Walk In The Light

WALK IN THE LIGHT

“You must live like people who belong to the light”.
Eph 5:8 GNB

Where there is light, there is also darkness. In the rhythm of revolving days and nights of God’s created order, darkness and light alternate with one another. But where light and darkness are thought of as symbols, they contend with each other, darkness becoming a symbolic representation of evil, sin, and malice. A lighthouse guides ships away from dangerous rocks. A floodlight banishes the darkness and makes a possible raid by thieves difficult. Light is synonymous with the daytime, the sunrise and the morning. It can also mean truth, knowledge and insight. All the negative things we associate with darkness are reversed when we think of the light.

And Christian believers are people of the light. Jesus is “The light of the world”. He opened the eyes of the blind bringing sight and light, and pointed people to God. He was God’s revelation of himself, throwing light on who God was and enabling people to come to know God as their Father. But Paul taught, when he spoke to the Christians at Ephesus, that they not only had to “see the light”, they also had to live in the light. What they did had to reflect the truth of God, their deeds and actions pointing people to the one true God, and away from the darkness of paganism.

Are you living in the light? Do you stick with the truth, your actions upright and honest? Do you behave responsibly and with maturity – especially in your dealings with people who are weaker than you are? Do you avoid questionable business dealings? Do you shun underhanded activities which some engage in to make a quick buck? Always rather, live in the light.

Lord, help me to walk in your light always

Forgiveness

Forgiveness

“For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you.” – Matthew 6:14

Have you ever noticed the presence of that little two-letter word in the Lord’s prayer? It says “And forgive us of our sins as we forgive those who sin against us.” Did you catch that? The word “as” implies that we cannot be forgiven until we offer that same forgiveness to others. In case we miss the “as,” Jesus makes it very clear in the next verse: “But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.” (Matthew 6:15)

Forgiving someone who has treated you poorly, said evil things about you, even broken up your family, is a very difficult thing to do. It takes Godly intervention to truly offer forgiveness to people who have deeply wounded you. But God commands us to do so, and God would never command us to do anything that He wouldn’t provide the ability to do.

Right now, pray for God to give you the strength to forgive those who have hurt you. Not only will God give you the power to do so, but He will also empower you supernaturally to love them, even though you hate what they did. Remember, bitterness is the poison we swallow, hoping the other person dies. Enjoy the release of this terrible burden by experiencing the cleansing power of forgiveness.

Called To Be An Apostle

CALLED TO BE AN APOSTLE

Rom. 1:1-7; Ps. 97; Luke 11:29-32

“Paul a servant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God which he promised beforehand through his prophets in the holy scriptures” (Rom. 1:1-2).
This is how St. Paul begins his great epistle to the Romans. He begins by introducing himself as “a servant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God” (Rom. 1:1). Although St. Paul was not one of the twelve apostles, the risen Christ appeared to him and called him to be an apostle, an apostle to the Gentiles (Acts 26:15-18). “Now I am speaking to you Gentiles. Inasmuch then as I am an apostle to the Gentiles … ” (Rom. 11:13). His specialization was to call non-Jews, pagans, to believe in Jesus Christ for their illumination and salvation.
St. Paul was “set apart for the gospel of God … concerning his Son” (Rom. 1:1, 3). This gospel or good news “is the power of God for salvation to everyone who has faith, to the Jew first and also to the Greek” (Rom. 1:16). It will be St. Paul’s vocation to preach this gospel, this message of salvation, to the Gentiles. He preaches it for the obedience of faith among all peoples for the sake of Christ’s name (Rom. 1:5). St. Paul wants all to hear this message about the Son of God and believe in it, because Christ is the one whom the Father sent into the world for our salvation. In this gospel is the justifying righteousness of God that justifies or makes righteous all who accept it with faith. In the gospel “the righteousness of God is revealed through faith for faith; as it is written, ‘He who through faith is righteous shall live’” (Rom. 1:17).
St. Paul says that it was Christ “who gave himself as a ransom for all, the testimony to which was borne at the proper time. For this I was appointed a preacher and apostle … a teacher of the Gentiles in faith and truth” (1 Tim. 2:6-7). That is, St. Paul was made an apostle to the Gentiles to preach to them about Christ “who gave himself as a ransom for all” (1 Tim. 2:6). Indeed Jesus said the same: “The Son of man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Matt. 20:28). This is the message that St. Paul preaches to non-Jews, to pagans, that Christ the Son of God is the ransom for all.
Since Christ gave himself as a ransom for all, those who accept this message with faith will be declared and made righteous, seeing that he paid our ransom price, that is, he bore in himself our sins and suffered their just punishment in his body on the cross (1 Pet. 2:24). The result is that all who believe in him are declared and made righteous. St. Paul is the apostle of this saving message to the pagans, calling them to repentance, conversion, and faith in Jesus Christ. This was his mission, and it is the mission of the Church today as well.
St. Paul explains his mission, saying that the risen Christ appeared to him and said, “I am Jesus whom you are persecuting. But rise and stand upon your feet; for I have appeared to you for this purpose, to appoint you to serve and bear witness to the things in which you have seen me and to those in which I will appear to you, delivering you from the people and from the Gentiles—to whom I send you to open their eyes, that they may turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me” (Acts 26:15-18). This was St. Paul’s mission and message to non-Jews. It is also our mission and message to non-Christians.

The Ongoing Conflict

THE ONGOING CONFLICT

“You yourselves used to be in the darkness, but since you have become the Lord’s people, you are in the light”. 
Eph 5:8 GNB 

If you thought the Bible was a compendium of pleasant statements, wise thoughts, and peaceful ideas leading to quietness and calm, then you were wrong. There are many threads woven into the long story of God’s dealing with his people. One of them highlights the aspect of conflict. The creation story showed the conflict between order and chaos, with order coming out on top. Light also came out on top – it was part of the order. And down the centuries there is always conflict between truth and falsehood, faith and unbelief, life and death, health and sickness, God and the devil, goodness and evil. 

When the apostles preached of Christ to the Gentile communities and they responded in faith, they moved from darkness into light. Many of them might well have said, “I saw the light”. But it was never fixed and final except in a very few. Doubts would creep in and when the persecutions broke out, some who had had faith in Christ would deny it in order to save their skins. Doubt alternated with faith. Having moved from darkness into light some would move back again into darkness. Paul described them as the people of God and therefore they were in the light. Always there is conflict between the two even in the one individual. 

Where Christ is, there is light, truth, life, love and hope. Whilst you too may experience conflict between the good and the bad, the light and darkness within your own experience, always remember that you belong in the light. You are one of God’s people. Stay one. 

Lord, let me always stay in the light

Daily Needs

Daily Needs

“You ask and you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, so that you may spend it on your pleasures.” – James 4:3

A man was late for a job interview because he couldn’t find any place to park. As he circled the block one more time, he cried out, “Please God. This interview is so important. If you will provide a parking space, I’ll be on the front row of the church every week!” Just as he spoke those words, a space opened right in front of him. “Oh, never mind,” he said. “I found one.”

Perhaps this man exemplifies the extent of many of our prayer lives. But after all, some may say, The Lord’s Prayer does tell us to pray for our daily needs. Yet one of the ways prayer can disappoint us is when we confuse needs and wants. We can get so wrapped up in praying for our wants that we begin to see God as somebody we can use to get what we want! And that’s a terrible misunderstanding of God.

Is God going to give you everything you ask for? Absolutely not! Loving parents don’t give their children everything they see in a toy store, and likewise God is not some genie saying, “Your wish is my command.” James 4:3 says, “You ask and do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, so that you may spend it on your pleasures.”

God wants us to seek His will so we can learn to understand our needs versus our wants. When we do, we can knock on the door of heaven and see God pour forth blessings to meet the needs of our lives.

KEEP HIS WORD WHILE YOU AWAIT HIS GLORIOUS RETURN

KEEP HIS WORD WHILE YOU AWAIT HIS GLORIOUS RETURN

Joel 3:12-21; Ps. 96; Luke 11:27-28

“And in that day the mountains shall drip sweet wine and the hills shall flow with milk, and all the stream beds of Judah shall flow with water; and a fountain shall come forth from the house of the Lord and water the valley of Shittim” (Joel 3:18).
The prophet Joel predicts the day of the Lord, a day of destruction and judgment, but afterward a time of salvation for the faithful remnant of his people. On that day “the sun and the moon are darkened, and the stars withdraw their shining” (Joel 3:15). “The sun shall be turn to darkness, and the moon to blood, before the great and terrible day of the Lord comes” (Joel 2:31). But finally God’s salvation shall appear, and there will be great blessings on earth, until “the mountains shall drip sweet wine, and the hills shall flow with milk” (Joel 3:18). This is what we are longing for now, the second and glorious coming of Jesus Christ on earth and the renewal of the world.
But in order to be among those who are saved on that great day, we have to do the will of God now. If we do not do his will, we will fall out of his protection and love, and will be punished by him. But once we have been forgiven and saved by the merits of Christ’s death on the cross, where he paid our debt of punishment for our sins for us through our faith, we are to do God’s will to remain in his love and grace and not fall out of it again by disobeying him. In this way we will also grow in progressive sanctification and avoid his punishment, for “if you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love” (John 15:10). We keep his will to remain in and not fall out of his love.
Today, as Jesus was speaking, “a woman in the crowd raised her voice and said to him, ‘Blessed is the womb that bore you, and the breasts that you sucked!’ But he said, ‘Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and keep it’” (Luke 11:27-28). It is better to hear and keep God’s word than even to be the mother of Jesus. On another occasion “he was told, ‘Your mother and your brethren are standing outside, desiring to see you.’ But he said to them, ‘My mother and my brethren are those who hear the word of God and do it’” (Luke 8:20-21). In other words, hearing and doing the word of God even makes us equal to the mother and brethren of Jesus.
Only in this way—by hearing and doing the word of God—will we be prepared for the day of the Lord. Only in this way will we be part of the faithful remnant of the people of God who will see the mountains drip down sweet wine, and the hills flow with milk. Only in this way will we see these blessings of God that we now long for. If we want the love of God to be perfected in us, we will have to live in conformity with his will and keep his commandments. “Whoever keeps his word, in him truly love for God is perfected … He who says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked” (1 John 2:5, 6). “He who has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me; and he who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and manifest myself to him” (John 14:21). Let us therefore keep God’s commandments while we await Christ’s glorious return, so that we may be among those who see these great blessings upon the earth.

Message for Sunday Evening 21 Sept 2014

“God is Great, God is Good”
Psalm 78

“God is great, God is good.” That was probably the first prayer I ever learned. I know it was the first prayer I ever taught my children. And it is a prayer that seems to stick with children. While I was in college at USC I attended Washington St. UMC in Columbia. I remember one Sunday C.J. Lupo was doing a children’s sermon. The children were all sitting on the floor around him and, he gave them a little lesson. I forget the lesson but when he finished he said, “Now let’s say a prayer.” And before he could get another word out a little girl blurted out: “God is great! God is good! Let us thank Him for our food. By His hands we all are fed. Give us Lord our daily bread.”

We find that story amusing. It seems so out of place to say grace or return thanks during a worship service. That poor little silly girl didn’t know it was neither the time nor the place for a blessing. Or was it? That little girl had been taught well to give thanks to God. She had learned that God is great and God is good and we should give thanks for the gifts God gives us like our daily bread. By spontaneously giving thanks she was expressing her love and gratitude and heartfelt faith in God.

That little girl had already learned a lesson that many adults have yet to learn. We talk about God giving his only begotten son Jesus to die for our sins on the cross. That’s a great gift of a good God. And how do we thank God for it? Many times we thank God by forgetting to make Jesus a part of our lives beyond worship and Sunday School. Sometimes we, all of us, return thanks by being disobedient to the will of God.

People in Bible times were no different than us. They know that God is great and God is good. They may not have been taught that prayer but like us they had experienced the amazing Grace of God. Like us they had heard the testimony of God’s greatness. They had even seen God’s mighty works. The Psalmist who wrote Psalm 78 know of God’s greatness and God’s goodness. The Psalmist wrote about how the children of Israel had seen the miracles of God wrought in Egypt. How God had brought the plagues upon the Egyptians. And how God had preserved the Israelites from those plagues. The Psalmist also tells how God delivered them through the Red Sea from the hands of the Egyptians. They had seen the cloud by day, and the pillar of fire by night. They knew God was great because of those miracles.

They also knew that God was good. God had been good enough to hear their cry in slavery and deliver them from bondage in Egypt. God could have left them there in slavery. But instead God chose to agree them. And God had given them good gifts. He gave them bread from heaven to nourish their bodies. And water form a rack to refresh them.

But they didn’t give thanks for their food! Instead they grumbled. They complained that they would thirst to death in the wilderness. They persisted and said that they wanted some meat to eat. Instead of giving thanks they rebelled against their savior. In the words of the psalmist: “They did not keep God’s covenant, but refused to walk according to his law. They forgot what He had done, and the miracles that he had shown them.”

So what did God do? Well, God is great! What would any great self-respecting deity do in such a circumstance? Such a deity would rain down fire and brimstone on the children of Israel until every one of them was destroyed. Such a god would cause the earth to open up and swallow them whole. Such a great deity would erase the name of Israel from the pages of history. Their fate would be worse than that of Sodom and their destruction greater than that of Gomorrah.

But God is also good. God could have destroyed them. God could have left them in the desert to die of hunger and thirst. Instead God continued to feed them and save them. Instead of destroying them God made them prosper and grow. Instead of wiping their name from the pages of history, God made them a great people who still exist and are spoken of long after the Amorites and Pezzorites have ceased to exist.

This is the mercy of God. Despite the untruthfulness of the people of Israel and their rebellion, God continued to bless them. This is an example and proof of the kind of God we worship and serve. We serve a God who gives us all that we need. And even when we fail to give God the glory for those gifts God is still merciful and giving. God’s goodness was greater than their badness.

People haven’t changed much since then. God has given us such great gifts. We live in a country of riches. Even the poor in our country have it better then some people in other countries. America throws away more food each day that is needed to feed the hungry in our country. We are also blessed with freedoms that people in other parts of the world have to risk their lives to win.

And as Christians we have been blessed with gifts that are even greater than that. The greatest of these gifts is Jesus Christ our Lord, who came and died for our sins. We have also been granted forgiveness, which is a gift we could never have bought on our own. As the church we have been given the holy presence of God’s spirit to sustain and guide us. And we have been given the testimony of the Bible and the witness of church tradition to reveal God’s will to us.

But like the Israelites we have forgotten what God has done for us. Like them we fail to acknowledge God as Lord over everything God has given us. I knew a woman who inherited a house from her husband. She used to say the house was Jesus’ house and that he just let her live there. People thought she was crazy, but she was right. All we have, even our breath, is a gift from God and we should thank God that he lets us use it. We know the saving power of Jesus in our lives but like Peter we act like we do not even know who Jesus is. We have been given a land flowing with milk and honey and yet we don’t show any appreciation for its wealth or beauty. All we care about is what minerals we can extract from it and what waste we can dump in it.

So what does God do? What would you do if you were in God’s shoes and you were faced with an unthankful people like the Israelites? Does God just give up and say, “forget you, you unthankful people.” Does God choose to destroy us and leave us to our own sin?

No, excuse my English, but God is “gooder” than that. And thank God! We don’t deserve the gifts we unthankfully receive. But that is the nature of God’s mercy.

That little girl was right! God is great! God is good! Let us thank God for our food. By his hands we shall be fed. Give us Lord our daily bread. Amen