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.