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W.I.S.H. Post – February 23, 2022

W.I.S.H. – Weekly Insights for Spiritual Health 02-23-2022

Read:  Proverbs 1:1-6

   1 The proverbs of Solomon son of David, king of Israel: 2 For learning about wisdom and instruction, for understanding words of insight, 3 for gaining instruction in wise dealing, righteousness, justice, and equity; 4 to teach shrewdness to the simple, knowledge and prudence to the young– 5 Let the wise also hear and gain in learning, and the discerning acquire skill, 6 to understand a proverb and a figure, the words of the wise and their riddles.

 When Solomon became King of God’s people the Lord offered to grant him one wish.  Solomon asked for wisdom so that he would lead the people well.  God was pleased to grant Solomon’s wish and Solomon has been known ever since as the top of the class regarding wisdom. 

 Asking God for wisdom is good request, especially when it is in the service of the Lord, and to the benefit of God’s people.  God is still willing to convey the gift of wisdom, that’s why these proverbs of Solomon are compiled for us; that’s what the opening of Solomon’s book says (above) in verses 1-6.

 To be sure Solomon’s wisdom was great, but it is also shown in the Bible not to be the ultimate in wisdom.  In fact, the Bible says in 1 Corinthians 1:25, “For God’s foolishness is wiser than human wisdom, and God’s weakness is stronger than human strength.”   Paul, and most pastors, claimed that promise as their path in life and for their service to Christ.  King Solomon may have prospered along with the nation, but some of his practices ended up being far from wise.

 God has been leading me toward an exploration of the Proverbs for some time and I think the time has arrived for the Proverbs to be the focus of my W.I.S.H. posts.  This will be the first of many W.I.S.H. posts that will lift up these principles of Godly living and spiritual wisdom.  I have known some actual geniuses who were very impressive with their intelligence and academic achievements but were a bit light on wisdom.  And I have known some common, everyday people who never went to college who were very impressively equipped with spiritual wisdom. 

Shalom,

Pastor Rob Nystrom

W.I.S.H. Post – February 9, 2022

W.I.S.H. – Weekly Insights for Spiritual Health 02-09-2022

Read:  Acts 3:12-15

 12 When Peter saw it, he addressed the people, “You Israelites, why do you wonder at this, or why do you stare at us, as though by our own power or piety we had made him walk? 13 The God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, the God of our ancestors has glorified his servant Jesus, whom you handed over and rejected in the presence of Pilate, though he had decided to release him. 14 But you rejected the Holy and Righteous One and asked to have a murderer given to you, 15 and you killed the Author of life, whom God raised from the dead. To this we are witnesses.

Fifty days after Jesus’ resurrection on Easter God gave the gift of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost.  The power of the Holy Spirit was necessary and much needed for the disciples to carry on Jesus’ work in the world.  In the above scripture we see how the Spirit empowered John and Peter to be instruments of Christ’s healing touch.  As the stunned crowd buzzed about this miracle, the Spirit then emboldened Peter to preach the gospel, having a powerful impact. 

In this passage Peter is boldly and rather confrontationally preaching the gospel.  He recounts how the crowd that gathered at Jesus’ trail in support of Jesus’ conviction had cheered for the release of Barabbas, a criminal, who was actually guilty of murder.  So there is a contrast, both at the trial, and highlighted in Peter’s preaching.  Peter reminds them that they called for a murderer to be released, and for the “Author of Life” to be condemned to death.  It’s a powerful contrast, and it is the springboard for Peter to proclaim the resurrection.

What images does the name “Author of Life” invoke for you?  It reminds me of the first chapter of the Gospel of John, which declares that Jesus is the Word, and that all things were created through Him.  “Author of Life” also causes me to remember a gift Ronda gave me that was special – a journal, a place to write down creative thoughts.  The Author of Life gives us the gift of life, and free will in this life, and a creative mind and imagination, and plenty of encouragement of love – and wants us to write the story of our life with Him. 

Shalom,

Pastor Rob Nystrom

W.I.S.H. Post – January 26, 2022

W.I.S.H. – Weekly Insights for Spiritual Health 01-26-2022

Read:  Daniel 3

This week in our look at the many names for Christ in the Bible we encounter a mystery. The word “theophany” means an encounter with God. The word “Christophany” is an encounter with Christ, BEFORE Jesus was born to Mary.  How is that possible?  There are passages in the Old Testament where people encounter “the Angel of the Lord” or someone who is like “a son of God”.  That latter expression is a bit mysterious, but it seemed to describe a very special Angel, who looked like a person.  The “Angel of the Lord” in numerous appearances is worshipped by those who see Him; this suggests divinity.  Also, there are places where the ancient Hebrew language is confusing to Bible scholars and we’re not sure if, for example, Jacob wrestled with God, or wrestled with the “Angel of the Lord”. 

None of that should be too concerning to you, as this is not a critical doctrine of faith.  It is very interesting and below is a list of references of potential “Christophany” experiences that I found online.  I would add Daniel 3:19-29 to that list.

                  Genesis 16:7-13                         Exodus 14:19

                  Genesis 22:15-18                      Exodus 13:21

                  Genesis 24:7 , 40                       Judges 6:11-23

                  Genesis 31:11-13                      Judges 13:9-20

                  Exodus 3:1                               Numbers 20:16

                  Acts 7:30-35                               Zechariah 1:12-13

So, did Christ make pre-incarnate visits to the Earth?  It is a mystery.  Is Christ the special “Angel of the Lord” (the word “Angel” means messenger of God, and since Jesus is the Word of God it seems possible)?  I don’t know.  I’m tempted to say we’ll never know, but I really don’t believe that!  I think we will see and know the full glory of Christ when we have entered His eternal Kingdom.  Until then, it’s fun to contemplate the mysteries of faith.

Shalom,

Pastor Rob Nystrom

W.I.S.H. Post – January 19, 2022

W.I.S.H. – Weekly Insights for Spiritual Health 01-19-2022

Isaiah 14:12 

        “How you are fallen from heaven, O Day Star, son of Dawn!
         How you are cut down to the ground, you who laid the nations low!”

Revelation 22:16 

         It is I, Jesus, who sent my angel to you with this testimony for the churches.

          I am the root and the descendant of David, the bright morning star.”

The name “Morning Star” appears in both the Old and New Testaments, though in a surprising way.  In the Old Testament the Prophet Isaiah refers to “the morning star” that many believe refers to the fall of Lucifer, which literally means “light bearer”.  In the New Testament Paul writes, “Even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light.”(2 Cor. 11:14) further linking the name Lucifer with Satan.  If you want the Biblical description of the devil it is that image of masquerading as an angel of light.  No horns, pitchfork, hooves, tail, or red color; those are all ways that non-Biblical sources have influenced our understanding.  Lucifer was thought to be an angel of light, who “falls” losing his glory.  It’s not something that is clearly taught in the Bible, so most of us get this idea from tradition rather than scripture.  Some cite Isaiah 14:12 for a Biblical seed for this thought/tradition. If you read the whole context of Isaiah’s words, however, it seems to apply to a fallen earthly king (not Lucifer), likely the King of Babylon.  As is common with prophecy the words use images, symbols, and poetic expressions to express a spiritual truth.

What does “Morning Star” mean?  It has to do with light and glory.  The king of Babylon (or Lucifer) falls from glory, while Jesus is the One Who rises in glory.  The image of Christ as light is pervasive in scripture, both in the Old Testament and the New Testament.  Light is an image of revelation – providing illumination, sight, truth, wisdom and hope to our darkened path or dim world.  The Morning Star is bright enough to be seen as dawn approaches – ushering in the hope of a new day.  That’s the image that is being put forth by the name “Morning Star”.  So, very near the end of the book of Revelation and the end of the Bible too, Christ tells John (the elder) that He, Jesus, is the Morning Star.  It was to give hope to John and validation of his visions that the angel had shown him.

Shalom,

Pastor Rob Nystrom

W.I.S.H. Post – January 12, 2022

W.I.S.H. – Weekly Insights for Spiritual Health 01-12-2022

Read:  Malachi 4:1-2

“See, the day is coming, burning like an oven, when all the arrogant and all evildoers will be stubble; the day that comes shall burn them up, says the Lord of hosts, so that it will leave them neither root nor branch. But for you who revere my name the sun of righteousness shall rise, with healing in its wings. You shall go out leaping like calves from the stall.”

We continue our series of “names for Christ” with “Sun of Righteousness”  The prophet Malachi gives us this image in the context of a “day of the Lord”.  The phrase “day of the Lord” is used in a few different ways in the Bible.  Sometimes it’s good news, like on the day of Pentecost when the Holy Spirit was given, Peter says “this is what the prophet Joel foretold” (Acts 2).  And sometimes the day of the Lord is a day of judgement (any day of judgement, not necessarily THE day of judgement).  That’s the context for the prophet Malachi’s words to the people, and in this instance it’s both bad news to the wicked and good news for the righteous.  Interestingly, the image of fire also has dual meaning in the scriptures.  Positively the image of fire is a purifying “refiner’s fire” or it’s the gift of the Holy Spirit; conversely fire is an image for judgement and consuming destruction.

In this passage Malachi foresees the coming of the “Sun of Righteousness”, (and it is S-U-N) as the day of the Lord.  There is both judgement and blessing in this prophecy.  “Sun of righteousness” is an image; this passage is filled with images.  Images can be tricky to interpret, they are not literal.  The Sun rises in the new day like a great bird, thus “healing in its wings”, as rays shine forth bringing light ad healing.  That’s the inspiration for Charles Wesley’s lyrics in “Hark the Herald Angel Sings”, when he writes in verse 3, “Hail the heaven-born Prince of Peace!  Hail the Sun of Righteousness!  Light and life to all he brings, risen with healing in his wings…”  Light, truth, righteousness, and healing.  It is good news, indeed. 

Finally another image for us, and about us:  “You shall go out leaping like calves from the stall”.  I like that.  The energy, enthusiasm and eagerness of a young calf to stretch its legs and use its emerging strength.  I’ll take it!  It’s been a few years since I’ve had that kind of energy!

Shalom,

Pastor Rob Nystrom

W.I.S.H. Post – January 5, 2022

W.I.S.H. – Weekly Insights for Spiritual Health 01-05-2022

Read:  Genesis 49:8-12

8“Judah, your brothers will praise you;
    your hand will be on the neck of your enemies;
    your father’s sons will bow down to you.
You are a lion’s cub, Judah; you return from the prey, my son.
Like a lion he crouches and lies down, like a lioness—who dares to rouse him?
10 The scepter will not depart from Judah, nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet,
until he to whom it belongs shall come and the obedience of the nations shall be his.
11 He will tether his donkey to a vine his colt to the choicest branch;
he will wash his garments in wine, his robes in the blood of grapes.
12 His eyes will be darker than wine, his teeth whiter than milk.

I am continuing my series “the names of Jesus” into the New Year.  This New Year one of my resolutions is to do more regular pleasure reading.  I thought I might begin by reading “The Narnia Chronicles” by C.S. Lewis.  If you have never read that 7 book series, it is a delight, and is really for all ages.  It’s been 30 years since I read them, and it’s time to read them again.  In Lewis’ wonderful fiction parallel universe the character of Christ is a giant, powerful lion named Aslan.  Lewis’ creative perspective were energized from the Biblical reference to Jesus as, “the Lion of the tribe of Judah”.

That reference occurs in a couple places in the Bible.  The first occurs near the end of Jacob’s life he blesses all of his 12 sons.  It is in the blessing to Judah that Jacob calls Judah a lion, that his tribe will rule over his brothers, and that the Messiah would come from Judah’s tribe.  Jacob’s pride paints a glowing image of his progeny.  The bottom line: the Messiah’s reign will be majestic and endure forever!

It’s in Revelation 5:5 that the phrase “the lion of the tribe of Judah” is used to refer specifically to Jesus.  John is weeping that no one is worthy to unseal the scroll of God’s revelation, but an elder in the vision tells him not to despair:  that the Lion of the Tribe of Judah is worthy to open the sealed scrolls and reveal the hidden word of God.  The lion is a powerful, majestic animal, often called, “King of the Beasts”.  The symbolism is of power, authority, and triumphant glory.  Yes, He is worthy.

Shalom,

Pastor Rob Nystrom

W.I.S.H. Post – December 29, 2021

W.I.S.H. – Weekly Insights for Spiritual Health 12-29-2021

Read:  Matthew 1:20-21, 1 John 2:2

“2He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world.  – 1 John 2:2 

The name, “Jesus” means “God saves”.  We have long championed the spiritual truth that we cannot save ourselves, that good works won’t do it, that only “God saves” (Jesus).  The name  “Jesus” affirms the point: “there is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved.” (Acts 4:12).  It’s consistent with Jesus’ statement, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. (John 14:6).  There is only one bridge to God:  It’s “Jesus” – “God saves”

Still, one may cross a bridge and later learn its name. All of those verses can be read with either an exclusive or inclusive mindset.  God sent Jesus (“God saves”) to be the Savior of the world, not just the Savior of some, 1 John 2:2 (above) makes that point clear.  In Matthew 19 the disciples are astounded that a wealthy, righteous man who wants to redeem himself is turned away and they ask Jesus, “Who then can be saved?”, to which Jesus replies “with man it is impossible, but with God all things are possible” (Matthew 19:25-26).  All things are possible with God?

Is Heaven an exclusive club – with only “the elect” or chosen few?  I don’t think so.  2 Peter 3:9 says that “God is not willing that any should perish, but that all would come to repentance”.  Perhaps our Savior is able to accomplish all of what God set out to do.  The parable of the “lost sheep” tells us that God is not willing to lose even one of His beloved sheep.  I am hopeful.  St. Paul foresaw the great victory, “Therefore God also highly exalted him and gave him the name that is above every name,10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bend, in heaven and on earth and under the earth,11 and every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” (Philippians 2:9-11).  That name, Jesus, Amen! 

I hear such great hope in Luke’s gospel as the angel proclaims, “Do not be afraid; for see—I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people11 to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord.”  (Luke 2:10-11) “Jesus” – “God saves”;  He is worthy of our highest praise.  Amen.

Shalom,

Pastor Rob Nystrom

W.I.S.H. Post – December 22, 2021

W.I.S.H. – Weekly Insights for Spiritual Health 12-22-2021

Read:  Isaiah 9:6

For a child has been born for us, a son given to us;
authority rests upon his shoulders;
and he is named Wonderful Counselor, 
Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.”

In Isaiah’s prophecy the Messiah will be called the “Prince of Peace”.  The word in the Bible that is translated as “peace” is actually “Shalom”, and it means more that peace.  Shalom is about wholeness, and health, and harmony – as well as peace.  You do not have to look long before you see examples of how lacking “shalom” is in our culture.  We are broken.  In a state of brokenness some seek to break others, to share their pain, and shame, and even hate. “Hurt people, hurt people”.

Some wonder if it’s a sign of the “end times”;  I don’t think so.  As a student of history it is not hard to find examples in every decade of history, and on every continent, of conflict, hatred, injustice, and violence.  When people talk about the “good old days” I know it may have been good for the one reminiscing, but it was not good for everyone, and we would never want to relive those days if we had to trade places with those who were denied rights, victimized, terrorized, and the object of hatred.  It’s easy to glamorize cruising the boulevard in a ’57 Chevy; it’s hard to imagine that in 1957 black people couldn’t buy a home in a “white” community, eat at a white restaurant, drink at a white water fountain, use a white bathroom, were required to give up their seat to a white person on the bus, and couldn’t attend a white school.

Shalom points toward a different vision of who we were created by God to be.  Shalom is the result of the manifestation of the Kingdom of God.  Yes, we are broken and sin can distort truth, and blur hope, and increase the fractures and brokenness of humanity.  But the Prince of Peace is about creating shalom, in our lives, in our families, in our communities, and in our culture.  Shalom is about healing not about wounding.  Shalom is about blessings, and blessedness, not about cursing and wounding.  Shalom is about helping to make the world a better place for future generations, because we understand that to be God’s will.  Shalom is about honoring God’s will and being committed to living our life in ways that honor God and help create an expression of the Kingdom of God in the here and now.  Jesus has always been willing to help us do that, we just haven’t always been willing to follow His lead.  He was, and is, and will always be the Prince of Shalom.

Shalom,

Pastor Rob Nystrom

W.I.S.H. Post – December 15, 2021

W.I.S.H. – Weekly Insights for Spiritual Health 12-15-2021

Read: Isaiah 9:6,

“For a child has been born for us, a son given to us; authority rests upon his shoulders; and he is named Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.”

There are two primary words for God in the Bible: YHWH (commonly translated as “LORD”, the proper name of God in the Old Testament) and Elohim which means “God”. Elohim is our focus today. Elohim is a plural word, but it’s always used in a singular context in the Bible. It’s like saying, “They is loving and faithful”, referring to God. It’s fascinating that the “im” ending of “Elohim” indicates that in that plural group (they) is the presence of both males and females. The English language doesn’t have the pronouns to distinguish this truth, as French, Spanish and the Hebrew language does. What does it mean? It means that God is ONE, but God’s nature also encompasses all the qualities of both maleness and femaleness. It tells us that God is beyond gender definitions as we use them.

The authors of the Bible use many varied images to try to communicate part of the mystery of Who God is, i.e. “A mighty fortress”, “the Lord is my Shepherd”, “my Rock and redeemer”, “a mother hen!”, etc. A very common image of God is as our “Heavenly Father”. That doesn’t mean that God has a male body, or is like Zeus sitting on a cloud with lightning bolts ready to throw, or is like “Father Time” – an old guy with a long white beard. It also doesn’t exclude the feminine nature inherent in Elohim. A clergy colleague once shared that her favorite image of God was of a mother bear protecting her cubs – there’s spiritual truth in that image. And, referring to God as our “Heavenly Mother” is no disrespect to God. The point is that images convey spiritual truth – to a point, but we can’t take them literally.

That said, the prophet Isaiah reveals that the Messiah is our “Everlasting Father”, which is a comforting and beautiful image. In ancient patriarchal society the father was the head of the family, the provider, the protector, the decision maker and direction setter. Having a God Whose love is “steadfast and everlasting” as our “Everlasting Father” is a great blessing. Jesus (because of varied scriptural images), is both our “Everlasting Father” (see also John 10:30) and our brother (Hebrews 2:11, Mark 3:34-35). That’s a little strange, but both images convey important spiritual truths, and both are wonderful blessings and promises.

Shalom,

Pastor Rob Nystrom

W.I.S.H. Post – December 8, 2021

W.I.S.H. – Weekly Insights for Spiritual Health 12-08-2021

Read:  Isaiah 9:6,

“For a child has been born for us, a son given to us; authority rests upon his shoulders; and he is named Wonderful Counselor,     Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.”

“Mighty God” is a fascinating name given to the Messiah in the prophecy of Isaiah.  This is one of the verses in the bible that affirms the divinity of the Messiah.  The Messiah was to be more than a great leader, king, holy priest, or wise prophet.  There are examples of these roles in scripture, i.e. Moses, David, Melchizedek, Samuel.  The Messiah would indeed be a great man, a great religious teacher, but more than that.  The Messiah is foretold as “a son”, and as divine, meaning “of God”.

It is one of the great mysteries of the Bible. It is beyond our full comprehension.  How God became “incarnate” or “in the flesh”.  The greatest miracle of the Bible is the resurrection of Jesus on Easter day, but a close second, and under acknowledged by many Christians, is the miracle of the incarnation, God born as a baby.  The Messiah would be “Emmanuel” meaning “God with us”.

Perhaps you think I’ve overstated the case.  Perhaps you are more comfortable emphasizing the humanity of Christ, rather than His Divinity.  Some theologians, pastors, and believers have a lower Christology than I.  It is an amazing claim that is made:  that God was born in a stable, was raised by a poor family, worked as a carpenter (FYI, in Israel that more often meant being a stone mason), became a rabbi for three years, performed many miracles, told extraordinary stories, had remarkable insight and wisdom, was accused of blasphemy against God, was crucified, died, was buried, and was raised to new life on the third day as He foretold, as part of God’s Divine plan to redeem the world, and the entire creation.

It’s not an exhaustive list of verses, but here are several more references that address the divinity of Jesus Christ:   John 1:1, John 10:30, John 12:45, Colossians 1:15, Colossians 2:9, Titus 2:13.

The name “mighty God” applied to Jesus is intriguing, because His actions and miracles were healing, helping, feeding, and loving.  Yes, He overcame death, but most of the time His might is seen in the depth of His love and grace.

Shalom,

Pastor Rob Nystrom