Haggai

I knew I’d have a good story to tell after today’s sermon, and I was right. The scripture verse came from Haggai 1:15-2:9. Whose ever heard of Haggai? Can you find it quickly in your Bible? It only has two chapters with a total of 48 verses. If you ever need a unique character name, look no further than Haggai. How about Zerubbabel, Shealtiel or Jehozadak? Our pastor told us that Haggai’s prophecy took place August 29-December 19, 520 BC. I’m just taking his word on that point.
The back story: Solomon’s temple was destroyed by the Babylonians in 587 BC and the people were living in exile. Many years later, the Persians defeated the Babylonians and sent the Israelites home giving them supplies and materials to rebuild the temple. The people had been mourning the loss of their magnificent temple, little did they know an even better temple was in their future.
This is where Haggai steps in to tell them that God says, “It’s time to get to work. I am with you.”
It’s time for us to get busy as well. God is with us. We can remember the past, the good ole days, but we need to look to the future, even better times. Oh the places we’ll go! Change can be good, so you better start swimmin’ or you’ll sink like a stone for the times they are changin’.
Our service closed by singing “Let Peace Begin With Me” as the acolytes (the most precious 2-year-old girl and her mom) carried out the light of Christ.
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God Raises the Dead

2 Corinthians 1:8-11

Whatever I can do pales in comparison to what God can do. It only makes sense to let God take care of things. He’s way better at everything.

Paul must have had one heck of an adventure in Asia province. He thought he’d never live through it. He knew the odds were against him and his only hope was God.  And God rescued Paul.

Paul gives the Corinthians credit for being part of the rescue mission because of their prayers. He pictures them praising God for saving Paul.

Trust and obey,
Give praise when you pray.
God knows what He’s doing,
so just trust and obey.

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Good Times and Bad Times

2 Corinthians 1:3-7

All praise to God and Father of our Master Jesus the Messiah! Where is mention of my sweet Holy Spirit? He’s there, third person in the trinity, but so often not mentioned. I wonder about that. I’m sure it doesn’t bother Him.

God is with us all the time. The Holy Spirit is as close our own breath. We may not notice Him so much when things are going well, but He’s there. When times get tough, we most certainly turn to God for His healing comfort and for the people he sends to help get us through.

Pain! Huh! Good Grief y’all, what is it good for? Absolutely somethin’! Let me tell you now. Once you have gone through a devastating situation, you are prepared to help the next person who faces the same trial. It’s a bond, a connection to other people who wouldn’t exist without the pain and suffering.

You are heaven bound when you praise God in the good times and let Him lead you through the bad times. God is always there, don’t let go of His hand.

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A Relationship with God

Deuteronomy 7:7-11

God didn’t choose the Israelites because there was anything particularly wonderful about them. And He continues to choose people who are no big deal in the eyes of the world. Again, it isn’t about me, it’s about God.

God chose the Israelites because of His love. It’s the same today. We wouldn’t stand a chance without God’s love.

The people are reminded in Deuteronomy of what God has done for them. He rescued them from Pharaoh and a life of slavery. God will take care of Israel’s enemies.

Israel was called as a people, we are called as individuals. They had a group relationship with God, we have an individual relationship.

What is required of God’s ancient people? “God keeps His covenant of loyal love with those who love him and observe His commandments…so keep…the rules and regulations that I command you today.”

What about Christians? What are we to do? An old hymn (1887) says it in a nut shell, “Trust and Obey.” It’s that simple.

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Switching Gears

The lectionary readings weren’t working out. It was mostly the constant bad news that God kept sending to the Israelites over and over. It might be interesting to count how many times God sent a prophet to tell the people they were dreadful sinners. But I can’t think of anything new to comment about that.

During Sunday School I noticed a list of scripture verses to read daily in order to prepare for the following Sunday’s lesson. Aha! Maybe this will work. I’ll give it a go anyway.

OCT 11

A voice says, “Shout!”
I said, “What shall I shout?”
These people are nothing but grass, their love fragile as wildflowers.
The grass withers, the flowers will fade, if God so much as puffs on them.
Aren’t these people just so much grass?
True, the grass withers and the wildflowers fade, but our God’s Word stands firm and forever.
Climb a high mountain, Zion. You’re the preacher of good news.
Raise your voice. Make it good and loud Jerusalem. You’re the preacher of good news.
Speak loud and clear. Don’t be timid!
Tell the cities of Judah, “Look! Your God!”
Look at Him! God, the Master, comes in power, ready to go into action.
He is going to pay back his enemies and reward those who have loved him.
Like a shepherd, he will care for his flock, gathering the lambs in his arms,
Hugging them as he carries them, leading the nursing ewes to good pasture.

Isaiah 40:6-11

It’s nice to “hear” God call the prophet “a preacher of GOOD news.” It is also good to see God personified as a loving shepherd who makes sure that His sheep are well cared for.

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Prayer

1 Timothy 2:1-7

Verse One:  The first thing I want you to do is pray.

Start everything with prayer. Whatever it is, if you want it to be successful, pray about it.

Verse Two: Pray especially for rulers and their governments to rule well so we may live peaceful and quiet lives.

I always begin my people prayers with close family first, then other family and friends, acquaintances, friends of friends, and at the end I get to the leaders of my country along with people in disasters around the world. I’ve never considered praying for the rulers of other countries. Paul says they should be first on the list. What a good idea. I wonder if we all prayed for Osama bin Laden, could God get through to him and change his heart the way He changed Paul’s? It couldn’t hurt to try. And while we’re at it, pray for every leader around the world.

Verse Four: God wants everyone to be saved.

John Watson, one of my first Christian mentors, told me that the only reason we are still on earth is to spread the Gospel of Christ. If God just wanted us to worship Him and be in fellowship with Him and each other, He’d take us on up to heaven where we could worship and fellowship in style. 

We should always be sharing the Good News of Jesus Christ, and as Francis of Assisi said, “use words if necessary.” To be successful we need to begin each day with prayer, praying first for our leaders and then that God would show the best way to present Him to the people that we meet.

Verse Five: There is one God and only one, and one Mediator between God and us–Jesus.

This is semantics, saying “God” to represent “God the father.” The fact that Jesus is the Mediator between God and us, but He is also God and there is only one God, well, how does that make sense? It speaks a great truth to me: God’s ways are so far above mine that I will not understand everything until it is shown clearly to me in God’s presence. I am sure there will be lots of wonderful surprises.

Amen!

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Confused by the Use of Money

Luke 16:1-13

This is a strange parable, difficult to understand (for me at least). A rich man has a money manager who isn’t very good at his job, so the rich man fires him. The manager comes up with an unemployment plan: he will give all the rich man’s debtors a good deal on their bills. Why? Because they will be his friends and will take care of him when he is jobless. Really? Are you sure?

The rich man finds out about this and instead of being angry that the manager is giving away his money, he commends him for his craftiness and good thinking. Really? Who is this rich guy?

Then, in verse 9, Jesus says “I tell you, use worldly wealth to gain friends for yourselves so that when it is gone, you will be welcomed into eternal dwellings.”  I had to look that verse up to see how other people explain it. It sounds to me like “use money to buy friends and that will get you into heaven.” Of course that is contrary to everything we know is right. One explanation was “use worldly wealth to gain friends” means use your money to help people. They will become your friends because of your kindness and will come to know the Lord and be saved. “…so that when it is gone, you will be welcomed into eternal dwellings.” When you die, there isn’t any money and you’ll live in heaven for spreading the Gospel and live eternally with your new friends. I’m thinking, if that’s what Jesus meant, why didn’t he just say that?

One thing I like about this verse is it demonstrates that a single verse does not stand on its own. It needs to be understood in the context of the surrounding verses and in the context of the entire Bible.

The last verse in this set is familiar: “You cannot serve God and Money.” That’s true without a doubt. The lead in verses, I’m not so sure. “No servant can serve two masters. He’ll  love one and hate the other or be devoted to one and despise the other.” Really? I think you could serve two masters if they weren’t giving contradictory orders. I have a principal and a superintendent. I work with both of them. I have a library director and a supervisor. I work with both of them.  But definitely, when God is your master, there can be no other master. Unless Jesus can be considered as a separate master. Hmmmm.

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