Sunday, April 30, 2017

God's Mighty Works; Psalm 111

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Sunday, April 23, 2017

Salvation Revealed; Psalm 98

Did the reading remind you of any particular hymn this morning? Perhaps one we sing around Christmas?... Joy to the World!... Psalm 98 was the direct inspiration that Isaac Watts used in writing “Joy to the World”. Psalm 98 appears twice on the church calendar—during the Christmas season and during the Easter season. Psalm 98 is an enthronement or theocratic psalm, celebrating God’s reign and rule and God’s future coming as Judge. It is related to Psalm 96, which is also read in the Christmas season. Christ’s birth, death, and resurrection made salvation possible. His return will make His salvation fully evident. “Joy to the World” wasn’t originally intended to be a Christmas song. We typically sing it on the 3rd Sunday of Advent—the Joy Sunday. But it is often used on Christ the King Sunday, Ascension Day, and other times during the year because it celebrates the reign of Christ. We could have sung it today. In the Easter season, we celebrate Christ’s victory. The song says, “Joy to the world, the Lord is come.” Not merely did He come or has He come or even will He come, but He is come! He is here even now. He reigns even now, and He dwells in earth through His people even now. To celebrate God’s reign is to celebrate what God has already accomplished. Psalm 98 celebrates God’s victory, which in verse 2 is spelled out as salvation revealed. In this Easter season, we celebrate salvation revealed. Last week we heard the story of the two disciples on the road to Emmaus. It took them awhile to understand as Jesus first revealed Himself and God’s plan of salvation through the Old Testament scriptures, but when He revealed Himself through the breaking of the bread, they understood instantly. How did Jesus reveal Himself to you? Though whoever wrote this lived long before God’s right arm was revealed as Jesus Christ, the psalmist celebrates that salvation is already accomplished and made known. Again, last Sunday, we saw the confident hope that Job had in the future resurrection, where he would stand face to face with his Redeemer. He didn’t know the details about Jesus either, but it did not change the fact that he was certain of his salvation. Both Job and the psalmist saw God’s salvation through His right arm, the Christ, as a done deal long before it happened in time. They knew it had been accomplished in eternity. At my friend David Phipps funeral, the song “Already There” by Casting Crowns was played at his and the family’s request. This song was special to both David and his wife Nicole, who also died of cancer a few years ago. The second verse and chorus of the song says: From where You're standing Lord, You see a grand design That You imagined When You breathed me into life And all the chaos Comes together in Your hands Like a masterpiece Of Your picture perfect plan. When I'm lost in the mystery To You my future is a memory Cause You're already there, You're already there Standing at the end of my life Waiting on the other side” David and Nicole shared the hope of sure salvation with their family. That when life doesn’t make sense to us, when we don’t know what’s going on like the two on the road to Emmaus, we can know that for God it is already a done deal. God knows the plan and it is already accomplished and will come together perfectly. We can walk confidently in faith because the victory has been won. Unlike these Old Testament saints, we engage this psalm knowing that God’s right arm is Jesus Christ, and that Jesus has gained God victory. We know that Jesus died and rose again, conquering sin and death. God has done marvelous things through the resurrection of our Lord. He has procured our salvation. And the fact that we know it is proof that, “All the ends of the earth have seen the salvation of our God.” And so we praise God for the wonders He has wrought, or as “Joy to the World” says, He “makes the nations prove the glories of His righteousness and wonders of His love.” Just over a month from now, we will be celebrating Pentecost, the birthday of the Church, when the Holy Spirit was poured out on all flesh, and the gospel was spread around the world. There are still those who need to hear both near and far, so we are called and commissioned by the Savior to share the gospel as we go. It is a sign Jesus gave that before He would return, “this gospel shall be preached to the ends of the earth, and then the end will come.” In Revelation, we again see the end that has already been accomplished, that people from every single people group that has been or ever will be are standing around the throne worshipping the Lamb. It’s a done deal, but God calls us to make it happen. Scriptures still need to be translated into languages that have none. Indigenous leaders need to be raised up. Prayers for the salvation of the lost still need to be prayed. We are called to this work, confidently knowing God will complete what God has started. It is God’s victory and His right arm that has accomplished our salvation. James Howell said, “Christianity is not about wielding power; but is a yielding to the power of God.” We are recipients of the salvation that Jesus Christ has accomplished. When we step back, we see God doing awesome things in and around and through us. Yielding to the power of God is to also recognize that Christ is returning to Judge the earth—the world with righteousness and the peoples with equity. On Palm Sunday, we read the passage where Jesus will be returning on the white horse as King of Kings and Lord of Lords and will separate the peoples. Hopefully, as in this psalm, that will be a day we look forward to with joy because there will truly be justice for all. But for some, it will be a day of terror. St. Augustine warns those who pray to see Jesus return and bring justice, “Reform yourself that you might not pray against yourself.” We need not fear if we live in humble repentance and submission to the will of the Father through the Holy Spirit’s power. God’s salvation revealed in Jesus Christ is always worth singing about. This psalm calls for unstifled worship. What does unstifled worship look like for you? How do you worship when you are unrestrained? We are exhorted to sing new songs, to shout joyfully, to break forth in song, rejoicing. To break forth is spontaneous, can’t-hold-back joyous exclamation of praise and devotion. There is a call to sing with all kinds of instruments. We see nature personified and commanded to praise—the sea, rivers, hills, and all nature, including plants and animals. Again, we are reminded of “Joy to the World”—“let fields and floods, rocks hills, and plains, repeat the sounding joy, Let heav’n and nature sing.” Jesus told those who criticized the children and crowds praising Him on Palm Sunday, that if they were silent, the rocks would cry out. All creation is impacted because salvation has been accomplished. And all creation continuously points us to God. The pine trees and dogwoods were right on time again this year. I don’t know if you know the story of the dogwood blossoms. It’s certainly not a true legend, but the flowers do bloom and show their faint red during Holy Week. After polluting us with all that pollen, pine trees first look like they are sticking their fingers in the air, but around Holy Week, they develop crosses as the beginnings of the new pine cones develop. The little crosses were right on time. The curse of the Fall is broken and is being reversed. Though creation groans for the full reversal as we all await Christ to return as Righteous Judge, we praise with confidence that victory is already achieved.

Monday, April 17, 2017

My Redeemer Lives; Luke 24:1-35, Job 19

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Sunday, April 9, 2017

Check Out My Ride; Mark 11:1-11, Revelation 19:11-21

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Monday, April 3, 2017

Never Forsaken; Psalm 71, Mark 15:25-32

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