Friday, July 20, 2018

Scripture to Meditate On

I will praise you with an upright heart, 
when I learn your righteous rules. Psalm 119:7

The psalmist assumes something that we need to take note of these days. God is not pleased by just anyone's praise. He has requirements that are to be met. And the psalmist points to one here: a person's character. If someone is going to be able to praise God in a way that actually pleases Him, an upright heart is required. Once again we are reminded of the importance of what is going on in the inner life. Good behavior, like praising God, is important. But what good is that if what is going on in that person's heart is all wrong.

Now, having an upright heart is not about perfection. But it is about working at learning God's 'righteous rules'. And that means that it's about repentance and faith. Those who praise God in an acceptable manner are working at obeying Him from the heart. They are working at confronting their own sins and being changed by the Spirit. And as they experience that change it will show in their praise. It is no longer simply a religious thing that they are supposed to do. It becomes a response of their heart to the God who has loved them and changed them.

Thursday, July 19, 2018

For Sunday

Reading of the Law of God
So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Philippians 2.1-4

Confession of Sin
Our Father, we confess that we sin against the unity of Your Church. When disagreement occurs, we can so easily conclude that we are right and others wrong. We so easily remember the sins of others and forget our own. All too often, we put our own interests first. It is clear that Your Spirit is grieved by such sins. Please forgive us. Please change our hearts. We ask this so that we might be more like Jesus. Amen.

Declaration of Pardon
For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. 2 Corinthians 5:21

May almighty God, who sent his Son into the world to save sinners, bring you his pardon and peace, now and for ever.
The Book of Common Prayer

Sunday, July 15, 2018

Who Do You Think You Are?


When I started preaching through Romans, my plan was to only consider key aspects of Paul’s presentation of the Gospel in this letter. That means that I intended to stop at the end of chapter eight. But it seems right to include two more sermons from after chapter eight. And I want to do that because they deal with topics that I think we need to grapple with.

So, this first of those two sermons will deal with the character of God and how we are to respond to Him.

A Prayer

Father,

We are people with full schedules. We have things to do, places to go and people to see. We have our lives mapped out pretty well. And as long as we are able to keep up with our schedules, it all works out fairly well.

But then, You speak into our lives. And You say to us,

Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit”— yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.”  (James 4:13-15)

Father, it is all too easy for us to forget this. We plot and scheme to get it all to fit, and when we do, we are quite pleased with ourselves. But we forget who actually runs our lives.

Father, we have bought into the myth that we decide what happens. How arrogant! Are we gods? Clearly not. We did not control the time of our birth nor will we control the time of our death. And we don’t control what happens in between those two dates either. But all too often we think that we do. How foolish.

So, forgive us, Father, for thinking that we can do what only You can do. You are the only one who runs this place and us in it. Help us to see that more clearly.

And then, Father, help us to set up our plans wisely. Get us to understand that we will do this or that only if You will it. We don’t have to repeat, ‘If the Lord wills’, at every moment. But that does have to be an attitude deeply rooted in our hearts as we think about doing this or that. It will be clear enough whether we actually have adopted that attitude when You bring something unplanned into our lives. There will be either submission or complaint.

And teach us, Father, that having that attitude is the way to peace and joy. Who knows the best route through this life? Not us. You do. So, when You interrupt our plans, whether we’re talking about little frustrations or major problems, remind us, Father, that your plan is always best. Get us to rest in that so that we can be granted Your peace.

We want to live in this way, Father, because it’s just another way to make You look as good as You actually are. We live among a people who don’t know You. And they scurry about. And when their plans are interrupted by You, they get angry or fearful or some other sinful response. Their lives are not good. But if we could show them by our lives the blessings of the Gospel, then maybe they would be open to hear it from our lips. So, make us like Jesus, who trusted You with each day’s planning and made You look so very good. Amen.

Friday, July 13, 2018

Scripture to Meditate On

Oh that my ways may be steadfast in keeping your statutes! ​Then I shall not be put to shame, having my eyes fixed on all your commandments. Psalms 119:5-6

There are times when it's good to compare one translation with another.

If only my ways were committed to keeping Your statutes! Then I would not be ashamed when I think about all Your commands. Psalms 119:5-6 [HSCB]

That's better. 'Steadfast' is such a church word. (How often have you used it in a non-religious context?) And 'eyes fixed' is pretty close to a church word, too. (And it's not actually a literal translation.)

So, the psalmist here is longing for something. He wants to be the kind of person who is committed to obedience. He doesn't want to be content with half-hearted efforts. Committed to obedience. And what motivates him is something that might be surprising to some: shame.

Now it needs to be said that in the wrong hands shame can be a weapon that manipulates. Many are shamed by others into doing what they actually know they should not. Not good! However, there is a positive use for shame. Why else would God give us the ability to feel it? Shame can remind us of what we are called to be and to do when we fail in achieving those goals. Shame can move us to repentance and thus to change by the Spirit.

The psalmist was shamed by his disobedience. And it is that shame that has produced this longing in him, a longing that he has expressed in this prayer to God. And will God ignore his request?

Thursday, July 12, 2018

For Sunday

Reading of the Law of God
Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. Ephesians 6. 10-13

Confession of Sin
Our Father, we confess that we neglect Your command to put on the armor that You have provided us. We do not take this command seriously enough and so we pursue it in a half-hearted manner. As a result, we are not able to stand firm in the evil day. The world watches us as we falter. It disregards You because of our failures. We ask that you might forgive our sin and help us to obey this command so that we might make You look good. We pray this in Jesus’ name, Amen.

Declaration of Pardon
For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures 1 Corinthians 15.3

May the God of all healing and forgiveness draw us to himself, and cleanse us from all our sins that we may behold the glory of his Son, the Word made flesh, Jesus Christ our Lord.
The Book of Common Prayer