The Only Thing That Counts

For the next 6 weeks the attention of our bulletin articles will be to support our readings from Immerse: Messiah. If you haven’t decided to join us for Immerse yet, it’s not too late. We have 5 groups meeting on 5 different days in 5 different locations. Hopefully you can make one of them fit into your schedule.

Our readings for this week will take us through the 1 & 2 Corinthians, Galatians, and Romans. One of the things that has really stood out to me in Paul’s letters is how he calls us to love as Christ has loved us! Paul comes back to this theme in practically all his writings, but let’s just look at a few verses in Galatians.

The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love.

Galatians 5:6 NIV

You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love. For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.”

Galatians 5:13-14 NIV

Paul is writing to a group of Gentiles (non-Jews) who are wrestling with their identity in Christ. Apparently there was a particular group of Jewish Christians who were discouraging the Gentiles in Galatia by putting them down, specifically as it related to following the law of Moses. I can almost hear them saying, “Of course you know you aren’t real followers of the Messiah unless you are just like us and keep the entire law of Moses, circumcision and all!”

Paul writes this part of Galatians to encourage the believers. Their identity isn’t found in the law of Moses. Their identity isn’t found in circumcision or non-circumcision. Rather their identity is found in the way they love others as Jesus had loved them. Through humble service to each other, and loving those around them, they were fulfilling all the requirements of the law. The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love.

I’ve been blessed to see some excellent examples of this in the lives of some of our East Side family members the last couple of weeks. I’ve seen people quietly and humbly tend to the needs of other church members. I’ve seen people abandon their own schedules in order to assist both members of our family, and people in our community we are trying to reach. I’ve seen people sacrifice time, money, and talents all in the name of loving others for the sake of Christ.

Jesus made it very clear. The world will know who his disciples are by the way we love.

So I ask you: How well are you loving your neighbors? How well are you loving the “others” in our community? When was the last time you went into the mess in order to lovingly bring someone else out of it?

Loving “others” is radical. Spending time with them, listening to them, praying with them, feeding them, caring for them…the Kingdom of God is made to do exactly this. Read Mark’s Gospel, and make note of what you see Jesus doing.

And then “go and do likewise.

Immerse: Messiah (Week 1)

For the next 8 weeks the attention of our bulletin articles will be to support our readings from Immerse: Messiah. If you haven’t decided to join us for Immerse yet, it’s not too late. The small groups don’t begin until this Friday, and you can still make it to a first time group until next Thursday. We have 5 groups meeting on 5 different days in 5 different locations. Hopefully you can make one of them fit into your schedule. (And if you’re reading this from some other part of the world, you can order the Immerse: Messiah book online and start your own small group wherever you are! Just go to www.immersebible.com.)

Our readings for this week will take us through the Gospel of Luke. One of the things that has really stood out to me in this reading is about the young Jesus being left at the Temple, and how that story sets up the rest of Luke’s Gospel. You can read about this on pg. 8 of your Immerse book (Luke 2 for everyone else).

First the story takes place at the Passover festival. His parents can’t find him anywhere on the way home, so they return to Jerusalem to look for him, and finally find him 3 days later at the Temple. Jesus’ responded: “But why did you need to search?…Didn’t you know that I must be in my Father’s house?” (Lk. 2:49 NLT) There’s also an alternate reading of this passage where Jesus says “Didn’t you realize that I should be involved with my Father’s affairs?”

Fast forward toward the end of Luke’s Gospel. The Passover festival is beginning (Lk. 22/Immerse pg. 52). Jesus is arrested that night, an unjust trial takes place in the middle of the night, he is handed over to the Romans, then sentenced. Jesus is crucified that Friday at the end of the Passover, and his death leaves his family and friends there in Jerusalem alone, and afraid. And when they see the resurrected Jesus after three days they are full of questions. After Jesus convinces them, his response is basically, “Didn’t you know?”

Then he said, “When I was with you before, I told you that everything written about me in the law of Moses and the prophets and in the Psalms must be fulfilled.” Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures. And he said, “Yes, it was written long ago that the Messiah would suffer and die and rise from the dead on the third day.

Lk. 24:44-46 NLT/Immerse pg. 59

Luke also carries this idea of 3 days of confusion forward into Acts (hint, look at Paul’s conversion).

I’m curious to see what you picked up on from the reading! Reading through a Gospel quickly like this helps you to see things/patterns/themes that you may not see when taking a longer time to read. Did you notice how many events happen around a table? Did you notice how often women are involved in the Jesus story? 

My prayer is that this short season of reading will be a blessing that ignites a passion for reading and rediscovering the story of Jesus again. Scripture tells us that the Word of God will never return void. 

I guess the question I’m asking is what will you allow the Word of God to do in your life as you read these Scriptures?

Awaiting The Promised Messiah

Our faith heritage in the churches of Christ has often shied away from the season of Advent as being “unauthorized in Scripture.” However, the word “advent” simply means “coming.” The OT is full of hope in expectant waiting for the coming Messiah, the only one who could set the world aright.The NT is also full of the same hope as the church expectantly awaits Christ’s return. Advent is a season of expectant waiting for the return of Jesus at the Second Coming. We look forward to Christ’s return through the lens of those who waited for his first coming. 

“‘The days are coming,’ declares the Lord, ‘when I will fulfill the good promise I made to the people of Israel and Judah.”

Jeremiah 33:14 NIV

This week we turn our attention to Jeremiah 33 and Mark 8, and the promise of the Messiah. God had promised in the Garden that a descendant of Eve would eventually crush the head of the serpent, and in doing so the human would be struck (Gen. 3:15). God promised to Abraham “through your offspring all nations on earth will be blessed” (Gen. 22:18). God promised through Moses that he would “raise up for you a prophet like me from among you, from your fellow Israelites. You must listen to him.” (Deut. 18:15). 

This promise from God had been a long time in coming. Centuries of waiting for the one who would defeat evil, bless all nations, be the voice of God that we listen to, and many other prophecies, came at the perfect time, but for humans, the wait seemed endless.

And when the Messiah came, the majority of the people were not prepared.

As Israel and Judah awaited the fulfillment of God’s promise, we also wait for the fulfillment of the second coming of the Messiah Jesus. Many of us have forgotten that we are called to watch, to listen, and to open our hearts in expectant preparation for his coming (Matt. 25:1-13). 

We are called to listen to his Word. We look for signs of his presence in this world…a light in the darkness, a voice in the silence, and a stirring deep within us. We’re good at singing worship songs that reiterate these things, but do we truly expectantly wait and prepare for his return?

All of the Gospel writers want us to realize that the life of Jesus was the fulfillment of promises of old (Mt. 1:22-23; Mk. 1:1-4; Lk. 4:17-21; Jn. 1:45; etc.) and the renewal of promises yet to come (Isa. 65:17; Mt. 14:37; Lk. 12:40; Mk. 13:35; Jn. 14:2-3; Rev. 21:5). In Christ, God has and will continue to fulfill all promises.

And so we wait.

And the question that we all must answer is, “Am I ready for the coming of Christ?”

Daily Psalms – Psalm 45

Daily Psalm Reading – Psalm 41-45

Today’s psalm reading concludes Book 1 of Psalms (Pss. 1-41) and begins Book 2 (Pss. 42-72). This Book begins by reflecting on hope for the future, and a return to the Temple in Zion. There is also a great deal of Messianic hope in these psalms, which is most obvious in Psalm 45.

Psalm 45 was originally a secular psalm written for a royal wedding between the king of Israel and what is almost certainly a foreign wife (v. 10-12). A flat reading of the text can see the secular roots and leave someone to wonder why a psalm praising an earthly king and his wife are included in the psalter. The reason lies in how it was read and interpreted later.

After the fall of the monarchy in Israel, this psalm came to be understood as a foreshadow of they type of ruler the Messiah would be. This can be clearly seen in Scripture because when the Hebrew writer wants to tell his readers about Jesus, he does so by quoting Psalm 45:6-7. So instead of reading this psalm by focusing on its secular roots, let us look at it the way the Jews, and early Christians read it – as a reflection on the Messiah, whom we believe is Jesus.

Anointing (lit. messiah) language is present in several places in the text. This begins with the lips (understood words) that are anointed with grace (v. 2). The anointed one is clothed in splendor and majesty, and is mighty with a sword (see Rev. 19:11-16). The anointed one will seek truth, humility and justice, just like Yahweh wants his people to do. (Mic. 6:8) The nations will be placed below his feet. (Lk. 20:41-44) He is fragrant with myrrh, aloes and cassia. (Jn. 19:39)

We understand the Messianic references, but I want us to see how we, followers of Jesus, are viewed in the psalm. We are the royal bride adorned in gold (v. 9). We are called to forsake any other earthly relationship for our Anointed King (v. 10). Our king finds us beautiful, worthy of gifts and favor (v. 11-12). We are adorned with the finest robes and led joyfully into the King’s presence (v. 13-15).

Did you realize that Jesus views you this way? That you are not some stray dog he had mercy on. You are his chosen bride! (Eph 5:22-33, 2 Cor. 11:2, Rev. 19:6-9) No matter your faults, no matter your failures, seek him because he loves you and has chosen you! Even when you were still a mess, he chose you! (Rom. 5:8)

Today, walk with King Jesus and keep your head held high, because you are his chosen one! Tell your story today because all are invited to the wedding banquet of our King.

I will perpetuate your memory through all generations;
therefore the nations will praise you for ever and ever.

Psalm 45:17 NIV

Daily Psalms – Psalm 20

Daily Psalm Reading – Psalm 16-20

(Sunday’s are hard. It’s very tiring on those of us who preach regularly. Saturday nights offer little sleep as God shapes our sermons in our heads. We awake early Sunday and arrive early to pray and seek the voice and wisdom of God. We pour ourselves out and then come home and crash, only to do it all over again. All this to say the tank is pretty empty on Sundays, so don’t expect this to be an overly deep, or lengthy reflection today.)

Today we meditate on Psalm 20 and the promised Messiah. Psalm 20 – 23 focus on David’s seed (the Messiah, Jesus) and his deliverance and rule over the nations. Here we encounter psalms of prophecy that tell us about Jesus.

Verse 6 states: “Now this I know: The LORD gives victory to his anointed.” The Hebrew word for anointed is “messiah.” No matter how upside down this world seems, no matter how chaotic and out of control, victory will be given to our Messiah Jesus!

After the first 5 verses of prayer and blessing over the coming (returning) Messiah, verses 6-9 point us to what the Messiah will do and where we should put our trust. The admonition to not trust in earthly power, but in the name of Yahweh our God is one we need to hear today. In a time where most pray “Our god which art in Washington…” we need to remember our help comes from Yahweh!

I’ll confess it is a struggle not to trust in our own strength. As the psalmist says we want to “trust in chariots and…horses.” The idea of picking ourselves up by our bootstraps isn’t a Biblical one. Rather we are encouraged time and time again to rely on our God, not our own abilities. Trusting in anything other than our God results in failure (v.8).

Today I pray we all learn to trust our God, to believe that our Messiah has been given victory over evil, and will return soon to eliminate it completely. Come Lord Jesus!

To echo the final words of the psalm, “Yahweh, give victory to King Jesus! Answer our prayers!” Shalom.

CLICK HERE TO READ TODAY’s DAILY PSALM READING – PSALM 16-20