Monday, December 19, 2016

Circle of Love

Jesus says “Ask for anything, I will do it.” (John 14:14)  Really?  For a long time this promise seemed impossible to me; Jesus couldn’t have meant it.  What I didn’t understand was that we have been “transferred from darkness into the kingdom of the beloved son.” (Col. 1:13)  You see, we have become like Abraham, like Isaac, like David and even like Jesus.  Let me explain:  Abraham was drawn into God’s inner circle, deciding with Him, the course of history. (Gen. 18:19)  Abraham was more than God’s servant, Abraham is God’s friend.  And so it is with us,  Jesus says, “no more will I call you servants but friends.” (John 15:15)  We can ask Jesus anything because we are his friends.  Further, we have become like Isaac.  Abraham gave Isaac “all that he had.”  Isaac was Abraham’s darling son whom he loved more than life.  In the same way, all that God has is for us; we have received a spirit of Sonship,”by whom we cry, Abba! Father.”  We ask the Lord for anything and everything because everything is for us.  But there is even more to the story.  In 2 Samuel 7, King David wants to build God a house, but Lord cannot allow this, it is for Him to take care of David not the other way around.  But the Lord gives David the greatest consolation prize ever, He says, “I will build you a house.”  And this house will be a forever house, “I will raise up your seed and establish his kingdom forever…and if he commits iniquity I will chasten him but I will not take away my love from him, your house and your kingdom will be made sure forever before me.”  Now, an objection might be raised here, one might ask, “surely this forever house and this love is for Jesus and not for me?”  Yes, it is for Jesus but as the prophet Isaiah saw it is also for us.  The Lord says in Isaiah 55:3, “I will give you (plural!) the love, the faithful love of David.”  This is poetry but what it means is that everything that the Lord gives to his Son, his David messiah, is for us too, for “ the many” (53:11) as they are drawn one by one into the kingdom.  Moreover, Jesus is without sin, but all too often we fall short.  How many times has God renewed us in his love?  This is nothing less than  the promise of 2 Samuel 7 confirmed in our lives. One more thing: In 2 Samuel 7 after David hears God’s truly incredible promise, David actually prays for the promise!  He explains why, “God you have revealed that my throne will be forever, therefore I take courage and I have pray that this would be so.” This is the final reason why we ask anything of Jesus, because we have been given everything! This is not to say that our lives will be without suffering, on the contrary, Paul says that he and the other apostles are “like sheep for the slaughter” and yet, “I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come nor powers nor high nor depth nor anything else in all creation will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8)

Sunday, September 04, 2016

The Patience of God

In Isaiah, also sometimes called the "book of consolation," we read, "Therefore the Lord waits to be gracious to you." (Isaiah 30)  What is God waiting for?  Why does he wait?  We might initially think that God waits for us.  Maybe he's waiting for us to do something, show some sign of goodness however small so that he can, in turn, be gracious.   The chapter however, and indeed, the entire book of Isaiah, militates against any such conclusion.  In Isaiah, people are not capable of goodness, even their righteous deeds are "filthy rags"(64:6) and "all we like sheep have gone astray." (53:6)  No, the Lord isn't waiting for us to do something, he is waiting because he is patient and has something in mind for us so wonderful that we cannot even imagine it. (I Cor. 2:9)  He is waiting for the right time to show us his grace.  Think of Abraham and Sarah.  Certainly God wanted to give them a child in their youth. Had he, however, given Abraham and Sarah a child at the normal time, they would have rejoiced but chalked up the gift of baby Isaac to normal life.  God did not give Abraham and Sarah a baby in their twenties or their thirties, instead he waited until Abraham was ninety-nine years old and Sarah was ninety before he gave them Isaac.  He "waited to be gracious to them."  Only in this way could he give them not only a little baby to love but also the most precious gift of all, to know God for whom nothing is too difficult. (Gen. 6) The Lord God is always with us but sometimes he waits in faith and patience for the right time to show us his grace. And as if that were not enough good news, he give us this faith and patience too.(Isaiah 55:3)  But there is even more, so often the faith and patience that he gives us is not for ourselves but for someone else.  In the church I have found that time and time again it is someone else's faith and patience that sustains me in the trials of life. How many times has someone, in effect, laid a comforting hand on my shoulder saying, "steady on, your prayers will be answered, steady on, hold fast." We are supported and saved by other peoples' faith and patience and then we hope to return the favor. This is why God puts us in his assembly, so that you can save me and I can save you right back. (Romans 1, I Chron. 19:12) 

Saturday, April 23, 2016

It's Not A "Belief System"

I was listening to Krista Tippet’s show on the radio tonight and she had as her guest, Craig Minowa, frontman for the band, Cloud Cult.  I was struck by a couple of things in the interview. First off, he referred twice to his mother’s Lutheranism, as her “belief system.” Perhaps he didn't mean to disparage her; in other parts of the interview it sounded like he really loved her.  However, the phrase “belief system” has nothing to do with what happens in church on Sunday.
Let me explain: When God brought Israel out of Egypt it had nothing to do with a belief system. Rather, it was God’s faithfulness that did it, as Hebrews tells us.  It was God alone that had faith, even after forty years in the wilderness the Israelites were “sons in whom there is no faith.”  But what God did then has no comparison to what God has done for Jews and Gentiles in Jesus.  It's on the same lines to be sure, but it was something even greater than God’s faithfulness (although he is always that). This time, God the Father “enfaithed” his son, and we are justified by that “enfaithment” or establishment.  This is the meaning of what it says in Romans 3, that we are justified by the faith of Jesus.  Craig Minowa’s mother doesn't have a “belief system,” rather she's been created in Christ Jesus to do good things that God prepared in advance for her to do.  We are the branches and Lord Jesus is the vine. One more thing, on the program Craig Minowa said that all human beings are “gorgeous.”  He said (to paraphrase) if you could just free people from their shells, everyone would see that everyone is “gorgeous.”  He's  right on that score.  We all are gorgeous.  God said so. He looked at all creation and saw that it was "very beautiful."    But God's beautiful creatures fall into abysmal sin; “all we like sheep have gone astray,” though we are still and always, “very beautiful.”  The beauty, however, makes it all the more terrible that we can do the things that we do, “O how the mighty have fallen.”  God didn't give up on us though, rather, he gives his all, "once for all" sending his only begotten son into the world because he loved murderers, and betrayers, and cowards like us.  He had promised many years before, “I will give you (plural) the faithful pities of David."  This is the poetry of Isaiah but it means that the same faith and love that raised Jesus from the dead and gave him the victory on the cross would be given to us.   Minowa’s Mom and all those who have been placed in communion to “mutually encourage one another” on Sunday morning are there because of the power of faith but it’s not their own faith. Sunday in church is all about grace and where that grace will stop nobody knows, all we know is that the dominoes are falling and nothing and no one can stop the righteousness of God; he makes right what is wrong.