Music is one of those things many of us listen to, and I have written about music several times. But in music we learn a lot of things about ourselves and a lot of things about our Lord. There is something about singing scripture in praise and worship that moves many people. There is a group called Casting Crowns and they have written a song called ‘The Voice of Truth’. Here are some of the words.
Oh what I would do to have the kind of faith it takes to climb out of the boat I’m in, onto the crashing waves. To step out of my comfort zone into the realm of the unknown where Jesus is, and He’s holding out His hand. But the waves are calling out my name and they laugh at me, reminding me of all the times I’ve tried and failed. The waves they keep telling me time and time again, Boy you’ll never win! And then this: But the voice of truth tells me a different story. The voice of truth says do not be afraid. The voice of truth says this is for my glory. Out of all the voices calling out to me I will choose to listen to the voice of truth. This is followed by these words. Oh what I would do to have the kind of strength it takes to stand before a giant…with just a sling and a stone. Surrounded by the sound of a thousand warriors, shaking in their armor, wishing they’d had the strength to stand. But the giant’s calling out my name and he laughs at me. Reminding me of all the times I’ve tried before and failed. The giant keeps on telling me time and time again Boy you’ll never win. But the voice of truth tells me a different story.
There is a lot of noise in our world right now. Social media has blown up and it is easy to get sucked in, reading post after post after post. There is noise from the right, left and center. There is even noise from those who just want the noise to go away. There is also noise from the evil one. He whispers in our ears, sometimes seemingly nonstop. You are not good enough. You are too slow, too stupid, too old, too young, too heavy, unqualified. You will never win. You won’t amount to anything. You will never be able to do this. Why even try. You cannot do this. This is the worst noise of all. Because like social media, the evil one is nonstop too. And the closer we try to draw to Jesus, the harder the evil one works to pry us away.
Sometimes in our lives we are in a boat that feels like it is being tossed by waves. And the waves could be any number of things. Years ago, I was on a ferry crossing the North Sea from Norfolk England to Bergen Norway. It was a 23-hour trip and the tossing of the waves was so bad many of us spent the night on deck in the cold and spray of the sea because it was too rough to go below decks. The waves just kept crashing. Life’s troubles feel like that sometimes. Bills never seem to stop coming, hard decisions have to be made regarding what we might need. Medical issues come at us, one after another and still another. Loneliness crashes like waves and so does fear. There are other times it feels like we are standing in front of a giant. Troubles seem insurmountable, fears loom, self-doubt overwhelms. Grief is crushing. Crashing waves make a bunch of noise. So, do knocking knees.
And then we hear the words God spoke to Joshua. Moses has just died and left Joshua in charge of the Israelites. They have wandered in the wilderness 40 years and Joshua has seen them at their best and at their worst. Moses has set the example for leading. Perhaps Joshua wants to run screaming into the dark of night. And then God speaks. Three times in the first nine verses of chapter one God tells Joshua to be strong and courageous. He also reminds Joshua to not be afraid or dismayed. Why? “Because the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” That is the promise. Waves might crash. Giants may stand in our way. The noise may feel like it is crushing us and none of this looks like it will end anytime soon.
Go back up and look at the refrain of the song again. But the voice of truth says do not be afraid. The voice of truth says this is for my glory. Sometimes God speaks in a still small voice. Sometimes we have to stop everything we are doing and sit and listen. God does not always shout over the dim. But His voice is the voice of truth. He will not deceive us like the evil one. He will not lead us astray. And whatever we are facing, in the end, God will get the glory. This is always about us drawing closer to Him. It is about leaning on Him, trusting Him and living in His will for us. It is not always easy. The good things never are.
There are many voices to listen to these days. Will we choose to listen to and believe the one true voice of truth?
In His grip
Pastor Matt W
A good friend shared this quote with me. It says, whatever we think we need today...Jesus is. Jesus is unique, one of a kind. He has been said to be the greatest leader who has ever lived. He is the most influential person to have lived on our planet. No one can be compared to Him. As we read the Bible, we see that everything points to Him. The Old Testament points us forward towards Jesus and The New Testament points us back to His life and what He did. First and foremost, Jesus is God. He left the splendor and majesty of heaven and became human. He lived as we live. He has been where we find ourselves. He knew grief and anger. He wept. He was tired and hungry and thirsty. He was crucified for crimes He did not commit. Jesus died, was buried and rose from the dead...victorious. Jesus and Jesus alone is the only all sufficient Savior off the world. He has promised to come again, in glory and defeat evil for all eternity.
When we look at the Old Testament, we see that God has many different names. The ancients believed God's name was so holy they could not pronounce it out loud or write it in its entirety. So, they gave God names that described what he did for them. He was called Lord, God Almighty, provider, redeemer and many more. We can look at Jesus in the same way. He gave Himself names...Son of man, alpha and omega. There are seven I AM statements in Johns gospel that Jesus uses to describe Himself. But there is more. Because just like the ancients we too give Jesus names based on where we are in our lives and what we need. There are many names for God. Whole books have been written on this subject. But here are a few that might be helpful for you.
When we are feeling down on ourselves, we sometimes question if we even have a place in heaven. But Jesus was a carpenter...a builder. In john's gospel Jesus tells us “In my Father's house there are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, so that where I am, there you may be also.” John 14:2. As believers we have no reason to doubt that Jesus wants to spend eternity with us and there is a place prepared especially for us.
Jesus’ words in John 16:33 remind us that Jesus is the giver of peace and courage. We live in a world that is ruled by the evil one, the prince of darkness. He specializes in lies, division, deception and chaos. Jesus knows this about him. So, this is the promise He gives us, "I have said this to you so that in me you may have peace. In the world you will face troubles. But take courage, I have overcome the world. He also tells us in John 14:27, "Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not let them be afraid.”
The prophet Isaiah tells us in 7:4 that a virgin will conceive and bear a son and His name will be Immanuel, which means God with us. And in the beginning of Johns gospel we read that the Word...Jesus...became flesh and dwelt among us. At the end of Matthews gospel Jesus promises to never leave us or forsake us. We never walk alone. EVER. He is a companion and guide wherever we go.
Jesus is the one who gives us strength. We read in Philippians 4:13 “I can do all things in Christ who gives me strength.” We are not always strong and fierce. Sometimes we feel tired, weak and wimpy. But it is when we are at our weakest that Jesus is at His strongest. He will give us exactly what we need to move through our challenges and struggles.
He is the bearer of burdens. In Matthew 11:28 Jesus says, "Come to me all you who are weary and heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” There is a lot going on in the world and in our lives and sometimes the weight becomes unbearable. But Jesus has promised to carry the load for us. We can take it to Him, and He will lift the burden off our shoulders.
Jesus is a teacher, not just of scripture, not just showing us Gods love. He taught us how to pray. And the prayer He taught the disciples nearly 2,000 years ago is the prayer we pray every Sunday. Some of us pray it every day. Some call the prayer The Lord's Prayer and others call it the Our Father.
We look to Jesus for calm in the middle of storms. One day Jesus and the disciples got into a boat to cross the Sea of Galilee. Jesus was exhausted and went to sleep. A fierce storm came up, tossing the boat around and filling it with water. In a panic the disciples woke Jesus up and shouted do something! In His exhaustion Jesus stood and commanded the winds to be still. The disciples looked at one another and said who is this any way that even the wind and waves obey Him? Luke 8:22-25. But if they would remember Psalm 46:10 we would hear God say...” Be still and know that I AM God” How many of us have been is a storm of one kind or another and felt like waves were crashing over us and we cried out DO SOMETHING? Jesus calmed the storm that day. He will calm the storms in our lives too.
All of this is to say, Jesus is all we need. He is sufficient. In Acts 4:12 we see that Jesus saves. Hebrews 12:2 reminds us that Jesus is the author and perfect for of our faith. Jesus blesses us. We see that in Ephesians 1:3. Jesus provides. That comes from Philippians 4:19. In Him we are loved...John 3:16. He answers prayers and works miracles. Luke 6:38 and Luke 22:50. And in Him all things are made new. Revelation 21:5.
Whatever we think we need...Jesus is.
In His grip
Pastor Matt W
Like many people, I grew up listening to music. Much of what I listened to was classical because I liked it and I played it in the school orchestra. But I also listened to popular music with friends. One of the songs we listened to was by Billy Joel. It was written in 1977 and the song is called, ”Just the way you are”. It starts with this line... 'Don't go changing to try and please me.... I'll take you just the way you are.’ Often in relationships we get caught trying to change or fix someone. We like them or maybe even love them, but it would be even better if we could just change this one thing, or maybe even two things.
When we talk about matters of faith and our relationship with Jesus... He loves us just the way we are. After all we were created in His image. BUT, even though He loves us just the way we are, He does not want us to stay like we are. Jesus wants us to become more and more like Him. In theological terms this is called sanctification. Sanctification comes from two Latin words, Sanctus which means holy and ficare which means make. So, to sanctify means to make holy. And to be holy is to be set apart. Sanctification means the human in us begins to disappear and we begin to become more like Jesus. We begin to act like Jesus. We begin to treat others as Jesus would treat them. We begin to talk like Jesus. And people will notice the change. That becomes an opportunity for us to share Jesus with others.
Not only does Jesus want us to become more like Him but He wants others to join in. Jesus has overwhelmed us with His grace. But it is not ours to keep for ourselves. Who do we need to show the grace of Jesus to today? Jesus has lavished His love on us. But again, it is not all ours to keep. Who do we need to lavish love on today? Jesus didn't just love. He was kind. Who in your life needs to feel kindness like Jesus would give, from you? 1 Thessalonians 4:3 tells us that sanctification is God's will for us. In other words, God wants us to be like Jesus.
Yes, Jesus loves us just the way we are. But He will not leave us there. He wants us to draw close to Him. He wants us to walk with Him. He wants others to see Him in us. We see this in Matthew 5:16,” Let your light so shine before others that they will see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.” In other words, let Jesus shine in and through you. Sometimes becoming more like Jesus means we experience challenges that draw us closer to Him. Sometimes we grow to be more like Jesus when He stretches us or takes us to the end of ourselves. Other times we move to be more like Him when we read His Word and are convicted of something we are doing wrong. However it happens, growing to be more like Jesus it should bring us great joy. It does Him!
The phrase "I love you just the way you are" works in our lives as we encounter others who need to be closer to Jesus. We accept them as they are. We do not judge. We do not disparage them. Instead, we help them move forward at their own pace. Paul talks about new or returning believers as needing milk first and then solid food. The same is true of those well or at all. We help them to learn the basics first and then as they learn, we help them to go deeper into God's Word. For me, there are few things more satisfying than watching people grow in their life and faith in Jesus Christ. And as they grow, they are becoming set apart. Those of us who believe are set apart. We are called to live in this world but to not let the world live in us. We are called to be different than the world, which is the home of the prince of darkness...the great teller of lies...the master of doubt and deception. Listen to Paul's words in 12:2, ”Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.”
The only thing we are to be conformed to is a life lived as Jesus calls to live. So, you can be the way you are, and Jesus will still love you. But He has plans for you and they are way more than you already are. In fact, they are way more than you can even begin to imagine.
In His grip
Pastor Matt W
This morning when I went outside to leave for church, it smelled like rain! It looked like it might rain…something we desperately need. And as I drove, there were about 37 drops of rain. That was it. But what lasted way longer than the raindrops was the rainbow in the sky. It wasn’t very bright but there it was, a full half circle of color. And I was reminded yet again that God has made promises to us. That rainbow in the sky reminds us that God will never again bring a flood of total destruction upon this earth. But in my humanness, I said out loud, yes but there isn’t a promise about total fire or a worldwide pandemic. Nothing about fires, pandemics and hurricanes all happening at once.
But the Bible is full of promises God has made. From Genesis to Revelation God makes promises. He made promises to some of the ‘major players’ and others to regular folks like you and me. And the promises God made are sworn by the highest authority. When we swear an oath or promise we often swear using God’s name. But there is no higher power than God, so He swears on Himself. We find this in Hebrews 6:13. “For when God made a promise to Abraham, since He had no one greater by whom to swear, He swore by Himself.”
Over and over in the Old Testament, and then the New, we see God making promises, or covenants, with His people. They often ended with these words. I will be your God and you will be my people. In Joshua 1:9 God promises He will be with His people wherever they go. In Isaiah 40:31 God promises that those who wait for Him will have renewed strength. They will not get tired but will have strength to run. Jeremiah 29:11 reminds us that God has plans for us and those plans involve a future and hope.
We read in the gospel of John 1:12, “But as many as received Him, to them He gave the power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on His name.” This promise is all about salvation. When we receive Jesus as our Lord and Savior, He will give us the power to become a child of God. The best part…we do not and cannot work for our own salvation. It is a gift when we choose to believe in Him. And this from James 1:17, “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.” God is not one thing today and another tomorrow. He is constant. He is God who is and who was and who will come again, the same yesterday, today and tomorrow.
In both Deuteronomy 31:8 and Matthew 28:20 God promises that He will be with us always. He will be with us through the fires. He will be with us through the hurricanes. He will be with us amid the pandemic and racial unrest and the election. He will walk with us every step of our lives. He has promised us daily bread, living water and a way back to the Father. He has promised us forgiveness from sin, His love and a place for all eternity. Jesus has promised us rest from our burdens, light for our way and the example of what giving and serving looks like. In Him we have the promise of peace, the presence of the Holy Spirit and healing.
Everything we might need has been promised to us by God. Perhaps not everything we might want but everything we need. In 1887 a hymn was written by two men named Anthony J Showalter and Elisha Hoffman. It is based on the words of Deuteronomy 33:27, “The eternal God is our refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms.” Some of you have sung the hymn. It is called ‘Leaning on the Everlasting Arms’. The song has been used in a handful of movies, several TV shows and a couple of commercials. The song has been recorded by many artists. But it is best sung in a place of worship with fellow brothers and sisters in Christ. It is a reminder that we lean on Jesus as well as one another. Here are some of the words. What a fellowship, what a joy divine, leaning on the everlasting arms; what a blessedness, what a peace is mine, Leaning on the everlasting arms. What have I to dread, what have I to fear, leaning on the everlasting arms; I have blessed peace with my Lord so near, Leaning on the everlasting arms.
There is much up in the air in this world right now. Information changes at breakneck speed. But we have one constant, one place where we will find shelter from the troubles of the day, one place that will always welcome us. And that is in our Lord and Savior. We can lean on Him. We can count on His promises. We will never be turned away. He promised.
In His grip
Pastor Matt W
Hi everybody it’s me again, Casper. And I want to tell you about my weekend because it was very busy…well at least Saturday. It all started with my dad putting the extra board in the dining room table. Dad said it is called a leaf, but I have never seen a leaf outside that looked like that. Anyway, then he put on a big tablecloth and then the boxes came out. Twelve boxes that were red and green. He said they were Operation Christmas Child boxes and my dad looooooves to pack them. I think he has been shopping for weeks. After the boxes came out then he put out all the stuff that goes in the boxes…and there was a lot of stuff. My mom likes to pack boxes for the older girls and my dad for the older boys. Somewhere they read those are peoples least favorite boxes to fill.
When they pack those boxes, my dad is like a kid in a candy store. He tries to see how much he can put in one box and they both talk about the kids that will receive these boxes. How they might not have anything else. They pack something they call a WOW gift. That is something that might make a kid say WOW when they see it. And then there is other stuff as well. My dad even said this is way better than finding a pile of presents under the tree on Christmas morning. Except we haven’t been able to do that for years because Yoda would eat the packages open to see what was inside.
My dad even has a red tee shirt that says What goes into the box is fun, on the front and on the back, it says…but what comes out of the box is eternal. That didn’t make sense to me because I have heard him say everything breaks or gets lost or wears out. But then I remembered that when the kids all over the world get these boxes they also get a chance to go to Bible school and they get to learn about Jesus and at the end of the school they get a chance to accept Jesus as their Savior. That is the eternal part. And my dad says that is the best part. I think my mom and dad like to choose all the things for the boxes, but the best part is that kids get to know Jesus.
This year is a really important year my dad said because there have been so many problems all over the world. Lots of people have been sick with that virus and lots of people have lost everything in fires and floods and hurricanes and earthquakes and who knows what else. My job is to supervise the box filling, so it gets done right. There are things you can’t put in the box, like candy and toothpaste and war toys. But that leaves lots of other things you can put in. We had a big mess from when mom and dad took everything out of the packages, because lots of places don’t have a place to put garbage. They said you have to take everything out of the wrappers. I think there are lots of rules. But now all the boxes are packed, and the house is back to normal.
There is a new box label this year and my dad was taking pictures of it. He takes pictures of lots of things. But he said this way they will get to know where the boxes go, and you can pay the shipping right then and there and you don’t have to find the right change or even write a check. They were both excited to know that, and they talked about praying for the kids who get our boxes. I can say our because I supervised!
My dad talks about giving a lot and he always says it is better to give than it is to receive. He told me Jesus said that. It is in Acts 20:35. I think my dad thinks giving is fun and he says that God had picked us to give and that giving is a gift itself. But he told me people at church don’t like to talk about money, even though Jesus talked more about money than He did heaven and hell put together. Jesus must have known that we would have trouble with money. Dad said people can start getting their boxes on October 11. Just think of all the fun you can have packing toys for kids who might not have anything. And if you can’t get out to shop you can send money or a check to church and the lady who is in charge will pack a box for you. Her name is Sharon. She looooves Operation Christmas child as much as my dad. But remember, the best part is that the kids and maybe even their families will get to meet Jesus.
In His grip
Back in the day when there were still brick and mortar Christian bookstores, you could buy business sized cards with verses or encouraging words on them. Then you could pass them out or put them in places where you could see them. I came across one the other day as I was cleaning out a drawer looking for something. The card references Philippians 4:13,” I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” It also reminds me that the task ahead of us is never as great as the power within us. And that power is the power of the Holy Spirit. All of us need encouragement occasionally and some more than others. We have never received a guarantee that believing will make our lives a piece of cake. Jesus only promised to walk with us through whatever was happening at the time. Life is challenging, especially right now. So, along with Philippians 4:13, here are some more scriptures to tuck away for those times when you need encouragement, or when you need to encourage someone else.
In Matthew chapters 5--6 we find the Sermon on the Mount. Included in that teaching are the beatitudes. Here are a couple. ”Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.” They sound counter cultural but that is often the way Jesus operates. These are a reminder to us that the Kingdom of God does not follow the rules of the world, the rules we are used to. God makes His own rules, and these three beatitudes remind us that we can trust that God will lift up the downtrodden, comfort those who are discouraged and reward those with humble hearts.
There is an old Beatles song that says...love is all you need. Paul devotes an entire chapter to love in 1 Corinthians 13 and he reminds us that faith, hope and love abide, these three, but the greatest of these is love. And we love because God first loved us. You can read that in 1 John 4. Here we also read that God is love. Since God is love that is all we really do need.
These words from Paul are tremendous words of encouragement. ”God is faithful, and He will not let you be tested beyond your strength, but with the testing He will also provide the way out so that you may be able to endure it.” 1 Corinthians 10:12-14. Many would say God does not give you any more than you can handle but I believe God does sometimes stretch us. He will not let us break but sometimes we may feel a bit thin. He will give us the strength to endure and sometimes no more than that. But He will walk with us in every trial and joy, each sorrow and challenge.
The Psalmist has much to say about encouragement. In Psalm 100:4-5 we read that” the Lord is good; His steadfast love endures forever, and His faithfulness to all generations.” That is good news because all generations include us! We also, read in the psalms, 34:17-18 that” The Lord is near to the broken hearted, and saves the crushed in spirit.” Again, a reminder that we are never alone. And this promise from Psalm 23:6” Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever.” There is always a place for us, and we are always in the tender loving care of our Lord. God is here, now. He waits to hear from us, and we read this in Psalm 46:1. ”God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in times of trouble.”
Jesus tells us in John 14 that in His Father's house there are many rooms, and He is preparing one for us. We are also reminded that the way to get there is through Jesus who is the way and the truth and the life. We humans sinned and broke the relationship God had with His people. But when the time was right God sent His Son Jesus to make the way for us to return to God. Because of Jesus we have a way to eternity with He and the Father.
Paul too, has much to say about encouragement. In Romans 8:31-32 we read, “What then are we to say about these things? If God is for us, who can stand against us? He who did not withhold His own Son, but gave Him up for all of us, will He not with Him also give us everything else?” We will have all we need to persevere in this life. And it is in the persevering that we find endurance that produces character and that produces hope and hope doesn't disappoint us. All of that because God pours His love into our hearts and lives in the power of the Holy Spirit. And when we are at the end of ourselves it is the Holy Spirit that takes our sighs and turns them into prayers. God the Holy Spirit searches our hearts, and He knows what we need.
This is a small sampling of encouragement in scripture. Not only do we find encouragement in scripture, but we find it in prayer and spending time with others who believe...folks that will walk through the challenges with us. God likes to use us to help one another. Some have helped you, and you have helped others.
In His grip
Pastor Matt W
How many of us as kids, or maybe even adults have picked up a kaleidoscope? We held the tube up to our eye and turned and then it happened. Bursts of color is different shapes and sizes. Some kaleidoscopes just have clear glass, and they pick up whatever colors are around us. Others have colored glass, and we see those colors. There are dozens and dozens of tiny stained-glass windows as we continue to turn the kaleidoscope. As a kid I was fascinated by all the color combinations. I believe God loves colors. All we need to do is look outside. Dozens of shades of green; pink, orange, purple and yellow in the sunsets. Hundreds of different colors of flowers, fish and birds. Color is important. Red lights tell us to stop and green ones tells when we can go. You get the idea.
Color is a big deal in scripture too. Color is used in both the Old Testament and the New. Some colors are more prevalent than others. And many of them can remind us of God and His plan for our salvation. In Genesis 9:8-17 we read of the covenant God made with Noah after the flood. God promised to set His bow in the clouds. We know this as the rainbow. This is the first place in scripture we see this collection of colors. In exile in Babylon, King Nebuchadnezzar had a dream. It was a statue made of four different materials. Again, we see a combination of colors. Daniel was the only one who was given the ability to interpret the dream. There were many colors in the temple, from the gold, silver and bronze of the furnishings and utensils to the blue, purple and crimson yarns used in the curtain separating the Holy of Holies from the rest of the temple. And in the Book of Revelation we see the one seated on the throne looks like jasper and carnelian. All around the throne is a rainbow that looks like an emerald. There are twelve different stones in the foundation of the new Jerusalem, each a representation of one of the twelve tribes of Israel. Each a different color, just like the stones in the High Priests ephod.
So, let's look at colors specifically. The Hebrew word for red is “oudem”. It means red clay, the substance God created both Adam and Esau from. Both of their names come from this word. Red is the color of the sacrifices the Israelites made in both the tabernacle and the temple. It is the color of the blood they painted on their door frames in Egypt so the angel of death would Passover their houses and spare them the last plague. But red is also the color of the blood Jesus shed for your sins and mine, blood that washed away our sins and made us right before God.
The Hebrew name for blue is “tekelet”. It can also mean purple. Blue is the color of both sky and water. This was the color of the priests clothing, especially the hems. (Exodus 28:5-6) In the New Testament we read the story of the woman who had suffered for twelve years who was healed when she touched the hem of Jesus garment. Blue is associated with God's healing and grace. It is also the color most often associated with the Virgin Mary.
Yellow in scripture most often refers to gold. The word is “charuts”. Gold represents the sovereignty of God. Solomon's temple was over laid inside with gold. The wisemen brought gifts of gold. The streets in the new Jerusalem are paved with gold. In Lutheran, Episcopalian and Catholic Churches the color for Easter is either white or gold.
Green is the color of new life, vegetation and new beginnings. Most of the green things were created on the third day.
In Ezekiel 1:4 we read about amber, in the middle of a fire, gleaming. Amber symbolizes the glory of God and His judgement.
We see purple in several places in scripture. It is woven into the fabric of the temple curtain...both in the Old Testament and the New. As Pilates soldiers mocked Jesus, they dressed Him in a purple robe. Purple is the color of royalty. They were mocking, but Jesus is the King of kings. Purple fabric was reserved for the rich and famous. It was the most expensive fabric money could buy. The apostle Paul met occasionally at the home of Lydia, a seller of purple. She was from the Macedonian city of Thyatira.
White is the color of redemption. On Easter morning there were young men at the tomb in white garments so dazzling they looked like lightening. Jesus is pictured in a white robe and we are promised in Revelation 3:5 we will have new white robes to wear. Manna was white and God has promised that the red stain of sin in our garments will be washed as white as snow.
The color black reminds us of our sins. It is the color of darkness and death. It also symbolizes catastrophe. In Zephaniah 1:14-8 we read of the great and terrible day of the Lord. It is full of darkness, devastation, gloom and doom.
Silver is symbolic for the Word of God, salvation and refining. In Psalm 66:10 we read” For you, O God, have tested us; you have tried us as silver is tried.” And bronze stands for strength and durability. The lavers in the temple were constructed of bronze, as was the sea that rested on the backs of the twelve bulls. Nebuchadnezzars statue in Daniel :31-35 had a middle and thighs of bronze. And in Revelation 1:15 Jesus feet are described as being bronze.
Our world is awash in colors. Perhaps we take them for granted, but God has given them to us to enjoy and to remind us of what He has done for us. They come in all shapes and sizes, just like the pictures in a kaleidoscope.
In His grip
Pastor Matt W
As I continue my daily read through scripture, I am walking through the minor prophets…all those short books at the back of the Old testament. The reading plan is one book a day right now for most of these books though some are spread out over a couple of days. The prophet Micah prophecies during the reign of three Judean kings, a ministry of somewhere between 20-25 years. He tells of the Lord’s judgement and forgiveness. The Lord scatters His people for their sins, but He is also the Shepherd-king who in His covenant faithfulness gathers, protects and forgives them.
Amid the woes, destruction and denouncing, there are two passages that stand out for me. The first comes in Micah 5. By this point in the book Micah has turned from pronouncing destruction, to hope. The Lord will rescue Zion. He will gather His scattered flock. And there is new hope, not just for God’s chosen but for the whole world, think John 3:16. This hope comes to the world by means of a new David. Listen to verses 2-5. “But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah, who are too little to be among the clans of Judah, from you shall come forth for me one who is to be ruler in Israel, whose coming is from of old, from ancient of days. And He will stand and shepherd His flock in the strength of the Lord, in the majesty of the name of the Lord His God. And they shall dwell secure, for now He shall be great to the ends of the earth. And He shall be their peace.”
God is making a promise for all people, not just Israel. King David was born in Bethlehem and this One who is to come will be born there as well. Bethlehem means house of bread. And if we go to John 6:35,41 we see that Jesus calls Himself the bread of life. As bread sustains us physically, Jesus offers and sustains spiritual life. Not since King David had Israel had a king who ruled with justice and in the power of the Lord. This is good news for God’s people. As for the coming from of old, we know Jesus has been since the beginning and will be forever. And because of Jesus, the One who’s coming is promised here, we will spend eternity with Him.
We see a picture of this shepherd in Psalm 23. The One coming will rule and protect His people, just like a shepherd does. He will rule by God’s power and authority and God’s people will be secure. The peace that is promised to us can also be found in Philippians 4:7 and in John 14:27. “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” This is the peace Micah speaks of here in his prophecy.
The second passage that I am mindful of comes from Micah chapter 6. After the prophecy of One who is coming to save God’s people, Micah takes another turn. We move to a courtroom like setting and God asks His people what He has done to them that they have turned from them. This is verse 3, “O my people, what have I done to you? How have I wearied you? Answer me!” The Lord continues on with several ways in which He has protected His people. And then the question gets asked…with what shall I come before the Lord? The sacrifices proposed increase in value as the prophet seeks to give what is needed to please God. He ends with the offer of 10,000 rivers of oil and his first born.
But this is what God wants. This is what the Lord requires of us; “Do justice, love kindness, and walk humbly with our God.” Walking humbly means to walk in faithfulness to Him. Three things: do, love, walk. Doing justice means we treat others with truth and honesty. Injustice is something God hates. That is why Jesus overturned the tables in the temple. The poor were being exploited in their wanting to come to the temple to worship God. Many of the prophets speak of injustice…dishonest scales, charging interest that was exorbitant, taking advantage of the poor, widows and orphans. People who are marginalized are very special to Jesus and neither He nor the Father will tolerate injustice. Loving is a challenge for some. It is easy to love those we like but not so much those we don’t. Jesus didn’t say we had to like people. He said we were to love them. That means we treat people like we would want to be treated. It means doing for others even when we are not required or asked. It means doing what is right. And we are able to do all of this because we walk humbly with Him. It is in our walk that we grow to become like Jesus. It is in the challenges that we draw closer to Him. It is in prayer, study and reading His word that we come to know Him better and better.
One has been promised, and He has come. In Him we have abundant life now and eternal life after we leave this place. He has told us how He wants us to live, and those three things will bring hope to others and glory to Him. Check out the Book of Micah. It is a short read and you will have a chance to draw a bit closer to our Lord.
In His grip
Pastor Matt W
I have reached that point in my life that I have to make lists. If I do not write things down, they will not happen. If I am going to the grocery store and there are two things we need I am good. Add a third, and now I need a piece of paper to write a list. There are packing lists for trips and to do lists, so I do not forget something important. Whether we write things down or keep a list on our phone, many of us have lists. I came across this little list a few days ago and want to share it with you. These are six important things to remember.
There was a town that had not seen rain for months, and they decided to all gather to pray. On the appointed day of prayer, the townsfolk all gathered. One young boy brought an umbrella. That is faith. If we are going to pray for something, we are praying because we need whatever we are praying for. Are we ready to receive the answer? Only one brought an umbrella. The boy expected it to rain. That's what they were praying for! In Matthew 8:5-13 we read about a Roman centurion whose slave was sick and dying. He came to Jesus asking for help and Jesus offered to go to the slave. The centurion said he knew Jesus could heal the slave simply by saying the words from where He was. Jesus responded not only with healing but the thought that He hadn't seen such faith in anyone in Israel.
Many of us have had a chance to spend time with little ones. Sometimes we toss them into the air. Other times we hang onto their hands and swing them round and around. And they laugh or say...do it again. Why do they laugh or ask for more? Because they trust that we will not let go, or we will catch them. That is trust. Shortly after the Israelites left Egypt, they found themselves at the shore of the Red Sea. It might have been a nice place to camp but Pharaoh had changed his mind about letting them go and he had sent his army after them. Now Israel was trapped between the sea and the Egyptian army. God commanded Moses to hold his staff out over the sea and the waters parted. The Israelites crossed over on dry ground with walls of water on either side of them. That is trust.
Every night, after a long day we prepare for bed. One of the things we do is set an alarm for the morning. We have absolutely no assurance that we will be alive the next morning, but we set the alarm anyway. That is hope. Hope means God is for us. It means that our past does not have to limit our future. There was a man who lived a solitary life of emotional and spiritual anguish among the tombs. He was naked and he would cut himself with stones. One day Jesus stepped into this man's world and healed him from his affliction. Now the man had hope for the future. Jesus still offers the fragrance of hope to people today.
All of us have plans for tomorrow. Perhaps we are taking a trip. Maybe we are retiring. Family is coming for a visit. We are graduating from school and we have a new job. We are moving across country or across town. But none of us has any knowledge of the future. That is confidence. God has said He will never leave us or forsake us. People will fail us. They make mistakes, break promises and sin against us. We do the same to others. But God will always love us. He will never fail. We can have confidence in that.
When we look at the world around us, we do not see many positives right now. There seems to be more chaos, suffering and disaster than anything else. But people are still getting married and having children. That is love. When we read in 1 Corinthians 13 that love never ends that is the love of God. It is God's love that came to earth as a baby. It is his love for us that taught and healed. It is God's love that hung on a cross paying a debt we cannot pay. Jesus is love.
An old man was wearing a shirt that said, I am not 80 years old. I am 16 with 64 years of experience! It's all in how we look at things. That is attitude. Keep in mind Moses was 80 when God sent him back to Egypt to bring the Israelites out of slavery. Abraham was 100 and Sarah was 90 when Isaac was born. John was close to 90 when he experienced the revelation and Methuselah lived to be 969. Age is just a number and we are never too old or too young to serve our Lord. The evil one may try to convince us that we are too old or too young to be useful to God. But if you are still breathing you are capable of serving the Lord. How we serve changes with our age, but we will never be an age where we cannot serve. EVER!
That is my list for today. What is on your list?
In His grip
Pastor Matt W
Many, many years ago I worked as an activity director at an assisted living facility. We had an amazing collection of folks living there. Some were Christians and others Jewish. Some didn't have faith of any kind. Some had been housewives, raising kids and supporting their husbands. Others had fascinating careers. One was a painter, and I called her Rembrandt. She was a very accomplished painter, and we are fortunate enough to have one of her paintings in our home. Another was a seamstress and yet another was a commercial pilot. She was way ahead of her time. One man had driven a taxi in New York City. He had many stories of people he carried in his taxi, including some about Babe Ruth. And then there was Helen. She had been a concert pianist and she could still play. I called her Beethoven. Helen was Jewish, but she played for our Sunday morning church services. She knew all the old hymns and was proud of that. Not only did I provide a church service every Sunday as part of my work, but I also taught a Bible study as well. Helen came to that too!
As many of you know, I like to tie the Old Testament to the New. That helps us see how the Old Testament points towards Jesus. One day after our Bible study Helen hung around until everyone else had left and then she came over to where I was sitting. She reached her hand into her pocket and handed me a gift. It was the mezuzah that had hung outside of her front door for decades. As staff we were not allowed to accept gifts from residents, so I thanked her and declined. But she insisted that I needed to have it. I gave it back to her again and she walked away. But that night as I took my coat off, there was the mezuzah in the pocket. For those of you who are not familiar, a mezuzah is a small piece of parchment paper with Hebrew scripture written on it. This paper is rolled and placed in a decorative case and hung by the front door. As faithful Jews come and go from their houses, they touch this case and the parchment in it to remind them of God's Word and His provision. They also serve as a reminder that our homes are holy places, and we should act accordingly, both when we are inside and when we go out into the world. The word mezuzah means doorpost. Sometimes there is a mezuzah outside every room inside the home as well, except the bathroom.
The scripture written on the parchment is from Deuteronomy 6:4-9. And in verse 9 of that reading the Lord’s command is to write His commands on the door posts of your house. This scripture is called the Shema which is the first word of the scripture verse. It means hear! Or listen! “Hear O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one. And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your might.” This scripture goes on to remind God’s people that they are to teach others, “Keep these words that I am commanding you today in your heart. Recite them to your children and talk about them when you are at home and when you are away, when you lie down and when you rise. Bind them as a sign on your hand, fix them as an emblem on your forehead, and write them on the door posts of your house and gate.”
This scripture may be found in the Old Testament, but these words are just as important to us today as they were when they were written. It is so very important we teach God's Word to our kids, grandkids, nieces and nephews. Because it is in His word that we encounter God. It is there we find words that bring hope, comfort, peace and reassurance. But we are not called to ever keep Gods word to ourselves. At a time when the west coast is on fire, the southeast is being battered by hurricanes and we are still baking with the heat of summer...people are weary, burdened and afraid. Now more than ever we need God's Words of reassurance. We need to find something sturdy and steady to hang onto, and we need to share it with others.
As I watch what is going on right now the verse that comes to mind is from Isaiah 43:1-3. I have used this verse before I am sure but sometimes this is how we hang on. “But now thus says the Lord, He who created you O Jacob, He who formed you O Israel: do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name and you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they will not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you will not be burned, and the flame will not consume you. For I am the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior.”
You and I have been named and claimed by the one true and Sovereign God of the universe. He will not let go of us. He will not let the evil one prevail. Yes, the evil one seems to be running rampant in the world right now. Some days it feels like God has moved and left no forwarding address. But He is here. Evil may win a skirmish or two, but Jesus has already defeated the evil one and there will be a day when he is tossed into the lake of fire...for all of eternity. In the meantime, we hang onto each other and to the Lord.
Find a scripture that you can hang onto, good friends to talk to and something that reminds you every day that God is good...that He is present and that we are called to act different because of Him.
In His grip
Pastor Matt W