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THE CHRISTIAN MANIFESTO, Part 9: God’s Favor

Read Luke 4:14-21

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE

Show your fear of God by not taking advantage of each other. I am the LORD your God. (Leviticus 25:17 NLT)

 Recently, a fellow colleague and friend of mine got into a conversation about the scripture passage I was preaching on at the church that I serve. The passage is Luke 4:14-21 and is on Jesus’ first recorded visit to the synagogue in Nazareth following his baptism and wilderness experience. In that passage, Jesus is handed the scroll of Isaiah and he opens it up to the following passage: “The Spirit of the LORD is upon Me, for He has anointed Me to bring Good News to the poor. He has sent Me to proclaim that captives will be released, that the blind will see, that the oppressed will be set free, and that the time of the LORD’s favor has come.” Inspired by the conversation, I have decided to devote a series of devotions on this particular passage, which has become known as “The Christian Manifesto”

Part 9: God’s Favor. In the time of the ancient Hebrews, when they came into the land of Canaan and made that their dwelling place, the Hebrews established the law of Moses as the law of their land. The law was given to them to establish much needed order in the land, to keep them set apart from the native people of the lands they were occupying, and to ensure that they remained wholly devoted to God. This last part meant that on top of justice, they were to be a people of love, compassion and mercy. Thus, within the law, measures were taken to ensure that they would do differently to foreigners (aka immigrants), to those in debt, to those abandoned and alone, and to all who struggled in life than was done to them while they were enslaved in Egypt for 400 years.

One of the major things that was established within the law was called the Year of Jubilee. This happened on either the 49th or the 50th year of the Jubilee cycle, and it was the year when all who were indentured servants because of the debts they owed, when seized property was returned to those who lost it, when all slates were wiped clean, and when people did not plant, farm, or harvest food to be stored and sold for profit, but when people ate freely from what the land produced naturally on its own. This was a reminder to all the Hebrew people of the mercy and grace of God, a mercy and a grace that, as God’s children, we should be modeling.

It’s believed that observance of the Year of Jubilee was essentially ignored during and following the captivity of the Jews who were exiled in Babylon. The reason for this is that they had believed that Jubilee could only be celebrated only when the Jews had complete control of the land of Canaan, which was the ultimate sign of God’s favor being upon Israel. Following Babylon, that reality never came into fruition and so Jubilee became more of a symbolic gesture, with the blowing of the shofar (a type of horn), but not truly observed. Yet, in the Nazareth Synagogue, Jesus stated that was anointed to announce the year of the Lord’s favor right then and there to a people who had long been occupied and oppressed by the Roman Empire.

What should stand out for us here is this, that while the consensus in Jesus’ day was that Jubilee was over and that God’s favor was removed from the land, Jesus stood against that mindset. While people allowed endless enslavement, imprisonment, debt, poverty, and loss to continue because they felt everything was hopeless, or because of a theological interpretation they had of the Scriptures, Jesus proclaimed that God’s favor was not gone, that their situation was NOT hopeless, and that it was high time that people do something to bring an end to suffering. What’s more, he charged his followers, including us, to make that our mission. The question for you is this, are willing to do what it takes to proclaim and work for the distribution of God’s favor?

THOUGHT OF THE DAY

In what ways are you ignoring the suffering of those around you and in what ways could you be proclaiming God’s favor in your current community and context?

PRAYER

Lord, free me from my imprisonment to sin and complacency, and give me hope in your favor. Amen.

2012 in review

To all Life-Giving Water Devotional Readers,

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2012 annual report for this devotional.  It was kind of presented in a fun way and I thought I would share.  This devotion was started in July 2012!  Here’s to another year of devotions in 2013! HAPPY NEW YEAR!!!

In Christ,
Pastor Todd

Here’s an excerpt:

600 people reached the top of Mt. Everest in 2012. This blog got about 1,900 views in 2012. If every person who reached the top of Mt. Everest viewed this blog, it would have taken 3 years to get that many views.

Click here to see the complete report.

In Spirit and In Truth

Read John 4:1-42

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE

“I want you to show love, not offer sacrifices. I want you to know Me more than I want burnt offerings.” (Hosea 6:6, NLT)

In Spirit and In TruthIn January of 2010 I had the awesome privilege of making a cross-cultural trip to India, which was required for seminary.  Shortly after arriving we went to the Sri Radha Krishna temple in Bangalore to take a tour of it and begin our immersion into the culture of India. As we were walking in, I noticed a group of pilgrims who were on their way out. These pilgrims were dressed in nothing but a dhoti (a traditional skirt worn by men). They were bare-chested, barefoot, and unshaven. Not wanting to have any part in playing the stereotypical “tourist” who stared and took pictures of people as they walked by, I decided to keep my focus on the stairs before me and act as if I didn’t even notice them walking down.

As I was passing them, however, I could not help but notice the hand extending toward me. “Brother,” I heard a voice say. I looked up and at the man whose arm was extended in my direction. Not wanting to be rude I clasped his extended hand and, after doing so, he put his other hand over mine and said, “Brothers—We are brothers—brothers.” As he was saying this he was looking me straight in the eyes, as if he was communicating with my very soul.  Then, as quickly as he had come, he let go of my hand and went on his way.

I too went on my way; however, there is no doubt that I was forever changed by that experience.  I could no longer focus on the “strange” things around me.  It no longer occurred to me that I was in a Krishna Temple, or that I was thousands of miles away from home.  I felt completely encompassed by the presence of God.  That is the closest I have ever felt to TRUE worship.  In part, I felt ashamed that I had not initially reached out (in Christian LOVE) to the pilgrim the way he did to me; yet, at the same I felt the urge to forget all that and to just simply worship God.

What I realized from this experience is that acts of LOVE usher in acts of true worship. When Jesus was in Samaria, a place despised by Jews and occupied by those the Jews considered to be ungodly, he not only took note of the woman at the well, he also took the time to talk with her. It is as if he reached his hand across to her and said, “You are my sister, my sister.” He spoke with her as a teacher would a student in a time and place when it was forbidden for a man to be alone with and talking to another woman.

And then, just like the pilgrim who embraced me, Jesus went his own way. The woman was left there, in a state of true worship. And then she ran to tell others about her encounter. “He told me everything I have ever done,” she said to them. Of course he hadn’t done that, at least not in the conversation we are privy to in that account (he told her how many times she had been married). Yet, that is her reaction to the experience. She had an encounter with God and found herself worshipping.

We often spend much of our time fussing over church and rituals and liturgy; however, what Jesus teaches, and what my experience in India shows, is that TRUE worship is being connected to and being in awe of the grace and love of God.  What God is calling us to do is to be agents of God’s Love and Grace. God is calling us to be agents of hope, healing and wholeness in this world. If we allow God to be present through us in the lives of others, we will then understand what Jesus meant when he said, “Believe me, the hour is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father seeks such as these to worship him.” (John 4:21, 23)

THOUGHT OF THE DAY

“Worship changes the worshiper into the image of the One worshiped”  — Jack Hayford

PRAYER

Lord, be present through me in the lives of others. Use me as an agent of your love and grace in the lives of others. Amen.

Announcement

Hello all,

Thank you, once again, for signing up for this devotional.  I am excited to let you know that the first of many will be published and sent to your email on Wednesday!  God bless you and thanks again for signing up! Spread the word!

In Christ,

Pastor Todd