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...STRENGHTHEN 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.