Wednesday, March 20, 2019

It is Good News, if you want to hear it

The past few weeks in this world have been hard, dangerous and deadly. An airplane crashes in the Ethiopian wilderness taking 157 lives including 18 Canadians, People got to prayer in a New Zealand city and a man walks into that place of prayer with weapons and 50 people die and other 50 are injured. In Holland, a family argument erupts in gunfire, three more dies while another eight maybe nine people are injured and taken to hospital in Utrecht. And we must not forget the people in southern African who have recently had to deal

I get asked why, if God is good, does he allow such things as these to happen in the world? Why does he allow pain and suffering and death? Why doesn’t God do something about it? Well, in fact, his answer to all of it is his Son. His answer to it all is Jesus.

It is important for people to recognize that without Jesus, there is not one of us right with God; not one. There is nothing we can do to earn life with God and there nothing that we can give that will make us acceptable to God. All of us have sinned (hamartia) and fallen short of the mark, of the glory of God. And we need to understand that sin can and will not survive in the presence of a holy God. If that is what we bring before God, then we will not survive.

Now, let’s keep in mind that Jesus suffered as we have but did not sin. The Gospel that Jesus and the Church proclaims is a call to come to life and not face death and the grave. Such a message is a mercy to those who are in sin and are dying (not broken!) because God in Christ calls the world to himself and he stands between you and the disaster (death and the grave) that is coming, working at drawing you to himself. This is mercy. The Gospel is about moving from glory

Repentance is necessary if we are to deal with the sin that is in our lives, in our congregations and in our communities. Repentance is more than being sorry for the wrongs that have been done, whether it is what has been done or not been done. Sorrow is a first step and the ground on which the change may start. Repentance is more the stepping out and stepping up to live the life faithfully that God has called us to live according to the new covenant we have with him in Baptism. We are called to live out that covenant living in love with one another and in the upholding of the Spirit that we might live a life that has the fruit of repentance.

We need to be ready to live the new life in the new creation and we need to live it in the here and now by (1) acknowledging and confessing Jesus as our Lord and Saviour, (2) being responsible stewards of all that God has given us, (3) to live confidently in the provision of what God has given us for life and ministry, (4) be ready for him and faithful in all that we do and say, and (5) be ready because there is trouble ahead or we might miss out on what God has for us in the days ahead.

Repentance is not about the darkness of your sin but the brilliance of your repentance. It is not about how bad you have been but about the change that has come into your life because you are living it towards God now. Repentance is about turn away from the world, with its demands, assumptions, attitudes and actions. We do this to be able to live the values and the practices of the Kingdom of God.

This world is dying and coming apart. Christ and his cross are present to draw people to himself and to call them from destruction into life. Therefore, this is the day, this is the hour when we turn to God and begin to walk toward him again. That is Good News for everyone if they want to hear it.


Thursday, March 14, 2019

God wants to be faithful to you

I have been considering a phrase this week: “Don’t be afraid, you’re getting good news” and how Abram must have felt about hearing this from God (Genesis 15: 1-18). What was the good news? “I am your shield and your great reward.” Let’s, of course, remember that when God says this to Abram, the man has already rooted up his family and his work, moved them to another country. They have been through famine and then moved to another country where they ended up in trouble because Abram started to live a compromising life by passing his wife off as his sister. He was only half right, for she was his half-sister and she was very beautiful. He did not want to be killed so another man could have her and so there was a compromise. They came back to the Promised Land and there was still no baby. Lot separated from his uncle and went on his own, was captured and then rescued by God. Lot’s wife in the escape, became a pillar of salt outside the community. Still, Abram had no son, no heir. Abram has all that he could need and more but there was no son to pass on things to when it was time. The heir was a slave.

Abram laments the fact that there is no son. No heir. There is no continuation of the family line; no participation on creation. For all that he has, there is one thing that Abram wants that he is not able to get for himself. He needs God to make it happen. He laments his situation and points out to God that he has no seed – no sperm to make it happen. He reminds God that God promised him a son and calls on God to be faithful to his promise. Lamenting or complaining about life puts us in touch with our deepest hurts and our most powerful hopes. In complaining, we are also learning what is important to God and what his will is, that we might align with God’s will. As Scripture might remind us, “Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.” (Psalm 37.3)

And if you know the story of Abram, you will know that things happen, people made decisions and choices and out of that, Ishmael is born to him: the son of the body. Yet God asks for Abram to be patient. Abram waited decades for God to fulfil his promise of a son. His wife was 90 when she conceived and birthed a son, named Isaac. He became the father of Jacob who had 12 sons who became the heads of 12 tribes of Israel. Ishmael too was blessed and became a nation because of his father.

Where does this leave us? We can also complain or lament our situation to the Father, but I think there are some things that we need to remember when doing so. This is to help us align with what God wants to do in us and through us. First, we need to remember to pray not just gripe. We have desires, wants and even needs that we want God to respond to. God can respond to us and our requests and do so with power. In complaining, there is still a hope within us that God will respond to us and our requests – even if it does not look like it is possible. Abram knew this. Hope expresses the fact that God is present both effectually and faithfully so. Prayer is a way of realigning ourselves with God because we know that God wants to be faithful to us and answer our prayers.  More than that, God not only renew his promise of a child but expanded it to become a nation that Abram could not number. And Abram believed what God said to him and called him righteous and friend.

Moreover, we need to see that the Good News that we receive is that the child sent to us, the son is given to us the answer to our need for God dealt with death. IN order to be faithful to Abram and Sarai, and to David and to all those to whom God has made promises over the millennia, God became flesh and dwelt among us. God with the flesh on walked up the hill dragging his cross and gave his life so that we could in turn walk with him into eternity. That eternity for all of us begins in the here and now when we put our trust and begin to participate in Christ. God will get to the goal. God will fulfil his promise, even though there is pain and suffering, through blood and water and even through death itself. God wants to be faithful to you too.