Forget the past

A troubling past. Moving into a new year, with wonder and worry, excitement and apprehension, we may glance at our past as it stares at us in the rearview mirror of life. Life may have you guessing what next, in this strange and sundry season. This would be reminiscent of those living in Babylonian Captivity. Many would have felt humiliated, wondering if God’s blessing was still on the Jews. Especially as they reflect on the now tarnished past. What’s become the pomp of life? Ceremony is something many of us just finished laboring over. 

Ever leaned over to your spouse or sibling and asked, Why do we do this each year? I recently read an explanation for Tió de Nadal, a face painted, stick-legged log that is beaten by kids for candy and presents. Then burned, ashes kept for warding off bad spirits. Should be a tax-day ritual. Why are we doing this again? This is where Jews were. Isaiah 54:7-8~For a brief moment I abandoned you, but with deep compassion, I will bring you back. In a surge of anger I hid my face from you for a moment, but with everlasting kindness, I will have compassion on you, says the Lord your Redeemer (יְהֹוָה Yĕhovah גָּאַל ga’al). (NIV)

Exile, meant to reshape the people’s hearts and lives, but sadly many had just fallen into a routine. When suddenly in 539 BC,  Cyrus the Persian king, conquered Babylon almost overnight. Rather than making life more difficult for the Jews, King Cyrus decreed they could return to their homeland and rebuild their Temple. Ezra 1:1-4~ (ESV) In 537 BC, Zerubbabel leads the first wave of pilgrims, back to Judah. Zechariah 4:6~So he said to me, “This is the word of the Lord to Zerubbabel: ‘Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit,’ says the Lord Almighty. (NIV) 

This was not an easy choice to make. It’d take a true resolution, as it was a four-month journey on foot, westward. Moreover, almost all of those returning had actually been born in captivity. They were going to a home, never they’d never known. Life’s funny like that, as we return to our parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles homes, so much is just as we remember. The people, the smells, everything where we left it. Only then we notice a few more laugh lines, hairs marked by father time’s wisdom, though the neighborhood seems to be less populated. With new cities cropping up around ears and chins. Each year we show up, never quite knowing what to expect, then one day when we arrive, they seem to have gotten old or even frail. This is what the Jews must have been facing. Pilgrims and strangers in a familiar land, facing much work, needing more resolve.

Going & Doing

As the New Year began, many of us reflected on how to make the most of the year ahead. What things or plans might we put-in-play to make this year our best, and how might we impact our future by adjusting a few things here in our present. This is part of the groundwork we lay for our 21-Days of Prayer and Fasting. Asking for God to guide and empower us to change, to share with us in our longings and to make His presence known in our lives and our requests. 

This desire was also true 24 centuries ago in the days of Nehemiah. The Jews had served their time and been released from incarceration. It was time served for their lack of living under the Abrahamic covenant. This exile was meant to rehabilitate God’s children, living in His holy city. If you’ve ever wondered why Jerusalem? Ol Mo in his final instructions for living in Canan warned Israel of some of life’s many pitfalls. Deuteronomy 17:14-20, Ol Mo the prophet predicted a time when Israel would want a king so it would be like other nations. So the Lord gave the following commands for these kings to follow: 1—Be one of you, 2—no personal accumulation of horses (representing power, war, pomp, and pageantry like other nations) 3—no multiple marriages 4—no accumulation of silver and gold; 5—the king must make his own copy of the Law and study and observe it every day. WOW, that sets up nicely for a different sermon.

It was not until David became king that Jerusalem was revealed to be the place. David chose to make his capital there, and his son Solomon built the Temple on its holy hill. Psalm 78:68-70.5~(NIV) Israel rose to its pinnacle of success at this time, but already the seeds of collapse had been sown. Before we blame Solomon, who broke these laws, parading his opulence, we must remember Ol Mo’s words came roughly four and half centuries earlier. No wonder God would eventually allow Jerusalem to be destroyed and its inhabitants carried off into captivity. With the city in ruin, and in need of gentrification consider with me this week: Building A New You — Going and Doing: Troubling, Arrested, A Knock.

Father Abraham

The Promise of Grace is Received by FAITH. Romans 4:13-25 Abe lived centuries before the Law was given, God’s promise was waiting for the fullness of time, Jesus Christ would come. In this new season of Fall, we wait, just as the descendants of Father Abraham waited. I know that waiting is not easy. Some are waiting for kids to reconnect or respond to God, Some are waiting on test results, lower cancer counts, Some are waiting for God to bring change in their spouse or marriage. Waiting on God timing is not easy. We wait a lot in rooms made just for our waiting. Sitting in uncomfortable chairs, with desperate longing we wait. I want you to know that one thing we do not have to wait on is the promise of God made to Abraham. We have been given a wonderful gift who counsels us, in Him we are eternally connected to the Everlasting Father, He is even our Prince of Peace. Do you know Jesus? 

John 1:4~In him was life, and the life was the light of men. (ESV) We all need to take time this winter season and remember that grace abounds because of Jesus Christ. Remembering God’s promise. Romans 4:16~Therefore, the promise comes by faith, so that it may be by grace and may be guaranteed to all Abraham’s offspring—not only to those who are of the law but also to those who have the faith of Abraham. He is the father of us all. (NIV) I know that things may not be where we want them this winter season, waiting for God to move, but by grace through faith in Jesus Christ, we have received His power to live life. Acts 17:28~for in him we live and move and have our being; as even some of your own poets have said, For we are indeed his offspring. (ESV) What Does God’s Grace Promise? God’s grace freely given by Christ promises to us everything we shall need to be sufficient for life, for death, and to live forever with Christ. 

Our Takeaway: In Christ, we are Abraham’s children. That means that we are the heirs of the promises of God. The word promise occurs more than 50 times in the KJV Bible. These are promises to overcome, to receive life, health, and wholeness. The first promise is to Eve, when sin crept in, and created enmity. The last promise is in Revelation 22:20~He who testifies to these things says, “Yes, I am coming soon.” Amen. Come, Lord Jesus. (NIV) As you pray with me, why not invite Jesus Christ to come into your situation, after all, it is a new year.