Opposites Attract

Outsiders. Insiders.

Members. Non-members.

People of color. White people.

Progressives. Conservatives.

Men. Women.

Clergy. Laity.

How easy it is to draw up opposites. The minute you read these pairs of words, you unconsciously found your place. We can’t help ourselves. Culture, practice, family affiliation, and society all work together to help us understand who we are…and who we aren’t.

In Paul’s letter to the Ephesians, the issue is circumcision verses uncircumcision. Either you were or you weren’t. Females were simply lumped in with their male family members. If you were circumcised, you were a Jew. If you weren’t, you were a gentile.

One group gets in, one group stays out. But then Jesus came, and all the ideas about opposites were obliterated:

Ephesians 2 (The Message)

16-18 Christ brought us together through his death on the cross. The Cross got us to embrace, and that was the end of the hostility. Christ came and preached peace to you outsiders and peace to us insiders. He treated us as equals, and so made us equals. Through him we both share the same Spirit and have equal access to the Father.

This teaching was revolutionary. The centuries-long practice of maintaining strict distances between opposing groups was suddenly gone, and a new paradigm began to take hold. No one is a stranger or an outsider in Jesus’ world. Everyone belongs here, and this place was designed and built by God himself:

19-22 That’s plain enough, isn’t it? You’re no longer wandering exiles. This kingdom of faith is now your home country. You’re no longer strangers or outsiders. You belong here, with as much right to the name Christian as anyone. God is building a home. He’s using us all—irrespective of how we got here—in what he is building. He used the apostles and prophets for the foundation. Now he’s using you, fitting you in brick by brick, stone by stone, with Christ Jesus as the cornerstone that holds all the parts together.

With Christ as our cornerstone, we will hold all of these parts together in a holy temple.

We see it taking shape day after day—a holy temple built by God, all of us built into it, a temple in which God is quite at home.

We see it taking shape day after day….or do we?

Insiders. Outsiders

Non-members. Members.

White people. People of color.

Conservatives. Progressives.

Men. Women.

Laity. Clergy.

We still have a long way to go, haven’t we?

God is Quite at Home by Michelle Robertson

Multiplication

I came across a math problem on social media this week. I thought I would give it a go, even though I am terrible at math. It was a multiplication problem, and the trick was to figure out where the parentheses should go. But that turned out to not matter, because it was a series of steps that concluded with “times zero.” So no matter how you added, multiplied, or subtracted the other numbers, “times zero” resulted in zero. Anytime you try to multiply something by nothing, you get nothing. (Cue Billy Preston.)

Many of us are familiar with the stories of the multiplication of the loaves and fishes in the New Testament. All four gospels record Jesus’ feeding the multitudes of people with a small portion of barley loaves and fish. This story is so important, it is the only story besides the resurrection that is recorded in every gospel.

But did you know that a similar story appears in the Old Testament?

Our scripture from 2 Kings today tells a story about Elisha that sounds very familiar:

2 Kings 4 (New Revised Standard Version)

42 A man came from Baal-shalishah, bringing food from the first fruits to the man of God: twenty loaves of barley and fresh ears of grain in his sack. Elisha said, “Give it to the people and let them eat.” 

43 But his servant said, “How can I set this before a hundred people?” So he repeated, “Give it to the people and let them eat, for thus says the Lord, ‘They shall eat and have some left.’” 44 He set it before them, they ate, and had some left, according to the word of the Lord.

There are several things that jump out in this passage. The man presented food from the first fruits to Elisha, who was a man of God. The phrase first fruits refers to the first and best part of the harvest in the amount of ten percent. This tells us that the giver was obedient to the tithing law. He brought one-tenth of his harvest to Elisha as the Law instructed. Somehow this man understood that you can’t multiply something from nothing, and so he brought his small offering with the understanding that it would be multiplied.

Do you tithe? This ancient practice is as relevant today as it was in those times. The people of God who give generously of their time, talent, and tithe can tell you what blessings flow from this practice.

And we have to pay attention to Elisha’s response. His instruction to his servant was to give it all away. He didn’t take a portion for himself and then instruct the left-overs be distributed. No, he is confident that his needs will be met if the people are served first.

When you receive an unexpected blessing of abundance, what do you do with it? Do you hoard it, bury it in the ground, bank it, or do you share it? God’s word affirms his desire that we should serve others before we serve ourselves. We can do this with confidence, knowing that Jesus’ example of washing his disciples’ feet was a lesson to us about how to have a servant’s heart. Where is God calling you to put someone or something first?

Finally, this passage assures us that God always makes good on his promises. Elisha was standing on the word of God when he made the crazy suggestion to feed one hundred people with twenty loaves of bread and a few heads of grain. He probably didn’t even count what had been set in front of him. He didn’t do the math to figure out how small to cut the slices, like a worried mother would when too many people show up at the birthday party. No, he just gave it all in the firm belief that God would multiply it, simply because God said he would. And not only did everyone get enough to eat, there were left-overs!

Where is God calling you to stand on his promises? Where is he nudging you to let go of the little that you have so that you can receive the abundance he is waiting to deliver? When we let go of the things we hold onto the tightest, such as our resources, our time, our fears, our past history, our mistakes, our pre-conceived notions, etc., it is only then that we are open to what God is trying to give us.

We live our lives out of a theology of scarcity or a theology of abundance. Jesus came so that you might have life, and have it ABUNDANTLY. God invites us to trust him today and let go…and receive.

Abundance by Kathy Schumacher

Watch Out

Last week I went for a run down a wide path that borders a golf course. I spotted a sign placed beneath a row of tall trees that warned, “WATCH OUT! Aggressive nesting hawks overhead!” Well, that will catch your attention! It was hard to keep my eyes on my feet (I am well known for tripping on a run) and on the trees overhead as I watched for these alleged aggressive hawks. I’m happy to report that I did not encounter any on the run, but it did make me very alert until I got out into the open again. Then I began to wonder what happened that made the golf course post such a sign….yikes!

In our passage in Jeremiah today, the prophet begins with a very clear warning:

Jeremiah 23 (Common English Bible)

23 Watch out, you shepherds who destroy and scatter the sheep of my pasture, declares the Lord. This is what the Lord, the God of Israel, proclaims about the shepherds who “tend to” my people: You are the ones who have scattered my flock and driven them away. You haven’t attended to their needs, so I will take revenge on you for the terrible things you have done to them, declares the Lord. 

This is far worse than attacking hawks. God ain’t playin’.

I myself will gather the few remaining sheep from all the countries where I have driven them. I will bring them back to their pasture, and they will be fruitful and multiply. I will place over them shepherds who care for them. Then they will no longer be afraid or dread harm, nor will any be missing, declares the Lord.

As scary as this warning sounds, it is actually a hopeful message from the prophet. Let’s put it into context. Biblegateway.com offers this word of explaination:

The prophet Jeremiah saw Israel morally disintegrating and being destroyed militarily by its enemies. He saw Babylon attack Jerusalem in 586 BC and many of its people exiled to foreign lands. According to the NIV Quest Study Bible, Jeremiah’s grim prophecies, in both poetry and prose, continually warned Judah about God’s approaching judgment because of the people’s constant, willful disobedience.

Yet intermingled with all the dark messages were words of hope about Judah’s future redemption. Watch for Jeremiah’s encouragement—prophecies that are still being fulfilled today whenever sinful hearts are transformed by God.

And so the warning becomes a promise that things will be restored according to God’s plan for restoration:

Promise of a righteous and just king

The time is coming, declares the Lord, when I will raise up a righteous descendant from David’s line, and he will rule as a wise king. He will do what is just and right in the land. During his lifetime, Judah will be saved and Israel will live in safety. And his name will be The Lord Is Our Righteousness.

And then came Jesus.

God will always restore his children to righteousness. When those who are chosen to lead fail to protect their flocks, they will be removed and replaced. This is a vital warning today to all of our leaders, including our elected officials, bishops, pastors, Bible Study teachers, etc. Shepherding the people of God is serious business, and those who are greedy, immoral, or abuse their power for personal gain will receive the wrath of the Lord. And the sheep need to behave themselves, too.

Whenever our sins put us in a season of destruction or judgment, remember this word of hope. God is actively working in our situation to bring us to full restoration…you can count on that! Jesus is the restoration-giver. Open your heart and let him in, and you will be saved. He will give you a future with hope.

Hawk Cloud by Bonnie Bennett

Loyal Love

Think about the loves of your life. Perhaps they include a spouse, a partner, a sibling, your college, a sports team, a parent, a child, a friend, or even your church. We were created to enjoy many levels of love. The love a parent has for a child is not comparable to the love they have for a favorite co-worker. The love for a spouse is deeper and richer than the love for a friend, in most cases. And each of these levels of love come with a corresponding level of loyalty. I am loyal to my university, but that is nowhere near the loyalty I feel toward my family.

Did you ever stop to consider God’s love and loyalty toward you? Most God-fearing followers seek to be loyal to the God they love, but did you realize that God feels that same loyalty toward his people?

Take David, for example. God was fiercely loyal to David:

Psalm 89 (Common English Bible)

I discovered my servant David.
    I anointed him with my holy oil.
21 My hand will sustain him—
    yes, my arm will strengthen him!
22 No enemy will oppress him;
    no wicked person will make him suffer.
23 I will crush all his foes in front of him.
    I will strike down all those who hate him.


24 My faithfulness and my loyal love will be with him.
    He will be strengthened by my name.
25 I will set his hand on the sea.
    I will set his strong hand on the rivers.
26 He will cry out to me:
    “You are my father,
    my God, the rock of my salvation.”
27 Yes, I’ll make him the one born first—
    I’ll make him the high king of all earth’s kings.
28 I will always guard my loyal love toward him.
    My covenant with him will last forever.
29 I will establish his dynasty for all time.
    His throne will last as long as heaven does.

Now comes the big “but.” God clearly requires that his loyalty be met with obedience. Even in his faithfulness to David, he would not tolerate disobedience in the next generation:


30 But if his children ever abandon my Instruction,
    stop following my rules—
31         if they treat my statutes like dirt,
        stop keeping my commandments—
32     then I will punish their sin with a stick,
        and I will punish their wrongdoing with a severe beating.

But this warning comes with an explanation of the extent of his love. His punishment will not erase the covenant. His reaction to wrongdoing will not cancel out what he has sworn to do, which is to bestow loyal love to David:


33 But even then I won’t withdraw my loyal love from him.
    I won’t betray my faithfulness.
34     I won’t break my covenant.
    I won’t renege on what crossed my lips.
35 By my own holiness I’ve sworn one thing:
    I will not lie to David.
36     His dynasty will last forever.
    His throne will be like the sun, always before me.

Jesus was born of David’s lineage, and so we know that this promise was kept, even though David himself broke the commandments. Jesus is like the sun, always before God, and like the moon, a faithful witness in the sky that reminds us of God’s unshakeable love for us all.
37     It will be securely established forever;
    like the moon, a faithful witness in the sky
.

Go back now and re-read the psalm. Where you see David’s name, replace it with your own. God makes the same commitment of loyal love to you today. Thanks be to God!

Loyal Love by Michelle Robertson

When You’re Rushed Off Your Feet

I have a strange affinity for a BBC show called East Enders. It was one of my mother’s favorite programs, and that somehow rubbed off on me. East Enders is set in a culturally diverse working class neighborhood in the East End of London. Common locations on the show include the local pub, the open-air market, the launderette, and the mini-mart. Characters work long, hard hours in these places, and a common expression when they get too busy at work is “I was rushed off my feet.”

Friends, the entire Outer Banks is rushed off their feet right now and everyone is TIRED. The easing of pandemic restrictions right at the beginning of our summer season brought us very long shifts and very little down time. On top of that is a state-wide worker shortage that has taken its toll on local business owners. October never looked so good.

I have been visiting with my two daughters this week and they, too, are rushed off their feet. One has an active 22-month old, and the other has a 6-year-old boy and 4-year-old twins. Watching them in the daily practice of motherhood is exhausting!

Jesus and the apostles were in the same boat one time when they were tired and needed a break. Or at least they tried to take a break…

Mark 6 (The Message)

30-31 The apostles then rendezvoused with Jesus and reported on all that they had done and taught. Jesus said, “Come off by yourselves; let’s take a break and get a little rest.” For there was constant coming and going. They didn’t even have time to eat.

32-34 So they got in the boat and went off to a remote place by themselves. Someone saw them going and the word got around. From the surrounding towns people went out on foot, running, and got there ahead of them.

I feel for our Lord and his friends! Sometimes you just can’t catch a break. I have friends who own a restaurant and this is exactly what Sunday brunch feels like to them. When they first opened, they invited me to do a blessing of their business. I promised to pray for them every Sunday as I drove past their building on my way to church. One summer Sunday, after a nerve-wracking, record-breaking Sunday brunch service, they jokingly asked me if I could skip praying for them for a week….they were rushed off their feet!

When Jesus arrived, he saw this huge crowd. At the sight of them, his heart broke—like sheep with no shepherd they were. He went right to work teaching them.

But when you love what you do and the people you do it with (and for), you just drop your chin to your chest and press on.

Jesus’ compassion for his sheep was tremendous. But remember this….Jesus is the Messiah, and you are not. When life presses in too hard, come off by yourself and be quiet for a moment. Take a break. Even if it is just in the car during your commute, or those few moments in the morning before the first child awakes. Rest is as much an attitude as it is a cessation of work, so grab a few moments of peace when you can.

Eventually, the season turns into winter and the crowds go home. Eventually, the little ones become adults and leave the house. Eventually, you age out of your profession and retire. Until then, take a deep breath and enjoy a moment of gratitude for life as it is in this moment. You will never pass this way again.

In the Moment by Michelle Robertson

Undignified

Would you do something that felt uncomfortable in order to serve the Lord? Would you engage in something that others didn’t understand if God sent you to do it? How far would you go in potentially embarrassing yourself if you thought God was calling you to perform a task outside your comfort zone?

Most of us never face this question. The closest we may come is the discomfort of doing mission work in a foreign place, volunteering to do something new, or the embarrassment of raising our hands in worship when others around us are wooden and stiff. In my decades of ministry in a church, the only time I actually risked humiliation was when I preached sermons that bombed (several times!), or when I made a statement in an administrative meeting that wasn’t well received (several times!). Oh, and there was the time that I accidentally introduced a couple at the end of a wedding as “Jim and Kerry Whale (her maiden name)” when I was supposed to say “Jim and Kerry Gentry.” Whoops!

David went a lot farther in his willingness to appear undignified before the Lord. He just couldn’t help himself. His complete and total joy in returning the Ark of the Covenant to Jerusalem overcame him, and his spontaneous dancing revealed more than just his happiness:

2 Samuel 6 (New International Version)

12 Now King David was told, “The Lord has blessed the household of Obed-Edom and everything he has, because of the ark of God.” So David went to bring up the ark of God from the house of Obed-Edom to the City of David with rejoicing.13 When those who were carrying the ark of the Lord had taken six steps, he sacrificed a bull and a fattened calf.14 Wearing a linen ephod, David was dancing before the Lord with all his might, 15 while he and all Israel were bringing up the ark of the Lord with shouts and the sound of trumpets.

16 As the ark of the Lord was entering the City of David, Michal daughter of Saul watched from a window. And when she saw King David leaping and dancing before the Lord, she despised him in her heart.

Permit me to be irreverent here for a moment. Every time I read this passage I remember a scene from Seinfeld where Elaine is exuberantly dancing. She is terrible! She is awkward and uncoordinated, and it is hilarious because she thinks that she has smooth moves. I imagine David dancing like this, with his little linen loincloth flapping in the wind. Both of these images are a little cringe-worthy! Michal surely did not appreciate her husband’s jubilant moves.

17 They brought the ark of the Lord and set it in its place inside the tent that David had pitched for it, and David sacrificed burnt offerings and fellowship offerings before the Lord. 18 After he had finished sacrificing the burnt offerings and fellowship offerings, he blessed the people in the name of the Lord Almighty. 19 Then he gave a loaf of bread, a cake of dates and a cake of raisins to each person in the whole crowd of Israelites, both men and women. And all the people went to their homes.

20 When David returned home to bless his household, Michal daughter of Saul came out to meet him and said, “How the king of Israel has distinguished himself today, going around half-naked in full view of the slave girls of his servants as any vulgar fellow would!”

The conflict between Michal and David is apparent. She was the youngest daughter of his enemy Saul, and she loved David with a pure heart when he was the national hero. But when he had to flee from Saul’s hatred and wrath she was given to another man, even though she was still married to David. When David returned, she was torn away from that man and given back to David. Michal had no control over her life. In addition, she was an idol worshipper. And so here she is, watching David debase himself before a Lord she does not recognize. We can understand her discomfort with the whole thing.

21 David said to Michal, “It was before the Lord, who chose me rather than your father or anyone from his house when he appointed me ruler over the Lord’s people Israel—I will celebrate before the Lord. 22 I will become even more undignified than this, and I will be humiliated in my own eyes. But by these slave girls you spoke of, I will be held in honor.”

David stands his ground. He knows who called him to this moment in time, and he worships the Lord in gladness and joy. God delivered a great victory to Israel and David is now the king….and all who worship God, including the slave girls, recognize the magnitude of what has happened.

23 And Michal daughter of Saul had no children to the day of her death.

And so they separate, and the marriage is not revisited. Michal dies childless.

There may come a time in your life when God calls you to do something uncomfortable. You may feel the urge to witness to a stranger on a plane, take an unpopular position in a debate, give generously of your resources, etc. Wherever you feel God is leading you, GO and serve God with all your might. Yes, you may feel some embarrassment, but David reminds us that the only audience that counts is the Audience of One. When we please God, nobody else matters.

Downpour by Victor Miles

Webs of Guilt

Have you ever done something terribly wrong and then suffered from the paranoia of getting caught? When we break the rules and commit a sin, we discover that the fear of being found out is often worse than the punishment that follows. It is a relief to finally confess our misdeeds and be done with it…the guilt is expunged and the anxiety over being discovered is finally over.

In our scripture today, King Herod is overcome with his guilt. He killed John the Baptist because of a young girl’s demand. His paranoia is so great, he believes that a miracle-worker named Jesus was actually John, returned from the dead:

Mark 6 (The Message)

14 King Herod heard of all this, for by this time the name of Jesus was on everyone’s lips. He said, “This has to be John the Baptizer come back from the dead—that’s why he’s able to work miracles!”

15 Others said, “No, it’s Elijah.”

Others said, “He’s a prophet, just like one of the old-time prophets.”

16 But Herod wouldn’t budge: “It’s John, sure enough. I cut off his head, and now he’s back, alive.”

Guilt will do that to you. It can drive you crazy to hold onto a secret or to have to cover up a crime or indiscretion. One lie leads to another lie until we are caught in a web of deception. Herod’s guilt was great. He actually liked John. He had given John special treatment as a “holy man,” and respected the fact that John was bold enough to speak the truth:

17-20 Herod was the one who had ordered the arrest of John, put him in chains, and sent him to prison at the nagging of Herodias, his brother Philip’s wife. For John had provoked Herod by naming his relationship with Herodias “adultery.” Herodias, smoldering with hate, wanted to kill him, but didn’t dare because Herod was in awe of John. Convinced that he was a holy man, he gave him special treatment. Whenever he listened to him he was miserable with guilt—and yet he couldn’t stay away. Something in John kept pulling him back.

“Something in John kept pulling [Herod] back.” This is a sad statement. The power of the Holy Spirit working though John had almost broken down the walls that Herod had erected around himself. Herod felt the guilt that came with the truth John had exposed, and he couldn’t stay away. He was almost ready to turn it all around until…

21-22 But a portentous day arrived when Herod threw a birthday party, inviting all the brass and bluebloods in Galilee. Herodias’s daughter entered the banquet hall and danced for the guests. She charmed Herod and the guests.

22-23 The king said to the girl, “Ask me anything. I’ll give you anything you want.” Carried away, he kept on, “I swear, I’ll split my kingdom with you if you say so!”

24 She went back to her mother and said, “What should I ask for?”

“Ask for the head of John the Baptizer.”

25 Excited, she ran back to the king and said, “I want the head of John the Baptizer served up on a platter. And I want it now!”

His lustful eye for the young daughter of Herodias was his undoing. Trapped now by his hastily spoken words, he had no choice but to act on his extravagantly stupid vow to give her whatever she wanted.

26-29 That sobered the king up fast. But unwilling to lose face with his guests, he caved in and let her have her wish. The king sent the executioner off to the prison with orders to bring back John’s head. He went, cut off John’s head, brought it back on a platter, and presented it to the girl, who gave it to her mother. When John’s disciples heard about this, they came and got the body and gave it a decent burial.

How sad. It would have been so much better for Herod to accept John’s truth, repent of his sins, and receive forgiveness. But instead, Herod ends up beheading a man that he truly admired….a man who could have saved Herod from himself.

If there is anything to be learned here, it is that guilt can be destructive. Many of us carry guilt around for years, and it eats away at our self-esteem and our peace. We are caught in its sticky web and we can’t get free.

Do you have guilt that is pulling you down? Get rid of it. Take it to Jesus and let him absolve you. He will throw that sin away, as far as the East is from the West, and you will never be burdened by it again.

Jesus was indeed a miracle-maker. Let him make a miracle in you today.

Deception’s Web

Plumb Line

My house is located on the Outer Banks in North Carolina. It is a little like the Mother Goose nursery rhyme about the Crooked Man:

There was a crooked man, and he walked a crooked mile,
He found a crooked sixpence against a crooked stile;
He bought a crooked cat which caught a crooked mouse,
And they all lived together in a little crooked house.

Decades of settling on a point of land that occasionally gets BOMBARDED by hurricane-force winds has made my house a little crooked. Doors don’t close properly and the floors slant enough to roll a marble from one side to the other.

I am quite sure that the original builder used levels, measuring tools, and plumb lines to ensure that the walls and floors were once straight. But the years have taken their toll, and we live in a little crooked house now.

A plumb line is an ancient carpentry tool that ensures a straight wall. A plumb line is made of a simple string with a weight on one end, usually with a pointed tip. When you hang the line downward, the weight pulls the string taut and creates a straight, vertical line. That provides the guide for hanging a wall straight.

In the seventh chapter of Amos, God uses a plumb line to warn Israel that disaster is about to ensue because they could not keep their lives in a straight line:

Amos 7 (Common English Bible)

This is what the Lord showed me: The Lord was standing by a wall, with a plumb line in his hand. The Lord said to me, “Amos, what do you see?”

“A plumb line,” I said.

Then the Lord said,
“See, I am setting a plumb line
    in the middle of my people Israel.
        I will never again forgive them.


The shrines of Isaac will be made desolate,
            and the holy places of Israel will be laid waste,
            and I will rise against the house of Jeroboam with the sword.”

Israel’s apostasy finally caught up with them. The people had originally hung pretty straight along the standard of God’s law and God’s covenant, but over time they began to wander away and build false idols in the holy places. Instead of following God, they elected to follow corrupt kings like Jeroboam, who did not worship God.

Where do you think God is setting a plumb line for the world today? Do we still measure up to the standards of God’s law and God’s covenant, or have we tilted too far and become crooked? Where in your personal life have you slanted away from your relationship with God? Have you reached out for ungodly things? Are you slipping away?

A plumb line is not only a measure of uprightness, but it can also be a lifeline that you grasp when you feel yourself slipping way. Have you lost your footing? Take ahold of God’s righteousness and straighten up! Disaster will be avoided if you get right with the Lord today.

Jesus is our plumb line, and he can help you correct your ways. Thank God for the cross, which brings us all into the safety of clean lines and clear hearts.

Sunrise Lines by Michelle Robertson

When Justice Fails

What do you do when the unjust appear to be winning? Have you ever been involved in a legal struggle where the guilty party prevailed? How did your divorce go? Many of us can share a story about a time when justice was not served.

Recently in the news we read that the Pennsylvania Supreme Court overturned the verdict of the Bill Cosby trial due to a technicality from an earlier proceeding in 2005. We also have been reading about pop singer Brittany Spear’s attempt to free herself from an oppressive conservatorship. Regardless of our conclusions on these particular matters, it is a fact that justice does not always serve the innocent. When that happens, what can we do?

The Bible makes it clear that there are different standards of righteousness. The world’s standard falls far short of God’s standard. There will be times here on earth when the guilty ones literally get away with murder. There will be times when the innocent are harmed in a judicial proceeding. But take heart, for the One who comes to rule the nations will deal with all those who live on the earth. Righteousness will prevail according to HIS standard:

Psalm 24 (New Revised Standard Version)

The earth is the Lord’s and all that is in it,
    the world, and those who live in it;
for he has founded it on the seas,
    and established it on the rivers.

Who shall ascend the hill of the Lord?
    And who shall stand in his holy place?
Those who have clean hands and pure hearts,
    who do not lift up their souls to what is false,
    and do not swear deceitfully.
They will receive blessing from the Lord,
    and vindication from the God of their salvation.

When the world is unjust, our vindication comes from the Lord. Our job is to ensure that we can climb God’s holy hill because we are the ones who have not lifted our souls to falsehoods nor sworn deceitfully. Only the ones with clean hands and pure hearts will stand in God’s holy place.

Such is the company of those who seek him,
    who seek the face of the God of Jacob. Selah

God promises peace to those who seek him. He invites us to turn to him in our hearts. When we do this, salvation is offered. His glory will dwell in our land.

When God’s righteousness prevails, all are judged accordingly. His courtroom is one where steadfast love and faithfulness preside. The truth is that we are all guilty of something, but in God’s courtroom, righteousness and peace join forces and pardon is given to everyone who confesses and repents. Behold, the King of glory comes!

Lift up your heads, O gates!
    and be lifted up, O ancient doors!
    that the King of glory may come in.
Who is the King of glory?
    The Lord, strong and mighty,
    the Lord, mighty in battle.
Lift up your heads, O gates!
    and be lifted up, O ancient doors!
    that the King of glory may come in.
10 Who is this King of glory?
    The Lord of hosts,
    he is the King of glory.Selah

God will always offer what is good to those who seek him with all their hearts. He clears the path of righteousness for us to follow. This is not the case in the secular world, where the rich people win and those with power oppress those who have none.

So if you have been dealt with unfairly in your life, take heart. The Lord’s salvation is at hand! Listen as he speaks to the faithful, and do not be dismayed. What happens here is just temporary, but God’s righteousness lasts forever.

Rainbow Cloud by Susie Fitch-Slater

Freedom Through Adoption

My brother-in-law was adopted as a baby and knew nothing about his birth family until recently. Out of curiosity, he began a search of his ancestry and discovered that, lo and behold, he has a sister. They were able to connect and finally met a few years ago. Now they make regular trips to each other’s home as they discover who they are in the context of who they were. One look at a picture of them with their cheeks pressed together assures us of what the DNA confirmed: their large, beautiful eyes are a perfect matched set. This is the evidence of their blood tie.

In the first chapter of Ephesians, Paul writes about adoption. He contends that it was God’s plan all along to adopt us into his family through Jesus Christ:

Ephesians 1 (The Message)


3-6 
How blessed is God! And what a blessing he is! He’s the Father of our Master, Jesus Christ, and takes us to the high places of blessing in him. Long before he laid down earth’s foundations, he had us in mind, had settled on us as the focus of his love, to be made whole and holy by his love. Long, long ago he decided to adopt us into his family through Jesus Christ. (What pleasure he took in planning this!) He wanted us to enter into the celebration of his lavish gift-giving by the hand of his beloved Son.

The Message translation is exuberant in calling this a “celebration of God’s lavish gift-giving by the hand of his beloved Son.” Jesus’ activity on the cross is all paperwork that was needed to finalize our adoptions. His death and resurrection enable us to enjoy the freedom of knowing that our sins are permanently forgiven, and we can be a part of God’s long-range plan:

7-10 Because of the sacrifice of the Messiah, his blood poured out on the altar of the Cross, we’re a free people—free of penalties and punishments chalked up by all our misdeeds. And not just barely free, either. Abundantly free! He thought of everything, provided for everything we could possibly need, letting us in on the plans he took such delight in making. He set it all out before us in Christ, a long-range plan in which everything would be brought together and summed up in him, everything in deepest heaven, everything on planet earth.

Do you know who you are? You are an adopted child of God. Our brother Jesus has been watching out for us since we were conceived. What does it mean to you to know that you are part of God’s plan and his purpose?

11-12 It’s in Christ that we find out who we are and what we are living for. Long before we first heard of Christ and got our hopes up, he had his eye on us, had designs on us for glorious living, part of the overall purpose he is working out in everything and everyone.

For me, it means freedom. I am free to love, free to seek God, free to find forgiveness, and free from sin and death. Being part of the family of God allows me to be a part of what’s coming next, and I can’t wait.

13-14 It’s in Christ that you, once you heard the truth and believed it (this Message of your salvation), found yourselves home free—signed, sealed, and delivered by the Holy Spirit. This down payment from God is the first installment on what’s coming, a reminder that we’ll get everything God has planned for us, a praising and glorious life.

Do you know this freedom? If you don’t, you are just one prayer away from having it all. When we confess Christ as Lord, put our whole trust in his grace, and repent of our sins, we receive eternal salvation. Is today the day?

Welcome to the family.

Sunset Freedom by Michelle Robertson