What Does God Require?

7365120932_b80c635684_nWhat does God require?  That is a great question. I suppose if you would ask 10 people, you might get 10 different answers.  Some would have really complicated answers.  Some wouldn’t really know.  I think many would come up with an answer that mentions loving people.  That’s at least part of the answer.  Other’s would say that we should please God in the things we do.  Again, that would be part of the answer.

What I want to look at this morning is a scripture from one of the minor prophets – Micah. God is speaking to his people once again and in Micah 6:8 we find these words.

No, O people, the Lord has told you what is good,
    and this is what he requires of you:
to do what is right, to love mercy,
    and to walk humbly with your God. 

Earlier in Micah, we find God chastising the people Israel – in the introduction of the book, we find that these words were spoken to both Jerusalem and Samaria – the capitals of the southern and northern kingdoms of Israel.

God was angry at Israel because they were acting unjustly.  Listen to these words of Micah from chapter 3:

Listen to me, you leaders of Israel!
    You hate justice and twist all that is right.
10 You are building Jerusalem
    on a foundation of murder and corruption.
11 You rulers make decisions based on bribes;
    you priests teach God’s laws only for a price;
you prophets won’t prophesy unless you are paid.
    Yet all of you claim to depend on the Lord.
“No harm can come to us,” you say,
    “for the Lord is here among us.”

Talk about a prophecy that has contemporary implications.  God is upset with his people because they hate good and love evil.  He did not like the way they were treating people.  Leaders are supposed to know what is right, just, and fair, but they weren’t any of those.  These are strong words for any of us who are leaders. God wants us to lead, but He despises abuse of power.  I think many of us can relate to leaders or others who have abused their power.  It’s interesting to note that (at least in this book) God is more interested in Israel’s lack of injustice to the abused than He is with their idolatry.

God’s answer is mercy – these seems to be a familiar theme over the last couple of weeks.  We are reminded that God doesn’t desire our sacrifice or our burnt offerings – no – he wants our obedience – God wants mercy – not sacrifice.  God gave us both in his son.

Not only has God showed us what is good, but He has told us what is good and what he requires of us.  We are to do what is right — we are to love mercy — we are to walk humbly with our God.  James reminds us that “There will be no mercy for those who have not shown mercy to others. But if you have been merciful, God will be merciful when he judges you.” In other words, “mercy triumphs over judgment.”

What does that look like?  The ten commandments give us an idea.  The first four commandments deal with our relationship with God. As we are reminded in Deuteronomy 6:4, “Listen O Israel!, The Lord our God is the Lord alone. And you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your strength.”  The last six commandments deal with our relationship with our neighbors.

Jesus was asked what is the greatest commandment. He replied “To love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your strength. And the second one is like it to love your neighbor as yourself.”  Interesting, Jesus echos the ten commandments.  Then in the letter of James we find these words, “Pure and genuine religion in the sight of God the Father means caring for orphans and widows in their distress and refusing to let the world corrupt you.”

So, what does this mean to us? We live in a world were people have no access to clean water, children have never been to school, children are exploited through the sex trade, people are enslaved around the world, and people are starving to death.  Jesus said when we take care of the least of these, we take care of him.

Sometimes we look around and say “what can be done?”  Sometimes it is just the little things, like showing mercy, acting justly.  And then walk with your God.  It’s not either or, but both and.  How will you show mercy, act justly and walk humbly with your God this week?

Sons and Daughters | Matt Maher

As most of you know, today is Martin Luther King, Jr. Day.  It’s interesting to note that this year MLK Day follows Sanctity of Life Sunday, which was yesterday.  Check out this verse that was from yesterday’s Sunday School lesson:

No, O people, the Lord has told you what is good,
    and this is what he requires of you:
to do what is right, to love mercy,
    and to walk humbly with your God. (NLT)

I share with you today Matt Maher’s “Sons and Daughters” which was inspired by Martin Luther King, Jr. and has several voice overs from his speeches.

Sunday Night Thoughts

Sunday Night Thoughts

On this Sunday evening in mid-January we are excitedly waiting the arrival of our kids from Canada.  They are not leaving until tomorrow morning to visit us, but we can’t wait.  Apparently they want to bring their cold weather with them, because we are in store for the coldest weather of the season.  We are even going to get a night with single digit temps, but at least it will be above zero, at least that’s what the forecast tells us.

It will get warmer this week, but there is also a storm on the horizon for the end of the week.  We will see how that all pans out.

It’s been a good week and yet tiring.  Last week I worked 5 days in a row, which left me a bit wiped out by the end.  We had the second part of our receipt day at Chick-fil-A.  Receipt day comes in two parts – part one is a given day in December – whatever you purchase that day, you can come back in January on the given day and get whatever you purchased in December on that day for free.  It’s quite the deal and needless to say, both days were busy.  This week, I also spent some time in the kitchen – doing some cross training.  Yesterday, I spent all day working back-of-house.

Over the last week, I’ve been itching to get out my bass and just play along with some music.  Earlier this week, I pulled it out and played for a while and sat down several times today.  It felt so good to play my bass.  I don’t often get a chance to play it much.  The church we are currently attending only has two instrumentalists – me and Anna.  So my default instrument is the guitar.  I played some worship stuff earlier and then this afternoon, played along with a little Kansas, Matt Maher and this evening I pulled out some classic CCM – Allies, Amy Grant, Second Chapter of Acts.

We did have a great service this morning and hopefully I will get a chance to share some thoughts this week on the scripture passage from our Sunday School lesson.  There again were some great points.  I have enjoyed writing these reflections for my Wednesday post.

Time to get ready to pick up Anna and batten down the hatches for the cold weather coming in.  Seize the day!

Prayer for the Week

light-of-the-world-Sept-2-2012Almighty God, whose Son our Savior Jesus Christ is the light of the world: Grant that your people, illumined by your Word and Sacraments, may shine with the radiance of Christ’s glory, that he may be known, worshiped, and obeyed to the ends of the earth; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Running Update

Girl-Running-Motivational-QuotesToday is the end of week 2 of 2016.  So far for the month and the year I have accumulated 39 miles and that complete 3% of my goal for the year.  Not all of those miles have been running miles, but one of my other goals is to get increase my walking miles as well.

This week I completed 18 miles – not bad considering – I really should have went for a walk on Thursday evening to increase my miles.  I had some good runs this week as I get used to the hills of Staunton again.  Most of my runs are right in the 9 minute mile area.  January is a tough month.  As I look at the long-term forecast, this looks like this may be the toughest week coming up – statistically it is one of the coldest weeks of the year.  After that it looks like the weather will let up again and I’ll be able to really crank up the mileage.  Pressing On!

The Diversity in the Gifts of the Spirit

gifts1Second Sunday after the Epiphany
January 17, 2016

 


1 Corinthians 12:1-11 | New Living Translation

12 Now, dear brothers and sisters, regarding your question about the special abilities the Spirit gives us. I don’t want you to misunderstand this. You know that when you were still pagans, you were led astray and swept along in worshiping speechless idols. So I want you to know that no one speaking by the Spirit of God will curse Jesus, and no one can say Jesus is Lord, except by the Holy Spirit.

There are different kinds of spiritual gifts, but the same Spirit is the source of them all. There are different kinds of service, but we serve the same Lord.God works in different ways, but it is the same God who does the work in all of us.

A spiritual gift is given to each of us so we can help each other. To one person the Spirit gives the ability to give wise advice; to another the same Spirit gives a message of special knowledge. The same Spirit gives great faith to another, and to someone else the one Spirit gives the gift of healing. 10 He gives one person the power to perform miracles, and another the ability to prophesy. He gives someone else the ability to discern whether a message is from the Spirit of God or from another spirit. Still another person is given the ability to speak in unknown languages, while another is given the ability to interpret what is being said. 11 It is the one and only Spirit who distributes all these gifts. He alone decides which gift each person should have.


The season of Epiphany speaks to the mission of Jesus.  In the gospel reading for today, we have the account of Jesus turning the water into wine.  This would be the first of many miracles that Jesus would perform.  I often like to refer to these several weeks – and they vary depending on when Ash Wednesday and Lent begin – as a season of Light.  Jesus has just come into the world – what we celebrate at Christmas.  Jesus was revealed to the world by the wise men – what we celebrate as Epiphany.  Last week, we remembered the baptism of Jesus as he was “commissioned” into public ministry.  This season looks at the mission of Jesus and the mission of the church.

It is no secret that the church has seen its moments of controversy over the years.  How can an organization that Christ ordained have so much controversy?  Because the church is made up of people. All of us are in various stages of our Christian growth and some are more mature than others.  Still, the church has been called to be light in a dark world.  Because the church and its people have been commission by Jesus to go and make disciples of the whole world, baptizing them in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and teaching these new disciples the same things Jesus taught us, we have been given gifts by the Holy Spirit.

It is interesting to see that these gifts are just as diverse as the people God made.  In Paul’s letter to the church at Corinth, he addresses what seems to be a problem in the church.  People were getting up in arms about the importance of certain gifts.  It seems some people may have thought they were more important than others because God bestowed more important gifts to them.  Paul is addressing this in chapter 12.  No gift is more important because they are all gifts of the same Holy Spirit.

There are times when I really wish we could get this into our thick skulls.  We have such an amazing and diverse God and he made his people diverse and the Holy Spirit has given us diverse gifts.  These are things that we ought to be celebrating.

There are different kinds of spiritual gifts, but the same Spirit is the source of them all. There are different kinds of service, but we serve the same Lord.God works in different ways, but it is the same God who does the work in all of us.

Paul goes on to write that these spiritual gifts are diverse so that we can help each other, not tear each other down.  Paul only mentions a few spiritual gifts here in this passage, but I tend to feel that there are way more.  In some ways, I feel that the gift that God has given me to play music and lead worship is a spiritual gift. It is that gift that I give back to the church to build it up.

One of the dangers in spiritual gifts is that others may think that we are building us up instead of the church.  That is a prayer that each one of us need to pray that we don’t boast in our spiritual gifts.  Each believer has been given gifts that are as diverse and different as we are human.  I also think it is important that we value what each believer brings to the table – brings to the church.  It takes a great deal of diversity to reach a world that has a great deal of diversity.  Each person can be reached by different means.  If we are going to take the Light of the World to the world, we need to use the diverse gifts that the Holy Spirit has given us to reach the world.

 

Sanctity of Human Life

Daddy's Hands-ArtisticIn 2015 watched in horror as we saw numerous mass shootings and over 300 people killed. Following each shooting we heard our country’s leaders and news media call for more gun control. We also heard that we need to look in the lack of mental health care in our country. Another subject that comes up in this conversation is the breakdown of the family. In our country we have decided that men are not important in their children’s lives. An example of this is in our big cities — young men are looking for a father’s influence and example and because of the lack of good male role models, these young men fall prey to the gangs. There has been much conversation about why there is so much violence in our country.

The answer was giving to us at the National Prayer Breakfast in Washington D.C on February 3, 1994 by Mother Teresa.  She said, “And if we accept that a mother can kill even her own child, how can we tell other people not to kill one another?”

For forty-two years we have said it is legal for mother to abort her baby, no matter the reason.  There are rare reasons why and when an abortion maybe necessary.  Note, I say rare reasons and maybe necessary.  But when abortion is treated like birth control or as a way to take care of an unplanned pregnancy there is something wrong.  Part of the problem lies in the lack of morality.  We say it is ok to have sex whenever and with whoever we want.  The common question is “What does it matter what I do in my own bedroom?”  However there are consequences to sin.  What I have found out is that most people don’t want to deal with the consequences of their sin. They want to be forgiven and yet not face those consequences.

In the Bible, David was considered a man after God’s own heart and yet he sinned when He had an affair with one of his general’s wife.  David had extramarital sex with Bathsheba and suffered the consequence of his sin.  Yes, David was forgiven, but for many years David suffered those consequences.

So we have devalued the human life.  It’s amazing the little steps that we take in that journey.  It is much easier to abort a baby when we call it a fetus.  A human life is still a human life no matter what you call it.  What is occurring in our country is the natural step of the devaluation of the human life.  The mass shootings in our country are an extension of that devaluation of human life.  We are reaping what we have sown.

It is time for us to stop the devaluation of human life.  We need to realize that human life is sacred.  Read these words written by David in Psalm 139:

Oh yes, you shaped me first inside, then out;
you formed me in my mother’s womb.
I thank you, High God—you’re breathtaking!
Body and soul, I am marvelously made!
I worship in adoration—what a creation!
You know me inside and out,
you know every bone in my body;
You know exactly how I was made, bit by bit,
how I was sculpted from nothing into something.
Like an open book, you watched me grow from conception to birth;
all the stages of my life were spread out before you,
The days of my life all prepared
before I’d even lived one day.

I find it absolutely amazing that God created the world and universe simply by speaking it into being, but when it came to human life, He stepped down – formed the clay into a human form and breathed his own breath into us.  That is special to me – we were literally created by God.  We are special and we are sacred.  Human life, all human life is sacred.

So what can we do realize that life is sacred?  It’s time to be the light of the world – It’s time to be salt.  We need the world to see the light of Christ.  So often we are quick to condemn the world instead of showing it the life of Christ.   We need to start praying for our country – we need to vote for those who will make positive changes in our country.  We need to teach children the value and sanctity of human life.  We need to help out and stand together with Christian organizations that help women make good, positive choices.

One of the organizations that we have supported for the last six years here in Augusta County is ComfortCare Women’s Health.

This is the link for those who find themselves in a place where they need counseling with an unexpected pregnancy.

This is the link to support ComfortCare – especially if you live here in Augusta County.

One of the ways that you can help will come later this spring.  Dale is planning on running the Stride for Life 5K this year and would love to have your support.  If all goes well, I will be power walking the 5K this year as well.  We will be putting links up here as soon as they are live.