Category Archives: Musings

Fresh and seasoned thoughts about the practice of Sabbath.

ReStart:ReDirect, sermon outline for January 15, 2017

Restart:ReDirect

Matthew 22:35-40

The Test

One of them, an expert in the law, tested him with this question: “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” 

Matthew 22:35-36

πειράζω — Test, Try, Temp

Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil.
Matthew 4:1

The Answer

#1. Love the Lord — Deuteronomy 6:4

Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment.” 

Matthew 22:37-38

Heart = Emotional and Physical Strength = Presence

Am I Present and Available to God?

Soul = Spiritual Strength = Faith

Do I Trust that God is Good and that He is in Control?

Mind = Intellectual Strength = Transformation

Am I Growing in My Knowledge of God?

#2. Love Your Neighbor — Leviticus 19:18

And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ 

Matthew 22:39

  • Love Binds us Together — Colossians 2:2
  • Love Reaches out with Help — 1 John 3:16-18
  • Love Covers a Multitude of Sins — I Peter 4:8
  • Love is how we Identify with Christ — John 13:35

#3. The Summation

All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.

Matthew 22:40

  1. Everything God Has Spoken Confirms His Love For Us.
  2. God Desires Our Loves In Return.
  3. Our Love For God Helps Us To Love Others.

 



Faith Puts Worry In It’s Place

Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes?
Matthew 6:25

SMirC-worry-2.svg.png

We worry about a lot of things. Our capacity to find things to worry about is infinite. If ever we feel that we have escaped the worries of this life and have landed in a place of contentment, life presents new worries to rob us of our sleep.

Worry wears us out! It steals out slumber, saps our strength and divides our attention.

I am worn out from my groaning.
All night long I flood my bed with weeping
and drench my couch with tears.
Psalm 6:6

Worry has a way of consuming us. It causes us to focus on the problems that we face, so much so, that we miss out on what God is doing in our lives.

Worry magnifies our problems. When we are behind on our bills, our bills are all we can think about. When loved ones face sickness, or cancer, or surgery, their struggle is all we can focus on. When the storm clouds of despair roll in, they blot out our hope and joy.

Worry is part of the context of living out our faith. Fear and worry and struggles and pain are the proving ground for our faith in God.

God doesn’t promise us a life of ease; he promises his presence.

When worry consumes us, our faith works refocus our minds on God.

Worry works against us, whereas faith works for us.

Worry says, “There is something more I can do…there is something better I can be.”

Faith says, “God is working on this.”

Though we can’t see him, we trust that he is there. We can’t touch him, but he is present to us. We might not hear him, but he hears us. He knows our needs even before we articulate them.

“…for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.”
Matthew 6:8

You can’t stop worry from creeping into your life, but you can put boundaries on your worry so that it does not overcome you.

Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.
Matthew 6:34

Ultimately, God overcomes all things that bring worry into our lives. He deals with loss, disease, despair and death by conquering them. He conquers them through the work of Christ on the cross and raise us up above them in the power of the resurrection.

What God has done through Christ he shares with us…

Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? As it is written:
“For your sake we face death all day long;
we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.”
No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.
Romans 8:35-37

Have you enjoyed reading?  Consider Subscribing.

Returning to a Familiar Place in a New Way, pt 3

Jacob set up a stone pillar at the place where God had talked with him, and he poured out a drink offering on it; he also poured oil on it. Jacob called the place where God had talked with him Bethel.

There are different ways to be in a place.

The last time Jacob was in this place, at Bethel, he was there as a skeptic.  God spoke with him and promised to bless him.  Jacob left Bethel uncertain about God, unconvinced about God’s promises, and with nothing in his hand but his staff.

20 years before, Bethel was the starting point for Jacob’s journey of faith.  Now, as God summoned him back to that familiar place, it will serve as a destination of arrival.

Jacob left Bethel poor and alone.  He is returning with his flocks, herds, and most importantly, his family.

Jacob’s first journey through Bethel happened because of the division between him and his brother Esau.  Before he gets back to Bethel, he reunites with Esau.

But Esau ran to meet Jacob and embraced him; he threw his arms around his neck and kissed him. And they wept.

The Drink Offering

In the Bible, when a person returns to a familiar place, the small differences in what they do or say communicate large differences in the story.

The first time Jacob encountered God at Bethel, he raised a stone and poured oil on it.  This time, after he raises a stone, he first pours a drink offering on it.

We are familiar with drink offerings in the Old Testament.  God prescribed a drink offering as part of the daily sacrifice made at the Tabernacle, and later the Temple.  The drink offering was made daily to God accompanied by a grain offering.  The daily offering to God of wine and grain are symbolic of God’s abiding presence in our lives.

God is not an occasional guest, but a traveling partner.  For 20 years Jacob experienced God as a faithful friend.

The drink offering Jacob poured on Bethel’s stone represented conviviality and communion with God.  God was no longer a stranger to Jacob, but a dear companion.

Jacob didn’t pour wine on the first stone he set up for God.  Maybe he didn’t have any.  But more likely, through the slight nuance in the story, the Bible is communicating that Jacob found a deeper relationship with God.

The Oil

After he poured out his drink offering to God, Jacob poured oil on the stone.

Oil in the Old Testament, and in the New Testament, is used to consecrate people, places and things.  Jacob used oil to set the stone he raised to God apart, just as he did 20 years before.

Jacob consecrated the stone in a new way.  He was a new man and had been given a new name: Israel. He had wrestled with God and with man and had prevailed.

The stone was set apart in a new way because Jacob had gained a new perspective on God.

Jacob was in a familiar place, but as a new man.

Everything in his life had taken on new meaning.

Our Bethels

Each of us are on a journey with God.

The Bethels in our story are both starting points and destinations.

God calls us back to the places where he reveals himself to us.

He reminds us that he is present to us and has a great plan for us.

Bethel reminds us that we are responsible to God.  God blesses us in order to employ us.

We are at our own Bethel every time we remember God’s faithfulness toward us and recommit ourselves to the his calling on our lives.

Catch Parts 1 and 2 here:

Returning to a Familiar Place in a New Way, pt. 1

Returning to a Familiar Place in a New Way, pt.2



Returning to a Familiar Place in a New Way, pt 2

The first time God appeared to Jacob, Jacob was alone, in the wilderness and traveling. Jacob’s second encounter with God follows the pattern of the first: in the wilderness, while traveling, and again, on his own.

The script is similar, but the context is completely different. In the former story, Jacob was fleeing from his brother Esau. In the latter, he is returning to meet Esau.

Cowardice plays a major role in each story. Jacob ran from his brother because he stole Esau’s blessing by deceiving their aged father Isaac.

Esau held a grudge against Jacob because of the blessing his father had given him. He said to himself, “The days of mourning for my father are near; then I will kill my brother Jacob.”

Fear helps us to understand why Jacob left his father’s house with nothing but the clothes on his back and the staff in his hand.

Cowardice also shows up in Jacob’s journey home. As his caravan neared Esau’s territory, he instructed his family and his servants to divide into two groups. He reasoned, “If Esau comes and attacks one group, the group that is left may escape.”

Fear is not faithless as long as it reminds us to turn to God. In his fear Jacob turned to God and prayed:

“O God of my father Abraham, God of my father Isaac, Lord, you who said to me, ‘Go back to your country and your relatives, and I will make you prosper,’ I am unworthy of all the kindness and faithfulness you have shown your servant. I had only my staff when I crossed this Jordan, but now I have become two camps. Save me, I pray, from the hand of my brother Esau, for I am afraid he will come and attack me, and also the mothers with their children. But you have said, ‘I will surely make you prosper and will make your descendants like the sand of the sea, which cannot be counted.’”

Remembering Esau’s anger, Jacob prepared a gift large enough to bury the deepest animosity for his brother.

…he selected a gift for his brother Esau: two hundred female goats and twenty male goats, two hundred ewes and twenty rams, thirty female camels with their young, forty cows and ten bulls, and twenty female donkeys and ten male donkeys.

Between the gifts and the prayers, surely Jacob would be spared.

After Jacob arranged his groups, designated his gifts, and said his prayers, he took his family across the river named Jabbok. When they were safely encamped, he returned to the far side of the river. Perhaps he needed to find his strength before meeting Esau. Maybe he wanted to escape the excitement of the camp in order to process his thoughts. For any number of reasons, Jacob chose to remain alone.

Traveling, Alone, in the Wilderness: Common elements in two stories that occur 20 years apart.

For 20 years, God proved himself faithful to Jacob. He protected Jacob, provided for him, increased his family, and made him prosperous. Jacob was not the skeptic he was after his last meeting with God.

His faith in God matured to the point where God could meet with him in a new way.

So Jacob was left alone, and a man wrestled with him till daybreak.

To read this as a contest is an unimaginative reading of the text. The mysterious man did not come to conquer Jacob, he came to commune with him. Jacob could not prevail against this opponent and his opponent had the ability to gain the upper hand at any moment.

So what was the purpose of this wrestling match?

Identity.

Jacob was in need of a new identity.

Then the man said, “Your name will no longer be Jacob, but Israel, because you have struggled with God and with humans and have overcome.”

Jacob’s victory was in his identification with God. For the past 20 years, he learned that God is faithful. During a night-long bought of wrestling, he learned that God is personal. And as a prize for striving with God, Jacob received a new name.

As a bonus, Jacob also left the wrestling match with a permanent limp. As morning approached the man wrenched Jacob’s hip, causing damage he would never recover from. Jacob received this injury without complaint and endured it for the rest of his days without commenting on it.

Even though Jacob was injured, the wrestling match made him stronger. His sleep was stolen, but he was prepared to meet with his brother. Jacob limped away from the scene of the bout, but his walk was proof of his relationship with God.

At some point, it dawned on Jacob that he was in the presence of God and not a man.

So Jacob called the place Peniel, saying, “It is because I saw God face to face, and yet my life was spared.”

So I raise the question I left you with in my last post…How does God respond to our skepticism and faithlessness?

God remains true to his word, true to his nature, and true to his people.

God does not change. He is good. He is love. He is holy.

And when we are ready, God comes to us and wrestles with us. He strengthens us. He changes our name and sends us walking forward in a new way.

Jacob was not at the end of his journey. He had miles to go. The reason Jacob was traveling in the first place was because God called him to return to Bethel. After 20 years of learning and growing, it was time to revisit the place where God first spoke to him. What can we learn from Jacob’s return to Bethel…

…come back and find out in the next post.



Returning to a Familiar Place in a New Way, pt 1

As a young man, Jacob made a bargain with God.  He was in trouble, on the run, and low on resources. It appears that he left home with just the clothes on his back.  When he reached a city called Luz, he laid his head down on a rock to rest for the night. 

If you’ve never read Jacob’s story, you can find it in the book of Genesis.  Jacob wrestled with his brother Esau while in his mother’s womb.  Their wrestling would continue for the next 4 decades.

While Jacob was slumbering on that cold stone, God appeared to him in a vision. It was an extraordinary vision of angels ascending to, and descending from heaven, upon a great staircase.  And atop the staircase stood God. 

God didn’t care that Jacob didn’t have anything to bargain with.  God wasn’t interested in what Jacob had, or didn’t have.  He made himself know to Jacob to bless Jacob.  

“I am the Lord, the God of your father Abraham and the God of Isaac. I will give you and your descendants the land on which you are lying. Your descendants will be like the dust of the earth, and you will spread out to the west and to the east, to the north and to the south. All peoples on earth will be blessed through you and your offspring. I am with you and will watch over you wherever you go, and I will bring you back to this land. I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you.”

It was a God-initiated bargain. God made the first move by coming to Jacob in a vision.  God offered Jacob everything, asking for nothing in return.  God revealed himself and his goodness to Jacob in a way that left an indelible impression upon the young man.

Anywhere a man meets with God becomes a sacred place. 

When Jacob awoke from his sleep, he thought, “Surely the Lord is in this place, and I was not aware of it.” He was afraid and said, “How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God; this is the gate of heaven.”

Jacob commemorated the encounter with the Almighty by doing three things.  First, he raised the stone he used as a pillow and made it a pillar of remembrance.  Anyone who passed by would know that something special had taken place here.  It was a type of cairn memorializing Jacob’s meeting with God.

Second, Jacob poured oil on the stone pillar.  The oil would help mark this stone for years to come. Oil is used throughout scripture to consecrate people, things and places.  This stone pillar, with it’s oily sheen, would be set apart from all of the other rocks in the area. 

Lastly, Jacob called the place where God met with him “Bethel.”  Bethel means “House of God.”  Jacob’s pronouncement of this place as “House of God”  is both ridiculous and extraordinary at the same time.  It’s ridiculous because of the barrenness of Bethel.  You would be hard pressed to find a rougher, tougher, territory. 

But Jacob’s pronouncement is extraordinary for the same reason…God is not limited to palaces, or sanctuaries, or temples.  God has the ability to show up anywhere.  God can invade our desert sojourns and turn our rocky pillows into altars.  Wherever we meet with God, we are at home with God. 

The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it…

Surprisingly, Jacob’s response to God isn’t a heart-felt Thank You.  He doesn’t express any enthusiasm about the prospect of becoming a great nation or show much excitement about God’s promise of either provision or protection.  The shrewd Jacob, instead of responding with faith, meets God’s generosity with skepticism.

Then Jacob made a vow, saying, “If God will be with me and will watch over me on this journey I am taking and will give me food to eat and clothes to wear so that I return safely to my father’s household, then the Lord will be my God and this stone that I have set up as a pillar will be God’s house, and of all that you give me I will give you a tenth.”

Did you catch that part where Jacob said, “If God will be with me…?  Obviously he was unconvinced.  Perhaps he wanted to keep his religious options open. Maybe Jacob wanted to hold out for a better offer. 

Jacob was in a place we have all been.  His problems (namely his brother who wanted to kill him) were bigger than his belief in God. From this place, he tries to strike a deal with God. God, who has already promised to do great thing for him, would have the privilege of being Jacob’s God as long as Jacob was well fed, well clothed and well protected until he could return. 

A promise of faithfulness answered with faithless bargaining. 

How does God respond?  ……  read about it here.



A Look Back at Christmas, Before We Look Forward to the New Year

But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.
Luke 2:19

The Mystery and the Majesty of the Manger

More was going on than the eye could see
More was going on than mind could grasp
More was going on than heart could believe

All of that Love in Swaddling Cloths

Manifestation of God’s Love for us
Fulfillment of God’s Promises to us
Greatest Gift the World was Ever Given

All of that Peace in the Squalor of Poverty

Peace Unattached to Circumstances
Peace that Overcomes Circumstances
Peace that Creates Circumstances

All of that Hope in a Helpless Infant

The Hope of Glory
The Hope of the Nations
The Living Hope

All of God in One Little Body

The Fullness of God in Bodily Form
The Word of God in the Flesh
The Author of Creation Taking Center Center Stage Among his Creatures

The Mystery and the Majesty of the Manger

In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind.
John 1:4

 


Happy Birthday Kristi!!!

For Christmas, I set Kristi up with a new email address. Her old one, kristiburden@gmail.com, still works. But it was time for something better. 

Her blog at GodsGirlies.com has really taken off.  

I know she would love to hear from you via her new address, kristi@godsgirlies.com. 

Through her new email address, she also has a new way for you to stay connected to her blog. Be sure to add your email address to the sign up below. 

Let’s Stay Connected! Subscribe Below.




This past year she has connected to people all around the world through her writing. It’s amazing how words can bring people together!

I’m so proud of her! Happy Birthday Kristi! I love you will all of my heart!

When God Steps Into Our Lives. Sermon Outline for December 18th, 2016.

 

Be Available for God’s Interruptions

And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified.  Luke 2:8-9

Where do I hide from God?

 

Believe God’s Good News

But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” Luke 2:10-12

Where do I struggle to experience the Good News?

 

Take the Initiative to Experience What God is Doing

When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.” So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. Luke 2:15-16

Where Is God Prompting?

 

Share God’s Good News With Others

When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them.  Luke 2:17-18

The people God has placed in my life to share the story?

 

Worship God For All He Has Done

The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.  Luke 2:20

My Worship Priority This Christmas?



Lessons from the Lord’s Supper for Our Christmas Celebration. Sermon Outline.

Sunday morning we observed the Lord’s Supper.  The Advent Season brings heightened meaning to our Lord’s Supper celebration.  I hope these sermon notes will help remind you this week about the significance of the Incarnation of the Word of God in the person of Jesus Christ.

Jesus is God’s great gift to mankind.  By reflecting properly on what he has done for us, we come to a place of greater appreciation for what Christmas means to each one of us.

The Costliest Gift

  • The Lord’s Supper Is A Tangible Reminder Of The Incarnation Of Christ.

  • The Lord’s Supper Deepens Our Appreciation For The Gift Of Jesus.

  • The Lord’s Supper Serves As A Connection Between The Manger And The Cross.

LESSONS FROM THE LORD’S SUPPER FOR OUR CHRISTMAS CELEBRATION.

GOD IS WITH US

The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.  John 1 :14

 

GOD IS FOR US

And he took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me.”  Luke 22:19

 

GOD GIVES US ETERNAL LIFE

“I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats this bread will live forever. This bread is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.”  John 6:51

 

GOD TAKES AWAY OUR PUNISHMENT

Then he took a cup, and when he had given thanks, he gave it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you. This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.” Matthew 26:27-28

 

GOD MAKES US HOLY

And so Jesus also suffered outside the city gate to make the people holy through his own blood.  Hebrews 13:12

 

GOD MAKES US FAMILY

Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God— children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.  John 1:12-13

 

The Costliest Gift Isn’t Under The Tree…It’s On The Table.