Psalm 111 – Theology 101

Total Praise by Barbara Hayes

Praise the Lord!

I will thank the Lord with all my heart
    in the meeting of his good people.
The Lord does great things;
    those who enjoy them seek them.
What he does is glorious and splendid,
    and his goodness continues forever.
His miracles are unforgettable.
    The Lord is kind and merciful.
He gives food to those who fear him.
    He remembers his agreement forever.
He has shown his people his power
    when he gave them the lands of other nations.

Everything he does is good and fair;
    all his orders can be trusted.
They will continue forever.
    They were made true and right.
He sets his people free.
    He made his agreement everlasting.
    He is holy and wonderful.

Wisdom begins with respect for the Lord;
    those who obey his orders have good understanding.
    He should be praised forever. (NCV)

First and foremost, the psalms are about God. So then, the psalter is a rich description and repository of sound theology. As such, each psalm enlightens us about the Lord of the universe. Keep in mind that Christians are presently in the season of Epiphany. Although Lent is fast approaching with its own seasonal focus, we are still inhabiting the light shown for us – beginning with the star of Bethlehem and bringing all kinds of people to the Christ.

The Psalms are a wonderful source of light, leading us to discover, know, love, and serve the God who has shown grace to us by divine revelation. To read and pray the psalter is to have a crash course in Theology 101…

  • We pray because we believe we will be heard. 
  • We believe we will be heard because we believe there is a God who listens. 
  • We believe there is a God who listens because we believe the One who listens is always merciful, kind, and good. 

The basis of all prayer is our view of God.  Nobody sustains a prayer life to a fickle distant God who is only attentive whenever it strikes his fancy. But if God is really God – fair, just, committed, and full of good deeds – then, prayer is an effortless interaction, and we are eager to do it.

Notice the descriptions of God in today’s psalm. God’s attributes and character translate perfectly into just and loving action in the world:

God is full of glory, therefore everything the Lord does is splendid.

God is good all the time, therefore goodness never runs out of steam.

God does miracles so that we will not forget the accessibility of divine power.

God is kind and merciful as demonstrated by providing for human need and keeping divine promises.

God is honest and fair; therefore, humanity can trust in divine judgments.

God is free, and so, can set people free from their worst spiritual bondage and self-imposed prisons.

The way to access such incredible divine resources is through honoring and respecting the Lord. Because God is the very definition of merciful grace and steadfast love, human overtures of respect and obedience become willing and joyful. In other words, we obey God because we want to – not because we must.

Entrusting oneself to a benevolent God who makes and keeps promises to people is easy. No coercion or persuasion is necessary. All that need be done is to declare the good things God has done.

Loyal and gracious God, you always keep your promises, and there is never a time when you renege on them.  Thank you for promising deliverance from sin, death, and hell through your Son, our Savior, Jesus Christ who with you and the Holy Spirit benevolently reign forever and ever.  Amen.

Matthew 2:1-12 – Epiphany of the Lord

Star of Bethlehem by German painter Waldemar Flaig (1892-1932)

Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the reign of King Herod. About that time some wise men from eastern lands arrived in Jerusalem, asking, “Where is the newborn king of the Jews? We saw his star as it rose, and we have come to worship him.”

King Herod was deeply disturbed when he heard this, as was everyone in Jerusalem. He called a meeting of the leading priests and teachers of religious law and asked, “Where is the Messiah supposed to be born?”

“In Bethlehem in Judea,” they said, “for this is what the prophet wrote:

‘And you, O Bethlehem in the land of Judah,
    are not least among the ruling cities of Judah,
for a ruler will come from you
    who will be the shepherd for my people Israel.’”

Then Herod called for a private meeting with the wise men, and he learned from them the time when the star first appeared. Then he told them, “Go to Bethlehem and search carefully for the child. And when you find him, come back, and tell me so that I can go and worship him, too!”

After this interview the wise men went their way. And the star they had seen in the east guided them to Bethlehem. It went ahead of them and stopped over the place where the child was. When they saw the star, they were filled with joy! They entered the house and saw the child with his mother, Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasure chests and gave him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.

When it was time to leave, they returned to their own country by another route, for God had warned them in a dream not to return to Herod. (NLT)

The Three Kings, Ethiopian Orthodox Church

Each year on January 6 in the Church Calendar, after the twelve days of Christmas, is the celebration of Epiphany. Christ’s coming to this earth as a child and becoming like us is much more than a baby in a manger.  Epiphany helps to bring a vision and understanding of God’s glory to all kinds of people in the world.

Epiphany means “manifestation” or “appearance.” The event which is associated with this season is the visit of the Magi to Jesus. Included in this time of the year between the seasons of Christmas and Lent is a special emphasis on the teaching and healing ministry of Jesus. The great celebration and focus of these weeks is that salvation is not limited to Israel but extends to the Gentiles, as well.

Every season in the Christian Year has its unique angle of grace. With Epiphany, we see that one of the most scandalous truths of Christianity is that God graces common ordinary people who seem far from God with the gift of Jesus. God grants repentance that leads to life for all kinds of people no matter their race, ethnicity, class, or background. It is a wondrous and astounding spiritual truth that God’s gracious concern is not limited to a certain type of person or a particular group of people.

Grace is and ought to be the guiding factor in how we interact with people. Losing sight of grace leads to being critical and defensive. Like King Herod of old, a graceless person becomes enamored with earthly power and control. But embracing grace leads to the humility of seeing the image of God in people quite different from ourselves. Like the Apostle Peter, who learned in a vision to bring the gospel to non-Jews, old legalisms begin to be worn away so that people from all walks of life can have access to Jesus and his gracious saving and healing ministry. (Acts 10-11:18)

Grace brings down barriers and does away with unnecessary distinctions between others. The appropriate response to mercy is to glorify God for such marvelous light and amazing work.

It is a merciful reality that the Magi, or Wise Men, pagan astrologers, were directed to the Messiah. A light was provided to lead them to Jesus. Apart from God’s care and intervention they would have remained in darkness.  And it is no less true for people today. This old broken world is wrapped in darkness. All kinds of people have no light at the end of the tunnel of their lives for hope and new life. The gospel of Jesus Christ brings that light to those walking around with no ability to see. Jesus, in his teaching ministry, exhorted his followers not to hide their light but to let it shine for all to see. (Matthew 5:14-16)

Sometimes, maybe oftentimes, the best way to bring resolution to our own troubles and problems is through helping others make sense of their lives through the gracious light of Christ so that they can see an appearance, an epiphany, of what their lives can be in the gracious rule of the kingdom of God. 

As we celebrate Epiphany and journey with Jesus through his earthly upbringing and into his gracious ministry to people, let us keep vigilance to not let our light grow dim. Instead, let us hunger and thirst after Christ’s righteousness so that our joy is full, and our light is bright.

God of mercy, Lord of all, you have gifted the Church through the goodness of your grace to be your hands and do your work, to be your voice and share your words, to bring healing to broken lives. You have graciously gifted your people with the blessings of your Spirit, the power to transform lives and make all things new. Now may our hearts receive, our mouths proclaim, our hands prepare for service so that the love that we have may overflow into the hearts of others, and receive your grace, your renewing Spirit, and your love, through Jesus Christ our Savior. Amen.

Even to the Weirdos

Epiphany

In many ways, I’m just a common ordinary Tim.  The only thing uncommon about me is my own crazy weirdness.  Which is why I am always amazed (even after 32 years of marriage) that I have such an uncommonly wonderful wife.  It makes me feel rather privileged!  Once she made an appearance in my life, I’ve never been quite the same.

And, yet, as privileged and as special as I feel being with my wife, there is an even greater light which causes me to say “eureka!” and “hallelujah!”

No matter who you are, your station in life, your background, your intellect or lack thereof, your creed, your ethnicity, your gender, your race, or anything else – the good news has come to you.

Each year on January 6, after the 12 days of Christmas, is the celebration in Christianity known as Epiphany.  Christ’s coming to this earth as a child and becoming like us is much more than a baby in a manger.  The day and the season known in the Christian Year as Epiphany lets you in on an incredible vision and greater understanding of God’s glory – to all kinds of people of the world.

Epiphany means “manifestation” or “appearance.”  The event most closely associated with this Christian season is the visit of the Magi, or the wise men, to Jesus.  Included in this time of the year between the seasons of Christmas and Lent is a special emphasis on the teaching and healing ministry of Jesus.  The great celebration and focus of these weeks is that:

Deliverance from the power of sin, spiritual healing, and the freedom to live a new life is not limited to Israel and the Jews, but extends, as well, to the Gentiles – to you, my friend, to all of us common ordinary non-descript, even weird people.

Every season in the Christian Year has its unique perspective on grace.  With Epiphany, you see that one of the most scandalous truths of Christianity is that God graces common ordinary people who seem far from God with the gift of Jesus.  God grants repentance that leads to life for all kinds of people no matter what their race, ethnicity, class, or background.  It is a wondrous and astounding spiritual truth that God’s gracious concern is not limited to a certain type of person or an elite group of persons, or even nice people who aren’t weird at all.

Epiphany teaches us that grace is and ought to be the guiding factor in how you and I interact with people.

Losing sight of grace leads to being critical and defensive.  Like King Herod of old, a graceless person becomes enamored with earthly power and control.  But embracing grace leads to the humility to see the image of God in people very different from ourselves.

Like the Apostle Peter, who learned in a vision to bring the gospel to non-Jews, old legalisms begin to be worn away so that people from all walks of life can have access to Jesus and his gracious saving and healing ministry.  Grace brings down barriers and causes us to do away with unnecessary distinctions between others.  Our appropriate response to such a grace is to glorify God for his marvelous and amazing work.

It is a gracious and merciful reality that the Magi, or Wise Men, who were pagan astrologers, were directed to the Messiah.  A light was provided to lead them to Jesus.  Apart from God’s care and intervention they would have remained in darkness.  And it is no less true for people today.  This old broken world is wrapped in darkness.  All kinds of people have no light at the end of the tunnel of their lives for hope and new life.  But the gospel of Jesus Christ brings that light to those walking around with no ability to see.  Jesus, in his teaching ministry in the Sermon on the Mount, exhorted his followers not to hide their light but to let it shine for all to see.

Sometimes, maybe oftentimes, the best way to bring resolution to your own troubles and problems is through helping others make sense of their lives through the gracious light of Christ so that they can see an appearance, an epiphany, of what their lives can be in the gracious rule of the kingdom of God.

Celebrate, my friend, the day and the season of Epiphany.  Journey with Jesus through his earthly upbringing and into his gracious ministry to people.  Keep vigilant to not let your light grow dim.  Instead, hunger and thirst after Christ’s righteousness so that your joy becomes full and your light is bright.

For a star in the east is shining, and even us weirdos can see it.

Matthew 2:1-12

            This date, January 6, of every year is a very significant day in the Christian Year – it is the day in which we as Christians intentionally recognize and celebrate the glorious truth that God’s Son was not only given to the Jews, but to Gentiles, as well.  This day is known as “Epiphany.”  Epiphany simply means “appearance” or “manifestation.”  Epiphany is the realization that the incarnation of Jesus involves a great deal more than Christmas; it brings a vision, a revelation, and an epiphany of God’s glory to every nation, people-group, and person on the face of the earth.
 
            The event that most represents and symbolizes Epiphany is the visit of the Magi to Jesus.  God, in his grace and mercy, made known to a group of Gentile astrologers that something of great importance was taking place.  A sign and light was given to them, leading them to Christ, the King.  Indeed, it is only through God’s gracious revelation of light to us that we are led to Jesus and receive the salvation that brings life, peace, and hope.
 
            Sometimes we forget and lose sight of what is really important in life.  We move at such breakneck pace and bind ourselves with such busy-ness that to stop and connect with life itself is not even a thought in our heads.  Yet, it is imperative that we look up into the sky and see a bright star in the east leading us, even beckoning us, to the Christ for whom all the universe hinges.  What do we really and truly need in life?  We need a Savior.  He has come.  He has been revealed.  Thanks be to God.
 

 

            God of light, you shine brightly and call us to your Son, King Jesus.  Today I celebrate your grace and goodness displayed in leading me to Yourself.  Thank you for salvation and life in Christ.  Continue to open my eyes so that I might see your love and truth.  Amen.