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

All the years

2 Corinthians 4:16-18

I’ve long held an image of my father-in-law in my mind. It’s ingrained in my faith, actually. At the time, he was in his mid-eighties. I passed by his room and saw him sitting in his chair. He was reading the Bible. His eyesight, of course, wasn’t what it used to be. So, he used a magnifying glass.

He was a retired pastor, having served the church his entire adult life. When I walked by I couldn’t resist the temptation. “Dad,” I began, “haven’t you figured out all that Bible stuff already?” He laughed and told me I’ll never figure it out.

That day came before I began my pastoral ministry. And it has inspired it ever since. I want to be the eighty-year-old reading the Bible. By then, I will have given the church my adult life, too. I’ll have spent decades reading the Bible and sharing its wisdom. Who knows how many daily devotionals or text messages I will have written by then? But I trust God will humble me enough to know, even after all that time, I still need to sit in my chair and read the Bible.

Our outer nature wastes away. That’s comes with living longer. It isn’t shameful or something we should hide. God’s design isn’t for our outer nature to preserve itself or grow younger. The Lord does renew our inner nature, though! With every passing day, our hope grows and our faith strengthens.

Our fear is that our suffering keeps us from God. It does not. We might wonder if the evil of the world is a sign God is not with us. It is not. As the Christmas hymn reminds us: the hopes and fears of all the years are met in thee tonight. In Christ, God meets us in our hopes and fears.

So, while all may seem to be wasting away on the outside, God renews our heart and soul. As we seek God’s presence all the more, we become the examples those after us see and remember and follow.

Stay blessed…john

A Christmas favorite

Luke 19:41-44

It’s not hard to find someone who considers Christmas their favorite holiday.

And what’s not to love? There’s a feeling of goodwill we don’t always experience at other times. The festivities are fun and even the ugly sweaters garner smiles. Most people also have favorite traditions to make spirits bright. No wonder more than forty percent of Americans say Christmas is their favorite.

Speaking of favorites, let’s talk favorite cities.

More specifically, let’s consider Jerusalem. The city of Jerusalem holds a special place in the hearts of Jewish people. It stands at the center of Jewish life and thought. Of course, Christians and Muslims today also hold it in high regard. Its history includes tragedy and war, victory and prominence. It became the city of David.

As such, Jesus would’ve known the importance of Jerusalem. He would’ve understood what God desired for that place more than anyone. Luke tells us of one occasion Jesus went there. When he saw the city, he wept.

That makes me think of Jesus weeping at the tomb of Lazarus. Interestingly, Jesus was about to resurrect Lazarus, but he still cried at his death. At Jerusalem, Jesus would resurrect soon, but he still cried for Jerusalem.

Why?

He said, “If you, even you, had only recognized on this day the things that make for peace” (Luke 19:41)! Did you pick up on the favorite city feeling? “Even you,” Jerusalem. It’s often translated as the city of peace. But it did not know peace. It wouldn’t recognize the things that make for peace.

Even as the cherished, favorite city.

Likewise, it’s quite possible for Christmas to be our favorite holiday and for us to miss the peace that is Christ, too. One of our favorite texts to read at Christmas is from Isaiah. “For to us a child is born,” we declare. Among the other titles we acknowledge, we say Jesus is the Prince of Peace. And the Prince of Peace has a way of peace God teaches us.

And if God’s desire for peace gets lost, even in all our holiday fun and excitement, I assume Jesus is still weeping.

Stay blessed…john