Archive for the ‘Pass The Salt’ Category

Come Kingdom

Reading Matthew 6:9-15

I learned a new word recently; inscape. It is the inner nature of a person or object as shown in a work of art or a poem.  Sort of the other side of coin from landscape. Not so much what you see, but you perceive based on what you see.  In the classic Mona Lisa portrait, you may see something in her eyes or face that reveals to you about her character -or not.

The next line of the Lord’s prayer begins, “Your Kingdom come.”  In this age we do not experience the full Kingdom of God -yet.  That won’t happen until the return of Jesus and the great Day of the Lord.  If we look back to the beginning of the ministry of Jesus, He had one major point to his preaching: “the Kingdom of God is near, prepare, respond.”

The New Testament writers tell us that the Kingdom of God is here, just not yet in its fullness.  We do not see the full picture (landscape), but we can see glimpses of its nature and character (inscape).  In this broken and mixed up world we recognize the Kingdom at work by the grace, hope, peace of believers who reach out in the love of Christ to make a difference.  As believers focus on the inscape of the kingdom, we are made different in the love Christ.

So, we pray, ‘your kingdom come’, looking to see God continue His ongoing work in and through us. For the one who puts their faith in God, it means acknowledging that Jesus is the King and we give him our fidelity and loyalty, entering into His service. For those searching, it means the potential of some relief from the trials of this world, not only physically and emotionally, but spiritually.

 

May you, as you next pray ‘your kingdom come’, encounter the risen Jesus, and bow before your King to receive his blessing.

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Father Art

It is an old joke;  “Do you know God’s name?”  “It is Arthur!  Remember – ‘our father who is Art in heaven.’”  Matthew puts the Lord’s prayer in context of the Sermon on the Mount, Luke has the disciples asking Jesus to teach them to pray.

This is very important stuff for us, Jesus spent a lot of time in prayer, revealing the essential and core purpose of prayer.  All too often prayer is relegated to a mere religious practice or ritual. Jesus warned against repetitious and self-aggrandizing prayers.  Prayer is no magic incantation in which, if we get the words right, or repeat them often enough, God is obligated to answer.  Prayer is conversation in relationship.

There is a sense that, in a life of faith, everything is prayer.

Be cautious not to skip too quickly over the first line.

“Our Father”,  this reflects the reality of prayer directed toward the one who is relational, caring and responsible.  Granted the failures of our earthly fathers can skew our view of Father God. Know that the best earthly father figure is still but a mere or slight example of God as our Father, who is one we can trust and seek. One who claims us as His dear and beloved child.

“In Heaven”,  this brings some much-needed perspective, we can be overwhelmed by our circumstances and condition here on earth. We are reminded that there is something beyond this earth, a glorious heaven that awaits and is other than what is around us.

“Holy is your name”,  holiness is crucial, without holiness we cannot see the LORD, and the LORD who is holy, is solid and true, dependable and pure.  Finally think about that ‘name’, God is personal, He has a name –“I Am” or Yahweh.  Eugene Peterson reminds us that the devil likes to deal in secrets and anonymity, but God has a name and does not hide, He responds to all who seek Him.

Bless you as you let the first sentence of the LORD’s prayer echo in your heart today: Our Father, who is in heaven, holy is Your name.

The Price Of Betrayal

Reading: Luke & John’s Gospels, the Passion Narratives.

As we near the passion narrative of Good Friday and Easter I have been pondering the difference between Peter and Judas. Their stories are found in Gospels of Luke & John. Both men had to deal with disappointment in God, in Jesus, and in themselves. Both men had their faith challenged and picked by what and who they perceived Jesus to be. and what they thought He should be doing as the Messiah. In the heart of Judas those thoughts led to a bitterness and hardening of his heart and a self-centeredness. In that Judas became known as the thief who pilfered from the common purse of Jesus and his disciples. Known as the one who betrayed Jesus for thirty silver coins. Greed had replaced a trusting faith. Peter challenged Jesus and his prediction of the path ahead and was rebuked for his concern. Peter in his pride vowed he would never fail Jesus: “I am willing to go to jail or even die for you.” Peter turning to violence and cut off the ear of one of those coming to arrest Jesus . Peter who denied Jesus three times. Both mean failed Jesus, both men knew extreme remorse. In his remorse Judas hung himself. In his remorse Peter turned to Jesus. It has been said that the door to the human heart/soul only has a handle on the inside. Judas would not open up to Jesus in his failure and abandoned himself to death. Peter opened his heart to Jesus and abandoned himself to God’s grace, seeking forgiveness. This Easter season, it matters not what you have done or how you have failed God, there is grace for you -open up to Jesus.

 

On Waiting

Reading Genesis 40-41

I’ve been reading the story of Joseph in the Old Testament. Sold into slavery by his brothers, he ended up in Egypt.  There he rose to be head slave of Potiphar’s house.  Falsely accused of an attack by Potiphar’s forward wife, he was jailed. There, again, he rose to be the head inmate, running day to day operations within the jail.  When Pharaoh’s baker and cup bearer disappointed him, they were thrown in jail. Each had a dream that troubled them and Joseph met with them and told them God could make the meaning clear.  God did speak through Joseph and each man’s dream was exactly what happened.  Joseph asked the men to remember him in jail.

The next part of the story begins “two years later…”.  I wonder about those two years, seems like a long time.  I struggle with waiting on things that are out of my control, tempted to nudge them along or slide toward despair.  We are not given any insight to Joseph’s state of mind as his 29th and 30th birthday slip by yet in jail for standing true to his principles.  We can infer that he continued to work and serve and see that prison ran smoothly, he was known for his efficiency, wisdom and discernment.

 

 So, I have to ask myself, “how do I wait?” 

 

Psalm 46:10 call us to “be still and know that I am God.”  This being still is not necessarily a stillness of movement and activity, it is also a calming of the inner being. When I am waiting and struggling with the wait my inner being is anything but calm.  I look to the words of Jesus, “my peace I give you, I do not give as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.”  Troubles and fears can incapacitate us, mere movement and action does not help that issue.  By orienting our lives to seek the presence and peace of Jesus we place our fears and concerns unto him.  The one who says “take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls” will provide what is needed. 

May you, as you place your trust in and hope in Jesus, find the peace to wait well.

Light Of The World

Reading John 1:1-8

One of the things I enjoy about the back yard is the soft glow of the solar lights in the night.  When one arrives home after dark, these lights are a comforting beacon of home.  Solar lights work because they charge their batteries through exposure to the light of the sun.  Once the sun goes down the lights flicker on and glow.  If the day has been cloudy the lights still work, but they may not last as long into the night before they dim.  For those of us who live by faith, we gain our power, our reserve for the dark nights if you will, through exposure to the Son.  John’s gospel begins with a marvelous description of Jesus, the creator God, the source of life, and that life is the light of humanity.  A light that shines into the darkness.  John says the darkness has not understood the light.  When someone, even someone very religious, has not been in the light of Jesus, they lack the power to understand that light of life.  Faith is about relationship with Jesus and out of that relationship comes light. We do not seek the light, we seek the one who is the light! John’s gospel describes John the Baptist as one who “was not the light”, but “came only as a witness to the light.”  Like a solar lamp, our goal in faith is to reflect the light of Jesus Christ.  Matthew recorded Jesus saying “let your light shine before others, so they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in Heaven” (5:16).  Our good deeds do not generate light, rather they reveal the presence of Jesus in our lives and His light shines out through us and glorifies the Father. 

For the believer then, the practices of our faith: reading the Bible, prayer, worship, fellowship, service, etc., serve not to generate our light, but allow us to draw nearer to Jesus so that the light of His presence is reflected in our lives.  When we struggle in faith, it does not mean that Jesus has left us, but it can indicate that we have pulled away from Jesus and our ‘batteries’ have not been charged to last the long dark night.  This is where the disciplines of faith can help us and empower us.  We may not sense the presence of Jesus, but we press on in/with/for Him.  Feelings come and go, just as a dull day can slow down the efficiency of a solar charger, it nevertheless still works. My illustration breaks down if we push it too far in this area, remember Jesus said

“If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink.
Whoever believes in me,
as the Scripture has said,
streams of living water will flow from within him.” (John 7:37-38). 

Nevertheless, we too, when we are down, struggling, hurt and wounded can still reflect the light of Christ, can still draw nearer to Him through our faith practices. The key is a sincere heart; seeking Jesus, never giving up on Jesus, trusting Jesus.  He said also (Matthew 6:22-23) that the eye is a lamp of the body, if your vision is clear, your whole body will be full of light.  If we allow ourselves to be exposed to the things of life that are not of God, it affects the efficiency of our faith and capacity to be empowered and service God through the long night.  The best solar chargers actually rotate to take full advantage of the sun, perhaps is our faith is floundering or struggling we need to re-orient our posture towards Jesus, to be in the full light of His presence. That light can reveal some things that are not pretty, but late in life, John clings to the promise of God ‘if we confess our sins He is just and faithful to forgive our sins and cleanse us from every unrighteousness!”
(1John 1:9).

May you, by basking in the Son, have your soul charged to glow with the love of God to those around!

Good Guilt!

Reading in Isaiah 6 and pondering the order of events.  Isaiah has a vision of the Lord God in his throne room.  A vision of great majesty, emphasising the holiness of God.  Isaiah’s response to this awesome vista is a painful realization of his own sinfulness before the Holy God.  God provides cleansing at Isaiah’s repentant confession.  God then declares that Isaiah’s guilt is taken away and his sin has been atoned for.  This is the essence of the faith journey, we encounter God, realize our sin, yield to God’s redemption and enter into His Kingdom.  Guilt is not always a bad feeling, if it draws us to seek God’s face.  False guilt will push us away from God, declare us unfit -which we are- but offers no redemption, only condemnation.  The issue is not our guilt, Paul reminds the Roman Church that all are guilty before God, the issue is one of redemption.  The sin that brings guilt needs atonement,  it needs dealt with, a penalty must be paid.  It cannot be swept under the rug or ignored, it must be faced.  Within Isaiah’s vision Go sent a seraph with a live coal to cleanse; for you and I, Jesus came and paid the penalty for our sin on the cross.  Isaiah 6 is an epic story because of the sense of calling to go and speak of God’s message.  After Isaiah is cleansed, and this is key, he hears God’s call, “whom shall I send?”  He can answer, “Here I am, send me!”  We sometimes get this mixed up, thinking our service for God will be what provides the atonement for our sin, but quite clearly our service arises out of God’s provision of atonement.  The gift of Isaiah is a gift for you today, serving God is not a condition for atonement, but a benefit of atonement.  God cleanses us to enter into His holiness, and from that place we can serve God. May you know the freedom of serving God from a guilt free heart!

The Greatest Of These Is Love

Reading Psalm 50, a Psalm that both encourages and challenges.  It begins with a beautiful image of God speaking through creation in sunrise and sunset, we land of the living skies people can resonate with that image!  The Psalm continues though with a rebuke for a tendency to place the practice of religion over the path of holiness.  Tradition and ritual serve us well when they point us toward the Master, they were never meant to be our master.  Our practices of faith and religion are meant to draw us closer to God, to encounter the love of the Creator and be in relationship with Him.  Holiness is something we cannot earn or merit, but in submitting to Christ it is bestowed and we then learn to walk in it with Jesus.  It is important to have that priority straight in our lives -relationship first, practices of religion to enhance relationship.  I write this article on Valentine’s day, we often use  1Corinthians 13 in weddings and this day as a reminder of the value of love.  It’s a good use of the passage, but in context it is not really about the love of a couple, it is about God’s love at work in and through us.  Chapters 12 and 14 discuss spiritual gifts and the unity of the church.  God is reminding us that gifts, like our rituals, have value to the body of Christ and growing in holiness, but they are not the goal or priority.  The priority we are told is this: “faith, hope & love, but the greatest of these is love.”  The Psalmist finishes with God’s call: “the one who sacrifices thank-offers honours me, and prepares the way so that I may show that one the salvation of God.”  A key to our religious practices, rituals and structure is thankfulness -learning to listen to God speaking to us in creation and in our lives.  A thankful heart is one that begins to grow in love.  A thankful heart is open to the salvation God has provided in Jesus Christ.  Give thanks with a grateful heart, God will lead you forward in faith, hope and love.