Monday, January 18, 2021

Listening

Listening and waiting.  It is the overarching theme of Psalm 130.  David says, "Out of the depths I cry to you!"  "Let Your ears be attentive to my cry for mercy!"  David's plea would mirror our plea today.  We truly do speak out of depths of anxiety, despair, uncertainty and maybe fear.  We are crying out!

Over the last two weeks I have done two funerals.  One of them was a beautiful man who had lived 94 years and was known for his goodness, grace and patience.  Another was a close friend who I had known for 14 years.  My friend Bill was a golfing companion who was a consistent friend and a person known for some stellar phrases.  Both funerals became times for me and the family to do something we (individually and corporately) have difficulty with.  We all looked up, cried to the Lord and listened.

In my twenty plus years of ministry I have observed that most people (yes, I am grouping us together) have difficulty listening.  We listen to a sermon with an analytical mind, culling out either what we want to hear or what to critique.  We analyze, parse and are impressed when the speaker 'didn't use a note.'  But we fall short on taking in meaning, content and any wisdom that might be offered.  But, at a funeral, we stop, cry out, and we do something out of our nature ... we listen.  John, in the Revelation, shocks us with penning Jesus' words to seven churches, pronouncing that without changes, most of these churches will lose something important.  It is funeral-talk, and when that loss is perceived and grasped, they listen.

In Psalm 130, David enters the presence of God.  He asks for God's attention.  He acknowledges his sinfulness.  He praises God's forgiveness.  He waits for God, and he does this with his whole being.  He remembers that Israel, and David, have only one hope ... the Lord.  And he looks ahead to God's sure redemption, even of sinful Israel.  David listens ... for he realizes that when we approach God reverently, openly and patiently, God will redeem our situation.

Are you listening for God?  Or, as many of my friends and associates, is your listening clouded with anger, sword-rattling, drama, gloating, vengeful remarks, warrior-talk and all of the feelings that swirl around inside the human spirit?  David acknowledges that if we want God's solutions to our human messes, we must lay it all down before God.  David says ... "my whole being waits, and in His word I will put my hope (Psalm 130:5)."

That is the kind of God we have!  A God that we can trust.  A God with a good word for difficult times.  The God that comes to us when we have lost something or are lost ourselves.  The God that will change, if we let Him, how we see the world.  The God who says the truth (not perception) will set you free by God's word (John 8:32).  I, for one, am listening to THAT God!  My whole being waits!  How is it with you?  Randy

Monday, January 11, 2021

What Is Your Anchor?

Hebrews 6:19 says "we have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure."  The chapter is all about becoming mature Christians.  The gist of this passage is that we, who are heirs of the promises God has made, must learn to trust in things that are eternal, secure, sure and solid.  Wow, do we need these things now!

Over the past few weeks I have used the term "discernment" often.  For we, as God's people, as ambassadors of Christ, and as the Church must enter the days ahead as those people who are not "blown away by every wind of doctrine (Ephesians 4:14)".  We should be the people who show and live out the hope of Christ in the hopeless times we sometimes face.  So, how do we do this?

John Wesley had two very Methodist ways of discerning.  The first goes to the source of our knowledge about the nature of God ... Scripture.  Wesley said that revelation from God (something that we currently hear people invoking) comes primarily through Scripture and that all other sources are a "handmaiden" (subservient to) God's Word.  This is vital today as the internet is filled with claims of special knowledge (a Gnostic behavior), special revelation from God (a very dangerous path) and special insight.  Wesley says don't go there!  Jesus and God's word are the sources through which we sift the doctrines that are so readily offered by not-so-reliable sources!

The other Wesleyan method for discernment is based on the golden rule ... "Do to others what you would have them do to you (Matthew 7:12)."  Wesley said there are 3 Methodist rules ... 1) do no harm, 2) do all the good that you can, and 3) stay in love with God!  As I read lots of the things you are reading I get a spirit of revenge, feelings that justice is unfair, people saying "I am/we are victims," and lots of "they" statements about demonizing other folks.  Maybe it is time to step back and try to do no harm, do good things and (especially) stay in love with God.  You might ask, "how do we stay in love with God?"  I think we follow Jesus in loving people, even the Samaritans, lepers and sinners of our day.  And by the way ... those "loved" people include all of us!  That's my take!  Randy

Monday, January 4, 2021

He Is!

In Revelation 5 there is great commotion in heaven!  A lot is happening.  There are 24 elders, 4 living creatures, the one seated on the throne, and a mighty angel asking a question (v. 2) ... "Who is worthy to break the seal and open the scroll?"  Everyone wants to know what will unfold next.  Sounds like the ending of 2020 and the beginning of 2021!  What will happen next?

It is interesting when I hear people talk about John's Revelation.  There are those that 'feel' it is totally symbolic, even though total symbolism allows folks to believe whatever they dream up (sounds like Facebook today!).  There are those that 'feel' it is totally literal, even though apocalyptic writing in John's day would have been filled with hyperbole and figurative language.  I am reminded that truth, facts, and solid study of John's Revelation are almost always trumped by people's feelings.  I am reminded of the harrowing phrase at the end of Judges ... "In those days Israel had no king and everyone did as they saw fit! (21:25)."  I hope my observation in this blog is solidly based on fact and the plain, true word of Scripture, appropriately held out for you inside the context of that good word.

So ... here it is.  The answer to the question.  Is anyone worthy to open the scroll and unveil the events of our future?  Is anyone worthy to both tell us and lead us through that future to our eternal destination?  Is anyone worthy to judge, proclaim and offer guidance as we turn the page on one year and look into the next?  Yes!  Jesus is!

In both services Sunday we will sing about this.  Methodists are rightly accused of singing our theology, and Sunday will be no exception.  The song is entitled "He Is Worthy" and it responds to the question posed by the angel with the mighty voice.  It is not feelings-based.  It is not opinion-based. It is not based on political happenings.  It is not based on Facebook falseness.  It is not based on cults who say follow or find your heart.  The song is based on the answered question in Revelation 5:9-10 ... the lamb who was slain is worthy because He "purchased for God persons from every tribe and language and people and nation."

My question to you today is ... "Who or what is turning your page?"  I am asking this because we who call ourselves Christians are seemingly confused by the scene in Revelation.  It is not presented because it is strange, attention-grabbing or edgy.  It is presented to show us a truth that will last through the generations all the way to the ending of the age.  That truth is (as Deuteronomy 30 expresses) not vague ... "it abides on your lips and resides in your heart."  God's truth is near ... it is told ... so why are we so dense that we look for our future in the patterns, places, politics, pleasures and prognostications of our time?  God's word and truth are near to us.  Who is worthy to turn our page and give us a hope and a future that is filled with God?  Jesus is.

That truth is affirmed in heaven.  John saw it and wrote it.  Now, it is time ... in this watershed year ... for Jesus-followers to live it out, following the one who is worthy to follow.  For there is another truth in Revelation 5.  Every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and on the sea will say ... "be praise and power and glory and honor forever and ever."