Sunday, January 26, 2014

Close to Heaven Matthew 4:12-23

When Jesus walked the earth he preached to the people telling them to turn their lives around. He had good reason, God's Kingdom was coming close Matthew 4:17. Somehow I overlap thoughts of God's coming Kingdom with an imaginary picture of heaven. Maybe you imagine God's kingdom as a heavenly place too--you know, filled with

  • puffy clouds to float on
  • angels--who look like chubby babies in flossy diapers
  • harps to strum
  • heavenly choirs praising God
  • you can add to this list
When Jesus said God's kingdom was coming close He stood on earth and spoke to people who daily knew sin, death, and evil. Jesus spoke of a Kingdom that was coming close to people on this earth. This is Good News for hurting people: the King of the Universe's dominion is coming close to us.

Some might say God can't come if things aren't perfect--but Jesus would likely disagree. He called for people to turn away from sin--the kingdom is coming. Even failed preparations won't prevent Jesus' coming. Past sins and shames don't stop him; turn away from the old sins and come to the light. Matthew says Jesus coming fulfilled the promise of an ancient prophet. He pointed to Isaiah wh o spoke on God's behalf when he said light would come for people in darkness Isaiah 9:1-2, Matthew 4:16-17. And He meant it. God's light is meant for those in darkness.

How close is God's Kingdom? If God's coming Kingdom isn't best envisioned as a far way heaven how can it be imagined. In all 4 Gospels Jesus, and the Kingdom of God that came as he came, were close enough to be sensed with eyes, ears, tongues, noses, and skin. This was no head trip--it was a flesh and blood experience of God coming in the middle of every detail of life. When Jesus called two fisherman Simon and Andrew to come and catch people like they'd caught fish He was inviting them to join in as the Kingdom came close by Matthew 4:19-20. Two other fishmen, Zebedee's boys James and John came along too.
That's how it started--so now comes our invitation to go fishing and come close to heaven.
Peace and thanks for reading, John

Thursday, January 9, 2014

like wet clay Matthew 3:13-17

Christmas reminded me this year that Jesus, the Light of the world, shows bright in the darkness. And now this week in Matthew 3 we hear how Jesus ministry of healing, teaching, dying, and rising began. Remember Jesus ministry brought light to everyone he met. Some embraced him, some fought him openly, some hid not wanting to let the light into the painful dark places of their souls.

At that time Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan River and wanted John to baptize him. 14 But John tried to stop him, saying, “Why do you come to me to be baptized? I need to be baptized by you!”
15 Jesus answered, “Let it be this way for now. We should do all things that are God’s will.” So John agreed to baptize Jesus. Matthew 3:13-15 (NCV)
John the Baptist was a great man who knew he had a part of God's plan. He knew wasn't the be all and the end all of God's plan. No believer is. Instead we are the vessels that God shapes and molds to carry his light into the world. Remember he's the potter and we're the clay (See Isaiah 64:8). Jesus had a plan to come and John the Baptist's soft heart was like clay in the Father's hands. He offered everything that Jesus light might be shared with the world.
16 As soon as Jesus was baptized, he came up out of the water. Then heaven opened, and he saw God’s Spirit coming down on him like a dove. 17 And a voice from heaven said, “This is my Son, whom I love, and I am very pleased with him.” Matthew 3:16-17 (NCV)
Jesus pleased God before His ministry had even begun. And I believe that God desires to find great joy in each one of his sons and daughters.

When you hear God's voice do you hear words like Jesus did? If you don't there's good chance that heart is hard. There's a good chance that you need to remember what it means to live wet from baptism. Living wet from baptism doesn't remove your past. Your history is there—but it does mean that your history—either what you've done or what others have done to you—dictates your future in Christ Jesus. Remember we serve a great and creative God. He's the Father who made you and he is the one who seeks to remake you.

Now if you think that you're to hard of a lump for God to work with you I want you to remember your baptism. In Baptism we, like Jesus, come to the water. We like Jesus come to hear God's Word announce who we are and why we matter to our Father in heaven. And if your heart is hard—like a lump of solid dried out clay today is a wonderful day to remember who made you and who has redeemed you.

When a potter has a lump of dried out clay he doesn't have to throw it out. Instead he starts to get it wet. As the edges start to soften he'll start working water inside the clay little by little. A skilled potter pokes small holes into a dry lump as it starts to soften to let even more water in. God does that with each of us and our hearts. He comes to us day after day. He works on us sometimes with great fever and other times slowly bit by bit as the Word and Holy Spirit works first at the edges of our hardened hearts and hardened consciences. And slowly God's Word and Spirit penetrate to the very core of who we are that we can hear again who made us and how much joy he finds in each of us. AMEN.
Peace, and thanks for reading. John