Archive for December, 2012

December 31, 2012

New Year: Hope for the New Year

by Perryn Pettus

by Mitch Glaser

About Mitch: Mitch serves as President of Chosen People Ministries. He was born into a nominally Orthodox Jewish home in New York City, where he attended Hebrew School and had his Bar Mitzvah. After waning from his Jewish roots and exploring various Eastern religions, Mitch investigated the Old and New Testaments to see whether Jesus was the Jewish Messiah. In November 1970, he accepted Jesus as his Messiah. Today, he and his wife live in Brooklyn, which he calls “the soul of the worldwide Jewish community.” For more, see here.

Highlighted Text: Malachi 4:5-6
M’Cheyne TextMalachi 4; John 21

The Hebrew prophet Malachi was chosen by God to deliver the final promise of the Hebrew Scriptures. The Jewish people had returned to Israel in the 6th century BC, after seventy years of Babylonian captivity. Although they had rebuilt the Temple, they soon drifted into the same sinful patterns that caused them to be dispersed in the first place.

Judgment would come again through the Syrian Greeks and then, eventually, the Roman Empire would dominate Israel and the Jewish people.  Perhaps in those dark days of Greek and Roman domination, the Jewish people remembered the bright promise of the prophet–that the Lord would turn their hearts back to Himself and remember His promises to His covenant people.

Malachi thunders,

“Behold, I am going to send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and terrible day of the Lord. He will restore the hearts of the fathers to their children and the hearts of the children to their fathers, so that I will not come and smite the land with a curse.”

The first signs of hope would come through a forerunner, a servant of God who begins the process of turning the Jewish people back to God. This New Covenant prophet, Yochanan, prepared his people for the coming of the One who was their true hope.

Spiritual restoration is oftentimes a two-step process.  We take a step towards God, perhaps by heeding a godly friend’s words or reading the Bible, as God uses many means to get our attention. He break our sinful hearts, leads us to repentance and then brings healing through the One we call Yeshua who restores his people to covenant faithfulness.  This is the One for whom John prepared the path.

May we begin this New Year in hope, knowing that God loves us enough to restore us, no matter how far we think we have drifted from Him. I hope you will take steps of repentance and return to the One who brings restoration and transforms us for His glory.

Lord, God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. I am prone to wander!  My humanity takes me away from the God I love.  Yet Lord, I am desperate for restoration on this New Year’s Eve.  I want this year to be different than last year. I want to be closer to you. In the name of Yeshua the Messiah, Amen.

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December 28, 2012

New Year: Entering the New Year with Fear and Trembling

by Perryn Pettus

by Melissa Tamplin Harrison

About Melissa: Melissa is the Director and Founder of PURE, which is an organization that seeks to connect women by creating a platform for them to share one another’s stories and by offering an ongoing community of encouragement and support. Prior to founding PURE, Melissa worked as a news anchor and reporter in six different television markets. She holds an MA in Journalism from Columbia University and a BA in Spanish and Communications from Baylor University. Melissa and her husband, Dalen, live on the Upper West Side of Manhattan and are expecting their first child in April.

Highlighted Text: Malachi 1:2
M’Cheyne TextMalachi 1; John 18

Satisfaction: When was the last time you looked at something with awe?  As savvy New Yorkers, our palates have acquired a taste for the finest cuisine, fashion and culture the world has to offer.  As our physical cravings are satisfied, however, our senses become dulled to a point that it takes an even finer wine, a newer version of the latest toy, a more impressive headliner on Broadway to outdo our most recent sensual “hit”.   Unfortunately, the same is often true in our spiritual lives. In a season when we should stand amazed by the miracle of Christ’s birth and incarnation, many of us remain jaded, calloused and unimpressed with God’s love.

Skepticism: In 450 BC, the prophet Malachi was sent to give the Israelites a message from God. The message was simple: “I have loved you” [1].  Instead of replying to the message with affection for the Father’s love, the Israelites responded with skepticism  “How have you loved us?”  [2]  Like many of us today, they had lost sight of God’s presence in their lives and had forgotten the many ways God had loved them – returning them from exile, rebuilding Jerusalem and restoring the temple.  Instead of responding with a laundry list of his acts of love, God reminded them that his love was evident in this: he chose them as his own.

Response: This truth applies to us today. Can we accept it to satisfy the deepest cravings of our souls?  Does the love of God cause us to tremble? John Piper stresses that Malachi’s message is not only designed to comfort and encourage mature Christians; it is also meant to shock the presumption and the flippancy of careless Christians – “Christians whose grasp of God’s love is so shallow that it never makes them tremble but instead can make them careless and casual and even presumptuous in his presence” [3].

Prayer: Lord, We confess that we often do not tremble with reverent fear at the knowledge of your love for us.  Forgive us for being skeptical, indifferent and stingy in our response to you. Help us to enter the new year proclaiming “Oh, how thou hast loved me!” , not asking “How hast thou loved me?” May our souls be shaken so that we can no longer reply in a casual and flippant manner.  Help us to see your love in a way that is bold and unmistakable. Amen.

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Footnotes

[1] Malachi 1:2a  |  [2] Malachi 1:2b  |  [3] John Piper. “The Greatness of God’s Electing Love.” 4 October 1987.

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December 27, 2012

New Year: The Yearnings of a Son for His Father

by Perryn Pettus

by David H. Kim

About David: David is the Executive Director of the Center for Faith & Work (CFW) and Pastor of Faith and Work at Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York City. Prior to joining CFW in 2007, David was a Chaplain at Princeton University, where he also served as the Executive Director of Manna Christian Fellowship. He received his B.A. from the University of Pennsylvania, his M.Div. from Westminster Seminary, his Th.M. from Princeton Seminary, and is currently a D.Min. candidate at Fuller Seminary. He and his wife, Jane, are expecting their first child in January and live near Bryant Park. For more about CFW, see here.

Highlighted Text: John 17:1-5
M’Cheyne TextZechariah 14; John 17

Intimacy: “Father, the time has come” [1].  In John 17 , John gives us  a rare window into Jesus’s own relationship with his Father. Like a little boy with unmitigated admiration of his father, Jesus delights in his Father and yearns to be with him. There is a profound bond between them that we can never fully comprehend, but we can begin to discern its depth through the obedience of Christ in sacrificing this intimacy.

Sacrifice: “Father, glorify me in your presence with the glory I had with you before the world began” [2]. Here, Jesus revealed something that we may have overlooked during Advent.   As we celebrated the birth of Christ , we may have overlooked that Jesus’s incarnation meant a forfeiture of his glory. Jesus yearned to be reunited with the fullness of the glory that he once shared with the Father.  It is hard enough for us to give up small inconveniences, but what would motivate someone to give up the fullness of his own glory?

Glory: “I have brought you glory on earth by completing the work you gave me to do” [3]. Jesus’s love of the Father’s glory was his motivation to sacrifice his glory. He was willing to give up his own glory so that he could glorify his Father by completing the work that was set before him. Jesus suffered in his birth and death so that we might know the Father and the Son and share in their glory!  What brings the Father glory is when redeemed sinners are brought into the very glory shared between the Father and the Son. There is no other way to respond than with worship, admiration and gratitude for who God is and what he has done. As John exclaimed, “Behold what manner of love the Father has given unto us. That we should be called Sons of God!” [4].

Prayer: Father, We are moved when we see the intimacy, sacrifice and glory of your Son! The purity of his desires and the fortitude of his resolve to bring you glory expose our tainted motives and unworthiness. Yet you do not reveal this prayer to condemn us, but to welcome us into your fellowship. As we reflect upon this year, let our deepest yearnings be for you and the glory of that is rightly due to you–Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.

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Footnotes

[1] John 17:1  |  [2] John 17:5  |  [3] John 17:4  |  [4] 1 John 3:1

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December 26, 2012

New Year: Waiting on the Spirit

by Perryn Pettus

by David Haberer

About David: David is the pastor of the Church for All Nations in Midtown Manhattan. After studying at the School of Visual Arts, David attended Alliance Theological Seminary. One thing David loves about his ministry in the city is hosting a monthly gathering of independent musicians at a gathering called The Stoop. For more, see here.

Highlighted Text: John 16:13
M’Cheyne TextZechariah 13:2-9; John 16

We are a people who look for instant gratification.  With the ability to receive e-mails and phone calls wherever we are, with the constant availability that social networks afford us, we have learned to expect a response to our every need immediately.  Our 24-hour news cycle brings information to the moment it happens. The moment a new product hits the market, we rush to wait on line to be the first to own one. To quote Jim Morrison of The Doors, “We want the world and we want it now!”

Our journey with Jesus unfolds over time.  Encounter-struggle (growth)-reward. It is in the struggles of life that we grow.  We are called to a walk of faith. “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen” [1]. Faith remains confident in the promises of God that as of yet, because of the unfolding of our experience, have not yet been made tangible.

Jesus promises that the Holy Spirit will keep us and lead us as we move toward him in hope of his sure return: “When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come” [2]. Uncertainty is anathema to our culture. Fear of the unknown, the what if, causes us to seek control of every aspect of our lives.  Faith, on the other hand, casts it cares upon Jesus the author and finisher of our faith.  Jesus tells us ahead of time that life will not always be smooth.  He has prepared us for the wait.  His promise is sure.  Because he kept his promise to enter the world as our savior, we are sure of his return.  We can trust him.

Lord, In this time of uncertainty, a time when we desire to control every part of our lives, we are more than aware that much is outside of our control.  Help us to cast our cares upon you, knowing that the only thing that is truly sure is your promise that you will sustain us until you come again and receive us unto yourself.  Amen.

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Footnotes

[1] Hebrews 11:1  |  [2] John 16:13

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December 25, 2012

Happy Christmas from The Park Forum

by Bethany

Happy Christmas

 

We know that something miraculous has happened when God has turned from saying, “No man shall see my face and live” (Exodus 33:20) to saying, “Look at my hands and my feet. It is I myself! Touch me and see” (Luke 24:39).

 Today, we wish you a Happy Christmas, as you remember the grand miracle of the incarnation, when the holiness of God came to dwell among us.

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