Monday, September 15, 2014

A Better Covenant

Sustaining Hope
The Days Are Surely Coming

Restoration

Hebrews 8:1, 7-13 The Message

A New Plan with Israel

1-2 In essence, we have just such a high priest: authoritative right alongside God, conducting worship in the one true sanctuary built by God.
6-13 But Jesus’ priestly work far surpasses what these other priests do, since he’s working from a far better plan. If the first plan—the old covenant—had worked out, a second wouldn’t have been needed. But we know the first was found wanting, because God said,
Heads up! The days are coming
    when I’ll set up a new plan
    for dealing with Israel and Judah.
I’ll throw out the old plan
    I set up with their ancestors
    when I led them by the hand out of Egypt.
They didn’t keep their part of the bargain,
    so I looked away and let it go.
This new plan I’m making with Israel
    isn’t going to be written on paper,
    isn’t going to be chiseled in stone;
This time I’m writing out the plan in them,
    carving it on the lining of their hearts.
I’ll be their God,
    they’ll be my people.
They won’t go to school to learn about me,
    or buy a book called God in Five Easy Lessons.
They’ll all get to know me firsthand,
    the little and the big, the small and the great.
They’ll get to know me by being kindly forgiven,
    with the slate of their sins forever wiped clean.
By coming up with a new plan, a new covenant between God and his people, God put the old plan on the shelf. And there it stays, gathering dust.
 
For Reflection
God's promise of the developing Kingdom of God never changes.  God's promise is just expanded to include all of humankind.  God is not about changing the other guy.  God is about changing you.  Accept God's overture for peace and justice.  Change your perception of yourself as a victim of your culture.  While there is little you can do about the other guy, there is great peace and satisfaction in changing your own perceptions.  Let God deal with others who are in conflict with you.  God is good at that.
 
Pray
Kneel before God.  Pray prayers of confession, repentance, obedience, praise and thanksgiving.  Pray to serve God.

Friday, September 12, 2014

The Future is Now!

Sustaining Hope
The Days Are Surely Coming

A New Future

Jeremiah 30:1-3, 18-22  The Message

30 1-2 This is the Message Jeremiah received from God: “God’s Message, the God of Israel: ‘Write everything I tell you in a book.
“‘Look. The time is coming when I will turn everything around for my people, both Israel and Judah. I, God, say so. I’ll bring them back to the land I gave their ancestors, and they’ll take up ownership again.’”
18-21 “Again, God’s Message:
“‘I’ll turn things around for Jacob.
    I’ll compassionately come in and rebuild homes.
The town will be rebuilt on its old foundations;
    the mansions will be splendid again.
Thanksgivings will pour out of the windows;
    laughter will spill through the doors.
Things will get better and better.
    Depression days are over.
They’ll thrive, they’ll flourish.
    The days of contempt will be over.
They’ll look forward to having children again,
    to being a community in which I take pride.
I’ll punish anyone who hurts them,
    and their prince will come from their own ranks.
One of their own people shall be their leader.
    Their ruler will come from their own ranks.
I’ll grant him free and easy access to me.
    Would anyone dare to do that on his own,
    to enter my presence uninvited?’ God’s Decree.
22 “‘And that’s it: You’ll be my very own people,
    I’ll be your very own God.’”
 
For Reflection
Friday is a time for grieving.  Friday is a time for lamentations.  Friday is the day when one realizes loss.  Friday is the day in which one is closest to hopelessness.  Friday is the day for crying.  Friday is the day for feeling alone.  Friday is depressing.

But wait!  As one talented minister put it,  "Its Friday, but, Sunday's a-comin."  Hope arrives on Sunday.  Peace is heralded on Sunday.  Justice rides on angel armies on Sunday.  Death is defeated on Sunday.  Righteousness reigns on Sunday.  Forgiveness and Grace mark our lives on Sunday.  Sunday is the day for singing praises to the God who died and has risen in glory.  The Kingdom of God arrives on Sunday.  Hallelujah!
 
Pray
Sing songs of praises to the living God.  Give thanks to the God that defies death.  Rejoice in hope that resides in a life centered in the loving hands of God.  Amen and Amen!

Surely God Is My Salvation

Sustaining Hope
The Days Are Surely Coming

A New Future

Isaiah 12 The Message

My Strength and Song

12 And you will say in that day,
    “I thank you, God.
You were angry
    but your anger wasn’t forever.
You withdrew your anger
    and moved in and comforted me.
“Yes, indeed—God is my salvation.
    I trust, I won’t be afraid.
God—yes God!—is my strength and song,
    best of all, my salvation!”
3-4 Joyfully you’ll pull up buckets of water
    from the wells of salvation.
And as you do it, you’ll say,
    “Give thanks to God.
Call out his name.
    Ask him anything!
Shout to the nations, tell them what he’s done,
    spread the news of his great reputation!
5-6 “Sing praise-songs to God. He’s done it all!
    Let the whole earth know what he’s done!
Raise the roof! Sing your hearts out, O Zion!
    The Greatest lives among you: The Holy of Israel.”
 
For Reflection
What joy is found living in the hollow of God's hand!  Sing away your fear.  God is your God of salvation and sure defense and Christ is your savior.  Yes! Yes and Yes!
 
Pray
Sing, praising the living Lord.  Make joyful noises this day and every day.  Let your soul soar with your heart. 

Thursday, September 11, 2014

The Wolf and Lamb Live Together

Sustaining Hope
The Days Are Surely Coming

A New Future

Isaiah 11:6-10  The Message

A Living Knowledge of God

6-9 The wolf will romp with the lamb,
    the leopard sleep with the kid.
Calf and lion will eat from the same trough,
    and a little child will tend them.
Cow and bear will graze the same pasture,
    their calves and cubs grow up together,
    and the lion eat straw like the ox.
The nursing child will crawl over rattlesnake dens,
    the toddler stick his hand down the hole of a serpent.
Neither animal nor human will hurt or kill
    on my holy mountain.
The whole earth will be brimming with knowing God-Alive,
    a living knowledge of God ocean-deep, ocean-wide.
10 On that day, Jesse’s Root will be raised high, posted as a rallying banner for the peoples. The nations will all come to him. His headquarters will be glorious.

For Reflection
These and the un-cited passages which precede and supersede them are prophesies of the first and second coming of Jesus.  It is through Christ that we know God.  It is through Christ that God's will for human kind is demonstrated.  It is through Christ that the hope of salvation from the constrictions of this world is realized.  It is through Christ that God will be victorious.
Pray
Praise God for his compassionate grace.  Praise God for the gift of Christ.  Praise God for the power of reconciliation.  Praise God for the gates of God's Kingdom are open to all.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

I Will Surely Gather Them

Sustaining Hope
The Days Are Surely Coming

A New Future

Jeremiah 32:36-44  The Message

36 “But there is also this Message from me, the God of Israel, to this city of which you have said, ‘In killing and starvation and disease this city will be delivered up to the king of Babylon’:
37-40 “‘Watch for this! I will collect them from all the countries to which I will have driven them in my anger and rage and indignation. Yes, I’ll bring them all back to this place and let them live here in peace. They will be my people, I will be their God. I’ll make them of one mind and heart, always honoring me, so that they can live good and whole lives, they and their children after them. What’s more, I’ll make a covenant with them that will last forever, a covenant to stick with them no matter what, and work for their good. I’ll fill their hearts with a deep respect for me so they’ll not even think of turning away from me.
41 “‘Oh how I’ll rejoice in them! Oh how I’ll delight in doing good things for them! Heart and soul, I’ll plant them in this country and keep them here!’
42-44 “Yes, this is God’s Message: ‘I will certainly bring this huge catastrophe on this people, but I will also usher in a wonderful life of prosperity. I promise. Fields are going to be bought here again, yes, in this very country that you assume is going to end up desolate—gone to the dogs, unlivable, wrecked by the Babylonians. Yes, people will buy farms again, and legally, with deeds of purchase, sealed documents, proper witnesses—and right here in the territory of Benjamin, and in the area around Jerusalem, around the villages of Judah and the hill country, the Shephelah and the Negev. I will restore everything that was lost.’ God’s Decree.”
 
For Reflection
Reconciliation is the way of God.  God has made a one way covenant with the human race.  It is a covenant intended to bring peace and prosperous living to God's creation.  God delights in human righteousness.
 
Pray
for righteous living.  Pray that you will be ever-thankful to the living God for the gift of reconciliation which you have accepted. Pray that God's faith in you will never be returned to God by your unfaithful action.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Very Soon My Anger Will End

Sustaining Hope
The Days Are Surely Coming

A New Future

Isaiah 10:20-27 The Message

20-23 And on that Day also, what’s left of Israel, the ragtag survivors of Jacob, will no longer be fascinated by abusive, battering Assyria. They’ll lean on God, The Holy—yes, truly. The ragtag remnant—what’s left of Jacob—will come back to the Strong God. Your people Israel were once like the sand on the seashore, but only a scattered few will return. Destruction is ordered, brimming over with righteousness. For the Master, God-of-the-Angel-Armies, will finish here what he started all over the globe.
24-27 Therefore the Master, God-of-the-Angel-Armies, says: “My dear, dear people who live in Zion, don’t be terrorized by the Assyrians when they beat you with clubs and threaten you with rods like the Egyptians once did. In just a short time my anger against you will be spent and I’ll turn my destroying anger on them. I, God-of-the-Angel-Armies, will go after them with a cat-o’-nine-tails and finish them off decisively—as Gideon downed Midian at the rock Oreb, as Moses turned the tables on Egypt. On that day, Assyria will be pulled off your back, and the yoke of slavery lifted from your neck.”

For Reflection
To see God's promise embedded in God's anger is sometimes difficult.  Destruction, it seems, is the order of things when we turn from obedience to God's will and take matters into our own hands.  Though I don't like to think about it, God's anger has provoked harshly retributive action.  We are consoled in God's grace and never ending overture of forgiveness and reconciliation.
Pray
for a life obedient to the will of God.  Pray prayers of confession.  Pray for God's compassionate mercy.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Provoking God

Sustaining Hope
The Days Are Surely Coming

A New Future

Jeremiah 32:26-35  The Message

26-30 Then God’s Message came again to Jeremiah: “Stay alert! I am God, the God of everything living. Is there anything I can’t do? So listen to God’s Message: No doubt about it, I’m handing this city over to the Babylonians and Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon. He’ll take it. The attacking Chaldeans will break through and burn the city down: All those houses whose roofs were used as altars for offerings to Baal and the worship of who knows how many other gods provoked me. It isn’t as if this were the first time they had provoked me. The people of Israel and Judah have been doing this for a long time—doing what I hate, making me angry by the way they live.” God’s Decree.
31-35 “This city has made me angry from the day they built it, and now I’ve had my fill. I’m destroying it. I can’t stand to look any longer at the wicked lives of the people of Israel and Judah, deliberately making me angry, the whole lot of them—kings and leaders and priests and preachers, in the country and in the city. They’ve turned their backs on me—won’t even look me in the face!—even though I took great pains to teach them how to live. They refused to listen, refused to be taught. Why, they even set up obscene god and goddess statues in the Temple built in my honor—an outrageous desecration! And then they went out and built shrines to the god Baal in the valley of Hinnom, where they burned their children in sacrifice to the god Molech—I can hardly conceive of such evil!—turning the whole country into one huge act of sin.
 
For Reflection
Often in explanation of human affairs, God becomes the original born looser.  God gets all the blame and little of the praise.  The truth of the matter is that those whom God loves the most, disappoint God, refusing to be taught to live God-centered lives.  It is our turning away from God which condemns us.  Yet, God will stand with us to restore a right relationship.
 
Pray
Confess your sins to the God of your salvation.  Praise God for the gifts of righteous living.