Redeemed from Trouble

Psalm 107:1-3 (NRSV)

O give thanks to the Lord, for he is good;
    for his steadfast love endures forever.
Let the redeemed of the Lord say so,
    those he redeemed from trouble
and gathered in from the lands,
    from the east and from the west,
    from the north and from the south.

By John Grimm

It is fascinating to hear the statement: “You are not from around here.”

My accent shows that I am not from around here.  As we are preparing to live in the kingdom of God, then each redeemed person will know that we are not from around here!  It will be a joy to tell the Lord how good he is when we are living fully in the kingdom of God.

In the meantime, we get to give thanks to the Lord for his steadfast love.  It is now, today, that we can say that the Lord has redeemed us from trouble.  Was that trouble of our own making, an addiction or decision we made?  Was that trouble of someone else’s making, an accident or a decision they made, and we allowed ourselves to sin in response to those circumstances?  Through Jesus Christ, we discover that we are redeemed, brought out of trouble.  We get to say that Jesus has redeemed us.

Even today, we can hear how the Lord has redeemed people from all over the world.  It is a time of thanksgiving when we hear how God has redeemed people not from around here.  No matter our accent, we can give thanks to the Lord for his steadfast love redeeming us from trouble.  Will we start saying that we are redeemed so people not from around here can know the goodness of the Lord?

Lord, thank you for being good.  Your steadfast love endures forever.  You are redeeming people from all over the world.  Gather these redeemed people in our local churches so we can start living in your kingdom even now.  Guide us in the name of Jesus Christ.  Amen.

Lower than the Angels, for a Little While

Hebrews 2:5-9 (NRSV)

Now God did not subject the coming world, about which we are speaking, to angels. But someone has testified somewhere,

“What are human beings that you are mindful of them,
    or mortals, that you care for them?
You have made them for a little while lower than the angels;
    you have crowned them with glory and honor,
    subjecting all things under their feet.”

Now in subjecting all things to them, God left nothing outside their control. As it is, we do not yet see everything in subjection to them, but we do see Jesus, who for a little while was made lower than the angels, now crowned with glory and honor because of the suffering of death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone.

By John Grimm

Angels are cool.  They are literally the messengers of God, for that is what the Greek word means.  Though angels are higher than humans, they are not the ones to rule humanity.  Angels have some authority, yet they do not have the ability to give me salvation.  They can tell me what God has in store for me.  They cannot deliver me from my sins.

It is Jesus Christ who delivers me from my sins.  He is the one who became for a while lower than the angels.  It is Jesus who is crowned with glory and honor.  How did this happen?  Jesus has been crowned with glory and honor because of his suffering, death and resurrection.  Therefore, I can praise Jesus and I can honor Jesus.

The woman who anointed Jesus’ feet before his crucifixion is known now because she gave glory and honor to Jesus.  Now I have the time and means to give glory and honor to Jesus.  I started to give praise to Jesus when I first believed in Jesus as the Son of God.  I continue to heap praise upon Jesus for all the times he has been with me in my life.  Once God’s reign is established on the new earth, I will continue to give honor to Jesus. 

Praise you, Jesus, for coming to earth, to be a little lower than the angels.  Thank you for suffering so that we may live for all time with God.  This day is a day that we choose to praise you!  You are due all honor because of the great work you have finished for humanity.  We praise you.  Amen.

More than Human

1 Corinthians 15:42-49 (NRSV)

So, it is with the resurrection of the dead. What is sown is perishable, what is raised is imperishable. It is sown in dishonor; it is raised in glory. It is sown in weakness; it is raised in power. It is sown a physical body; it is raised a spiritual body. If there is a physical body, there is also a spiritual body. Thus, it is written, “The first man, Adam, became a living being”; the last Adam became a life-giving spirit. But it is not the spiritual that is first, but the physical, and then the spiritual. The first man was from the earth, a man of dust; the second man is from heaven. As was the man of dust, so are those who are of the dust; and as is the man of heaven, so are those who are of heaven. Just as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we will also bear the image of the man of heaven.


By John Grimm

We are accustomed to hearing and saying, “I am only human.” This statement is like the least common denominator when it comes to living. We know every human makes mistakes, gets hurt and hurts others, and that we are not perfect. We almost take pride in this statement.

Yet, “I am only human” does not cut it for us. Our physical life is good. We yearn for something more. We do not want to be known by the type of human we are. We do not want our mistakes, our sins and our foibles to define us. On Pentecost, Peter preached that Jesus rose from the dead. Here, Paul lays out the plan for us to understand: Because of our belief in Jesus, we bear the image of the man of heaven. Since Jesus is resurrected from the dead, we who believe in Jesus will also be resurrected from the dead.

How does this happen? Like Adam, we sin and tarnish the image of God, separating ourselves from God. Like Jesus, we have life from heaven, now and after death. Along the way, we realize that we are not “only human,” but that we are humans who are bearing the image of Jesus. Continuing to believe in Jesus leads us to know that we will be resurrected like Jesus. Otherwise, we will not be able to be with Jesus in the kingdom of God.

God, you are great! You do not give us up to be “only human.” You gave us your Son so that we may have life with you. Help us to live the life that shows Jesus is the man of heaven. Fit us with Jesus’ image so we may be fit for life with you for all time. May we be found, even today, to be an image bearer of Christ. Amen.

From the Beginning

1 John 2:18-25 (NRSV)

Children, it is the last hour! As you have heard that antichrist is coming, so now many antichrists have come. From this we know that it is the last hour. They went out from us, but they did not belong to us; for if they had belonged to us, they would have remained with us. But by going out they made it plain that none of them belongs to us. But you have been anointed by the Holy One, and all of you have knowledge. I write to you, not because you do not know the truth, but because you know it, and you know that no lie comes from the truth. Who is the liar but the one who denies that Jesus is the Christ? This is the antichrist, the one who denies the Father and the Son. No one who denies the Son has the Father; everyone who confesses the Son has the Father also. Let what you heard from the beginning abide in you. If what you heard from the beginning abides in you, then you will abide in the Son and in the Father. And this is what he has promised us, eternal life.


By John Grimm

Over the years, as I have been part of choir practices, I have learned a few lessons.  The most important lesson I have learned in choir practice is to start at the beginning.  Even when a song is sung in the round, the beginning must be the first item sung.  Otherwise, the song will not sound good.

Let us take it from the beginning … that is the phrase heard when a choir director starts a selection of music. It is also the phrase which we ponder today about our confession of Jesus Christ.  The beginning of our faith happens when we recognize Jesus Christ as the Son of God.  Around that beginning, we start experiencing and living eternal life.

From that beginning of faith in Jesus Christ, we test to see if what we believe and how we act aligns with the beginning.  If part of our faith starts to deny Jesus and God the Father, then we are starting to follow a lie.  The truth will shine through each part of our faith and will always confirm and grow through belief in the Son and the Father.  As we live eternal life, we will be able to see back to the beginning. As we live eternal life, we will see Jesus Christ in our daily life here on this planet.

God, thank you for Jesus the Christ!  We confess Jesus is the Christ.  As we live the promise of eternal life now, help us to see Jesus throughout our days.  When we begin to follow lies and any antichrist, allow us the opportunity to see the need to return to the beginning of our faith.  May we be found in this life to be in Jesus’ name.  Amen.

There It Is!

Psalm 133 (NRSV)
A Song of Ascents.

How very good and pleasant it is
    when kindred live together in unity!
It is like the precious oil on the head,
    running down upon the beard,
on the beard of Aaron,
    running down over the collar of his robes.
It is like the dew of Hermon,
    which falls on the mountains of Zion.
For there the Lord ordained his blessing,
    life forevermore.

By John Grimm

The kindred we know and appreciate in the church are all those who believe that Jesus Christ is their Lord and their Savior. This news seems self-evident. However, we know from experience that we do not treat each other as kindred. As Jesus’ people, we may even show preference to those who act, think, and smell like us! Yet, living our preferences keeps us from seeing unity.

Being who we are as children of God, even brothers and sisters in Christ, is ordained by God. We get to recognize the joy of the oil running down upon Aaron’s beard when we have unity. We get to relish the pleasantness of the dew on Mount Hermon when we have unity. The early church discovered this fact as they kept on loving each other through the growing pains of thousands being added to their number in Acts 2.

It is in unity that we discover the Lord’s blessing. Are we experiencing unity in our local church right now? Are we seeing life forevermore being lived within our congregation? We know what to do. We say those wonderful words to each other. Go ahead and say them, we will not hurt ourselves. We tell each other, “I forgive you.” Then we get to experience the Lord’s blessing in our local church.

Forgiving and blessing God, thank you for making a way for us to have unity in our local church. Your Son did not die and rise again so we could fight among ourselves. You want to give us your blessing. As you forgive us, we love each other enough to do the same. May we experience life forever more as are united in Jesus’ name and with each other in our local church. Amen.

Staying So We Can Love

John 13:31b-35 (NRSV)

When he had gone out, Jesus said, “Now the Son of Man has been glorified, and God has been glorified in him. If God has been glorified in him, God will also glorify him in himself and will glorify him at once.  Little children, I am with you only a little longer. You will look for me; and as I said to the Jews so now, I say to you, ‘Where I am going, you cannot come.’  I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another.  By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”


By John Grimm

Holy Week is that season of the year in which we re-learn a new commandment from Jesus.  The final instructions before Jesus’ arrest and crucifixion are vital to our life here on earth.  As we recognize Jesus being glorified through his willingness to love us here on earth, we come to terms with how we can live as his disciples.

What are we to do?  This new commandment is how we live the eternal life we have from Jesus.  Because of Jesus drawing us to himself, we get to live here and now.  This eternal life is evident by our consistently, faithfully and persistently loving one another.  

As Jesus’ disciples, we recognize that Jesus has been glorified by his willingness to suffer and die.  We are cognizant of Jesus’ love because God came to dwell among us, in the flesh.  This truth is how we live the eternal life we have through Jesus.  It is in our flesh that we love one another.  The Son of Man walked among the unlovable, the intolerant and those ashamed of themselves.  How else are we to live our eternal life but by walking among the unlovable, the intolerant and those ashamed of themselves, even as we love those who are disciples?

Jesus, your instructions are hard.  We face the truth that we get to love one another for our eternal life here on earth.  In our own past, we have failed to love.  Yet, you still have been glorified!  Your Spirit is with us now so that can live this new commandment. Work in us the ability and desire to love one another so we may once again be known as your disciples.  May we be found loving one another when you return to reign on earth.  Amen.

In Christ

By John Grimm

Philippians 2:1-4 (NRSV)

If then there is any encouragement in Christ, any consolation from love, any sharing in the Spirit, any compassion and sympathy, make my joy complete: be of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility regard others as better than yourselves. Let each of you look not to your own interests, but to the interests of others.


I like to have my own personal time of devotion with God.  I need that time to confess sin, hear his forgiveness, and bask in the wonder of God.  My life, however, cannot be only about my own personal time of devotion with God.  For the same Holy Spirit of Christ that resides in me also resides in each disciple of Jesus Christ.

With Christ being in me and my being in Christ, it is reasonable to be in full accord and of one mind with other disciples of Jesus Christ.  This fact assists us in going beyond our own personal agenda, or as Paul writes, we are encouraged to do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit.

Loving others in the body of Christ therefore is not optional nor a strict mandate.  Loving others by looking to the interest of others happens because in Christ we do have consolation from love, we share the Spirit, and we do have compassion and sympathy.  It is in Christ that we do not struggle against other disciples.  It is in Christ that we can will and work for God’s good pleasure (Philippians 2:13).  Thereby, with the Holy Spirit of Christ in us, we live in humility.

Having our own personal time of devotion with God is necessary for our personal faith in Christ.  However, it is when we are with other disciples that our faith and love for Christ is lived.  How good it will be for all disciples to regard other disciples as better than ourselves!

God, thank you that all disciples of Jesus Christ share your Holy Spirit.  As we spend time with you as individuals and as the body of Christ, we look forward to having love, compassion, and sympathy for one another.  Forgive us where we have fallen short of realizing our life together is in Christ.  May we have the mind that Christ has.  In the name of Jesus, we seek to live.  Amen.

The Lord Is Waiting

Isaiah 30:15-18  (NRSV)

For thus said the Lord God, the Holy One of Israel:
In returning and rest you shall be saved;
    in quietness and in trust shall be your strength.
But you refused and said,
“No! We will flee upon horses”—
    therefore you shall flee!
and, “We will ride upon swift steeds”—
    therefore your pursuers shall be swift!
A thousand shall flee at the threat of one,
    at the threat of five you shall flee,
until you are left
    like a flagstaff on the top of a mountain,
    like a signal on a hill.

Therefore the Lord waits to be gracious to you;
    therefore he will rise up to show mercy to you.
For the Lord is a God of justice;
    blessed are all those who wait for him.

To whom do we go for advice? From whom do we gain insight for how to live in this sin-sick world? From whom do we learn how to get through the trouble of our lives?

The rebellious children of Israel sought out Egypt during Isaiah’s life. To counter the approaching trouble from the Babylonians, Israel wanted the strength of Egypt’s horses and armies. These rebellious children did not wait for the Lord. These rebellious children sent donkey- and camel-loads of wealth to Egypt to buy security. It did not work, for Jerusalem and Judah fell in 586 B.C.

How do we answer these questions? Are we spending our wealth to purchase security that we will find only when wait upon the Lord? We might be left as the flagstaff on a hill when troubles pursue us. We will be left as a signal on a hill. Unless we wait on the Lord.

God is ready to be gracious to us. God has wisdom for us. God has insight for us to live while in this sin-sick world. God has mercy so we can get through the troubles of our lives. God will bring justice to us if we wait for him.

God, you are the one for whom we can wait. Charging ahead with our own counsel will give us trouble. It is by your mercy that we live. The only means we have of seeking your grace and justice is to wait for you. We are calming ourselves so that we may know the blessings you have in store for us. Only by trusting in you through Jesus Christ will we receive the blessings you have for us. Thank you for Jesus and the justice you have for us. Amen.

In Christ

Ephesians 1:3-6 (NRSV)

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, just as he chose us in Christ before the foundation of the world to be holy and blameless before him in love. He destined us for adoption as his children through Jesus Christ, according to the good pleasure of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace that he freely bestowed on us in the Beloved.


I want to be found in Jesus.  I want to have my life filled with every blessing in Christ.  I will only be found holy and blameless before God in love by being in Christ.  I want to know the good pleasure of God.

There is good news for me.  There is good news for all!  God wants us to be found in Jesus.  God wants us to be filled with every blessing in Christ.  God wants us to be found holy and blameless before himself in love by being in Christ.  God wants us to know the good pleasure of God himself.

It is by being in Christ that we are adopted as God’s children.  The grace of God is working in our lives up to the point that we believe, so we may believe.  The grace of God is working in our lives after we begin to believe so we can know we are children of God.  God gives his grace to us so we can be his children!

Almighty God, thank you for your grace.  Being your children is wonderful!  Knowing you by our being in Christ is grace.  We give you praise for thinking of us before we even thought of you.  May our lives be found in Christ as we continue to believe in Jesus.  Amen.

All

Romans 3:21-26 (NRSV)
But now, apart from law, the righteousness of God has been disclosed, and is attested by the law and the prophets, the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction, since all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God; they are now justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a sacrifice of atonement by his blood, effective through faith. He did this to show his righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over the sins previously committed; it was to prove at the present time that he himself is righteous and that he justifies the one who has faith in Jesus.


Politicians and social media participants happily point out which group is at fault in these divided times.  No matter where we are on the political spectrum, we can blame the other side for the wrongs done in our society. In doing so, we might even feel as if our very existence has been justified.

When our local church reopened for in-person worship recently, we tried something different for the pews.  We decided to use ribbon to mark off which pews we can use.  The ladies who tied the bows for the ribbons did a marvelous job, but after thanking them for their work, I noticed something peculiar.

Earlier, when I had shown them what I envisioned, I had used a roll of blue ribbon to demonstrate.  They had other colors available, too: pastel green, pastel pink, and red.  When they were finished, we ended up with blue ribbons on the left side and red ribbons on the right. It was not a preplanned political statement; it just happened that way.

I mentioned this when we were back in our first in-person worship service.  I lightheartedly said that the Democrats did not have to sit on the left, nor did the Republicans have to sit on the right.  I finished my remarks by saying, “All sinners are welcome here.”

The only way we can be justified is by faith in Jesus Christ.  All of us, no matter the political persuasion, can receive redemption that comes through him.  Being lumped together by faith in Jesus Christ surely gives us a different perspective on life, even our political life.

Lord God, you want all to believe in Jesus Christ so all may be in your kingdom.  Our arbitrary divisions of political class do not change the fact that all of us are sinners.  Use the righteousness that you have given us through faith in Christ to heal the relationships in our local church, our community, and our nation.  For we realize we can only be found in your kingdom by being in Jesus’ name.  Amen.