Sun, 30 December 2018
Sun, 23 December 2018
How many laws are there in the United States? No one is exactly sure. It may be that no one can count that high! They’ve been accumulating, of course, for more than 200 years. When federal laws were first collected and printed in 1927, they fit into one single volume. By the 1980s, there were 50 volumes.
The federal tax code alone contains millions of words and is some 6500 pages in length. There are about 20,000 regulations governing the use and ownership of guns. According to congressional testimony, there may be as many as 300,000 regulations that can be enforced criminally.
If there is any good news about our current congress that is virtually gridlocked, it’s that the pace of new laws being added to the books has slowed. In a recent year only 90 new laws were passed.
This is expansion of laws is not unique to the United States. The Jewish people were given 10 Commandments by God through Moses. Pretty simple. But that grew to 613 laws and rules in the larger Pentateuch. An oral body of law emerged beyond those 613. It was finally put into writing and called the Talmud. It is over 6,200 pages of additional regulations.
From 10 to 613 to 6,200!
In the US, from 1 volume of laws to 50 to 300,000 regulations!
Wouldn’t it be great if this mass of burdensome laws could be summed up into one? Where are the CliffsNotes?!
I have good news this Christmas!
God in Christ gave us one law and his law is love—love God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength, and love your neighbor as yourself. If we would but love, we would need no other law. Love is the fulfillment of the law!
All the righteous demands of the law were filled by Christ in his incarnation. He alone has loved perfectly. That is the real gift of Christmas—his love for us and his love through us!
This Sunday at Istrouma we will marvel afresh at God’s gift of love. Join us!
The Thrill of Hope
“His Law Is Love”
A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another(13:34a).
. . . just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another(13:34b).
By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another (13:35).
Sun, 16 December 2018
It’s a rare thing, particularly in our American culture, to fall on our knees, isn’t it? It is reserved for very special occasions. And rightly so. It is not something to be done lightly.
I remember one occasion when I knelt before another. It was a beautiful spring evening, lit by the glow of a full moon. I knelt before a beautiful young woman named Nell. I knelt there as a sign of my respect and love for her. On bended knee I made a commitment to her that night that now spans more than thirty years.
There is someone else before whom every one of us should gladly fall on our knees. Because of who he is and what he has done on our behalf, we should willingly kneel before the Lord Jesus as a sign of our respect and love for him. We should make a commitment to him that will span all of life and eternity.
The beloved Christmas carol, “O Holy Night,” reaches a crescendo as it calls on all to “fall on your knees” before the Savior. This Sunday we will hear the challenge of that carol and the scripture that “at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Phil. 2:10b-11).
Join us at Istrouma this coming Sunday as worship on bended knee and with humble heart the newborn King!
The Thrill of Hope
“Fall on Your Knees”
. . .Christ Jesus, 6 who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped(2:5b-6).
but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant,[c]being born in the likeness of men. 8 And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross (2:7-8)
Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, 10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father (2:9-11).
Sun, 9 December 2018
Jesus is called by many names or titles in Scripture.
Some of these names have a special tie to the Christmas season—Immanuel, Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
Many of his names, including these that I’ve just metioned, are transcendent. They speak of His power and sovereignty. He is Master, King of Kings, and Lord of Lords, and the list goes on.
But there is one name that is especially tender, intimate, simple, and too seldom called to mind. It’s the name “friend.” Now, were that title for Jesus not sweet enough, in Luke 7:34 it is added that, not only is he a friend, he is a friend “of sinners.”
I am so glad that Jesus is a friend of sinners. That means that he can be my friend and yours! And that is exactly who he is--our friend!
That name, “friend of sinners,” was originally meant as an insult—an outright criticism, but Jesus took it as a compliment. It was his mission in coming as a babe to Bethlehem to befriend sinners. No wonder the Christmas carol tells us that he was “born to be our friend.” It is because of his friendship with sinners that we can sing of “the thrill of hope”!
The Thrill of Hope
“Born to Be Our Friend”
What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he has lost one of them . . .(15:4a).
. . . does not leave the ninety-nine in the open country, and go after the one that is lost, until he finds it? (15:4b)
And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. 6 And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and his neighbors, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep that was lost.’ 7 Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance (15:5-7).
Sun, 2 December 2018
On April 25, 2015 a huge earthquake measuring 7.8 on the Richter scale struck Nepal. Thousands of structures were damaged and the death toll soared to 9,000. The world watched in horror.
Rescue personnel threw themselves at the enormous task in front of them. They grew exhausted and discouraged as they labored hour after hour in a desperate attempt to save lives. As hope began to fade, the cry of a baby arose from the rubble. Responders renewed their efforts and after some 22 hours of digging, little Sonit Awal was rescued.
The weary world rejoiced!
Photographer Amul Thapa, whose pictures captured the story, said that he prayed when he heard Sonit’s cry. He prayed that God would help them save that baby’s life. When Sonit was rescued, Thapa said, “When I saw the baby alive all my sorrow . . . [disappeared]. Everyone was clapping. It gave me . . . [joy] in spite of lots of pain hidden inside me.”
The rescue of a baby caused a weary world to rejoice.
That was a baby that the world came to rescue. This Sunday I will tell you about a baby who came to rescue the world.
Weary world, rejoice!
The Thrill of Hope
“The Weary World Rejoices”
And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people”(2:10).
For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord(2:11).
And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, 14 “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased”(2:13-14).
Sun, 25 November 2018
There are lots of things about the wise men that we don’t know.
We don’t know how many wise men there were, though tradition teaches us that there were three. We don’t know their names. In the sixth century, someone decided that their names were Melchior, Baltazar and Gaspar. Operas have been written ascribing these names to them. But no one really knows what their names were. We don’t know exactly from where they came. The “east” is a pretty big area. China? India? Babylonia? We don’t know what their professions were. Were they kings? Philosophers? Astronomers?
There are lots of things about the wise men that we don’t know, but we do know this: they knew how to worship.
Three times in this brief passage it refers to their worship. In verse 2 it says, “We . . . have come to worship him.” Even evil and envious King Herod recognized that they had a heart to worship. In verse 8 he hypocritically says, “when you have found him, bring me word, that I too may come and worship him.” Right. In verse 11 we are told that the wise men, “bowed down and worshiped him.” Yes, they knew how to worship. From their example we too can learn to worship.
There are three elements of their worship that we will highlight this coming Sunday and that we ought to incorporate into our own worship of God. We can share in their journey, their joy, and their generosity.
Join us at Istrouma as we celebrate the season with our new Christmas series entitled, “The Thrill of Hope.”
The Thrill of Hope
“Here Come the Wise Men”
Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the east came to Jerusalem, 2 saying, “Where is he who has been born king of the Jews? For we saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him” (2:1-2).
When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy. 11 And going into the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother . . . (2:10-11a).
. . . and they fell down and worshiped him. Then, opening their treasures, they offered him gifts, gold and frankincense and myrrh (2:11b).