Tuesday, September 29, 2015

A Layman’s Take on Today’s Readings: Lectionary 647

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Highlight = direct command

As I watched: Thrones were set up and the Ancient One took his throne. His clothing was bright as snow, and the hair on his head as white as wool; His throne was flames of fire, with wheels of burning fire. A surging stream of fire flowed out from where he sat; Thousands upon thousands were ministering to him, and myriads upon myriads attended him. Accord, Isaiah 6:1-4; Revelation 4; Revelation 7:9-17.

The court was convened, and the books were opened. As the visions during the night continued, I saw

One like a son of man coming, on the clouds of heaven; When he reached the Ancient One and was presented before him, He received dominion, glory, and kingship; nations and peoples of every language serve him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that shall not be taken away, his kingship shall not be destroyed. Yet he willingly put all of this aside out of love for us. See Philippians 2:5-11 ; Mark 10:45; Romans 5:8. 

I will give thanks to you, O LORD, with all my heart, for you have heard the words of my mouth; in the presence of the angels I will sing your praise;I will worship at your holy temple and give thanks to your name.

Because of your kindness and your truth; for you have made great above all things your name and your promise. When I called, you answered me; you built up strength within me. We saw this part of God’s nature in yesterday's readings.

All the kings of the earth shall give thanks to you, O LORD when they hear the words of your mouth; And they shall sing of the ways of the LORD “Great is the glory of the LORD.” We get a glimpse of that glory in the Daniel reading above.

Bless the LORD, all you angels, you ministers, who do his will.

Jesus saw Nathanael coming toward him and said of him, “Here is a true child of Israel. There is no duplicity in him.”

Nathanael said to him, “How do you know me?”

Jesus answered and said to him, “Before Philip called you, I saw you under the fig tree.”

Nathanael answered him, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God; you are the King of Israel.”

Jesus answered and said to him, “Do you believe because I told you that I saw you under the fig tree? You will see greater things than this.” And he said to him, “Amen, amen, I say to you, you will see heaven opened and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man.”

Monday, September 28, 2015

A Layman’s Take on Today’s Readings: Lectionary 455

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Blue = comment

Thus says the LORD of hosts:

I am intensely jealous for Zion, stirred to jealous wrath for her. Thus says the LORD: I will return to Zion, and I will dwell within Jerusalem; Jerusalem shall be called the faithful city, and the mountain of the LORD of hosts, the holy mountain.

Thus says the LORD of hosts: Old men and old women, each with staff in hand because of old age, shall again sit in the streets of Jerusalem. The city shall be filled with boys and girls playing in its streets.

Thus says the LORD of hosts: Even if this should seem impossible in the eyes of the remnant of this people, shall it in those days be impossible in my eyes also,says the LORD of hosts?

Thus says the LORD of hosts: Lo, I will rescue my people from the land of the rising sun, and from the land of the setting sun. I will bring them back to dwell within Jerusalem. They shall be my people, and I will be their God, with faithfulness and justice.

The nations shall revere your name, O LORD, and all the kings of the earth your glory, When the LORD has rebuilt Zion and appeared in his glory; When he has regarded the prayer of the destitute, and not despised their prayer.

Let this be written for the generation to come, and let his future creatures praise the LORD: “The LORD looked down from his holy height, from heaven he beheld the earth, To hear the groaning of the prisoners, to release those doomed to die.”

The children of your servants shall abide, and their posterity shall continue in your presence. That the name of the LORD may be declared in Zion; and his praise, in Jerusalem, When the peoples gather together, and the kingdoms, to serve the LORD.

The Son of Man came to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many.

An argument arose among the disciples about which of them was the greatest.
Jesus realized the intention of their hearts and took a child and placed it by his side and said to them, “Whoever receives this child in my name receives me,
and whoever receives me receives the one who sent me. For the one who is least among all of you is the one who is the greatest.”

Then John said in reply,  “Master, we saw someone casting out demons in your name  and we tried to prevent him because he does not follow in our company.”
Jesus said to him, Do not prevent him, for whoever is not against you is for you.”

1.            God loves His people intensely. He cares for and about all, including those in distress and those we are not familiar with. Indeed, He loves us so much that He suffered (in the form of Jesus) a horrible death to save us.

2.            We should therefore reciprocate His great love.

3.            We should also be bold to obey and serve Him; surely one who loves us so much “has our back.”

4.             We should follow His example by loving others, especially those in distress and those unfamiliar to us. 

Sunday, September 27, 2015

A Layman’s Take on Today’s Readings: Lectionary 137

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Blue = comment

The LORD came down in the cloud and spoke to Moses. Taking some of the spirit that was on Moses, the LORD bestowed it on the seventy elders; and as the spirit came to rest on them, they prophesied.

Now two men, one named Eldad and the other Medad, were not in the gathering but had been left in the camp. They too had been on the list, but had not gone out to the tent; yet the spirit came to rest on them also, and they prophesied in the camp. So, when a young man quickly told Moses, "Eldad and Medad are prophesying in the camp, Joshua, son of Nun, who from his youth had been Moses’ aide, said, "Moses, my lord, stop them."

But Moses answered him, "Are you jealous for my sake? Would that all the people of the LORD were prophets! Would that the LORD might bestow his spirit on them all!"

The law of the LORD is perfect, refreshing the soul; the decree of the LORD is trustworthy, giving wisdom to the simple.

The fear of the LORD is pure, enduring forever; the ordinances of the LORD are true, all of them just.

Though your servant is careful of them, very diligent in keeping them, Yet who can detect failings? Cleanse me from my unknown faults!

From wanton sin especially, restrain your servant; let it not rule over me.Then shall I be blameless and innocent of serious sin.

Come now, you rich, weep and wail over your impending miseries. Your wealth has rotted away, your clothes have become moth-eaten, your gold and silver have corroded, and that corrosion will be a testimony against you; it will devour your flesh like a fire. You have stored up treasure for the last days. Behold, the wages you withheld from the workers who harvested your fields are crying aloud; and the cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord of hosts.

You have lived on earth in luxury and pleasure; you have fattened your hearts for the day of slaughter. You have condemned; you have murdered the righteous one; he offers you no resistance.

Your word, O Lord, is truth; consecrate us in the truth.

At that time, John said to Jesus, "Teacher, we saw someone driving out demons in your name, and we tried to prevent him because he does not follow us."

Jesus replied, "Do not prevent him. There is no one who performs a mighty deed in my name who can at the same time speak ill of me. For whoever is not against us is for us.

Anyone who gives you a cup of water to drink because you belong to Christ, amen, I say to you, will surely not lose his reward. "Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him if a great millstone were put around his neck and he were thrown into the sea.

If your hand causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter into life maimed than with two hands to go into Gehenna, into the unquenchable fire. And if your foot causes you to sin, cut if off. It is better for you to enter into life crippled than with two feet to be thrown into Gehenna. And if your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out. Better for you to enter into the kingdom of God with one eye than with two eyes to be thrown into Gehenna, where 'their worm does not die, and the fire is not quenched.'"

1.            We have to be open to the fact that God works in ways that we wouldn’t expect, and that sincere Christ followers worship/serve/respond to Him in ways that are different than we are used to or expect. God accepts all who serve Him through Christ.

2.    The Pope’s visit to the U.S. this past week reflects that dynamic. He represented Christ in ways that are different from what we have some to expect from the Christian “leaders” we more frequently see in the U. S. (i.e. culture warriors, prosperity gospel preachers, etc.). The Pope is different, and no one can doubt that he is truly serving Christ.

3.     God, His word, and those who serve Him are refreshing. Indeed, we saw that powerfully last week in the Pope’s visit to the U.S.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

A Layman’s Take on Today’s Readings: Lectionary 444/639

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Blue = comment
Beloved, this saying is trustworthy: whoever aspires to the office of bishop desires a noble task. Therefore, a bishop must be irreproachable, married only once, temperate, self-controlled, decent, hospitable, able to teach, not a drunkard, not aggressive, but gentle, not contentious, not a lover of money. He must manage his own household well, keeping his children under control with perfect dignity; for if a man does not know how to manage his own household, how can he take care of the Church of God? He should not be a recent convert, so that he may not become conceited and thus incur the Devil’s punishment. He must also have a good reputation among outsiders, so that he may not fall into disgrace, the Devil’s trap.

Similarly, deacons must be dignified, not deceitful, not addicted to drink, not greedy for sordid gain, holding fast to the mystery of the faith with a clear conscience. Moreover, they should be tested first; then, if there is nothing against them, let them serve as deacons. Women, similarly, should be dignified, not slanderers, but temperate and faithful in everything. Deacons may be married only once and must manage their children and their households well. Thus those who serve well as deacons gain good standing and much confidence in their faith in Christ Jesus.
Of mercy and judgment I will sing; to you, O LORD, I will sing praise. I will persevere in the way of integrity; when will you come to me?
I will walk with blameless heart, within my house; I will not set before my eyes
any base thing.
Whoever slanders his neighbor in secret, him will I destroy. The man of haughty eyes and puffed up heart I will not endure.
My eyes are upon the faithful of the land, that they may dwell with me. He who walks in the way of integrity shall be in my service.
Jesus’ father and mother were amazed at what was said about him; and Simeon blessed them and said to Mary his mother, “Behold, this child is destined for the fall and rise of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be contradicted and you yourself a sword will pierce so that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed.”
Standing by the cross of Jesus were his mother and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple there whom he loved he said to his mother, “Woman, behold, your son.” Then he said to the disciple, “Behold, your mother.” And from that hour the disciple took her into his home.

1.    The 1 Timothy reading and the Psalm stress integrity: we are to live our day-to-day lives in accordance with God’s standards. In other words, we must walk the walk, not just talk the talk. This is an application of the principles laid out in James 1:22-25 and James 2:14-21 to our domestic lives.

2.    Although the 1 Timothy passage applies those principles to leaders, the same standards of conduct—and necessity that we actually live them out—apply to us laypeople too.   For example, those standards are laid out in Ephesians 4:17-6:9 and Colossians 3:5-4:6 without any distinction between leaders and lay folks. Similarly, nothing in James 1:22-25 and James 2:14-21 limits the principle spelled out there to leaders.

3.    This is not rules for the sake of rules—God gives them to us because following them makes our and other people’s lives better. Think of it this way: adherence to those rules = wisdom, and we know from practical experience and scripture that we gain great, great, benefits from living wisely. See, for example Proverbs 2:10-20, 3:13-18.

4.    Will we screw up in living those things out from time to time? I know I do every day, and scripture tells me that I am not alone in that. John 8:7-9; Romans 7:14-21; 1 John 1:8, 10. 

5.    The good news is that God will forgive us if we confess those sins and sincerely repent of them. John 8:9-11; Romans 7:24-25; 1 John 1:9 & 2:1-2.. Indeed, we saw that dynamic in the Numbers passage from yesterday's readings: the people messed up, but God showed mercy once they confessed and repented.

6.    Going back to the 1 Timothy reading, it illustrates another scriptural principle: we must do well what God puts in front of us right now, however mundane it might be, to be positioned for more significant work in the future.  More on that dynamic can be found here.