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When a Command isn’t just Law…


20170124_103703Devotional Thought of the Day:

73 You created me, and you keep me safe; give me understanding, so that I may learn your laws. 74 Those who honour you will be glad when they see me, because I trust in your promise. 75 I know that your judgements are righteous, LORD, and that you punished me because you are faithful. 76 Let your constant love comfort me, as you have promised me, your servant.  GNT Psalm 119:73-76

God “commanded” the world into existence (Ps 33:9; Isa 45:12). All creatures and elements therefore obey his command (cf. I Kgs 17:4; Job 37:12; Ps 78:23). God also directs the course of history by decreeing crucial events; indeed no determinative event happens without God’s ordaining it (Lam 3:37). Indeed he decrees that his people be victorious (Ps 44:4 [H 5]).
What God commands to be done, he provides the means to accomplish, e.g. he instructed Moses concerning the building of the cultic furniture and buildings; then he inspired Bezalel and Oholiab with the Spirit of wisdom to be able to accomplish the work (Ex 31:2–6; 35:30–36:1). Regarding the making of these objects the text first details the instructions and then describes Israel’s careful fulfillment of God’s commandment (Ex 25–30; 36–39; Lev 8; cf. Ex 39:5, 7, 32, 42f.).

Over the last year and a half, one of my Bible Studies has been slowly working through Psalm 119.  Over and over it talks about the joy that is found in the law of God, in His commands, in His directives, in His ordinances!

The challenge is that we Lutherans tend see this only as Law – the commands that we cannot hope to keep, and therefore find ourselves. condemned.  My old denomination as well had this problem, as it divided the covenants of God into Law and Promises.

We hear Law, we head commandment, we hear precept and our mind automatically goes into “theology mode”.  This is God’s command, we have to fear when we hear it because we cannot hope to meet its demands, it will only point out our sin.

But that is not how the Psalmist continually refers to God’s law in Psalm 119, and in most of the Psalms.  It is a delight, a joy, something that grabs our attention and holds it, breathes life into us!  It inspires and empowers us.

It is not just what we refer to as the terms of the covenant, or the law which we properly distinguish from gospel. It is the entire Covenant, the law and gospel complete and in perfect tension.  The entirety of theology, the word of God complete.  Our need for salvation, His saving us at the cross of Christ.

As the apostle Paul put it so beautifully,

3  Let us give thanks to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! For in our union with Christ he has blessed us by giving us every spiritual blessing in the heavenly world. 4  Even before the world was made, God had already chosen us to be his through our union with Christ, so that we would be holy and without fault before him. Because of his love 5  God had already decided that through Jesus Christ he would make us his children—this was his pleasure and purpose.” Ephesians 1:3-5 (TEV)

This is what God tells us He established by His very commands from the beginning.  It is His reason, His word, it is Christ’s pleasure and purpose, as well as the Father’s and the Holy Spirits.

The quote in blue, for the word law in the psalm quote, coems from a Hebrew Lexicon.  It states it well, what He commanded, He establishes the means to accomplish, indeed the entire Trinity is invested in making it come to pass.

For us, so that we could be His people, His children, so that we would know Him as our God, our benevolent, loving, caring, comforting Father.  So He has commanded this to be, and so it is!

Let that bring you great peace, great joy!  What God has established, ordained, commanded, made His law is now.  You are His.  AMEN!

Hartley, John E. “1887 צָוָה.” Ed. R. Laird Harris, Gleason L. Archer Jr., and Bruce K. Waltke. Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament 1999 : 757. Print.

 

Who Deserves Our Trust? Who’s Promises Bring Real Hope?


Devotional Thought of the Day:

1What sorrow awaits those who look to Egypt for help, trusting their horses, chariots, and charioteers and depending on the strength of human armies instead of looking to the LORD, the Holy One of Israel. Isaiah 31:1 (NLT)

482    What does it matter if the whole world with all its power is against you? Forward! Repeat the words of the psalm: “The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? … Si consistant adversum me castra, non timebit cor meum—“If armies in camp should stand together against me, my heart shall not fear.”  (1)

As I was working out on Saturday, the televisions in the gym all had the announcement that another person was joining the competition to become the next President of the United States. Though I was listening to music, you could read the captioning of the new candidate, and the commentators critiquing his performance.

I hate politics, not because of the games, though I dislike them.  I hate what the politics reveal, that we are by nature idolatrous, and we will place our hope in candidates that meet our agenda, specifically whose promises could make our life better. Not sure how you define that, for everyone has a separate definition. But we defend our candidates as if they were our Savior, we promised. Anointed Deliverer from all things evil. We will fail to understand that our man is a sinner, just like his opponents, just like us.

And we will attack the competition, arguing that their promises are empty.  We will demonize them, condemn them, judge their followers as stupid, or blind, or if they can argue better than us, simply as evil. And there is no way their candidate could possible be a justified sinner, someone who follows and depends on Jesus, a man made righteous because Christ died for him (or her!)

Idolatry will grow over the next month, and we will all need to repent.  Those who are conservative, those who are liberal, and even those like me, who are more cynical and apathetic.  And our idols will let us down, either by losing the competition, or perhaps even more, if they win it, and e find their promises are nothing but air.

We need to stop trusting in mankind to save us, to make our lives good. Yes, we need to use wisdom and discernment in voting.  But what we have to avoid is replacing our hope that is in Christ, our trust that is in God the Father by entrusting ourselves to a man or woman, a vision or a article.

Our hope is greater than mankind can accomplish,  It was accomplished at the Cross, it was revealed as the Body of Christ was broken, as His precious blood was poured out, a sacrifice made on our behalf.  This hope is revealed in God’s love, in the promises that are never broken.  In the promises that are in our best interest, not just feeding our narcissism.

You see, if God is there, in our lives, if we are aware of it, if we depend on Him, then who wins the compteition for our vote in unable to steal our hope, our joy.  There is nothing they can do to separate us from what is most important – knowing Him, living loved by Him.   St Josemaria is correct, in Christ there is everything we have hope for!

So as you read the political stuff that will assault you, the propaganda and positions, continue to seek after God’s kingdom first, and dwell in His peace.

(1)  Escriva, Josemaria (2010-11-02). The Way (Kindle Locations 1179-1181). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Alleluia! He is Risen, therefore… We Praise Him!


Alleluia!  He is Risen! Therefore

We Praise Him for He Keeps His Promises!

Psalm 146

 

In Jesus Name

 

May you praise God our Father as you realize the richness of the grace, the depth of the mercy, and the overwhelming love given to you in through the work of Jesus Christ.

 

He is Risen….response…and therefore!

 

Once upon a time there was a pastor who tired of his work, and that people never seemed to hear the message that he labored to create.  As the story goes, he decided to do an experiment, and started to preach the same sermon, week after week.  Eight weeks or so later, one of his elders asked him if he had used one of the stories in the sermon before, because it sure sounded familiar.

Now, I’ve never done that, probably never will, but I have to admit I’ve been tempted a time or two.

I do imagine that some of the series we do get repetitive.  It’s not just me, it’s the readings and the focus of scripture. Though it may say the same thing many different ways there is but one message we preach – Christ Jesus who is the hope our glory.

Since Easter, we’ve used a familiar cry, getting more familiar it, perhaps even tiring of it. (though I hope not!)

Alleluia – He is Risen!

(He Is Risen Indeed, alleluia!)

and therefore –

(We are risen indeed, alleluia!)

Because of the resurrection, we have a new life, a holy life set apart to God,  Because of our resurrection with Jesus we have peace, and we persevere.

Today we realize we live a life that is lived in praise of God, because He has kept His promises to us, to those who call upon His name.
LORD versus YHWH

     They’ve got to hear this… but so do we!

     Luther’s explanation of the 2nd!

 

As we look at Psalm 146, which is the passage we focus on this morning, we see one word repeated over and over.  LORD – is all capital letters.

The word LORD is there, because the translators didn’t quite know what to do with God’s name.  It is the name he revealed to the Moses, to reveal to the people He would save.  It is the name we are commanded to never use in vain, but to call upon in times of need, and as we see today, to use to praise God.

Does it make a difference, whether we use Lord, which is a title, or the personal name of God?  Imagine a man call his wife, Mrs. X, or saying, “wife, come here!”.  As I asked people such questions this week, there was a consensus that using a title puts distance between two people, it acts as an insulator, moving the relationship from personal and intimate to more distant, more uncaring.

Luther, in talking about the 2nd commandment, talked of it, not just using the name of God improperly, but by using it in vain, because we don’t use it when we should, to praise Him, to praise Him by laying before Him our lives, our problems, our struggles.  That’s what we are supposed to do, that’s how we are supposed to use His name.

God gave us His name to use, to help us realize how committed He was to keeping His promises, the actions that He would take and complete.  That’s is why we have hope in YHWH, in God.

Hear the actions He takes again,

He gives justice to the oppressed and food to the hungry! The LORD frees the prisoners! The LORD opens the eyes of the blind! The LORD lifts up those who are weighed down! The LORD loves the godly! The LORD protects the foreigners among us! He cares for the orphans and widows! But he frustrates the plans of the wicked!

Where others fail us, God doesn’t. We aren’t going to get that kind of response from anyone else.  We shouldn’t expect it from powerful people, yet we so often do, and complain when they let us down.  Their plans don’t last past the time they leave office, never mind until they breathe their last.  If our faith, if our trust is in God, then we have something, in them, not so much.

That is why we praise Him.
The Incarnational life – but not quite the way we think

That’s why we praise and glorify Him.

Just a few months ago, during the Christmas season, we praised God because, as the Gospel of John put it, “He came and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.

We call that, using church words, the incarnation.

But we praise Him now for a different incarnation, that He has gathered us and given us a new birth Himself.  We were born again, linked with His death, so that we could be raised with Him, so that we could relate to God the Father as our Father, so that we could use His name.  He who dwelt among us, calls us to dwell in Him.

That is what Christianity is all about, the relationship we have with our Creator.  With the God who loves each of us, and pulls us into Him.  It is seen throughout our church service, from allowing Him to cleanse us from sin, to our leaving our burdens, the things that cause us anxiety in His hands in prayer, to communion, the most intimate meal’

He gives us His name to call upon, in prayer and praise. Knowing He is here, knowing He loves us,

That’s were find comfort, and the strength to do amazing things, as we reach out to those around us, loving those who do not know love, or the power of God to fix and heal relationships.

Incarnate, dwelling with God, or to use the old phrase, abiding in Him, we find something the world cannot give…..

The peace of God, which passes all understanding, and we are kept there, secured in that peace by Jesus Christ.  AMEN.

One of the greatest blessings, that (or those) who annoy us?


Devotional thought of the Day: 

Romans 8:26-28 (NJB) 26  And as well as this, the Spirit too comes to help us in our weakness, for, when we do not know how to pray properly, then the Spirit personally makes our petitions for us in groans that cannot be put into words; 27  and he who can see into all hearts knows what the Spirit means because the prayers that the Spirit makes for God’s holy people are always in accordance with the mind of God. 28  We are well aware that God works with those who love him, those who have been called in accordance with his purpose, and turns everything to their good.

 250         We could get rid of so much neurosis and hysteria if people were taught—together with Christian doctrine—really to live as Christians: loving God and knowing how to accept things that annoy us as a blessing from His hand!  (1)

Romans 8:28 is often used by those who minister and serve others, when we want to bring comfort to people.  Especially those in deep trauma and those who have to deal with the impossible.  Those times when we don’t know what to ask God, those times when all there seems to be, is pain.

Those times when we don’t want to admit we are over our heads.  Like when the pain of loss of a loved one stops us from being able to think or act.

But what about the other times?  What about the times (and the people) that a so frustrating its silly?  When they just bug us to no end?  What about when they drive us bonkers with the way they see things, when the situation is so…oddly broken that we can’t do anything? When the questions asked are such that we just don’t even know what to say?

Are these times really blessings?  Are these people really a great blessing from God’s hand?

According to scripture, they are!

Talk about requiring us to have faith!  To trust in God!

But that’s what Romans 8:28 says.  Everything is turns out to be for our good.

Even the frustrating, even the annoying, even that which is so broken, so wrong, that it is silly.

So what do we do in those times?  What do we do when we can’t find the answer?

Just pray, just put it in God’s hands, let the Holy Trinity bring you comfort and a sense of peace that also passes all understanding.  Let the Holy Spirit interpret, and then trust in the God who sent His son, who died for us on a cross.

That everything would be a blessing, that everything would work out right.

I know – that doesn’t make sense to our rational, logical, minds.

Neither does the cross.

But the One who promised that the cross would be a blessing – that looked forward to it for the joy set before Him.  He’s the One who also promises that all will work out for our best.  Even the frustrating, even the annoying…

Even that which causes us to scratch our head, look to the heavens… and say…

Really?

Yes!

Lord Have Mercy!

(1) Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). Furrow (Kindle Locations 1230-1232). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

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