I was contemplating what to write this week in light of the election. So much has already been written, and it’s easy to alienate by saying something that puts you in one camp or the other. I don’t think a preacher should be partisan, and it really bothers me when politicians are given the pulpit. Still, we are admonished to “pray for kings and all who are in authority, in order that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity.” (I Timothy1-2)
This year I have committed to reading through The One Year Chronological Bible. It attempts to place all the books and passages of the Bible in chronological order. Marilyn, Nikki, and Grace have all read it through in a year, but I had not done so. I decided this would be the year, and even though I’m not a big fan of the NIV, I thought it would be good to read the Bible again in another translation.
The reading for last Sunday was from the book of Job, and when I read it, I knew I had found the perfect message for this week. I share with you Job 12:13-23.
“To God belong wisdom and power; counsel and understanding are his.
What he tears down cannot be rebuilt; those he imprisons cannot be released.
If he holds back the waters, there is drought; if he lets them loose, they devastate the land. To him belong strength and insight; both deceived and deceiver are his.
He leads rulers away stripped and makes fools of judges.
He takes off the shackles put on by kings and ties a loincloth around their waist.
He leads priests away stripped and overthrows officials long established.
He silences the lips of trusted advisers and takes away the discernment of elders.
He pours contempt on nobles and disarms the mighty.
He reveals the deep things of darkness and brings utter darkness into the light.
He makes nations great, and destroys them; he enlarges nations, and disperses them.”
I pray for President Trump, and I pray that God makes our nation great again.
God Bless, Rick
If you had trouble reading the graphic above, I encourage you to read the text in Zephaniah 3:17. Jeremy Treat had a most encouraging article in a recent issue of CT that focused on that amazing verse in Zephaniah, entitled, “God Is Not Out to Get You.” I want to share a few excerpts from his article with you, and invite you to pick up a copy of the entire article from the hall rack.
“Zephaniah 3:17 begins by declaring one of the most basic yet beautiful truths: the Lord saves. While most of us tend to focus on what we are saved from, this verse emphasizes what we are saved for. Not only are we saved from judgment, we are also saved for joy—God’s joy. Zephaniah paints a picture of the God who delights.
“When Zephaniah says that the Lord “will no longer rebuke you,” it’s not that God’s character has changed but that by his love, our status has changed. We are no longer under his judgment; instead, we are under his care.
“The third part of the declaration is that the Lord “will rejoice over you with singing.” The God of the Bible sings—and he sings over his people.
“The Lord is just and joyful. He is a fierce warrior because he is a compassionate father. Throughout the Old Testament, God’s justice and mercy are both boldly proclaimed. But how can a just God take joy in a rebellious people? This tension is ultimately resolved at the Cross, where Jesus’ atoning death displays the righteous character of God and delivers an unrighteous people from sin.
“The Cross is a constant reminder that our sin is great but that our Savior is greater. Why would Jesus endure the pain of the Cross and the shame of such a horrific death? As the author of Hebrews says, because of “the joy set before him.” Through Christ, we are saved from judgment and for joy.
“Our view of God greatly dictates the way we live. If we see God as a cosmic police officer, then we will live in fear of punishment. If we view God as a heavenly firefighter, then we’ll talk to him only when we’re in trouble. But if God is the mighty warrior who sings over his people, that changes everything.”
God Bless, Rick
“Father Abraham had many sons, Many sons had Father Abraham; I am one of them, and so are you, So let’s just praise the Lord.”
That’s the beginning of a silly little song that kids love to sing. As the song progresses they are raising a right hand, a left foot, turning around, and sitting down. I guess I never thought about the implications of the song…until I read that Muslims, Jews and Christians were all singing it together at an interfaith gathering in Springfield.
I’m sure you’re aware that all three faiths claim Abraham as their spiritual father. You may not know that Baha’is do so as well. That makes four major religions all claiming a connection to Abraham, a connection that many would suggest minimizes the difference between world religions, and gives them equal validity.
The Jewish claim is, of course, without question. The Muslim claim is based on the fact that Arab nations descended from Abraham and Hagar, and the Baha’is claim descent from Abraham and Keturah.
In Genesis we do discover that Abraham sent Hagar and Ishmael into the desert, and that the sons of Ishmael settled to the south of Canaan all the way to the border of Egypt. He later sent the sons of Keturah and his concubines to the land of the east. Islam originated in Arab lands in the 7th century, and Baha’i in Persia in the 19th. It seems to me that their identity as sons of Abraham has more to do with the ethnicity of the founder than commonality of faith.
In Romans and Galatians Paul makes it clear that we become children of Abraham by sharing the faith of Abraham, and we become heirs of promise through Jesus, the seed of Abraham. And that the only way various people groups can become one is by becoming one in Christ Jesus.
In Genesis 25:18 the NIV notes that the sons of Ishmael lived in hostility toward all their brothers. Sadly much of that hostility remains today, and it won’t go away by simply singing a silly little song together. It will only go away when all acknowledge Jesus as Lord, and the Prince of Peace.
God Bless, Rick
I trust you’ve seen the above graphic on a bumper sticker. And, like me, your reaction may not have been positive. The intent of the displayer is often assumed to be a statement about the equality of all religions and world-views. Since Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life, we know that is not the case. If, however, we are to live in peace in a diverse and pluralistic world, we can, and must, coexist.
A recent article in Touchstone had some relevant thoughts I found worth repeating as we enter a new year.
“Do Christians and Muslims worship the same God? Clearly not, if one takes their sacred texts seriously. The Koran repeatedly and unequivocally declares Allah as one and indivisible and rejects the divinity of Christ, and for this reason calls Christians blasphemers. Christians, on the other hand, worship the triune God—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Salvation, they believe, comes only to those who believe that Jesus Christ is God. Jews reject the notion that in Jesus the long- awaited Messiah has already come. And between the Children of Isaac and the Children of Ishmael there is a diametrically opposed reading of God’s promises and intentions vis-à-vis the Children of Abraham. To gloss over these differences is not only foolish but also unnecessary. History is replete with examples of people with these different beliefs living and working together in harmony, but this didn’t happen by their simply denying or failing to acknowledge their differences. To do so shows either ignorance or disrespect.
“Whatever their differences there is in all these world religions something upon which to build a harmonious and diverse community. … Christians have no warrant in their Scriptures to force their beliefs on anyone, and they are instructed by Christ to love their enemies and pray for those who abuse them.”
Without turning a blind eye to the reality of Islamic terrorism, we can coexist and live in peace with any who will do the same with us. Please pray for peace in 2017.
God Bless, Rick