From Rev Dr Tom Nibbe
Please keep our brothers and sisters in Ukraine in your prayers.
"The Lord is my light and my salvation--- whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life--- of whom shall I be afraid." (Psalm 27:5)
"...not that I've already obtained all this or have already been made perfect...but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me...I don't consider myself yet to have taken hold of it...but one thing I do...forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus..." (Philippians 3:12-14)
"...O Jerusalem, Jerusalem...you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I've longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing..." ([Jesus] Luke 13:31-35)
This day we commend our selves into your tender care and keeping. Why should we ever be fearful of this life, or its challenges, as long as we walk with you?
Today, speak to us about placing our trust in you and stepping into the world we live in. Speak to us. Remain with us.
And, Lord, forgive us all our sins. Cleanse us and renew us, and make us ready for the journey. We praise your loving regard for us as you call on us to proceed without fear knowing we can make a difference in the place you have planted us. We love you, Lord.
In Jesus' name, Amen.
Today, I can't help but focus in upon Paul's letter to the Philippians. I find myself scratching my head at the third chapter, with special interest in the 16th verse. It fascinates me...
"...let us live up to what we've already attained..."
Now what could that possibly mean?
How do we live up to something we've already attained? I can't help but think it has something to do with performance...perhaps consistency in performance. The important thing to grasp is that we are covered by Jesus' sacrifice on the cross and His glorious resurrection on the third day. We are approved of by God through Christ. Yet, therefore, we don't just go ahead and act out in any old way we choose, knowing that our righteousness is granted to us through His sacrifice.
How does that work out spiritually with people?
I keep thinking about Paul's commentary on his conduct in the broader perspective. To do so, I turn to Paul's letter to the Romans 7:15ff: "...I do not understand what I do...for what I want to do, I do not do, but what I hate, I do..."
"...I know that nothing good lives within me, that is, in my sinful nature...for I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out... for what I do is not the good I want to do---No, the evil I don't want to do---this I keep doing..."
Paul comes to a conclusion about himself, and, about the human condition we all experience, in verse 22: "...for in my inner being I delight in God's law, but I see another law at work in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work in my members..."
"...what a wretched man I am..."
Paul would probably say something like this: We are who we are, but thank God, we are that in Christ Jesus...
I am reminded of what the Rev. Billy Graham had said to our group of pastors in Hartford, CT: "The normal Christian walk is two steps forward and one back---two steps forward, and one back."
We really have to commend Paul for his humility and insight. Much more so, we need to recognize how important his commitment to transparency. We can afford, under God, to have that personal transparency, because our salvation (as well as the way other people perceive us) is based upon being covered by the blood of Christ, the great sacrifice of Jesus for the benefit of imperfect people, like you and me.
So, that insight must be the one I was trying to take hold of with words. Through Christ, we've attained the forgiveness of sins and the assurance of everlasting life. Yet, we're human beings. Even like Saint Paul, we fall short of our own expectation of being that imagined compassionate, moral human being. Don't let the notion get you down and discouraged. Keep on doing the best you can.
Our Heavenly Father, through Jesus, provided a perfect plan for imperfect, but faithful, people. Paul's encouragement to the Philippians, and to us today, is to be the best we can be, as often as we can be, knowing that the Lord will never forsake us, but uphold us, because we are covered by Jesus. Being a good person, is not to prove to God that we're good enough to earn our way to heaven, but rather, being the best representative of Christ's love and mercy we can be.
What worked for Abram in our Old Testament lesson for this morning---believing in God and being made righteous---is still working for you and I today. May your day be filled with joy and inner peace.
"...because he loves me...I will rescue him..." Psalm 91:1 (what has happened to all the obligations of religiosity)
"...so the Lord brought us out of Egypt with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm, with great terror and with miraculous signs and wonders..." (Deuteronomy 26:8)
"'...because he loves me,' says the Lord, 'I will rescue him...I will protect him, because he acknowledges my name...He will call upon me, and I will answer him...I will be with him in trouble...I will deliver him and honor him...with long life will I satisfy him and show him my salvation...' " (Psalm 91:14-15)
"...if you confess with your mouth, 'Jesus is Lord', and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved...for it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved..." (Romans 10:9-10)
"...Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan, and was led by the Spirit into the wilderness.." (Luke 4:1-13)
PRAYER FOR LENT
Dear Lord God,
On this occasion we take a breathe of fresh air and, with fullness of heart, submit to your Lordship. It's because you are worthy, and our utmost trust is in you, your beloved Son, and the Spirit. We want to become more like your beloved Son. We want to develop the resolution, vision, and strength Jesus had. In the process, we need to be ourselves, not lose track of our unique identity, and come on as authentic persons---yet redeemed.
We readily submit! In fact, we surrender. We withhold nothing from you, dear Lord! Totally forgive us all our sins. Renew and cleanse us inside and out. Make us ready as prayer warriors to do sacred battle with the Evil One, and yet, not lose track of being in the world, and yet, not of the world.
Lord, take possession of our total being. In upcoming days, incline our hearts to your indwelling presence, speaking to the deepest part of who we are...and who we can be.
Help us to slow down sufficiently to be able to clearly hear your voice...to take full advantage of the very reason we---intellect, heart and soul---can fully honor you, while we focus in on your gentle means to draw us near.
As we like to be treated, help us to treat others likewise...
We promise to set aside things we normally would put first---to reflect upon your divine nature and our human condition---and allow you access to our inmost being. We need transformation.
What is it, Lord, you have been trying to communicate with us? Thank you, Lord, for loving us and inviting us to share in your great salvation, yes, your call to our lives that we may be agents of divine compassion. We ready ourselves for the journey.
In Jesus' name, Amen.
It's right there in plain sight...right there in Saint Paul's Letter to the Romans... chapter 10 and verse 9...if you confess with your mouth..."Jesus is Lord"...and believe in your heart that God the Father raised Him from the dead...you will be saved.
We get it, Lord. We want to be saved and we need to be saved. We are grateful for blessed "security" provided us by the Lord Jesus Christ, who gave Himself as a perfect, sufficient sacrifice to save us all from our sins...yes, many...
Lord, we accept your kind offer. We acknowledge our sin, and God the Father will take it all from us for the sake of His Son. Jesus died for what we should have been punished for. We need not suffer any longer for the pain, many times, we have caused to others and to ourselves.
A good, powerful confession along the way clears the deck for us...smooth sailing for a brilliant, eventful future...
We can start anew. The horizon is bright for us because of Jesus and what He did for us, what He can still do for us...daily...for eternity...
Our response will be no "dry" acceptance.
We truly love you for accomplishing what we could not accomplish by or for ourselves... the salvation of our souls...a worthwhile life... a comfortable dwelling place in everlasting life...
Obviously there are only two conditions to recognize in getting right with God and receiving the assurance of eternal life:
As Lord Yahweh through Moses brought the Children of Israel out of Egypt... As Ezra and Nehemiah brought the Jews out of bondage in Babylon to Jerusalem... the Lord brings us out of our bondage to possessions, addiction, selfishness, fame, greed, foolishness, self-centeredness, food, endless entertainment---whatever---into a life of service to humanity, precious relationships with other believers, loving relationships with non-believers, and the blessed assurance that nothing can separate us from the love of God.
I can do nothing but praise God for the powerful comments of Saint Paul in that tenth chapter of his letter to the Romans. It has been a saving grace for me and for millions over the centuries.
May the peace of the Lord touch your heart.
From Rev Dr Tom Nibbe
If money doesn't grow on trees, how come banks have branches?
Two guys stole a calendar---they got six months each...
We got rid of our vacuum cleaner---it was just gathering dust.
"...whenever Moses entered the Lord's presence to speak with Him, Moses removed the veil until he came out, and when he came out...they saw that his face was radiant..." (Exodus 34:29-35)
"...exalt the Lord our God and worship at His Holy Mountain, for the Lord is Holy..." (Psalm 99:9)
Gracious Lord and God,
All honor and praise belong to you, Lord, as we step into your sacred space on this memorable Sunday morning. On this day we remember the transfiguration of Jesus, and rejoice in the privilege giving you high, exultant praise as we worship.
In Jesus' name, Amen.
Grace and peace to you on this very special Sunday as we are reminded of Jesus being glorified on the Mount of Transfiguration. What a foretaste of the glory to come for all of us that anticipate Christ's imminent return.
After reading Luke's account of this powerful and dynamic event (Luke 9:28ff.) it had the great effect of uplifting me today. Indeed, I'd been burdened by our news reports from the great country of the Ukraine. I hadn't prior been aware of how negatively it'd affected me. Now, I'd have to say, I was heavily burdened and part of me, continues to cry out to Jesus. I just can't help it. I'll need worship today...
Priscilla and I have a special regard for the people of the Ukraine, because, in the early 1990s, Priscilla was instrumental in bringing a fine gentleman we knew into a personal relationship with Christ Jesus in Peru---though Canadian---this man was "Ukrainian to the Bone", loveable, and just a fine human being. He was delightful, but troubled.
That being said, he had a huge reserve of spirituality that was released when he made his confession for Christ---and focused in on what God had to say about his situation. I truly believe that the best of his Ukrainian Orthodox background became released as he personally surrendered to Jesus. It was a powerful reserve that immediately took hold of him and made him joyful, without a care. Yes, the hurt would return from time to time, but prayer times and conversation with us really brought him through rough moments. We thought in time he'd return back to Canada, but he remained in Peru and made a very successful life there. Later, he married a wonderful Peruvian Christian lady and has had a more rewarding life there in Lima than he ever had in Canada. I can only say---God has His way in our lives...
From a slightly different vantage point I wanted to share something that brings together the story of this gentleman and the transfiguration of Jesus on the mountain.
Our friend, of course, never experienced transfiguration, but, in the introduction he received to the Jesus of the Scriptures, he experienced definite transformation. He didn't "get religion", so to speak---but rather, a powerful dose of the Holy Spirit which made him literally glow. His personality radiated energy. He immediately began to experience "glory" in his daily living. Nothing could hold him down. As long as Jesus was with him, he was simply okay, no matter what was happening. He was able to let go of the things that held him captive prior. In the midst of overwhelming burdens, his relationship with Jesus was all he needed to be motivated daily and take on all challenges. Priscilla and I were just amazed at the transformation.
We live in a world that has the tendency to bring us down, because of the reality of human sin in the world all around us. The Book of Revelation suggests that the world is indeed Satan's realm (ch. 12).
However, as our dear friend would affirm, God is in control, nonetheless, and we need to commend all our concerns, our fears, our unbelief, into His almighty hands. He's so faithful to perform...but we must trust Him with all our hearts, and know, He answers prayer and loves it when we call upon His name. Tell Him what's going on, what you need, He'll be faithful...
From Rev Dr Tom Nibbe
"...we shall bear the likeness..."
"Come back to your senses as you ought." (1 Corinthians 15:34)
Gracious God, We want to praise you this day for a "new teaching" that we may well miss if we're not paying attention. You want us to believe and understand that all things work for the good of those who love you, just as Saint Paul has written. We have the notion that good situations are good situations, and that bad situations are bad.
Before this made sense us, but now, our thoughts and perception have been transformed by a new way of perceiving reality. Indeed, as we commend ourselves into your hands, and even sometimes before we do so, we eventually recognize that you are in control of all things, including the details of our lives. You don't cause bad things to happen, but you allow them.
In pleasant circumstances you bless us. In unpleasant and challenging times you teach us and direct us. Even as we submit ourselves to you, you do not exempt us from difficulties, painful experiences, and even tragedies.
Thus, we praise you no matter our circumstances. It is the only way to look at ourselves and life. It may take some doing at times, but we trust you, Lord, and believe your Word.
Thank you, Father God. As you didn't allow your only begotten Son to be exempt from suffering, and even dying on the cross, only to be raised up, thus, you will call us to follow the path that the Lord Jesus trod...and yet, know, that victory lies ahead.
In Jesus' name, Amen.
Along the way we may find ourselves feeling the way Jesus felt when, knowing what was about to happen on Calvary, (on the Mount of Olives), He asked the Father:
"Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me, yet, not my will, but yours, be done." (Luke 6:42)
How is it that we can be human---with all our self-imposed preferences, desires, dreams and goals---and yet, sense that the Lord God has a plan for us that will satisfy us completely and make our life truly something remarkable?
Yet, even being a Christian, and reluctant, we have a better plan for our lives, let's put that Bible thing on hold...
...some day, Lord---some time...now...
Contemplating the idea of obedience to God in the midst of truly dark circumstances, and trusting God anyway, i.e., "...but deliver me from evil..." (Matthew 6:13b), I'm reminded of one of my very special portions of the Scriptures, that being, Genesis 37-50, the story of Joseph.
In my view, initially, Joseph wasn't the very nicest of brothers. Rather than supporting his eleven brothers, he turned out to be their "tattletale". Genesis 37:2 says, "...he brought their father a bad report bad report about them..." They hated him.
Joseph was sold to Potiphar. Potiphar trusted Joseph and put him in charge of everything in the household. Joseph was a handsome young man. Potiphar's wife went after him and Joseph refused her. His owner put him in prison, trusting his wife, rather than Joseph.
In prison, eventually, Joseph was made responsible for all that was done there. In the prison the Pharoah's cupbearer and baker offended their master and they were put in prison where Joseph was. At one point each had a dream which Joseph interpreted.
The chief cupbearer was restored to the Pharoah's household. Joseph said to him, "...when all goes well with you, remember me and show kindness to me...mention me to Pharoah and get me out of this prison..." The chief cupbearer, however, did not remember Joseph; he forgot him.
Two full years went by. It happened that Pharoah had two dreams. His mind was troubled. He passed along the details of the dreams but his advisors couldn't interpret the dreams. At this point the chief cupbearer remembered Joseph. Pharoah sent for him and he appeared before Pharoah. He told Joseph about the dreams and Joseph told him the dreams were about an upcoming seven years of famine.
Genesis 41:39-41: "...then Pharoah said to Joseph, 'Since God has made all this known to you, there is no one so discerning and wise as you. You shall be in charge of my palace, and all my people are to submit to your orders. Only with respect to the throne will I be greater than you.' So then, Pharoah said to Joseph, '...I hereby put you in charge of the whole land of Egypt...' Then Pharoah took his signet ring from his finger and put it on Joseph's finger."
There is no indication from the Scriptures that Joseph ever complained about his predicament or misfortune. What Joseph went through, time after time, situation after situation...he bore waiting for the Lord's deliverance and blessing.
The Lord was with him despite the fact that Joseph was not exempted for terrible suffering and misfortune. As a seminary professor once said to us, "...Joseph got sour lemons...and he always made lemonade..."
His brothers wanted to kill him. They sold him into slavery. His owner rejected him upon his wife's lies though he was totally worthy of trust. He was sent to prison. In time he was put in charge of the prison. His time in prison was the springboard for him to have audience before the most powerful human being in the world. Once despised, sold, enslaved, betrayed, and forgotten, Joseph became the most powerful human being in the world in terms of his function.
In a powerful way, he became a "savior" for Egypt and the world, having gone through the very worst a person could experience. A simple, profound faith provided the crowning touch...
The dream he had about his brothers came true. They eventually had to come to him and bow before him, as Joseph had dreamed, because of the world famine to ask for food. They found out that "this all-powerful man" was the same person (their own brother) they had wanted to kill and did sell into slavery. You can just imagine what they thought they had coming...
So, you'd think Joseph would've wanted revenge on his brothers. No. He delighted in seeing his brothers and and wanted to see his youngest brother, Benjamin, and his father---Joseph could no longer control himself... he was overcome by his feelings...to see his family once again...
The words Joseph spoke to his brothers when they realized that this was Joseph touch our hearts and cause us to reconsider all positive and negative experiences in our lives...
"...I am your brother Joseph, the one you sold into Egypt! And now, do not be distressed and do not be angry with yourselves selling me here, because it was to save lives that God sent me ahead of you..." (Genesis 45:4,5)
The story of Joseph is, without doubt, one of the great pieces of world literature as well as divinely-revealed truth. How essential it is that every human being be exposed to Genesis 37-50. There is no other story that can so powerfully motivate us to receive and accept an informed vision that includes the affirmation that---there is no failure in a life with God!
The crowning touch is the fact that Joseph didn't hold a grudge against those who had done him wrong. We have to admit. Joseph either finally got his program together, or had it together all along. We can do the same. The standard is not that set by the world, but by God, through the ministry of Christ Jesus.
I love the story of Joseph. The bottom line for us is that we can learn so much about coming to terms with the things that have happened in our lives. We can grab on to the notion that God is not trying to pick on us. He will allow the things that happen---for a purpose---and our completion and success in life will be, so to speak, to "go with the punches", and trust that God is allowing it to happen for a special purpose. I am convinced that in our humility and trust in the Lord, we will become:
"...more than conquerors through Him who has loved us..." (Romans 8:37)
During difficult and troubled times, you have someone who prays for you and hopes the very best for you always. May the Lord bless you richly!
From Rev Dr Tom Nibbe,
"The heart is deceitful above all things and desperately corrupt, who can understand it?" (Jeremiah 17:9)
"...if Christ has not be raised, your faith is futile---you are still in your sins...then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ are lost...if only for this life we have hope in Christ...we are to be pitied more than all human beings..." (1 Corinthians 15:17-19)
"...the people tried to touch Him, because power was coming from Him and healing them all..." (Luke 6:19)
"...he is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season..." (Psalm 1:3)
& A SPIRITUAL REFLECTION
"...if you look at a tree and see a tree, you haven't really seen a tree... when you look at a tree and see a miracle... then, at last, you have seen..." (Rabbi Abraham Jacob Heschel)
In the midst of pre-occupation with precaution — and fear — related to valid concerns regarding the present pandemic, I must say, these are exciting as well as distracting times. The positive things which happen in taking precaution and developing new ways to communicate — and reaching out to those in need -- have the effect of advancing in our minds what is possible for us in difficult times. I was so pleased to hear of Simone Biles comforting note to Mikaela Shiffrin upon her failed attempts to get Gold during the games. I love this sort of "reaching out".
After being militarily in Afghanistan for over twenty years, we've disengaged. In addition, for the first time during our lifetime we're seriously considering the value of a constitutionally democratic republic. Sometimes we've wondered if our people are ready to discuss and understand the issues involved. The conversation nationally has become literally explosive. All of us know what's been going on! As we consider both sides of today's issues thoughtfully, we often fear the worst will happen. These times have the function of bringing us to our knees.
We may be wrong but there seems to have been a decline in being informed about government, how it works, what part we play in it, and what we need to do to preserve a wonderful legacy of government in the country we live in.
At Holy Cross Lutheran Church, in Pacifica, California, we've attempted to prepare our community for this time and moment. We've presented annually for decades "Independence Sunday". We've invited the finest nationally-known Christian scholars in the areas of Political Science and American history to give solid informative, inspirational messages with the colorful format for worship. Judge Quentin L. Kopp, bless his heart, has been a regular speaker for literally over a decade. We usually have a jazz band on hand to liven things up, playing music essentially, not only American, but also sacred.
It seems also that our national governmental traditions have lost meaning to a certain extent in more recent times among the vast number of our people.
Are we wrong? Do school systems really teach "Government" the way they used to when we went to school in the 50s?
I suppose we could go on...
But, from my point of view, there is something which underlies the issues involving government, and sports, and international intrigue, and revolution, and entertainment, and the music that moves us.
Our neighborhood used to be "safe haven". Just recently we've had two burglaries and several incidents of people trying to open doors and look in windows, right within blocks of our house.
It causes a person to ask "What is going on these days?"
Hold on! Pause for a moment!
These are not just the behavioral patterns of our time only, nor our views of the effectiveness, or lack thereof, of our government and our representatives in Washington D.C. This kind of behavior, these attitudes toward the obvious shortcomings of our government have been around ever since the establishment of the United States of America. The men who founded this nation upon the principles of the American Constitution, as well as a Bill of Rights, were persons of keen awareness of the human condition. They were men (backed by profound women as wives) who were grounded in Scripture and therefore produced a document to curb the power-hungry, greedy persons who would seek to destroy what they had wisely birthed.
Chief among them was James Madison of Virginia. He was the prize student of the "grandfather" of the Constitution, the Reverend Dr. John Witherspoon, teacher of fifty-two of the signers of the Constitution, and fellow signer.
As a nation we have departed from the remarkable spirit of the American Constitution based upon the Judeo-Christian faith and its presuppositions regarding society and human conduct. In one sense, we can read the words of the document, indeed, we can be educated and have other sophistication, but to conceive of the more profound underlying meanings requires a biblical mindset.
We need to consider an essential underlying factor — biblical faith.
We need the biblical mindset.
So, do we really go back and start over? Do we demand of those who don't understand or have insight into the very real facts of American history and our former dependence upon the Bible?
The answer is "No".
We don't go back because we can't go back. We need to move forward recognizing where we are, whether folks around us are churched or not. I'm going to say something that will get me in trouble with some people. We need to start where we are and do what Christians need to do, first and foremost, that is, become profound students of the Bible. Too many Christians these days are influenced by clergy and lay leaders who teach and preach using their own material, though they claim otherwise with Bibles in their hands.
Too many believers these days have had to say, "I really don't want to be called 'Christian' any more, because too many of those who call themselves Christians fail to apply the principles of the Bible — and I know — none of us is perfect. However, I'm comfortable declaring that I am a serious follower of the Lord Jesus Christ!"
"That's alright with me---you know, I follow Jesus, too!"
Let me share some insights from the Scriptures for this Sunday.
As we turn to Jeremiah 17:9,10 (RSV) "The heart is deceitful above all things and desperately corrupt, who can understand it? 'I the Lord search the mind and try the heart, to give every man according to his ways, according to the fruit of his doings.'"
I cannot tell you how powerful these verses were for me when I finally — really — looked at it and thought deeply about it. I had not thought the Church was correct in saying that human beings were desperately sinful from birth. After all, consider a newborn baby, so sweet, so innocent — but then — if baby doesn't get his or her milk bottle on time, basically, watch out!
It is a truth which — over decades — has never proved false, which means, the Bible speaks the truth within the prophetic voice. This shocking statement in Jeremiah's prophecy, especially, as it applies to me, and with others who are supposed to provide an example for us, makes clear the overriding thing to observe. I can never be disillusioned. Through this verse, the "illusion" is gone forever. We need to be vigilant watching over the "human heart". The Founding Fathers were quite sufficiently schooled in this notion. They knew and understood that humankind without God is destined to fail personally and politically.
Also, a point of transition for me in faith was being "riveted" by Saint Paul's second letter to the first-century Christians at Corinth, in the Bible, 1 Corinthians 15:1-1-58. Go ahead and read the entire chapter. Carefully consider the content.
Personally, I have accepted the Lord Jesus Christ as my personal Lord and Savior. I know that He died on the Cross of Calvary for my sins. I know that He has the authority by His suffering and death to forgive, cleanse, and renew me in the Holy Spirit.
Furthermore, I know that He rose from the dead, descended into Hades to announce His victory over sin and death, and then ascended into heaven. He will return soon to draw us all unto Him.
What I noticed over the last half-century, as a pastoral counselor, were the large number of people who needed great clarification regarding this particular chapter of the Bible...and how it impacted them and their destiny...
The phrase in verse 14 is pertinent to explain my concern. Here's how it's rendered:"....and if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless, and so is your faith..." (1 Corinthians 15:14)
As I've sat at the bedside of many who were about to leave this world, (and I can think of two memorable conversations) many believers I've counseling with, in preparation for the afterlife, didn't realize how important it was to have come to terms with the issue Saint Paul stresses to the sophisticated members of the mission church in Corinth. Those of course are recorded in the Corinthian manuscript we have.
Paul stressed how "essential" it is to receive the Resurrected Lord Jesus, both with heart and mind..."otherwise you have believed in vain" (verse 2). To many, the death on the cross is all there is to the heart knowledge of our faith in Jesus. The Church needs to reconsider the foundation of what is essential in order to have the assurance of everlasting life.
A person very dear to me confessed not being able to accept the fact of the Resurrection upon the very hour of his death. I invited him (within less than sixty minutes remaining in his life) to receive Jesus as the Resurrected Lord of his life, not as he should, but as he was able. He died with the assurance of faith and, dear friends, I will see him in the sweet by and by.
In short, we need to continue in prayer for all persons and their needs of which we are aware. We need to be more focused in our praying, and expecting God's intervention, simply because we've asked.
On the other hand, despairing because of a nightly encounter with the breakdown of the latest news is never going to essentially change anything. We need to reinvest our lives and fortunes in the Word, taking on a biblical mindset.
Blessings in abundance as we take on the challenges and joys of life with courage, peace of mind, and joy.
From Rev Dr Tom Nibbe
"No one can say, 'Jesus is Lord' ---except by the Holy Spirit" 1 Corinthians 12:3b
"Know therefore and understand, that from the going forth of the commandment to restore and to build Jerusalem unto the Messiah the Prince shall be seven weeks, and threescore and two weeks: the street shall be built again, and the wall, even in troublous times. And after threescore and two weeks shall Messiah be cut off, but not for himself: and the people of the prince that shall come shall destroy the city and the sanctuary; and the end thereof shall be with a flood, and unto the end of the war desolations are determined." Daniel 9:25-26 "...abomination causing desolation..." - the Most Difficult Chapter to Understand in the Bible.
"...in you, O Lord, I have taken refuge... let me never be put to shame...rescue me and deliver me in your righteousness...turn your ear to me and save me..." Psalm 71:1,2
"...and now I will show you the most excellent way..." 1 Corinthians 12:31
"...they got up, drove Jesus out of the town, and took Him to the brow of the hill on which the town was built, in order to throw Him down the cliff...but Jesus walked right through the crowd and went on His way..." Luke 4:28-30
Gracious, loving God, father of our Lord Jesus, we want to praise you and show our love for teaching us how to live. We'd ask that you'd give us the faith, and as well, the evidence of Jesus' authority and power over the darkness of this world, to make our lives shine like the brightness of the sun.
Forgive us our sins--- and our inability to show up for you...reveal your heart, that we know and feel your presence, and, in so doing, have deep inner peace within; and that being, so we may serve you with wholeness of heart and represent you by our daily witness as we sincerely reach out to others and serve them. In Jesus' name. Amen
Although I'm absolutely fascinated by the material in the fourth chapter of Luke's gospel for today, I'm going to focus in on Saint Paul's first letter to the folks at the church in Corinth. These are Greeks receiving instruction from a Turkish Jew. The letter was written in 55 A.D., only twenty-six years after Jesus suffered and died on the cross. Paul was addressing a group of people who had never known much about the traditions of the religion of Israel and they struggled with many of the same problems churches have today with new Christians who come into the organizational church and discover, once being saved, they have to make some significant personal moral changes in life, as well as to clean up the ways they normally treat other people in their daily lives.
A little background here. Saint Paul at one time was Rabbi Saul, a true "young lion" of Judaism, a Pharisee of the first order, and, indeed a radical enemy of Jesus Christ and the Christian Church.
Paul was a Jew without parallel in terms of his personal conduct and spiritual discipline. There was no one in Israel who could compare with Paul's intellect and total response to his religion. I would imagine he could hold up against any renowned person on earth at that time in an intellectual discussion about philosophy, religion, or morality.
However, his zeal caused him to hate early Christians and persecute them. He was present to witness the stoning of the very first martyr, Stephen, and rejoice in it. Acts 8:1 suggests, "And Saul was there, giving approval to his death."
When I think of a saying of Jesus that would apply to Rabbi Paul it'd be found in Matthew 6:23b: "...if then, the light within you is darkness, how profound is that darkness..."
We don't know how far Paul went in persecuting the Church, but we do know it was very shameful. Yet, God saw something in this vicious religious sinner that was worthy of redemption, something that was so essential for the survival of the Church and also for its propagation throughout the world.
(You see, there's never been any human being quite like Paul and his God-given abilities. No one person has ever written such important and essential Spiritual guidance as Paul. God needed this quintessential Jewish man to extend the Gospel throughout the world, even though He was "radically elsewhere" in his religious focus.)
On his way to persecute Christians in Damascus - "...breathing out murderous threats against the Lord's disciples..." (Acts 9:1-6) - Paul was forced to the ground...mysteriously...forcefully...
"...Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?'...I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting...Now get up and go into the city and you will be told what you must do..."
We are reading here about Paul's conversion to the Christian faith...over twenty years later he would write his magnificent text on the way we can love others in 1 Corinthians 13:1-13. This is preceded by the comment to his readers...[1 Corinthians 12:31b]
"...and now I will show you the excellent way..."
Paul begins with..."...if I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I'm only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal..."
In other words, even having a multitude of personal gifts, we'd only be making a lot of noise having having nothing substantial to back it up without genuine loving concern and care. Somehow or other, this matter of "heart knowledge" in service to Christ in reaching out to others has been slipping through the cracks. How about---getting back to "heart knowledge" as we reach out to serve the Lord
Furthermore, Paul makes a great point in suggesting that we could do all sorts of "good works", that is, nice things for people, but if we do it without tender care and compassionate love, it is worthless. What a point! Doing charity without having an open, compassionate heart does no good according to Paul.
He goes on---a real expression of love is being patient. This is something to think about when we consider caring for ourselves and other folks we live with.
The other day I heard a woman behind me in the market, standing in line, shouting out, "Come on, for God's sake, I hate to wait!" In family matters, Mark Twain said, "...why have enemies, when you can have family..." A bit sarcastic, for sure, but we have a tendency at times, waiting for family members and others to make changes for the better, and we think it's all for naught, when, within a reasonable amount of time, they don't change. Please remember that God's timing is always perfect.
Come on, let's really come to terms with God's way of bringing about real and permanent change...
What's wrong with taking the Lord Jesus at His word? "And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Son may bring glory to the Father...you may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it..." (John 14:13,14)
Suggestion: practice patience with total assurance
As expressed in Paul's letter, this idea of loving the way Jesus did (and does) includes:
Often in our relationships with others (especially couples) one partner will keep score, that is, keeping the other person at bay in the knowledge they've goofed in the past and using that as ammunition for interpersonal battle.
It's not easy to protect others who have done us wrong. It's so tempting to "stick a knife" in another person, behind their back (figuratively), when you hold a grudge against them. It's hard to trust someone who's proved to be less than trustworthy. It's difficult to be hopeful, when the odds are against you. I've been there many times. When the failure of a marriage relationship seems imminent, the Holy Spirit would then encourage us to reflect on our own shortcomings and know that it's not easy, often seemingly impossible to carry on. Don't ever think you are the only person or couple who have experienced the potentiality a break-up. No matter how holy or perfect, all of us have been there. Trust me, you're not alone. Christ's love is there to sustain you.
You know, I could go on writing about this magnificent passage, but I want to be brief today. However, I want to share one more portion of this text with you.
It is so important.
It is life-changing in terms of being assured of doing the right thing and taking the "higher road" in all situations and circumstances of life.
It is the short -- 8th verse -- of the passage -- "...love never fails..." (Greek: "agape") .
Either this text is the absolute truth for you and me and every person who will receive it, or it is a lie and unworthy of our consideration.
Which will it be for you today --- the truth or a lie?
It may not be made complete within your sense of what should happen in time. Often God's way may seem inconvenient for you, even totally unlike the way you had planned, but the Lord comes through for us.
I can't tell you how happy I am to share this material with you.
Have a wonderful, satisfying day!
From Rev Dr Tom Nibbe
"I didn't come to teach you---I came to love you--- love will teach you." (Anonymous)
"...they read from the Book of the Law of God, making it clear and giving meaning so that the people could understand what was being read..." (Nehemiah 8:8)
"...as it is, there are many parts, but one body... the eye cannot say to the hand--- 'I don't need you!' and the head cannot say to the feet--- 'I don't need you!' On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable... and the parts that we think are less honorable we treat with special honor...and the parts that are unpresentable are treated with special modesty..." (1 Corinthians 12:12-31a)
"...then He rolled up the scroll... gave it back to the attendant and sat down... the eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fastened on Him and He began by saying to them... 'Today this Scripture is fulfilled in your hearing'..." (Luke 4:14-21)
Gracious Lord and Master,
As we turn to you in prayer today, at this very moment, we find ourselves, focusing directly upon you as we pray, in the here and now. What a delight! It is as though we were there when Jesus opened the scroll in the synagogue in Nazareth. How magnificent it is to reside in your presence--- Yes, to dwell---allowing you to speak to us as we open our hearts to receive you in this direct line of communication. Lord, as we proceed through this day, and those following, allow our dialogue with you, and the world we live in, to be in communion, a form of natural, supernatural conversation. Allow us to hear you speak to us, direct us, guide us...so our lives may be pleasing to us...and that...sometimes seeming or feeling simple...we may become wise...and sanctified...
In Jesus' name we pray. Amen.
Today we find ourselves in the fourth chapter of Luke's gospel. I can identify five different components found in this remarkable chapter. First of all, we have the "Temptation of Christ" down there next to the River Jordan, where Jesus was baptized. Second of all, Jesus is back up north in His hometown of Nazareth, over one hundred miles from the Jordan. He is in the synagogue at Nazareth and makes a remarkable declaration taken from the Prophet Isaiah, from seven hundred years prior. Third, Jesus' claim based on the Isaiah passage is rejected by his neighbors; He comments, "...no prophet is accepted in his hometown..." They literally drove Jesus out of town. Fourthly, in Capernaum, down the road, He drives out an evil spirit in a man, and finally, fifth, Jesus heals the mother-in-law of Simon Peter, and as well, a host of others. With this, the chapter ends...
He stood up to read. The scroll from the prophet Isaiah, the sixty-first chapter, verses one and two:
"The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on Me, because the Lord has anointed me to preach good news to the poor...He has sent Me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives, and release from darkness for the prisoners, to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor..."
At this point Jesus rolled up the scroll and gave it back to the attendant and sat down. All eyes in the synagogue were upon Him. The comment made by Jesus [to me] seems riveting.
"Today this Scripture is fulfilled in your hearing."
The implication was that Isaiah's prophesy from seven hundred years prior was being fulfilled through Jesus as He is about to begin His ministry in Galilee. What was predicted, or prophesized, hundreds of years before, would be fulfilled in the life and ministry of the One proclaiming---thus---as He read the Word.
The other is accompanying my dear Dad to the local railroad station in North La Crosse, Wisconsin, at the age of five years old, and having Dad put me on his shoulders to see and hear President Harry Truman speak to a small, shivering crowd gathered at the last car of his campaign train...
There was snow on the ground. It was freezing. The message was brief, as I remember, but the impact of seeing President Truman has stayed with me for over seventy years. What's my point?
Well, millions can share the experience of having watched President Kennedy and this famous speech on television. Yet, although it actually happened, it still seems rather distant, although impressive. Indeed, in the case of the Truman experience, it has always seemed impressive, but in addition, personal and unique, grounded in time and somehow much more real, associated with flesh and blood. Dad was one of those old-fashioned Republicans, and yet, later that year, he voted for Truman. His assurance was justified, as most historians would note.
So, too, is the experience of knowing about Jesus' personal appeal to the people He grew up with. And of course, there was going to be a negative reaction.
But... "....He walked right through the crowd and went on his way...." (Luke 4:30)
The scene in the synagogue always seemed idyllic to me...but really...it's momentous to consider that God presents Himself...that is...makes Himself known...fulfills His promises---yes---reveals Himself within the context of simple events in the course of our lives and times. He makes Himself known most powerfully when we can no longer shut Him out, but see Him within the context of the "nitty-gritty" of our lives.
He makes a real, powerful difference. Our lives are impacted by His divine and loving touch...within the common experiences of our lives. We don't forget this, because we are illuminated by the experience, just as I've kept the memory of seeing Truman on my Dad's shoulders. Yes, God makes Himself known to us within the everyday experiences of our lives. In our hometown. In the church we attend. Extraordinary extraordinary events---right under our noses. We are daily transformed by God's intervention in our lives... into the hardest of human hearts...
God makes Himself known. Jesus becomes real to us.
Often what is perceived as ordinary, just for the moment, becomes dynamic and extraordinary, beyond any vision we could possibly have.
The question is---Are we aware of it? Did I know when I was five years old, I'd still be remembering seeing President Harry Truman in person. Even if I would, is it possible I would eventually consider Truman exceptional, or among other presidents, great...and not just a person worthy of note. Jesus becomes large to us as we continue to think on Him and note His greatness in our midst.
Just to say---God is great. Jesus is love. Jesus will faithful, ever so carefully, causing things to happen to save us and draw us near to Him. Are we taking note? Are we aware?
Could we be, on the other hand, like the hometown people in Nazareth who could only see Jesus the way they "had" seen Him or perceived Him to be--- growing up. Are we---am I---guilty of marginalizing the legacy of the Christ? We need to be careful. The Lord Jesus was---and is great...
He is, indeed, worthy to be praised!
From Rev Dr Tom Nibbe
A TOUCH OF HUMOR
The worship service was over. A guest brought his pet monkey into the Social Hall for coffee. He sits at the piano as the monkey dances nearby holding a cup for tips. The monkey goes up to a member having coffee, dances and holds the cup to receive a tip. The member turns away. The monkey sticks his tail in the man's cup. The man is astonished. He goes to the guest playing the piano. He says, "...do you know your monkey stuck his tail in my coffee?..." The guest replies, "No, I don't, but if you hum the tune, I'll catch on and be able to play it for you!"
"...you will be a crown of splendor in the Lord's hand...a royal diadem in the hand of your God..." (Isaiah 62:3)
"...your righteousness is like the mighty mountains... your justice like the great deep..." (Psalm 36:5-10)
Today we want to praise you for the ordinary things of life, which we often take for granted:
In Jesus' name. Amen.
Some years back now, in a remarkable conversation with a very special friend, Dr. Willy Anderson, former professor of Nuclear Physics at M.I.T., Stanford University, Ohio State University, and Lockheed Martin scientist, commented on his unresolved issues concerning the composition and nature of things in outer space. There, of course, are still many that are, to this day, a great mystery. Willy, now in retirement, is a great intellect, a delightful, generous person, one who enjoys good food and great social times, and a devoted evangelical Christian.
Upon one occasion he said that he couldn't wait to get to heaven, indeed, at the appointed time, so he could finally ask Jesus two questions.
"Well, Willy," I said, "what would be the first question?"
He replied, "I'd like to ask Jesus about the unresolved issues concerning the nature of 'dark holes' in space."
"Yes", I said, "...and what would be the second question?"
Willy replied, "I'd like to check with Jesus and ask Him if there was still any leftover wine from the wedding of Cana in Galilee."
I laughed. I just wasn't expecting to hear something like that. To me, the sign of a good sense of humor.
The wedding was in its third day. His mother, Mary, was present, and the disciples were invited, too. People were having one whale of a time, but then..."My Goodness!"... the wine ran out. Mother Mary was there to the rescue. She sensed Jesus could take care of the dire situation. Mary told the servants to do whatever Jesus told them to do.
Six stone water jars, each holding twenty to thirty gallons, were filled to the brim and presented to the master of the banquet. His comment, "Everyone brings out the choice wine first and then the cheaper wine after the guests have had too much to drink, but you have saved the best until now."
For those of us who partake, we drink too much cheap wine, thinking that quantity will make up for quality. Jesus made sure that the best stuff was saved for last. He does the same thing in our lives.
I sometimes think of the "abundant life" in Christ as being like sipping an excellent glass of fine wine. Yes, I know, some folks would take offense to the suggestion because of how often people abuse the use of alcohol. It's great if handled properly, for those who choose to partake.
We can expect that Jesus will always save the best for last. It's just one way to explain the advantage of faith.
God Almighty, in His imaginative, glorious way, calls us from a "fallen world" into the magnificent "wedding feast" of His beloved Son---with each one of us---united with Him, in faith, bonded together through the work of the Holy Spirit.
In a larger way, the second basic step of faith, receiving the Holy Spirit into our lives, can be likened to partaking in the best wine made available at the wedding in Cana.
Saint Paul said a mouthful when he laid it on the line in 1 Corinthians 12:3b, "...no one can say Jesus is Lord, except by the Holy Spirit..."
One remembrance coming to mind is the painting of "Jesus Knocking on the Door" (that being, of our heart) that was on the church altar of our former church building in Wisconsin. This painting spoke to my heart.
dSometimes it gets bad...
Life for many people is "just life". Blah! Nothing is really going on there...day to day, week to week, month to month. We go to work. We pay the bills. Etc., etc., etc. There's a lot of television and not too much excitement or anticipation of good things to come. There's hardly time to "smell the roses" and treasure of the gift of our life.
Enter the Holy Spirit...there are a host of important things and there are essentials in this life...
The reason for God in our lives is to bring a sense of purpose and well-being. Know that life has a higher purpose than all these other lesser things---details regarding a purposeless life produce a blur in our mind. The reason for God is to bring meaning and focus into our lives:
It happens when we make a decision -- to die to things that remind us of unpleasant things — death, life without meaning, boredom, and seeming purposelessness. These cause us to fall into deep despair at times.
Make a personal choice.
Die to a lot of things in life that just do not provide joy and personal peace. Be raised up into newness of life through the Holy Spirit — already at work in each one of our hearts. All you need to do is open the package.
When the wedding feast of life has run its course--- and the wine has run out---and the party's about to abruptly end...that's when Jesus shows up to liven things up
What a great Gospel lesson in John we have to consider... we thought life was almost over for us...and now we know that life is just about to begin in an abundance it was meant to be---from the time we were conceived in the womb.
We tried it our way and things didn't work out for us. Now we will simply do it God's way, with reason to decide to live our life in Jesus, we experience joy and peace and have the assurance things are going to be just great!
"...all things work together for the good of those who love the Lord and act according to His purpose..." ([Paul] Romans 8:28)
When it seems to look as if the wedding feast is about to end, Jesus intervenes and keeps things going (again) ---over and over again. The fine wine never runs out. Let Him liven up the feast of abundant life---yes, your reasonable and rightful life, your joy, your destiny---in Him.
From Rev Dr Tom Nibbe
"cherish yesterday, turn your wounds into wisdom, dream tomorrow, live like crazy today" Anonymous
"be yourself, no one else is qualified and everyone else is taken" Unknown
"...I have summoned you by name, you are mine..." (Isaiah 43:1-7)
"...worship the Lord in the splendor of His holiness..." (Psalm 29:3)
"...they prayed for them that they may receive the Holy Spirit, because the Holy Spirit had not yet come upon any of them...they had simply been baptized into the name of the Lord Jesus...then Peter and John placed their hands on them, and they received the Holy Spirit..." (Acts 8:15-17)
"I baptize you with water...but One more powerful than I --- will come, the thongs of His sandals I am not worthy to untie...He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire..." (Luke 3:16)
We thank you that Christ Jesus' shed blood is sufficient to so cleanse us that we need not go to any dark place, but always, at all times, remain in the light of your love and provision for our lives. We are so glad that you came to love and save us. In Jesus' name, we pray. Amen
I'd like to make a point today about the difference between unfocused religious pursuit and genuine faith. There seems to be such lack of distinction between the two perspectives on spirituality these days. I have always tried hard to live by faith without seeming "holier than thou" to others, and sometimes I've simply failed to do so.
I've constantly asked the question to myself - how can I be normal and yet have extraordinary faith?
How can I know that I have journeyed sufficiently to the place spiritually needed to experience Jesus in his fullness?
Anything less than the sentiment of Deuteronomy 6:4-5 would fall short of the mark. By and large we have forgotten that "very special sense" of totally loving God, totally allowing Him to lead, putting the Lord first in our lives, making our spiritual point in life keeping God's interests first.
As the only Pakistani missionary to America, Madame Bilquis Sheikh used to say, "...making it my goal to please the Lord..."
For me, failing to keep Jesus the focus of our lives usually leads to personal failure, lack of purpose in life, and radicalism. Indeed, keeping faith "on the side" has tragic consequences. It leads to "dualistic thinking" in life and eventually leads to the kind of religiosity that is so radical that it causes religious people to do dastardly things.
A mixture of religion and unresolved rage has caused so much cruelty, destructiveness and other deeper, more pervasive darkness than any other factor in our post-modern world.
In that same chapter, the third chapter in John's Gospel, prior to the 16th verse, Jesus presents an essential element of faith life, in fact, faith formulation, in His remarkable conversation with another great historical figure, Nicodemus. Nicodemus comes to Jesus at night. He wants to meet Jesus, but he doesn't want people to see him doing so. (People came to Nicodemus--- Nicodemus didn't come to others.)
He acknowledged that Jesus "must have come from God..." I would say that comment was quite a remarkable comment from Nicodemus' lips. I'm convinced he eventually became a believer in Christ. At this point, Nicodemus was quite impressed with reports than Jesus performed what he called, "miraculous signs".
A transition came when Jesus switched the course of the conversation, so that it wouldn't focus upon the Lord's accomplishments, but rather on Nicodemus' salvation...his insight into faith essentials...being in the forefront of all religious thought and discussion in Israel, he is completely in ignorant of what Jesus is attempting to address him with.
Jesus turned the conversation around to the spiritual essentials, more important than "miraculous signs"... to this day, the thing people find most compelling. We note John 3:3, "...I tell you the truth, no one can see the Kingdom of God unless that person is born again..."
Let me quote from this most important passage in the Bible.
John 3:5-8 "...I tell you the truth, no person can enter the Kingdom of God unless that person is born of water and the Spirit. Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit. You shouldn't be surprised at my saying, 'You must be born again.' The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So...it is with everyone born of the Spirit..."
Let me share a recent conversation over the telephone with a gentleman I've known for decades. Hopefully, through sharing this conversation, I can get my point across regarding the definitive difference between common religiosity and genuine faith.
I received a call in the evening recently from a friend in rehabilitation. His drug of choice had been alcohol. He asked this question in the course of conversation, depending upon me for an answer regarding a spiritual matter...that alerted me...causing me to go on-guard: "Will I go to hell if I commit suicide?"
I replied: "Now, wait a minute, let me get this straight...you're asking me to condone something that we both know is evil...? Is that what you are asking..."
The response: "Look, life is miserable for me. I don't want to live anymore...I want to die..."
"Okay, I hear you... (pause) "...let me suggest something that may work for you. You want to die, but you want to die your way... Is that what I'm hearing(?)...rather than God's way... (pause)
"...I've sensed for years that you certainly demonstrate respect for God and your fellow human beings...you are a moral person and you have a compassionate heart, but your belief system smells shallow and artificial to me...there hasn't been room for genuine biblical faith there in your life. You may not know it, or be aware of it..."
"...what I mean is...you're a good man with a bad habit...you have nothing inappropriate to say about the Lord, but you've never...may I say it... laid down your life before Jesus...you've never surrendered your life...you thought you could take care of yourself without Christ in your heart... you need to be born again..."
After I had shared the material in the third chapter of John's Gospel, I suggested the following:
"I respect the fact that you've been struggling with the very real issues of your life. Considering that, in my heart, I have known that you haven't taken the crucial step in your life that would complete you and make you whole... you've remained at a certain 'dead spiritual place' all these years..."
"...God has allowed you to go through what you're going through now for His purpose in your life. Rehabilitation didn't just happen. It was God who allowed the unpleasant things that have happened --- to draw you near to Him. The Lord is not punishing you. He's trying to get your attention!
God has bought you to this crucial point that His divine purpose in your precious life might be fulfilled... You must be 'born again'...God wants you to die, but He wants you to die His way so you may be made complete. You need to be 'born again'!"
There was silence at the other end of the line. I paused with the silence, and then, asked, "Are you ready to accept God's invitation for you to experience the goodness of life in Him. Are you ready for 'abundant life'?"
He said, "Yes, I am."
A council member from our congregation used to say, "Jesus will fix a fix to fix us". I remember that saying as we together thank God for that conversation. I expect that the Lord will walk with my friend in the days to come, giving him encouragement daily, and bring him one day to eternal life. God doesn't cause us displeasure, but He will allow it that His perfect will for us may be fulfilled.
Considering our human condition in depth, we all need to be born again. We need to die to "self" and experience a transformation of the person we are, the person we were meant to be.
This brings me back to the statement Jesus makes in the Gospel lesson...
Many of us have been baptized with "water", but, like the gentleman mentioned, haven't be baptized in the "Spirit" (John 3:5). What happened during that conversation over the phone was the completion of the baptismal covenant God made with him when he was baptized as a child. God was faithful to perform his conversion to faith. The God's Church did its part.
I also have observed we can, indeed, receive the Spirit first, prior to the time we are baptized with water. In that case, water baptism is necessary and follows thereafter. Jesus makes it a point to suggest that we must be born of water and the Spirit. Jesus makes this crystal clear.
I rest my case.
We all drive automobiles these days that have two bucket seats in the front. I remember automobiles that seated three persons in front. Unfortunately, our post-modern automobile seating arrangements, it seems, reflect our notion of Godhood, with two divine personages in the front seats and one in the back. The Father and Jesus sit in the front --- and the Holy Spirit sits in the back. We need a "Spiritual Automobile" that seats the Holy Spirit in the front seat with Father and Son.
Using that analogy, I'm sensing that Jesus would back me up. Furthermore, the Lord works diligently with great effort to bring us to Him through the Spirit so we might know Him as He is --- it's not always our faithfulness, but His faithfulness, that is the redeeming factor. He will find a way for the persons He loves --- that's each of us --- to experience the "great transformation" happening when we surrender.
As Psalm 29 [David] suggests, we worship the Lord in the splendor of His Holiness when we do so, having surrendered "all" unto Him...when we have received the baptism of water and the Spirit.
There are times when we get discouraged with church on Sunday morning, wondering what worship is all about:
It's really ourselves we need to look at.
When it comes right down to it, we need to allow the Lord to speak to us through the words of Jesus directed to that venerable epitome of religion, Nicodemus, in the third chapter of John's gospel. Jesus can see through both you and me. God is a gentleman. He will not force us to accept Him and His ways. He wants your heart and mine to be open to surrender to the only One, the only Source, worthy of that surrender, into abundant life.
What a great time to make the great change in our lives...at the beginning of a new year...
If you have not done so prior, would you accept my invitation that you receive Jesus today as Lord and Savior? Ask Him to come into your heart. Make a decision to receive Him as personal Lord and Savior.
You won't regret it. He is worthy.
From Rev Dr Tom Nibbe
Scripture - Ephesians 4:1-16
As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all. Ephesians 4:1-6 (NIV)
The Epistle lesson for this Sunday is recorded in Saint Paul's Letter to the Ephesians. In this portion of the New Testament, Paul seeks by his letter to bring about unity within the local body there in the city of Ephesus. What he encourages the Ephesians to do is what we should be encouraged to do:
He writes (verse one) - as a prisoner for the Lord:
"I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received."
How are we to fulfill that call...?
Some years ago a lady in my congregation expressed the following to me: "I can't stand that woman!" in regard to another lady in the congregation. I replied, "You know, dear lady, you're going to have to be with that woman for all eternity...what a prospect!" She replied, "What am I to do?" Without a pause I opened my mouth unable to know how to help her and the words came out [via the Holy Spirit], "Take her to lunch..." Reply: "You've got to be kidding."
Keep unity of the Spirit through the bond of Peace.
Saint Paul goes on (verse 4): "...there is one body and one Spirit---just as you were called to one hope when you were called---one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all..."
BUT - to each one of us - GRACE has been given (as Christ apportioned it.)
What does this all mean?
Well, we all share the same Spiritual inheritance:
In a more direct understanding of Paul's intention, he addresses the tendency we have in the Church to create division. It was there in Paul's time and it certainly is there present these days, for sure.
From Rev Dr Tom Nibbe
You were marked in Him with a seal--- the promised Holy Spirit (Eph. 1:13b)
"...'How can I set twenty loaves of barley bread before one hundred men?...', Elisha's servant asked. Elisha answered, 'Give it to the people to eat, for this is what the Lord says, 'They will eat and have some left over...' Then he set it before them, and they ate and had some left over, according to the word of the Lord." (2 Kings 4:42-44)
"...another of His disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter's brother, spoke up, 'Here is a boy with five small barley loaves and two small fish, but how far will they go among so many?'..." (John 6:8,9)
Gracious Lord and Savior, We are your grateful people. As the Hebrew Bible declares, "...you open your hand and satisfy the desires of every living thing...". You are gracious to us, you are generous with us, you are forgiving, and insightful in dealing with each of us individually.
You put up with our complaints, our doubts, our procrastinations, and our moods. You are familiar with all our ways. And you love us and remain faithful in the midst of our inconsistencies and waywardness. We are so glad you have introduced us to a life of faith. You, Lord, in the midst of uncertainty, provide assurance in our need for order, peacefulness, and meaning. We are grateful for insight into us...
We commend our lives into your tender care. We ask that you forgive us for our shortcomings...our falling short of your target for our lives. Lord, we praise you. In Jesus' name, Amen.
This is the Sunday in which we consider "the feeding of the five thousand" in the sixth chapter of John's Gospel. Jesus was on the far side of the Sea of Galilee, evidently, near Tiberias. [In our time, near downtown, shops serve some of the most delicious "Shwarma" one can get anywhere in the world.]
Eventually, five thousand people (plus) were fed and satisfied with plenty left over, twelve baskets worth. The people were amazed.
This narrative for me is the proof text for the notion that when we take on a task with faith, no matter our circumstances, it is multiplied when the Lord Jesus is involved. As the Lord satisfied the hungry five thousand (plus) with limited means, He will also satisfy us, though our resources are also limited. We need to proceed in faith.
Presently, we are preparing for a "discipleship retreat" in Pacifica in October.
I wanted at this point to transition over to the Epistle lesson for this Sunday. It is found in Paul's letter to the Ephesians 3:14-21...
This is an amazing passage as far as I'm concerned and I wanted to tell you why. Paul, inspired by the Holy Spirit, speaks about the personal spiritual qualities we'd all like to have, in fact, qualities we would "die for"... heart knowledge of the Christ's nature and purpose, the clearing away of unimportant priorities that sometimes saturate our lives...escaping the meaninglessness of just seemingly existing without significant purpose...
In fact, taking that step in life is the really the true biblical foundation of genuine Christianity. To let Jesus take over in our lives doesn't mean our identity no longer exists.
In Jesus, Saint Paul talks about having extraordinary strength to deal with the issues of everyday living, but the Apostle does so within the context of uprooting the externals in order to discover and realize our inmost being...that is... ...substantially who we are in Christ through the Spirit and who we actually are in the deepest sense also...
He shares his prayer that the Ephesian followers may have the experience of divine strength through the Holy Spirit to have Christ dwell in their hearts. They're not comprehending the deeper things of faith. Their faith lives are too close to the surface. They need to avoid being doubleminded, proceeding to think they can to go on being the person we were before, and, not sensing the profound nature of embracing Christ.
I get the idea the Ephesians were living their faith lives too close to the surface. Paul was addressing the lack of spiritual depth. Their approach to church was superficial, lacking depth, lacking true spiritual depth. They just weren't digging down into the roots of their spiritual lives and fellowship. The Apostle seems to encourage his readers to seek a deeper expression in their faith lives.
It would be helpful sometime soon to take an in depth study into the power of this epistle. There seems to be a follow up that applies to 21st century folks in the church. Am I wrong? Many folks I have known and shared this life with in the church seem to struggle a bit with genuine faith. They're mixed up between the ethical teachings of the Bible, as opposed to the theological teaching. In short, real, genuine Christianity is not a "Do Right-Do Wrong" religion. It goes way beyond that. Church folks don't always understand some of the deep spiritual concepts of the Bible and so they proceed as best they can. Thanks to the text for today we know we can have a faith that is genuine, based on the Bible. The text of the third chapter in Paul's letter is encouraging. The entire letter by Paul is a call to arms in terms in securing a genuine, personal faith in Jesus. I'm inclined to believe that the issues first-century Christians faced are much the same as ours.
Thanks to Paul's letter to the Ephesians, we can not only know about Jesus, but can know Him, especially as the Holy Spirit takes charge in our lives, and we allow the Spirit to have free flow within us. It is such a beautiful feeling of peace, joy, and assurance.
Walking fully in the Spirit, other things that seemed so essential before, now simply become incidental, either important along the way, or necessary, but not the heart of things. This is the wideness, the length, the height and the depth of Christ's love filling us.
NO NEED FOR FILLERS
There isn't any need to collect things as a substitute, as so many Americans do, or to seek after riches, or to coddle ourselves rather than stretch past the limits of our imagination to serve God and His purpose through us, as well as, going on one endless pursuit after the next feeling the frustration of not knowing that God's timing in our lives is always perfect.
Paul writes in Ephesians 3:8:
"...although I am less than the least of all God's people this grace was given me to preach the the Gentiles the UNSEARCHABLE RICHES IN CHRIST and to make plain to everyone the administration of this mystery...
Let's break the passage down and put it into helpful sections for us to grow into the fullness that is Christ:
Again Paul writes in Ephesians 3:16-19: "I pray that out of his glorious riches He may...STRENGTHEN YOU WITH POWER (able to do and complete whatever you set out to do) THROUGH HIS SPIRIT (we don't do it on our own...we do it with the Lord) IN YOUR INNER BEING (this is not about superficial religion without insight)...so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith...And I pray that you...BEING ROOTED and ESTABLISHED IN LOVE may have power, together with all the saints to grasp HOW WIDE (we will not be like a horse wearing blinders), HOW LONG (no limitation to the breadth of insight), HOW HIGH (our comprehension is greatly heightened), HOW DEEP (our recognition of God's love is profound) is the love of Christ and to know the love that surpasses knowledge that you may be filled to the THE MEASURE OF ALL THE FULLNESS OF GOD."
This is profound Spiritual writing on Saint Paul's part, inspired, of course, by the Holy Spirit, has been passed on to the followers of Jesus for thousands of years. For this and so much more in the Bible, we are grateful to God...
May the eyes of your heart be enlightened.
From Rev Dr Tom Nibbe
YAHWEH'S PROMISE REGARDING JESUS "...'The days are coming' declares the Lord, 'when I will raise up to David, a righteous Branch, a King who will reign wisely and do what is just and right in the land... in His days Judah will be saved and Israel will live in safety...this is the name by which He will be called... THE LORD OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS." (Jeremiah 23:1-6
WE ARE GOD'S HOLY TEMPLE "...you are no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow citizens with God's people and members of God's household, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus --- Himself as the chief cornerstone...in Him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord...and in Him, you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by His Spirit..." (Ephesians 2:11-22)
IN LOVE JESUS' MINISTERS "...when Jesus landed and saw a large crowd ...He had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd...so He began to teach them many things..." (Mark 6:30-34,53-56)
"...they begged Him to let them touch even the edge of His cloak, and all who touched Him were healed..." (Mark 6:56b)
Quotations To Think About
"...if you wish to drown, don't torture yourself with shallow water..." (Anonymous)
"...my life is in the hands of any fool who makes me lose my temper..." (Joseph Hunter)
"...the mass of humanity lead lives of quiet desperation..." (Henry David Thoreau)
"...the efforts which we make to escape from our destiny only serve to lead us into it..." (Ralph Waldo Emerson)
"...you can fool some of the people some of the time...
...you can fool most of the people most of the time...
...but you cannot fool all the people all the time..." (Abraham Lincoln)
WE'LL REMEMBER THIS ONE "...if you hate a person, you hate something in that person that is part of yourself...what isn't part of ourselves doesn't disturb us..." (Hermann Hesse)
Gracious, loving God,
This is the day you have made for us to live in. We have a choice to make and you leave that up to us. We can choose to be judgmental, critical, and negative. Or we can choose to accept your invitation that we take the high road in life.
We can give thanks for all situations we will face.
We can make the best of every single circumstance.
We can trust that you won't let anything to happen that isn't part of your perfect plan for our lives.
We promise to do our best, and as in past days, we ask that you forgive us our sins, and know that you will forgive us when we fall short of our goal of pleasing you and acting according to your purpose. We know that you are a compassionate God and we love you for it.
In Jesus' name. Amen.
Now Jesus of Nazareth makes His appearance. His ministry to the common people sets off a dynamic chain reaction throughout Israel, including avid note within the royal household.
The day of the "forbearer" of the promise made to David (2 Samuel 7:13) passes with John's death...
Enter...Jesus of Nazareth (Galilee)
The years of ministry and eventual passion have begun. Emmanuel made His appearance. ["Emmanuel" means "God with us"]. God Almighty took on human flesh through Jesus.
Even King Herod heard about Jesus of Nazareth. Jesus' name had become well known, even in sophisticated Jerusalem. Up until the sixth chapter of Mark's Gospel, Jesus called His disciples, taught in the synagogue in Capernaum, cast out evil spirits, healed Simon Peter's mother-in-law who has fever, healed leprosy, healed a paralytic, taught by the Sea of Galilee, and even calmed a storm or two. The deed which really got King Herod's attention was when Jesus raised up Jairus' daughter....Herod exclaimed,
"John, the man I beheaded, has been raised from the dead!"
God in human flesh, commissioned for service through baptism by John the Baptist in the River Jordan, had begun a ministry among the people. The Gospel of John (1:10ff) says this about Him:
"He was in the world, and though the world was made though Him, the world didn't recognize Him...He came to that which was his own, but his own didn't receive Him ...the Word became flesh and made His dwelling among us...we've seen His glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth..."
Word spread quickly about the healing hands of this special man from Galilee...
Many had come from afar. They were there in the thousands. Some had lost their jobs and needed to hear a word to give them confidence and hope. Some had lost loved ones and needed to be comforted. Some were disabled and mistreated, a fate for many worse than any human being should ever be treated. Some were in pain, many with long-term illness. Many were disabled. Some had nothing at all...no job to support their family, no food to eat, some with no family, no means means of transportation, and no home to live in...homeless---out on the street. Some had been sorely abused all through their live and needed to hear a word that would bring them peace and a sense of well-being. They had one hope, even if, only, to touch the hem of His garment to be healed or made whole. They were all assured that Jesus would help them.
He had compassion on them. They were like sheep without a shepherd...a sad, beaten-down crowd. What a ragged bunch! Jesus' heart went out to them. He knew what they needed...personal comfort took a back-seat within Him...
The phase comes in the 34th verse, "...so He began teaching them many things..." I've wondered for years, what did Jesus say to them. What did he teach them? I can't wait to ask Him that question some day...
Perhaps He let them know, as Saint Paul (Romans 8:28) would say, "...in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose..." Perhaps Jesus shared what Saint Peter later wrote, (1 Peter 1:6,7), "...for a little while you may have to suffer grief in all kinds of trials...these come so that your faith---of greater worth than gold [which perishes even though refined by fire]---may be proved genuine and result in praise, glory and honor...when you receive the goal of your faith...the salvation of your souls..."
We just don't know what Jesus said to them, but I'm sure it made a great deal of positive difference in their lives.
The Lord Jesus not only had the power to heal the sick, raise the dead, and feed five thousand with extremely limited resources...but---He had compassion...for the Gospel writer Mark this fact seemed so very important.
It causes us to take note of the importance of being a compassionate person at all times, especially when it's inconvenient for us...especially, like Jesus and the disciples, when we're weary and hungry, to be motivated to serve others anyway. That's the real test for a heart bent upon pleasing God. We'd have to admit we aren't always up to it. I'm sure the disciples weren't. I guess that's the great difference between the mindset of Jesus and just trying, on our own terms, to do the right thing and look half-way decent before others.
The call to follow Christ Jesus is to sometimes be tired, weary and hungry, and yet, have the vision to have "compassion". That's the real test. Are we up for that? I rest assured that's what the folks who prepare the lessons for the Sundays of the church year had in mind.
May you have a Sunday and the week following blessing after abundant blessing to carry you through. May the Lord have mercy upon us and grant us peace and joy, no matter what the "enemy" and the world may give us! We're more than conquerors through Jesus who loves us.
From Rev Dr Tom Nibbe
The remarkable comment of King Herod about Jesus...
"John, the man I have beheaded, has been raised from the dead!" (Mark 6:16)
The remarkable comment of Saint Paul in Ephesians...
"you were marked in Him with a seal of the promised Holy Spirit" (Ephesians 1:13c)
"I'd rather scrub floors in the house of my God than be honored as a guest in a sinful palace" (Psalm 84:10b - Eugene Peterson's translation - The Message)
"I will spare them no longer" (Amos 7:7-15)
We could perhaps say that God has His limits when it comes to "drawing the line" in allowing His people to act out...
"The Plumb Line" means that God is getting ready to judge,
In the Bible when God begins to measure length or weight, the reader can be sure that the people haven't measured up to God's requirements...He won't be visiting the people with His prophet any longer.
"...righteousness goes before Him and prepares the way for His steps..." (Psalm 85:13)
"...and He made known to us the mystery of His will according to His good pleasure which He purposed in Christ to be put into effect when the times will have reached their fulfillment---to bring all things in heaven and on earth together under one head, even Christ..." (Ephesians 1:9)
A Thought Or Two
"...man is equally incapable of seeing the nothingness from which he emerges and the infinity in which he is engulfed..." (Blaise Pascal, 1623-1662)
"...big ideas are so hard to recognize, so fragile, so easy to kill...don't forget that, all of you who don't have them..." (John Elliot, Jr.)
We glorify your name forever...great is your love...you have delivered us from the depths of the grave. The arrogant may attack us, O God; a band of ruthless people may seek our lives---people without respect for you and your Word... but you, O Lord, are compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness. We commend ourselves into your care this day. In Jesus' name. Amen.
Grace and peace in transitional times! I want to thank you for your patience in connecting up with the message for today. Priscilla and I have been dealing with a remodeling of our kitchen, (we're living in our dining room while drinking out of water bottles)...and in addition, yesterday was my 78th birthday...time ran short for completing the message that normally comes out to you.
However, the insight I received in the Lord in terms of these Scriptural passages is worthy of comment.
I have given the message title as "the plumb line". In the past I had considered the functional use of the plumb line in construction as a measuring device, and finally, came to the conclusion that "the measuring line" in the Bible --- at least --- in Isaiah 28:17, Jeremiah 31:38-39, and also Zechariah 2:1-2 --- indicated that God (Yahweh) was at the end of His rope in terms of putting up with the wayward tendencies of His people and was about to judge them... and judge them harshly. I also came to the conclusion that God did so, not so much to harshly punish them, as much as free them from themselves.
This quote, of course, isn't expressed in a time and place a person might think. The "affirmative sense" of the passage seems out of place. Jerusalem is being rudely and completely destroyed by King Nebuchadnezzar. It is the most horrible event in the history of Israel, with the exception the death of Jesus on the cross. The assumed author is Jeremiah himself. In spite of all the evidence to the contrary, the prophet is able to "vision" beyond the obvious total destruction of Jerusalem in 586 BC to a more profound sense of what it is to be the People of God...the "plumb line" scenario has literally moved from proclamation to become a stark reality.
This notion gives us the idea that God will hold us responsible for what we do, how we act...perhaps in anger (which scares some of us)...but with great compassion to allow us the privilege of envisioning a broader, higher, and more profound vision and of what it means to take faith, live in a real world, and experience Spiritual awareness we wouldn't have without the prophetic "plumb line". Sitting here in the present, the idea of God getting ready to bring about judgment, and all that may do to impact my life and those around me, makes me sit up and take notice. At the same time, the affirmation of the prophet Jeremiah in Lamentations gives us great hope that no matter what happens, we can trust that God knows what He is doing and we will prosper, and spiritually so, not matter what may befall us in terms of what happens all around.
With that thought in mind, I would like to turn to what I consider to be the most profound passage in all of Scripture. As I do that I want to put forth John 3:16 NIV (For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.) and Deuteronomy 6:4-5 NIV (Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.) as manifestly essential Scriptural points of focus in our faith lives.
The Scriptural passage I am referring to is:
Ephesians 1:9 - He made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ,
In this passage Saint Paul wants to present to us the mystery of God's will, and in addition, the Lord's good pleasure for the present position and the future of His Holy Church, the world and it's people, and the universe.
There is a direct connection between "the plumb line" in the Old Testament passages, and the profound nature of God to get our attention, a means to allow us freedom, but not to the extent that we fall into life-styles and means of living that are not in line with the mystery of God's will to bring all things together in heaven and on earth under one head. That "one head" would be the ultimate, eternal kingship of the Lord Jesus Christ.
How that will be brought about, we are not quite sure, but we have the assurance that we are part of that great plan of convergence, and that, the Lord will not abandon us in the process...once again...in the midst of our human failings... we need always to place our trust in Him...
"...the Lord is good to those whose hope is in Him...to the one who seeks Him...it is good to wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord..." (Lamentations 3:25-26)
Just stay in there with Jesus. Cordially, Tom
From Rev Dr Tom Nibbe
HAPPY BLESSED FOURTH OF JULY!
"...let the people think they govern...and they will be governed..." (William Penn) [Governor of Pennsylvania]
"...indeed...I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just..." (Thomas Jefferson)
"...people are not punished for their sins, but by them..." (Elbert Hubbard)
"----to escape criticism----do nothing...say nothing...be nothing..." (Elbert Hubbard)
"...there is luxury in self-reproach...when we blame ourselves... we feel no one else has a right to blame us..." (Oscar Wilde)
"...the only difference between the saint and the sinner is that every saint has a past, and every sinner has a future..." (Oscar Wilde)
"...there are two ways of spreading light: to be the candle or the mirror that reflects it..." (Edith Wharton)
"...I lift up my eyes to you, to you whose throne is in heaven..." (Psalm 123:2)
"...for Christ's sake I delight in weakness, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties...when I am weak then I am strong..." (2 Corinthians 12:2-10)
"Gracious, freedom-loving God!
You deserve our praise on this---the Fourth of July... As Americans, we are said to be a free people, but we cannot be truly free if we are bound by appropriate accusation, just conviction and consequent judgment. Jesus became "our sin" and freed us from these things. So, you free us from the stain of sin, and the fear of death, by the power of Jesus' precious, innocent and divine blood, shed as a sufficient sacrifice for all that would personally imprison us.
Through the merit of your beloved Son, we are able to take on each new day as refreshed, energized persons, anticipating the assurance of eternal life, not based upon our deeds, but rather, based upon our Scriptural assurance that Christ died for this moment when we truly able to know "freedom of mind and soul" from above. Thank you, Lord, for this benefit we rejoice in this special day and all days, in which we experience true and complete freedom of mind, soul and body... You always give us only the very best...
In Jesus' name. Amen.
Fallen human nature, apart from redemption in the Holy Spirit, in accepting Jesus, is dangerous and destructive. I should say, I hate to admit it, but it's the truth. We note that what will eventually happen in Ezekiel's time isn't so much to punish God's people as it is to rescue them from the influence of their rulers.
Currently, I keep up with the news to understand with a biblical mind-set what God has in mind for us, because I am convinced there is a direct connection between current events and what had already happened in biblical times. Another insight in regard to reading Ezekiel is to note the artistry involved in his proclamation, his use of allegory, and poetic language, indeed, without sweetening the beverage (so to speak). The saying goes, "You can catch more bears with honey, than with vinegar." That was not always true of Ezekiel's ministry, because, as we note, there were severe words he was called upon to deliver. But it was presented artfully and powerfully. It needs to be true of us as we preach in these days.
In terms of the Gospel lesson, Mark 6:1-13 (and I'm really getting into Mark these days) reminds us that when we ministers go back to our hometown to preach, [and I've done that], we'll often get the same response that Jesus got. In essence, the attitude often is, "Who does he think he is now...?" We don't get to manifest the presence we have acquired over the years. We remain the kid we were to those who receive us at home after years and years. My father-in-law was once invited to serve as the first "native-born" Bishop of Karachi, but he refused that invitation because he was a Sindhi, and like Jesus, he would probably not have been well-received in his home territory.
In another section, that is, Romans 7:18 following, "...I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature...for I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out...for what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I don't want to do---this I keep doing...
We hop down to Romans 7:22,23 - "...for in inner being, I delight in God's law, but I see another principle at work in the members of my body, waging war against the principle of my mind, and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within my members..."
The struggle isn't just Saint Paul's. The struggle is also ours. It's astonishing to read along seeing Paul with great transparency as he shared his very personal struggles. It's encouraging for us all to know we have permission to be open about our struggles and our shortcomings. Hopefully, let it be, that within the fellowship of faith we'll always be accepted for the person we actually are.
We're human, even though we're people of faith. At times, especially when we desire to be fit representatives of our Lord ---and we seem a contradiction to others---it's great to know Paul came right out to share the story of his full humanity, along with the outstanding ministerial feats. What an example for all Christians to follow. I do declare---it so liberating to be fully impressed with Paul's transparency. On the other hand, how uncomfortable it is when fellow believers present themselves as "holier than thou". Our congregations need to be hospitals for sinners rather than country clubs for saints.
May our celebration of Independence Day be a blessing!
Thank you for your fellowship in the Lord Jesus!
"...for His anger lasts only a moment...but His favor lasts a lifetime... weeping may remain for a night...but rejoicing comes in the morning..." (Psalm 30:5)
"...and they didn't do as we had expected, but they gave themselves to the Lord, and then to us in keeping with God's will..." (2 Corinthians 8:5)
"...when she heard about Jesus, she came up behind Him in the crowd, and touched His cloak, because she thought, 'If I just touch His clothes, I will be healed.' Immediately her bleeding stopped and she felt in her body that she was freed from her suffering..." (Mark 5:27-29)
Grace and peace to you! As the sun shines brightly overhead this morning, may the Son of God shine profoundly deep inside each and every heart. What a privilege to share the thoughtful wisdom and the uplifting message of the Holy Bible on this great day!
May the Lord Jesus Christ dwell richly in you as you begin the day! The Scriptures this morning are truly remarkable. I'd like to take the time to share a few insights in passing as we gravitate toward the "heart of the matter" in the Lord's teaching for us today. The historical background of the Old Testament passage has been a huge surprise to many. The passage includes the following phrases:
These words definitely affirm the Prophet Jeremiah's trust in the Lord God of Israel. The surprise lies in the fact that Jeremiah makes this affirmation during the total destruction of Jerusalem in 586 BC by King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon. The Prophet is present. He sees Solomon's temple destroyed, the temple priests being slaughtered on the altar, children being eaten by their parents because of terrible starvation. It was a horrible experience. It was the most disastrous event in the history of God's relationship with Israel, with the exception of the death of Christ on the cross.
Two verses from the New Testament helped me to make that amplification of my faith life... "...and we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him and are called according to His purpose..." (Romans 8:28)
"...Rejoice in the Lord always, and again I say, Rejoice...let your gentleness be evident to all...the Lord is near...Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God...and the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus..." (Philippians 4:4-7)
Before that, I praised God for the things that pleased me and made me feel happy, affirmed, and satisfied. On the other hand, when I was displeased, disappointed, and left out in the cold, I would mumble under my breath and curse my situation. I would feel abandoned by God...and of course...deny it. After all, why would God ever allow bad things to happen, especially to me. In my own way, I would literally chew God out, and question His love for me. After all, why do bad things happen to good people! I learned through the affirmation of the Prophet Jeremiah to praise God, not only in the "feel good" moments, but also, when I thought I was at the end of my rope...when I would normally "take the lower road" like everybody else, without a substantial faith principle, to speak to my situation.
When things are seemingly good and also pleasant I've learned to praise and thank the Lord. When things are seemingly bad, foreboding, and unpleasant, I still praise and thank the Lord. The reason for this is...I can't often see the larger picture involved.
As a person of faith, I trust that the Lord allows what happens as part of His perfect plan for my life and those around me, indeed, those that I pray for. I have learned that there is no failure with God. His wisdom is more than remarkable. In accord with this understanding of genuine faith, not mere religion, mind you, I'm often reminded by Psalm 30:5b, that: "...weeping may remain for a night... but rejoicing cometh in the morning..." Without a firm, tested faith life --- that is trying out this concept of what it means to live spiritually while participating fully in the reality of our daily lives --- we ride the "roller-coaster" of life emotionally that so many millions do, who, reject faith, living ignorantly in self-imposed darkness, or being confused about the difference between the trappings of religion, and then, genuine faith.
We note something in passing... Carrying this spiritual notion a bit further, the Apostle Paul expresses surprise regarding the Macedonian Christians who didn't do what he had expected (that is, falling short of what would be his way), but rather, gave themselves to place the Lord first in their lives and then to serve Paul and those who accompanied him. What an important consideration for those of us who follow Christ to place Jesus first, above all.
For several of us this would be a frightening challenge...to surprise our sisters and brothers of faith by our priority of pleasing Christ before all else. Imagine astounding our neighbors by our successful attempts to serve them, beyond the neighborly thing to do - sharing with others the story of our faith journey to arrive at a personal relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ. Could we do that without sounding like a religious fanatic or like somebody who was mentally unbalanced? A truly frightening thing to consider - inviting our neighbors and friends to come to church with us...(God forbid!!!)
Is it possible in 2021 that we could develop a knack for doing this - keeping our church building and property in such great condition that all who pass by are greatly impressed by this expression of our respect for the Lord...(this is not a "dig" upon any particular congregation or property) - giving a tenth of our income to our local church and working as John Wesley used to do with each passing year to increase the percentage...(this is the real solid test to any person moving from "nominal participation" to the faith principle of the Scriptures).
I hear the question being asked "How can we grow our church fellowship?" The answer from one of the greatest church stewardship leaders was...invite the people you think would be great, effective members of your church to supper at your home... [...such frightening thoughts...] Go ahead, church people...surprise your church leaders...!!!
I can understand the pitfall of folks who deeply desire personal healing, and then, when they think they are trusting God, they become disappointed. When healing doesn't come, they go on their way.
I prefer those who accept their circumstances and proceed to know that God is good and, if He so chooses, they will recover from infirmity. If they must go the route of suffering, and its eventuality, they do so willingly. The story of suffering and pain is still the ultimate mystery for me after all these years of pastoral service.
Nonetheless, I am totally moved by the healing of this woman. I'm amazed at her conviction that Jesus would heal her, and then considering the masses around Jesus, all she'd need to do is to touch His garment to be healed. As mentioned before, I am captivated by the narrative. There's not a bone in my body that doesn't believe that this encounter took place.
I get a powerful feeling from reading this passage that encourages me in my walk and opens my mind and heart to accept the healing power of Jesus to heal that part of each of us that needs wholeness. Jesus' comment, when she does so, haunts me...with all the thousands crowding around Him...He asks... "Who touched me?" The text relates in regard to this awareness: "...at once Jesus realized that power had gone out from Him..." What a statement by Mark... "Immediately her bleeding stopped and she felt in her body that she was freed from her suffering..." I love that sentence.
It's so good to be uplifted by the power of the Word. May Jesus heal each one of us this day and those following. Great is Thy faithfulness! May the Lord bless each of us to know that there is a healing power in the Lord that goes beyond all reason and understanding. Trust in Him. He is worthy.
From Rev Dr Tom Nibbe
First I'd like to thank all who helped tidy up and clean our Holy Cross, Pacifica, church campus. A big thank you to you all.
"...I dry up the green tree and make the dry tree flourish..." (Ezekiel 17:24)
"...how great are your works, Lord, how profound your thoughts..." (Psalm 92:5)
"...so we make it our goal to please Him..." (2 Corinthians 5:6-17)
"...from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view..." (2 Corinthians 5:16a)
"...if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come..." (2 Corinthians 5:17a)
"...He didn't say anything to them without using a parable..." (Mark 4:34a)
Recently, prior to all the graduation ceremonies in the Bay Area, I was handed a letter by a long-time friend, and as well, mom of a young lady, Karen, attending the University of California, Berkeley. I asked permission from mom to share it with you this morning...
Thank you very much for asking about my well-being and health. Thank God I'm not as heavy as I was when you saw me last. I started to lose a lot of weight after a strange eruption of the skin on my chest and abdominal areas. The doctor at the "free clinic" says it might be herpes, but I'll remain hopeful that it isn't that.
Anyway, on the other hand, my depression has taken a turn for the better after a new friend named Max, from Chicago, moved in with me in my one-bedroom apartment. It seemed kind of big to me anyway before. He's a real great guy and he promised he will help me out with the rent when he gets back on his feet again. He's cleaned up a lot since we met. He helps me out a lot.
He even used to attend church a lot before he got hooked on heroine about eight years ago, but he promises he'll quit. "Honest!", he says. I even loaded him some of the money you sent to help him pay for treatment to get off the stuff. He says he's "out patient". Sometimes he says funny things to me, but most of the time he's really cool...way beyond me most of the time...
Max has introduced me to a new religion. My feelings of guilt and shame have really decreased dramatically, because with our new found religion, we don't have to be hypocrites. It's much more consistent with our views as regards drugs, sex, and work.
The other night we were taking a walk in the Castro district when the police arrested us thinking we were some other people. It was really a new kind of experience spending my first night in jail---in SF. I met some really different kind of people who made me realize we'd better be more careful next time.
Meanwhile, as a result, I haven't been going out as much as before. My schedule is kind of loaded. I've decided to quit school and get a job to pay off some bills.
On my last visit to the doctor, he told me I may be able to earn enough money before the delivery to partially offset the cost of having my first baby. I hope my skin problem doesn't complicate things for me. At least, in the hospital, I won't have to put up with the cockroaches and the stench of my apartment.
Now, Mom, I know that all these experiences seem pretty far out, pretty bad, but I'm going to ask that you do something for me... I'm going to ask that you forget every single word I just wrote you... because not a word of it is true...
The actual reason I'm writing to you today is to let you know that I failed Organic Chemistry this past term. It's really tough at Berkeley. I also want to let you know that some things aren't really as bad as they seem to be. Please forgive me for leading you on, Mom. I know you'll understand and that I'll improve as I get used to this place.
Love always, Karen
Poor Mom. All in all, after the initial shock, she took it well, and chuckled later as she handed the letter over to me.
I thought it would be worthwhile to share the contents of the letter and to ask a worthwhile question...
What strategies have we developed within the context of our faith to share our failures and shortcomings with those whom we live with and those whom we love?
Thus, the Apostle writes in James 5:16, "Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed...the prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective."
None of us is perfect. We all fall short. (definition: to sin is "to fall short" [archery term: ancient]). We are for a lifetime --- hopeless sinners in the hands of a generous, loving God. Thank God that no perfect people are going to heaven, because... "there ain't no perfect people". What an insight!
We are able to go to our loving, understanding pastor. We are able to share our deepest feelings with trusted friends within the context of our church fellowship (and yet we do it with a heart and a mind discerning friends worthy of our trust).
We are so blessed to be able to confess our sins each and every Sunday morning. It is a blessing. Through that portion of the liturgy (service format) we are healed, according to the Bible. For many years I didn't know that and I didn't feel that, but I do now. I thank God for that...and I thank God for the wisdom of Dr. Perls to affirm the biblical teaching in our present age.
Imagine the great number of people in our area and our world who think they don't need the church and the fellowship of the church. When we look at the format of our Sunday morning worship and discern the wisdom of the components of the order, we discover, not only the sacred nature therein, but also the means for each of us to heal and be drawn into a life of wholeness and profound intimate fellowship.
From Rev Dr Tom Nibbe
Lord God, We once again give you praise, in thanksgiving, for your wonderful gifts provided daily with abundant love: shelter, transport, food, clothing, medicines, good books, fellowship, and opportunities to help others in their needs. We are truly grateful. Still in the midst of pandemic, we are thankful you have brought us forth. Be with those who have suffered the loss of loved ones and those who have recovered from Covid. We pray for our world, our country, we pray for our state, and local communities. Guide us in our life in Christ Jesus and give us desire to reach out to others and provide for their needs. In Jesus' name. Amen.
Grace and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ! Amen! May this be a day of great blessing for you!
Our Gospel lesson for this Sunday is from the third chapter of Mark's gospel, wherein, Jesus says: "If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand...if a house is divided against itself, that house cannot stand..."
Abraham Lincoln debated with Senator Stephen Douglas in 1858 over the choice prospective states of the Union would have if allowed to be slave states. I would've loved to have been on hand for that series of seven debates in the State of Illinois. Lincoln eventually lost the election, but gained national attention for the first time. He had served a term in congress. Opposing the Mexican War, he lost after one term. He used the quote of Jesus in Mark 3:24-25 to make a point about the eventual outcome of the struggle over the expansion of slavery in the United States. The suggestion was that our country as known up to that time would be dissolved. Indeed, that almost happened, as a result of the beginning of the American Civil War.
It's little known that Abraham Lincoln read the Bible cover to cover a number of times, and, pretty much, knew the Bible well...well enough that studying his speeches as our president, we can easily assume that his use of language and understanding of human interaction, and morality, and government are directly influenced by the Bible...
That is as it should be.
Lincoln's knowledge of the Bible influenced the course of his presidency, without directly imposing religion on others. The lesson we learn from history is that all too often through the years, and the ages, whenever a regime combines religion and government there is always great trouble, ending up in persecution, destruction, and disaster.
For that reason, a letter written to President Thomas Jefferson by the Danbury (Connecticut) Baptists in 1801-1802 seems so important in our understanding of the connection between our government and our faith concerns. The Congregationalists were giving the Baptists a rough time. It seemed the former group thought the Baptists didn't belong in their state, and needed to go elsewhere, or simply, cease and desist.
Did that sense of destiny fuel the imagination of young Abe...Why did Lincoln later on provide us with such an amazing tribute to his mother? These thoughts have often caused me to ponder, and look forward to meeting Mrs. Lincoln in heaven. Perhaps she'll have answers for me...
It also causes me to vision for those I love...my daughters...younger members of my family in former years...certainly the little ones and teens I have walked with and taught in the faith...We sometimes worry about them and the decisions they make presently and will make along the way. Perhaps we can be part of God's plan for those we care about by having the same frame of mind and heart as Nancy Lincoln had for her son, Abraham. Whatever that vision was, decidedly, it was there...and it worked.
We're not called to run the show, Christian Church, but to provide the insight and wisdom to win the hearts and minds of those who rule and are governed. We have all the tools to live fully in God's truth and to use the gifts the Lord has given us to trust in His most perfect timing --- and to know that --- in the most dire, uncertain and scary moments, He is in control.
It doesn't mean that Church isn't allowed to influence the thinking and believing of American government officials or its citizens. It makes the point of declaring that no particular religious group should directly control government or society, and yet, as President Lincoln did, powerfully and greatly, influence political decisions, bolster up society, and improve government...without controlling them.
Faith should influence decisions made in government according to that presidential doctrine, and yet, not demand it... For this reason, it's extremely important to make that distinction. We can worship and practice our faith as we see fit to do so, and yet, not think, that others must be forced to believe as we do. At the same time, President Jefferson wanted to encourage people of faith to make essential contributions to society and government...that was their job!
But how does that affect an evangelical like myself. I want all persons to know Jesus. I'm not shy or ashamed to share His story of great compassion and salvation. The answer isn't in "having leverage" over those souls we desire to reach. I don't want to have legislative or legal power over them. What seems to be a direction for a person like me?
The answer is found in the verb infinitive, "to convince".
One question is --- Do others recognize Christ Jesus in my actions and my words? Saint Francis said, "Preach Christ...and sometimes speak about Him..." Be yourself as a human being...as a genuine person.
But...know your Scriptures. What about worship on a regular basis to uplift the spirit within?
How many of us are in a good solid Bible study these days? If you're not, why not? Do you know your Bible as well as Abraham Lincoln did?
Another question is --- Am I developing the skills to share Christ Jesus naturally, so that, when appropriate, I can provide just precisely what other dear souls need to come to terms with sinful behavior, despair, guilt, shame, defeat in life, and regret?
Do I need to become another Billy Graham? No. Be yourself. Everybody else is taken. When you take it to heart, you will discover the evangelist within...
Does a person have to appear "holier than thou"? No. Be yourself. A number of professional evangelists I am acquainted with need to discover the wisdom of the expression, "You can catch more bears with honey than with vinegar..."
Develop the skill of being a delight to be with...
However, that's not all...really get into worship and the Bible...
Sometimes, recurrently, I wonder about something. Abraham Lincoln once said, "All that I am or ever hope to be, I owe to my angel mother..."
"...for you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again of fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship...and by Him we cry, "Abba" ["Daddy"], Father..." (Romans 8:15)
"...I'm a success today because I had a friend who believed in me and I didn't have the heart to let him down..." (Abraham Lincoln)
"...weeping may remain for a night... but rejoicing comes in the morning..." (Psalm 30:5b)
"Gracious, loving Savior God! We come to you this day as hapless, helpless sinners before you - your perfection and your glory...You offer us the bronze serpent in Jesus. We look upon Him and acknowledge several things. Sin and death have no power over us. Our gaze upon Him makes us whole, with forgiveness and great resolution for our human problem with sin in the process. We can take on each new day as refreshed, energized persons, anticipating the assurance of everlasting life, not based upon our merit, but rather based on our gaze upon the bronze serpent, Christ. Thank you, Lord, for this time of thought, regarding these benefits, and reflection. You give us only the very best...
In Jesus' name. Amen.
"O, Lord, what is humanity - that you care for us, the Son of Man - that you think of us...we are like a breath, our days are like a fleeting shadow..." (Psalm 144:3)
WHAT COUNTS IS THAT GOD'S WAYS ARE BETTER
When we think ourselves, on one hand, as deserving God's love, benefits, and assurances...or, on the other hand, when we think we cannot deserve it because of our sordid past, or what evil and unhelpful deeds we unwittingly continue to do...
FOCUS UPON THE ACTION OF GOD
Simply...stop thinking so much about yourself...let the God of the Bible forgive, restore, grant assurance, give you strength to live your life the way the Lord intended...
I'm absolutely fascinated with the narrative of the bronze serpent in the wilderness when Israel was under Moses (Numbers 21:8,9). The image has been so effective my life that I've dreamed time and time again the details of the narrative and I've awakened feeling forgiven and refreshed. Sin in my life has nearly destroyed me at times, time after time, so, the promise of the Scriptures in regard to forgiveness and redemption are quite live-giving for me.
Because of that image in my personal life, it amazes me that it shows up again in the superlative third chapter of John's Gospel. We're all familiar with what is often regarded as the most important verse in all of Scripture (John 3:16):
"...for God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten son, that whosoever believes in Him shall not perish but have everlasting life..."
It has granted to me, eternal life...and that eternal life...began as soon as I looked up. That bronze serpent was Jesus lifted up for me on the pole known to us as the cross.
a thought - Eternal Life
STOP COMPLAINING ABOUT THINGS
When I received "new life" in Jesus, I also received eternal life. Eternal life for me is "heaven". I'm in heaven on earth. Daily I live within the context of peace, joy, and perfect love. But... I'm challenged because, living in this first phase of heaven, I also live on earth, and in a real world. As Jesus made a choice to provide forgiveness and eternity for me, both phase one and phase two (after this present life), I need to make my choice... to stop complaining about things...and come to terms with a very real world...without using unacceptable language and having killing thoughts about other people and my circumstances. In this regard, Saint Paul in Romans 8:28 is very helpful to me:
"...and we know that in ALL things God works for the good of those who love Him and are called according to His purpose..."
Recently I ran across a terrific quote from the pen of William Law: "...if anyone could tell you the shortest, surest way to all happiness and perfection, that person must tell you to make it a rule to yourself to thank and praise God for everything that happens to you...for it is certain that whatever seeming calamity happens to you...if you thank and praise God for it...you turn it into a blessing..."
Please note a little gem from Charles H. Spurgeon: "...cry from grace from God to be able to see God's hand in every trial, and then, for grace to submit to it...I think there is generally an end to troubles, when we get to that..."
THE BRONZE SERPENT AND PERSONAL TRANSFORMATION
When you and I focus totally upon the "bronze serpent" in Christ Jesus we come to terms with ourselves, our world, and our destiny. We step into Eternity, the "new life" in Christ. We are solidly grounded and yet we're able and willing to adequately deal with the real world we live in. We don't complain any more because all that we encounter is the next divine step in our eternal destiny. It's a choice we make, being well informed in the ways of God. God is in charge and we are focused upon His Lordship. We look upon the bronze serpent and we are forgiven and healed. We focus upon the image of the bronze serpent and we are transformed to live out God's plan for our lives. Obviously, this is too big to pass off in our lives. All else is mere religion, having nothing to do with the saving power of Christ in our lives.
From Rev Dr Tom Nibbe
The Whitsuntide Service will focus upon the meaning of Pentecost for you and me.
"...I will make breath enter you and you will come to life. I will attach tendons to you and make flesh come upon you and cover you with skin; I will put breath in you and you will come to life...then you'll know that I am the Lord..." (Ezekiel 37:5b,6)
"...but you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth..." [Jesus](Acts 1:7)
"...they devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and to the fellowship of the breaking of bread and to prayer... everyone was filled with awe...and many wonders and miraculous signs were done by the apostles..." (Acts 2:1-21)
"...when the Paraclete [Counselor] comes, whom I'll send to you from the Father --- the Spirit of Truth --- who goes out from the Father, He will testify about Me...and you must testify...because you have been with me from the beginning..." (John 15:26-27)
"...but when He, the Spirit of Truth comes, He will guide you into all truth...He won't speak on His own...He will speak only what He hears...and He will tell you what is yet to come...He will bring glory to Me by taking from what's mine and making it known to you..." (John 16:13)
Gracious, all-knowing God! We pause this morning to give you much deserved praise for your kindness and your daily provision for our lives. We are ready to shout, "Happy Birthday, Church!!!" on the occasion of the Pentecost.
We ask your forgiveness, and we joyfully receive your undeserved kindness as you grant us unconditional pardon, as we pick up the brokenness of our lives, and are restored as whole human beings through our Lord and Savior, Jesus. Thank you for cleansing us so thoroughly in body, soul, and mind.
Lord, we're ready and willing to start a new chapter in our lives. We've heard there is more than one dimension of faith in your beloved Son, Jesus. We're ready to step up in faith to take hold of your superlative Spiritual gifts and be renewed in a way we've not experienced before. We're not afraid. Send your Holy Spirit to teach us, as you touch us, and show us a more powerful and compassionate way to live and serve.
Enliven us and refresh us in the ways of the Holy Spirit.
We pray in Jesus' name. Amen.
The word for Counselor, meaning Holy Spirit, in koin'ae Greek, is "paraklete"...often, in the Church, we speak of the Holy Spirit as the Paraklete...even though it is Greek, it is often used as part of the English language, because of its exotic sound...
It's the Day of Pentecost in the Christian Church. It's the birthday of the Church. The 2nd Chapter of Acts stands out among the multitude of Bible verses to remember by heart. For years I have encouraged Confirmation Classes to memorize this portion of the Bible.
The setting of the original occasion is of great interest. Was the Passion of Jesus not enough for us?
To some it may seem like an addition, an addendum, tacked on to the Holy Week (Passion Week) narrative. We remember.
Friends! The story doesn't end there. Okay. We turn to the 2nd Chapter of Acts.
The disciples were together in the upper room. The text says the doors were locked (John 20:19) for fear of the Jews...that is... "other Jews" of the party that put Jesus on the cross. The word that stands out for me is the word, "...fear..." The situation that catches my attention is that "the door was locked"...because of fear...of the Jews of that other party. The story of the cross and the Resurrection would remain unknown potentially because of fear.
Everything that happened on Passion Week was momentous and earth-shaking, but there was a real possibility that the facts of Holy Week would never be known to the world.
Because of fear!
The Good New of Jesus would travel no further than the walls of the upper room...because of fear...
In a sense, the disciples were much the same as we are today in 2021. Our doors are locked --- and well they may be. It's because of fear...of the unknown...of all the possible ways we and our family and our possessions could be endangered. It makes sense...
Often, we do our Christian duty by showing up for worship every once in a while, every now and then. The "scoop" around our churches is...don't volunteer for anything that may commit us to a more meaningful life for us and the cause of Christ.
We are afraid to try on "Christ"... seriously, all fear aside, just doing it all for Jesus no conditions. Like the disciples, but for different reasons these days, we're afraid.
The disciples found themselves in the upper room behind locked doors. After everything that happened, after everything Jesus did for them, and us, it would have been of no effect...because the doors were locked...
because of fear.
We're afraid of a substantial commitment to Christ lest we take up time, effort, and even money, to advance the good news given to us through Christ Jesus. We've been called and saved to share Jesus as disciples.
We're afraid of missing that special television program, or movie, or civic event. When it comes right down to it, normally, these are all in all, of non-effect. Experiencing them doesn't make a difference. Especially if attentiveness in this regard is merely habitual.
We haven't developed an increasingly strong sense of being a disciple of Jesus. We do our "Christian duty". Where's the great joy and sense of satisfaction in that? We're too often content in being a church member...and all too often a "church member of sorts". Too often these days I imagine the Lord saying to Himself... "What do my followers think they're doing in their spiritual lives?"
The Spirit within us all too often flickers. We need a blazing flame.
Like Jesus' disciples we're full of fear...but for different reasons. For this reason, we need the in-filling of the Holy Spirit. We need to pray for the Lord Jesus to send the Holy Spirit to us. The contemporary Church is in desperate need for the Holy Spirit to enter the hearts of the people of God. The lack of concentration on the Holy Spirit's work in our faith lives is a fundamental and foundational problem. The underlying problem is fear.
I sometimes picture our notion of the Godhead as the three persons of the Trinity being in an automobile. God the Father and God the Son are in the front seat...and the Holy Spirit is in the back seat. We need a Spiritual automobile that will seat "three" in the front seat.
For our lives to work in Christ Jesus, the Holy Spirit needs to be on an equal footing with the other two persons of the Trinity...we haven't preached it enough. We haven't believed it enough. We've avoided the underlying problem of motivation and performance in the Church.
We need to bring the Holy Spirit up there with the Father and the Son. We need to take the Holy Spirit seriously. We need to learn the lesson of what happened to a fearful group of disciples who were more focused upon fear, than sharing the fact that they were witnesses of all that had happened in Jerusalem during Holy Week. After the experience of the Pentecost, for the rest of their lives, the disciples of Jesus were fearless and bold and committed to the power of the Gospel to change the world.
I get it.
From Rev Dr Tom Nibbe
"...therefore it is necessary to choose one of the men who have been with us the whole time the Lord Jesus was living with us, beginning from John's baptism to the time when Jesus was taken up from us, for one of these must become a witness with us of His resurrection..." (Acts 1:21-22)
"...so they nominated two men: Joseph called Barsabbas (also known as Justus) and Matthias. Then they prayed, 'Lord, you know everyone's heart. Show us which of these two you have chosen to take over this apostolic ministry, which Judas left to go where he belongs.' Then they cast lots, and the lot fell to Matthias ...so he was added to the eleven disciples..." (Acts 1:23-26)
"...that person is like a tree planted by streams of water which yields its fruit in season...and whose leaf does not wither...whatever they do prospers..." [Anonymous] (Psalm 1:3)
"...as I would not be a slave...so...I would not be a master..." [Abraham Lincoln] "...this is the One who came by water and the blood---Jesus Christ. He did not come by water only, but by water and blood...and it is the Spirit who testifies, because the Spirit is the truth...for there are three that testify: the Spirit, the water, and the blood...and the three are in agreement. We accept human testimony, but God's testimony is greater because it is the testimony of God which He has given about His son..." (1 John 5:9-13)
.Grace and peace in the Lord Jesus to you and yours this precious day and always! It is such a privilege to share the priceless perspectives and views of the Holy Bible. They are life-giving for us as we continue to be challenged day by day in a very real world, with sure words and guidance for heart, soul, and mind. May the good Lord continue to enfold you in His love and protection. Take Jesus along with you today.
Lord, let us step forward in our lives with courage and sufficient power to take on the day, but put that all important "hedge of protection" within and around us. We praise you in advance for providing all we need this day to perform, outdo ourselves, and prosper. We will continue to give you the praise in both pleasant or unpleasant circumstances. We give you thanks and praise in advance for all that befalls us with peaceful hearts. In Jesus' name. Amen.
How confused we become when it comes to placing value upon things, experiences, and events that happen in our lives. It's so easy to imagine we accomplished more than we did, or less... We sometimes think about these as we evaluate our experience as followers of Jesus and as active members in our church.
Were we worth the Lord's effort? How we wish we could do more... something always stands in the way.
When I think about eternal life, I think about perfection all around me, forever bliss, and magnificent glory...to thrust away every single touch or dab of negativity and heartfelt yearning of the soul. Above all, I think of a place where there is no stress when I think of heaven
Whoever believes in Jesus has eternal life in the here and now. In Him we have all we need.
Human perfection doesn't seem to be a huge advantage in the Bible I read. Your best with your whole heart is sufficient. If I am wrong in this, please make sure to correct me now.
I have a thought that makes sense to me. Often, we get the notion that stress is thrust upon us. Well, the Bible seems to say that God is not going to give you more than you can handle. At times in my life I have questioned that...and I know that you have done the same.
Stress will always be part of life, but you and I have the habit of...adding on!!! We place more of a burden upon ourselves than God would ever require! Come on! Get off of the treadmill! Take things as they come. Trust in God's Word. Take one thing at a time.
Be aware that you may be thinking you have to take something on that you don't have to take on. Your life in Jesus is not about taking on more than what is humanly possible. Your efforts in Jesus are not about being absolutely perfect---because no human being is perfect---and besides--- and I often emphasize this...no perfect people are going to heaven! The reason for this...is...there are no perfect people. The Lord knows you quite well (it's surprising, it's sometimes frightening how insightful) and will never give you more than you can handle, more than would give you a great deal of personal satisfaction.
Find out what is unnecessary.
When you do things "the easy way" in Jesus that excellence and resilience will be accompanied by your attractive attributes of personal joy and deep-seated peace.
From Rev Dr Tom Nibbe
Today is Mother's Day.
On this very special day we acknowledge the role our mothers have had in our lives. Our moms have loved us and shown us how to love ourselves and others. Our mothers are those who have prepared us to take this life on and do the work we do and to do it up right. Our moms are not necessarily the women who have given birth to us, but all those special, unique and distinctive ladies who have greatly impacted our lives.
Thank you, Gracious and Loving God, for the blessing of mothers in our lives. As Abraham Lincoln once said, all that we are and everything we hope to be, we owe to our dear mothers. May all the ladies we know who've meant so much to us --- who share in this message today --- be blessed in this sincere expression of our love. May they know our sincere expression of appreciation. May they have a day of happiness and rejoicing.
We pray this simple prayer in Jesus' name. Amen.
Attributes Regarding Motherhood
"...a mother is a person, who seeing there are only four pieces of pie for five people, promptly announces she never really cared for pie..." Anonymous
"...mothers are like 'dab' rapid-fuse adhesive --- even when they're gone, they're still holding the family together..." Anonymous
"...by the time a woman realizes her mother was right --- she has a daughter who thinks she's wrong..." Anonymous
"...if at first you don't succeed... try doing it the way Mom told you to do it in the beginning..." Anonymous
"...behind every great kid there is a mother who is pretty sure she is screwing it up..." Anonymous
"...all that I am and all that I ever hope to be...I owe to my mother..." Abraham Lincoln
"...a definition of motherhood... learning about strengths you did not know you had... Linda Wooten
"...no man is poor who has a Godly mother..." Abraham Lincoln
"...motherhood is the exquisite inconvenience of being another person's everything..." Anonymous
"...all I am I owe to my mother..." George Washington
"...while Peter was still speaking these words the Holy Spirit came on all who heard the message...the circumcised believers who had come with Peter were astonished that the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out even on the Gentiles...for they heard them speaking in tongues and praising God..." (Acts 10:44-48)
"...the Lord Almighty is with us...the God of Jacob is our refuge..." Psalm 46:11 [King David]
"...the Son is the radiance of God's glory and the exact representation of His being, sustaining all things by His powerful word..." (Hebrews 1:3)
This is a message for those who are truly seeking "the straight story", the bottom line, that is, the essence of what a life of faith is all about... this is for the specific person the Lord has been speaking to my heart about...the person who senses some "element within" causing some considerable disturbance. What is it? Something being stirred deep within. Something speaking in what seems to be a foreign, but attractive message lacking words. It seems to be something needing clarification. It is a strange, but friendly voice.
It is the Holy Spirit knocking on your door.
What is your relationship to the thought of having a personal relationship with the Creator of the Universe? It may sound too big for the likes of "flesh and bones" creatures like you and me...but the bold invitation of the Scriptures suggest just that...
Yes, there are the trappings of religion. I suppose we all have them. Trappings are not the essence of faith. Sometimes faith and religion are almost opposite each other...but true spirituality is about a personal relationship with God. I would like you to note a powerful passage in Hebrews 3:1b...
"...fix your thoughts on Jesus..."
Can you imagine an eternal deity, that is, God, as human being also? What difference would that make in terms of living your life, day by day, being totally genuine with yourself, and yet, being spiritual at the same time? It reminds me of a joke riddle that I heard some months ago. What do you call a 6'8" dude with a switch-blade knife? The answer to that riddle is..."You call him, 'Sir!'" There is something "creatively intimidating" about an awesome human being standing before you requiring your attention.
Would you be as responsive to somebody who gave you a Bible and asked you to read it? Often, a person would take the Bible politely, set it aside, and not read it. If the person who is seeking your attention and response is the Lord Jesus Christ, you really would pay attention. A real live person with an urgent message for you is a lot more effective than a well-written book, meant to help you out, that you end up never reading...even though it would save your life.
This is the precise reason that the Lord Jesus Christ as a person, not only the exact representation of Almighty God, but God in human flesh, is so impressive. You really need to respond to him. You can't brush him off. As you read this message, He's reaching out to you. He is calling you from the shadows of ignorance and despair into the light of His Good News.
Could you discern some kind of reward, some kind of premium or advantage in dedicating your life to that God-Man and his proposition meant to transform your life and cause you to come powerfully alive as never before?
I'd encourage you at this point, if you have never turned your life over to God in Christ Jesus...that you go ahead and do that...just say... "Lord Jesus, I turn from my own way, and in repentance, I freely choose to follow you. I know you died on the cross of Calvary for my sins, and I thank you, that you did so, so that I might be freed from my bondage to sin, shame, guilt, and regret in my life. I acknowledge that you rose from the dead on the third day, and therefore, paved the way for my destiny to inherit eternal life. Thank you, Jesus. I receive you as my personal Lord and Savior. Amen."
I want to share something in the message for today that may transform your life...and cause your floral arrangement to blossom forth...
As we read the passage from Acts, it seemed unlikely that those who had, just then, simply heard Peter's preaching became immediately initiated into a life of faith in Jesus, and were exhibiting the gift of the Holy Spirit.
This is the power of God's Word in the preaching of the Gospel!
That which churns within us is the work of the Spirit. When we hear the preaching of the Word, the Holy Spirit works within us, and without all other kinds of encouragement and inspiration, we hear the truth of the Gospel and we come to "life"...that is...the saving grace of God through Jesus.
I would like to invite you this Mother's Day to receive God's forgiveness in Christ Jesus and the assurance of Everlasting Life. If your heart has been searching for something, and you don't know what it could be, it is the Holy Spirit calling you to come home to God. Accept Jesus as your personal Lord and Savior. Receive the gift of the Holy Spirit like those Gentiles of old.
Blessings to you on this special day...Let mom know you love her... In my case, thank you, birth mother, for the gift of life... Thank you, adoptive mom, a new, wonderful home and family... Thank you, Dad, for being mom and dad, upon mom's passing... Thank you, Aunt Hilda, for caring for me summers and holidays after my adoptive mom passed...we were destined to be together...
From Rev Dr Tom Nibbe
"...then Philip ran up to the chariot and heard the man reading Isaiah the prophet. 'Do you understand what you are reading?' Philip asked...'How can I,' he said, 'unless someone explains it to me'...so he invited Philip to come up and sit with him..." (Acts 8:30-31)
"...all who go down to the dust will kneel before Him..." (Psalm 22:29b)
O God, this morning we are grateful for your abiding presence as we begin this day. We are filled with the benediction of your Holy Spirit. We yield, as you reveal your way in this present hour. Forgive us all our sins and restore to us our joy and inner peace. In you, we find our vision to be your servants in our world. Cleanse us as you prepare us for this day. Give us the confidence to know that, whatever our situation, all things work together for our good and those we reach out to.
In Jesus' name, Amen.
The Lord's abundant grace and peace to you and yours this morning! These have been glorious, sunny, magnificent days for us good folks on the Coastline. I hope you've been enjoying these several past days as much as the we have. I am overwhelmed with the Holy Spirit considering the great ideas to write about today because of the content of the lessons suggested for this Sunday from the "Appointed Readings".
First of all, there is the powerful poetic sense of the twenty-ninth verse of King David's "Psalm 22", which as a whole is a spiritual masterpiece, but that phrase, "...all who go down to the dust will kneel before Him..." just blows me away. It is simply a phrase for the ages...an encouragement for us to know, that, for us, it will not be the case of an eventual sad demise, but rather a glorious, fulfilled destiny as we bow before the Savior, having passed from this world. The power in the thought is in how it was expressed.
Second of all, I would like to refer to the "Acts" account of Philip's dialogue with the Ethiopian eunuch. I imagine him to be tall, dark, and handsome. He was no dummy, as they say. He was in charge of the Ethiopian treasury. He was a man of substance because of the chariot he rode in. He was obviously a spiritual man, having traveled a long distance to come to Jerusalem, as a gentile convert to Judaism. He was puzzled with the text in Isaiah 53 (notably verses 7 and 8) and Philip in turn shared the connection of this passage with the passion, death and resurrection of his Master, the Lord Jesus Christ. Eventually that day the eunuch believed, was baptized and received the Holy Spirit. It is an extraordinary encounter.
Third of all, the analogy Jesus provided for us...as He suggested that He is the "true vine" and His Father is the gardener. He went on to say that His Father cut off every branch that does not bear fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit, He prunes, so it will produce every more fruit.
Thus, Jesus made a real distinction between two kinds of pruning:
Fourthly, in recent weeks, I've been returning to Saint John's first pastoral epistle, called, 1 John 1-5, specifically the fourth chapter. The key phrase for me in the text is 1 John 4:18b, "...perfect love drives out fear..." If my life is dominated by a fear of this or that, whether facing real challenge or danger, or simply being afraid of things unreal, the love of God posited in my heart cannot blossom. It cannot be made manifest. There was a time when I needed to be mindful of my own life and well-being and that of my family. It was hard to see beyond the anticipation and fear of my situation. The phrase of this verse became "immediate revelation" meant for me and took on meaning that freed me to live responsibly, and yet now, that in the midst of danger or uncertainty I could know the Lord was covering me and those I loved. The authority of Scripture gave me a new lease on life.
If we are ever afraid of our current situation, the future, or of God's judgment, we can be reminded of His love. From Romans 8:37-39, we know that He loves us perfectly:
"...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 or demons, neither the present or 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..."
We can resolve our fears first by focusing on His immeasurable love for us and then by allowing Him to love others through us. That divine love will quiet our fears and give us confidence to take on the day. Once I knew that God's love within me and the fear brought on by a multitude of challenges in life, I knew I needed to make a choice...either live in fear...or depend on and feel the comfort of the Lord's "love" resourcefulness to bring me through.
"...this then is how we know we belong to the truth...and how we set our hearts at rest in His presence whenever our hearts condemn us...for God is greater than our hearts, and He knows everything..." (1 John 3:19)
"...if then the light within you is darkness...how profound is that darkness..." [Jesus] (Matthew 6:29b)
"...don't give dogs what is sacred...don't throw your pearls to the pigs... if you do, they will trample them under your feet and then turn and tear you to pieces..." [Jesus] (Matthew 7:6)
"...I have come that they may have life and have it abundantly..." [Jesus] "...when Jesus finished saying these things, the crowds were amazed at His teaching...because He taught as one who has authority, and not as their teachers of the law..." (Matthew 7:28-29)
Dear Lord, you are the Good Shepherd. You seek the lost, and sometimes that lost sheep is us. You guide us when we are perplexed and bring us into your forever fold. Feed us this day. Bless those suffering and feeling alone. Make us to be satisfied in our lives as you comfort and heal us daily. More than anything else, allow us to feel the fullness you have built within us. Make us one with you. Allow us to live in that fullness and one day be united with you in eternal life, based upon your undeserved grace. In Jesus' name.
"...the One who is within you is greater than the one who is in the world..." (1 John 3:4b)
This is the Sunday of the Good Shepherd, the fourth Sunday of Easter. I have always had mixed thoughts about Jesus' teaching in this regard, until I had the opportunity to witness shepherds, first of all, in Pakistan, up in the foothills of the Karakorum range, (the Himalayas), above Chikagali, some miles from Abbottabad, way up there. You see, I was raised in Wisconsin, and we knew nothing about shepherds, except what we heard about in church on Sunday.
On several occasions, sitting together looking down thousands of feet to the plains of the Punjab, we were fascinated by a child tending her sheep, a shepherd girl, not more than nine years of age. She always seemed covered with dust, sometimes caked with dirt, face covered with her soiled niqab, because she was perhaps always outside without the convenience of water to wash. Such a sweet little girl she was and so attentive to her sheep. The sheep were like "living play-things" to her. You could see that she loved them, and that, they were her only companions day after day. Where she slept I don't know.
Whether she had regular time with her human family. I don't know. She was a small, female copy of the shepherd boy, David. She seemed so attentive and so responsible for her tender age. I often wondered what kind of future she could possibly have...I think I really knew...but for those days...her sheep were everything to her. I could imagine David being much the same as this little girl.
Jesus described himself as the Good Shepherd. The people listening to him could understand exactly what He was trying to say in providing an image for them. They could respond in a way I hadn't been able to embrace, if you will, until observing this little shepherd girl on a regular basis. Because of customs and language we were not able to communicate verbally. We were getting a footing in Urdu, but she spoke B'hari, the mountain dialect.
The boy shepherd basically lives with his sheep. They are very affectionate and sweet and communicative. He directs them, as Psalm 23 suggests, to clean, refreshing water. He leads them to green pastures. He protects them from the mountain lion, the bear, and the wolf. He develops strategies to
fend off predators that would harm or kill them. His clothing and his food come from them, almost exclusively. Frankly, I don't know how a person can live with sheep, and share so much, (sheep are capable of communicating very well), and then kill them and eat them. I guess it's just a matter of survival...
I let the Good Shepherd lead me. It seems to me that you've got to "Let go and let God" in your life, for things to really work. Yes. We always want control...and we want what is convenient...and safe...and comfortable...and familiar.
But to allow the Good Shepherd to guide and lead us is to experience adventure, a powerful and very helpful change in priorities for us. Let the Good Shepherd take control. Let the Good Shepherd have sway. Let the Good Shepherd speak to your heart about the reason you were born and the purpose in your existence.
God bless us all in these difficult days. We are in the Lord's hands. However, be safe, be healthy, be available, be well. You are precious in His sight!
"...reason is the enemy of faith..." (Martin Luther)
[We need reason to comprehend things in general, but to be truly successful in life, a person must transcend reason...to deal adequately with the wide range of challenges in a real day-to-day life.]
"...beating yourself on your head over the consequences of sinning is not Gospel-centered living..." (William Holland)
"...be a sinner and sin boldly, but more strongly have faith and and rejoice in Christ..." (Martin Luther)
[Thanks, Brother Marty! Do not wallow in negativity. Be human. Enjoy life. Be grateful for God's grace. Nobody's perfect, not even y'all out there! Enjoy, Savor!]
"...then you, my people, will know that I am the Lord, when I open your graves and bring you up from them...I will put my Spirit in you and you will live...then you will know that I, the Lord, have spoken, and I will have done it, declares the Lord..." (Ezekiel 37:13-14)
[The Word doesn't get more powerful than this...]
"...above all the grace and the gifts that Christ gives to all those He loves is that of overcoming self..." (Francis of Assisi)
"...depression is when something in your life has become more important than God..." (Dr. Jonathan Haidt)
"...you should not believe your conscience and your feelings more than the Word which the Lord who receives sinners preaches to you..." (Martin Luther)
Gracious God, we want to thank you today for your abiding presence in our lives. Often, we figure we know the score...that is...what's happening in our lives. Sometimes we feel we have overcome our human condition and we don't need you anymore...when...all of sudden...we comprehend in the everyday situations of life that we are overwhelmed...or that we simply haven't understood what we've gotten ourselves into.
You provide pleasant circumstances for us --- and in a growing spiritual maturity --- we recognize that unpleasant situations in our lives are necessary to keep us on the straight-and-narrow, as well as, within a divine broadening perspective. We are going to walk with you and know that in all things you will provide abundantly for us, and those we pray for, and those who we can assist in their journey. In short, we commend ourselves into your care and keeping. We know that whatever happens you are there for us and you will reveal your goodness in our behalf. In Jesus' name. Amen.
The message for this Sunday will fall in line with the "live" return to the Bible Study at 9:45 a.m. in Pacifica, which began five years ago and ceased one year ago with our final remarks about the Prophet Jeremiah. The pandemic took over from there up until the present.
I've come to the conclusion that we cannot understand the New Testament until we have thoroughly experienced and understood the Old Testament. Marcion, theologian of the fourth century A.D., was wrong. We cannot dispense with the rich settings of the Old Testament, the Hebrew Bible, in light of having the New Testament.
Some folks, tongue in cheek, suggest that we preachers are really heretics because we normally only teach and preach from "four books" of the Holy Bible. The attempt here is to focus in upon revelation that has had a powerful spiritual impact upon God's people for 2,607 years. Let's start to examine and come to terms with "Ezekiel on Steroids" in preparation for the Bible Study series that begins today. Many Bible students need something in writing, along with a specific focus that will create "mind pictures" and study helps that will leave an impression for years of blessing to come. Let's start this way... Is Ezekiel a true prophet of Yahweh?
Now turn to "Lamentations" to get the full effect of the destruction of Jerusalem. So we note three prophetic voices for God's people in this section of the Bible. Daniel was first to arrive in Babylon way before Ezekiel. Ezekiel, by the time Jerusalem was leveled, had been in Babylon for twelve years. AND...Jeremiah was in Jerusalem to witness the destruction wrought by the King.
The message for me is...God covers "all the bases" when He needs to direct people to live by His Word...the destruction of Jerusalem was not an accident, nor was it a means to punish God's people, as much as it was a "divine intervention" to save the people from their own rulers...and from themselves... [It's not our purpose to go elsewhere at this point, but, did you know, that God's people lost the Torah, the Pentateuch, the Five Books of Moses, including the Ten Commandments, for eight-hundred years? These sacred works were recovered in 622 B.C. during the reign of King Josiah, but, after several years of spiritual revival, the people returned to their old corrupt ways. God needed to finally do something about it, so He used the enemy of God's people to disengage the appearance of holiness and decency, and calls Nebuchadnezzar "my servant". Just for future reference, please note 2 Kings 22:1-20...note also the confusing, head-scratching passage in 1 Samuel 3:1-7 from circa 1000 B.C.]
Meanwhile... In my translation of the text, it is written, "The Glory Departs From the Temple". Ezekiel 10:18 This was to all appearance perhaps the greatest tragedy of all Scripture... other than the picture we may have of the Lord Jesus Christ on the cross. However, we need to envision beyond appearance. Often it's hard to do when we witness the terrible things that can happen on planet earth... especially when it affects us in a very personal way... Saint Paul says about this, "...and we know in all things God works for the good of those who love Him and are called according to His purpose..." (Romans 8:28)
So...in retrospect...you may understand why I think Ezekiel 33:21 is so very important in interpreting the Bible... 586 B.C. God's people would be called "Jews" for the first time in human history (Jeremiah 32:12c). This is because Israel was defeated and scattered in 721 B.C., leaving only "Judah" to exist as a nation. Evidently the people were called "Jews" as a shortened form of some name that identified them. The name and form of the religion would change. The name of the religion from the time of Abraham up until the destruction of Jerusalem was "Yahwism", after "Yahweh", the correct name of the God of the Bible. With the radically new central focus upon the Scriptures and the development of the Synagogue the new religion would be called Judaism. The Northern Kingdom, Israel, had been long gone by that time, Judaism became the religion of the people of the Southern Kingdom, Judah. The religion would change in form.
The God of the people would remain the same.
"I AM THAT I AM" ...that is to say...Yahweh.
In succeeding messages we'll focus in upon the colorful language and images of Ezekiel's prophesy meant to leave a permanent mark upon our hearts and minds. We'll ask the question, "What's going on here?" and answer that question several times over. Best wishes to all of us as we take on Ezekiel on Steroids.
From Rev Dr Tom Nibbe
HE IS RISEN! HE IS RISEN, INDEED!
Announcing Worship Services at the Discovery Site on Sweeney Ridge at 6:47 a.m. Master bagpiper David Vasheresse will lead our united group up to the summit at the Discovery Site.
Resurrection Day Holy Communion at Holy Cross Lutheran Church in the Linda Mar District of Pacifica, California, at 11:00 a.m. All regulations and stipulations of the Pandemic Committee will be observed in both worship opportunities, including masks, social distancing, no singing, no touching, as well as all common sense measures.
"...they killed Him by hanging Him on a tree, but God raised Him from the dead on the third day on the third day and caused Him to be seen..." Acts 10:39b-40
"...at this, she [Mary Magdalene] turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she didn't realize that it was Jesus..." John 20:1-18
Prayer for this Easter Sunday of 2021
On this jubilant Easter Sunday morning, we want to give you hearty praise and thanks for your manifold blessings of every kind --- human companions and fellowship, nourishing food, healing of heart, soul, mind and body, warm clothing, all the necessities provided, all the opportunities to be healthy, comforted and wise.
We pray for our troops overseas. We pray for those who have lost loved ones in the pandemic, and those who have the virus. We pray for our nation. We pray for our economy. We ask that America might be a beacon of light to a dark world. Foremost, today, though, we thank you for the gift of faith. Help us today to fully appreciate the sacrifice of Christ Jesus and understand anew the power of His resurrection. We pray in His holy name.
Greetings to you and yours as together we rejoice greatly at "just the thought" of Easter, and traditionally, how this great festival in the church year has brought such happiness to individuals and families. People love to be in the church sanctuary on this day. People love to hear the magnificent Easter hymns and the Bible lessons for this day. They find real encouragement to make their lives, and as well, their struggles seem like nothing compared to the hope they have in the Resurrected Christ Jesus...stepping out of their way to choose Easter morning worship...and, I guess, for many, back to their normal ways...church involvement really not a significant part of their lives.
In this regard I'm not talking about the regular worshippers, but, on the other hand, those who come but once a year, or maybe two times, including, yes, you guessed it, Christmas. They are many...they range in the millions. I am grateful for the denominational fellowships that try sincerely to make church and faith an integral part of their lives... to make Jesus of Nazareth their personal Lord and Savior.
It brings to mind my particular focus recurrently about the difference between "religion" and "faith". As many of you know, I think of the two as being...like the difference in a railway station, between standing on the platform religion and getting on the train faith...
The platform is the railway station...the train is the Gospel Train and the engineer is the Lord Jesus Christ. The fuel for the train is the Holy Spirit.
I keep thinking about my father-in-law, eventually, the Rev. Francis Najmuddin, who said at one time, that Islam was good preparation for the "real thing", a personal relationship with God through the Lord Jesus Christ. He stood on the platform religion and in the process memorized the "Koran Sharif". When he had an opportunity to read the New Testament, he knew in his heart that Jesus was the Son of God...He got on the train faith...and that cost him great deal...in addition to the fact that he was hunted down by his family for decades.
How much are you willing to pay for your spiritual well-being?
What are you sure of?
Are you still standing on the platform religion after all these years, or is it true you know---you have, indeed, gotten onto the Gospel train.
Is Jesus your engineer?
How much are you willing to go to move from your platform religion to the Gospel train faith? Do you know what it takes to do so? Some folks have thought for "time immemorial" that religion and faith were the same thing. Identical. In some ways they are exact opposites.
Why is it I like this verse better than the definition in the "Micah" passage? Because it says nothing about what I am supposed to be or do. There is no stipulation regarding requirements. The "Hebrews" passage has to do with unconditional assurance and certainty in my commitment to trust in God's plan for my life, rather than proving to God I'm good enough to deserve His favor. Faith is about trusting God alone! Religion requires mindset and behavior that will prove that I am good enough for God.
Personally, I love the Micah verse...I printed this verse on my calling card... my point here is that---it is "standing on the platform" in reverse...it's what you do and live once you have the "faith" principle in your heart...to do these good and perfect things without having the assurance of faith, at least Paul seems to think, is worthless...without profit for the informed Godly person. I want to introduce you to one "bottom-line" of getting on the Gospel train.
This is Easter Sunday. Even on Easter Sunday, it's never too late to introduce the Gospel Train to people who don't go to church, and also people who attend every Sunday...[a bold and dangerous thing to suggest]...but I'm going to do it...
How do we get off the platform religion and get on the Gospel train faith?
One key chapter of the Bible that is truly a "dividing line" between those who have finally---understood---and received---the inner-knowledge of faith and those who, without discerning, continue to stand on the platform.
Saint Paul's 1st Letter to the Corinthians...the fifteenth chapter...
If you don't pass this test...you're still on the platform...
Doing good things, having a solid ethical base to your faith life, is impressive. I think it's excellent...but, according to the Bible, according to Saint Paul...if that's all that Spirituality is "about" for you, you are doomed, and if you are right in this regard...we all are doomed...and left out in the cold and darkness.
You believe correctly that Jesus died on the cross of Calvary for your sins. You're totally in accord with what the Bible teaches. But, Sister, but Brother... if you struggle and doubt that Jesus was raised again on the third day, this whole business of spirituality for you is in vain. You might as well quit church, and leave Bible study, and good behavior, and do what you please...
They talk about what Jesus said regarding being "born anew". Yes, these things Jesus mentioned are true, but not at the cost of suggesting that "second chances in life" are the issue here. People in the church hide the fact that they do not believe...
The issue at hand in the fifteenth chapter of 1 Corinthians is the bold affirmation of faith that...Jesus not only died on the cross, but He also was raised from the dead after being really dead for three whole days by the power of the Father.
Historically the situation in Saint Paul's appeal to the church people in Corinth was this. Christians accepted almost all aspects of the message Paul delivered. The exception in this regard was the issue for them of the Resurrection.
This became a "stumbling block" for them, because of the place of "philosophical reason" in their Greek lives. This needed to be addressed. And today in America, with our unschooled philosophic tradition of reason, for those educated in formal philosophy, and those not educated in philosophy, Saint Paul's challenge in the 15th chapter remains. In short, preachers of the Gospel must address the issue. Millions hide their disbelief to their peril.
Saint Paul goes on, "...if only for our present life we have hope in Christ, we are to be pitied more than all human beings...but Christ has, indeed, been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep... for since death came through a man Adam, the resurrection of the dead comes through a man Jesus...for as in Adam all die, so in Christ, all will be made alive..." 1 Corinthians 15:20-22
The euphoria of Easter is rising up within me. Please note. Dear friend, you are not the first Christian to doubt the Resurrection and rationalize your belief. Remember our dear friend, Doubting Thomas. Let the Lord know your shortcoming. Ask the Lord to send the Holy Spirit to fill that empty space. This is and was not only an issue for the Corinthians... the issue is there for us and with us today...among laymen and clergy. The situation is...this is a bottom-line issue of the faith...let's address it this year on Easter Sunday, 2021. It will take a special touch of the Spirit.
HE IS RISEN! HE IS RISEN, INDEED!
Most cordially, Tom