Feb 5, 2021


The Descendants of Esau


I was reading in a devotional today about the descendants of Esau, you know, they guy who foolishly sold out his birthright to the trickster Isaac for a bowl of porridge. The Bible is full of less than nice things to say about the descendants (cf Ezekiel 25:12-14; Amos 1:6, 9, 11-12), but there is also a minority view in the Bible on this from Deuteronomy 23:7 "You shall not despise the Edomite, for he is your brother."


Isaac belated blessing of Esau has an unexpected ag component: "Behold your dwelling shall be of the fatness of the earth/and the dew of heaven from above"(Genesis 27:39) The descendants of Esau lived in a desolate area south of the Dead Sea, so obvious irony in the blessing. Yet, the truth is, it seems at least some of Esau's descendants did well (cf. Job 1:3 and when Esau met Isaac in their reunion that Isaac feared. 


Sure, the blessing, the inheritance of the land, and the promises passed through Jacob and his seed, but did Esau and his offspring abandon the God worshiped by Abraham and Isaac? After all, despite his foolishness squandering his blessing, Esau did receive this second blessing from the sons of Abraham. The worship of the true God continued through the descendants of Esau. Why is this important? I think it gives a glimpse into the intention of God to augment his people by including non-Jews. If we think of salvation history in terms of this--it is hardly surprising when Paul turns toward the evangelization of the Gentiles. 


How did Job know the Lord? From the family tradition handed down from Esau. It may be true that God's rejection placed Esau outside the line through which the law was given and the coming of the Messiah was prepared (Romans 9:10-13), but it is clear that God did not forget the offspring of  Esau. 


Also, Maybe the blessing Isaac gave to Esau--"Your dwelling shall be of the fatness of the earth/ And of the dew of heaven from above", could refer to the fullness of the nations and them being grafted into Israel. The dew of heaven as messianic grace spoken to the nations. We've seen this outpoured in abundance in the 20th and 21st centuries with spread of the Gospel of Jesus the Christ all over the world. By 2030 there will be 300 million Chinese Christians! This despite persecution and marginalization of Christian's in China. 


God always finds a way of provision for ALL the earth. Let us make sure we too exhibit and extend this grace in our worlds. Amen!


November 16, 2020



Daily Reading


2 Corinthians 5: 16-21


(16) From now on, therefore, we regard no one according to the flesh. Even though we once regarded Christ according to the flesh, we regard him thus no longer. (17) Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. (18) All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; (19) that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to the message of reconciliation. (20) For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. 


New creation in Christ, reconciliation to God in Christ, and in Christ we become the righteousness of Christ.





November 11, 2020


Daily Reading


1 Timothy 1:15-17


(15) The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost. (16) But I received mercy for this reason, that in me, as the foremost, Jesus Christ might display his perfect patience as an example to those who were to believe in him for eternal life. (17) To the King of ages, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen. 


Paul testifies to what God had done for him in Christ Jesus. Not only for him, but the world. Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners. Jesus comes to every human in the world offering his grace and love and calling them to him. We are the prodigal son and our God is a loving Father. No matter what you've done--go to him and feel the strength and shelter of his loving embrace. 


November 9, 2020


Daily Reading


Born Again to a Living Hope

1 Peter 1:3-25


(3) Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, (4) to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, (5) who by God's power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. (6) In this you rejoice, through now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, (7) so that the tested genuineness of your faith--more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire--may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. (8) Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, (9) obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.


(10) Concerning this salvation, the prophets who prophesied about the grace that was to be yours searched and inquired carefully, (11) inquiring what person or time the Spirit of Christ in them was indicating when he predicted the sufferings of Christ and the subsequent glories. (12) It was revealed to them that they were serving not themselves but you, in the things they have now been announced to you through those who preached the good news to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven, things into which angels long to look. 


Called to Be Holy


(13) Therefore, preparing your minds for action, and being sober-minded, set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ. (14)  As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, (15) but as he who called you holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, (16) since it is written, "You shall be holy, for I am holy." (17) And if you call on him as Father who judges, impartially according to each one's deeds, conduct yourselves with fear throughout the time of your exile, (18) knowing that you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your forefathers, not with perishable things such as silver or gold, (19) but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot. (20) He was foreknown before the foundation of the world but was made manifest in the last times for the sake of you. (21) who through him are believers in God, who raised him from the dead and gave him glory, so that your faith and hope are in God. 


(22) Having purified your souls by your obedience to the truth for a sincere brotherly love, love one another earnestly with a pure heart, (23) since you have been born again, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God; for All flesh is like grass and all its glory is like the flower of grass. The grass withers, and the flower falls, but the word of the Lord remains forever." And this word is the good news that was preached to you.


If you wanted to introduce someone to the Christian faith without reading one of the Gospels, particularly the Gospel of John, this first chapter of 1 Peter is one of the most thorough expositions of the Christian faith I can think of. It would be a good reading for us to read through on a regular basis as it outlines many things about the core of the faith. 


God Bless your Day,

Pastor Mark


October 30, 2020

Daily Reading


God's Steadfast Love and Compassion

Micah 7: 18-20


(18) Who is a God like you, pardoning iniquity and passing over transgression for the remnant of his inheritance? He does not retain his anger forever, because he delights in steadfast love. (19) He will again have compassion on us; he will tread our iniquities underfoot. You will cast all our sins into the depths of the sea. (20) You will show faithfulness to Jacob and steadfast love to Abraham, as you have sworn to our fathers from the days of old. 


Micah was prophet that lived in the time of Isaiah. He called out the leaders of Judah and Israel. Micah warns of a coming destruction but also speaks of  the coming of a faithful shepherd. This leader will come from Bethlehem and renew the kingdom (Micah 5). This is the same prophet who asks--"What does the Lord Require? "What does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?


The verses above are the last verses of the book of Micah. Good words to take in and sit with. 


God Bless your day!

Pastor Mark


October 23, 2020

Daily Reading


Gifts of Grace

Romans 12:3-8


(3) For by the grace of given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgement, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned. (4) For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function, (5) so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members of one another. (6) Having gifts that differ according to the grace given us, let us use them: if prophecy, in proportion to our faith; (7) if service, in our serving; the one who teaches, in his teaching; the one who exhorts, in his exhortation; the one who contributes in generosity; the one who leads, with zeal; the one who does acts of mercy, with cheerfulness. 


Reflection:

Paul states he has been given a certain "grace" which allows him to speak to the community of believers. From the beginning of Romans he has noted he has received "grace and apostleship" from Christ in order to bring about the obedience of faith among all the nations for the sake of his name. Grace in these verses is the divine gift to empower Paul for the tasks the Lord puts before him. 

Paul desires that all should not think more highly in comparison to that which is necessary to think, but to think so as to be "sober". The measure of faith is not a quality (some with more or some with less) or a "standard" of faith, but rather God has measured out to each individual an ability to think with sober judgement. This faith means Christian ability to think of oneself in a proper way. It is contra claims to superiority. Remember Philippians 2 and the example of Christ lowliness and road to the cross we preached on this last summer? Here it is highlighted by Paul in Romans. 




October 21, 2020

Daily Reading


The Vineyard of the Lord Destroyed

Isaiah 5:2


(1) Let me sing for my beloved my song concerning his vineyard: My beloved had a vineyard on a very fertile hill. (2) He dug it and cleared it of stones, and planted it with choice vines; he built a watchtower in the midst of it, and hewed a wine vat in it; and he looked for it to yield grapes, but it yielded wild grapes. (3) And now, O inhabitants of Jerusalem and men of Judah, judge between me and my vineyard. (4) What more was there to do for my vineyard, that I have not done for it? When I looked for it to yield grapes, why did it yield wild grapes? 

(5) And now I will tell you what I will do to my vineyard. I will remove its hedge and it shall be devoured; I will break down its wall and it shall be trampled down. (6) I will make it a waste; It shall not be pruned or hoed, and briers and thorns shall grow up; I will command the clouds that they rain no rain upon it.

(7) For the vineyard of the Lord of hosts is the house of Israel, and the men of Judah are his pleasant planting; and he looked for justice, but behold bloodshed; for righteousness, and behold, and outcry!'


Reflection:


In Bible study this week we read and examined the saying of Jesus from the Gospel of John the 15th chapter that presents Jesus as the true vine and the Father as the vinedresser. I thought I would give you this reading from the prophet Isaiah to think about in terms of the saying/teaching of Jesus in John 15. Israel in the OT is described as the vineyard of God. As you read the Isaiah verses you might get some insight into the imagery Jesus uses in John 15. Jesus speaks about the branch that doesn't bear fruit be "taken away" (v2) and the one who doesn't abide in him is "thrown away like a branch and withers" (v6). It goes to show you at some level that in both the OT and NT the vine-vineyard- pruning language is employed by Jesus to speak about judgement and a lack of connection to God or turning away.  

These verses from John 15: 1-17 can perhaps be better understood if you see them through this reading from the prophet Isiah. Also, remember Jesus' first "sign" in John's Gospel is the turning of the water into wine. Wine symbolizing the life and abundance of God in Jesus. The importance of fruit bearing in God's kingdom is clear in both of these readings. 

Peace in Christ,

Pastor Mark



October 20, 2020

Daily Reading:


Put On the New Self

Colossians 3: 1-17


(1) If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. (2) Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. (3) For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. (4) When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory. 

(5) Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. (6) On account of these the wrath of God is coming. (7) In these you too once walked, when you were living in them. (8) But now you must put them all away: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk from your mouth. Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices (10) and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator. (11) Here there is not Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave, free; but Christ is all and in all.

(12) Put on then, as God's chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, (13) bearing with one another and if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. (14) And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. (15) And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. (16) Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. (17) And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father


Reflection:


Ok. I'm going to spend some time almost every day picking out a scripture and reflecting on it. Join me! I'm not going to structure it so I pick out a scripture in advance, but I'm going to let the Holy spirit lead me to one. Today, a fellow pastor from Staples, MN, was reading and offering commentary on this section of Colossians, so this is why I chose it. So it will go almost every day as I pick one out. 


Colossians 3. What a powerful reading! "Put on" the new self. Its baptismal language. In the ancient church they would often be baptized naked or with a loin cloth and when they came out of the water, a bright white robe was put around them to signify everything Paul is speaking about in Colossians 3. It begins with the fact Jesus has been raised from the dead! The most pivotal event in the history of the world. If it is--set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on the earth. Does this mean we aren't to care about the earth, or care about justice, or be engaged in works of love? No, we must be about those things, but its by focusing on what God has done for us in Jesus that we are energized and driven to know Christ in heaven, to worship God, the Father. We are a new creation as Paul points out in other letters.


If this is true (and it is), we put to death those things that are the way of death and put on, as God's chosen ones, the things of God to revolutionize the world in the name of Jesus! Above all (1 Corinthians 13), we put on love. We let the peace of Christ rule in our hearts. Yes! Who doesn't need the peace of Christ? And we BE thankful! If anyone wants to know how to live in the Spirit and be changed or transformed into this new creation by God in Christ, here it is! 


Do EVERYTHING in the name of the Lord Jesus! I hope you have a great rest of your day. Remember--you have put on Christ! 


Be well and Peace,

Pastor Mark