Tag Archives: Christian living

In the end, no dry bones. . . just the lion, the wolf and the lamb

This is the final sermon after 10 years in the pulpit.  Sunday, June 24, will also be the last sermon that I have threaded together the images of the Church of Resurrection’s stained glass window (Leawood, KS).  This has been such an interesting six months as I have studied the window and considered its creation as a visual sermon.  There is so much to share concerning God and his story that the ideas never seem to run out.  Ending 10 years does not mean an ending to ministry, just an ending to this pulpit at this time.  I will do my best to rest for a bit, but my mind continues to spin out ideas.  Thank you for reading and following these sermons.  I do not plan to end blogging, just the postings may be different.  Only God knows what will appear on this site at this time.  Please be patient and continue to follow.

 

Sitting at the desk with the funeral of the two KCK police officers in the background, I struggle to pick up the task of writing this final sermon.  I am reminded that evil lurks in every community and that as Christians we are to be God’s eyes, hands, and feet.

Looking at the COS window, there is one more image that cannot be overlooked:

 

#31  THE LION, WOLF AND THE LAMB—In the Restored Paradise, all of God’s creatures live together in peace and harmony.  The healing salve of God’s kingdom extends beyond humanity to include all of creation, raised to its highest pitch of existence.  (Read Isaiah 65:25)

 

I was familiar with the image of the lion and the lamb and was surprised to see the wolf included still the scripture does include all three animals.  Understanding the significance of all three broadens the message even though most religious art includes just the lion and the lamb.

The window’s image is based on the ultimate goal God has where evil is overcome by good; where all live in harmony.  God’s ultimate goal needs to be the same for each of us.  The concern is how do we reach that goal, even if just in our own church, our own community.

Reading the lectionary provides a structure for all Christians regardless of denomination, nationality, age, gender, or any other identifying label.  Even though I have used the images in the window to prepare sermons since Christmas, the lectionary provides a foundational connection to all Christians and often fits right in with the images in the window.

Reading the lectionary included Ezekiel 37 a few weeks ago, and that scripture provided me the foundation for today’s reflection. It does not connect directly to the image of the lion, wolf and lamb, but it does speak to this church family facing the next transition in leadership.

Let me share Ezekiel’s story.  The Israelites were captives of Babylonia, and Ezekiel was a trained, young priest and a contemporary of Jeremiah.  Jeremiah ministered to the Israelites in Judah, but Ezekiel prophesied to those exiled in Babylonia.

Consider the exiles.  They were forced out of their homes and living in a culture that was foreign to them.  They must have felt hopeless.  They must have felt abandoned.  And Ezekiel was a “street preacher,” as study notes labeled him.  He was a prophet who had to feed hope to the Israelites.  He had to guide them through prophecies and scripture to remain faithful to God.

Ezekiel’s words recorded in the Old Testament were written about 571 B.C., yet the words are timeless and his message is as important today as it was 2,500 years ago.  Hear his vision of “A Valley of Dry Bones”:

The Lord took hold of me, and I was carried away by the Spirit of the Lord to a valley filled with bones. He led me all around among the bones that covered the valley floor. They were scattered everywhere across the ground and were completely dried out. Then he asked me, “Son of man, can these bones become living people again?”

“O Sovereign Lord,” I replied, “you alone know the answer to that.”

    Then he said to me, “Speak a prophetic message to these bones and say, ‘Dry bones, listen to the word of the Lord! This is what the Sovereign Lord says: Look! I am going to put breath into you and make you live again! I will put flesh and muscles on you and cover you with skin. I will put breath into you, and you will come to life. Then you will know that I am the Lord.’”

    So I spoke this message, just as he told me. Suddenly as I spoke, there was a rattling noise all across the valley. The bones of each body came together and attached themselves as complete skeletons. Then as I watched, muscles and flesh formed over the bones. Then skin formed to cover their bodies, but they still had no breath in them.

    Then he said to me, “Speak a prophetic message to the winds, son of man. Speak a prophetic message and say, ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: Come, O breath, from the four winds! Breathe into these dead bodies so they may live again.’”

    10 So I spoke the message as he commanded me, and breath came into their bodies. They all came to life and stood up on their feet—a great army.

    11 Then he said to me, “Son of man, these bones represent the people of Israel. They are saying, ‘We have become old, dry bones—all hope is gone.Our nation is finished.’12 Therefore, prophesy to them and say, ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: O my people, I will open your graves of exile and cause you to rise again. Then I will bring you back to the land of Israel. 13 When this happens, O my people, you will know that I am the Lord. 14 I will put my Spirit in you, and you will live againand return home to your own land. Then you will know that I, the Lord, have spoken, and I have done what I said. Yes, the Lord has spoken!’”

 

Continuing the reflection:

Certainly we do not live in exile as the ancient Israelites did when Ezekiel was prophesying, but the truth is that we are living in a valley of dry bones.  We live in exile because evil continues to thrive.  We cannot ignore how close evil is, especially this week as we have lost two more police officers to evil and as we watched children ripped from their parents in the name of federal law enforcement.

Evil places you in exile in your own community.  And you become tired.  You become the dry bones Ezekiel saw in that valley.  You lose hope.  Yet, you return to worship each week because as Christians that is part of your lifestyle.  But, even sitting right here in your very own sanctuary, in your own spot on the pew, you are at risk of being the dry bones Ezekiel saw in that valley.

God asked Ezekiel if the dry bones could be brought back to life.  Ezekiel, the priest, answered, “O Sovereign Lord,” I replied, “you alone know the answer to that.”  He placed full faith in God.  Do you?

Today, even I feel like dry bones.  I stepped into the pulpit ten years ago with a vision. The community is not a valley of dry bones, but it is a valley of lives who desperately need to know God.  God can breathe new life into the dry bones, but it takes a community of faithful who can see the community through God’s eyes and rely on God to breathe life back into dry bones.

Ezekiel’s vision of a valley filled with dry bones did not end his story.  He was encouraged by God’s demonstration of bringing the dry bones back to life.  Can you say that God’s Holy Spirit is keeping your bones alive?  Or do you feel that you are nothing more than dry bones?

As you make the change from one pastor to another, remember that God can bring a valley of dry bones to life to continue the work he assigned to the faithful.

God told us to be good stewards of this earth.  God told us to love one another as we want to be loved.  These are not commands that can be ignored.  These are the simple instructions God has to keep evil away, to keep peace, to keep the lion, the wolf, and the lamb lying peacefully together.

As this month closes out, July brings a new beginning for this community of faithful.  God lives within each and every one of you, but you must do your part to keep it alive.  To avoid becoming a valley of dry bones, you must follow the discipline of the faithful.

  • You must read scripture.
  • You must pray.
  • You must participate in a community of faith.
  • You must remember your baptism.
  • You must serve one another in love.
  • You must see the world through God’s eyes—all the world, not just your own household.
  • You must listen to the Holy Spirit as he guides you to serve as God’s arms and feet in this community, part of God’s entire world.

If you do not, evil will win and the valley will be filled with nothing more than dry bones.

Concluding the reflection:

            In the book of Ezekiel, God assures Ezekiel that he is able to revive the dry bones:

    11 Then he said to me, “Son of man, these bones represent the people of Israel. They are saying, ‘We have become old, dry bones—all hope is gone.Our nation is finished.’12 Therefore, prophesy to them and say, ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: O my people, I will open your graves of exile and cause you to rise again. Then I will bring you back to the land of Israel. 13 When this happens, O my people, you will know that I am the Lord. 14 I will put my Spirit in you, and you will live again. . .

Today I tell you, God does reside within you as the Holy Spirit.  You do not have to be dry bones.  You must follow the discipline of the faithful and God will keep you alive.

The Church continues its work.  It depends on the entire network of congregations to serve as God’s agents defending against evil, seeing to the needs of all God’s children, and finding ways to keep dry bones alive.  In our denomination, the United Methodist Church, we have so much to do, so many tools to use, such a faith community to serve in so many ways.

Today we follow the Methodist tradition of serving in ministry, too.  We change roles as we are called to do.  We stand together to serve as we are called to serve.  We know that there are lions, wolves, and lambs surrounding us, but if we do our job the best that we can, they, too will be able to lie down together in peace.

In Isaiah 65:25, we hear these words:

The wolf and the lamb will feed together.
The lion will eat hay like a cow.
But the snakes will eat dust.
In those days no one will be hurt or destroyed on my holy mountain.

 

Each community that fails to love one another as they want to be loved needs God.  My prayer for the community, here and globally, is that with the power of the Holy Spirit, God’s work can lead to all working side by side to minister to others in need.

 

Sharing of the Missouri Methodist’s 2018-2019 mission goals:

            During annual conference, three mission goals were identified through special offerings.  I have asked Sharon, Vada and Tamera share them with you at this time. When the local church is tired and at risk of becoming a valley of dry bones, connecting with others in mission is one more way to be alive:

 

  1. Mozambique Sustainability Reboot (Sharon)

This offering will relaunch the Mozambique Initiative’s efforts to create opportunities for church-going entrepreneurs through sustainability projects. In 2012, the Mozambique Initiative added sustainability as a key component to our partnership. After reviewing projects completed during the 2012-2017 program, we believe the best way to reboot is by focusing on smaller projects ($400 or less) for individual entrepreneurs. Our goal for this offering is to provide microloans for at least 25 entrepreneurs in Mozambique.

 

  1. Pathway Out of Poverty (Vada)

Gifts shared in this offering will be distributed for the work of administering our Pathway out of Poverty initiative focused on literacy. Your gift to this initiative will help us equip local churches to connect with schools in their communities and provide them with relationship-building resources. Research shows that children who struggle to read in first grade are 88 percent more likely to struggle in grade four. And those who struggle in fourth grade are four times more likely to drop out of school. Give generously today as we seek to break cycles of poverty by connecting with our schools.

 

  1. Puerto Rico Disaster Response (Tamera)

The Methodist Church of Puerto Rico continues to rebuild following the devastation of Hurricane Maria in the fall of 2017. Thirty-eight churches were damaged with 10 nearly destroyed. Yet, the people of Puerto Rico have remained strong. Your gift will help rebuild a Methodist health clinic on the island of Vieques. This clinic will be the primary point of care for the island’s population of 12,000 people – care that is desperately needed as residents wait a projected two years for electricity to be fully restored. Join us in standing with the people of Vieques; your donation will make a difference today!

 

The United Methodist Church is not a valley of dry bones. The church is an army of Christians who are equipped to make disciples of Christ for the transformation of the world.

You are part of God’s army here in this community, but you are part of a global community, too.  Let the Holy Spirit loose to serve here, but also to join with others in any way that you can so the lion, the wolf and the lamb can live peacefully together.

Closing prayer:

            Dear God Almighty,

You created a world filled with good,

And evil found its way in.

You commanded each of us

To take care of this world and each other

Yet evil continues to exist around us.

Breathe into these dry bones

New life, new energy to do your work.

May the Holy Spirit fill up your children.

May your children see dry bones come alive.

In the name of you the Father,

the Son and the Holy Spirit, amen.

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Mission Rebounds: The Old Testament scorebook

given on Sunday, February 28, 2016

Scripture connection: Isaiah 55, NLT

Invitation to the Lord’s Salvation

55 “Is anyone thirsty?
    Come and drink—
    even if you have no money!
Come, take your choice of wine or milk—
    it’s all free!
Why spend your money on food that does not give you strength?
    Why pay for food that does you no good?
Listen to me, and you will eat what is good.
    You will enjoy the finest food.

“Come to me with your ears wide open.
    Listen, and you will find life.
I will make an everlasting covenant with you.
    I will give you all the unfailing love I promised to David.
See how I used him to display my power among the peoples.
    I made him a leader among the nations.
You also will command nations you do not know,
    and peoples unknown to you will come running to obey,
because I, the Lord your God,
    the Holy One of Israel, have made you glorious.”

Seek the Lord while you can find him.
    Call on him now while he is near.
Let the wicked change their ways
    and banish the very thought of doing wrong.
Let them turn to the Lord that he may have mercy on them.
    Yes, turn to our God, for he will forgive generously.

“My thoughts are nothing like your thoughts,” says the Lord.
    “And my ways are far beyond anything you could imagine.
For just as the heavens are higher than the earth,
    so my ways are higher than your ways
    and my thoughts higher than your thoughts.

10 “The rain and snow come down from the heavens
    and stay on the ground to water the earth.
They cause the grain to grow,
    producing seed for the farmer
    and bread for the hungry.
11 It is the same with my word.
    I send it out, and it always produces fruit.
It will accomplish all I want it to,
    and it will prosper everywhere I send it.
12 You will live in joy and peace.
    The mountains and hills will burst into song,
    and the trees of the field will clap their hands!
13 Where once there were thorns, cypress trees will grow.
    Where nettles grew, myrtles will sprout up.
These events will bring great honor to the Lord’s name;
    they will be an everlasting sign of his power and love.”

 

Basketball season is wrapping up and it is almost time for the big college playoffs commonly referred to as The Final Four. Locally the game keeps everybody on pins and needles, too. What is it that makes competition so entertaining! Adrenalin surges when there is a foul or the opponents score. The heart beats hard and the crowd comes alive when the home team rebounds adding points to the team’s score.

Lent is a season of reflection much like when a season ends and it is time to review the team’s performance. The Christian team uses Lent to carefully analyze how well we carry out the mission God has given us: to love one another. If we follow God’s game plan, the result will be the transformation of not only our lives, but the world’s. God’s mission will rebound returning to the Garden of Eden He created.

In order for God’s mission to rebound, Christians must reflect on our individual performance as well as evaluate the team’s performance. This can be rewarding but it also is painful. Lent is the time for such analysis.

Every team does this. Each player must review his or hers own performance, the coach must review the overall function of the team plus his or hers own coaching skills. Then the team comes together for reflection and creates an improved game plan. The mission, God’s mission must rebound.

Right now the video of the world seen daily in the news broadcasts might seem like God’s scorebook filled with losses. Lent is God’s annual video replay. The game plan began with God choosing the team, the ancient tribes of Israel. The playbook opens with the Law now preserved in the first five books of the Old Testament.

Today we know that the Old Testament story is filled with mistakes of the people. The leaders of Israel made mistakes much like coaches who fail to develop a winning team. There is no doubt that the Law of Moses was simple: just 10 rules to follow and none of them complicated. Unfortunately, God’s opponent Satan was uncannily good at convincing humans to make mistakes.

Still, the dismal record of failure also includes opportunities God provided to repent, to make right some wrongs, and to be forgiven. Even when leaders made terrible mistakes breaking the God’s law, God did not give up on his team. Wrongs were righted. God forgave them. They were redeemed.

But look at what else is included in the Old Testament. Not only is the Law provided, illustrated with stories, but also the prayer book. The book of Psalms includes the prayers, hymns and liturgy that we use even today. The prayers reflect the full spectrum of human emotions. Some psalms praise and some cry out, but one thread ties all of them together—God’s love wins; the mission rebounds.

The psalms are the cheers and rants of the crowds. In sports, cheerleaders lead fans to spur the team to put out that extra energy to rebound and make a change in the team’s performance.

Certainly there are times when the cheers fail, but the cheerleaders, the coach, and the team work together to rebound. The psalms are tools that help the faithful continue the mission. God sees; God hears; and God loves. He responds, too, when he hears the cheer “Two. Four. Six. Eight. Who do we appreciate!” The psalms respond, “GOD!”

The Old Testament helps teach men and women how to live a God-centered life. God-centered living affects every facet of life, and reading Proverbs, we find how the wise sayings can guide the faithful to continue God’s work. The scriptures are God’s instruction manuals   including the library of videos to review.

Sadly, as we know in our own lives, humanity has repeated mistakes. It is a pattern we try to stop, but the world throws so many temptations at us that we become distracted from God and we make mistakes again. In reading through the verses of Isaiah, we are told:

Seek the Lord while you can find him.
Call on him now while he is near.
Let the wicked change their ways
and banish the very thought of doing wrong.
Let them turn to the Lord that he may have mercy on them.
Yes, turn to our God, for he will forgive generously.

 

Every time we err, God knows and he is always ready to forgive. The reflective time of Lent gives us that opportunity to honestly evaluate how well we are following God’s mission. The words of Isaiah assure us that God knows and listens for our awareness and confession so that he can forgive us.

The Old Testament records how the faithful succeeded and how they failed to maintain God’s mission. The different stories march God’s story through time. The story does not change even though the culture changes, education changes, political leaders change, commerce changes, and even the climate changes.

Prophets tried to warn the generations that failure to keep God’s mission would lead to destruction. Some prophets, of whom Isaiah is one, spoke openly about how God loves us and forgives us. But forgiveness comes only when one is honestly aware of what they have done wrong. Isaiah’s verses in chapter 55 speak to us yet today:

“Come to me with your ears wide open.
Listen, and you will find life.
I will make an everlasting covenant with you.
I will give you all the unfailing love I promised to David.

 

Are you reading the scriptures? Are you reviewing the video of your life right now? Are you doing your best to stay God-centered?

In the lectionary’s commentary, the only way God’s mission rebounds is if. . .

. . . [we] name our sins and repent of them so that we might have life. . . . Pay attention to the way sin has us in its grip. To truly repent, we need an awareness of what we’ve done—and not done—that’s led us into this waterless land. Repentance reorients us toward God’s love and mercy, where we find sustenance and rest.

 

This is the same thinking a coach has as he reviews the game’s video and enters the next practice. He then offers guidance or advice as to how the player improves. And with each rebound, the mission to win the game becomes one play closer to reality.

Certainly honest reflection and corrective action is necessary and often painful, but the outcome is winning eternal life with God. The commentary shared Augustine’s thoughts about our restless desire to win:

. . . [God] understands our restlessness to be a result of our sin; we are restless because of our repeated attempts to take refuge in something other than God.   When we mistake any other good thing—whether it be love of another person, food, money, material possessions, sex, you name it—for the Ultimate God, Augustine argued, our hearts remain restless, unsettled.

 

God is our coach and he has assistants that are recorded in the Old Testament as prophets. In the New Testament, the story continues with the Apostles teaching God’s commandment to love one another.

God’s mission depends on our rebounding from our sin to follow his commandments. The coaches in our lives are God’s co-workers who can review the video and guide us to improve. Read the scripture from Genesis through Revelation to know the story and to learn how God’s mission is our mission, too. We are responsible for God’s mission to rebound.

Closing Prayer

Dear God,

Each day I read your word,

See your world,

And meet your children.

I am reminded of your love.

 

As we reflect on our lives,

Help us see our actions honestly.

Help us listen to our coaches,

And help us name our errors.

Then accept our pleas for repentance.

 

As we rebound and recommit to your mission

To transform the world by loving one another,

Coach us to improve living a God-centered life

So we can score redemption leading to life eternal

Beside you and your son Jesus Christ. –Amen

 

 

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There are Good People and Bad People

given on Sunday, August 16, 2015

Scripture base:

Psalm 1 (NLT)

Oh, the joys of those who do not
follow the advice of the wicked,
or stand around with sinners,
or join in with mockers.
But they delight in the law of the Lord,
meditating on it day and night.
They are like trees planted along the riverbank,
bearing fruit each season.
Their leaves never wither,
and they prosper in all they do.

But not the wicked!
They are like worthless chaff, scattered by the wind.
They will be condemned at the time of judgment.
Sinners will have no place among the godly.
For the Lord watches over the path of the godly,
but the path of the wicked leads to destruction.

Ephesians 5:1-14 (NLT)

Imitate God, therefore, in everything you do, because you are his dear children. Live a life filled with love, following the example of Christ. He loved us[a] and offered himself as a sacrifice for us, a pleasing aroma to God.

Let there be no sexual immorality, impurity, or greed among you. Such sins have no place among God’s people. Obscene stories, foolish talk, and coarse jokes—these are not for you. Instead, let there be thankfulness to God. You can be sure that no immoral, impure, or greedy person will inherit the Kingdom of Christ and of God. For a greedy person is an idolater, worshiping the things of this world.

Don’t be fooled by those who try to excuse these sins, for the anger of God will fall on all who disobey him. Don’t participate in the things these people do. For once you were full of darkness, but now you have light from the Lord. So live as people of light! For this light within you produces only what is good and right and true.

10 Carefully determine what pleases the Lord. 11 Take no part in the worthless deeds of evil and darkness; instead, expose them. 12 It is shameful even to talk about the things that ungodly people do in secret. 13 But their evil intentions will be exposed when the light shines on them, 14 for the light makes everything visible.

Reflection:

 

A wide range of shoot-em-up movies are in the theaters this summer. The good guys versus the bad guys meet on the large screens, and other, old shoot-em-up movies keep the ongoing battle of good versus evil on the smaller screens for new generations to discover. The settings may be different, the decades may be different, costumes and transportation images all are different—except, maybe the black and the white hats.

Everybody enjoys the fictional stories where the good guys battle the bad guys and win. Sometimes, a story line gets a little shady and the bad guy appears to have won the battle, but the question is whether or not the bad guy lived a good life. And the battles do not mean just man versus man, it can even be the Good Witch versus the Evil Witch of the North.

Good versus evil is a universal theme, and the battle between the two sides cannot be escaped. The good versus evil conflicts are present in our daily lives even though the character changes. Sometimes the conflict involves one person versus another, but the battle can take on all kinds of different formats. The human versus natures can be a similar battle, so can human versus animal cause conflict and can demonstrate the same type of theme.

In Psalm 1, the reader is taught that there are just two types of people everywhere. Primarily, there are the good people who have followed God’s instructions/laws, and there are the bad people who have lived in ungodly manners. The first verse sets up the lesson:

Oh, the joys of those who do not
follow the advice of the wicked,
or stand around with sinners,
or join in with mockers.

In a world filled with so many people living closer and closer together. What happens? Many find ways to control others or to gain personal wealth or take what is not there just to make their lives appear richer.

The good and faithful, according to the psalmist, find joy in their lives. The good and faithful know to follow God’s laws, at that time was the Ten Commandments; but others chose a different life path and became wicked or ungodly. There is no joy for those.

The book of psalms was the hymnal for the ancient Jewish people. The choice of the first psalm provides the simplest instruction for the youngsters to learn. Basically be good by being with good people. Stay away from the bad people.

As simple as that sounds, we all know it is much harder to do than those few words seem to say. Looking at the other verses, the descriptor for the ungodly are listed:

But not the wicked!
They are like worthless chaff, scattered by the wind.
They will be condemned at the time of judgment.
Sinners will have no place among the godly.
For the Lord watches over the path of the godly,
but the path of the wicked leads to destruction.

The bad are listed in a variety of terms:

  1. 1 lists them as wicked, sinners, and mockers
  2. 4 uses a metaphor chaff
  3. 5 repeats sinners and the opposite of godly,

so that would be ungodly

  1. 6 finishes with the word wicked.

The psalmist does not leave the reader wondering what is right or what is wrong. The few verses clearly states that hanging out with the bad people will lead the good people away from God.

The rule is as old as humanity: If you hang out with bad people, you will become bad. This is a time-tested rule. In today’s culture, the number of good people who lose their direction is frightening. But one of the problems is that society has erased the clear lines between good and bad.

For instance, consider legalizing marijuana. Here in Missouri, a man spent 28 years in the state penitentiary for non-violent marijuana offenses. His sentence was for life. Someone who is charged and found guilty with that same amount today would be facing anything from simple tickets to minimal jail sentences with the possibility of parole. What is right and what is wrong? The dividing line changes constantly.

Take the discussion to our teens today. With the attitude toward pot changing from being criminal to a misdemeanor, how do our young people know what is right and what is wrong? The responsibility lies in the parenting generation to teach it, but even that generation has stumbled on this issue. Many have succumbed to the addictive nature of the drugs, even tobacco and alcohol or more complex drugs like meth, cocaine, and even synthetic drugs. Good people who simply hung out with evil people were convinced to do wrong things. They did not remain with the faithful, godly people.

The range of bad behaviors that can easily influence godly people to become ungodly continues to grow. How can this cancer be stopped? The same psalm has one major clue:

But they delight in the law of the Lord,
meditating on it day and night.

Meditate on the law day and night. That sounds like an impossible or at the very least, unreasonable expectation in our daily lives. Is it?

God does not penalize us for our decisions; we penalize ourselves. Meditating on the law is keeping the law. If we work to read the Bible, attend Sunday school, join Bible studies, keep prayer journals, read daily devotionals, attend worship regularly, we do meditate on the law. We know the law. We keep the law.

An example of how this can be kept manageable. This week the lectionary includes more words to the Ephesians. Remember Paul wrote this letter as encouragement to the young Christians. He shares more instructions:

  • Imitate God
  • Live a love-filled life
  • No sexual immorality
  • No impurity
  • No greed
  • No obscene stories
  • No foolish talk
  • No course jokes

Meditating on these rules keeps one focused on living a life that follows Jesus’ example.

When a news story comes on and it hurts our hearts and conscience we are listening with God’s ears. We are meditating on life as God has asked us to do.

When we see someone drinking too much and we step up to drive them home, we are doing what God asks us to do. We are living God’s law out loud.

When we see destruction from the typhons, from an industrial explosion, or a terrorist act, we meditate on God’s law. But do we act? God wants us to know the law, be able to meditate on it, to teach it, and to live our faith openly as activists, as parents, as neighbors, and as God’s emissary.

Read the Bible, study the law, seek out others to grow in faith together. Psalms I opened the faithful’s hymnal and continues to serve as a guiding textbook for today’s faithful. There is no time to lose. We must continue learning about God and teaching it to generations. If we do not, the evil cancer will continue growing.

According to Paul’s letter to the church in Ephesus:

Don’t be fooled by those who try to excuse these sins, for the anger of God will fall on all who disobey him. Don’t participate in the things these people do. For once you were full of darkness, but now you have light from the Lord. So live as people of light! For this light within you produces only what is good and right and true.

The reward—JOY! A good life filled with joy leads to life eternal along side Jesus.

Closing prayer:

Dearing Loving and Patient Father,

We hear your words, but we are often deaf.

Give us the resolve to meditate daily

On the holy words written

By generations of godly people.

With the fellowship of our Christian family,

Help us to grow in our faith

And to share words and actions

Modeling that of your son Jesus Christ. –Amen

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Connecting then to now

given on Sunday, July 20, 2014:  Scripture reference is Hosea 4:1-14 (NLT)

Okay, I admit that reading and understanding the prophets can be difficult. Yet I know that Hosea 12:6 speaks to Christians all around the world as much today as it did—or should have—in 735 BC. Yes, that is the time frame for the book of Hosea that we reading now over 2 ½ millenniums later!

That little phrase from that one verse in one chapter of the entire Bible is so power packed: . . . hold fast to love and justice. Those six words are buried, in one sense; but even the entire verse is worth memorizing and holding fast to now as much as it was then:

But as for you, return to your God,

Hold fast to love and justice,

And wait continually for your God.

The question today is how do we connect the lessons from the Bible, even the Old Testament ones, to our lives today.

Today we live in a fast-paced world where communication really has neither any geographical nor time limits. What is going on in Israel right this moment is in our own homes within only a few seconds. The typhoon in the Pacific Rim region of Asia is reported right along with the weather for our Kansas City viewing area the instant we turn to the weather apps on our smartphones or pick up the remote and tune in to the Weather Channel or local news.

Today’s world may appear very different from the ancient world recorded in the Bible, but the people are still people. The same life challenges that affect our lives affected their lives. Tempting us are the same things such as wealth, material belongings, power, titillating relationships, feel-good experiences, and the list goes on and on. There is no difference now in how God asks us to live our lives than there was in 735 BC or even before that.

One would think that studying the history of man, there would be no reason to repeat the same sins generation after generation. Still, we need God and we need to hold fast to love and justice and wait continually for your God.

In today’s scripture, Hosea 4:1-14 (the NLT), we can read it as though it were ancient history, and we can read it again as though he is speaking of our world today. We are connected to then even though it is now:

Hear the word of the Lord, O people of Israel!
The Lord has brought charges against you, saying:
“There is no faithfulness, no kindness,
no knowledge of God in your land.
You make vows and break them;
you kill and steal and commit adultery.
There is violence everywhere—
one murder after another.
That is why your land is in mourning,
and everyone is wasting away.
Even the wild animals, the birds of the sky,
and the fish of the sea are disappearing.

The verses written for the people of Israel are as timely as if they were written this week for the people in our communities. We see the very same sins/crimes now. Humans are humans no matter whether then or now. The behaviors are the same whether in our own homes or whether it was written over 2500 years ago in a country on the other side of the ocean. The temptations are the same. The outcomes are the same—war, broken relationships, meanness, bullying, robbery, killing, erosion, and the list continues to grow.

Even God’s anger and reaction are the same:

“Don’t point your finger at someone else
and try to pass the blame!
My complaint, you priests,
is with you.[
a]
So you will stumble in broad daylight,
and your false prophets will fall with you in the night.
And I will destroy Israel, your mother.
My people are being destroyed
because they don’t know me.
Since you priests refuse to know me,
I refuse to recognize you as my priests.
Since you have forgotten the laws of your God,
I will forget to bless your children.
The more priests there are,
the more they sin against me.
They have exchanged the glory of God
for the shame of idols.[
b]

God recognizes that the leaders (priests), the very people who were born to lead the people in worship and to teach how to live, were at the root of the problem. He clearly blames them for all the people doing all the wrong things.

Granted, now we might not place all that responsibility on the clergy of our churches, but when this was written the priests were the spiritual and sometimes political leaders of the tribes. Still, the leaders then were just as susceptible to temptation as they are today. We can create quite a lengthy and colorful list of today’s leaders both political and religious who have or can lead the people away from God. God told the ancient leaders words that leaders now need to hear:

“When the people bring their sin offerings, the priests get fed.
So the priests are glad when the people sin!
‘And what the priests do, the people also do.’
So now I will punish both priests and people
for their wicked deeds.
10 They will eat and still be hungry.
They will play the prostitute and gain nothing from it,
for they have deserted the Lord
11     to worship other gods.

The faithful Israelites began following the conquering Assyrian customs that included idol worship to Baal. Temple prostitutes were part of that tradition. The results then are the same now:

“Wine has robbed my people
of their understanding.
12 They ask a piece of wood for advice!
They think a stick can tell them the future!
Longing after idols
has made them foolish.
They have played the prostitute,
serving other gods and deserting their God.
13 They offer sacrifices to idols on the mountaintops.
They go up into the hills to burn incense
in the pleasant shade of oaks, poplars, and terebinth trees.

“That is why your daughters turn to prostitution,
and your daughters-in-law commit adultery.
14 But why should I punish them
for their prostitution and adultery?
For your men are doing the same thing,
sinning with whores and shrine prostitutes.
O foolish people! You refuse to understand,
so you will be destroyed.

Reading the scriptures is fundamental to remaining faithful to God. How else can we hold fast to love and justice if we do not have the words of Hosea to guide us, then we cannot stay connected to God. In this prophet’s words, we are taught to remain faithful. The analogy of Hosea’s personal marriage to a prostitute is to Israel remaining faithful to God. Hosea listened to God, married Gomer, dealt with her prostitution, yet followed God in remaining faithful and confronting her. His waiting was rewarded, and Gomer too healed.

The key continues to be in Hosea 12:6:

But as for you, return to your God,

Hold fast to love and justice,

And wait continually for your God.

Life is never easy, but following Hosea’s prophecy and God’s instructions to Hosea, we can remain faithful and our lives will be rewarded. The history books tell us of those who failed to follow this advice, and the news continues to report such failures. Then is never far way from now; so return to your God, hold fast to love and justice, and wait continually for your God.

Closing prayer

Dear God, father of Hosea and all your children,

Guide us through the days filled with such terrible sins.

Teach us how to hold fast to love and to justice.

Reveal to us the false gods in our lives.

and when we stumble and fall into sin,

show us the way out so we may return to you.

Strengthen our resolve so we can hold fast

to love and to justice.

Give us patience while we wait for you

with the gift of your grace and eternal life.

–Amen.

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