The Power of the Gospel (Romans 1:16-17)
For I am not ashamed of the gospel; it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who has faith, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed through faith for faith; as it is written, “The one who is righteous will live by faith.”
Was Paul convicted in his faith? Let’s see…
Imprisoned in Philippi and Rome…
Chased out of Thessalonica…
Smuggled out of Berea…
Laughed at in Athens…
Mocked in Corinth for a message of foolishness.
Yet…there was something about the gospel of Jesus Christ, something which made Paul victorious over anything any human could do to him. From being a man with one set of convictions that stood by as Stephen was stoned to death. To one, which history tells us, that Paul, being a Roman citizen, was beheaded in Rome by Nero.
In his letter to the Romans, we hear loud and clear Paul’s convictions. What are your preferences? What are your convictions? If you are having some trouble with this, come and join us tomorrow at First Pres-Joliet as we begin a look at the Apostles’ Creed…a summary of the Christian faith that has been around for centuries.
Yesterday Pastor Craig ask a good question : What do you do to refresh your soul?
I find myself from time to time just going and going, without taking time to pause and rest my soul. I get caught up in the work and the mundane, on the task that each day brings, and sometimes I get to the point where I lose the joy of finding fulfillment in the things that normally brings me joy and help me going on. Sometimes that continue pressure of going takes over passion and the excitement that ministry brings.
And when that happens I need to pause and return to the basics, because without that joy and passion my life is empty. For me that pause sometimes means that I need to go grocery shopping, spend time cooking, or catch up with a good friend. It means that I need to disconnect from my regular routine, and change things up. When that happens I stop and take inventory of the blessings I sometimes take for granted.
Last night during session, somebody gave me a little photo album with pictures from the past few years of ministry. As I was skimming trough it, my heart rejoiced, my soul was blessed by those smiling faces I had seen in some precious moments of ministry and life. And in those moments I am reminded that God is good, and my soul is refreshed.
Psalm 16:8-11English Standard Version (ESV)
8 I have set the Lord always before me;
because he is at my right hand, I shall not be shaken.
11 You make known to me the path of life;
in your presence there is fullness of joy;
at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.
Today I pray that each one of us can stop, pause and experience a moment of refresh, a moment when we can truly take hold of what the Lord has for us.
In each of these three passages, the common thread is that God is creator of all things. He created the heavens and Earth, and all things on Earth. He gave us grace even before time existed! He gave us, humans, dominion over all things here on Earth. He made us just a little lower than the angels.
What I want to focus most on in this writing is the Job passage. This is the latter portion of the book of Job, which chronicles the trials and tribulations of the title man. Job, who was faithful to God, was tested; no, he was TESTED! God allowed Satan to bring all sorts of horrible happenings to Job’s front doorstep. For a while, Job endured and remained faithful. But after so many times of being broken down and having things that seemed so great taken away, Job began to falter a bit. He started to give in to the great loss he suffered. God has finally seen and heard enough from Job and his friends, who have been counselling him. It is time for God to remind Job who is in charge.
As I read this passage, it brought a few things to mind. I first heard my own father back when I was a child, at my own childish wit’s end, not seeing eye to eye with my dad and his vision for my life at that point. Maybe it was not being able to go somewhere with friends, or not getting some sort of toy that I REALLY wanted. And my father basically sitting me down and saying “Hey, look here son! I have been around the block a time or two. I know what you need and what you don’t need.” I can see myself with my own son doing the same. And, of course, my own son says he has now surpassed the limits of my knowledge, at his ripe age of 5.
In the case of the conversation between God and Job, there is no contest. God is basically saying “Yo, Job! Ya, it is me, God. Remember me? Were you there when I created, like, EVERYTHING?! Do you, Job, know the exact dimensions of the entire Earth? Because I do! Exactly how many stars are out there? What, don’t know that answer? Well I do, Job!” God is saying, “Hey, Job, you may not understand yet why all of these horrible things have happened to you yet, but I have my reasons.”
We may not know what all God has in store for us. Things may not be exactly the way we would like them to be at this exact moment. Maybe your job isn’t what you had hoped for it to be. Maybe your house seems to be falling apart. Wouldn’t it be nice to have that fancy convertible car instead of that old minivan? But everything we have before us is because it is part of God’s plan for us. He may be teaching us a lesson about something. He may be saying that he has something even better in store for us than whatever our current wants are. Just like for Job, in the end, not only did God restore Job, but he doubled his fortune. Job 42:12 says “The Lord blessed the latter part of Job’s life more than the former part.” Just a few verses before that, Job spoke to God, saying “Surely I spoke of things I did not understand, things too wonderful for me to know.” We may not fully understand God’s plan or why He has placed us in the situations we currently face. But if we remain faithful and content to know this is what God has placed before us for reasons not yet known, He will be faithful to us and reward us.
Psalms 104. 24-34
Psalms 104. The Psalmist starts this song with the majesty of Jehovah his Elohim, then declares the creation of the animals, fish, birds all living as God had planned for them to live, and acknowledges that God himself feeds them and sustains them, he ends by praying that his thoughts and ponderings be constantly on God. He wants to be continually and ever mindful of his Creator.
Numbers 11. Moses calls 70 elders from the camp of Israel to the tent of meeting, by God’s direction, to help Moses share his duties and burdens associated with leading the nation. The scripture then says the Spirit of God came upon them and they prophesied, i.e. spoke mysteries of God, showing they were accepted by God. When 2 of the men failed to come to the tent of meeting, the Spirit of God fell on them also, causing some concern that there might be a jealousy in Moses, seeing that he now wasn’t the only one favored highly by God. Moses response was something like, “O that all of Israel might be filled with His Holy Spirit.”
John 7. 37-39. Jesus calls out in the temple on the last day of the Feast of Booths, from Isaiah 55, “If anyone is thirsty, let him come to Me and drink. He who believes in me, as the scripture says, ‘From his innermost being shall flow streams of living water.’ ” He was speaking of the Holy Spirit, who had not yet been given.
The connection in these portions of scripture is the picture that God fills us with His Spirit when we are consumed by Him. The song goes, “When I rise in the morning give me Jesus,” and all day long until bedtime give me Jesus. Dale posed a question a day or so ago about critiquing the way our church approaches ministry, ( at least that’s how I perceived it) and I think sometimes we separate ministry from life as though it were something that could be turned on and off. All these passages refer to being saturated with God, who fills us, teaches us, guides our path, comforts us, heals us, blesses us, provides, sustains, and consumes our very being.
I saw the hand of God work in a miraculous way this weekend with Joliet Alive on Chicago Street, giving away basically a grocery store of food to the needy. He provided health screenings, job fair, a cookout, youth activities, and evangelism so no one could be confused as to the purpose behind the generosity. But the food didn’t get there by itself, somebody had to load and unload the trucks, somebody had to set the tent up, some body had to hand out the food, preach, screen, help, teach, every step of the way a Christian, filled with the Spirit was obeying God’s call to them. Let God consume you!
Summary: Gog is a symbolic name for all the enemies of Israel (38:1-3), along with the usual suspects of Persia, Libya, and Ethiopia (38:5-6). This conflict leads to a final restoration (38:8)…..Israel’s main trouble is far north of it (38:6)…..An worldwide earthquake is coming (38:18-20). The quake is caused by God…..Gog is but one of several instruments God has available to bring about Israel’s restoration (39:1-8) and conversion (39:25-29)…..
Commentary: Gog (the leader) and Magog (the land) may refer to peoples north of Israel, namely Europe and Russia – unified…..That Israel’s trouble is north (Jer. 4-6) of it isn’t surprising with desert to it’s east and south and the Mediterranean to it’s west…..This future event is related to the other Bible passages (Zech. 12:1-4, Matt. 24:14-20, Rev. 14:14-20, 19:17-21)…..Israel’s vs. “The Nation’s” with God depicted as a warrior (Ex. 14:14-25) is a familiar theme (Isa. 5:26-30, 8:9-10, Psalm 2, 48) of the OT…..Divine judgement is a two-way street. On one hand, we have the Gentiles (Joel 3) and Israel on the other (39:21-24). Both are served a banquet of sacrificed birds and wild beasts (39:17-20)…..What we have is a worldwide cleansing process. Everything needs a good cleaning and restoration at some point. None of this should come as a surprise to those of us that own homes, autos, and teeth for that matter…..God saves some people unequivocally during the same time in which some will be lost…..There is not one eschatology in the OT, but several (Isa. 56:1-8, 66:18-23) that don’t necessarily agree with each other but can happen coincidentally…..Just as a parent both loves and judges their children, God will do likewise with the earth and it’s peoples…..
Here we read of the Christ-Centered life. There is clarity in our day to day lives when we know who we are following, where we are going, and how to live.
I like the Message Translation for verse 2, “Keep your eyes on Jesus, who both began and finished this race we’re in. Study how he did it. Because he never lost sight of where he was headed—…”
Living as a person of faith is about “Keeping our eyes on Jesus” and Studying how he ran the race of faith. It’s about perseverance and never quitting because we serve the God who never quits on us. Jesus, “for the joy that was set before him…endured the cross” for us.
Dale Turner, long time Christ-follower, author, pastor, newspaper columnist writes,
“Life has many spokes, but God is the hub.When all of our activities and loyalties are rooted in God, life has unity, centrality, singleness of aim. It is our faith in and commitment to God that makes our lives whole and connects all the different seasons, different people, and different tasks.”
When Jesus is at the center of our lives all things begin to make sense. Life has a clarity of purpose. We have a calling in Christ and ministry to do. May you know the joy of being in Christ Jesus today as you run your race of faith.
This Sunday, the Church celebrates Pentecost. What is Pentecost? Why is it important? Simply, Pentecost is the day we remember the coming of the Holy Spirit on the early followers of Jesus. Even simpler…Pentecost is the start of the Church!
The word “Pentecost” comes from a Greek word meaning 50 and an ancient Christian phrase using this Greek word which means “Fiftieth day” originating from Greek speaking Jews in reference to the Jewish holiday, the Festival of Weeks.
From today’s text, we know that Jesus spent 40 days with his followers following his resurrection from the dead and, prior to ascending to the Father, Jesus told his followers to wait for the Father’s gift to descend on them…the Holy Spirit. On the 50th day…all of the followers were in one place in Jerusalem and this gathering became the first Christian Church. New believers were baptized…they shared their life together…they followed the teaching…they took part in the fellowship of those gathered…they broke break and they prayed. These first believers lived out their faith together and the Lord grew this Church. 3000 were added to the church following the Church’s first sermon…not a bad response to Peter’s sermon!!
What does all this mean? I think that there a great many today in our American culture who live as though the church is useful but unnecessary. This passage today tells us that while a personal relationship with God is important…it is the gathered community that is the focus of God’s mission in our world. Pentecost challenges us to look our faith journey – not just as individuals but as the gathered community – and ask ourselves just how God might think we are doing at living out his mission for his Church. So, what do you think? How are you doing? How are we doing as a gathered community?
Last night I spent some time with the confirmands talking about faith and their questions about it. I was once again impressed by their spirit of observation, and their many questions. From: How do I know that God listens when I pray? to How do I know God is real? to Why do catholics practice such and such in their services?
Questions that reminded my that we are created with a keen sense of observe, with inquiring minds and indeed we can question everything. It is that quality that I love in young people. It is something I pray I will never lose for myself. Recently I was reading Timothy again, and I have to tell you I love his faith story, because it speaks about the life journey of a young man that starts at home, with the faith of a faithful mother and grandmother, and when that faith grips the heart of the young man, God uses that in an amazing way.
2 Timothy 1:1-7The Message (MSG)
1 1-2 I, Paul, am on special assignment for Christ, carrying out God’s plan laid out in the Message of Life by Jesus. I write this to you, Timothy, the son I love so much. All the best from our God and Christ be yours!
To Be Bold with God’s Gifts
3-4 Every time I say your name in prayer—which is practically all the time—I thank God for you, the God I worship with my whole life in the tradition of my ancestors. I miss you a lot, especially when I remember that last tearful good-bye, and I look forward to a joy-packed reunion.
5-7 That precious memory triggers another: your honest faith—and what a rich faith it is, handed down from your grandmother Lois to your mother Eunice, and now to you! And the special gift of ministry you received when I laid hands on you and prayed—keep that ablaze! God doesn’t want us to be shy with his gifts, but bold and loving and sensible.
Today I pray that all of us will have that chance of meaningful conversations with our families and the people brings in our life. I pray that we all can have that insight to listen for the real questions and that someone might have, and I pray that we can have the wisdom to answer them.