Monday, August 20

Dearest church family, 

Good morning to you all. I hope the work week is off to a good start for everyone. 

Our readings for devotion this week will be the Gospel selections from the daily lectionary. We will be reading from the 5th and 6th chapters of the Gospel of John. I will also include the daily Psalm selections. I strongly suggest beginning and ending your day with these readings.

The Psalm readings for today are: 

Morning- Psalm 135 & 145           Evening – Psalm 97 & 112 

Our Gospel reading for today is John 5: 19 -29. Jewish leaders harass Jesus for healing on the Sabbath. Jesus offers an explanation of the work of the Father and the Son. 

I assure you that whoever hears my word and believes in the one who sent me has eternal life and won’t come under judgment but has passed from death to life.

John 5: 24            CEB 

Our readings this week precede the Gospel selections from the Sunday lectionary that I have been preaching on the last few Sundays. I will try my best not to repeat my sermons for daily devotion! This section of the Gospel of John features explanations of the relationship between God and Jesus Christ direct from the mouth of the Son. These explanations are directed at the religious authority of the day who were attempting to understand who God in Jesus Christ was.

We must remember first and foremost that the Jews were monotheistic people. They believed in one God and were surrounded by a pantheistic, or multiple god, culture. Their skepticism is understandable. The things this Jesus of Nazareth proclaimed certainly sounded like pantheism rather than monotheism. 

We often do not think much about the “Trinitarian Controversy” that emerged when Jesus began speaking of God in three persons. Most of us have never understood God any other way. Why is the concept of the Triune God so hard for people to grasp? 

The explanation Jesus provides is our best resource for understanding God in Jesus Christ. The explanation is less a defense of Jesus than it is a reminder of the character of God. Notice that Jesus does not require belief in him per se. He states that all who hear his words and believe in God have eternal life. 

As our readings progress this week, we will revisit reaction to Jesus’ teaching. As we do so, it is in our best interest to be grounded in what Jesus proclaimed about salvation. Jesus is the messenger. God is the provider. All who hear the words of Jesus and believe in God have eternal life. 

Peace,

Jonathan


Friday, August 17

Dearest church family, 

Good morning to you. Friday blessings to all. 

The Psalm readings from the daily lectionary for today are: 

Morning – Psalm 51 & 148            Evening – Psalm 65 & 142 

Our final Epistle reading for today is Acts 7: 17 – 29. Stephen continues his “defense” before the Jerusalem Council. The story of how God’s promise to Abraham was fulfilled moves to a remembrance of the life and witness of Moses. 

After he was abandoned, Pharaoh’s daughter adopted and cared for him as though he were her own son.

Acts 7: 21             CEB 

Acts tells the story of the early apostolic church. This church would later become known as the Christian church. Why, then, do we find this detailed remembrance of God’s promise as revealed in and through Abraham and Moses? 

Stephen was questioned by the established Jewish religious order of the day. They asked him to justify his preaching and teaching. Stephen responded by recounting the activity of God from centuries before the arrival of the Son of God in the flesh. Why? 

I know I am old, but I did not know Stephen, nor are there any first hand writings from Stephen to answer this why question. This reality leaves us to make some assumptions. Fortunately, we have the consistent thread of the written word of God to guide us in that endeavor. 

When asked to justify his apparent heresy in the name of God, Stephen returned to the earliest indications of the nature and activity of God. God continually relies on that which is outside human expectation as God’s means for deliverance. That story began with Abraham and will continue in such fashion for the remainder of days in the earthly kingdom. 

Moses should never have emerged as the leader of the Israelites. Born in a time of Israelite captivity in Egypt, there was little hope his life would amount to anything. God directed the baby Moses to the house of Pharaoh; the sworn enemy of the Hebrew people. There Moses grew and went on to be the one to lead the people of God out of bondage. 

Stephen tells God’s story in his “defense”. If you read further in Acts, you will be reminded of Stephen’s ultimate fate. While the earthly end Stephen met is tragic, the truth of his “defense” is unchanged. When asked to justify ourselves, the only answer any of us ever has is God’s truth as it has been revealed to us. 

Peace,

Jonathan 

p.s.

We will provide a team of volunteers at the Elmore County Food Pantry tomorrow. Any time you can share between 9:30 and 1pm will be greatly appreciated. 

I will be preaching the lakeside service at Bonner’s Point Sunday morning. Service begins at 8am. Come on by!   

Thursday, August 16

Dearest church family, 

Good morning to you all. Thursday blessings!

 The Psalm readings from the daily lectionary for today are: 

Morning – Psalm 97 & 147: 12 – 20           Evening – Psalm 16 & 62 

Our Old Testament reading for today is Acts 6: 15 – 7: 16. Stephen is brought before the Jerusalem Council and questioned regarding his teaching and preaching. Stephen shares God’s promise to Abraham as the foundation of the word God continues to speak. 

Because the patriarchs were jealous of Joseph, they sold him into slavery in Egypt. God was with him, however, and rescued him from all his troubles.

Acts 7: 9               CEB 

Stephen was put on trial for false teaching. The Jerusalem Council asked Stephen if the accusations against him were true. Stephen responded with the story of the promise of Abraham and how that promise was lived out through the house of Jacob. 

Stephen never provided a direct “yes” or “no” answer to the question. Instead, Stephen let the word of God speak for itself. The verdict on his defense will be weighed in tomorrow’s reading. 

Revisit the story of Stephen often. It defines how the word of God speaks to human structures of authority. Whenever we revisit this story, we should all be reminded of how telling the truth is sometimes painful and threatening to accepted ways of human behavior. 

Peace,

Jonathan 

p.s.

Please keep Finley, Patton, Emmett Price, Chris Scott, and me in your prayers as we travel to Opelika today for Presbytery meeting.  


Wednesday, August 15

Dearest church family, 

Good morning to you. I hope you are doing well this Wednesday. 

The Psalm readings from the daily lectionary for today are: 

Morning – Psalm 89: 1 – 18 & 147: 1 – 11               Evening – Psalm 1 & 33 

Our Epistle reading for today is Acts 6: 1- 15. Seven from among the apostles are selected to minister specifically to the Greek speaking disciples. Stephen emerges as a leader among the group. He Is brought before the Jerusalem Council on a false charge of heresy against Moses and God. 

However, they couldn’t resist the wisdom the Spirit gave him as he spoke.

Acts 6: 10             CEB 

“Don’t shoot the messenger!” How many times have we heard these words? They are found in almost every avenue of the walk of human life. The basic premise is that none of us should ever be too concerned with the person delivering a message, but should instead focus our attention on the message itself. 

Throughout the Bible, we find a different take on this expression. God’s messengers often find themselves on the losing side of human reaction to divine truth. This is especially prominent in the New Testament, and the victory God claims at the empty tomb is our best example of the futility of shooting the messenger as a means of silencing the message. 

What always stands out is that the message, if it is true, is never diminished by the treatment of the messenger. We find this fact witnessed to again and again in Acts. God was speaking in a new way to God’s people. Some heard, believed, and followed. Others heard, believed, and revolted. 

Embracing falsehood at any level does not alter the truth. No matter how hard our humanity tries to manipulate divine truth, it simply cannot be done. Stephen’s arrest and trial actually happened, but that did not alter God’s truth the Spirit spoke through him. Sound familiar? 

Peace,

Jonathan 

p.s.

Jerry Bush continues to improve and hopes to be released from the hospital today. 

Bible Study will meet today at noon in the Seekers classroom. We continue our reading of 1 & 2 Corinthians. All are invited.

Tuesday, August 14

Dearest church family, 

Good morning to you. I hope you are doing well this lovely morning. 

The Psalm readings from the daily lectionary for today are: 

Morning – Psalm 42 & 146            Evening – Psalm 102 & 133 

Our Epistle reading for today is Acts 5: 27 – 42. The apostles are brought before the Jerusalem council and the high priest. The guards did not use any force when delivering the apostles for fear of the crowd’s response. 

If it originates with God, you won’t be able to stop them. Instead, you would actually find yourselves fighting God!

Acts 5: 39             CEB 

Gamaliel, a Pharisee, teacher of the Law, and member of the Jerusalem Council spoke up. He reminded the council and the high priest of previous incidents of supposed rebellion. Gamaliel pointed out that previous people charged with heresy were killed and their supporters scattered as a result. Gamaliel recognized something different about the apostles. 

It would be nice to think that our story today was a potentially bad one with a happy ending. It is on one hand, but even though the council heeded Gamaliel’s advice, the apostles were still beaten before being released. The message shared by a Pharisee is good news, however, and we should all claim it as such. 

The statement found in verse 39 of our reading today applies to ministry and witness in every time and place. If something is truly of God, it cannot de overcome. If it is not, it cannot last. 

Our focus in every time and place as a result should be on the things that are of God. Instead of being drawn in by the myriad of things we encounter that are not of divine origin, we all have the opportunity on a daily basis to be a part of what originates with God.

Put another way, we all originate with God. That is our sole starting point. Life in the earthly kingdom regularly tries to distance us from that fact. Do not allow yourself to be distant from your point of origin. Regardless of what is going on in our lives, our point of origin never changes. 

Peace,

Jonathan 

p.s.

Jerry Bush’s surgery was very successful yesterday. Pathology reports no sign of cancer. He will remain in the hospital for a couple of days. He is in room 547 at Jackson. Jerry and Rocky express their deep gratitude for everyone’s continued prayers.