Monday, June 21, 2021

Chosen Witnesses

There is a commercial on now where Charles Barkley is taunting children because he is chosen 1st in a pick-up basketball game.  Charles has a knack for being funny and self-deprecating at the same time.  It is why he is loved by so many!  But did you know you were 'chosen'?  And ... chosen for a purpose!

We continue our series on God's purpose and finding our niche within that purpose.  Isaiah 43 is filled with the purpose of God as the prophet lays out God's plan for salvation and restoration of Israel.  And that plan is for us too!

Here's the kicker on what Isaiah is saying.  God's word tells us about the plan.  God's word shouts to the heavens about God's purpose.  So why are so many lost, wandering and (in the words of the prophet) "walking in darkness (Isaiah 9:2)?  Here is my theory!

The clothes dryer at the parsonage wouldn't shut off.  I could have called the repair person, but that would cost at least $250.  So, I did what I often do when I have something break down these days.  I went to YouTube.  Sure enough, someone else had this issue and there was a video that showed me just what to do.  In the time it would have taken to call, schedule, meet and wait for the repair person (not to mention the time it would take to get the part) I ordered the part, spent 15 minutes switching out the old part, and repaired the dryer.  I was able to do this because someone had taken the time and energy to describe the problem, offer a solution and tell me exactly what I needed to do.

Our world has a problem but also a solution.  God creates us.  God places us in a world where He is growing us from the image of God into the likeness of Christ.  God gives us His word and His Son to show us how we can become used, useful and usable by God.  God gives us a message of hope, healing and wholeness.  And God calls us to Himself.  In the words of what I said in the baptism of Mary Griggs yesterday, "all of this is God's gift, offered to us without cost (at least to us)."  All of these are tools God provides so that we will seek and find our place in God's plan.  Because God has created us to be His witnesses!  We have Good News and we (if we are to follow God's plan) must tell!

God says "you are my witnesses (Isaiah 43:10)!"  That means you and me.  We are the tellers of God's truth, sharers of God's saving way and doers of God's word.  This is how we witness!

God also says, "you are my servants (Isaiah 43:10)."  We weren't made to serve our possessions, our recreational desires, our political persuasions or our idols.  We were created to serve God, and God only.

And our message, though it gets garbled in denominational politics, secular interests and personal prejudices, is simple.  God gave it to Israel direct, in Deuteronomy 6:4.  "Hear, O Israel, the Lord your God is one (the only) God."  God gave it to Moses at a burning bush when He said, "I am the God that exists (Exodus 3:14)."  God showed it from the cross as a Roman soldier kneeled and said, "Surely this is the Son of God (Matthew 27:54)!"  And God gives it to you and me through word, presence, community, and His unfailing love.  You are blessed because you know this!  You are chosen witnesses, here to serve God.  You have everything you need for this task.  So, let's get to work!  Randy 

Monday, June 14, 2021

The Glory of The Lord

Isaiah's ministry begins with the theme of God's glory.  The prophet is in the temple and sees the Lord, the train of His robe filling the temple, and seraphim calling out "Holy, holy, holy is the Lord Almighty ... the whole earth is full of His glory (Isaiah 6:3)!"  Isaiah sees the glory of the Lord and he is 1) undone, 2) humbled, 3) called/drawn to following the Lord wherever God desires ... "Here I am Lord ... send me (Isaiah 6:8)."  The themes of God's power, provision, creative intention and glory continue throughout Isaiah.  Glory is used over 50 times in Isaiah's prophecy.

This week we will continue our study of purpose passages in Scripture.  What is God's purpose in the world?  Why does God think we (people) are placed in the world?  In Isaiah 43:5-7 we find a beautiful expression of God's purpose.  It clearly states that we were made for God's glory.  But what does "glory" mean here?

The Hebrew word means weight, power, splendor, brightness and many other hyperbolic expressions.  God's glory is associated with power in battle, radiance that is so powerful it cannot even be looked-at directly, beauty so magnificent it is merely reflected in the most beautiful scenes of nature, and salvation so unbelievable we cannot find words to express it.  In Isaiah it fills everything with God.

So in this powerful, magnificent and world-filling word, how can God say that you and I are created for His glory?  We can barely get along with each other.  We have trouble focusing on God enough to make worship even a minor priority.  We love seeing God's weightiness and majesty in a sunset, but this passage seems to call us to BE God's glory.  How does this happen?

I think this means something simple but powerful.  We become expressions of God's glory (why we were made) when we:

1. Become agents of God's salvation, becoming conduits for God to pour His love, life and Spirit into the people we meet.

2. Become doers that express our faith by doing what Jesus taught us.

3. Become lovers of 'the things above' like life, sacrifice, giving, serving, kindness, patience, joy, prayer.

4. Become lovers of the people (nations) that God said He 'so loved' that He gave Jesus for our forgiveness, pardon and eternal life.

I love that term "weight" as a description of God's glory, because I think our ability to be what Isaiah 43:7 says, "all who claim God as their God," adds weight to God's mission, plan and power in this world, so that we can all dwell with God in the world to come. Today, try being an expression of God's glory, so that His power, weight, majesty and magnificence is expressed in some small way by you (and me).  Randy 

Monday, June 7, 2021

To Praise

I love our verse this week!  Isaiah 43:19-21 is an expression of God's grace, provision, transformation and purpose.  Here is this VERY good word ... "See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up!  Do you perceive it?  I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland!  The wild animals honor me, the jackals and the owls, because I provide water in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland, to give drink to my people, my chosen, the people I formed for myself, that they might proclaim my praise!"

What a verse filled with blessing and calling to each of us!  I have said, ad nauseam, that we often seek our purpose by seeking it in self, in our passions, and in our humanism.  Here, God tells us some things about ourselves, that direct us to find our purpose in the God that made us.  And, since "a little child will lead them (Isaiah 11:6)," what better way to seek the truth of this passage than to be in worship Sunday as our children lead us in song!  And as we enjoy the children, let's think of how these 2 passages dovetail with each other.

1. We are formed.  Created.  Part of God's good intent.  We are not stamped out as widgets, assembled as identical, rote, uninteresting things.  We are people, formed in God's image, reaching toward the likeness of Christ.  C. S. Lewis said we are not cattle to be herded toward a destination.  We are unique, special individuals, woven together in our mother's womb, fearfully and wonderfully made (Ps. 139).

2. We are made FOR God!  Not for slavery, some other person, or the world.  We are made by God and for God.  So, when we seek purpose, do you think it would be appropriate for us to seek that in and from the maker?  I think so!

3. We are made to proclaim God's praise.  Nicey Eller spoke about Pentecost and said that the "fired-up" disciples emerged from the house and spoke in all appropriate languages about the mighty things God had done!  We are made for this praise, which is why we lose something in our Christian walk when we become convinced we can "do" church without fellowship and contact with other Christians.  We were not made to "do" church ... we were made to "BE Church."

Sunday (both services) our children will lead worship.  They will read Scripture, pray, sing and be in the context and spirit of praise.  It is one reason we are all stirred-up when we hear them sing and see their enthusiasm.  Carolyn Arends writes (in "What We Hope For") "we start out so innocent and wise, till we cut the world down to our size, we still have that wonder in our eyes!"  You were made by God, for God, "that you might proclaim His praise!"  So ... do it!  Randy