In God We Trust

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First Sunday of Advent

Jeremiah 33:14-16
Psalm 25:1-9
1 Thessalonians 3:9-13
Luke 21:25-36

In 1864, Congress passed a law allowing the motto, In God We Trust, to be placed on coins, with the two cent being the first to receive it. Gold and silver soon followed, but the motto did not appear on all coins. In 1956, In God We Trust, became our official motto and began to appear on paper currency as well as all coins. The same law required the insertion of Under God in the pledge following an informal insertion in 1954.

Sadly, both acts came as the result of wars (the Civil War and the Cold War) and represented an appeal to the emotional feelings people have about religion. It in no way means that our government—national, state, or local—appeals to God for direction. When considering the proper course of action, very few government officials ask, What Would Jesus Do?

What does it mean to trust in God?

The Word of God to Jeremiah: The day will come, says the Lord, when I will do for Israel and Judah all the good things I have promised them. NLT God has promised good things to us from the days of Adam and Eve, even while we have refused to believe Him. God has always delivered on His promises, even if we have failed to understand either the promise or the delivery or both.

Verses 15-16 are actually repeats of 23:5-6. Anytime a prophet repeats something, pay attention. This is the most direct Messianic reference in Jeremiah, one of the most important in all of the Old Testament. The Messiah will be a king like David and a priest like Melchizedek and he will be called Righteous.

While Jeremiah gives us the Christmas promise, once the Messiah arrives, he gives us a new and a bit frightening promise. As his Apostles admired God’s Temple, Jesus promised that it would be destroyed. He described wars and famines, swords and death. The promise is dark, but Jesus does not leave it there. At that time they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. NIV But when these things begin to happen, look up, hold your heads high, for you will soon be free. Phillips

Paul gives the Thessalonians, and us, a reminder of the Promise of God to always support those who are faithful to him. Even in the bad times, God is with us.

With David we must always say, In you, Lord my God, I put my trust. NIV Only God can be trusted. Not our government, not our money, not our democracy, not our capitalism.

Be righteous and do good.

Mike Lawrence

For this reason I Was Born

courtesy Can Stock Photo
courtesy Can Stock Photo

2 Samuel 23:1-7

Psalm 132

Revelation 1:4b-8

John 18:33-37

 

What was so special about King David? Sure, he killed a giant and wrote great music, but what really set him apart? The answer is not what we want to hear, it was nothing he did. God chose David. In fact, God chose David before David was born.

We look at the story and see a boy willingly facing a giant and succeeding in the short fight. We see David proving himself capable of becoming a king. We too often fail to understand what it means to be chosen by God. We Americans are especially prone to read it as a rags to riches story. We are suckers for heroes and still believe in fairy stories, we just dress them up in modern terms.

Read again 1 Samuel 16:7-13. Jesse had 8 sons, but God chose the youngest, the least qualified for the job, as God so often does. In verse 13 we read, From that day on, the Spirit of Adonai would fall upon David with power. Phillips That is the key. This is not an account of predestination where David had no choice in the matter. Yes, God chose him, but David could have refused. When he accepted, God sent the Holy Spirit to fill him with the power he would need, and even that was not enough when Bathsheba appeared.

Even so, David became the center of a span of history from Abraham to Jesus. King David came to be the most important symbol of the coming Messiah. Abraham represented faith. Moses represented salvation. David represented the King. Elijah represented the prophet. Melkeisikeck represented the high priest.

The Messiah fulfilled all the roles.

Pilate asked the all important question of Jesus, Are you the king of the Jews? His answer was, My kingdom is not of this worldNIV My kingdom doesn’t consist of what you see around youMSG My kingship does not derive its authority from this world’s order of thingsCJB My kingdom is not founded in this worldPhillips My Kingdom is not an earthly kingdomNLT

In Revelation 1 we begin to see his Kingdom as we begin to see the Messiah at work in his Kingdom. We are fond of saying that the battle was won on that First Morning. Revelation gives us a different picture. Jesus did not simply die, then come back to life. The Angel of Death carried Jesus to the the Kingdom of Death where he engaged in battle with the Angel of Death. Death was wounded, but not defeated in that struggle. In our world, we have to think of it as a three day battle, but it must still be on going because people continue to die.

When we read the rest of Revelation (not to mention Daniel and company) it is clear that a great deal is yet to be accomplished by the Messiah. When we look at all this, it is not wonder Jesus was sweating blood the night of his arrest. The few hours of torture before his death was not the reason for Jesus’ fear, it was what came after.

 

Be righteous and do good.

Mike Lawrence

I Will Remember No More

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1 Samuel 1:4-20

1 Samuel 2:1-10

Hebrews 10:11-25

Mark 13:1-8

 

There is a revival of Calvinistic teaching in the US today, one I am uncomfortable with. All of the early reformers had serious flaws in their theology and I believe predestination was Calvin’s. So what is going on with Hannah?

We are told that, the Lord had closed her wombNIV Is this a proof of predestination? I say no. Calvin and I will look at the same words, the same story, and arrive at two different understandings. If God closed her womb, then he opened it later to fulfill God’s wishes, not Hannah’s. How many women through history prayed just as Hannah prayed, but received no child?

In Hannah’s time, in all religions, any woman who did not have children was assumed to be cursed by her god. It was an expression common to all. We understand today that some women cannot conceive for many reasons, including the infertility of her male partner. I do not choose to put any stress on the phrase, the Lord had closed her womb.

However, later, and the Lord remembered her, NIV is a very different statement. Hannah prayed, Eli blessed, God provided. This birth narrative is a forerunner of Elizabeth and John as well as Mary and Jesus. This is a time when God did step into a person’s life and make a change. God changed the future for Hannah, but He also, more importantly, changed the future for Israel. Samuel was too important to be left to chance. God provided.

God’s greatest intrusion into the human muck was the provision that His Word would become a human to be born of an unwed woman with the mandate to do nothing less than destroy sin and death. We generally say that Jesus did that by dying on the cross.

Biblically, that is only part of the process. Yes, Jesus had to die and be raised by God from the dead, but that was step one. People for 2,000 years have noticed that sin and death remain with us and have asked, why?

We get some of the answer from the prophets, especially Daniel and Ezekiel, and the final piece of the puzzle from Revelation, but we do not have all of it and we have no idea when it will all be completed.  At some point, the Messiah Son of God will use the Sword of the Word of God to bring the final end of all that is against God and only then will we be able to live completely in the presence of God.

Meanwhile, Jesus has become our High Priest and covers our sins so that we can live near God, at least imperfectly.

 

Be righteous and do good.

Mike Lawrence

Salvation to Those Who Are Waiting for Him

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Ruth 3:1-5; 4:13-17

Psalm 127

Hebrews 9:24-28

Mark 12:38-44

 

Ruth was the center piece of Shavuot, also known as Pentecost. The entire book was read at the festival in keeping with the theme of harvest time. Passover came at the barley harvest and Shavuot came with the wheat harvest.

Ruth is important as well because she was the mother of King David (great-grandmother, but you get the idea). For us Christians, she is also the mother of Jesus.

It is no accident that Ruth is so closely associated with the harvest. It is a part of God’s plan to prepare us for the final harvest of people. It is no accident that Jesus was killed at Passover and that the Church was given birth on Shavuot.

I think we often overuse the word salvation. It is the correct term, but we sometimes try to make it carry too much meaning. Our salvation is a gift from God. He gives it to us because he is a God of Mercy. Not one of us has done anything to deserve that gift. Mercy came to us in the human form of the man named Yeshua bar Yosef.

Jesus lived a very human life for about thirty years until God called him to be a prophet to His Chosen Ones, to Israel. Jesus became a living parable of how to be a true son of God until God told him that he had to take on Satan in a no holds barred smack down—and he had to do it after he died a tortures death.

My salvation is neither cheap nor easy, but I have not had to pay the price. It is like a no limit credit card that I do not have to pay back.

But there is a price, of sorts. God asks me to accept his gift.

At first, the simplicity is overwhelming. It can’t be that simple. But it is, and it is not. By accepting the gift I now owe God a favor which I can pay off by being as close to Him as possible. God wants me to return to the perfect life He planned for me. I cannot do that in this world, but I can practice for the next world. I can try my best to do what He wants me to do, even as I fail too often.

 

Be righteous and do good.

Mike Lawrence