In Romans 9.30-10.4, we see how the apostle Paul explained to the mostly Gentile church in Rome in the first century how the people of Israel had missed the point of their pursuit of God. It’s as if they were running a race (following the Law of the Old Testament) but had missed the finish line by going around it (missing out on the fulfillment of the Law in Jesus). And sometimes, church people who call themselves Christians do the same thing. What does that look like? We’ll learn in this message how that can happen, and how we can avoid it. The entire worship gathering is below, and just the message below that.
Whoops! Forgot to post this on Friday!
You want to have a big party, but you can’t right now because it’s not safe to do so.
You’d like to cross the US border and do some shopping, but the border’s closed.
You have had it up to here with electronic meetings and online school.
Your patience is running thin, six months into the pandemic.
Well, join the club!
As a society, we have been so used to having the freedom to do certain things that when that freedom is (temporarily, we hope) removed, our patience is tested.
As followers of Jesus, people who have the Holy Spirit living in us, we are called to bear the fruit of the Spirit. But there are two of them that are wildly unpopular and often in short supply, even among the people of God. One of them is patience.
Even though there are many circumstances working against us right now, we need patience and we need to ask the Lord to give us more patience. Often, though, we forget to ask!
The Bible is replete with stories of people who had patience in the midst of trying circumstances:
Abraham and Sarah were promised a child, and they were in their eighties before Isaac came along.
Joseph was tormented by his brothers, sold into slavery, and had to rise up in the ranks of Egyptian officials before he could help to redeem his people.
Job lost everything he had, but never cursed God.
If those stories aren’t enough to make us want to ask God for patience, we can remember how patient God has been with his people over the course of time – even you and me!
So ask God for more patience. The good news is that he is willing to give and give and give if we are willing to ask for it. Say something like, “Lord, I need you to help me be more patient with my family, my coworkers, even the people driving near me on the streets and highways. Give me more patience, so that I can witness to your patience with humanity, and shine your light in the world.”
“The Lord is compassionate and merciful, slow to get angry and filled with unfailing love” (Psalm 103.8, NLT).
September startup has looked different for most everyone this year, but it holds one thing in common with all its predecessors: it’s been a little crazy. It may have been crazy for different reasons, but it’s still been crazy.
Whether it’s trying to figure out if your kids are going to school or going online, or understanding what programs will and won’t resume in the church, or trying to do some of the traditional September shopping, it’s been nuts.
We could all use a little peace.
Back in the 1960s, ‘peace’ was all the rage: “Give peace a chance,” trumpeted perhaps the most famous song on the subject from that era. In the midst of the cold war, the Cuban Missile Crisis, the Vietnam conflict, and all else that was going on, people were crying out for peace. And, over time, they got it…in one definition.
The Bible’s definition of peace is quite different from the mere absence of war.
When it first shows up in the Old Testament, the word “peace” is an English translation of the Hebrew word shalom – still a common greeting among Middle Eastern people today – and it doesn’t just mean, “I hope you don’t have any war today.” It’s a wish for groundedness, particularly in your faith in God.
True peace – the kind that is the fruit of the Spirit in Galatians 5 – is a sense of comfort in your relationship with the Lord, an ability to give thanks in all circumstances (as Paul would tell the Thessalonians). It’s something that other people can spot in you at a distance.
If you want true peace amid all that’s going on this fall – this year! – place your trust in the Lord Jesus Christ, and experience what Paul wished for the Christians in Philippi: “Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4.6-7, NLT).
Joy: it seems so elusive to many people. Why is that?
Sometimes, I think it’s because it easily gets confused with happiness. In fact, sometimes even Bible translations confuse us on this matter, using “happy” when they mean “joyful”. It may seem like angels-dancing-on-the-head-of-a-pin semantics, but in everyday language, I think we do well to keep the two terms distinct.
Think about it in terms of cultural sayings popular in the west:
Money can’t buy happiness, but it can buy [your favourite thing], and that’s the same.
Happiness depends on ourselves.
Learn to value yourself, which means: fight for your happiness.
That last one comes from Ayn Rand, a Russian-American philosopher of the twentieth century.
We are a people who strive for happiness, and we often find it lacking something once we think we’ve achieved it.
There’s nothing wrong with being happy, but it can’t possibly compare with joy. While, etymologically, the terms are connected, for followers of Jesus, there is a depth that comes with joy with which “the pursuit of happiness” just can’t compare.
Think about the special times in the life of church and family that are celebrated: what’s the common word that’s used, say, at Christmas and Easter? “Rejoice!”
That’s where joy comes from – rejoicing in the goodness of God.
We may think we have the right to be happy, but we have the privilege of joy. Embrace it as a gift from God.
“…the joy of the Lord is your strength” (Nehemiah 8.10b, NLT).
In this service of worship, we look at the fact that nothing can separate us from the love of God which is found in Christ Jesus our Lord. It has many implications – watch and learn! It’s based on Romans 8.31-39. The whole service is below, and the message alone is below that.
It’s what makes the world go around, some say.
It’s what will keep us together, according to a song from my youth.
It’s rooted in God, according to the Bible.
So why is it so complicated?
The short answer is we make it complicated. The longer answer is that our predisposition toward sin affects how we love, and how we view love.
But as God loves us unconditionally, so he calls his people to love others unconditionally.
This is especially difficult with people we find hard to love. They may be people with whom we disagree on an important matter, or people whose personal hygiene makes us uncomfortable, or people who have hurt us in some way.
We may think that we can’t love these people on our own. And that’s true. We can’t love them on our own.
But as followers of Jesus – recipients of this love of the Father that sent his Son to the cross for our sins – we have the Holy Spirit living in and through us, and that is why we can love those we find hard to love.
Here’s a challenge for you and for me: think of someone you know whom you consider hard to love. Pray for that person to know the Lord and to serve him. Pray that the Holy Spirit will help you love him or her. And, amid physical distancing requirements, act in some way to show love to that person in the coming week.
Then, focus on another person, and do it again. And again. And again. You get the idea.
“Dear friends, since God loved us that much, we surely ought to love each other. No one has ever seen God. But if we love each other, God lives in us, and his love is brought to full expression in us” (1 John 4.11-12, NLT).