Really? Are you?

Isaiah 25:1-5 (portions – highlighting is mine)

God, you are my God.

I celebrate you. I praise you.

You’ve done your share of miracle-wonders,

……Superpowers will see it and honor you,

brutal oppressors bow in worshipful reverence
.

They’ll see that you take care of the poor,

that you take care of poor people in trouble,

Provide a warm, dry place in bad weather,

provide a cool place when it’s hot.

Brutal oppressors are like a winter blizzard

and vicious foreigners like high noon in the desert.

But you, shelter from the storm and shade from the sun,

shut the mouths of the big-mouthed bullies.

Isaiah 25:1-5 The Message

A couple of things that stick out from what the Prophet Isaiah said in this section:

  • God, you are MY God – He isn’t praying to some God somewhere in hopes that maybe he will get an answer.  He’s talking to someone he has a deep personal relationship with.
  • The dictators and evil ones, the terrorists and the drug lords (I could go on and on) are going to get what’s coming to them.
  • You (God) take care of the poor people – providing them safety and shelter.

Now a couple of thoughts that I’m pondering this morning…..

Do you think that Isaiah is saying that providing lodging is all that God is saying needs to be done for those who are less fortunate than us? 

No, I don’t think so either.  I think Isaiah is using those as examples of providing for the daily needs of the poor. not listing the only things that the poor need us to do.

Do you think he’s going to do it through one great big miracle?  “Bam!” Suddenly all of Africa is lush green farmable land and no one in Africa is ever hungry again.

Could he?  Will he?  Yes he can but I doubt he will however, anything is possible.

Jesus and Social Justice – I attended the Christian Community Development Association (CCDA) conference in Chicago a few weeks back.  I plan on writing more about it, so I’m not going to say much right now.   But one thing that I knew but I learned again and again and again.

If you look at what Jesus was about, he was about social justice.

If you look at what he did, it was about social justice.

If you look at the people he had in his inner circle of friends, they were fishermen, an IRS auditor, an embezzler  (and that was just in the inner circle.)

Isaiah, in this passage, lays down the framework for Jesus ministry here on earth.  Jesus ministry here on earth is about healing the sick, feeding the hungry and saving the lost.

If you ever sang the song by Fernando Ortega,  “Lord I Want to be Like Jesus in My Heart, or you wore one of those rubber wrist bracelets with WWJD on them, ask yourself a question….

Really? 

Are you really ready to be like Jesus?

  • – because Jesus is about caring for the “less thans.”  
  • Jesus is about caring about the caravan that is soon to reach the Mexico/California border. 
  • Jesus is about attending Kent County meetings protesting their contract with ICE to turn over under documented people.  Kalamazoo did it, Grand Rapids should be able to do it too.

Being like Jesus takes a lot of work.  It’s not easy.  There’s a lot of time when it’s not fun.   But it’s good.

Because He is our God.

And He is good.

TJV

Peter and an Orchestra Concert

It’s a big concert hall, one of those places that has all of the dazzling lights and it seems like they have about 157 balconies that just seem to go up and up and up and everything is shiny and clean and everyone is wearing black suits or tuxedos and really fancy dresses pretty much every pair of shoes in the place could make my mortgage payment for at least 2 weeks.

You walk in, the usher shows you to your seat and makes sure you are satisfied. The musicians start slowly drifting on stage – even they are wearing tuxedoes and fancy dresses. Their instruments shine so brightly that you if the lights were lined up right, you’d need sunglasses.

Little by little, the sound grows. It’s not music, it’s a cacuphony of warm ups. It’s nerves being let out. It’s last minute efforts to make sure their instruments are in tune. It’s adjusting the stands so that the 2nd violin doesn’t bump into the 1st Viola. All sorts of last minute adjustments to make sure everything is perfect.

The first violin stands up and everyone immediately quiets down. That brings the audience to a complete silence too. She (or He) then walks through a predetermined routine to tune the intruments. While it is almost always the same, the rest of the symphony is not tuning to “perfect pitch” – no they are tuning to the concert master. They are tuning to make sure that every single instrument in the symphony is in tune with the leader. Once that is done, the Conductor comes out.

The audience applauds. Why do they applaud? Because the Conductor has done something grand? Because he didn’t trip on the way to the front? No, they applaud because for the symphony to live up to their potential, for the performance of Vivaldi’s Four Seasons to be the beautiful masterpiece that it really is, there needs to be a leader.

So, our story continues. The conductor stands up in front of the symphony, raises his baton and starts directing.

And the most awful hideous noise comes out of the symphony that you’ve ever heard. The cellists are yelling at the bass players because they are playing the wrong song. The violins are trying to figure out whether they have the right music or they have their music upside down or if they have the viola’s music. The director stops and they keep playing (if you call it that). The audience starts booing.

The director starts yelling at them. They just keep on playing. The audience flocks to the entry way like the concert hall is on fire (which it isn’t). The line at the front desk asking for refunds is outrageously long.

It’s a total disaster.

Never happen, would it? I doubt it – at least to that extent but let look at something….

“….Put into practice what you learned from me, what you heard and saw and realized. Do that, and God, who makes everything work together, will work you into his most excellent harmonies.”
Philippians 4:8-9 MSG
http://bible.com/97/php.4.8-9.msg

Three things that Peter is telling us there…..

• We need to incorporate into our lives what we learn from being in His community and part of his gathering of believer and from studying his word.
• God makes everything work together – in His time, not our time.
• He will work you into his most excellent harmonies. In other words, God’s already got a song going on, are we going to be part of his symphony or are we going to play a different tune?

If we’re going to be part of God’s excellent harmonies, then do play the part of the violinist who has decided to play a different song? Or do we seek to play God’s song?
If we’re going to play the part of the cellist, do we do that by yelling at people on social media in ways we probably wouldn’t wouldn’t dare face to face?

God’s perfect harmonies are indeed at work in our communities and our governments and our world, but the cacophony of misdirection and noise is making it harder and harder to see what God really wants us to do and to be.

May we all have enough quiet to be able to see and realize how we can be part of God’s excellent harmonies and not part of the out of tune cacophony that currently is clogging up the world and our airwaves…..

Tom

What day is it?

Read the verse below:

“So here I am in the place of worship, eyes open, drinking in your strength and glory. In your generous love I am really living at last! My lips brim praises like fountains. I bless you every time I take a breath; My arms wave like banners of praise to you.”
Psalm 63:3-4 MSG
http://bible.com/97/psa.63.3-4.msg

Do you think that the writer of this Psalm was referring only to Sundays?

No, I don’t think so either.

Do you think that he was considering only the 1 1/2 hours on Sunday mornings when we gather together in our places of worship?

Nope, I don’t think so either.

I believe the Psalmist is testifying to receiving the love of God, to his overwhelming gratitude for all God has done. He is praising God and basically saying, “God doesn’t care what day it is. God loves you all of the days. All of the days of your life. So if he loves you all of the days of your life, then you are always in your place of worship.”

Are you a teacher? Then your place of worship is your classroom.

Are you a nurse? Then your place of worship is your patient’s room.

Are you a mechanic? Then your place of worship is underneath the hood of your customer’s car.

Are you a student? Then your place of worship is in school – even in public schools.

You get the picture…..

I could keep going for a very long time, but I won’t. Because a list of the places isn’t what matter. What matters is that as you head into this Monday morning (or maybe your Monday started a long time ago) remember this:

God’s gracious and generous love Is for you

He is more than able to fill you to overflowing with His strength, glory and love.

When we welcome that and Him into our lives, it doesn’t matter what day it is.

It doesn’t matter what time it is.

It doesn’t matter where we are.

We are here to worship and praise God.

As I heard a speaker once say, (Paraphrased) Live your life in quiet Christianity so that your neighbor’s, co-workers, friends and people on the street see how you are living a life of worship to God they stop you and say, “I want what you’ve got.”

TJV

I went out for Dinner last night…..

It was at the Frederick Meijer Gardens – the food, the atmosphere, everything was wonderful.

It was a gathering of people, many of whom knew my Dad. Many of whom worked with my Dad these last 15 years during his “retirement career.” Many of whom knew my dad either because they had him in class, they were in class with him or their friends and family told them what they learned from my Dad.

This was the first year in the last 16 years that my Dad wasn’t there.

In person, that is. But it was so obvious that his impact lived on through his words.

Through the books that he’s written.

Through the classes he has taught.

Through the valleys he has walked – both his own valleys (our valleys) and also the valleys he has helped students and others walk through…

So, while he wasn’t there, I saw him in many ways and in many faces.

But that wasn’t the only high point. The other high point was the stories from three of the seminarians – in their own word. One of them was talking about the work she was doing on her internship. There was a lady who kept coming back to her bible study with a “troubled” past. She spent significant time with her and eventually Susie got to the point where she believed and then she went around and told the whole town – including everyone in the bible study, everyone at the group home, “This stuff is real!” “You got to read this bible thing. This stuff is real!”

As I was listening to her story, and unfortunately “Susie’s” time on this earth didn’t end well, I thought, that’s what makes a seminary and the training of future pastors so important.

This stuff is real.

Jesus is real.

But evil is also real.

And so is sickness and heartache and pain.

And Trauma and violence and racism and cynicism and

And we could add more and more and, but we won’t.

Because even though this stuff is real,

I went to a dinner last night with a whole bunch of people who are fighting to make sure that we all know that “this Jesus stuff” is real.

And it wasn’t just the food that was good.

TJV

God-School Graduation Rates?

God is educating you; that’s why you must never drop out.
He’s treating you as dear children.
This trouble you’re in isn’t punishment; it’s training , the normal experience of children.
Only irresponsible parents leave children to fend for themselves. Would you prefer an irresponsible God?
We respect our own parents for training and not spoiling us, so why not embrace God’s training so we can truly live ?
While we were children, our parents did what seemed best to them.
But God is doing what is best for us, training us to live God’s holy best.
At the time, discipline isn’t much fun. It always feels like it’s going against the grain.
Later, of course, it pays off handsomely, for it’s the well-trained who find themselves mature in their relationship with God.’
Hebrews 12:4-11 https://my.bible.com/bible/97/HEB.12.4-11
As I write this, I think of several friends….

  • One is joined with her husband in the battle for his life against the ugly word – Cancer.
  • Another has a son in jail facing very serious violent crime charges.
  • Another has a son with an arrest record longer than my first college English paper.
  • Another has a daughter……

So what is the writer of Hebrews saying here?  I think he’s saying a couple of things:

1. Don’t be a God-School Drop Out.   Don’t rebel against what God is telling you because it’s for your own good.

2. Don’t look at the trouble in your life (as a friend of mine said last night, if anyone tells you they don’t have troubles, they are either lying or mentally unstable) as punishment.  Instead look at it as training – as Laura Story said (I’ve told some of her story before) – you need to go from being angry and saying, “Why God?” to saying, “How God?”   “This is the path you’ve set before me how can I be faithful to you and help others on it?

3. If you read the chapter before this, Hebrews 11, it talks about the heroes of the faith and so many of them never got to see what they believed in and never lived to see God’s kingdom here on this earth.

If you’ve been reading for a while now, I’ve told you some of what 2018 has brought my way.   It hasn’t exactly been a banner year for the Vanderwells.   On January 30, I had a medical procedure(surgery sort of) for the AVM (google it) in my left neck and shoulder to reduce risks of a brain bleed.   A very good think and the surgery was successful.   But remember how they always tell you that there is a “remote chance” that _______ or __________ could happen but it rarely does?

Hi, my name is rarely.   Without going into too many details, let’s just say my ears, my auditory system and my vocal system, none of them are working the way they used to.   Yeah, not fun.

So when I read in Hebrews 12 where it says, “The trouble you are in isn’t punishment, it’s training,” a couple of things pop in my head:

  • I’m glad it’s not because of something I did because then I’d feel guilty.
  • I find myself on a long journey from being mad at God and saying, “why?” to saying, “Okay, God, this is the new me, now what?”

Will we see the rewards for our efforts here?   Or do wait until God calls us home?

Only God knows,

TJV