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.