Good morning. It is Sunday, November 30, 2014. 25 days until Christmas.
Today is Stay Home Because You’re Well Day. Sadly, it falls on Sunday, so I’m already staying home. However, it falls on November 30 each year, so maybe next year . . .
It’s going to be a beautiful day in North Texas, today, with the high temp reaching in the neighborhood of 80 degrees. It is 65 as I type this at 9:30 AM. The tasks planned for today include putting Christmas decorations in the front yard, putting the Christmas tree up, going to get Steph some new tennis shoes, getting our Christmas ornament for 2014, eating lunch at Fogata’s, and, if time allows, going to see Interstellar (the second time for me).
Yesterday was a pretty good day. Christi got the grocery shopping done, we had leftover Thanksgiving stuff for lunch (we’ve actually almost finished it all, already, which is amazing), and we finished season 8 of CSI on DVD. We went up to church by 3:30 PM to help with set up, then we had our prayer gathering at 4:45. I want to tell you, God is working in this prayer meeting! So far, we still only have about five or six people on a regular basis, and all of us are, in some way, involved in either leadership or ministry. I believe it’s going to expand, though. I really do. Last night’s was pretty incredible, as one of our leaders suddenly experienced a deep need for brokenness, and we all prayed over him. It was very intense and deeply moving. The worship service that followed was moving, as well. The worship music was inspiring and certainly led us (well, me, at least . . . I can’t really speak for anyone else, can I?) to worship, and Jacob’s message last night was one of those that grabbed me by the collar and shook me around a bit (figuratively, at least). More on that later.
After church, we got dinner at What-A-Burger, and watched the entire first season of It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia. I had heard that it was a fun show. It’s hilarious. Quite irreverent, but quite funny, too.
(Source: Christian History Institute)
It was on this date in 1170 that Thomas Becket returned from his six-year exile in France. Four weeks after returning to his post at Canterbury, he was murdered by knights of King Henry II.
Today’s birthdays include Kaley Cuoco, Ben Stiller, Winston Churchill (who did all the babies look like before he was born?), Bo Jackson, Dick Clark, Mark Twain, Billy Idol, Clay Aiken, Mandy Patinkin, Elisha Cuthbert, Colin Mochrie, Shane Victorino, Robert Guillaume, Jonathan Swift, Abbie Hoffman, Ridley Scott, Ivan “Pudge” Rodriguez, Andrea Doria, Oliver Fisher Winchester, Lucy Maud Montgomery, Efren Zimbalist, Jr., Richard Crenna, G Gordon Liddy, Bill Walsh, Paul Stookey, Roger Glover, and June Pointer.
Again, there are a number of notable names on today’s list. Kaley Cuoco plays “Penny” on Big Bang Theory, Ben Stiller is a well known comic actor, Mandy Patinking most famously played “Inigo Montoya” in The Princes Bride, Colin Mochrie is a comedian who was always on Whose Line Is It Anyway, Shane Victorino is a right fielder for the Boston Red Sox, Ivan Rodriguez, a catcher for the Texas Rangers, Paul Stookey was the “Paul” in Peter, Paul, and Mary, and Roger Glover was one of the bassists for Deep Purple. If you don’t know Winston Churchill, Jonathan Swift, Dick Clark, or Mark Twain, I’m not sure I can help you. Google is your friend.
Here is a clip of Mandy Patinkin and his most famous line from The Princess Bride.
Jacob has started a series on Christmas. It is called “All Authority: Connecting Christmas to the Great Commission.” The Scripture passage for the whole series will be Matthew 28:18-20, which is, of course, The Great Commission. Last night, we got through verse 18. Jacob is very good at pulling a wealth of information out of a verse or two of Scripture. In this case, we talked about Jesus coming as King. We don’t think about this very much, especially in our culture. But when you read the gospel accounts, he is constantly referred to as King of the Jews. Jesus is our King. He may have come the first time as a small baby, “wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger,” but he was still King. In our culture, we are not comfortable with having a King. We love our “freedom.” In fact, many American Christians are guilty of idolizing those freedoms.
The opening premise of the message was this: The fact that Jesus came once, and the promise that he is coming again, beckons us to make disciples.
The three characteristics of a King are as follows: 1) A King has power. The King has power to command; in this case, he commanded light to appear out of nothing. I wonder how often we stop to think about this. I’m not sure we grasp the relevance of the fact that light was created before there were any other celestial bodies to provide it. Our King spoke into the darkness and created the light. This same authority is that which has commanded us to go and make disciples of all nations. I don’t know about you, but I came to the stark revelation, last night, that I have failed, miserably, to treat Jesus as King.
2) A King provides. Christmas is all about reconciling heaven and earth. Everything we need, Jesus provides. Just a few examples of the things we need: We need justice and peace. You don’t have to look very far to see that this is still desperately true. We need healing. Look at all the sickness and disease in the world. We need joy. Oh, how we need joy in our lives!! And we, as Christian people should be advocates for all of these things! But here is the catch, that we, once again, fail to realize, all too often. All of the things come with a King. We pray, as Jesus taught, “May your Kingdom come and your will be done on earth as in heaven.” THERE IS NO KINGDOM WITHOUT A KING!!
3) Finally, a King pardons. The very beginning words of verse 18 are more important than we realize. And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.” Jesus came to them. Jesus came to these men, men who scattered in fear and cowardice when he was arrested to be tried and crucified. Some of whom, if you read the verse immediately before this one, still doubted! He had risen from the grave and appeared to all of them, and yet some of them still doubted! Yet he came to them, and treated them as if nothing had ever happened! This King pardons. All of us stand with these disciples. We have all rebelled. All of humanity has rebelled, and many of us who call ourselves Christians rebel on a daily basis. Yet he pardons and comes to us with grace, mercy, and a job to do.
(From The Divine Hours)
First Week of Advent
The LORD is God, and he has made his light to shine upon us. Bind the festal sacrifice with cords, up to the horns of the altar!
O Lord, open my lips, and my mouth will declare your praise.
May all who seek you rejoice and be glad in you! May those who love your salvation say evermore, “God is great!”
This God—his way is perfect; the word of the LORD proves true; he is a shield for all those who take refuge in him.
I was glad when they said to me, “Let us go to the house of the LORD!”
Our feet have been standing within your gates, O Jerusalem!
Jerusalem—built as a city that is bound firmly together,
to which the tribes go up, the tribes of the LORD, as was decreed for Israel, to give thanks to the name of the LORD.
There thrones for judgment were set, the thrones of the house of David.
Pray for the peace of Jerusalem! “May they be secure who love you!
Peace be within your walls and security within your towers!”
For my brothers and companions’ sake I will say, “Peace be within you!”
For the sake of the house of the LORD our God, I will seek your good.
The Prayer Appointed for the Week
Almighty God, give all of us grace to cast away the works of darkness, and put on the
armor of light, now in the time of this mortal life in which your Son Jesus Christ came
to visit us in great humility; that in the last day, when he shall come again in his
glorious majesty to judge both the living and the dead, we may rise to the life immortal;
through him who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved—and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.
Today’s Gospel Reading
When the disciples reached the other side, they had forgotten to bring any bread. Jesus said to them, “Watch and beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees.” And they began discussing it among themselves, saying, “We brought no bread.” But Jesus, aware of this, said, “O you of little faith, why are you discussing among yourselves the fact that you have no bread? Do you not yet perceive? Do you not remember the five loaves for the five thousand, and how many baskets you gathered? Or the seven loaves for the four thousand, and how many baskets you gathered? How is it that you fail to understand that I did not speak about bread? Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees.” Then they understood that he did not tell them to beware of the leaven of bread, but of the teaching of the Pharisees and Sadducees.
Jesus compared the teachings of the Pharisees and Sadducess to leaven. These teachings, like leaven in dough, “can quickly permeate the church and corrupt its holiness.” (Reformation Study Bible notes) Jesus also addresses the fact that the disciples were concerned because they brought no bread. He had to remind them of the two miracles that they had recently witnessed. They still just didn’t get it.
We, too, must beware of the false teachings of religious hypocrites. It is necessary to be diligent in comparing anyone’s teachings to the Word. Just because something sounds good or sounds right does not make it so.
Today’s reading in Reflections for Ragamuffins is “When God Breaks In.”
When this happens, “we are plunged into mystery–what Abraham Heschel called ‘radical amazement.’ Hushed and trembling, we are creatures in the presence of ineffable Mystery above all creatures and beyond all telling.”
Have you ever experienced this? Suddenly you are “alone with the Alone.” When we become aware of the astounding feelings of love that the Almighty has for us, it is more than mere knowledge. How long have we sought refuge in “hand-clapping liturgies and cerebral Scripture studies,” only to receive “knowledge without appreciation, facts without enthusiasm?” Just as I commented on a brother’s blog recently, I have realized, a few years ago (maybe longer than that), that reading the Bible from cover to cover every year is not exactly a helpful exercise. Some would say that just reading the Bible, whether you take in any of it or not, is helpful. I won’t argue that, as there has always been a kind of mystical “aliveness” to the Scriptures, and reading them could never do harm. However, much more benefit is derived from delving deeper into a small portion than trying to read five or six chapters every day, and trudging relentlessly through Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy, and Chronicles. If I may be so bold, eventually, it all begins to seem insignificant; simply a chore that must be done.
“But when the night is bad and my nerves are shattered and Infinity speaks, when God Almighty shares through his Son the depth of his feelings for me, when his love flashes into my soul and when I am overtaken by Mystery, it is kairos–the decisive inbreak of God in this saving moment of my personal history.” I am utterly alone (at least in terms of humanity) in this moment. I have two choices. I can “escape into skepticism and intellectualism or with radical amazement I surrender in faith to the truth of my belovedness.”
I experienced a bit of this last night, as Jacob was preaching about Jesus being King. I have not, perhaps ever, lived as though Jesus is my King. I fell on my knees in repentance and surrender. Jesus is my King, whether I acknowledge it or not. I cannot “make” him King, for he IS King. But I can surrender to his Kingly authority, and that is what I intend to do. But I must do it constantly, for my flesh will insist on rebelling. At the same time, I confess, too, that even in that realization, I never felt anything but love from my God! Isn’t that amazing? Jesus came to me, just as he did to his disciples all those years ago, and even though I had issues, even though I have rebelled, he loved me in his chastisement; he cared for me as he gave me instruction.
“His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant.
You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much.
Enter into the joy of your master.'”
Ah, Lord! What are you doing to me? How do I respond to this? Last night, all I could do was fall to my knees and surrender to you, as I realized my plight of rebellion. Even in these recent years, as much as you have drawn me into this amazing prayer ministry, I have been rebelling against your Kingship. I cannot enjoy your Kingdom without submitting, surrendering to you as King. But how? How do I do this? I can only rely on you to show me, to make real to me the verse that I chose over a decade ago as my “life verse.” Teach me your way, O LORD, that I may walk in your truth; unite my heart to fear your name. (Psalm 86:11) Yes, Lord. Unite my heart, for it is divided. Even now, it is divided among too many things. There is only One. There is only You. Be my all in all; be my one true One. Teach me, Jesus; teach me. I am surrendered; I submit. You are my King. It is You, only You.
I pray for this day. I pray for the things we need to get done this afternoon. May our travel around town be safe and smooth. May we experience joy as we have lunch and shop for a few items. As we choose our Christmas ornament for this year, let it not be a seemingly random choice, but something with meaning that drives us closer to this mysterious intimacy with our King. I pray for restful fun as we take in a movie this afternoon, and then more good rest at home this evening, as we prepare for the week of work ahead.
As we go into this work week, may we love you, follow Christ, and share the Kingdom.
Your grace is amazing. Your love is overwhelming. You are my King.
Jesus is King. He just is. His Kingdom is coming, ready or not.
Grace and peace, friends.