Lent Reflections from The Hill – 24

Are You In the Way?

Philippians 2:5-11

Patty and I recently took a trip. We joined some family and attended First Baptist Church of Indian Rocks. How the church took that name is for another reflection to be sure. We sat in a large auditorium with two very large screens to project those leading on the stage. I prefer to see the person on the stage rather from the screen. I know, it is likely my age and personal sensibility. For me it is like reading a book. I think there are reasons I would like an e-book reader but nothing compares to holding the book in your hand. These mediums sometimes get the way. Not to mention I sat behind a very tall fellow which at times forced me to watch the screen rather than see the pastor. Yes, his head was in the way.

Generally when we refer to something being in the way we describe an impediment, hindrance, or obstacle. Children leave toys out in the way. Sometimes we feel another driver is in the way.

One of the earliest descriptions of those who were disciples of Jesus in the book of acts were referred to people who were in “The Way.”

I don’t know if this description fell out of favor after a cult took its name from the reference in Acts. But, today there is something of a revival of this description.

“Following God in the way of Jesus.” For the Apostle Paul, it seems this is a good description. He does not use the phrase explicitly. But, it is hard to miss in the Philippian passage. “Have this mind in you that is also in Christ Jesus” marks out the way we choose to live. The opening verses of this chapter point to the relational context for the hymn Paul inserts. He continues the same theme in the verses that follow our reading.

The result leaves me wondering if you are in the Way. That is, are you, are we, in the Way of Jesus. It is not enough to get it right that this passage may well describe the Incarnation as well as the divinity of Jesus. It is not enough to recognize that Jesus did die, has been raised and exalted. If “Jesus Is Lord” is not represented in our posture toward others, we have decided to get the points right but not the practice. Jesus regularly pointed out that many may get the point, not so many get the practice. And really for Jesus, if you do not get the practice, that is how it looks and is lived out, then likely you do not get the point.

I guess we could also consider if the Way of Jesus is in our way. That is sometimes we are so enamored of our own way we could not think of following Jesus’ way. In that sense we return full circle from the beginning. What is in your way? The Apostle Paul noted that Jesus would be a “stone of stumbling” – in the way. We may stumble while pursuing the Jesus way. Yet we find hope as we follow in The Way, the way of Jesus.

Todd

Lent Reflections from The Hill – 23

From Palms to Cross

Luke 22:14-23:56

This Sunday has been Palm Sunday, but this account in the Gospel of Luke of Jesus' entry into Jerusalem has no palms, and no hosannas either, two of the most familiar details of this story in the other three Gospels. It's kind of hard to imagine Palm Sunday without them. Yes, there are the cloaks laid out to make his ride easier, as in the other accounts, but no mention of palms and no hosannas, and the praises are sung not by a fickle crowd that will change its mind in a few days and call for Jesus' death. No, these praises burst forth from Jesus' own disciples, a whole multitude of them, who have been following him throughout his ministry. They may run and hide when things get rough in a few days, but they never call for Jesus' crucifixion.

These are, after all, people who have seen such great things, who have been so profoundly moved by Jesus' words and his deeds of power that they can't help but sing out today, as Jesus enters triumphantly into their holy city, Jerusalem. Jesus is the hope of a people who long for deliverance from the powers that crush them and hold them down.

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Lent Reflections from The Hill – 22

Hearts of Servants

Psalms 31:9-16

    It is easy to recognize the great distress and hardship the Psalmist is undergoing. The description of suffering is detailed in its poetic nature. The lament cries out to God for comfort and help. But even in the suffering and distress the Psalmist understands where hope comes from and whose love is unfailing. Verses 14-16 offer declaration of dependence and trust in God.
    Many times in our lives it seems as though God is absent in our hardship, and there is nowhere to turn. Life often wears us down with stress, loss, and brokenness.

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Lent Reflections from The Hill – 21

The Suffering Servant

Isaiah 50:4-9a

    This passage is often referred to as one of the Suffering Servant songs and also is paralleled with the suffering of Jesus. The prophet here describes the conflict and suffering he has undergone for the sake of God and those around him. But in the midst of the suffering, the writer has hope of deliverance knowing that he “shall not be put to shame” (v. 7). While adversity comes, “it is the Lord God who helps me” (v. 9).
    In our own lives nestled within the Bible Belt, the suffering experienced by the prophet is difficult for us to relate.

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Lent Reflections from The Hill – 20

The Downside Up of Losing

Philippians 3:4-14

I never really acquired the taste for Pineapple Upside Down Cake. It may be the upside down thing. I do like pineapple. And I like cake. But cake is supposed to be right side up!

When I read and reflect on a passage like this I get the same feeling. Paul talks about all the things we count as important in our day as not really important. That is upside down.

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Lent Reflections from The Hill – 19

Service through Presence

John 12:1-8

In the story of this act of anointing, we learn that Jesus is in the home of Mary, Martha and Lazarus.Mary takes “a pound of costly perfume made of pure nard” and anoints Jesus’ feet. It is important to emphasize both the intent and the extent of Mary’s grateful anointing.The Greek word translated “wipe” in the phrase, “Mary wiped Jesus’ perfumed feet with her hair” (12:5b) is the Greek ekmasso.It is the identical word used later by John to describe Jesus’ wiping of his disciples’ feet in the foot washing event (13:5).That is a very intentional connection made by the author. Just as Jesus’ washing of his disciples’ feet and then his tender wiping of them is Jesus’ act of love toward his disciples, so Mary’s washing with the perfume and wiping with her hair of the feet of Jesus was her extravagant act of love toward Jesus!The author of the Gospel of John wants us to clearly see Mary’s intention behind that act.

This part about "you always have the poor with you," we should not let this be quoted as resignation, or acquiescence, or shrugging of the shoulders in the presence of poverty.

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Lent Reflections from The Hill – 18

The Lord has Done Great Things

Psalm 126

    Psalm 126 is one of the songs of Ascent – psalms that were sung by the people on the ascents or goings up to Jerusalem to attend the three pilgrim festivals at the Temple. It has 2 main parts but really refers to three Past, Present and a Future Hope.

Vs. 1-3 are the past part (a little History) “the opening verse seems to date this expression of faith sometime after the return of the Jews from the Babylonian exile. The people of Judah had been conquered; the City of Jerusalem, destroyed, the Temple razed to the ground. Over a series of deportations the people of Judah had been dispersed. But then in 539 the Babylonians were defeated by Cyrus, king of Persia. For the exiled people of Judah, Cyrus was something of a savior, for one of his early edicts was to order the return of the Jews to their homeland. After 40 years in captivity the Jews—many of them, at least—were ecstatic.” William P. Brown

Just in case you were wondering Zion was the mountain Jerusalem was built on. Zion is also a synonym for the city of Jerusalem.

The Psalmist has some wonderful joyous memories of what God has done. But then in vs. 4-5 we see a whole different mindset this is the present part. This is a prayer of desperation pleading to God to restore his fortunes and the fortunes of his people.

(a little more History) “Watercourses” is a term that refers to the deep ditches in the wilderness of Negeb, that during the ordinary dry, arid seasons of the year would be empty and dry, but that in the rainy season would become suddenly filled with flowing torrents of water. For ages these watercourses served as reminders, symbols of just how readily the power and grace of God could transform the experience of life from a dry barren wasteland into a life filled with refreshment and overflowing abundance.” William P. Brown

So this is a pleading for God to intervene once again. Then in v. 6 the future part, so we go from the past glories of God to the present need for God to the future Hope with God “shall come home with shouts of joy, carrying the sheaves”. Another just in case you were wondering Sheaves is a bundle of cut stalks of grain or similar plants bound with straw or twine. People used to gather wheat by tying them into bundles called sheaves. So the term "carrying their sheaves" means carrying the harvest.

So we do need to remember the past things God has done in our lives He has redeemed us! We need to celebrate what God has done “our mouth filled with laughter, and our tongue with shouts of joy…” Our lives need to proclaim it following Jesus loving those around us. We also need to be honest with God about our present situation whatever it may be, all the while looking toward and rejoicing in the future hope we have in Christ Jesus because of the resurrection. “The Lord has done great things for us…”

Rusty

Lent Reflections from The Hill – 17

A New Thing

Isaiah 43:16-21

    Last year at camp with the youth, we developed a project for them to work on throughout the week. Each evening during our cabin devotional time, I explained a new step as part of the project. Each step correlated with characteristics of following Christ and the relationship that is developed with Jesus as well as with each other. The idea was to develop an illustration of how individual meets community in relationship with God. The result of that project now hangs in our recently completed youth café as a reminder of not only the steps of a project but the picture of what a community of faith should be.
    The people of Israel the writer of Isaiah addresses in this scripture have been in exile for several years at this point. Taken away from their land and forced to live in a place and a life that is not home. Many of the people have not even experienced “home” other than the stories they have been told. The writer declares to the people that God is going to do a “new thing” (v. 19). There is hope of deliverance for “my chosen people” (v. 20).
    The people are dwelling on the past and using it as a crutch hoping to recreate what once was. But God commands they “do not remember the former things, or consider the things of old” (v. 18). What is in the past is gone. The call here is not to completely forget what God has done, but to not look to it as something to be recreated.

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Lent Reflections from The Hill – 16

Beautiful Forgiveness

2 Corinthians 5:16-21

The flowers we saw at Butchart Gardens were among some of the most beautiful we had seen. I am most awed by thinking these wonders began as small seeds. Thinking about Paul’s words reminds me of the beauty of forgiveness and reconciliation. These two themes run through the four texts for the Fourth Sunday in the Season of Lent.

Forgiveness alters forgiver and the forgiven. Reconciliation changes the shape of wounded relationships. If there ever were a time for us to consider these two themes in the context of the world in which we live, it would be now. People thought that over time we would progress to the place where relationships would naturally flourish. We could dispense with personal injury because we would morphe into being very good. We could forgo the necessities of mediation because we would experience harmony with each other and the earth we inhabit. The truth is we continue to see broken relationships, abuse, neglect, and great deal of pain. Wounds need salve to heal – forgiveness and reconciliation bring hope and healing.

Our texts for this week have pointed to a people ravaged in captivity in Egypt and then captive to their own designs finding a fruitful land to live in. We read of the peace that comes from forgiveness when the weight of our guilt and shame overtake us.Love overtakes our need to hide. Living reconciled lives brings a newness that points all people to hope in Jesus. A son is welcomed long before he makes the move toward home.

Today we need those who would live out the way of Jesus in the world, forgiving 70 times 7, showing kindness before repentance, offering love before contrition. In so doing we may well represent the way of God in the world that draws people into the web of God’s love and works in people a Jesus kind of transformation.

When you see the trees bud out and flowers blossom may you be reminded of the newness that comes with forgiveness and reconciliation.

Todd

Lent Reflections from The Hill – 15

Extraordinary Mercy

Luke 15:1-3, 11b-32

The dregs of society (“tax collectors and sinners”) coming to Jesus causes the religious leaders (“the Pharisees and the scribes”) to wonder whether Jesus sees anyone as beyond God’s mercy. To explain, Jesus tells three parables: the Lost Sheep, the Lost Coin and the Lost (or Prodigal) Son. In all three, the recovery of what was lost is cause for rejoicing. There are no limits to God’s mercy.

Briefly, the story of the Lost Son is this: the younger son leaves home and squanders his inheritance; finding himself a hungry outcast resorting to Gentile ways (feeding “pigs), he decides to return to his father; his father, who seeks him, welcomes him back; the son confesses, and his father celebrates his return; the elder son returns; he learns the reason for the festivities; he accuses his father of favoritism; the father explains the situation to him. In the context of first-century Palestine, several things look out of the ordinary:

for a son to ask his father for his share of the inheritance would be like a death wish;
no older self-respecting Jew would run to his son
a father would demand a full display of repentance, not the truncated one.

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Lent Reflections from The Hill – 14

To Be Loved

Psalm 32

Happiness is a high priority for most of us. Our desire for happiness drives much of our lives. In fact our ambitions, our relationships, our professions, our hobbies, the clothes we wear, the food we eat and even the way we observe Lent reflect our beliefs about what brings us fulfillment and happiness.

In Psalm 32 happiness comes from being forgiven. It doesn’t come from being important, accomplished, organized, optimistic, wealthy, successful, or just busy. Happiness comes from being righteous. As you read Psalm 32 you see righteousness is not a matter of being sinless. It’s about confession that leads us to personal change that places God alone at the center of our lives without rival.

The first step is breaking the silence between us and God concerning our so called hidden sin. When we stay silent and do not deal with our hidden sin the consequences are dire.

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Lent Reflections from The Hill – 13

The End?

Joshua 5:9-12

    As many of you know, I really love golf. Okay, it’s actually somewhat of an obsession. Ever since I was an eight year old boy, and my dad took me to Brookside Golf Course to play golf for the first time, I’ve been hooked. Growing up I was always asked by people why I loved it so much, and I never really could give an answer. I would always reply with “I just do.”

    My obsession eventually led me to a place where I was able to play in college on scholarship. It was there that I met an amazing man who impacted my life so much over the four years I was in college. PJ Throckmorton was my golf coach who helped persuade me to go to Campbellsville University. PJ is a unique man who absolutely loves golf and mentoring young men. He’s a passionate man whom I never doubted his love for God and people. The interesting thing about PJ is when I started out as a freshman he was 73 years old. Many would think it shocking for him to be that age and still spending so much time coaching, administering, going to tournaments, leading out in FCA, spending time with college students, and still have a wonderful marriage with his fantastic wife Mildred. But once you got to know PJ, you would understand.

    One of the worst places in life that we can often find ourselves is thinking that we have climaxed in our knowledge, relationships, and journey with Jesus.

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Lent Reflections from The Hill – 12

Escaping Together

1 Corinthians 10:1-14

One rule of thumb when lifting free weights – never lift alone. There was an accident in college. A young man was working out on the bench press. He was strong. Weight lifting was something he had done for a number of years. He knew the best practices. This time he was alone, no “spotter.” Something happened. The bar became heavy, slipped, something went wrong. He did not survive the crushing of his larynx. He could not escape alone.
For most of my life I have heard it said that God would not give us more than we can bear. There are quite a few assumptions in this statement we could address. But, for this Lent reflection I want to focus on where we get that idea. What Scripture relates this maxim often invoked? I am not sure.
It may be a re-working of what is described in 1 Corinthians 10:13. Paraphrasing the Apostle Paul, “We face common human temptations. In the midst of those human temptations God provides a way for us to escape.” Bearing the stresses of life and surviving the weight of temptation may be connected, but I am certain the way we talk about God not giving us more than we can bear has little to do with temptation. Instead, we invoke such a notion when we are tired, worn out, and it seems like the weight of the world is on us – for a variety of reasons. We don’t reference that sentiment when we are battling temptation.
A careful reading of the passage reveals a history lesson intended to help a community of faith live in the hostile environs surrounding them. It was not necessarily that hostility came from persecution. Rather the adversaries they faced were former practices. It may well have been the temptation to ignore others who had not come to understand meat sacrificed to idols was safe to eat since there are really no other gods but God. But, set in the context of human history as Paul reflected on the experiences of his people gave evidence of a common temptation – to think we can go it alone.
The idea of going it alone is really a matter of pride. Niebuhr contended pride to be at the center of human sin. Subtly we move about giving little evidence we need God. Only in desperation do many of us call on God, and then only to help get us out of the predicament we got ourselves into. In this way we are always tempted by a common temptation. We always face the temptation to forget our story. We neglect living under the reign of God, in the realm of God. Every day we are tempted to go it alone – to move about without recognition of God’s presence and our need for his wisdom, love, and grace.
Even more, Paul wrote to a group of people. He used the plural “you” when talking about common human temptation. He gives the community of faith habits and practices that help remind the singular “you’s” of the group what we need to escape the temptation to go it alone. Scripture, songs, prayer, worship, sharing our stories together – all of these and more provide ready made reminders we need each other to escape common human temptations to go it alone, without God. We may only escape common human temptations together. Sharing life together. Sharing worship together. Sharing fellowship together. Sharing the Scriptures together. Sharing prayer together. Escaping together.

Todd

Lent Reflections from The Hill – 11

With God

Luke 13:1-9

"At that time some were present who told them about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mixed with their sacrifices… and about the eighteen who were killed by a falling tower in Siloam."

Jesus made it quite clear that what had happened in these two current events were not punishments for the sins of the participants. Yet, he challenged his listeners to repent and change or such things may happen to them! Scripture and our experience bears out, bad things happen to good people. And, good things happen to bad people. While there may be no direct cause and effect between what happens to us and our good or bad behavior, we are still challenged to behave in a better way.
Jesus then goes on to tell the story of the barren fig tree. The nature of a fig tree is to bear figs and so the master is angry with the tree that is barren. He orders it to be cut down but gives a reprieve for one year when the vine dresser pleads that it be given another chance.
When we are in meditation we are being still before the Lord so that our better nature can be called forth. We are not there out of fear of punishment or in an effort to put God in our debt. We are just there to be with BEing (God) itself. As we do this we cannot but become more honest and seek to act more in accordance with our better nature. We will also become more perceptive of God’s mercy and his gifts as they appear in our lives.

Nathan

Lent Reflections from The Hill – 10

Desiring God

Psalm 63:1-8

I usually start my mornings out with 2 cups okay 2 BIG cups of cream and sugar with a little coffee. I really looked forward to that every day (well except for right now I gave up cream and sugar in my coffee for Lent). Sounds like something minute but is it? What do we look forward to each day? What do we long for? What do we truly hunger for? What do we take time out for each and every day without fail?
    In Psalm 63, the psalmist is not simply interested in or respectful of God he instead craves God as a coffee drinker craves the first morning cup (or 2). In fact the need for God is symbolized by thirst in vs.1 and hunger in vs.5. The longing for God is so intense that it is felt physically. 
    So with this great longing Psalm 63 reeks of deep joy. Like a child overtaken with excitement as they eat an ice cream cone, or ride a bike for the first time, so the psalmist delights in God’s presence: “because Your steadfast love is better than life, my lips will praise You vs.3…I will bless You as long as I live; I will lift up my hands and call on Your name. My soul is satisfied as with a rich feast vs.4-5a…You have been my help…I sing for joy vs.7…My soul clings to You” vs.8. The desire for God throughout this text is undeniable.
If we are honest we desire many things, some more than others. Unfortunately as we see on the news all the time with drug addiction, extortion, robbery, rape, etc…disordered desire is the norm. Sometimes we want bad things. Most times we want good things in bad ways. We are all guilty of wanting some things too much and other things too little.
Mostly we desire God much too little. Often we long for coffee more than God. Or often we long for _______ (fill in the blank) more than God. Why? Good question. Why would we long for such minute things instead of the One True God of the Universe knowing in our hearts His love is better than life?
Some might say we desire too much, that are desires are just too great and we can never be satisfied. I believe the answer lies in our desire but not that it is too great but that it is too little and we are satisfied to easily. What God has for us in a relationship with Him is so much greater than the petty little things we tend to be satisfied with. We usually miss out totally on what God has for us because we are seduced by the world’s perversion of who God is and the life He has for us. We need to learn to desire God the way the psalmist desires God by not settling for anything less. Our desires must become greater; our standards must be raised, our expectations blown sky high as we experience God’s love each and every morning.
So Psalm 63 gives us a vision, a goal to strive for, to develop a deep desire, a longing for God. In this time of Lent may we as in Psalm 63 be able to say to God “my soul thirsts for You; my flesh faints for You,…Your steadfast love is better than life,…and in the shadow of Your wings I sing for joy.”

Rusty

Lent Reflections from The Hill – 9

Over Packing the Suitcase

Isaiah 55:1-9

    I watched a clip from the movie Up in the Air staring George Clooney a few days ago that was quite interesting. Part of what he does as a side job is teaching seminars as a type of inspirational speaker. During his talk he uses the illustration of packing a suitcase to explain life and priorities. So for a moment here take the time to think through my adaptation of the illustration.
    Imagine you have a suitcase. Take some time to pack into the suitcase all of the things that fill up your life, family, work, hobbies, entertainment. Maybe start with general things such as work then work down to more specific things such as what needs to be done today at work. Start placing things in such as your cell phone, computer, house, car, pictures, etc. Now place in things that are of value but are not physical things such as beliefs, relationships, and culture. The suitcase is probably quite large and heavy now. Now imagine hauling that massive suitcase around with you everywhere you go. Seems quite difficult to haul such a large suitcase everywhere you’re going.
    Whether we want to admit it or not, this is what really are doing every day. We carry around all of these things in our life all together. Now some (if not most) of us have figured out how we can separate things out into several separate suitcases. We have our family suitcase, work suitcase, hobby suitcase, and even religion suitcase. But the truth is even though we may separate things all of that stuff still continues with us in some way.
    The writer of this part of Isaiah charges the people to take stalk of what is important. The people need a dependency check. They have been hoping for things and working toward things that are not that important. All they really want is more stuff to carry around in their suitcase. The prophet asks why they keep striving for more stuff when they don’t need those things, they only need God and what he provides.
    A focus of the Lenten season is to eliminate something from our dependence that allows us to place that dependence or focus on Jesus as we journey to Resurrection Sunday. Many of us have tried to place too much in our suitcase. We become dependent on filling our suitcase with things that simply are not needed. Maybe this Lenten season is a great starting point for eliminating our dependence on the things that are not needed and placing more priority and dependence on our journey of following Jesus.

Brad

Lent Reflections from The Hill – 8

Lament and Persistent Grace

Luke 13:31-35

A thought experiment: read through the gospel text substituting the name of your town for "Jerusalem" wherever it appears. (You could try "Washington" too, but the US government feels so distant from most of us that it might not have the desired effect.) Does anything about that reading ring true?

First, we have the violent horror of prophets being killed and even stoned, a horrific and bloody practice to be sure.Jesus follows this image directly with the tender and compassionate description of a hen gathering her chicks under her wings, which speaks of warmth, protection, and love.Together they form a heart-rending lament for a city that has exhibited a pattern of misunderstanding and punishment for those whom God sends to it.God’s response to such a stubborn and misguided populace is not retribution, or punishment (thought the city was destroyed sometime around 70 C.E., an event of which Luke was likely to be aware), but rather lamentation and persistence.God is not done with Jerusalem and its people.In fact, it is that very promise – that God in Jesus Christ will come to them yet again – with which this passage ends.

This is no mere prelude to Palm Sunday; it is a promise from God to the people.God will once again engage and pursue the very city that kills God’s prophets and stones those whom God sends.It will serve not only as the final drum beat in Jesus’ journey to the cross, but also the setting of God’s greatest triumph.It is the people of Jerusalem who will see God’s own willingness to suffer and die for them face-to-face.It is an extraordinary statement on the grace of God, and also a compelling proclamation that no place stands exempt from God’s tender compassion and persistent love.Those who seek to follow Jesus must learn to view the world with no less compassion, no less forgiveness, and no less love.

Isn’t this an appropriate message for Lent? In this season of repentance and reflection, we are called to examine that many ways in which we fall short of the glory of God.So often we do not exhibit God’s grace to the world.It is unfortunately commonplace for Christians to be characterized as unforgiving, and less than persistent in our pursuit of those who do not measure up.Might we learn something from Jesus’ lament over Jerusalem? There very well may be an opportunity for reflection and learning here, for when we realize that God’s response to hostility and violence is not retribution, but rather lament and persistent grace, how might our relationships with the violent and hostile place of our world change?

May we, as this reading suggests, be blessed to one day enter those places in the name of the Lord, as Jesus did?

Nathan

Lent Reflections from The Hill – 7

Fear and Trust

Psalm 27:1-14

Psalm 27 is a dance, a harmony if you will, between fear and trust. A beautiful partnership that works together to paint a gorgeous path of continual strengthening faith as humbly we boldly share with the broken world around us being God’s love on the move! Psalm 27 moves from an undying trust to fear even doubt to imploring God and waiting on the Lord. You can definitely feel the tension between verses 1 and 12.

We all if we are honest have times of fear, of doubt and times of trust. Though very uncomfortable these times especially during the Lenten season of holding fear and faith, doubt and trust together are necessary. Real fear lives alongside honest faith.

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Lent Reflections from The Hill – 6

A Legacy of Love

Genesis 15:1-12, 17-18

    I remember, and maybe you do as well, as a young kid singing “Father Abraham” in my Sunday School class and Vacation Bible School. Here’s a refresher of the song if you may have not heard or have forgotten:
    “Father Abraham had many sons,
    Many sons had Father Abraham.
    I am one of them and so are you.
    So let’s all praise the Lord.
    Right arm!…”
Then you would keep singing those lines over and over again until you had gone through all arms, feet, chin up, turn around, and then close with “sit down!” It was a great way for an over energized kid like me to burn some energy so that my teachers could deal with me.

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Lent Reflections from The Hill – 5

Fridays are for your reflections. Over the course of the past four days we have offered thoughts on the passages for the week. What are your thoughts? Leave your response to the Spirit and the Word in the comment section of this post.

Pastor Todd put together a podcast on one of the texts for the coming Sunday and week. You may listen here.

Lent Reflections from The Hill – 4

No Shame

Romans 10:8b-13

Do you recall the last time you felt shame? Not an experience where another person sought to shame you; to manipulate you to do something you prefer not to do. Instead it was one of those times you jumped to a conclusion about another person and did so publicly. Overcome with shame you apologized in deep regret.

No one likes to feel shame even when deserved. The Apostle Paul wants to assure those believers in Rome shame will not be experienced for one’s ethnic heritage – Jew or Greek. Drawing upon several Old Testament passages, Paul reminds his audience the word of faith proclaimed – Jesus is Lord – brings liberty and freedom rather than shame and division.

When we need reminders, meditating on the Scriptures is a helpful place to turn. Moses told the people to remember in our Old Testament passage. The songwriter tapped the national memory to lyrically create a song reminding God’s people of their constant refuge – God himself. Jesus turned to the Scriptures to thwart the onslaught of the Enemy. Declaring “Jesus is Lord,” does not bring shame but instead security.

Battling shame often comes as we are reminded of the Truth of God in Jesus, the Christ.

Todd

Lent Reflections from The Hill – 3

Jesus in the Wilderness

Luke 4:1-13

The three temptations have to do with earthly power and glory. In each case Jesus responds by quoting from Deuteronomy:

Temptation One (4:3-4): To turn stones into bread.                                                

Response: Deuteronomy 8:3                                         

Context in Deuteronomy: Moses reminds the people of Israel that God tested them in the wilderness by hunger, but he fed them with manna in order to make them understand that one does not live by bread alone.

Temptation Two (4:5-8): To rule all the kingdoms of the world.                          

Response: Deuteronomy 6:13                                         

Context in Deuteronomy: Moses addresses the people of Israel prior to entering the land of promise. He calls upon the people to fear and love the Lord always. He provides a creed for them, the Shema (6:4) tells them not to forget who gave the land, and admonishes them to worship and serve the Lord.

Temptation Three (4:9-12): To throw himself down from the pinnacle of the Temple in Jerusalem.                                              

Response: Deuteronomy 6:16                                         

Context in Deuteronomy: The setting is the same as the previous episode (Deut 6:13). Moses exhorts the people not to test the Lord as they did at Massah, a place of quarreling, where the people of Israel demanded water from Moses, which he finally obtained by striking a rock (Exodus 17:1-7).

The three temptations of Jesus are set in a wilderness, and they recall the testing of the people of Israel in the wilderness. Even the forty days of testing in the case of Jesus recalls the forty years of Israel's testing in the wilderness. But there is a contrast.

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Lent Reflections from The Hill – 2

Not Magical but Relational

Psalm 91:1-2, 9-16

Psalm 91 has carried with it much controversy pertaining to its so called magical formula that if you trust in God no harm would befall you. In fact down through history both Jews and Christians copied verses 11-13 enclosing them in amulets to be worn as protection from danger. I don’t think it is a magical formula. In fact I would guess to say that as you read Psalm 91 you would not see it that way either.
No matter how long we have lived we all at some point have seen bad things happen to good people even those who trust in God. So one way to look at it might be like this, I read this online this morning:   

“In order to rightly claim the promises of Psalm 91 for myself today, I would preface them with a little qualifying phrase that is, I believe, clearly implied by the rest of Scripture and a common sense knowledge of life. The phrase is: ‘Except that God in His love and wisdom allow it for the ultimate good…’Like this…
Except that God in His love and wisdom allow something to the contrary to occur for the ultimate good… He will deliver me from the snare of the trapper, and from the deadly pestilence.
Except that God in His love and wisdom allow it for the ultimate good… a thousand may fall at my side, and ten thousand at my right hand; but it shall not approach me.

Except that God in His love and wisdom allow it for the ultimate good… no evil will befall me, nor will any plague come near my tent.

This little phrase is not intended to qualify (or add to) the promises of Psalm 91. It is meant to explain them in the context of the whole counsel of God's Word—which includes the account of Jesus' death, the story of Paul's thorn in the flesh, and the description of Stephen's martyrdom.”

So however you choose to interpret Psalm 91 as you read it you will see that it is God’s bold invitation to us to live in the divine presence in relationship with Him trusting in His love knowing He has our best interest in mind.

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Lent Reflections from The Hill

Giving Reflects What has been Given

Deuteronomy 26:1-11

Many times as church people we refer to this passage in Deuteronomy as a specific telling of what tithing is and how much it should be, and we often just leave it at that without truly seeing the context of this passage. Yes, there is a tithing message, but there is more to it than just do it.

At this time in the life of the Hebrew people, they have not been a people who are settled. They had been slaves in Egypt, and for the past 40 years they have been traveling in the desert awaiting the place they have been promised. Over 40 years, many who began the journey have not made it to this point and many on the journey have been born during it with no real experience in Egypt. And as they come to this moment of entering the promise land they are given instructions on the giving of their first fruits. While the gift has its importance, the gift should not be the central focus. It should be on what giving represents.

The people now have something to give. The struggle endured to get to this point and the legacy left by their ancestors who helped guide them has brought them to a land flowing with milk and honey. Those who have been given now are asked to give, and if we read on, what has been given is then distributed among those in need.

This lent season we are joining in the continuing story of Jesus. It is easy for us to think of our possessions and money as things we have worked hard for and deserve to keep to ourselves. But in doing so, we miss out on the story of those who have helped bring us to this point, and we miss Jesus all together. We’ve been blessed, therefore, we must bless others.

The story continues on in us as we remember those before us, and prepare for those ahead of us. So as we participate in the story this season, let us not lose focus of the one who is central to the story, the one who gave all.

Brad

Jesus invites people into his life and his way. He takes what is and points to the new way of the Kingdom of God.  Come see what this journey is all about!

One way to think about the mission of Jesus - He calls into question the way things are and points to the way things may be in the Kingdom of God. 

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