Sunday, 19 February 2017

Get yourself ready! Stand up and say to them whatever I command you. Do not be terrified by them, or I will terrify you before them. - Jeremiah 1:17

Today’s Scripture Reading (February 19, 2017): Jeremiah 1

I don’t know what this says about my faith – but I get nervous every time someone tells me that they have a word from God. It’s not that I don’t believe that God still speaks to us, just that usually the word that people proclaim is from him is so bizarre. It is the same with singers that sing the song that God gave them. Personally, I am not really sure that I want to blame God for any of the music that I have written.
I get nervous – and yet I also know that we need to stand up and speak God’s message. We need to speak of God’s love and his desire for us. We need to bear the message of forgiveness to a world that seems overcome with guilt. We need to stand up and speak.
I have been vocal in my support of Muslims in the past few weeks. I am against a travel ban, I believe that it actually makes things worse. In North America, I believe the threat doesn’t come from outside; it comes from the radicalization of people either native to or already inside our North American countries. It is not that I am a Muslim, I am not. But I do believe that God is still on the throne and he can protect, and I believe that the message that the Christian Church has been charged by God to speak, is one of unrelenting love for the other. When we give a cup of cold water to the least of these (I struggle to find anyone who could be more “least” than a Syrian refugee, no matter their religious stripe) we are giving that water straight to Jesus. Yes, it is okay to disagree with me. I will still love you for the same reason – it is the message God has placed inside of me.
We need to speak with a deep love for the world and our culture. Not a love that is manufactured – but a genuine love that wells up from a deep place within us. That is the witness that we have been given. As we gather for worship – that is the message of our hearts. God, help us to find a way to speak of your love – help us to experience your love. May we be the instrument of your forgiveness in the world – as you continue to forgive us.
Are you ready to stand and speak?
Tomorrow’s Scripture Reading: Jeremiah 2

Saturday, 18 February 2017

On that day they will say to Jerusalem, “Do not fear, Zion; do not let your hands hang limp.” – Zephaniah 3:16

Today’s Scripture Reading (February 18, 2017): Zephaniah 3

Donald Trump has become our first tweeting President. I have hope that he will eventually get the hang of it. My struggle so far with the President’s tweets is that they are filled with fear. Some of his tweets almost have a character of “If you only knew what I know, you would have trouble sleeping tonight.” The problem with telling us a secret without actually revealing the secret is that we are people with a great imagination. And when someone tells us that we should be afraid, we can make up a lot of things that are just not true of which we can most definitely cause us nightmares. The president seems to want to use fear to get what he wants. A far better tactic would be to tweet in the middle of the night, not that the monsters are at the gate, but that the government is in control; even in the darkest part of the night there is hope for the future.

Zephaniah’s message changes a bit as he finishes up his prophecy.  Yes, things are negative, but the day will come, a remnant will remain that has been faithful to God.  “On that day” is a formula that speaks of the hope that Israel has; one day the Lord will come, he will save the faithful and take away the punishment. This is essentially Zephaniah’s final tweet to his nation – “Do not fear, Zion.”

We celebrate this coming and present day of the Lord.  Jesus has come to lead us into that promised time.  Because Jesus has come, there is no reason to fear, no reason to allow our hands to hang limply in depression. God didn’t come to leave us defeated, he came to save.  Tomorrow (Sunday) we will celebrate together the day that God came down.  Today, celebrate that he came to save!

Tomorrow’s Scripture Reading: Jeremiah 1

Friday, 17 February 2017

He will stretch out his hand against the north and destroy Assyria, leaving Nineveh utterly desolate and dry as the desert. – Zephaniah 2:13

Today’s Scripture Reading (February 17, 2017): Zephaniah 2

The Battle for Mosul began on October 16, 2016. The Battle is essentially an attempt on behalf of the Iraqi army to take possession of the ancient city of Mosul, located in Northern Iraq along the Tigris River, away from the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (commonly referred to as ISIL or Daesh). As I write these words, I am not sure that anyone really knows what is happening in Mosul. It seems as if daily someone declares the battle won, only to see it flare up again. As an outsider, it appears that the Iraqi army is winning the battle and at the same time weakening the Islamic State forces. Optimists hope that this is an indication of a possible fatal weakness in the Islamic State forces, but the state has proven resilient in the past. Probably the only thing we know for sure is that Mosul is being pounded into the ground. An area that was once populated by over a million people is now just an empty shell of what it had once been.
But this is not the first time that the area of Mosul has been decimated. What Westerners often fail to realize is that Mosul was originally a small town named Mepsila. Mepsila was planted along the Tigris River in the late 7th Century. The town really came into existence because the great city that was located on the on the opposite bank of the Tigris had been weakened by a civil war and then totally destroyed by invading forces. This was the end of the Assyrian Empire. And that city that stood just across the river from Mepsila and modern day Mosul was Nineveh. In fact, the Iraqi army code name for the Battle of Mosul is “We Are Coming, Nineveh.”
There is absolutely no joy that can be found in watching an ancient city be destroyed. For Zephaniah, the fall of Nineveh was welcome because Assyria was the bogeyman of his day – and Nineveh was the bogeyman’s capital city. Depending on which side of the world you are living or identifying with as you read these words, it would be like either Moscow or Washington falling in our contemporary era. As the world seems to prepare itself for war, the fall of one of those empires would seem to make the world a much safer place. But modern day Mosul is not a seat of power. It is a place of history and heritage. And what is being destroyed in the Mosul can never be replaced. And that is truly sad.   
Tomorrow’s Scripture Reading: Zephaniah 3