Moving Mountains

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Lamentations 1:1-6
Psalm 137
2 Timothy 1:1-14
Luke 17:5-10

 

Christians get excited when we hear Jesus say, If you have faith as small as a mustard seedNIV Many of us have tried to move mountains with faith when instead we should have been moving the mountains that separate us from God and other people.

Take, for example, the mountain that separates Christians from Moslems. It is easy for Christians to see the followers of Mohammad as terrorists and as corrupters of the faith, not to mention wrong. Even as Mohammad placed Jesus near the top of the list of great prophets, he placed himself at the top. We Christians disagree with that thinking.

Still, Roman Catholics long disagreed with Eastern Orthodox until 1054 when the Great Schism occurred, and each side excommunicated the other (not lifted until 1965). A mountain of long standing.

We could make a long list of disagreements between, and among, every denomination and faith group. One of the ‘most important’ disputes in recent years has to do with the music played and sung in Sunday services.

We tend to forget the other words of Jesus, Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of GodNIV

We also forget to read the rest of today’s passage from Luke. When you have done everything you were told to do, you should be saying, ‘We’re just ordinary slaves, we have only done our duty.’ CJB What is our duty as slaves of the Messiah? To love God and to love our fellow humans.

In ancient times, a slave was the representative of his master. The slave was to do the things the master would do if he had the time (or inclination). In the case of Jesus, he had a small window of time in which to do his work. His work was to develop a small cadre of followers, the Twelve plus one to two hundred other disciples, to take up his work and carry it into the rest of the world and the rest of time. His other duty was, of course, to be the Sacrificial Lamb.

With Paul we can say, I know the one in whom I have placed my confidence, and I am perfectly certain that the work he has committed to me is safe in his hands until that dayPhillips And with Paul we should say, So don’t be ashamed of bearing testimony to our Lord or to me, his prisoner. On the contrary, accept your share in suffering disgrace for the sake of the Good NewsCJB

We are not very good with the suffering disgrace business. When non-believers attack us for our beliefs, we prefer to return the attack, even to the point of shutting them up. We forget that Jesus, our Master, has not given us the duty of attacking his opponents. We are to love. Not love is a mushy world, but in a hard world under the power of the Father of Lies.

Imagine, if you can, that you are safely on the Omaha beach in France, June 6, 1944. You see the head of a German soldier firing an MG 42 at the rate of 20 rounds per second into your fellow soldiers. Does love demand that you refuse to kill the German, or does it demand that you shoot? If you pull your trigger, you will commit murder; if you don’t, your buddies will continue to die. Wouldn’t that also be murder?

But let’s look more closely. The German was drafted into the army, even as he hates the Nazis. He attended church two days before and every Sunday before that, army life permitting. He loves God and wants to do His Will.

Being a slave of Jesus is not easy in this world. Sometimes we are forced to do what is in its self a sin to do the least harm. Personally, I believe that my shooting the German (not likely as I was still in diapers) and his shooting many Americans would be equal moral sins, but ones which Jesus would cleanse away.

The real mountain moving would come for me in learning to live with that murder—having the faith that God can accept the blood stain of murder on me.

 

Be righteous and do good.

Mike Lawrence

Under His Wings

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Jeremiah 32:1-3a, 6-15
Psalm 91:1-6, 14-16
1 Timothy 6:6-19
Luke 16:19-31

 

Psalm 91 is the lesson for today with the other readings supporting it. He that dwelleth in the secret place of the most High shall abide under the shadow of the AlmightyKJV

Jeremiah’s prophesies had upset the King to the point that the King placed Jeremiah under arrest and held him inside the palace. Still, the Word of God was given to Jeremiah: Buy my field at AnathothNIV God’s message was plain. You will be carried into captivity for a time, but you will return and buy land and take up lives in my presence once again.

Jeremiah gives each an all important message: no matter what we have done, we can return to God and He will receive us as though nothing had happened.

Jesus allows us a glimpse of the other side of that equation. Once a person has lived a life away from God, with no regard for the suffering of others, there is no hope. Lazarus lived in such poverty that he had to be carried to his place of begging. His poverty was so complete that dogs alone cared for him. Dogs in those days were not man’s best friend; they were scavengers akin to vultures. They licked the wounds of Lazarus so they could get at the maggots feeding there.

Jesus in the parable says nothing of the faith of Lazarus, stressing only his destitution. He does not say, your faith has saved you, as he did so many other times. It seems that he was saved by God simply because he had already had his time in Hell. But let’s not make too much of that.

The rich man, it is clear, had no interest in Lazarus while they were alive. He ate and lived only for his own pleasure. More to the point, he had no regard for God. As a result, he landed in Hell.

Jesus’ story makes it clear that the rich man could have sat at the table with Lazarus in Heaven if he had only done so in the world. Being rich was not the problem; loving the riches was.

Many of the First Century Christians were rich. They shared their wealth with the poor so that all could benefit from the money. When those rich ‘Christians’ stopped sharing, they did so because they began again to love the wealth instead of God.

Paul wrote: For men who set their hearts on being wealthy expose themselves to temptation. They fall into one of the world’s traps, and lay themselves open to all sorts of silly and wicked desires, which are quite capable of utterly ruining and destroying their soulsPhillips

We Americans who work for a living and watch for our paydays and wonder if we will be alright forget that we are the rich man in this parable. Why do I worry about paydays? Because I have to buy a house, car, HDTV, iPad, the latest cloths, dinner at The Olive Garden, and a hundred other ‘things’. A billion people today will be happy if they can buy enough food to survive until tomorrow.

Now true religion does bring great riches, but only to those who are content with what they haveCJB

 

Be righteous and do good.

Mike Lawrence

There Is a Balm in Gilead

Photo credit: Art4TheGlryOfGod via Foter.com / CC BY-ND
Photo credit: Art4TheGlryOfGod via Foter.com / CC BY-ND

Jeremiah 8:18-9:1
Psalm 79:1-9
1 Timothy 2:1-7
Luke 16:1-13

 

Since the title of this post is also the title of a hymn, here are a couple of YouTube sites if you want to listen. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8fcMxI_6xsk

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DFMY4V7RdbU

In Jeremiah, we read a question, Is there no balm in Gilead? NIV Jeremiah as a prophet of God spoke for God, but he also spoke for God’s people, as in this section. The people then, as now, lived in sin and suffered for it. Jeremiah cried for them even as he told them what would be the result of their bad choices.

We learn from the Hebrews that God expects us to have faith in Him; that He has the plan to save us from the suffering we have created. In Jesus, we learn more about that plan, not all of it, but enough to know that the plan is for every human now and forever.

Jesus tells us point-blank that there are only two ways for our lives to go, Heaven or Hell. We can serve God, or we can serve the Father of Lies; we cannot serve both.

The point of the Parable of the Shrewd Manager is generally thought to be, You cannot serve both God and Money. NIV (The actual Greek word is mamonas, meaning wealth, avarice, or greed.) That is what Jesus tells the Pharisees and the rest of us as well.

But notice what the manager does. He has been a liar and a thief, yet he sees that that life will lead to ruin, so he quickly gives away wealth, even if it is not his. He does it so he will have friends when he most needs them.

Jesus is telling us that we can do no less. We must give what we can to help others. In that, we will find reward. Many lifetime Christians are uncomfortable with this parable because Jesus makes a rogue appear the hero; yet, that is the point, we are all rogues and must depend on the Mercy of God.

The words of Paul add just a bit to this lesson.

First of all, then, I counsel that petitions, prayers, intercessions and thanksgivings be made for all human beings, including kings and all in positions of prominence; so that we may lead quiet and peaceful lives, being godly and upright in everything. Phillips

These words speak to the very nature of what it means to be a follower of the Messiah. He did not come on a war-horse wielding a sword. He came quietly, and he came with a message of Peace. It is what we must work and pray for even as we stand ready to face evil when it attacks.

 

Be righteous and do good.

Mike Lawrence

The Lord is Their Refuge

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Jeremiah 4:11-12, 22-28
Psalm 14
1 Timothy 1:12-17
Luke 15:1-10

 

I am a historian, and I am a believer in God.

As a historian, I know that Assyria was able to conquer Israel and carry many of the people into captivity about 722 BC because all of the neighbor states, especially Egypt, were too weak to stop them. Then in 586 BC, Judah fell before the might of Babylon, even though Egypt sent an army to protect them. Babylon had belonged to Assyria for more than a century, but Babylon was able to defeat the weakened empire.

As a believer, I know that God allowed each empire to have enough power to conquer His people on His timeline.

When we read in the Psalm: They are corrupt, their deeds are vile; there is no one who does good; NIV and in Jeremiah: The whole land shall be laid waste, I will make an end of it once for allNJB it is easy to be disturbed that God could be so spiteful.

But there is always more to the reading. The Lord is their refugeNIV I will not destroy it completelyNIV God always includes words of comfort. The rain will come, but so will the ark. Isaac will lie on the altar, but a ram will be provided. Famine will strike, but Joseph will be in Egypt to feed you. The Egyptians will be harsh, but the Exodus will free you.

God never stops searching for the lost. To turn Jesus’ parable on its head, no person is ever lost, God is always beside us. We must open our eyes of faith to see Him.

Paul reminds Timothy that it is only by the Grace of God that Paul is an Apostle, or that he is even alive. He is also reminding each of us that it is Grace alone that can save us. Looking at the Ten Commandments, I can honestly say I have never coveted my neighbor’s ox or donkey, but the rest of the list—not so good. Having committed so many sins, Mercy is my only hope. God is like a good coach of seven-year-olds learning baseball. “That was great. Now see if you can put you glove on the ball next time. I know the ball went into the dugout, but you hit it, didn’t you.”

 

Be righteous and do good.

Mike Lawrence

Go Down to the Potter’s House

Fishley Holland Potter 402

Jeremiah 18:1-11
Psalm 139:1-5, 12-17
Philemon 1-21
Luke 14:25-33

 

The theme this week is expressed in the Psalm: I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made. NIV We need to remember that God made each of us. We may not live up to His hope for us, but he made us.

In this election year, we have already heard the two Presidential candidates slurred in terms suggesting they were made by Satan instead of God. We should reject those types of attacks because they do not come from God. We must accept that each candidate falls short of the Glory of God. We must concentrate on the facts that qualify him or her for the job and choose the one with the most positives and the least negatives.

Would Jesus vote in the election if he were living here as citizen? Such speculations are always a little risky. We know that Jesus seldom spoke of the government and never said anything bad about it. But we also know he talked about loyalty to God as the only way to live.

In today’s passage, Jesus made the case as strongly as possible by saying me must hate our parents. The Greek word for hate is miseo, which also means to love less. I think that is the meaning Jesus had in mind. His argument is: love everything in this world less than you love God.

Paul uses the same theme as part of his appeal to Philemon on behalf of Onesimus. By Roman law, Onesimus should have been executed for running away, but Paul argues that he became a believer in God and as such must be accepted as a brother. We do not know the rest of the story, if Philemon received him as a Christen slave or a free Christen, or if he had him executed. The fact that Philemon allowed the letter be copied and shared argues strongly for freedom.

Jeremiah watched a potter working clay and from that came to realize that God continues to mold us. Like Onesimus, we can turn our backs on our present conditions and face God.

 

Be righteous and do good.

Mike Lawrence