Sunday, May 19, 2019

Building the Church

Today, we are going to ordain and install a new elder and a new deacon. As I thought about this and prayed about it, it seemed good to take some time to talk to you about what that means. What are we going to be doing, and why are we doing it? Those are important questions that need to be asked in many areas of life. And they certainly apply to the Church. It’s when people do things just because that’s the way it’s always been done that there will be problems. So, when we ordain and install Dave and Aaron, we need to understand what’s going on.

For us to do a good job answering those questions, we need to understand the big picture. Many errors can be avoided if you do that. So, in terms of the big picture, what will be happening with Dave and Aaron? Here’s something that Jesus teaches that answers that question.

And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. Matthew 16.18

A Prayer

We know that a life lived well is lived in submission to Your revealed will. And we know that that is more than obedience. It is an attitude. It is a desire to yield to You. It is rooted in the acknowledgement that You are the wise God who is for us and that life, in its fullest sense, is gained only in submitting to Your wisdom and trusting Your care.

But Father, there are so many who refuse to yield to You. They refuse to obey Your revealed will. They live according to their own wisdom. They think that they are wise enough and that they know enough. How foolish. No wonder their lives will not work. We are seeing this more and more as people are shedding even the superficial nod to Your revealed will. These have been lied to and misled so that they come to believe that life on their own is the only way to go. How sad.

There are also those who are eager to mislead. They have consciously and completely embraced a life of rebellion against You. And it is their great desire to get as many as they can to follow their lead. These are so very evil because they are leading many to destruction, both now and forever. They deserve to be cursed by You. And so, we ask You, Father, to do exactly that. You are the God who does not leave the guilty unpunished. So, we pray, punish these liars. Make their lives horrific. Bring justice so that some will see and will reconsider their own rebellion.

We ask You, Father, to bless us. Bless us with a growing submission to Your revealed will. There are still many places where we are not doing well at this, areas of our lives where we want to live our own way. By Your Spirit, point out these areas to us and grant us the repentance and faith that we need so that we will be changed and that to the glory of Your Name.

Our desire, Father, is expressed in these words that we offer to You. 'Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.'
Through Christ our Lord, Amen.

Friday, May 17, 2019

Scripture to Meditate On

Know therefore that the LORD your God is God, the faithful God who keeps covenant and steadfast love with those who love him and keep his commandments, to a thousand generations, and repays to their face those who hate him, by destroying them. He will not be slack with one who hates him. He will repay him to his face. You shall therefore be careful to do the commandment and the statutes and the rules that I command you today. 
Deuteronomy 7:9-11

This is another place where God is described, and described in ways that need to be noticed and embraced.

The first quality listed is that He is a faithful God. Whenever He makes a promise, He keeps it. Here, His keeping covenant and His love is highlighted. This is something for us to cling to. And that's because this is one key place where Satan loves to attack. 'God won't come through for you! It looks like you're going to have to deal with this on your own.' NO! He is the faithful God.

But then, note that this commitment is conditional. He is faithful 'with those who love him and keep his commandments'. Since ours is covenant relationship, there are obligations on our side to keep, commands to obey. God will love us, but that is supposing that we loving Him. And if you think about it, this is one place where repentance and faith are so important.

The next quality is something that many church folk these days will be uncomfortable with. Our God 'repays to their face those who hate him, by destroying[!] them'. This is just another way of talking about how 'He will by no means leave the guilty unpunished'. Note that our God is not 'slack' in dispensing this punishment. He does not delay.

All of this sets up the last line which actually is the main point here.
You shall therefore[!] be careful to do the commandment and the statutes and the rules that I command you today.
Moses spoke these words to the people of God in the desert as they prepared to enter the Promised Land. They were a serious warning to them. We, the people of God in our own desert, also need to hear these words as a serious warning to us as we also prepare to enter the Promised Land.

For Sunday

Reading of the Law of God
Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock. And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell, and great was the fall of it.

Confession of Sin
Our Father, we confess that far too often we hear the Word but do not do it. This is very foolish. This is very sinful. We ask that You would forgive us this sin. We ask that You would make us wise. We ask that You would make us obedient. We ask this in the name of our faithful Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.

Declaration of Pardon
Once you were not a people, but now you are God's people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy. 1 Peter 2:10

May the God of love and power forgive you and free you from your sins, heal and strengthen you by his Spirit, and raise you to new life in Christ our Lord.  
The Book of Common Prayer

Sunday, May 12, 2019

An Avenging God

We return to take another look at God, to take another shot at answering the question: What is God like? We’re doing this because it’s so very important to know God and to know Him well - to know His character, His attitudes, His goals. The knowledge of God is the basis for living well. An incomplete understanding of God results in problems. The person who doesn’t understand God well will not understand reality well. And how can anyone live well without understanding the reality within which he lives?

Listen to another description of God.

An oracle concerning Nineveh. The book of the vision of Nahum of Elkosh. The Lord is a jealous and avenging God; the Lord is avenging and wrathful; the Lord takes vengeance on his adversaries and keeps wrath for his enemies. ​The Lord is slow to anger and great in power, and the Lord will by no means clear the guilty. His way is in whirlwind and storm, and the clouds are the dust of his feet. ​He rebukes the sea and makes it dry; he dries up all the rivers; Bashan and Carmel wither; the bloom of Lebanon withers. ​The mountains quake before him; the hills melt; the earth heaves before him, the world and all who dwell in it. Who can stand before his indignation? Who can endure the heat of his anger? His wrath is poured out like fire, and the rocks are broken into pieces by him. ​The Lord is good, a stronghold in the day of trouble; he knows those who take refuge in him. But with an overflowing flood he will make a complete end of the adversaries, and will pursue his enemies into darkness. Nahum 1.1-8

A Prayer

We rejoice in You, O God. We rejoice in who You are and what You do for us and in us.

You are our Father. You are our perfect Father. You love us with a father's love. You are tender toward us when we hurt, compassionate when we struggle, and yes, even stern with us when we need it. And Your love for us never wavers from full-on complete love. Never. We rejoice in how You are such a good Father to us.

Lord Jesus, You are our Savior. You have already saved us by Your life, death and resurrection. Our sins - our awful acts, our terrible attitudes, and our dreadful ways - have all been dealt with. They are completely forgiven. They are completely forgotten. You are also saving us now. You ever live to make intercession for us before the Father. It is Your sacrifice that continues to make us accepted by the Father. And You will yet save us when You return to finish the work that You started, when You return to restore all of creation, us included, to its pristine state. We rejoice in how You are such a good Savior to us.

Spirit of God, You are the Paraclete. You are always with us. You walk through this life with us, every step of the way. You are always near to counsel us, to tell us what we need to know so that we can make good choices. You are always near to comfort us when life gets so hard. You are always near to change us from the foul and sinful people we were into the beautiful, whole people we are destined to become. We rejoice in Your persistent presence with us.

We praise You, our God - Father, Son and Spirit - for the wonders of Your grace in our lives. And we look forward to the day when we will be able to tell You, face-to-face, how much we love You. And amen.