May 9, 2021

Home Sweet Home

The eternal God is your dwelling place, and underneath are the everlasting arms.

Deuteronomy 33:27 (ESV)
Home is where the heart is. In a healthy home, there's unconditional love; there's forgiveness. And so it should come as no surprise that Moses compared God to the place where we live. Charles Spurgeon said:

There is a fulness and sweetness in the metaphor, for dear to our hearts is our home, although it be the humblest cottage, or the scantiest garret; and dearer far is our blessed God, in whom we live, and move, and have our being.

May 8, 2021

Waiting for Elijah

Rise up, come to our help. Redeem us for the sake of your steadfast love.
Psalm 44:26
Scotsman James Gilmour was called as a student to be a missionary and was sent to Mongolia at the age of 27. Once he reached China, he needed to travel overland alone to reach his ultimate destination. The trip took many months, and his sense of loneliness was overwhelming.

Though he had studied Chinese, he didn't know a word of the Mongolian language that he'd need to do his work. And so as he progressed along his route, everything he owned on his back, he accepted the hospitality of strangers along the way. He learned the language by pointing to things and asking what they were in Mongolian, thus acquiring a vocabulary. 

May 7, 2021

Boldness in Prayer

Lead me in your truth, and teach me, for you are the God of my salvation; for you I wait all day long.

Psalm 25:5
An excerpt from R.A. Torrey's classic, How to Pray, originally published in 1900:

The passage 1 John 5:14,15 is one of the most abused passages in the Bible: And this is the boldness we have in him, that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. And if we know that he hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have obtained the requests made of him. The Holy Spirit beyond a doubt put it into the Bible to encourage our faith. It begins with “This is the boldness that we have in him,” and closes with “we know that we have obtained the requests made of him.”

May 6, 2021

God's Masks

The eyes of all look to you, and you give them their food in due season. You open your hand, satisfying the desire of every living thing.
Psalm 145:15-16
When we think of providence, we too seldom remember that what God gives us almost always comes through the hands of our neighbors. Instead of manna from heaven, bread comes from a baker—or these days from a grocery store which bought the bread from a baked goods factory. And it's the same thing with virtually all our resources these days. 

Martin Luther taught that receiving nourishment in this way is no less providence than the bread Israel received in the wilderness. It's just that God wears the masks of the baker and the milkmaid to provide for us.

May 5, 2021

God Loves the Poor

It is I who by my great power and my outstretched arm have made the earth, with the people and animals that are on the earth, and I give it to whomever I please.
Jeremiah 27:5
One of the most controversial concepts in the field of religion as the 20th century came to a close was the rise of liberation theology. Though it came to the fore in many areas of the world, it is the Latin American form of liberation theology that was best-known (and most debated) in the United States. 

Mostly a reaction to poverty and social inequality, one of the main claims of liberation theology is God's preferential treatment of the poor. Though this is a claim that ruffles many feathers, in the life and teachings of Christ, we cannot reject this teaching outright.

May 4, 2021

Call Back

On the day I called, you answered me, you increased my strength of soul.
Psalm 138:3
Yesterday, I meditated on God's call to us—a call that draws us from the prison of walking the world alone to the broad places of freedom to follow Christ. But servants of God are not just at the receiving end of God's call. We are also free to call back.

In the Hebrew Bible, a shepherd whom God had called to lead his people met with resistance. The powerful king God had chosen him to replace was out to kill him. But he called to God, and was answered with patience, courage, and strength. Centuries later, outcasts are told not to bother asking for God to hear their cries, for they are not the right kind of people.

May 3, 2021

Some People Talking

The Lord was my stay. He brought me out into a broad place.

Freedom is the bedrock of our lives, or so we think. We're free to choose, free to speak, free to do. But are we really that free? Anybody my age remembers a song by the Eagles called Desperado. And one of its most memorable lines goes like this:

Freedom? Ah freedom.
That's just some people talking.
Your prison is walking
through this world all alone.

Though I suspect most of us don't consciously subscribe to what Don Henley sang back in 1973, there must be some reason we're haunted by those words; there must be some truth to what we're hearing—why else would we remember it so well?

May 2, 2021

Easter 5 Worship

This morning was a perfect sunny and warm May morning in the Western Reserve. Today's theme, God Is Love, was taken from the epistle reading: 1 John 4:7-13. Our hymns were Love Divine, All Loves Excelling and For the Bread Which You Have Broken. They'll Know We Are Christians by Our Love was played as an interlude after the sermon. Ginger Hannon was presiding elder, Ann Doersam, organist, and Bill Arotin, videographer. Here's the video of the worship service: