy 19:15

And Jesus enforced the law of two. In Matthew 18:19-20 Jesus said, “I can guarantee again that if two of you agree on anything here on earth, my Father in heaven will accept it. Where two or three have come together in my name, I am there among them.”

While the sending out of the 12 disciples earlier in Luke represents the ministry to God’s people – the twelve tribes of Israel, the ministry of the 72 was to the Gentiles – there were traditionally 72 Gentile nations.

Jesus’ public ministry was quickly coming to an end. But there were still so many places that the Lord had not yet visited with the Good News of God’s Kingdom. Jesus had earlier visited the regions of Galilee in the North and Samaria in the center Plains of Israel. But, he had not yet ministered in the towns and villages surrounding the Jordan River.

These 72 were the advance teams going to prepare the way of the Lord much in the same way that John the Baptist had gone before Jesus preaching a gospel of repentance and forgiveness.

During the six months or so before his crucifixion he ministered in this area. The people who lived in the towns and villages along the Jordan were treated with indifference by the Jewish religious leaders. That may have been the reason why Jesus sent out such a large delegation of disciples, so that they could reach as many people as possible in the short time that was left.

Many Gentiles lived in this area, and ceremonial purity was not practices as strictly as in Jerusalem. Jesus instructs his disciples not to waste time figuring out if the food set before them had gone through the proper process of purification. He said, “Eat and drink whatever they offer you.”

As the disciples teach and heal, those who receive and accept the message will be convinced that the Kingdom of God is indeed at hand.

He said to them, “The people who are ready to receive my message are like a field of grain that is ready to be harvested. But there are not many people to bring them to God. So pray and ask the Lord God to send more workers who will gather people together and teach them my message.

Teach them my message. What was the message Jesus taught?

In Luke 4:43 Jesus said, “I must proclaim the good news of the kingdom of God to the other towns also, because that is why I was sent.”

True there were may other teachings that Jesus brought to the people also. Teaching them about loving one another and serving one another.

And he certainly shed new light on understanding the law and the prophets. However at its core Jesus teachings were all about aligning the will of man with the will of God. And this is the gosple message that he sent these disciples to tell.

He warned these followers, “Go but remember that I am sending you out to tell my message to people who will try to get rid of you, you will be like lambs among wolves.

We have often heard the motivating words of Jesus: “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.”

Indeed, the field is ready for the harvest, and the Lord of the harvest wants you and me (everyone of us) out in the field. God wants us to take hold of the countless opportunities and challenges around us to bring Glory to the Lord of the harvest.

But, Christians sometimes take a lazy approach to reaching out to those who are searching for the deeper meaning of faith. After all it is the pastor’s job to share the Good News. That’s what he’s paid for.

Parable of a Lighthouse

  • On a dangerous seacoast where shipwrecks often occur there was a once a crude little life-saving station. The building was just a hut, and there was only one boat, but the few devoted members kept a constant watch over the sea, and with no thought for themselves, they went out day or night tirelessly searching for the lost.

  • Many lives were saved by this wonderful little station, so that it became famous. Some of those who were saved, and various others in the surrounding areas, wanted to become associated with the station and give of their time and money and effort for the support of its work. New boats were bought and new crews were trained. The little life-saving station grew.

  • Some of the new members of the life-saving station were unhappy that the building was so crude and so poorly equipped. They felt that a more comfortable place should be provided as the first refuge of those saved from the sea.

  • So they replaced the emergency cots with beds and put better furniture in an enlarged building. Now the life-saving station became a popular gathering place for its members, and they re-decorated it beautifully and furnished it as a sort of club.

  • Less of the members were now interested in going to sea on life-saving missions, so they hired life boat crews to do this work.

  • The mission of life-saving was still given lip-service but most were too busy or lacked the necessary commitment to take part in the life-saving activities personally.

  • About this time a large ship was wrecked off the coast, and the hired crews brought in boat loads of cold, wet, and half-drowned people.

  • They were dirty and sick, and some of them had black skin, and some spoke a strange language, and the beautiful new club was considerably messed up. So the property committee immediately had a shower house built outside the club where victims of shipwreck could be cleaned up before coming inside.

  • At the next meeting, there was a split in the club membership. Most of the members wanted to stop the club’s life-saving activities as being unpleasant and a hindrance to the normal life pattern of the club.

  • But some members insisted that life-saving was their primary purpose and pointed out that they were still called a life-saving station. But they were finally voted down and told that if they wanted to save the life of all the various kinds of people who were shipwrecked in those waters, they could begin their own life-saving station down the coast. They did.

  • As the years went by, the new station experienced the same changes that had occurred in the old. They evolved into a club and yet another life-saving station was founded.

  • If you visit the seacoast today you will find a number of exclusive clubs along that shore. Shipwrecks are still frequent in those waters, only now most of the people drown.

The issue for today’s message is the witness of Christ’s disciples to the world.

One of the things that make the topic of Evangelism and Outreach difficult to understand is that we associate Evangelism mainly with the work of Missionaries overseas.

When, in truth, it it’s the duty of every Christian. You don’t need tho be the pastor, or head of the evangelism committee. You don’t need to ask permission or wait to be sent out by some church official. You have already been sent … by Jesus. Hear these words from an expanded version of Matthew 28:19-20

So go, and using my authority, teach my message to people of all ethnic groups so that they may become my disciples. Baptize them to be under the authority of my Father, and of me, his Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Teach them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember that I will be with you always, until the end of this age.”

As with the 72, our journey of discipleship is an exercise in obedience and faithfulness to the will of God in Jesus Christ. The opportunities for reaching out are endless and literally right in our own back yard.

Jesus has sent us out as his disciples among the people we meet in our daily lives. Although we do not always know where our journey with Christ will lead us, he gives us the gifts we need for the tasks ahead and enables us to be part of a great adventure – namely the coming of God’s kingdom.

Being those who are sent out, is not easy. There is stress, tension, an element of risk, and great uncertainty.

Another thing the story tells us is that being sent out requires letting go of a lot of baggage.

Don’t carry a wallet, a traveling bag, or sandals,

We must be able to move quickly, without unnecessary hindrances.

Part of the excitement and anticipation of an adventure is that we aren’t sure how things are going to end, where the journey will lead, how things will turn out.

You and I, as disciples of Jesus Christ, are part of the mission to share the Good News of God’s Kingdom with others.

The Master has graciously chosen us to send out in his behalf.

We are privileged to be part of God’s way of reacbhing the whole world, of being part of the harvest team.

Donald Ewing of Wheeling, West Virginia says the following about taking risks: To laugh is to risk appearing the fool. To weep is to risk appearing sentimental. To reach out to another is to risk involvement. To expose feelings is to risk exposing our true self. To place your ideas and your dreams before the crowd is to risk loss. To love is to risk not being loved in return. To live is to risk dying. To hope is to risk despair. To try at all is to risk failure. But to risk we must, because the greatest hazard in life is to risk nothing. The man, the woman, who risks nothing does nothing, has nothing, is nothing.

As we work to be faithful disciples of Jesus Christ, let us confess before God that the greatest barrier that hinders our witness is our misguided thinking that it is somebody else’s job.

May we be motivated by the passion and the sense of urgency that Jesus had for your and my salvation.

Now,as we come to the table of our Lord, we recognize our need for divine grace.

In humility, let us confess our sins before God and one another.

REACH, BRING, TRAIN, SEND

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MUSINGS

REACH, BRING, TRAIN, SEND

MUSINGS – September 28 2018

REACH, BRING, TRAIN, SEND

Mark 3:13-19
Jesus went up a mountain, called those whom he wanted, and they came to him. He appointed twelve whom he called apostles. They were to accompany him and to be sent out by him to spread the Good News. They also had the authority to force demons out of people. He appointed these twelve: Simon (whom Jesus named Peter), James and his brother John (Zebedee’s sons whom Jesus named Boanerges, which means “Thunderbolts”), Andrew, Philip, Bartholomew, Matthew, Thomas, James (son of Alphaeus), Thaddaeus, Simon the Zealot, and Judas Iscariot (who later betrayed Jesus).

We are so accustomed to thinking of the twelve apostles following Jesus that it is easy to forget that he called hundreds to follow him. In fact it is often recorded how difficult it was for him to get away from the crowd and to be alone.

On this occasion he chose twelve from among the many to receive special training, duties and power. The first appointment of officers of the first congregation. Jesus was beginning to deligate some of the responsibility. He was transforming followers into leaders.

One of the best pieces of advice I received when I became a manager was: always be training your replacement. The idea is that, if you are indispensable in that position, you will never be promoted. Jesus knew his time was short and he would need others to carry on with the work. That should be our model in building the kingdom of God; reach out, bring in, train up, and send out.

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All content (except quotations) © 2018 Thomas E. Williams

Praise in Times of Trouble

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MUSINGS

Praise in Times of Trouble

Acts 16:16-34

With Paul and Silas, we came to Philippi in Macedonia, a Roman colony, and, as we were going to the place of prayer, we met a slave girl who had a spirit of divination and brought her owners a great deal of money by fortune-telling. While she followed Paul and us, she would cry out, “These men are slaves of the Most High God, who proclaim to you a way of salvation.” She kept doing this for many days. But Paul, very much annoyed, turned and said to the spirit, “I order you in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her.” And it came out that very hour.

But when her owners saw that their hope of making money was gone, they seized Paul and Silas and dragged them into the marketplace before the authorities. When they had brought them before the magistrates, they said, “These men are disturbing our city; they are Jews and are advocating customs that are not lawful for us as Romans to adopt or observe.” The crowd joined in attacking them, and the magistrates had them stripped of their clothing and ordered them to be beaten with rods. After they had given them a severe flogging, they threw them into prison and ordered the jailer to keep them securely. Following these instructions, he put them in the innermost cell and fastened their feet in the stocks.

About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them. Suddenly there was an earthquake, so violent that the foundations of the prison were shaken; and immediately all the doors were opened and everyone’s chains were unfastened. When the jailer woke up and saw the prison doors wide open, he drew his sword and was about to kill himself, since he supposed that the prisoners had escaped. But Paul shouted in a loud voice, “Do not harm yourself, for we are all here.” The jailer called for lights, and rushing in, he fell down trembling before Paul and Silas. Then he brought them outside and said, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” They answered, “Believe on the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.” They spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all who were in his house. At the same hour of the night he took them and washed their wounds; then he and his entire family were baptized without delay. He brought them up into the house and set food before them; and he and his entire household rejoiced that he had become a believer in God.

Message: “Praise in Times of Trouble”

About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God.”

Did you hear that?

Really let that sink in for a moment.

Were Paul and Silas attending the Wednesday night prayer meeting and hymn sing?

No?

Where were they?

Right, in prison.

And what had just happened to them?

The crowd attacked them, and the magistrates had them stripped of their clothing and beaten with rods. Only after a severe flogging were they thrown into prison.

Now Roman prisons were not known for cleanliness and hygiene. So here they are black and blue from the beatings, bloodied from the flogging, roughly thrown into the inner part of the prison, and bound hands and feet in chains.

Imagine for a moment the sights, sounds, and smells that surround them, there in the dark. The stench of urine and feces. The buzz of insects, rattling of chains. And painful groans of other prisoners.

And what were these Christian men doing?

That’s right. They were praying and singing hymns!

And who was listening?

That’s right the prisoners were listening.

Put yourself in the shoes of those other prisoners … well, most of them probably didn’t even have sandals … but imagine yourself bloodied and bruised and laying and squalor and you hear them singing and praising and praying in the cell next door what would be going on in your mind?

  • Are they crazy?

  • I wish they’d just shut up and let me stuffer in peace.

  • If their God loved them, they wouldn’t be in this nasty place!

  • What the ( blankety blank blank) do they have to sing and praise God for?

  • Just a couple of fanatics!

  • I’ve heard these guys preaching in the center of town. They must truly believe in this Jesus, they call the Christ.

Then a few minutes later a low rumble was heard from deep under ground. It was a violent earthquake so intense that the whole prison was shaken.

But no other buildings were disturbed.

With a high pitched screech, that would send chills through your body, the rusty doors scraped open as the locks blew apart and the chains fell off … from all of the prisoners hands and feet.

God could have freed only the faithful Paul and Silas.

As the now freed prisoners stared at the chains laying on the floor what do you suppose was going through their minds now?

  • What happened?

  • Do I run, hide, or stay?

  • Maybe those dudes aren’t as crazy as I thought.

  • I want some of that power they’ve got.

The other prisoners didn’t know that Paul and Silas had a secret. Though they had been humiliated, stripped, beaten, and jailed, they knew something special about their God. They knew what the prophet Jeremiah (20:13) proclaimed, “Sing to the LORD! Praise the LORD! He rescues the oppressed from the power of evil people. And they also knew that “all things work for the good of those who love God those whom he has called according to his plans.” (Romans 8:28)

Don’t let that slide past you. Listen closely … all things work together for the good of those who love God. Not some things. Not the pleasant things. Not the easy things. But ALL things.

It is easy enough to praise God when everything is going our way. “Praise the Lord the sun has come out after days and days of gloom and rain!” ” thank God my test results came back negative.” “Glory to God our house loan was approved.”

But when the hard times come (and they will) we tend to cross her arms, stick out our lower lip, stomp our feet, and cry, “Why me, Lord.”‘

If you read Ecclesiastes 3:16-19

“I saw something else under the sun: There is wickedness where justice should be found. There is wickedness where righteousness should be found. I thought to myself, “God will judge righteous people as well as wicked people, because there is a specific time for every activity and every work that is done.” I thought to myself, “God is going to test humans in order to show them that they are like animals.” Humans and animals have the same destiny. One dies just like the other. All of them have the same breath of life.

The short answer is, we live in a broken world. This is not the paradise that God created. When Adam and Eve broke the covenant with their maker, a curse was placed n this world.

Because of the cursed earth, many people right now – right this moment – are living through hard times. The times that Jesus promised would come.

Listen to Luke 6:26 in a modern translation. “There’s trouble ahead when you live only for the approval of others, saying what flatters them, doing what indulges them. Popularity contests are not truth contests – look how many scoundrel preachers were approved by your ancestors! Your task is to be true, not popular.”

Listen as Jesus continues on how to handle adversity.

27 “To you who are ready for the truth, I say this: Love your enemies. Let them bring out the best in you, not the worst.

Let them bring out the best in you.

If you are never tested … how do you know the depth of the power of God in your life.

Love your enemies. Because, in spite of what they plan, God can use it to strengthen you and bring glory to HimselfA.

Let them bring out the best in you, not the worst.

28 When someone gives you a hard time, respond with the energies of prayer for that person.

Okay, we can do that, Amen? After all, prayer for those nasty, hurtful people doesn’t cost us anything.

But wait! Jesus is going to get real and require more from usor.

29 If someone slaps you in the face, stand there and take it. If someone grabs your shirt, giftwrap your best coat and make a present of it. 30 If someone takes unfair advantage of you, use the occasion to practice the servant life. No more tit-for-tat stuff. Live generously.

Now verse 31 should sound familiar even in a different translation than you are used to.

31 “Here is a simple rule of thumb for behavior: Ask yourself what you want people to do for you; then grab the initiative and do it for them!

Yep, the golden rule.

Then Jesus said,

32 If you only love the lovable, do you expect a pat on the back? Run-of-the-mill sinners do that. 33 If you only help those who help you, do you expect a medal? Garden-variety sinners do that. 34 If you only give for what you hope to get out of it, do you think that’s charity? The stingiest of pawnbrokers does that.

35 “I tell you, love your enemies.

Help and give without expecting a return. You’ll never – I promise – regret it. Live out this God-created identity the way our Father lives toward us, generously and graciously, even when we’re at our worst.

And verse 36 suns it up srt and sweet.

36 Our Father is kind; you be kind.

Hard times are life draining, stressful and seem never ending.

We don’t need to praise God for the hard times. However, we should praise him during and through the hard times also.

In the book of exodus 12:14 God gave instruction to the people of Israel to celebrate in his honour because of the great things he has done in their life.

In other words, in the hard times, remember the good times and blessings received. Remember how the Lord lifted you from the quicksand of life, or held your hand through the last hard time.

Celebrating God should be a way of expressing our appreciation for what God HAS done for us.

God sent his only begotten son, our Lord Jesus Christ to take away our sins and because of Jesus, we have access to the father (john 14- 6). He has made a way for us to have a Father-Child relationship with God and for this reason, we have the great opportunity to call Him Abba father. (Galatians 4:5-7).

When those hard times come and it’s hard to remember the blessings you’ve receive, read Psalm 145.

I will highly praise you, my God, the king. I will bless your name forever and ever. I will bless you every day. I will praise your name forever and ever. The LORD is great, and he should be highly praised. His greatness is unsearchable. One generation will praise your deeds to the next. Each generation will talk about your mighty acts.

I will think about the glorious honor of your majesty and the miraculous things you have done. People will talk about the power of your terrifying deeds, and I will tell about your greatness. They will announce what they remember of your great goodness, and they will joyfully sing about your righteousness. The LORD is merciful, compassionate, patient, and always ready to forgive. The LORD is good to everyone and has compassion for everything that he has made.

Everything that you have made will give thanks to you, O LORD, and your faithful ones will praise you. Everyone will talk about the glory of your kingdom and will tell the descendants of Adam about your might in order to make known your mighty deeds and the glorious honor of your kingdom. Your kingdom is an everlasting kingdom. Your empire endures throughout every generation. The LORD supports everyone who falls. He straightens the backs of those who are bent over. The eyes of all creatures look to you, and you give them their food at the proper time. You open your hand, and you satisfy the desire of every living thing. The LORD is fair in all his ways and faithful in everything he does. The LORD is near to everyone who prays to him, to every faithful person who prays to him. He fills the needs of those who fear him. He hears their cries for help and saves them. The LORD protects everyone who loves him, but he will destroy all wicked people. My mouth will speak the praise of the LORD, and all living creatures will praise his holy name forever and ever.

This psalm highlights some of the reasons for celebrating God.

  • Because of his abundant goodness

  • He is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and rich in love.

  • He is good, he is trustworthy and faithful

  • He lifts us up

  • He gives us food

  • He satisfies the desires of our heart.

  • He watches over us and fight our battles

We need to Celebrate God for every moment that led to the day, we need to celebrate God for the lessons we’ve learnt in life, we need to celebrate God for all our blessings, our drive, our passion and our spirit. We need to celebrate God for courage to fight through the hard times, for the people in our life, for putting food on our table, for air in our lungs, for healing our body, for creating opportunity to take our life to the next level. We need to celebrate God for the mental strength to survive difficult times. We need to celebrate God for our health, because many are in worse condition. We need to celebrate God for fighting our battles.

If we will remember these things when we feel beaten, alone in the dark, imprisoned physically, spiritually, mentally, socially, our financially, then like Paul and Silas, we can sing, pray, and praise the Lord. We can know that “all things work for the good of those who love God those whom he has called according to his plans.” (Romans 8:28)

Amen

BLINDERS

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MUSINGS

BLINDERS

Matthew 21:14-17
Blind and lame people came to him in the temple courtyard, and he healed them. When the chief priests and the scribes saw the amazing miracles he performed and the children shouting in the temple courtyard, “Hosanna to the Son of David!” they were irritated. They said to him, “Do you hear what these children are saying?” Jesus replied, “Yes, I do. Have you never read, ‘From the mouths of little children and infants, you have created praise’?” He left them and went out of the city to Bethany and spent the night there.

The chief priests and scribes saw the amazing miracles and healings that Jesus’s was doing and their takeaway was to be upset that the children were praising him. The priests’s ability to be negative in the sight of such amazing acts of power is incredible. It is as if they had blinders on.

Over the years I have read many theories that tried to use scientific explanations of biblical miracles. Or to just dismiss them as misdirection or slight of hand illusions.

Miracles are those times when the Creater of all the physical laws of the universe intervenes and for an instant changes those laws. However, if you have the blinders of preconceived ideas to cloud the way you view things, you will miss the miracles and only be irritated by the voices of praise.

Are you watching for miracles?

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TROUBLEMAKER

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MUSINGS

TROUBLEMAKER

Matthew 21:12-13
Jesus went into the temple courtyard and threw out everyone who was buying and selling there. He overturned the moneychangers’ tables and the chairs of those who sold pigeons. He told them, “Scripture says, ‘My house will be called a house of prayer,’ but you’re turning it into a gathering place for thieves!”

Call the cops! There’s a madman in the temple! What if some madman came into your place of worship and threw the offering plate to the ground and scattered the donation envelopes and pledges cards all over the floor. And while he was doing this he was shouting insults at the pastoral staff, finance committee, head of worship, and board of trustees. What would you do? What would YOU do? What if the madman was Jesus?

He had no earthly authority to do this. As a matter of fact he had no EARTHLY authority to do any of the things the did. That was one of the sticking points with the rightful religious leaders. They asked, “Who told you that you could do this?”*

Back to the scene of chaos that Jesus was causing. It was the week leading to Passover, the holiest time of the year. People were flooding into Jerusalem from everywhere. And here was this largely unknown man upsetting the order of things.

We often forget that the Prince of Peace was a outlaw and rebellion leader. He wasn’t just overturning the merchant’s tables, he was attempting to overturn the whole society. “The first shall be last and the last shall be first,” upset everything. To claim to be God’s son or God the Son who had COMPLETE AUTHORITY over all the earth was a new and frightening revelation, especially to those who claimed power by right of birth or special training.

What righteous trouble have you made lately?

* Read Mark 11:27-28 And Luke 20:1-2

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NEITHER UP NOR DOWN

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MUSINGS

NEITHER UP NOR DOWN

Matthew 21:7-11
They brought the donkey and the colt and put their coats on them for Jesus to sit on. Most of the people spread their coats on the road. Others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. The crowd that went ahead of him and that followed him was shouting, “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest heaven!” When Jesus came into Jerusalem, the whole city was in an uproar. People were asking, “Who is this?” The crowd answered, “This is the prophet Jesus from Nazareth in Galilee.”

What a spectacle that must have been that Sunday morning when people threw their coats and cloaks and palm branches in front of Jesus as he rode into Jerusalem on the foal of a donkey.

Can you imagine people laying their coats on the road in front of the president’s limousine? How about for a well known and respected religious leader? Not likely is it? However by doing so for Jesus, the people were honoring him as king. Placing their cloaks on the ground before Jesus was an act of submission paid only to royalty. (See 2 Kings p:13-13)

I wonder who was the first person in the crowd to realize who it truly was riding on that young donkey? Who was the first to cast his cloak on the ground? The second? The third? At some point it became “the thing to do” and the crowd joined in. And still they asked, “Who is this?”

Human nature has not changed much over the years. There are a few who recognize Jesus for who he truly is and then there are those who join in and still don’t know who he is.

It’s sad to say but many in our churches are drawn by the spectacle. They sing the hymns and praises, mouthing the words without letting those words become a reality in their lives. They LISTEN to the worship leaders but never HEAR. They are neither hot nor cold,* neither in or out. I’m reminded of the song I sang as a child, ” when you’re up you’re up. When you’re down you’re down. But when you’re only halfway up, you’re neither up nor down.”

You can not stand in the doorway all your life. You can not claim Christ as savior and refuse tho also let him be your Lord and King. Either YOU rule your life or GOD rules. He will not accept less than full commitment.

*Revelation of John 3:15-16
(The Lord said) I know what you have done, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were cold or hot. But since you are lukewarm and not hot or cold, I’m going to spit you out of my mouth.

Visit my daily devotions blog https://musingsdevotions.wordpress.com

My sermons blog http://thomasewilliams.blogspot.com/

Random Thoughts/ https://thethomasewilliamsnewsletter.wordpress.com

The blog that holds all of my blogs https://rvingfulltimewithtomandella.wordpress.com

All content (except quotations) ©2019 Thomas E. Williams