Posts Tagged Scripture

1 John 3:16-24 Love: Trust in Action

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We know love by this, that he laid down his life for us—and we ought to lay down our lives for one another. How does God’s love abide in anyone who has the world’s goods and sees a brother or sister in need and yet refuses help?  Little children, let us, love, not in word or speech, but in truth and action. And by this we will know that we are from the truth and will reassure our hearts before him whenever our hearts condemn us; for God is greater than our hearts, and he knows everything. Beloved, if our hearts do not condemn us, we have boldness before God; and we receive from him whatever we ask because we obey his commandments and do what pleases him. And this is his commandment, that we should believe in the name of his Son Jesus Christ and love one another, just as he has commanded us. All who obey his commandments abide in him, and he abides in them. And by this, we know that he abides in us, by the Spirit that he has given us. [NRSV]

Since the formation of Protestant Reformation and the Renaissance of the 1600’s, we have been growing from simply trusting doctrines handed down through the tradition of the church to explore what it means to have an individual understanding of faith. Examples: forgiveness is no longer found through visits to the priest, rather we recognize that we only have to ask God in Christ directly and forgiveness is given. The understanding that each of us is a minister in the priesthood of all believers and clergy are those called to specific roles within the church’s ministry. We have had the opportunity to read the Scripture in our own native languages instead of exclusively in Latin, Greek or Hebrew. [Note: Those who cling to the KJV have no perspective that the 1600’s since the texts were first written still had scripture and those since have had the benefit of other translations and discoveries, but alas that is an aside.]

The Risk of Self over Community

With the individualization of faith, we have expanded to points of risk.

For both those who say they don’t need the church or are threatened when the church is called to following the Holy Spirit in new directions.Don’t stand alone. Don’t trust your own heart and mind, is our life God’s?

1 John 3 is a reminder to not simple love as the concept in our head, but to actually love people. The goal is not to simply know the truth in our head or heart, but to stand up for and live Truth in presence of evil and deception.

Love in Truth and Action

Jesus laid down his life for us—and are we to lay down our lives for one another? { We hope that is just a figure of speech, and only in rare, once in a lifetime occasions, right? }

We can have all love figured out in our head; we can understand what is just and good, what is right and wrong and separate that from the life we are called to live in our homes, work/school, community, and world.

The risk of leaving the church behind for the individual is that we most easily become self-determined, self-validated, self-understood, self-comforted, self-medicated, but never truly loved nor made whole.

The deception is what “I” figured out at the expense of those

What good does it do us, our God, or our brothers/sisters who are in need, for us to know love, blessing, grace, and peace

Again with the Little Children language

Like, little children, let us, love, not in word or speech, but in truth and action.

And by this we will know that we are from the truth and will reassure our hearts before him whenever our hearts condemn us;

UMC Lesson of the Week: Our hearts and minds are but ONE way to know the heart of God.

Wesley: teaches us that the primary way God speaks to us is through scripture. So, as UM’s we trust scripture as our primary reason that we know God is love, and how God loves us, and how God calls and expects us to love in return and to love one another.  All these things and more come from scripture.

But how do we use scripture?

Scripture first, through (3) Three lenses, a. TRADITION, b. REASON, and c. EXPERIENCE. Never through one or two, but balanced through all three.

  1. What the believers have understood and experienced since the beginning.
  2. What our reason reveals from the study, testing and measuring.
  3. What the Holy Spirit reveals directly to us in our experience of God at work

Only a, and focus on rule and history

Only b, and we focus on mind, opinions, and ideas

Only c, and we have no foundation, and risk separation

1 John 3: reminds us to:

  1. Place ourselves in God’s perspective when we look at tradition and rules of the church.
  2. Place ourselves in the mind of God when we view ourselves and our neighbors.
  3. Place ourselves in the Spirit of God when we venture out on our own strength and ideas.

God is Greater than our hearts:

  • God has seen more than we see
  • God has done more than our experiences
  • God has loved longer than we have
  • God has waited longer than we wait
  • God has died that we might live

Bottom line: God knows more and knows better than you, me or us.

Beloved, if our hearts do not condemn us, we have boldness before God; and we receive from him whatever we ask because we obey his commandments and do what pleases him. 

To trust God with our history, present and future is our goal and direction.

Am I on course toward God? or am I trying to fit a square peg into a God-shaped hole?

We believe in Jesus as God’s greatest act of love.

God loves us is not just the right answer to a good question.

  • God proves it, love us when we, build a tower with our will and call it God’s
  • God lives the word but coming to be one of us
  • God’s way is the way of reaching to us in sin, pride, greed, fear, and death and loving us even when we deserve it least.
  • That proves love in action.

 

Our response to this love, is to love

  • Our response to God’s commandments, is to trust and follow.
  • Our response to God living in us, is to live out our faith daily.

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Luke 4.1-13 An Opportune Time 20160214 RSUMC

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Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit in the wilderness, where for forty days he was tempted by the devil. He ate nothing at all during those days, and when they were over, he was famished. The devil said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command this stone to become a loaf of bread.” Jesus answered him, “It is written, “One does not live by bread alone.’ ” Then the devil led him up and showed him in an instant all the kingdoms of the world. And the devil said to him, “To you I will give their glory and all this authority; for it has been given over to me, and I give it to anyone I please. If you, then, will worship me, it will all be yours.” Jesus answered him, “It is written, “Worship the Lord your God, and serve only him.’ ” Then the devil took him to Jerusalem, and placed him on the pinnacle of the temple, saying to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down from here, for it is written, “He will command his angels concerning you, to protect you,’  and “On their hands they will bear you up, so that you will not dash your foot against a stone.’ ” Jesus answered him, “It is said, “Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’ ” When the devil had finished every test, he departed from him until an opportune time. [NRSV]

Spiritual Retreat

  • Not a business trip,
  • Not a vacation,
  • Not a luxury,
  • Not even a mission trip,
  • Before Doing No Harm and Doing all the Good, it is the maturing of the Spirit of God within us.
  • Studying, prayer, fasting, listening and waiting for God.
  • But a necessary beginning point for ministry and faith.

Work of Nurturing Spirit within Us.

If you ever ask, “why am I so weary, worried or stressed?” think about the last time you devoted serious time to spiritual retreat.

  1. The first lesson Jesus models is to be a strong spiritual person we need serious time for spiritual preparation.

But there is more.

Not only do we more often say to ourselves: “I don’t have time and energy for spiritual training, I did that years ago, or I will do that later.”

But when we invest the time, is not going to keep evil from confronting us.

We are preparing ourselves when evil, temptation, hopelessness comes our way.

 2. The second lesson Jesus models is that Spiritual Training doesn’t help us avoid evil, it helps us confront evil and temptation.

Spiritual Training makes us ready for

  • On the last day of a month and a half spiritual journey, Jesus is hungry. Jesus is wrestling with acceptance. Jesus is contemplating his use of power.
  • The scope of the temptations takes him from Judea to Jerusalem to the ends of the earth, thus matching the three journey of Jesus’s ministry that Luke will recount in this gospel.
  • The weight of the three temptations ranges from small to medium to larger.
  • The reality of the three temptations was personal to Jesus’s condition, opportunity and position.
  • The thing about dealing with temptation for us is that it is equally personal, timely and as dangerous for us as it was for Jesus.

The SCENE: Evil shows us in our life and says: You are not getting what you deserve. You are not loved, attractive,

Fairness, Belonging, and Responsibility.

3. Jesus models listening to the voice of evil. We can’t live to hide and avoiding temptation. Jesus could not and neither can we.

On three particular fronts, Jesus is tempted.

  1. How far can I lie to myself (Jesus was physically hungry, but his training was to trust God to provide.)
  2. How can I fool my family and friends (Jesus knew God would provide, His training was to test himself, trust God and not test God.)
  3. How can do what I want, use my family and friends and have the world at my feet. (If you and I have the power of God, how would alter physical and how far to test.)

Jesus doesn’t believe the twisted truth, lies, fears and threats, but he listens to know what the issue behind the words.

The devil asks him to use his authority to serve himself.

  1. He was hungry, justifiable.
  2. He was at the end of the journey, cut some slack, not going to be legalistic. and
  3. No one will find out, only you and I will know.

The devil was asking:

  1. serve yourself first
  2. you can bend the lines
  3. It’s all about you.

If we listen to the lies, twisted words, fears and threats of temptation, NOT BELEIVEING THEM but hearing what is at stake we can make better choices about faithfulness.

After listening Jesus speaks/acts:

4. The response Jesus models for us is to trust scripture to speak to us and tell our actions.

With every temptation, Jesus draws on scripture to tell and frame

  • One does not live by bread alone
  • Worship the Lord your God, and serve only him
  • Do not put the Lord your God, to the test.

40 days of Bible study, prayer and spiritual training, gives the opportunity to get familiar with scripture to allow God to speak through us, to face evil face-on, with the authority of God.

DANGER: It’s not using scripture as sarcasm to cut down our enemies, it is allowing God to speak to our enemies and let God deal with them.

God speaks the Love, the Truth, the Power, the Life, the Hope. Let temptation deal with God.

How does Jesus deal with evil

  • Spiritual Training
  • Preparing to Face and not Avoid Evil/Temptation
  • Listening for the truth about the voice of Temptation
  • Speaking God’s word instead of My words
  1. Take these next forty days to read the Bible, as much as you can study
  2. Take the next forty days to pray for the church, your faith, all the politics of the world, all the economies, all the fears
  3. Take the next forty days to as the framework as a training program. Service, fasting, forgiving, singing, etc.
  4. Take the next forty days to name, name, write down the things that temp and test our faith personally. seek out verses that speak to them.
  5. Take the next forty days to prepare for Christ to live, speak and love through you.
  6. Isaiah 40:28 Have you not known? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He does not faint or grow weary; his understanding is unsearchable.

When I face temptation: I need to hear God speak through

Romans 8: 31-39 If God is for us, who can be against us?  He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?  Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. Who then is the one who condemns? No one. Christ Jesus who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? As it is written: “For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.”  No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.  For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers,  neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

God is with us, in Jesus, in 30 AD in 2016 AD, in politics and poverty, in school and prisons, in church and walmart, GOD IS WITH US, ALWAYS.

Isaiah 40:28 Have you not known? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He does not faint or grow weary; his understanding is unsearchable. 

I’m as fickle, afraid and as vulnerable as grass blowing in the wind, and so are the opinions, polls, and agendas, but GOD IS EVERLASTING, GOD, is not tired, weary or uninterested. GOD WAS, IS AND WILL BE.

Philippians 4:13 I can do all things through him who strengthens me.

I can’t do anything on my own, but if my strength and endurance are in God’s, I can do all things.

 

 

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Isaiah 40:1-8 Advent: “Preppers Unite!” RSUMC 20141130

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Comfort, O comfort my people, says your God. Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and cry to her that she has served her term, that her penalty is paid, that she has received from the Lord’s hand double for all her sins. A voice cries out: “In the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord, make straight in the desert a highway for our God. Every valley shall be lifted up, and every mountain and hill be made low; the uneven ground shall become level, and the rough places a plain. Then the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all people shall see it together, for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.” A voice says, “Cry out!” And I said, “What shall I cry?” All people are grass, their constancy is like the flower of the field. The grass withers, the flower fades, when the breath of the Lord blows upon it; surely the people are grass. The grass withers, the flower fades; but the word of our God will stand forever. [NRSV]

The Prophet Isaiah gives those who seek God’s presence words of encouragement as well as a reality-check about where to placed our faith.

This first Sunday of Advent we begin lighting candles. This is our sign, this is our symbol and logo for the season. There is a great presence of darkness all around us: Economic, Political, Geo-political, Racial and Cultural protests and looting, A woman killed three people in Denver to buying the last discounted TV at Walmart. The valuable has become trivial and the trivial takes on the value of greatest worth.

This prophet work is a call to make a way that prepares for God’s coming

Prepping: The ultimate Boy Scout exercise of being prepared. I will admit there are some items that I have more of than I used to keep around. I’m not a zombie apocalypse follower. But there seems to be some common sense in looking at the signs and seeing the need to prepare for things I can manage and control.

There is a fine line sometimes between having a few extra supplies, jugs of water and basic necessities and those who have bunkers, stock-piles and provisions for decades. Somewhere in between folks will say we are crazy, foolish or even delusional, while others will say we are foolish, crazy and delusional for not getting ready for a return to the 19th century way of life.

Here is a point of learning for each of us: At what sign, moment or circumstance would we change the focus of our regular way of leaving and prepare for Christ’s return. What would I need to experience in order to act most seriously and sincerely about preparing, not only my self, but others for the coming God Christ, God with us here and now?

In other words: how bad do things need to get before we see that we cannot fix world hunger?
How many acts of terror before we confront that the power of Evil is real and irrational.
How tough do our finances drop before we see we can’t buy nor save our way out of trillions of debt?
AND
How long do we allow people to build waves of doom and gloom before we look to God of strength, hope.
How long will we convince ourselves that we can manage any situation without God’s help
How long will we allow those around us to live, plan, lead and struggle managing the world around us without God’s help and allow them the political correctness, fairness and to-each-his-own theology?

The promise in Isaiah warning is that God will certainly put us into perspective, just like we through out old flowers that were once beautiful but are now dried and lifeless.

Jericho: Mt Temptation

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Isaiah call to action is to CRY OUT!
But what are we to call out? Who are we to Call out? What is it we are supposed to say? Answers: We will all fade, fail and died… so we best prepare for God’s stepping in our place.

Advent is this call to action: Remember God is God and we are the created. We are very smart, strong, and

This Advent is a time to speak up, speak out, Cry Out. Not so much to remind each other here, but for the rest of the world to know now is the time to make way for God.

“Swords ready? “On Guard! On Watch! Be Alert. Pay Attention. Look for God, for God is coming.

This get’s back to the prepping: If we live like the apocalypse is coming in 2015 then the majority of folks will think we are crazy, foolish and tune us out.

If we are talking about Christ’s return and final victory coming this December 25 instead of Santa then folks will think we are crazy, foolish and tune us out.

God is appearing every day. This is the real, reality.
Advent is not just a season prepping us for Christmas; it is the call to faith for each day and every season.

So I offer a balance: On one hand remember we are a fragile and delicate as a flower, think if power of a bacteria or virus, the sudden impact of a crash, the in hailing or injecting or ingesting of substances that end out live quickly as well as those that quietly tear us down.

On the other hand: God’s word is eternal. Ever strong and to be trusted.
Cry out for folks around us to ready, study, share, learn, open and press through God’s word.

How do we prep for God. Trust what is spoken of God. Have faith in God’s promise of grace and salvation.
Be on Guard to speak and share the word with everyone..

The road to heaven is paved with God’s intention. That we believe, trust and follow.
Not our intentions, God’s.

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Luke 4.14-22 “Unroll the Scrolls” JUMC 20130127

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Then Jesus, filled with the power of the Spirit, returned to Galilee, and a report about him spread through all the surrounding country. He began to teach in their synagogues and was praised by everyone. When he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, he went to the synagogue on the sabbath day, as was his custom. He stood up to read, and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” And he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant, and sat down. The eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him. Then he began to say to them, “Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.” [NRSV]

Did you know that the phrase, idiom, “Preaching to the Choir” was first references in 1973 in the Lima Ohio News in the month of January. Forty years, why that’s nearly my whole life time.  The older phrase is ‘preaching to the converted’, first cited in the works of John Stuart Mill in his, An Examination of Sir W. Hamilton’s Philosophy, 1867. The phrases might change from time to time, but why do preachers preach to those who are already believers?
It is more interesting that you might think.. let’s look at this text from Luke. Jesus has been out in surrounding areas: (Forsyth, Monticello, Griffin and McDonough distances away from Jackson, GA) and his new ministry has great reviews, great works, and a growing following. But when he comes home to Nazareth, he returns to the people who knew him, not as the Messiah, but as Joseph and Mary’s child. Jo-Jr., did not stay at home and keep the family trade. He has gone off and become a big-shot and he is trying to tell the home folks how they ought to live. At least this was likely the assumption of the men and boys sitting in the synagogue and the mothers, widows and girls listening from just outside. After Jesus reads the scriptures for his family and friends, we hear another couple of phrases: The crowd was “blown-away” and just sat there “like a deer in the headlights.”

Jesus, teaching and addition to the text was that the Prophet Isaiah was correct and his prophetic words had come try “right-before-their-eyes.” Wow!

Think about my question: Why do preachers preach to the home-team? Why rally the fan base of those who already have their support? Jesus’ preaching was not filled with stories on this day. There are no parables, no miracles, no food, no signs and wonders, just plain talk.

We are so accustom to looking for bits and pieces of scripture by chapter and verse. Today with digital search engines the use of chapters and verses are nearly obsolete. Did you know that the scripture has only had numbered chapters and version for less than five hundred years. Did you know that for about a 1000 years the scriptures were written only on the hearts of the faithful. Think of the years when there was only one copy, at the temple. We probably have access to a dozen bibles and considering the internet, dozens of translations are just a few clicks away.  (I like to use www.biblestudytools.com – It is by means not the only collection, but its free and has lots of versions and resources for bible study all in one place.)

One of our Church History professors, Manfred Hoffman, was a from a German tradition. He told that story that his professor believed that the scriptures had to be studied in Hebrew, Greek and Latin and only in German when absolutely necessary, and he considered it vulgar to have to read them in English. Dr Hoffman said his professor would “turn over in his grace” he knew about digital bibles, no ink, no paper, and pages to turn. It is interesting that over half of the ministers in my study group have given up our paper bibles for multiple translations on tablets and ipads.

In the passage from Luke, Jesus is handling the scrolls. He used the resources of his day to find the place in the prophetic voice, to hear God speaking in the present. This is the task for us in our hearing. When it the last time you touched a bible, paper or digital? It is God’s message and word, it is God’s teaching and voice, and it is God’s conversation for those who will encounter it.

We don’t grow from scripture by being near it. We don’t grow in faith by having lots of copies? We don’t ever need to let someone get away with saying, “Well it’s somewhere in the bible, I know it says…” Call them on it to show you, “prove it!”  The Lord helps those who help themselves? Nope, not in the bible. Some close variations, but “Blessed are the poor for they will inherit the earth” is a good bit more clearly spelled out.

So what does Jesus read from the prophet Isaiah?

Jesus reads the passage putting it into the first person and proclaims to his family and friends:

  1. He is anointed
  2. He will give Good News to the poor.
  3. He will call for those imprisoned and bound to be released.
  4. He will give sight to those who cannot see.
  5. He will give liberty to enslaved and trapped.
  6. And, He will proclaim this is the Lord’s time, “right-here, right-now”, this-year, right here!

No wonder they were “shell-shocked”

What if these words of the prophet Isaiah, claimed and proclaimed by Jesus, speak about what the church is about.

For the church is the body of Christ, the church is the presence of Christ. We have seen great signs and wonders though Jesus, he promised that his disciples, like us, would do even greater signs and wonders. Let’s start with his list from Isaiah:

What if we got in touch with the scriptures.

What if we read God’s word as frequently as we eat?

There are thousands of devotion books with scripture, every bookstore sells copes, we have copies to share, check them out of the library, pick one up at the motel in the draw of the nightstand by the bed, smartphones, laptops, computers. Tapes, CDs, MP3s, and downloads galore.. The Holy Scriptures are more available to use than at any other time in human history and I would guess that the majority of our gathering here might have to think for awhile the last time we opened God’s word, got our hands on the text and stopped to hear Jesus speak these ancient words a-fresh to use today.

Jesus was preaching to the choir because the choir was singing something other than the words of Isaiah, something other than words that declared, This is God’s year.

This year is not the Falcon’s year. It was amazing to see tens of thousand of fans, rise up, with a city of hopeful fans to cheer on the home team. It was a bit disturbing that the Falcons paid Samuel L Jackson, an undisclosed sum, to dress up like a preachers, surrounded by a robed choir and call for fan’s to raise the dead, out of the ashes, that the city might come to it’s feet and… buy enough tickets to pay for the players, the television rights and the World Congress Center and Georgia Dome loans and repair costs could be covered while grown men run around hitting each other in tight pants, ON Sundays! Maybe next year will be the Falcons. I don’t know..

But I do know this: If we are bold enough to rise up, take up the scroll of the scriptures and place them in our hands and in our hearts and heads, AND listen to the call they have upon our lives, we will see the Kingdom of God in our home town.

And if we don’t, we will not. It is just that simple. Its just that clear.

The Question is: Is this the year that God’s word will transform our community, or will we continue to make a mess of things, mess’en around.

The Question is: Is this the year we study, getting our hands-on God’s word in our witness and service for each other right here, or will we pass that to someone to do for us?

The Question is: Do the words God speaks to Isaiah, Jesus, Luke, and to us today… continue to hold the power or have we given up on them?

What say you?

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