So What is the Rest of the Story?

Psalm 79:1-9

Someone is calling out to God, crying about how the foreigners have destroyed Jerusalem. DUH! That was God’s punishment on the Israelites for their rebellion.

He pleads with God to give them a break, to turn His rath on the foreigners and, in fairness, stop punishing the children for the sins of their parents. And at the very end of verse 9, he asks God to forgive their sins.  Seems like the apology should have come before all the requests for God to get them out of trouble.

So what happens next? The speaker goes on to lay out a plan that he would like God to put into action and he promises to praise God forever and ever. God’s heard that before. But when the heart is sincere, He’ll give 2nd chances without limit.

I don’t know who the speaker is or which time Israel was in trouble. But I do know that whoever, wherever, whenever, God rescued them because they were the people God chose to bring salvation to the entire world.

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Is This a Good Idea?

Jeremiah 8:18-9:1

The first verse of this scripture passage:
     My grief is beyond healing,
          my heart is sick within me.

Powerful words. I thought of Terry at his wife’s funeral. Grief so deep and painful.

Read on and it seems like the prophet is crying for Israel. The people cry because God is nowhere to be found. God reminds the prophet of how the people worshiped foreign idols. The people say that seasons have passed and they have not been rescued. The prophet is heart-broken and mourns.

Every verse is from a different point of view.

The final verse:
     O that my head were waters,
          and my eyes a fountain of tears,
     That I might weep day and night
          for the slain of my people!

This is just a snippet of the book of Jeremiah. It doesn’t really stand alone. You need to know what comes before it to understand these six verses. Then I read the Psalm for this week, then First Timothy and Luke. The same thing, they are verses taken out of context.

The Lectionary verses were created to give preachers a guideline to go by so they would preach from all books of the Bible and share the whole Word with their congregations. The verses are short enough to be read during a service before the sermon. In preparation, the preacher will read the verses before and after, related verses, commentary, and whatever else he is inspired to do in order to create the sermon. 

So I am wondering, is this really a good idea to do a Bible study of the Lectionary verses? A daily Bible study going through the Bible from the beginning to the end makes more sense and would probably be more meaningful. 

I’m going to ponder this and see what God’s leading is.

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We’ve All Got a Job To Do

1 Timothy 1:12-17

Paul thinks he was the worst sinner ever. Maybe he was, but I doubt it. He persecuted Christians but he probably thought he was doing the right thing at the time. God just had to shake him up and open his eyes and Paul became a very useful engine for God.

We all have a job to do for the Lord. He gave us the tools (talents, personality, nature, ability) to do the work. We just have to hear God’s voice and let Him transform us from useless into useful. Paul said it took mercy, grace, love and a great deal of patience on God’s part to turn him into a man of God. That mercy, grace, love and patience is available to us too.

In verse 15, Paul says that he is proof that “Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners.” Could it be that prophets no longer have to bring messages of doom and gloom? There are no longer hundreds of laws to keep, our salvation is in Jesus. We don’t have to go through a priest to get forgiveness, the Holy Spirit is as close as our own breath, keeping us always connected to God.

Verse 17 from THE MESSAGE:

Deep honor and bright glory
to the King of All Time—
One God, Immortal, Invisible,
ever and always. Oh, yes!

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Lost Stuff

Luke 15: 1-7, The Lost Sheep
Luke 15: 8-10, The Lost Coin

I am the queen of losing things. Sometimes I feel like I spend half my life looking for something. One time I misplaced my VISA card. It was gone for several weeks. I knew it was in the house somewhere but I just couldn’t remember where. One day I decided to find it. I asked for God’s help. I didn’t know where it was, but God did. An idea/question popped into my funnel, when did I see it last? I thought it was when I mailed some packages at the post office. I remembered walking to the post office. And another clue, it was cold that day. I usually wear my pink hoody when it’s cold. Maybe the VISA card was in the hoody pocket. As I walked to the closet, I thought, “This will be a real miracle if the card is in there.” I reached in the pocket and felt a square of plastic. I didn’t believe it was the card until I pulled it out and saw VISA printed on its face. WOW! It’s true, there was a lot of rejoicing over that found VISA card.

I’ve never lost a sheep before. I’m sure I’ve lost coins but probably didn’t miss them. What is lost isn’t important in the parable. It’s what they represent, lost people, that is important. The angels do a victory dance every time a lost soul returns to God.

What better thing can you do than be a cog in the wheel that brings on a celebration in heaven?

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My Hope is Lost

This is the response to Psalm 14 found in the United Methodist Hymnal, page 746:
“My hope is lost; breathe life upon me.”

And what does Psalm 14 say?

Fools, corrupt, abominable
They say there is no God.

No one does good.
They do not call upon the Lord.

They are all perverse.
They have all gone astray.
They are evil doers.
They are stupid, rude, and mean.

God has a soft spot in His heart for the poor,
but He can’t find anyone who is kind to the poor.

God will save the poor,
and he is the only chance that Israel has.

My hope is lost; breathe life upon me.

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The Prophets’ Message

Jeremiah 4:11-12, 22-28

It’s always the same.
Doom and Gloom.
Israel is sinful.
Judgment is coming.
The people are idiots.
God will erase the country.
No doubt about it.
It will be done.

When will the prophets bring good news? Is it not until that starry night when angels came down to sing to the shepherds?

And an angel said to them, “Be not afraid for I bring you good news of a great joy which is for all the people. Today in the city of David a savior is born, He is Christ the Lord.” — LUKE 2:11

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Count the Cost

Luke 14:25-33

This idea of counting the cost reminds me of when I worked with Jim Burns at First Presbyterian Church of Orange (OP). I was part of a fabulously amazing awesome group of people like Doug and Gary Webster, Gary “Lenny” Lenhart, Pam Sears, Mike Driggs and Bill “Bowzer” Bower.  Jim would always tell us before we took on a new project, “Count the cost.”

Both examples in the scripture verses, building a house and going into battle, require looking at the end result first and then decide if you have what it takes to get there. Are you willing to make sacrifices to achieve your goal?

Jesus says that if you want to be His disciple, then you have to put Him before all family members, before your own life, before all people, all things and all plans. Nothing can be more dear to you than Jesus.

Everything we do should be done without regard for ourselves. It’s not about me. It’s about loving the Lord with all my heart, mind, soul and body and loving my neighbor as myself. That makes me think of Mother Teresa. She was always taking care of the poorest, weakest, most deathly ill people. She did not do it for any gain for herself. In fact, on one occasion when a reporter watched her care for the open oozing sores of an indigent person, he said, “I wouldn’t do that for a million dollars.” Mother Teresa looked at him and said, “Neither would I.” She did it because she put God first, before everything else.

It sounds like being a disciple of Jesus is something very difficult. And in a way it is. We do have to get over ourselves and trust God, serve God, love God above all else. God gives us the gift of friends and family. He wants us to love them, but not instead of Him or more than Him. I guess we should love the giver more than the gifts.

What thoughts do these verses spark in your mind?

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