“Whom say the people that I am?” This is the question that Jesus posed to his disciples in Luke 9:18. He had recently sent them out “…to preach the kingdom of God and heal the sick” (Luke 9:2). They had done so, following His instructions to not be overburdened (“do not have two tunics apiece”) and to cover as much ground as possible (“whoever will not receive you, when you go out of that city, shake off the very dust from your feet as a testimony against them”).
There is no more fascinating book in the Bible than Ezekiel. The prophet was among the captives by the River Chebar in Babylon. While Jeremiah was preaching back down in Judah, Ezekiel was given the task to speak to God’s people while they were in the midst of their captivity. Ezekiel’s preaching made use of the magnificent visions God had given him as well as object lessons designed to communicate the unwelcome message the prophet had for the people.
There was a brief period back in the sixties that James Taylor calls the “great folk music scare” when that sort of thing enjoyed some popularity. Folks in my age group will remember those songs and times. One of the artists that came though and had a lasting career is Joni Mitchell; I still enjoy her work and think her songs are an effective and rather beautiful picturing of those times and sensibilities.
The history of man can be seen as a series of cycles. History does not repeat itself but patterns of human behavior do. Mankind’s relationship with God is also cyclical: faithfulness followed by unfaithfulness and back again. The children of Israel are a prime example of this: consider Hebrews 3:8-19. Later cycles include the apostasies that required captivity and dispersal of Israel by Assyria and the captivity of Judah in Babylon. The captivity of Judah was forestalled by two periods of reform, one under Hezekiah and the last under Josiah.
This is the last of my little essays for our bulletin this year and so I thought it appropriate to think with you about some things as we draw near to the close 2014. We cannot know how God keeps up with time in His infinite mind. He may not even need to think of time like we do; indeed, He may have created the idea of time just for us, so we could keep track of things. But the end of a year is a good time to think about what has passed and what may be yet to come.
We are familiar with Revelation 2:10: “Do not fear any of those things which you are about to suffer. Indeed, the devil is about to throw some of you into prison, that you may be tested, and you will have tribulation ten days, Be faithful unto death, and I will give you the crown of life.” This is from the second of seven letters to seven churches that comprise the 2nd and 3rd chapters of the book of Revelation.
I might spend a little too much time thinking about words. A word that comes to mind this time of the year is “presents” as in Christmas presents. I know it is a tradition that can get out of hand at times, but it is still some of the best fun a person can have to give somebody a present that they really do like a lot. Getting presents is fun, too; but the older we get the more fun it is to do the giving.
The church at Corinth was comprised of young Christians, that is to say, people who had not been Christians for a very long time. The whole idea of being in Christ was new to them and so they had problems. Paul responded to reports he had received about the nature of those problems and gave the people there teaching that would help them. He covered a number of subjects, each of which included an element of self control.
Luke 8 contains perhaps the most instructive and powerful parables known to man. I do not believe this to be an overstatement. The Parable of the Sower is a magnificent body of teaching that shows that the process by which a person becomes a child of God involves the acceptance of the Word of God.
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