Tuesday, March 27, 2012

buy or sell?

Ever dream of buying some land? Having your own piece of real estate? Even in troubled times?

2500 years ago in the land of Judah, the economy was collapsing, property values were plummeting, an epidemic was sweeping the city of Jerusalem - and the Babylonians led by king Nebuchadnezzar were on the warpath to Israel.

That's when Jeremiah the prophet, imprisoned inside the city, receives a word from the Lord, “Buy the field”.

What's that? Come again, Lord?

Jerusalem is collapsing amidst political, spiritual, and economic woes. Jeremiah and all of Jerusalem are about to go down big time. Yet the Lord tells Jeremiah, “Buy the field”.  Not sell the farm. Buy the field!

The field belonged to the prophet’s cousin Hanamel, and it was located in his hometown, Anathoth, just three miles north of Jerusalem. I'm sure it was a nice field, and it was close to home. But any investment in Judah’s future seems pretty hopeless at this point. Why in the world would someone make this kind of investment in such turbulent economic times?

Jeremiah answers that for us ...

"Behold the Days are coming declares the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah... I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. I will be their God and they shall be my people. I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more."

“The days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will raise up to David a righteous Branch, a King who will reign wisely and do what is just and right in the land. In His days Judah will be saved and Israel will live in safety. This is the name by which He will be called: ‘The Lord is our righteousness’.

“This is what the Lord says, ... ‘I have loved you with an everlasting love.”

“For I know the plans I have for you, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future."

Jeremiah knows that a King is coming who will declare him righteous and holy and forgiven.
This gives him hope for the future because his God is the Creator of the ends of the earth.
His God is the Redeemer of Israel. So Jeremiah buys the field.

A field of dreams, indeed.

Monday, March 19, 2012

"The Deepest Magic"
by Herb Mueller

 In the movie, “The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe” (and C.S. Lewis’s book by the same name) Aslan refers to the “deeper magic” of the stone table:  When an innocent victim offers himself to death in place of one who is guilty of treachery, the guilt is atoned for and the innocent one is raised to life.  The “deep magic” of the stone table is the reality underlying everything else in the imaginary world of Narnia.

For those who have not read the book or seen the movie, the story is both fantasy and an allegory of the Gospel:  On the cross the innocent victim offered Himself to death in place of all of us, and was raised to life that we might be forgiven and have eternal life.

“While we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. … God shows His love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:6,8)

Our prayer is that those who see the movie or read the book would be reminded of the truth of Christ’s sacrifice.  Perhaps you can point people you know in that direction.  But remember, the good news of Jesus’ death and resurrection for us is not fantasy, not simply a story, not even magic, but it is reality, the deepest reality of all.

We live our lives from day to day in what we call “the real world.”  In the “real world” you have to “work for a living,” “watch your back,” and “take care of your own.”  In the “real world” we go to work, get married, have kids, take care of a house and yard, go out with friends, save for the future, etc.

In the “real world” the price of gas is rising, we don’t have enough money (or we think we don’t), and we have to watch for the person who (we think) “has it in for us.”  What’s more, we all have to “take responsibility” for our own actions.

Behind these day to day realities you will also find the less tangible, but often more important, realities of love, commitment, trust, forgiveness, reliability, happiness, satisfaction and contentment.  These can also be destroyed by hate, infidelity, holding grudges, fear, impatience and greed.

As important as these are, the deepest realities of all are those revealed to us in God’s Word.  They are revealed, we say, because they are not always obvious to the naked eye.  In fact, these realities are only received through faith in God’s promises.

But that does not make them any less real.  For though we cannot always see him with our physical eyes, God is not far off in a fantasy world.  God is here and He is real.  He speaks in His Word (and we hear by faith).  More than that, He has come into our world, into our human life in Jesus Christ.  We believe what we hear His Word say about Him.

Jesus lived a perfect life among us.  Jesus offered Himself the innocent victim in our place, because of our hate, our fear, our grudges, our infidelity, impatience and greed.  Jesus rose from the dead to forgive our failure and to raise us up to eternal life.  In Him we find true love, real commitment, deep trust, lasting forgiveness, the greatest reliability, true happiness, satisfaction and contentment.

The death and the resurrection of Jesus is the deep reality that is underneath everything else.  He calls us to follow Him.  He promises to be with us always.  He assures us of our place in the family of God.  In Him we are truly alive!  It’s not fantasy, but it’s more real than anything else can be.

We live in this reality when we hear and believe the promises of God’s Word.  May God keep you there now and always!


Wednesday, March 14, 2012

march madness

Spring is about to begin in the middle of one of the "holiest" times of the year. Lent? Easter? No - March Madness! Actually, for all but one team in the NCAA Tournament, March Madness quickly turns into March Sadness.

Jesus’ prediction of his suffering and death in the Gospels bring another form of March Madness. No doubt Peter thought Jesus had lost his mind, and even rebuked him for thinking such thoughts. Peter’s Messiah was not going to be Isaiah’s suffering servant, but an invincible monarch that would save Israel by defeating the Romans. This talk about being rejected, suffering and dying was sheer madness. What was Jesus thinking? He had never talked like this. What was He talking about?

The great philosopher Yogi Berra once said, “When you come to a fork in the road, take it.” Jesus was at a crossroads and it was time to make a decision. He knew which way to go. It was time to head south toward Jerusalem and confront the pharisees, the scribes, and the religious leaders. It was time to trade in all the adoring crowds for hostile ones, time to take up his cross, time to die for the sins of the whole world.  It was time to change the course of his ministry, and he knew it whether anyone else did or not.  It was time to put on His game face - it was game time.

March madness was looming and he needed to prepare his unsuspecting disciples.
“He then began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, chief priests and teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and after three days rise again." - Mark 8

Lent is not only the time for March Madness on the basketball court.  More importantly, it is the time for us to follow our Lenten Lord, to go with Jesus to Jerusalem, even though we know that madness awaits. For it is there He will sacrifice Himself for us, take one for the team, and suffer great pain and loss so that we can have joy and victory forever in heaven with Him.


Thursday, March 8, 2012

just wandering...

on the night of full moon, heavenly bodies appear 
two lonely wanderers in the west, so far yet so near,
come together to join in celestial conjunction
in what must be a match made in heaven

ancient words come to mind
from the song book of all time
love and faithfulness meet together
righteousness and peace kiss each other

and words from a prophet who foresaw this wonder...
lift up your eyes and look to the heavens
who created all these?
he who brings out the starry host one by one
and calls them each by name
because of his great power and mighty strength
not one of them is missing


Monday, March 5, 2012