We’ve heard this

Psalm 37:1-17

Yesterday, I preached a message based on the first twelve verses of Matthew 5. They make up what we call the Beatitudes. There was something I wanted to remind the congregation that I forgot to mention.

It was the unoriginality of the beatitudes. We often hype the message of Jesus as something completely new. Indeed, the kingdom of God was manifesting itself in a new way in Jesus. But when we listen to him, we often hear him repeating what we, as God’s people, already know.

There are times he interprets what we’ve heard. There are other times he turns what we thought we knew on its head. Many Christians miss a lot of that. We aren’t as familiar with the Hebrew Bible as Jesus obviously was. 

So, it might surprise us to realize so much of what Jesus taught comes from scripture. The Beatitudes, for example, are not new. They were how Jesus began his sermon to remind people of God’s care and priorities.

Read through them and then consider some of these words we read in Psalm 37. Do not fret because of the wicked. Do not fret over those who prosper in their way, over those who carry out evil devices. Those who wait for the Lord shall inherit the land. The meek shall inherit the land and delight themselves in abundant prosperity. The Lord upholds the righteous.

Do you see it? Did you notice the parallels? That this is a sermon Jesus “went up on a mountainside” to give also deepens those connections. It ties him to Moses.

Now, none of that lessens what Jesus said. It reinforces what God has already said. It helps us look to notice how Jesus would fulfill what God already said. We get to discover how Jesus would do that.

At the onset of his ministry, Jesus went about “proclaiming the good news of the kingdom” (Matthew 4:23). And one of his first priorities was to ensure the people. Ensure them that God was now doubling down on what had always been promised. So, we do not fret because we are blessed.

Stay blessed…john

No rejection

Psalm 15

I imagine someone might read Psalm 15 and turn away.

Who may abide in God’s tent? God’s holy hill? Our modern ears may hear the question another way, who is good enough to go to church?

Those who walk blamelessly. That’d be the turning point for many of us. Plus, the psalm offers a few more qualities of the one who is worthy. A few more that might seem to disqualify more and more of us.

So, what do we do with such a psalm?

To be sure, obedience is important to God. Obedience isn’t simply doing what you’re told. It’s trusting the One who told you. Jesus said, “If you love me keep my commandments” (John 14:15). Obedience, then, is an act of love and devotion as well.

But does that mean if we aren’t obedient we aren’t allowed to be with God? The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world has a resounding answer. Listen, if God ever stopped allowing disobedient people to come to church or to cry out to God, we’d be in trouble.

Thankfully, Psalm 15 isn’t a who’s-in-who’s-out checklist. Most likely, it’s a liturgical response to the goodness of God. It offers a reflection on what it is to follow God faithfully. In other words, read Psalm 15 as a testimony of walking with God. See what difference that makes in how you understand it.

Read the last line of the psalm again. “Those who do these things shall never be moved.” What a statement of confidence and assurance! There’s no rejection there.

We can also stretch the prayer to cover our full life with God. This isn’t about going to church in a building on Sunday morning. It’s being in God’s presence. Learning to discover more the reality of God’s presence awakens us to be blameless. We begin to desire to turn from our disobedience.

But when you go to God’s house this weekend, reflect on the joy of worship and your fellowship with God. Consider the blessing of being in God’s house with God’s presence and God’s people. 

Stay blessed…john

Time to party

Deuteronomy 16:18-20

I had the joy of speaking at an MLK event last week. We joined a march from City Hall to a local church. Those who stayed at the church joined in song, prayer and reflection. The event leader introduced me, among things, as an Eagles fan. I had an uphill climb!

But I’m confident I won the crowd over with my message “Late to the party.”

When it comes to justice, some people will be late to the party. To be sure, some people don’t want to come to the justice party. They like the old party. 

Even so, we keep celebrating God’s justice. In a sense, we party when we see glimpses of justice rolling on like a river (Amos 5:24). We thank God when justice reigns and cry out when it does not. My point was that as we continue to pursue justice, others will finally join the effort. 

Thanks be to God!

And I also wanted to emphasize how much the Lord desires justice among us. This isn’t a random idea we created. It has always been a vision of God for how we live as God’s people.

Moses taught the Israelites in the wilderness what it meant to be faithful to God. Can you guess one of the things he taught them? They were to practice justice. He reiterates what he wants the people to know: Justice, and only justice, you shall pursue (Deuteronomy 16:20). 

Only justice?

What about love, compassion and truthfulness? What of holiness? Well, is not justice fulfilled a form of them all? How can we say we love our neighbor if we can’t be bothered with the reality of the injustices they face? How holy are we if injustice doesn’t bother us enough to do something about it?

Speaking of MLK, I read an article yesterday that mentioned a plaque in Dallas dedicated to him. Apparently, the plaque quotes Micah 6:8 but attributes the words of the prophet to MLK. 

But they are God’s words of justice. God’s desire for our connected lives.

This is always going to matter to God. So, it’s time to get to the justice party! 

Stay blessed…john