An Offering for a King

Read Mark 12:33

As we begin the season of Advent, we focus upon preparing to receive our Christ and King. Scripture tells us that what God considers the greatest offering is our very selves. When we think about what we might offer to our coming Christ, the offering which our Lord deserves is our love and the life choices which we make. Consider what Christmas offering you may choose to make this season as you listen to this song by Casting Crowns.

In Christ

Read Colossians 2:6-8

Some passages from the Bible can appear fairly simple on the surface but when examined closely, they can contain some valuable insights. For today’s passage we will do some mining to see what insights we may glean.

The passage begins with a reminder that those hearing this message have received Christ as Lord. The concept of receiving has been viewed in a variety of ways. First, there is the image of receiving Christ’s Spirit, the Holy Spirit. This image has associated with it the understanding of allowing the Spirit to enter our lives and our hearts as a guide and support. Second, by adding the phrase, “as Lord,” the concept of receiving includes an acknowledgement, maybe even a declaration, that Christ is the Lord of our lives.

The next portion of the passage comes with the instruction to “continue to live your lives in him.” This is a curious and complex thought. What does it mean to live “in” Christ? The idea that the source of our life is Christ comes to mind. Seeing our life enveloped in Christ would mean how we respond to people and aspects of our lives should be from a Christ-like perspective.

Then the writer expands upon the instruction by defining some of what this might look like. Our anchor is to be in Christ. We grow by being securely planted in Christ, his teachings and his expressions of love. This allows us to withstand the challenging times of life as we mature into being followers of Christ.

Next, the writer tells us to become stronger in the beliefs which we have been taught. Here we are reminded that our learning does not have an ending point, on earth there is no graduation as a believer. Instead, we continue to study God’s word, listen to the messengers God places in our lives, and explore with fellow believers how to live out the grace and love which we receive from the Lord.

The final phrase of this section tells us to overflow with thankfulness. There are a variety of ways we can express our thanks. The easiest is by using words to speak of our gratitude to the Lord. The expression which brings the greatest joy to God is by living out our thankfulness. Through the ways we give to and interact with others, we can demonstrate how thankful we are for what we receive. A combination of these approaches will allow others to see our lives of gratitude.

The remaining section of today’s passage is a warning. The warning is for us to not be led by human understanding but solely by Christ. Human interpretation of life and how to live it, void of Christ’s instruction and guidance, lacks substance and accuracy. Human teachings must always be viewed through Christ-given lenses.

May we take these pieces of wisdom and strive to live according to them.

Expressions of Praise

Read 2 Samuel 6:12-16

There are different songs which when heard lead people to respond. Some songs generate a desire to clap your hands or tap your foot to the beat. Other songs may prompt a person to cry because of how the lyrics touch a person’s heart or maybe because they elicit a memory. Then there are those songs that move a person to start dancing. You are set in motion by the melodies and rhythms. Music can communicate emotions in ways which are seldom matched by many other aspects of our lives. Whether a song prompts you to join in the rhythm, sing along or dance, you are taken from the ordinary to the energized in a meaningful way.

The passage for today speaks of music, emotions, and responses. One of Israel’s greatest symbols of the presence of God, the Ark of the Covenant, was being hidden away in the household of Obed- Edom. King David decided it was time to bring the ark back to Jerusalem. He made a great fanfare with the procession bringing them to the city, even offering a sacrifice of thanks to God at the beginning of the journey. Dressed in a small amount of clothing, filled with great joy and being swept up in the trumpet sounds, David danced. His wife, Michal, disapproved of his dancing and behaviors. She began to hate David on that day.

How often people judge other people in regard to their expressions of joy to the Lord. Like Michal, people can make a determination of what are appropriate forms of expression of praise to God. Anything which goes outside the bounds of “appropriate” behavior causes a shunning and dislike of the demonstrator. Yet Scripture is full of all types of jubilant expressions in response to God. Dancing, singing, playing loud instruments, shouting, weeping, and removing clothing are all found as celebratory expressions in the Bible.

We should all take a lesson from David. When the Spirit moves us to respond to our Lord, we should do so with great enthusiasm. If others around us choose to express the joy given to them by God, we should not judge them or attempt to hinder them. Not all forms of expressions fit every person but it should be left to each person to respond as led. Instead of stifling praise to the Lord, let us support and encourage it in all forms.

The Dividing

Read Matthew 13:24-30

Watching people in public spaces can be a creative activity. Recently, I attended a community event which drew large crowds of people together. Having arrived at my assigned seat early, I had plenty of time to watch people move around the area. When given such an opportunity, I observe behaviors, clothing choices, interactions and expressions. From these observations I create scenarios in my mind regarding backgrounds, life  choices, and plans. This is a creative endeavor which creates a character profile with no factual information except for what I see during a brief encounter. Such an activity is a mental game which passes time but should never be seen as accurate in any fashion. It is more of a story telling exercise.

Jesus was a very effective storyteller. He would use stories, or parables, to communicate a complex concept. His stories made these concepts relatable to a person’s life. Our passage today is one of those times when Jesus tells a story. This story was intended to address the world situation where good and bad co-exist. Jesus also addresses how this will be sorted out. In the story we see recognition of the fact that good and bad stand side by side. Jesus tells the listener that the dividing of the two will occur at a later time, not now. In addition to the timing, the story also communicates that it is not our responsibility to do the sorting but when it is time the task will be assigned.

Back to my creative people watching, while I may use the determining of a person’s scenario as a time-occupying game, there are some who observe and make judgments about a person’s life in a serious manner. It is true that individuals who are called to be law enforcement officers and judges do this as a duty to society. They also operate within parameters and an indepth investigation of the facts. Jesus reminds us that we are not the ones who are to choose who is allowed to stay and who is to go. This will be determined by the Lord at a later time. Instead, we are to live together in harmony with one another. Let God worry about the dividing of the grain and the weeds.  God sees the whole situation, we do not.

Faithfulness

Read Lamentations 3:21-23

There are many changes in life. Some are expected while others are not. The speed of change can be overwhelming in its rapidity. Finding reliable anchors in a sea of change can

prove difficult. Yet in the words of today’s reading, we are reminded of the faithfulness of God. Each day we are shown  compassion, mercy and love. With the dawn of the day, this is renewed once  again. Because of this we have hope, no matter what may be swirling around us.

The passage today was written during a time when the Israelites were dispersed in foreign countries and living in exile. It is part of the crying out to God, sharing their feelings of woe. The future seemed bleak at best. Yet even while in exile, visions of God’s compassion and love could be found.

As I read this passage, a hymn from my past came to mind.

Whatever you may be experiencing at this time, never lose sight of God’s faithful compassion, mercy, and love.

Contained and Controlled

Read Acts 7:44-50

When humanity decided to domesticate animals, a way to control the animals had to be devised early on. Cages, corals, stables and fences were brought into use. These attempts to limit the movement of the animals are still utilized in some form today. Once the animal’s ability to move was controlled, then behavior altering allowed for domestication. These methods, along with psychological methods, have also been utilized with humans. Confinement is a strong control technique.

The passage which we read from the Book of Acts speaks of building confinements. First we hear about a container for the Law. This container, built according to God’s specifications, allowed the Law of God to travel  with the Israelites. It is best known at the Ark of the Covenant and served as a visible sign of God’s presence and rule. Then we are reminded of the Temple which Solomon built, again as God specified. The Temple served as a gathering place for God’s people, a place to offer sacrifices and worship to God, and a visible reminder of God’s presence. The people also come to view these structures as a way to contain God and other people. Containment gives a sense of control.

It is important to keep in mind that the Ark and the Temple were not a need of God’s but a need for humanity. The words in Acts point this out to us. The words also attack the perception that humans could ever contain or control God. God is more expansive than anything conceived by humans. There is not any material or design which originates with humans because all originates  with God. There is no human power strong enough to contain or control God. Let us hear the words of Acts in order to keep a proper perspective.

Equipping the Called

Read Exodus 3:7-14

Have you ever been asked to do something for which you feel underqualified? Maybe you have not had enough training or any training for the task. You lack the confidence in your knowledge or abilities. You politely refuse but the person who is making the request will not accept an answer of no from you. The next step you take may be to ask clarifying questions so you have some sense of understanding and authority as you endeavor to complete the assignment.

Moses had a feeling of inadequacy. During his encounter with God in the burning bush story, we find a conversation which may be familiar if you were in a situation like was described above. God has told Moses that after seeing the Israelites’s misery, God is sending Moses to Egypt to lead the people to a wonderful land. Moses points out that he lacks any authority to approach Pharoah and demand the release of the Israelites. God assures Moses that God will be with him. Then Moses brings up the concern that he also lacks any authority with the Israelites so they may not follow him. God instructs Moses to tell the people that God, Yahweh, I AM has sent him. God gives everything Moses needs to do what needs to be done.

The lesson of Moses is valuable to us when we are given a task by God. Unlike Moses, most often God chooses the voices of people around us to call us. Others come to us requesting that we take on a role, a responsibility, or a task. We may feel inadequate to respond in the affirmative but if this is a God call, we will be equipped. One of my favorite sayings in regard to doing God’s work goes something like this, “God does not call the equipped, God equips the called.” Whatever we need to fulfill a calling by God will be supplied by  God.

Impressive

Read Mark 13:1-2

Walking in Manhattan in New York City, it is easy to become mesmerized by the huge buildings which surround you. Everything from the height, to the architecture, to the ornate facades causes a person to marvel at the accomplishments of humanity. The Empire State Building, the Chrysler Building and the new One World Trade Center astonish visitors to the Big Apple over and over. This is just one example of a location where human ingenuity, creativity and hard labor astounds us. There are many other examples such as the Golden Gate Bridge, Hoover Dam, and the Space Needle which exist throughout the United States. If one was to look throughout the world even more examples exist; the Eiffel Tower, the Colosseum, Big Ben, Taj Mahal, Great Pyramids and the Great Wall of China are some international examples. All of these structures cause awe in us when seen.

During Jesus’s time, the Temple in Jerusalem was awe-inspiring. Today’s passage makes this clear. As the disciples are leaving the Temple with Jesus, one mentions to him in casual conversation how wonderful the structure is to him. Jesus foretells a time when these amazing human structures will be destroyed. This will be true a few decades after Jesus’s death and resurrection.

The discussion which Jesus has with his disciples should cause us to pause and consider where we place our awe. Often we can become overly impressed with human achievements. At times we are so impressed that we lose sight of the most awesome reality in our lives, God actively engaged in our life is more amazing than anything found on this earth. The disciple was possibly more amazed in the Temple than in the fact that he was walking with the Son of God. Whether the truth that the Almighty God is actively in relationship with each of our lives has became part of our ordinary assumptions or we fail to even consider the idea, we often focus more on the things around us, things which do not last.

Jesus is attempting to redirect the disciple, and us, from being awed by an earthly structure toward the reality of being in relationship with the God of all creation. As inspiring as the achievements of humanity may be, the work of God is so much more inspiring. Besides, God’s work is eternal while humanity’s will pass away.

Jesus Loving Sinner

Read 1 Timothy 1:14-16

When we come to realize the magnitude of the love, mercy and grace demonstrated in Jesus Christ, we are amazed. Our sin can seem overwhelming. We may mistakenly think that there is no possibility that God can overlook our sin and continue to love us. God does not overlook our sin but loves us in spite of the sin. We are loved so much that God provides through Jesus Christ a way for our sin to be removed. This gift, or grace, prompts us to respond in love. Each of us is broken, that is the truth, but each of us are made whole in the love of Christ.

May this song by Casting Crowns remind you of these things.