For even if we sin we are yours… In return for nothing God forever acknowledges me. I thank you gracious God, for I know that in this life I am not perfect yet by your grace, I strive towards perfection that is in the knowledge of your kindness, truth, patience and mercy. These are part of your legacy, your immortal presence larger than this life, meant to be shared with others, by one another.
For surely I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans for your welfare and not for harm, to give you a future with hope. Then when you call upon me and come and pray to me, I will hear you. When you search for me, you will find me; if you seek me with all your heart, I will let you find me, says the Lord, and I will restore your fortunes… Jeremiah 29:1-13 Merciful God, thank you. For in the passion of our own lives you promise to redeem us.
Have you not heard? From the very beginning, I’ve been blunt and spoke as clearly as possible to my sons. I never wanted either of them to come back and say to me “Why didn’t you tell me…”. I know that sometimes they probably weren’t listening but then I don’t remember all of the times I didn’t listen to my parents. Of course their journey is not mine, yet even if they remember a small fraction of what I’ve shared, the overall message of my love for them hopefully, prayerfully will never be questioned nor forgotten. Upon baptism into this faith, God speaks to us even when we are not listening. Prayerfully, hopefully we remember God’s Love even when we forget God’s Word. Love is our foundation. Love is our redemption. Love is our destiny.
…Shem and Japheth took a garment… walked backward and covered… their father. Genesis 9:18-29 I often wondered about this passage from Genesis concerning Noah and his sons. I used to think that Ham got a raw deal, that it was unfortunate that he came across his fathers nakedness first. The reality is that someone was bound to be first in seeing Noah exposed. Without knowing why Ham entered his father’s tent in the first place, Ham’s consequence which followed seemed unfair. If you live long enough you realize that there is always more to anyone’s story including our own. There are times when it’s not necessary to place one another in awkward situations. John the Baptist said it best when he was asked about why some were going to Jesus to be baptized; “He must increase but I must decrease.” Ham forgot Noah’s authority, then compounded the situation by telling his brothers! His penalty was harsh; the status of his descendants eventually becoming lowest among the people of Israel. Yet as we know through Christ, and his interaction with a Canaanite woman (Matthew 15:21-28), by faith we are not beyond forgiveness, redemption and reconciliation.
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Go and learn what this means, “I desire mercy, not sacrifice.” Matthew 9:9-17 Jesus is sitting at the table with tax collectors and sinners, those marginalized by society, treated as unworthy and shamed for having done something “sinful.” When pressed by the Pharisees to justify himself, Jesus challenges them with a statement straight out of Hosea (6:6), the prophet commanded to marry a prostitute! Part of their challenge is understanding where they fit in the story. By sitting with tax collectors and sinners, Jesus demonstrates that no physical sacrifice takes the place of God’s mercy and grace for his people. Jesus, like Hosea joins himself with the lost and the marginalized. His purpose is first to heal, redeem and reconcile them back to God. If the Pharisees see themselves as the righteous and their knowledge of the law as a gift, the challenge is clear; they too are charged to show mercy. What are our gifts? Where do we fit in the story? I’ve come to understand that the gifts God has given us is not about us. It’s about God using us through those gifts, in order that everyone has the opportunity to sit with Christ at the table of mercy, receive healing, and be redeemed back into His fold; tax collectors, sinners and Pharisees alike.
…go, tell his disciples and Peter that he is going ahead of you to Galilee. Mark 16:1-8 (9-20) Peter is specifically singled out. Scripture does not say for certain, but is it possible that if the women at the tomb and the disciples were witness to Peter’s denial of Christ, or even heard of it by hearsay, they’d already judged him a betrayer? Whatever the climate, it seems clear that Jesus intended to see Peter in Galilee along with the other disciples; not by himself, not secretly. Peter was already forgiven before Christ died on that cross never discounting, nor disqualifying Peter’s place among the disciples. Told in all four gospels, Peter’s denial sticks out in the scripture even today. Yet what also sticks out is that perhaps in his repentance, at least temporarily, Peter may have abandoned himself as a disciple, but Christ never once abandoned Peter, and – in spite of our own fears, neither will God abandon us.
Happy are those who do not follow the advice of the wicked, or take the path that sinners tread, or sit in the seat of scoffers;… Psalm 1 This is where it all begins – Happiness. Yet who among us has not followed bad advice, taken a path we probably should not have taken, or sat in the scoffer’s seat? After we’ve done all these things what’s left? The spirit within that cries out. Like a parent to a child God answers with love and discipline. Then redeemed, we go forth and try again.
You knew, did you, that I was a harsh man, taking what I did not deposit and reaping what I did not sow? Luke 19:11-27 I’ve always found the parable of the ten pounds a bit odd. The nobleman that no one likes is actually quite generous with his money and his trust in ten of his slaves, with the expectation that they will do right by the gift. One of them however is simply afraid and chooses to do nothing. He ultimately ends up paying a heavy price for what he believes to know about the nobleman based on what the other citizens of the country have said against the nobleman. So many times I have hindered myself with fear because of what I thought I knew based on what someone else believed. Many people speak against God when in fact he has been quite generous with the gift of his son Jesus Christ, redemption, salvation, forgiveness, everlasting love and the Gospel. These are the things we ultimately have to remember when other people are in our ear telling us what is contrary to the truth. Regardless of what other people may say, God has given each of us a gift that we can use for his glory. Even in fear he encourages us to be faithful; to love not hate, wish well and not begrudge, build up and not tear down.
…if you think differently about anything, this too God will reveal to you. Philippians 3:13-21 Paul, a Pharisee believed in the resurrection. When the spirit of Jesus Christ himself appeared before him while on the road to Damascus, his self righteousness turned to self-loathing for condemning God’s people, the ones whom Christ was sent to save. Paul reached a position in his life that few in his culture achieve and when he started rounding up believers before the Roman authorities to be put to death he turned against God. As much as he believed that what he was doing was right before God, from a spiritual point of view he was convicted. From an “earthly” point of view he had the power and the authority, however, had Paul’s spiritual heart for God not been stronger, that visit from Christ may not have occurred when it did. Paul’s heart for God, I believe was predestined to be used for God’s glory even though he used his power and authority to sin against God. Knowingly or un-knowingly we don’t always think in deference to God before we act. Fortunately for our sake, like so many before us, God knows the heart. It doesn’t matter what we’ve done or what we think we’ve done. Through Christ, God will tap the repentant heart that seeks after Him and it will be redeemed and transformed for His glory. Through Christ there is no condemnation (Romans 8:1-11).
Thus says the LORD: I remember the devotion of your youth, your love as a bride, how you followed me in the wilderness, in a land not sown. Jeremiah 2:1-13
For I am not ashamed of the gospel; …For in it the righteousness of God is revealed through faith for faith… Romans 1:16-25
I call upon you from the ends of the earth with heaviness in my heart; set me upon the rock that is higher than I. Psalm 61
—beware of the yeast of the Pharisees…’ Mark 8:11-26 Every time I drink wine I get indigestion. These days it’s pretty much the only taste of alcohol I enjoy, but I am very careful about drinking it simply because I don’t like the way it makes me feel. What’s interesting about yeast, in addition to it’s fermentation properties, is that it’s a small single-cell fungus which reproduces by fission (splitting) or budding. These “buds” often remain attached to the parent cell. In and of itself sugar turned into alcohol isn’t a bad thing, but our abuse of it can be far more destructive before we realize it. Jesus warns his disciples to beware of the yeast of the Pharisee not the Pharisee himself. What some of the Pharisees were offering in the Law, which was given by God for the good use of Israel, had been distorted and abused for their own self-preservation. As long as they could convince others to remain attached to their distorted view of the Law, the people never become free to believe in God’s redemption through faith in Christ. That which is given by God is intended to grow our faith and attach us to God’s Love. We have to beware of the yeast of distortion and abuse that longs to win us over and attach us to the burdens of guilt and unworthiness.