Week 36: Arise and Shine for your Light has Come

Readings for the week: Psalm 104, Isaiah 56-66Acts 9-15Psalm 105, Listen to these passages

Opening Prayer:

Dear Lord, thank you for your grace and encouragement. When times are rough, when the storms keep coming, when life just has one thing after another, it feels like there’s never going to be any change. Then you step in.  You do this all through the Bible and you have done this in my life.  But, the thing in front of me still nags that this time you’ll not be there. Forgive me how I lack faith.    Forgive me for the ways I let chaos shape what I do and how I respond to people.  Fill me with your Spirit anew, so that I might find peace, hope, joy, and live in faith. Reach deeply into my life and in the lives of those around me, bringing healing and hope to our hurts.  Lead me that I might best know when to be patient and when to be active.  I want to know you more and I want to be in tune with all you are doing.  Amen.

1. Psalm 104


2. Reading through Isaiah 56-66

Let me honest, political debates have spoiled important conversations, and religious debates have created ‘sides’ and then blocked off sets of topics for each side.  If you’re a “conservative” then you are given a set of themes to emphasize and positions to take. If you’re “liberal” it’s the same.

John Wesley, the founder of Methodism and the namesake of The Wesleyan Church was passionate about evangelism, he was passionate about good theology, and was passionate about a church community who lived out the Bible’s teachings.  He evangelized as much or more than just about anyone in history.  He also was committed to helping the poor, reforming prisons, abolishing slavery, including women in ministry, and a number of other aspects. For him, holiness was about internal and external reform, reaching into lives and across society with genuinely good news.

He had a holistic message because the Bible does as well. This isn’t, however, to say anything about our current politics.  That’s the trouble. We can get to thinking God gives a command and it’s a political party that puts it into action. Political parties are not God’s people.

They’re made up of people with all sorts of different goals and motives, the primary one being to continue the political machine. People seek power, and draw others into zealous action.  But even those who preach about God don’t have God in mind, they’re using the religious language for their own power. It’s happened throughout history.

Isaiah is calling people to serve God, not other powers. And those who serve God, who commit themselves to his ways and promises, are to be included as equals. Those who don’t. Well, God is drawing a line in the sand. It’s not about titles. It’s not about traditions. It’s not about labels or categories or assumed privileges. It’s all about obedience.

Who do we serve?

That’s the question all throughout Isaiah.  It comes to a clear focus in these last chapters.

God promises hope for those who seek him. God promises judgment for those who defy him.

Who does God invite to his table? Who are those who he rejects?

Make a list of what God seeks and what God rejects as highlighted in these chapters.

Choose which list you want to be on.  Don’t just choose in your thoughts. It’s about actions, in how you live and who you serve.  Who is your lord, today? What gives you meaning and where do you put your trust? It’s not just an important question. It’s the question of life.

God has declared who he is and what he wants, but also what he will do. If you have faith in God, don’t give up, don’t let go.  If you trust something else, hope in some other direction, turn to God as soon as you can, to experience life in a way you’ve never thought possible. That’s God’s invitation and also God’s warning.


3. Reading Through Acts 9-15

Acts is probably one of the most important books that people should read. I don’t say that lightly.  We love reading the Gospels (for good reason!) and we like to read passages from other New Testament books. But Acts gets ignored. It doesn’t fit easily into a category for how to use it, so it doesn’t get featured.

Yet, without Acts much of who we are and what we do as a church wouldn’t make sense.

Why, for instance, are people allowed to be faithful to God without following the Law as found in the Old Testament?

Remember those long, long passages about what God required from people?

We don’t do a lot of that anymore. Why?  What happened? Who decided those Scriptures aren’t in place? Was it all thrown out?

Who decides?

If we don’t need the Law in the same way has God just lowered his expectations?

These chapters make it clear that God seeks out people and that God reaches out and includes in ways that we may not expect.

The God who spoke to Isaiah is still speaking the same to us. If we listen, if we seek wisdom, we can hear truth and see the light, and walk in a new life.

There may be troubles, indeed there will be, but God is in charge. So keep the faith!

In these chapters we also see one of the biggest conversion stories ever, how Saul the persecutor of Christians becomes one of the leading evangelists of all time and one of the most, if not the most, important teachers of Christians of all time.  He heard truth, he saw light, and he walked in a new life. For Saul, who became known as Paul, to live is Christ.

Not only did he become a Christian, he’s a big reason why we’re Christians.  Now that’s an impact.

See, Acts is important.


4. Psalm 105

 


5. Respond

If you’ve fallen behind in the readings or haven’t started yet, don’t worry.  Reading the Bible isn’t a limited time offer. Jump in this week, and catch up with what you’ve missed in future years.

I highly encourage you to share your thoughts with others in your family, or immediate community. Talk about this stuff! 

Since I sometimes feel lonely, share your thoughts in the comment section.

Talking about your thoughts and questions is a very important part of the reading goal. Writing out our thoughts can help us remember what we read and keep our minds on the passage.

It helps to share as we learn from each other.

Our questions or confusion can bring us together, as we highlight what others may have missed or address what a lot of us are also wondering.   Don’t feel like you have to say or write a lot, or feel pressure to be profound. Respond with honesty and openness.

Just jump right in where you’re at, knowing that Christ invites you to respond without pressure or anxiety. It’s a journey not a performance.