Archive for September, 2018
The heavens are telling the glory of God, and the firmament proclaims his handiwork. Day to day pours forth speech, and night to night declares knowledge. There is no speech, nor are there words; their voice is not heard, yet their voice goes out through all the earth, and their words to the end of the world. In the heavens, he has set a tent for the sun, which comes out like a bridegroom from his wedding canopy, and like a strong man runs its course with joy. Its rising is from the end of the heavens, and its circuit to the end of them; and nothing is hidden from its heat. The law of the LORD is perfect, reviving the soul; the decrees of the LORD are sure, making wise the simple; the precepts of the LORD are right, rejoicing the heart; the commandment of the LORD is clear, enlightening the eyes; the fear of the LORD is pure, enduring forever; the ordinances of the LORD are true and righteous altogether. More to be desired are they than gold, even much fine gold; sweeter also than honey, and drippings of the honeycomb. Moreover by them is your servant warned; in keeping them there is a great reward. But who can detect their errors? Clear me from hidden faults. Keep back your servant also from the insolent; do not let them have dominion over me. Then I shall be blameless, and innocent of great transgression. Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable to you, O LORD, my rock and my redeemer. [NRSV]
Begin with the ending:
“Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable to you, O LORD, my rock and my redeemer.”
Some preachers quote this verse as a little insurance policy. “I hope what I say is acceptable to you because I’m standing up here in front of everyone speaking in your name.” At best, we quote this verse as a declaration: that what comes out of our mouths should reflect God that is revealed in the world around us; God who is our foundation and salvation.
This passage is not just for preachers: All who are in Christ speak of God’s work, love, plan, and law, even if we never say a word. We need God to live and share the life that is joyful, full and true.
Seeing God in the Heavens
Look to the heavens to see the presence and power of God.
The heavens are telling the glory of God’s purpose and abilities.
The earth reveals the evidence of God’s work and plans.
- God is with us, “Day by Day”
- One image of God is that of an engine who designs a grand machine, starts the motor and sits back to see what the creation will do.
- The Psalmist is proclaiming that God is with us every day and every night.
- Speaking without words and sounds: The witness of design and process.
- The stars, planets, comets, asteroids, light, dark matter, energy, and gravity are evident even though we have no words to create them, nor order them, nor change them.
- There is beauty in the heavens, as a groom and bride look at one another and see with love and joy.
Seeing God in the Workings of the Earth
The earth is working like a strong laborer that takes no break and strives with joy that is unending.
- The seasons and calendars to measure and plan,
- the way seeds and soil work together,
- the way water and clouds work,
- the way populations are reproduced, t
- the way air and nutrients sustain all that is living.
Together All things work together to witness God is present and working with us.
The Sun, stars, and planets are the beginning and the ends, they are interdependently operating in a connected system. The light and heat of the sun is greater than anything we can create
2. The Law of the Lord is perfect [enough for all things, people, and times.]
The purpose of the Law of the Lord is to revive the soul.
- Decrees are sure, both simple and wise
- Precepts are right, to give joy to the heart and soul.
- Commandments are clear, informative, pure, enduring,
- Ordinances are true and righteous
Together these are of more value that much-refined gold and sweeter than fresh, raw honey from the hive.
3. We See and Know, but so what?
The purpose of the Law is to be a warning.
Our reward is found in keeping the Law…
4. Why bother and Where to Start?
Problem: Who can determine who, when, why, how we have not kept them all truly?
Solution: God clears me from my faults, failures, sins and all evil…
- Protect me from those who tempt and lure, entice, me from your power and law..
- Protect me from me. Don’t’ let others have dominion, rule, power or control of my life, purpose, work, and joy.
- If you protect me, I will be blameless, if I am left alone will be lost in my transgressions.
- THEREFORE. Protect me from what I say, think, do and believe.
I need you to save me and be the one who I trust
- in all things,
- at all times,
- in all ways.
..but the people became impatient on the way. The people spoke against God and against Moses, “Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? For there is no food and no water, and we detest this miserable food.” Then the LORD sent poisonous serpents among the people, and they bit the people, so that many Israelites died. The people came to Moses and said, “We have sinned by speaking against the LORD and against you; pray to the LORD to take away the serpents from us.” So Moses prayed for the people. And the LORD said to Moses, “Make a poisonous serpent, and set it on a pole; and everyone who is bitten shall look at it and live.” So Moses made a serpent of bronze, and put it upon a pole; and whenever a serpent bit someone, that person would look at the serpent of bronze and live. [NRSV]
The snakes remind us that Moses and the Hebrews were in the wilderness. They were not in their regular place of what now seems like comfort and ease. (Even though the we slaves and had no freedom, they were given food and had regular shelter and a general sense of privacy and home.) In the Wilderness there were no comforts, no food lines, no house, no bed, and snakes. Remembering the scene in Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark, he and heroin, Marion, they are lowed into the Well of Souls where there were countless asps, lethal vipers in every direction.
“Why Did It Have to Be Snakes?” *Getty Image
Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981)
Indiana Jones (Harrison Ford): “Snakes. Why did it have to be snakes?”Indiana Jones: (Passing a torch) “Take this. Wave it at anything that slithers.” Marion: “Thanks. Oh, my God! This whole place is slithering!”
Whether your comfort level is high or low, snakes are the villain from Adam and Eve, to Ka and Mogli, to Harry Potter and Nagini, to the numerous Snakes on an airplane. So it is, they remain a symbol of threat, danger, fear and evil.
One of the most common complaints about God from those who are outside the faith, is that if God is so loving and knowledgable when would God allow evil to harm God’s chosen people? Why do bad things happen to God’s people? Why would a loving God send snakes out to punish grumbling people? Thing how faithfully the Hebrews had done following Moses out of Egypt and traveled in the Wilderness, shouldn’t they at least be allowed some room to complain when the conditions are less than usual and a good bit uncomfortable?
Think about the Wilderness of the world today, don’t we deserve some special protection if not some comforts… The catch is Moses promised them a land of freedom. But that does not mean a freedom from struggle. Even God shows God’s desire and willingness to work six of seven days.
God charges Moses with the task of “Making a poisonous snake” and place it on a pole. I don’t suppose Moses was suppose to make a live poisonous snake? He makes one of bronze and puts it on a pole, and it become a restorative tool of resurrection and resuscitation from those who are bitten by the servants in the wilderness.
God does not stop the snakes from bitting. God does not scare off the snakes and prohibit them from threatening the people. People are still painfully bitten and suffer the affects of poison, but there are offered a remedy… resurrection, as their healing salvation.
Evil is a real power and it causes us pain and suffering. But we have a remedy, we hav a cure, we have Salvation in the Resurrection of Jesus Christ!
The lesson is that we face the painful bite of fear, struggle, pain and death as people of God, but God has a sign that is our salvation: It is found in the resurrection of Christ, raised up on the cross for the world to see, that death no longer is the end. But never everyone is forced to look to God for the salvation.
So what do we do with this passage in our wilderness?
Where is evil biting us?
What is it that threatens our lives?
What brings fear into our sleepless nights?
What worry do we carry to school and work and home each day?
We have a sign::
We have more than a sign, we have a living SAVIOR
not made of bronze, not written in words, not limited to our minds and calculations
Where there is evil in our hearts and the world there will w user and know loss and pain, but there is a hope God will save us, restore us and make us new.
May that day come soon and may we trust God every day until that da comes.
<outline based on Adam Hamilton’s lesson of Generosity from ‘Enough’>
As for those who in the present age are rich, command them not to be haughty, or to set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but rather on God who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. They are to do good, to be rich in good works, generous, and ready to share, thus storing up for themselves the treasure of a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of the life that really is life. (1 Timothy 6:17-19)
Some give freely, yet grow all the richer; others withhold what is due, and only suffer want. A generous person will be enriched, and one who gives water will get water. (Proverbs 11:24-25)
Those who are generous are blessed, for they share their bread with the poor. (Proverbs 22:9)
A Theological Foundation for a Generous Life
Created to be generous, tempted to hoard
God created us with the willingness to give—to God and to others. This design is part of our makeup; we actually have the need to be generous. Yet there are two voices that work against our God-given impulse toward generosity and that tempt us to keep or hoard what we have. The charge is to multiply: God graciously gives us life, breath, brain, purpose, and passion: What stops us?
- The voice of fear
Fear of what might happen to us, along with a misplaced idea about the true source of our security, keeps us from being generous and leads us to hoard what we have. The truth is that hoarding offers us no real security in this world.
- The voice of self-gratification
Our culture tells us that our lives consist in the abundance of our possessions and pleasurable experiences. So we find ourselves thinking, If I give, there won’t be enough left for me.
Defeating the voices
When we give our lives to Christ, invite him to be Lord, and allow the Holy Spirit to begin changing us from the inside out, we find that our fears begin to dissipate and our aim in life shifts from seeking personal pleasure to pleasing God and caring for others. Although we still may wrestle with the voices from time to time, we are able to silence them more readily and effectively the more we grow in Christ. And the more we grow in Christ, realizing that our lives belong to him, the more generous we become. Generosity is a fruit of spiritual growth.
Biblical reasons to give to God and others
- “It is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35).
- “Those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it” (Matthew 16:25).
- “The earth is the Lord’s and all that is in it” (Psalm 24:1).
Biblical guidelines for giving
From the early days of the Old Testament, God’s people observed the practice of giving some portion of the best they had to God. A gift offered to God was called the first fruits or the tithe, and it equaled one-tenth of one’s flocks or crops or income. Abraham was the first to give a tithe or tenth.
- Genesis 14:20b and blessed be God Most High, who has delivered your enemies into your hand!” And Abram gave him one-tenth of everything.
- Genesis 28:18-22 So Jacob rose early in the morning, and he took the stone that he had put under his head and set it up for a pillar and poured oil on the top of it. 19 He called that place Bethel, but the name of the city was Luz at the first. 20 Then Jacob made a vow, saying, “If God will be with me, and will keep me in this way that I go, and will give me bread to eat and clothing to wear, 21 so that I come again to my father’s house in peace, then the Lord shall be my God, 22 and this stone, which I have set up for a pillar, shall be God’s house; and of all that you give me I will surely give one-tenth to you.”
- Leviticus 27:30-33 All tithes from the land, whether the seed from the ground or the fruit from the tree, are the Lord’s; they are holy to the Lord. 31 If persons wish to redeem any of their tithes, they must add one-fifth to them. 32 All tithes of herd and flock, every tenth one that passes under the shepherd’s staff, shall be holy to the Lord.33 Let no one inquire whether it is good or bad, or make substitution for it; if one makes substitution for it, then both it and the substitute shall be holy and cannot be redeemed.
Giving a tithe
As Christians who live under the new covenant, we are not bound by the law of Moses; we look to it as a guide. Yet most Christians agree that the tithe is a good guideline for our lives and one that is pleasing to God. Though tithing can be a struggle, it is possible at virtually every income level. If you cannot tithe right away, take a step in that direction. Perhaps you can give 2 percent or 5 percent or 7 percent. God understands where you are and will help you make the adjustments necessary to become more generous.
Giving beyond the tithe
Tithing is a floor, not a ceiling. God calls us to grow beyond the tithe. We should strive to set aside an additional percentage of our income as offerings for other things that are important to us, such as mission projects, schools, church building funds, and nonprofit organizations.
What Our Giving Means to God
How does our giving affect God?
From the earliest biblical times, the primary way people worshiped God was by building an altar and offering the fruit of one’s labors upon it to God. They would burn the sacrifice of an animal or grain as a way of expressing their gratitude, devotion, and desire to honor God. The scent of the offering was said to be pleasing to God. It wasn’t that God loved the smell of burnt meat and grain. Rather, God saw that people were giving a gift that expressed love, faith, and the desire to please and honor God, and this moved God’s heart. When given in this spirit, our offerings bless the Lord.
What is God’s response to our giving?
- Luke 6:38 give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap; for the measure you give will be the measure you get back.”
- Matthew 25:14-30 “For it is as if a man, going on a journey, summoned his slaves and entrusted his property to them; 15 to one he gave five talents, to another two, to another one, to each according to his ability. Then he went away. 16 The one who had received the five talents went off at once and traded with them, and made five more talents. 17 In the same way, the one who had the two talents made two more talents. 18 But the one who had received the one talent went off and dug a hole in the ground and hid his master’s money. 19 After a long time, the master of those slaves came and settled accounts with them. 20 Then the one who had received the five talents came forward, bringing five more talents, saying, “Master, you handed over to me five talents; see, I have made five more talents.’ 21 His master said to him, “Well done, good and trustworthy slave; you have been trustworthy in a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master.’ 22 And the one with the two talents also came forward, saying, “Master, you handed over to me two talents; see, I have made two more talents.’23 His master said to him, “Well done, good and trustworthy slave; you have been trustworthy in a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master.’ 24 Then the one who had received the one talent also came forward, saying, “Master, I knew that you were a harsh man, reaping where you did not sow, and gathering where you did not scatter seed; 25 so I was afraid, and I went and hid your talent in the ground. Here you have what is yours.’26 But his master replied, “You wicked and lazy slave! You knew, did you, that I reap where I did not sow, and gather where I did not scatter? 27 Then you ought to have invested my money with the bankers, and on my return, I would have received what was my own with interest. 28 So take the talent from him, and give it to the one with the ten talents. 29 For to all those who have, more will be given, and they will have an abundance; but from those who have nothing, even what they have will be taken away. 30 As for this worthless slave, throw him into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’
What Our Giving Means to Us
Through it, our hearts are changed.
When we are generous—to God and to our families, friends, neighbors, and others who are in need—our hearts are filled with joy. They are enlarged by the very act of giving. When we give generously, we become more generous.
In it, we find the blessings of God.
Many Christians have it wrong. They say that if you give, then God will give more back to you. But that is not how it works. We do not give to God so that we can get something in return. The amazing thing is that when we give to God and to others, the blessings just seem to come back to us. Of course, there is no guarantee that if we tithe, we will never lose our job or never have other bad things happen to us. Nevertheless, when we give generously, the unmistakable blessings of God flow into our lives.
O God, we thank you that you have given us life, that you sustain us by the power of your Holy Spirit, and that you gave Jesus Christ as an offering for us and for our sins. We thank you for the abundance that we have in our lives. And we pray, O Lord, that you would help us. Help us to honor you with our tithes. Help us to care for the poor and those who are in need. Help us to recognize that it is more blessed to give than to receive. We offer ourselves to you. Guide us now as we prepare to fill out our commitment cards. Help us, O Lord, to do your will. Lead us, we pray. In your holy name. Amen.