Peace – How do we attain it?

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As evening came, Jesus said to his disciples, “Let’s cross to the other side of the lake.” So they took Jesus in the boat and started out, leaving the crowds behind (although other boats followed). But soon a fierce storm came up. High waves were breaking into the boat, and it began to fill with water.

Jesus was sleeping at the back of the boat with his head on a cushion. The disciples woke him up, shouting, “Teacher, don’t you care that we’re going to drown?”

When Jesus woke up, he rebuked the wind and said to the waves, “Silence! Be still!” Suddenly the wind stopped, and there was a great calm. Then he asked them, “Why are you afraid? Do you still have no faith?”

The disciples were absolutely terrified. “Who is this man?” they asked each other. “Even the wind and waves obey him!” Mark 4:35-41 NLT

Have you ever reached out, in a moment of dire trial, and suddenly marvel humbly at the power of God? Whatever stress you felt was suddenly replaced by an “on your knees reverence” to the Sovereign Divine and you wonder anew at His awesome, true identity? The disciples here were more fearful of the calming Christ than they were by the monstrous storm and ask terrified, “Who is this man?”!!

So on this Advent Sunday of Peace, whether we are in green pastures or dark valleys, let us contemplate who Jesus is!

For a child is born to us, a son is given to us. The government will rest on his shoulders. And he will be called: Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Isaiah 9:6

Jesus the Christ – the Prince of Peace – PRAISE GOD!

But why not the King of Peace?

Why would Jesus – peerless of all beings who is without beginning and end and by whom all that is, came into existence – carry the title “Prince of Peace” as if it required of him a subordination to Another?

Then Jesus went with them to the olive grove called Gethsemane, and he said, “Sit here while I go over there to pray.” He took Peter and Zebedee’s two sons, James and John, and he became anguished and distressed. He told them, “My soul is crushed with grief to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.”

He went on a little farther and bowed with his face to the ground, praying, “My Father! If it is possible, let this cup of suffering be taken away from me. Yet I want your will to be done, not mine.” Matthew 26:36-39 NLT

And Christ requests this three times of the Father in such anguish he sweat like drops of blood! And does not have peace until He submits fully to the will of God despite knowing his very own crucifixion was imminent.

We are no different.

We will not have peace until we sincerely and powerfully submit FULLY to the good and perfect will of the Father, and take up our cross as well.

But whatever we face on that journey we can be confident in this promise of Jesus…

“I am leaving you with a gift—peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don’t be troubled or afraid.

Closing Thought

Dear brothers and sisters, I close my letter with these last words:

Be joyful.

Grow to maturity.

Encourage each other.

Live in harmony and peace.

Then the God of love and peace will be with you. 2 Corinthians 13:11

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Big grapes or tiny grasshopper?

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The Lord now said to Moses, “Send out men to explore the land of Canaan, the land I am giving to the Israelites. Send one leader from each of the twelve ancestral tribes.”  So Moses did as the Lord commanded him. He sent out twelve men, all tribal leaders of Israel, from their camp in the wilderness of Paran. Numbers 13:1-3

 After exploring the land for forty days, the men returned to Moses, Aaron, and the whole community of Israel at Kadesh in the wilderness of Paran. They reported to the whole community what they had seen and showed them the fruit they had taken from the land. This was their report to Moses: “We entered the land you sent us to explore, and it is indeed a bountiful country—a land flowing with milk and honey. Here is the kind of fruit it produces. But the people living there are powerful, and their towns are large and fortified. We even saw giants there, the descendants of Anak! The Amalekites live in the Negev, and the Hittites, Jebusites, and Amorites live in the hill country. The Canaanites live along the coast of the Mediterranean Sea and along the Jordan Valley.”

But Caleb tried to quiet the people as they stood before Moses. “Let’s go at once to take the land,” he said. “We can certainly conquer it!”

But the other men who had explored the land with him disagreed. “We can’t go up against them! They are stronger than we are!” So they spread this bad report about the land among the Israelites: “The land we traveled through and explored will devour anyone who goes to live there. All the people we saw were huge. We even saw giants there, the descendants of Anak. Next to them we felt like grasshoppers, and that’s what they thought, too!” 25-33

Curious thing here; if God knows all and wanted his people to occupy the land why didn’t God just tell Moses to send in Caleb and Joshua? We should all, when called into the service of God exercise wise, patient discernment for his good and perfect will even in the face of what seem to be insurmountable odds.

Then the whole community began weeping aloud, and they cried all night. Their voices rose in a great chorus of protest against Moses and Aaron. “If only we had died in Egypt, or even here in the wilderness!” they complained. “Why is the Lord taking us to this country only to have us die in battle? Our wives and our little ones will be carried off as plunder! Wouldn’t it be better for us to return to Egypt?” Then they plotted among themselves, “Let’s choose a new leader and go back to Egypt!” Numbers 14:1-4

You want some goat cheese with that whine? Mercy the Israelites are world class moaners and this isn’t the first time during the “Exodus” they have sung this song of lament but for these folks (save two) they will never sing it in the “Promised Land”!

Then the Lord said to Moses and Aaron, “How long must I put up with this wicked community and its complaints about me? Yes, I have heard the complaints the Israelites are making against me. Now tell them this: ‘As surely as I live, declares the Lord, I will do to you the very things I heard you say. You will all drop dead in this wilderness! Because you complained against me, every one of you who is twenty years old or older and was included in the registration will die. You will not enter and occupy the land I swore to give you. The only exceptions will be Caleb son of Jephunneh and Joshua son of Nun.

 “‘You said your children would be carried off as plunder. Well, I will bring them safely into the land, and they will enjoy what you have despised. But as for you, you will drop dead in this wilderness. And your children will be like shepherds, wandering in the wilderness for forty years. In this way, they will pay for your faithlessness, until the last of you lies dead in the wilderness.

“‘Because your men explored the land for forty days, you must wander in the wilderness for forty years—a year for each day, suffering the consequences of your sins. Then you will discover what it is like to have me for an enemy.’ I, the Lord, have spoken! I will certainly do these things to every member of the community who has conspired against me. They will be destroyed here in this wilderness, and here they will die!”

The ten men Moses had sent to explore the land – the ones who incited rebellion against the Lord with their bad report – were struck dead with a plague before the Lord. Of the twelve who had explored the land, only Joshua and Caleb remained alive. v.26-38

This – “Then you will discover what it is like to have me for an enemy…” – should scare the living daylights out of us because the Church Universal doesn’t do a very good job teaching about Almighty God and has demeaned him to a friend who will always love us unconditionally…

Does God love us unconditionally? YES!

Are there consequences for acting outside of God’s love? YES!

Now 40 years later God’s word proves true…

After the death of Moses the Lord’s servant, the Lord spoke to Joshua son of Nun, Moses’ assistant. He said, “Moses my servant is dead. Therefore, the time has come for you to lead these people, the Israelites, across the Jordan River into the land I am giving them. I promise you what I promised Moses: ‘Wherever you set foot, you will be on land I have given you – from the Negev wilderness in the south to the Lebanon mountains in the north, from the Euphrates River in the east to the Mediterranean Sea in the west, including all the land of the Hittites.’ No one will be able to stand against you as long as you live. For I will be with you as I was with Moses. I will not fail you or abandon you. Joshua 1:1-5

Then Joshua secretly sent out two spies from the Israelite camp at Acacia Grove. He instructed them, “Scout out the land on the other side of the Jordan River, especially around Jericho.” So the two men set out and came to the house of a prostitute named Rahab and stayed there that night. Joshua 2:1

Before the spies went to sleep that night, Rahab went up on the roof to talk with them. “I know the Lord has given you this land,” she told them. “We are all afraid of you. Everyone in the land is living in terror. For we have heard how the Lord made a dry path for you through the Red Sea when you left Egypt. And we know what you did to Sihon and Og, the two Amorite kings east of the Jordan River, whose people you completely destroyed. 2:8-11

Interesting how the numbers of the scouting party have been trimmed from twelve down to two (one of whom becomes Rahab’s husband and they become part of Jesus’ genealogy!).

But here is my real thought for today…

What events does Rahab mention which have struck terror into the hearts of the current inhabitants of the land the Israelites will possess?

For we have heard how the Lord made a dry path for you through the Red Sea when you left Egypt. And we know what you did to Sihon and Og, the two Amorite kings east of the Jordan River, whose people you completely destroyed. 

When did these events occur?

More than 40 years ago!

Think about it!

Now… you could argue it took 40 years for this fear to mature like the apprehension of “Wait until your father gets home!” grew our fear to heights unimagined and these four decades built these native peoples into a psychological state of total terrorized dysfunction…

But I don’t think so.

I agree with Caleb and Joshua and GOD – the land was the Israelite’s for the taking without having to take a 40 year detour in the wilderness!!

Do you feel you are benefitting fully from being one of God’s chosen people? Do you feel like you are enjoying the incredible perks of being a son or daughter of the King of kings through Jesus Christ’s saving grace and reconciliation?

Are you eating grapes as big as grapefruit and dining on the fruit of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control?

If you are getting full on huge spiritual fruit and living right now in a rich land flowing with milk and honey – MOST EXCELLENT – Give thanks to Almighty God and keep on doing what He wants of you!

But what if you feel like you are constantly leaping and springing to avoid being squashed by giants like a grasshopper? Do you have the sensation everything in life is a “teachable moment” and you are ALWAYS the young apprentice in front of the kung fu master?

Well Grasshopper don’t do what the Israelites did after realizing the error of their ways and go off into battle before you make yourself right with God!

We don’t have “confessionals” here at Woodgrove Parish and I thank the good Lord for the fact you can petition God directly with those things which have distanced you from His full blessings or much worse; make you feel like God has indeed become your enemy!

I encourage us all at this very moment to ask God to examine our hearts and bring to our most focused attention those things we need to confess which are keeping us off the path God wants to lead us on for blessing!

Closing Thought

How embarrassing to be one of God’s chosen people and a PROSTITUTE announces a knowledge of YOUR God which would have saved an entire generation if they could have wrapped their hearts around it!

No wonder our hearts have melted in fear! No one has the courage to fight after hearing such things. For the Lord your God is the supreme God of the heavens above and the earth below. Joshua 2:11

I don’t ever want a prostitute to have to remind me – like an apprentice Grasshopper – where the source of my strength lies. I want to move in the good and perfect will of God to the place he has ready for me to be! He has provided me with enough miracles in my life to do this!!

I want the grapes because in God I am no grasshopper!!

When the ground soaks up the falling rain and bears a good crop for the farmer, it has God’s blessing. But if a field bears thorns and thistles, it is useless. The farmer will soon condemn that field and burn it.

Dear friends, even though we are talking this way, we really don’t believe it applies to you. We are confident that you are meant for better things, things that come with salvation. For God is not unjust. He will not forget how hard you have worked for him and how you have shown your love to him by caring for other believers, as you still do.

Our great desire is that you will keep on loving others as long as life lasts, in order to make certain that what you hope for will come true. Then you will not become spiritually dull and indifferent.

Instead, you will follow the example of those who are going to inherit God’s promises because of their faith and endurance.
Hebrews 6:7-12 

How do we close the distance?

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As Jesus continued on toward Jerusalem, he reached the border between Galilee and Samaria. As he entered a village there, ten men with leprosy stood at a distance, crying out, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!”

He looked at them and said, “Go show yourselves to the priests.” And as they went, they were cleansed of their leprosy.

One of them, when he saw that he was healed, came back to Jesus, shouting, “Praise God!” He fell to the ground at Jesus’ feet, thanking him for what he had done. This man was a Samaritan.

Jesus asked, “Didn’t I heal ten men? Where are the other nine? Has no one returned to give glory to God except this foreigner?” And Jesus said to the man, “Stand up and go. Your faith has healed you.” Luke 17:11-19

We should never simply read the Bible to fulfill the obligation of a spiritual discipline or to “get through it in a year”. We should let the Holy Spirit speak to us as we absorb it into our hearts and minds. As such, a few curious thoughts entered my mind in the contemplation of the above passage:

1.Yet again Jesus is heading into “Samaritan” country where the Jews view those people with deep disdain – and yet again Jesus ministers.

How much easier is it for us to expend our energy on those we have most in common with? As the chorus goes, “You’ll notice we say ‘brother’ and ‘sister’ ‘round here…” but how willing are we to reach out to those who couldn’t POSSIBLY be our brothers and sisters?

2. We only know for certain that one man among the ten was a Samaritan yet whatever the mix was they all call out in harmony to Jesus as their “Master”.

How often do we – whoever we are – cry out for healing as if Jesus was our SERVANT when the results would be so different if He was our rightly understood MASTER?

3. As Christ calls out the ONE thankful man as a “foreigner” we can assume some among the ten were indeed Jews.

It is interesting how deep trial draws us into community but when it’s smooth sailing we see no real need for any fellowship and pride ourselves in self-reliance.

4.Where would they go to find a priest as Jesus commanded; the temple in Jerusalem or a Samaritan place of worship?

Wherever they went they seemed to all go to the same place indicating the nature of the healing power of Jesus! Having healed their bodies did he not too heal their prejudice?

5. And only one of them recognizes the true High Priest of all and above all.

I wonder if at this point of TRUE thanksgiving to his real Master the one man was exempted from showing himself to any other priest?

6. Here is this despised Samaritan, who runs back to fall at Jesus feet in thanksgiving for healing and Jesus says: “Stand up and go. Your faith has healed you.” and some versions of the Bible may read “Stand up and go. Your faith has saved you.”

“Stand up and go. Your faith has healed you.” Was Jesus simply telling the man not to bow at HIS feet, but instead stand up because his faith healed him and Jesus was only the conduit to the power of healing God? Was Jesus in essence saying He was not responsible for the man’s healing – it was simply the leper’s faith in God?

I don’t think so.

I like a second option, “Stand up and go. Your faith has saved you.” because all too often we can avail ourselves of Christ’s healing for mind and body, but never really return to the Source to offer proper reverent thanksgiving. A good indication of our real salvation comes in the ONGOING surrender and heart-felt gratitude for our healing grace from Christ and our rebirthing in the Holy Spirit.

7. The other 9 were healed as well – but were they saved?

Let’s take Christ’s encouragement to heart if we have been saved!

Stand up – We can’t simply rest all the time.

And go – We are commissioned to share the healing power of our faith.

Your faith – Our committed trust and belief in God builds righteousness.

Has saved you – Kneeling at the feet of Christ, admitting we need healing of our mind, body and soul, and thanking him sincerely for his grace in praise and adoration…saves us!

Closing Thought

Friday night (at Woodgrove) we hosted a heartrending Memorial for a young man who took his own life and the Holy Spirit was with us and every seat was full. The problem with truly being THAT conduit, as I officiated, is God takes a lot of you with Him when he pours out his Word. It is exhausting and exhilarating. So after the service concluded and the dinner of fellowship was in full operation, I stepped away to a quiet room for a moment and suddenly heard, “Would you like a cup of tea?” and there was a tiny little girl who had found a tea set in the quality wooden miniature kitchen furniture one of our past saints had constructed before any of us knew about Montessori education…

“Mercy,” I wondered to myself, “Do little girls still do ‘Tea Parties’?” I smiled, with my rhetorical question answered, sighed deeply and replied from my heart, “You know, right now a good cup of warm tea would be a wonderful thing.”

I knelt down and took the cup she poured and “drank” deeply from it.

When I stood up I was shocked to see a young couple standing there and the lady had tears welling up in her eyes and she moved confidently into my personal space, shaking with emotion, and exhaled as deeply as I had just sighed moments before…

“I am NOT,” she paused, composing herself, “a person of faith…”

A small stream of tears started to flow down her cheeks as her partner shook his head sagely as he was also moved… And at this point her head cocked and was nodding like we all do when our “calm” is losing the battle to our true emotions but we still have to keep some control. And after a few more deep breaths she confessed, “BUT… ,” and now she could not keep any of her tears in check, “tonight… after this service…”

Ten men stood at a distance crying out for Jesus to have mercy on them.

What are we doing in our communities to close that distance so the hurting and the seeking can find the embrace of Divine healing?

Upside down – Above and beyond!

The Bible is full of rules, regulations, commandments, and laws especially in the Old Testament where the tally is considered to be 613. Then Christ comes as the fulfillment of the Law and when queried on which is the most important he boils it down to two:

Jesus replied, “‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ The entire law and all the demands of the prophets are based on these two commandments.” Matthew 22:37-40

Or…in this day of quick “text” sound bites we could go even simpler with this teaching of Christ from Matthew 7:12 – known as the “Golden Rule”:

“Do to others whatever you would like them to do to you. This is the essence of all that is taught in the law and the prophets.”

Truly 613 down to 1 or 2 is a joyous distillation from such a comprehensive list of instruction but there is so much more in the scope of Jesus’ teaching which adds depth and challenge to our growth in the faith!

“You have heard the law that says the punishment must match the injury: ‘An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I say, do not resist an evil person! If someone slaps you on the right cheek, offer the other cheek also. Matthew 5:38-39 NLT

A few points here: “An eye for an eye” sounds a little barbaric but in fact when this law was handed down most cultures instituted a spirit of vengeance where if someone took out your eye – you just up and killed them if you could – so pausing for an equally weighted judgment was actually quite enlightened thinking! And to say “do not resist an evil person” does not mean welcome them into your home with the kiss of fellowship or condone their activity if you witness it. I think what Christ is referring to here is; once we are in conflict with evil, don’t repay them in kind – sometimes it is better to walk away with two sore cheeks than to embarrass yourself by brawling with a fool or being charged with manslaughter!

So what can help us out on this quest to get it right?

Well, I got inspired by these seeming contradictions in the Bible…

Matthew’s gospel Chapter 7 also finds Christ asking rhetorically, “You parents—if your children ask for a loaf of bread, do you give them a stone instead?” and he answers “Of course not! So if you sinful people know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give good gifts to those who ask him.”

And this is what inspired me – God did both for us – in a beautiful way!

Therefore, this is what the Sovereign Lord says: “Look! I am placing a foundation stone in Jerusalem, a firm and tested stone. It is a precious cornerstone that is safe to build on. Whoever believes need never be shaken. Isaiah 28:16

 Together, we are his [God’s] house, built on the foundation of the apostles and the prophets. And the cornerstone is Christ Jesus himself. We are carefully joined together in him, becoming a holy temple for the Lord. Ephesians 2:20-21

So even when a stone is considered a bad “gift” God supplies it rightly AND then feeds our very soul too!

                Jesus said, “I tell you the truth, Moses didn’t give you bread from heaven. My Father did. And now he offers you the true bread from heaven. The true bread of God is the one who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.”

“Sir,” they said, “give us that bread every day.”

Jesus replied, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry again. Whoever believes in me will never be thirsty. John 6:32-35

“I tell you the truth, anyone who believes has eternal life. Yes, I am the bread of life! Your ancestors ate manna in the wilderness, but they all died. Anyone who eats the bread from heaven, however, will never die. I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Anyone who eats this bread will live forever; and this bread, which I will offer so the world may live, is my flesh.” John 6:47-51

Have you ever been so hungry you were shaking? Consume the Bread of Life, stand firm on Christ the Cornerstone, and NEVER be shaken again!

How about this inspiring evidence of Christ leading by example, going beyond what he asks of us and teaches!?

“There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” John 15:13

If you are sitting in my congregation today I can confidently declare the person next to you is a hero. I will not speak for them on this account but in this body of witnesses you have a good chance of being seated next to a selfless person who might just step up that deeply for ANYONE here. How many stood up when we recognized our veterans today? We are all brothers and sisters and this family is tighter even then friends!

But what if some vile, sinner crashed this gathering? Who would die for them?

 When we were utterly helpless, Christ came at just the right time and died for us sinners. Now, most people would not be willing to die for an upright person, though someone might perhaps be willing to die for a person who is especially good. But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners. Romans 5:6-8

So Jesus HIMSELF teaches that to die for a friend is the greatest love of all and then GOES TO THE CROSS FOR US WITH NO GUARANTEE ANYONE OF US SINNERS WOULD GRASP HIS LOVING SCARIFICE!

WHAT’S UP WITH THAT?

Here is what’s up with that and it is ANOTHER example of Christ going the extra mile to challenge our thinking as he taught:

A good tree can’t produce bad fruit, and a bad tree can’t produce good fruit. Matthew 7:18

And yet from that cursed tree (see Deut. 21:22-23) which was the cross…

For God in all his fullness was pleased to live in Christ, and through him God reconciled everything to himself. He made peace with everything in heaven and on earth by means of Christ’s blood on the cross.

This includes you who were once far away from God. You were his enemies, separated from him by your evil thoughts and actions. Yet now he has reconciled you to himself through the death of Christ in his physical body. As a result, he has brought you into his own presence, and you are holy and blameless as you stand before him without a single fault. Colossians 1:19-22

From the cursed crucifixion grows the fruit of our eternal saving grace!!

Closing Thought

Do you ever feel like your world is upside down and there is no good way anything positive can come out of the trials you are facing?

Well, if we are people of faith we have a Christ who exampled his ability to exceed even his challenging teaching – to our ultimate and eternal benefit – and if we remain faithful we will see his sovereign plan bear fruit.

If you are not a person of faith, that is easily remedied! Simply admit this life is too much for you, has cost you too dearly to try and master on your own, you have screwed up, done wrong, sinned, and need forgiveness. Ask Christ for it right now and let him take command of your life – and get into a family of faith where you are loved and the Word is shared joyously!

Now may the God of peace – who brought up from the dead our Lord Jesus – the great Shepherd of the sheep,

And ratified an eternal covenant with his blood – may he equip you with all you need for doing his will.

May he produce in you – through the power of Jesus Christ – every good thing that is pleasing to him.

All glory to him forever and ever!

Amen. Hebrews 13:20-21 NLT

Forgiven in full…

The Bible is God’s inspired word to us which can – in my humble understanding – be summed up in God saying, “Come back to me!” Ultimately this desire of the Divine is completed with the gift of his Son on the cross and resurrection to the Father’s right hand to reconcile all believers when we eventually meet God but there is also invaluable teaching on how to conduct ourselves in this Divine communion until we do see Him. However, between these blessed covers of the Bible there are stories which would make the most imaginative Soap Opera writer blush!

One of them involves a man named Absalom…

Now Absalom was praised as the most handsome man in all Israel. He was flawless from head to foot. He cut his hair only once a year, and then only because it was so heavy. When he weighed it out, it came to five pounds. 2 Samuel 14:25-26 NLT

Absalom was King David’s son and through a series of evil interpersonal calamities which would surpass the vilest definition of family dysfunction, Absalom flees from his father after taking murderous vengeance on a half brother Amnon for the rape of Absalom’s sister Tamar (I told you this was evil!).

Absalom fled to his grandfather, Talmai son of Ammihud, the king of Geshur. He stayed there in Geshur for three years. And King David, now reconciled to Amnon’s death, longed to be reunited with his son Absalom. 2 Samuel 37-39

Through an incredibly meandering course Absalom is allowed to come back to Jerusalem but… Absalom lived in Jerusalem for two years, but he never got to see the king. 2 Samuel 14:28

Absalom seeks audience with Joab (who initiated his return to Jerusalem) so he can once again approach David and ask to be welcomed back into the king’s presence. Joab ignores him again and again so Absalom does what anyone of us would do and orders his servants to go set fire to Joab’s crop of barley in an adjacent field to his own!

Then Joab came to Absalom at his house and demanded, “Why did your servants set my field on fire?”

And Absalom replied, “Because I wanted you to ask the king why he brought me back from Geshur if he didn’t intend to see me. I might as well have stayed there. Let me see the king; if he finds me guilty of anything, then let him kill me.”

So Joab told the king what Absalom had said. Then at last David summoned Absalom, who came and bowed low before the king, and the king kissed him. 2 Samuel 14:31-33

 

But I don’t get the impression this was a sincere reconciliation…

After this, Absalom bought a chariot and horses, and he hired fifty bodyguards to run ahead of him. He got up early every morning and went out to the gate of the city. When people brought a case to the king for judgment, Absalom would ask where in Israel they were from, and they would tell him their tribe. Then Absalom would say, “You’ve really got a strong case here! It’s too bad the king doesn’t have anyone to hear it. I wish I were the judge. Then everyone could bring their cases to me for judgment, and I would give them justice!”

When people tried to bow before him, Absalom wouldn’t let them. Instead, he took them by the hand and kissed them.  Absalom did this with everyone who came to the king for judgment, and so he stole the hearts of all the people of Israel. 2 Samuel 15:1-6

Long story short, Absalom foments rebellion against his father David who flees Jerusalem until he can regroup after which time a war ensues where Absalom is killed (hung by his hair while trying to escape on his mule where he is killed by David’s men) and David is restored to the throne in Jerusalem after deep painful lamentation over Absalom’s death!

The king was overcome with emotion. He went up to the room over the gateway and burst into tears. And as he went, he cried, “O my son Absalom! My son, my son Absalom! If only I had died instead of you! O Absalom, my son, my son.” 2 Samuel 18:22

Whew! So what are we supposed to learn from this?

 

Have you ever been “sort of” forgiven? It usually starts with something like this, “Okay, I forgive you but …” and what follows is a “Honey Do” list but it isn’t sweet and often not aromatic and you quickly realize you have NOT been forgiven at all and this list will NEVER end.

The Bible is pretty clear about forgiveness:

 “If you forgive those who sin against you, your heavenly Father will forgive you. But if you refuse to forgive others, your Father will not forgive your sins. Matthew 6:14-15

So as we come to the Lord’s Table today understand three critical elements and it helps to take them in this order:

  1. When you TRULY and WHOLLY repentant of your sins to God – YOU ARE COMPLETELY FORGIVEN.
  2. Having availed yourself of that Divine forgiveness – YOU MUST FORGIVE OTHERS.
  3. Your understanding of the gift of Christ from the cross as a sacrifice for your sins – ALLOWS YOU TO FORGIVE YOURSELF!

Closing Thought

He does not punish us for all our sins; he does not deal harshly with us, as we deserve. For his unfailing love toward those who fear him is as great as the height of the heavens above the earth. He has removed our sins as far from us as the east is from the west. Psalm 103:10-12

David wrote this and I think the reason he laments Absalom’s death so bitterly arises from the fact David understood his forgiveness of Absalom was not complete because it did not restore true father/child relationship.

Our FULL and COMPLETE forgiveness of our sins by God through Christ puts our Father/child relationship back in a healthy place. It calls back into right communion with our loving Creator. It was a meandering course through the many complications of the law but now it is simple and we have to grow in this offered healthy union with the Father because it is the only place from which we can grow to understand the healthy way to truly and completely forgive others!

Prayer for the Bread

The Spotless Lamb of God went to the cross for us to receive Divine forgiveness of our sins.

It is a wonder only explained in love authored by God himself.

We give thanks for this bread representing Christ’s body.

Amen

Prayer for the Cup

For sins to be forgiven – blood must be shed.

For EVERYONE’S sins to be forgiven only one sacrifice would suffice:

The sinless Christ.

We give thanks for this cup representing the shed blood of Jesus!

Amen

COMPASSION

Soon afterward Jesus went with his disciples to the village of Nain, and a large crowd followed him. A funeral procession was coming out as he approached the village gate. The young man who had died was a widow’s only son, and a large crowd from the village was with her.

When the Lord saw her, his heart overflowed with compassion. “Don’t cry!” he said. Then he walked over to the coffin and touched it, and the bearers stopped. “Young man,” he said, “I tell you, get up.” Then the dead boy sat up and began to talk! And Jesus gave him back to his mother.

Great fear swept the crowd, and they praised God, saying, “A mighty prophet has risen among us,” and “God has visited his people today.” And the news about Jesus spread throughout Judea and the surrounding countryside. Luke 7:11-17

That is TRULY a miraculous account with an intense broad spectrum of emotion!

But what did it start with?

When the Lord saw her, his heart overflowed with compassion…

Christ’s compassion!

Is there any encouragement from belonging to Christ? Any comfort from his love? Any fellowship together in the Spirit? Are your hearts tender and compassionate? Philippians 2:1

How are we doing in our hearts on the compassion front? I SADLY dropped the ball BIG TIME this week…

“NO DOGS? RIGHT?” That was the first question the curious looking lady asked after knocking aggressively on my door Thursday. Agathe warned me she was heading our way as I worked at the home computer and got up just in time to respond to the loud pounding. I answered her K9 inquiry in the negative and then she stated she was from the Democrat party and asked as aggressively as she knocked , “Can I put a sign in your yard?”

I offered her the same response but not aggressively in either case.

“That figures,” she half sighed, half sneered and then wandered off limping down the road looking like Principal Rooney at the end of Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. I watched her for a time and she would start up a neighbor’s drive and then return without even reaching the door and she almost displayed a sense of disorientation in addition to the challenge of her greatly diminished mobility.

She looked weary, worn, frustrated, and in some pain even…

“Mercy,” I thought to myself, “is THAT the best the Dem’s got and why would ANYONE want to put a political sign in the LAST yard of a tiny house located on a quiet dead end street? And I am not sure she’ll even make it back to her car!”

I shook my head and went back to work…

Go me!!

HARDLY…!!!

Jesus replied with a story: “A Jewish man was traveling from Jerusalem down to Jericho, and he was attacked by bandits. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him up, and left him half dead beside the road.

“By chance a priest came along. But when he saw the man lying there, he crossed to the other side of the road and passed him by. A Temple assistant walked over and looked at him lying there, but he also passed by on the other side.

“Then a despised Samaritan came along, and when he saw the man, he felt compassion for him. Going over to him, the Samaritan soothed his wounds with olive oil and wine and bandaged them. Then he put the man on his own donkey and took him to an inn, where he took care of him. The next day he handed the innkeeper two silver coins, telling him, ‘Take care of this man. If his bill runs higher than this, I’ll pay you the next time I’m here.’

“Now which of these three would you say was a neighbor to the man who was attacked by bandits?” Jesus asked.

The man replied, “The one who showed him mercy.”

Then Jesus said, “Yes, now go and do the same.” Luke 10:30-37

Don’t you just love it when you read in the Bible – Jesus replied with a story – and that story throat punches you for your own shortcomings? We call this story of Jesus’ we just read “The Good Samaritan” and he delivered it in response to this exchange:

One day an expert in religious law stood up to test Jesus by asking him this question: “Teacher, what should I do to inherit eternal life?”

Jesus replied, “What does the law of Moses say? How do you read it?”

The man answered, “‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your strength, and all your mind.’ And, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’”

“Right!” Jesus told him. “Do this and you will live!”

The man wanted to justify his actions, so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” Luke 10:25-29

Let me ask you again in THIS context – How are you doing on the compassion front?

I could talk for a long time on the topic of the relationship between the Jews and the Samaritans – it is historically interesting and weaves many threads through Christ’s ministry of COMPASSION – but for today’s message simply understand it was SO tenuous, having ANY contact with a Samaritan was completely UNTHINKABLE for a Jew! So this parable of “The Good Samaritan” was profound to the point of nearly being absurd for a Jewish audience!

The sad thing is, in our nation today we seem to have too many Jew/Samaritan style reasons to neglect the very command we have to love our neighbors as ourselves. Race, religion, political affiliation, immigration caravan lovers, immigration caravan haters, right to lifers, pro abortion advocates, Tebow, Kaepernick … MERCY it’s a good thing Jesus gave us this command because with all the PASSIONATE topics we draw deep lines between it is a wonder we can love ANYONE because who could find common ground on ALL these issues?

“You have heard the law that says, ‘Love your neighbor’ and hate your enemy. But I say, love your enemies! Pray for those who persecute you! In that way, you will be acting as true children of your Father in heaven. For he gives his sunlight to both the evil and the good, and he sends rain on the just and the unjust alike. If you love only those who love you, what reward is there for that? Even corrupt tax collectors do that much. If you are kind only to your friends, how are you different from anyone else? Even pagans do that. But you are to be perfect, even as your Father in heaven is perfect.” Matthew 5:43-47 NLT

If that doesn’t swing the door wide open for us to be WORLD CHANGING compassionate and bear witness to Christ alive in us – WHAT WILL?

So we need to be wishy washy, blown by the wind, public opinion poll motivated, theology of Hollywood, if it feels good do it, if it makes you happy go for it, pseudo Christians so we can agree with EVERYONE – ALL THE TIME?

NOT AT ALL!! But God revealed this to me this week:

Compassion is one of the best ways to display you are completely confident in what you believe.

What if I had left my house, run after that hurting woman, invited her in, given her a warm drink, and looked after her hurt ankle (I suspect she had been bitten by a dog)?

Exercising Holy Spirit inspired COMPASSION in the face of strong opposing views or mentalities even as extreme as the environment of love vs. hate – can give someone a glimpse of Jesus the Christ!

Closing Thought 

Who did Christ have compassion on?

Who did Christ minister to?

Pretty much anyone who came to him – or was brought to him – and that included the grieving, lepers, prostitutes, corrupt tax collectors, the sick, the hurting, the incurable…!

So when someone asks to put a sign on our property which we may not agree with…maybe we could give them a sign which indicates who rules our thoughts, who we love with ALL our hearts, our souls, our minds, and our strength! And in that place our neighbors should know we love them too! It won’t be politically blue love or red love… but in a world which prefers the cold darkness of conflict and separation it will be an embracing ray of warm, compassionate Christ light!

Redeemed!!!

I want to play a little “Jeopardy” right now so I’ll give you the answer and you respond with the question. The topic is – words we use in Worship.

“To compensate for the faults or bad aspects of something.”

Or

“To regain possession, reclaim, or recover something in exchange for payment.”

The question is – What is REDEEM? Today we will consider it and other derivative uses in the Bible – Redeemer and Redemption.

The Bible which is GOD INVITING US BACK TO HIM is rich in the theme of redemption.  And the only way we can complete our journey of return is through the work and gifted grace of our Redeemer – Jesus Christ!

All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly realms because we are united with Christ. Even before he made the world, God loved us and chose us in Christ to be holy and without fault in his eyes. God decided in advance to adopt us into his own family by bringing us to himself through Jesus Christ. This is what he wanted to do, and it gave him great pleasure.  So we praise God for the glorious grace he has poured out on us who belong to his dear Son. He is so rich in kindness and grace that he purchased our freedom with the blood of his Son and forgave our sins. He has showered his kindness on us, along with all wisdom and understanding. Eph.1:2-8

Now we have to be careful here because this early portion could lead us to a sense of predestination – Even before he made the world, God loved us and chose us in Christ to be holy and without fault in his eyes. – but I believe this statement means that even before the world began, God created Christ for all who believe to be REDEEMED through Jesus! We aren’t lucky “Eternal Power Ball” winners who just happened to get a Divine lottery pick – NO!! – EVERYONE has the blessed gift of redemption in Christ when we live in faith believing!

He [God] is so rich in kindness and grace that he purchased our freedom with the blood of his Son and forgave our sins. We have been REDEEMED by the blood of Christ as a sacrificial offering on our behalf!

The price of our REDEMPTION has been paid making Christ our REDEEMER when we confess our sins and follow Him!

Going way back to the time when God’s people were ruled by Judges there is this incredible story in the Bible about redemption, titled Ruth.

The Reader’s Digest version goes like this… Famine forces a family to flee God’s promised land to survive in neighboring Moab. While there the patriarch of the family dies and years later so do his two sons who have married native Moabite girls. Eventually the matriarch – Naomi – returns home from Moab and one of her daughter-in-laws decides to go with her despite the prospects being pretty slim for these two ladies to make a prosperous go of it by themselves… That daughter is named Ruth and through a series of inspired events (and eventually a bit of motherly match-making) she comes into contact with a REDEEMER named Boaz!

There were a number of institutions handed down by God to serve as “Social Security”, if you will, and one of these was for landowners during the harvest to leave some grain standing in the field or cut, but not gathered, so people like Naomi and Ruth could come glean enough to survive. Over the next weeks Ruth impresses Boaz and everyone in the community with her commitment to family and her virtue and eventually Ruth takes a BIG chance with Naomi’s prodding to see if Boaz will redeem her… It is a beautiful romantic account of righteous, patient, seduction!

Ruth puts on her “Sunday best”, and discreetly joins the evening barley threshing festivities and follows Naomi’s instruction to the letter…

After Boaz had finished eating and drinking and was in good spirits, he lay down at the far end of the pile of grain and went to sleep. Then Ruth came quietly, uncovered his feet, and lay down. Around midnight Boaz suddenly woke up and turned over. He was surprised to find a woman lying at his feet! “Who are you?” he asked.

“I am your servant Ruth,” she replied. “Spread the corner of your covering over me, for you are my family redeemer.” Ruth 3:7-9

Boaz honors Ruth’s discretion, sends her home with a generous provision of barley and says he will redeem her but there is still a family member – one step closer – who has the right to do so! The closer potential redeemer declines, counting the cost of an ongoing supportive married relationship with Ruth by the law of redemption as too high a risk to his estate…

So Boaz joyously takes Ruth as his wife and guess who their son is?

King David’s grandfather!

Who is Jesus referred to as occasionally?

The Son of David.

Where did Ruth’s story of redemption take place – Bethlehem!!!

I would say Boaz’ REDEMPTION investment came with rich dividends because his redemption of Ruth continued God’s plan for the redemption of ALL humankind!

Here is the thing about our Redeemer – Jesus Christ – He counted the HORRIFIC cost of our redemption and PAID IT IN FULL. Jesus considered the cost of our sinful lives worthy of his crucifixion so we can be called sons and daughters of GOD – REDEEMED!!

Closing Thought

When they came to a place called The Skull, they nailed him to the cross. And the criminals were also crucified—one on his right and one on his left.

Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they don’t know what they are doing.” And the soldiers gambled for his clothes by throwing dice.

At the foot of the cross the Roman executioners gambled for Jesus robe – a simple seamless linen garment… It was all Jesus had… AND HE FORGAVE – OFFERED REDEMPTION – TO THE VERY ONES WHO MOCKED AND TORTURED HIM!

Is there anyone like our Redeemer – Jesus the Christ?

NO!!!

Boaz spread his garment, the corner of his cloak, over Ruth as a sign of his willingness to redeem her and Jesus offered redemption to his EXECUTIONERS throwing dice for the shirt off his back as He died horrifically on the cross!

Beautiful and POWERFUL examples of REDEMPTIONS and Jesus still offers it to us so we can become part of his family and all enjoy an eternal inheritance!!

I am overwhelmed with joy in the Lord my God! For he has dressed me with the clothing of salvation and draped me in a robe of righteousness. I am like a bridegroom dressed for his wedding or a bride with her jewels. Isaiah 61:10

I accept his offered redemption – how about you?

Here’s a good resource used in this message:

https://www.biblestudytools.com/dictionaries/bakers-evangelical-dictionary/kinsman-redeemer.html