ISAIAH 61:1-4

ISAIAH 61:1-4

The Spirit of the Lord is upon me and has anointed me to
Preach the good news to the poor. .
Bind up the brokenhearted,
Proclaim freedom for the captives,
Proclaim release from darkness for the prisoners,
Comfort all who mourn
Provide for those who grieve in Zion to bestow on them
The oil of gladness for mourning
And a garment of praise for a spirit of heaviness

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Just Be Good for Goodness Sake?

We've decided this Christmas season we're going to find several church services to attend.  Why?  Well, we'd like to deliver a message to the American Atheist organization who is running an ad campaign this year that says:  "Skip church and just be good for goodness sake."   

Not that two people can change the data -- you know "Church attendance at record high levels this Christmas" -- but that contrary streak in me wants to show somebody something.  Which just goes to show, that perhaps "being good" isn't a natural human trait at all.  

And, I heard it suggested by a news anchor that the idea of "being good for goodness sake" just might open the opportunity for a conversation about:  What is good anyway?  And whose goodness are we taking about? Is my goodness enough?  Or is it only the "Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control",  (Gal 5:22, NLT)  Wouldn't that make an interesting conversation over the water cooler?

I'm thinking it would be fun if the athiests' campaign backfired and prompted record high church attendance this season.  Not that church attendance is in and of itself "goodness" either.   "Goodness" comes from our relationship with Jesus Christ and is the work of the Holy Spirit.   On the other hand, church is a very good place to go to improve that relationship and release the power of the Holy Spirit in our lives.   

 So, this Christmas season, we plan to visit a church or two besides the services at our own congregation.  Worshiping with fellow believers will be an uplifting experience.   Anybody care to join us?   Find somewhere to worship this Christmas season.



Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Of Nineveh and Nazareth

I preached on Sunday from the book of Jonah.  "You Drive Me Crazy:  Hot Button Issues"  I ended with a bit of the life of Jesus and life in Nazareth.    It won't leave me.   I keep thinking, "Am I now in Nazareth, or in Nineveh?" 

Nineveh:  The place Jonah really didn't want to go.   The people in Nineveh were wicked (Or troubled, depending on the translation of that particular word).   But . . .  this Troubled  people were the enemies of Israel.  AND . . . Amos (a contemporary of Jonah) was prophesying about the demise of the Northern Kingdom at the hands of the Assyrian people, chief among which was . . .   you guessed it, Nineveh.  Nineveh, settled by Nimrod way back in Genesis, chief among Assyrian cities, and Jonah was ordered by God to go and preach there.

Not only would this mean a change of identity for Jonah.  He would then be a prophet to Assyria, not a prophet to Israel.  He is also being asked to go to Nineveh alone, a cluster of three cities, about 600,000 inhabitants and this little former prophet to Israel will be alone.  I can only imagine his dismay, but we see his reaction--he runs. 

In spite of Jonah's disobedience in running, God continued to work miracles.  He did several miraculous things:  He brought on a huge storm; He caused the lot to fall on Jonah; He calmed the sea as soon as the rebel prophet was tossed overboard; He prepared the great fish to swallow Jonah; He resurrected Jonah in the belly of the fish; He caused the fish to vomit Jonah out on dry land; He inspired to sailors to make a sacrifice and vows to follow Yahweh; and He melted the heart of Jonah so that the rebel prophet agreed to go to Nineveh to preach.  Isn't that eight miracles one of which is the conversion of the sailors at a time when their "messenger" is running from God, being quiet about his identity?   (They had to ask Jonah where he was from; what people he belonged to; and what God he served.)  So that, even when Jonah was trying to hide, running from God, God was able to touch the hearts of hardened pagan sailors so that they turned to the one true God to worship and serve.  Should I repeat that?  And "Out of the Will of God" prophet was still a vessel for God to use!!

And then there was Nineveh.  Jonah finally comes through and does what he has been asked to do.   He preaches to Nineveh.  BUT.    He then gets angry because God does what he, Jonah, had known God would do -- give mercy and grace to these people.  These people!!!  These enemies of Israel.  These awful Assyrian people!   So Jonah quits, withdraws, becomes a spectator.  (Are any of these familiar activities/attitudes?)  He makes himself comfortable to watch the spectacle while he is fuming.  And what happens?  God interrupts his pout. . .  by destroying is comfort.  Yep.  God marched right into his man-cave and took away the shade.   

God then talks to Jonah about what is important in the world.   Comfort of the prophet?  Or Salvation . . .  even for the prophet's enemies!!   A lesson in forgiveness.

Nineveh: the prophet in a strange land, following orders from God, after much reluctance.  And a bumper crop of converts:  Pagans on the boat, the King and people of Nineveh.  

But what about those quiet routine days?  Those days when nothing much happens. Those days when I wonder if God even sees me, even cares what I do.   Oh, like those days in Nazareth?   The thirty (30) years that Jesus spent in his home town, doing carpentry.   Just being about "his father's work."  

 Jesus had opportunity.   The 12 year old could have been apprenticed to the Temple in Jerusalem. He had proven himself worthy of such study. 

Yet, it was in Nazareth that Jesus learned to forgive seven times seventy times a day. It was in Nazareth that he learned to turn the other check when someone slapped him. It was in Nazareth that he learned to carry his cross daily. It was in Nazareth that learned to truly love neighbor. It was in Nazareth that he got the muscle memory, the constant living out his compassion and mercy over and over again. It was in Nazareth that he learned the skills to accomplish his mission: to save us from our sins on the cross. It was in Nazareth under the tutelage, not of the greatest scholars in Jerusalem, but from Mary and Joseph. They were his best teachers. They knew how to listen to the word of God and keep it.

Nazareth, known for being a less-than place.   Nazareth, a place from which "nothing good could come."  Nazareth where his friends and countryman tried to throw Jesus off a cliff once he began his public ministry and dared preach the truth to them.  Nazareth where Jesus spent thirty years doing carpentry and learning, preparing for the three (3) years of public ministry.   Huge ratio:  thirty years of preparation for three years of ministry.

So where does your daily grind take place:  the workplace, at home, your town, your county, your school, your family?    Wherever that may be, you find your Nazareth.   Maybe it's not where you want to be.  Maybe it's not where you think you deserve to serve.  Nazareth where one learns to show compassion and mercy--over and over and over and over.  I'm reminded of Mr. Miyagi (The Karate Kid) "Left circle.  Right circle.  Breathe in.  Breathe out."   Over and over and over and over.  You get the idea.   

Nazareth is that place on the way to somewhere else.   That place that feels like you'll never leave, never get out.   That place in which you must just DO THE NEXT THING.  Wherever your Nazareth is, know this: It's a place of preparation.  It is a the place for you to to learn wisdom:  to practice forgiveness, to follow instruction, to show compassion and experience mercy.  Wisdom, Forgiveness, Mercy, Obedience, Gratitude.  All to be found in the Nazareth experience.  

So what's your day today?   Nazareth--same ole, same ole.   Or Nineveh--what do you think you're doing, GOD?   You want me to . . . . ?    Don't you know those people don't deserve. . .???  You fill in the blank.

I'm thinking today is a Nazareth kind of day for me.   Groceries to buy, errands to run, a friend in need to help out.   But one never knows, I could bump up against a Nineveh experience right in the middle of my Nazareth.

What about you?   Nineveh?   Or Nazareth?? 

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Random thoughts (From September 2013)

AACC Conference

It's a lovely warm, sunshiny day outside.  I can see the sun through the glass panels of the dome overhead.   

An amazing four days are drawing to an end.  I've spent time worshiping, listening to teaching and preaching, and racing around this massive hotel getting lost.   There's been very little time for sleeping, and eating has happened at rare intervals!!   I did have a lovely meal with friends I didn't even know where here.   Thank you, Melanie and Philip Nordstrom for rescuing me from "Life under the dome" for a couple of hours!!


All I really need!

Struggling with emotions today for no good reason.    And. . .  ran across these lyrics.

IN THE PRESENCE OF JEHOVAH In and out of situations
that tug of war at me
All day long I struggle
for the answers that I need
But when I come into His presence
All my questions become clear
And in that sacred moment
No doubts can interfere

In the presence of Jehovah
God Almighty, Prince of Peace
Troubles vanish, hearts are mended
In the presence of the King

Through His love the Lord provided
A place for us to rest
A place to find the answers
In our hour of distress
Now there's never any reason
For you to give up in despair
Just slip away and breathe His name
You will surely find Him there

In the presence of Jehovah
God Almighty, Prince of Peace
Troubles vanish, hearts are mended
In the presence of the King

In the presence of Jehovah
God Almighty, Prince of Peace
Troubles vanish, hearts are mended
In the presence of the King