Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Jesus was born

     In Luke 2:7 it says, "and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them." Every December 25th the world celebrates Christmas. And, whether they recognize it or not, Jesus is the reason for the celebration. There is no way to get away from it, our calendars are dated to the birth of Christ. It is even on your birth certificate, I was born on October 19th, 1967 years after the birth of Christ. Even the unbeliever must use this dating system, it is on your drivers license, your marriage license, and one day will be on your head stone, the year you were born and the year you died. All dated to the birth of Christ. And one more thing, for those that say we shouldn't celebrate His birthday on December 25th because we don't know the exact day or time he was born, I think you kind of miss the point. The point is that Jesus was born, and whether or not you celebrate His birth on December 25th or at some other time is really not essential to our Christian faith.

     We have a reason to celebrate everyday and in every situation because of what Christ has done for each and everyone of us. He was born to take our sins and suffer the penalty for that sin, He has made a way for us to have a relationship with God, He has gone on and made a place for the faithful to live, and will one day return to call us home. Christmas is a time of celebration, not of pointing fingers and judgment. It doesn't matter that Jesus was probably born at some other time of the year. It does not matter if it was spring, summer, winter, or fall.  What matters is that God loved us so much that He sent us His one and only Son so that we may be saved from our sins. There are many translations of the bible, some worded to suit one or another, but the one thing that remains constant is Jesus Christ. So, if you claim Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior, then take my hand and walk with me in fellowship.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Jesus' prophecies Have A Purpose

This is my first sermon, preached on Nov.10, 2013. It is on Luke 21:5-19

      I was born poor, my parents were divorced when I was 4 or 5, and I grew up in a neighborhood that if it wasn't the projects it wasn't far from it. I remember a time when I was bout 12 or 13 years old, it wasn't to long after my father had died. I was sitting on the front porch of the apartments we live in and I see the guy who lived across the yard pull up in his shiny gold Cadillac and get out with 2 women dressed in gold shimmering dresses, wearing fur coats, high heels, and gold hanging from their necks and ears. He was always dressed in flashy suits, and would flash money around to anyone that would look. He had it all, money, power, women, a nice car, anything a man could ask for. He noticed me looking at him and asked me if I liked what I saw, and of course I said yes. He told me I could have everything he had, maybe even more if I went to work for him. I would see my mother leave for work at 4:00 AM and not get home until 6:00 or 7:00 PM, working hard and still not making ends meet, struggling to pay the bills, put food on the table, and clothes on our backs. So, I went to work for him, and as you probably have guessed by now those promises he made didn't come true. What I got was a life of crime, drug addiction, and a lot of violence.

     Not all false prophets are religious, some prophesy about earthly things, like money and power. That is why Jesus warned His disciples to beware of the false teachers who would come. He knew just like the temple's beauty hiding it's ugly secrets, the false teachers with their appearances, methods and teachings would hide their true motives, like spiritual bankruptcy, hypocrisy, oppression, and rejection of Christ and the Gospel. Jesus tells the disciples in Vs.8,Watch out that you are not deceived for many will come in my name claiming I am he and the end is near. Do not follow them. You see, Jesus is the real prophet and the difference is Jesus' prophecies have a purpose. I am not saying that the false prophets don't have a purpose, but Jesus' purpose and intentions are pure. He isn't just saying these things with the intentions of being in the spotlight or manipulating people to His advantage. Jesus' purpose is a loving one, love for the soul, love that desires to warn people of the realities of life in a sinful world, as well as to prepare them for what comes next.

     I think a false narrative that people believe is that by becoming a Christian that automatically means that life will get easier, they will be happier, healthier, and more successful in earthly ways. They take God's promise in Romans 8:28, to work good in all things for those who love Him to mean physical,  worldly blessings instead of spiritual blessings, which is Jesus' primary concern and promise for our lives.  So, the problem comes in when expectations clash with the reality of life in a sinful world, at which time the theology of prosperity minded Christians come into question and they find themselves evaluating their faith, Was I not a good enough Christian, or maybe even evaluating God, what kind of God would make these promises and not deliver. Questions that don't recognize the realities of life, even for the Christian in a sinful world. This is one of the key reasons Jesus has in making his predictions in our text for today. Jesus' prophecies have a purpose.

     I believe it was Tuesday of Holy Week, just 3 days before Jesus would die on the cross. As He and His disciples were leaving Jerusalem for the night, the disciples looked back and found themselves awestruck by the sight of the temple, saying to Jesus, Look, Teacher what massive stones, what magnificent buildings. But, Jesus shocked His disciples with His response. As for what you see here, the time will come when not one stone will be left on another, and everyone of them will be thrown down. Why would Jesus prophesy such a thing? Because Jesus' prophecies have a purpose. He wanted them to understand the realities of a sinful world.

     Like many others, Jesus' followers hoped the Messiah would be an earthly King, wipe out the Romans, and set up His royal throne in Jerusalem. They knew Jesus had the power to do it, they had seen his many miracles, like the most recent one of raising Lazarus from the dead. He could make life on earth easy and cushy. Look at those buildings Lord, wouldn't your throne look great in that golden temple? But, Jesus cut them off, He had not come into this world so the people would have cushy comfortable lives before they go to the grave. He came so all that trust in Him can burst out of the grave like He did and live with God in heaven. Jesus' prophesies have a purpose. So he told His disciples, I want you to understand the realities of this world. Sure, you can enjoy it, there will be good times, happy times, but there will also be problems and pains. Nations will rise against nations, kingdom against kingdom. There will be great earthquakes, famines and pestilences in various places, and fearful events. In vs. 16-18 Jesus says, you will be betrayed even by parents, brothers, relatives, and friends, and they will put some of you to death, all men will hate you because of me. But, not a hair on your head shall parish, by standing firm you will gain life. Doesn't that sound a bit contradictory? Let me read the again. Some of you will be put to death, but not a hair on your head will parish, stand firm and gain life. What does that mean?

     When I was about 18 my mother was diagnosed with cancer, I watched it slowly take her life. Little by little she withered away until she slipped into a partial coma and was bed ridden. Her hair had fallen out, her muscles tightened and shrank pulling her arms and legs in until she was in a permanent fetal position. I gave her water with a cotton swab, they fed her with tubes and gave her drugs to make her comfortable. Finally that day came, after a 5 year battle my mother left this world. Some would say she lost her battle, but Jesus says she won. Where she is at now, she can walk, run and play. She can do her favorite thing, sitting under a shade tree drinking iced tea and watching her children and grandchildren play. I see her sitting under that tree watching the granddaughter she never met grow into a fine,confident, faith filled young lady, she can watch her son finally come to the Lord and grow so much in his faith that he can stand up here and preach this sermon today, because not a hair on her head has perished. She stood firm against this sinful world, she stood firm in her faith when she could so easily lost it, and she gained life.

      So while the Lord provides for all your daily needs, like food, clothes, income, and even the air you breathe. He also provides what you need to enter into His Heavenly Kingdom, where not a hair on your head will perish. He provides trusted, well meaning people in your life to support you with guidance and even correction. As you gracious and merciful savior, He took your sins off your record, off your shoulders, and off your conscience by placing them instead on His Son on the cross. So regardless of when or how your life leaves this sinful world, not a hair on your head will perish, because your soul will live with Him forever in perfect, blissful, Heavenly joy. But, until that day comes there will be a lot of garbage in this world to deal with, But Jesus' prophecies have a purpose. They prepare you for the bad and give you the strength to deal with this sinful world Jesus' prophecies prepare us for this because they show us the big picture, the eternal picture, that while the reality of living in a sinful world is challenging, especially for Christian who is constantly forced to choose between carrying the cross for Christ and laying down in the comfort of spiritual obscurity, the reality of faith that stands firm is eternal life through the grace and mercy of our Awesome God........Amen




Thursday, August 22, 2013

I have to admit, after 6 years I was seriously considering leaving my church and finding another place to worship. There was gossip spreading about me and my family and it really hurt. It wasn't the story behind the gossip that hurt so much, but what really hurt was the fact that some people thought my family would actually do something like that. Before I go any farther I want you all to know that I am not going to point out anyone or their actions in this blog, but I felt God was calling me to do talk about gossip. It is my prayer and hope that our church can grow more personal and intimate, but I feel the biggest barrier to that growth, and a major tool of our enemy, will be the tongues of our members. In the development of this story I found that a lot of things can be considered gossip and that I myself have been guilty of gossip. The definition I like to use is talking about someone to someone else who cannot help the situation.
The Apostle Paul was afraid that gossip would destroy the church(2 cor. 12:20). In fact, he listed gossip in the same sentence as God-haters, slanderers, murderers, and others. It is very important that we unite around what God says about our conduct and speech, and bring our lives into compliance with His will for His people. Gossip is condemned from the very earliest times in the Old Testament all the way down to the end of the New Testament, and even though it is condemned like this in the Bible, it is still a problem in most, if not all, Christian churches today. Let's just stop and think for a moment. If my family and I were the target of gossip, how many more people in our church have been the target of gossip? How many have been hurt, maybe even mortally wounded by the careless comment of someone in the church? Too many I am sure. That is a frightening thought. We all expect to hear gossip at work, or maybe a ballgame, or even at a PTA meeting, but noone expects to hear it at church. One of the biggest reasons I think gossip happens in church is beceause people are thinking they are helping, or being noble, but the outcome is still sinful. Let me give you an example. per.1: I was sure glad to see Jane at worship this morning. per.2: Me too, I know she has been struggling lately. Now if they would have stopped there, everything would have been fine, but,
per2. cont: John and Jane have been fighting a lot, I heard he was a bit to friendly with his secretary at work. per.1: She has been busy with work, maybe she should spend a little more time at home. Now I am sure they started out meaning well when this conversation started, trying to help Jane with her problem. But, was there any help there? That is assuming they even had the story right. This does nothing to help, it makes Jane and John objects of curiosity, and in the case of John, scorn. Anyway you cut it, and whatever motive you attach to it, it is still gossip. Gossip is incredibly common and incredibly destructive. There is no place for gossip anywhere, but especially in the church. What would happen if every peice of gossip lived or died with you, would it live or die? Stop gossip by refusing to repeat it. Keep count for the next week. How many pieces of gossip did you kill? You might be surprised.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Like many of you I struggle with worry, where am I going to find the money to get a furnace or finally get more than a plywood floor for my kitchen? My daughter is starting middle school next year, what if something happens to her, my wife is in real estate and property management and regularly meets with strangers to show them rental properties or houses for sale, what if something happens to her? Then, I saw a scripture posted on facebook, Philippians 4: 6-7 , which told me not to be anxious about anything, but to bring everything to the Lord in prayer, with thanksgiving. So now I try to give everything over God and give Him thanks for the things that I have, because giving thanks lifts my heart to see above the problems of this world. I have learned to pray for thanksgiving for all that God has given me. I grew up and lived very poor for most of my life, So I give Him thanks for my job and my wife's job. I give Him thanks for the house my family and I have. I give Him thanks for my beautiful wife and the daughter we were never supposed to have.  Ecclesiastes 5:19 says, “When God gives any man wealth and possessions, and enables him to enjoy them, to accept his lot and be happy in his work - this is a gift of God.” When we thank God for these things, we are able to truly enjoy them for what they are.
God has promised us freedom from anxiety along with His peace, and all we have to do is trust Him completely. The greatest gift God gave us was His only Son, who gave his life so that we may have forgiveness of our sins and everlasting life. Through His Spirit God gives us joy, peace, and victory. Let us rejoice in our Lord and give thanks to Him in all things!
I will leave you with this quote about the deliverance that thankfulness, and gratitude can give us.
“John Henry Jowett said, ‘Gratitude is a vaccine, an antitoxin, and an antiseptic.’ This is a most searching and true diagnosis. Gratitude can be a vaccine that can prevent the invasion of a disgruntled attitude. As antitoxins prevent the disastrous effects of certain poisons and diseases, thanksgiving destroys the poison of fault-finding and grumbling. When trouble has smitten us, a spirit of thanksgiving is a soothing antiseptic.”

God's Peace

Friday, May 10, 2013

     I have made it through my first weekend of the play, we did 3 shows this last weekend. I have to tell you I was scared to death on the first Friday. All day long the tension built up as the day dragged on, and I got more and more nervous. I know God calls us to step out of our comfort zones, but wow am I really stepping out. As I was meditating the other day something came to me, God is preparing me for my calling. I know God didn't make me grow up the way that I did, but He is now taking what happened and making good out of it. If you go all the way back to my original post of this blog you can see my journey through life and see what I had experienced.
     I am being called to teach in some way, maybe to share what I went through growing up with kids, teenagers, or maybe even parents to let them know that they need to be very involved with their Kid's lives.
The problem is that I am very afraid to get up and talk in front of people, I get very nervous and I get very sweaty, or I guess I should say I did get sweaty. After all the rehearsals and the 3 shows I still get a little nervous, but I am not afraid anymore.

     God has a plan for me, and sometimes I don't always see where He is leading me. He is calling me to do something that is way out of my comfort zone because I believe I am supposed to help those that are headed down the same path I was. Even though I delay or try to put off these things because of fear or doubt. God put me in this play to ease my fears and show me that I can get up and talk in front of people,  He gives us these trials to make us stronger and give us confidence through Him that we may succeed. God has my back, and he also has your back. If you trust in God then all things are possible.
Remember, you may not know where life's road will lead you, but keep on walking, because God is walking with you.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Every year my church does a rendition of the last supper as the service for our Maundy Thursday worship. This year I was asked to play Phillip.  Since I was in the play I accepted, thinking it would be good practice for the play. After it was over I realized it was something way more than that.

I got my lines and worked on them for a week. I said them over and over again until I had them memorized. I kept saying them for my wife to make sure I had my lines right. I said them for her 5 times in a row before I left for the service, I had these lines nailed. Then, I got to the church and we went over the fine details, what was going to happen on stage, where we were supposed to be, that kind of stuff.  Then we started to go over our lines and after all that practice and going over them with my wife, I forgot my lines.  I couldn't even remember 2 sentences. We went up on the stage and I was freaking out, what was I going to do? I was the 7th person to speak, but the 1st to start after one of our worship songs. As the song was winding down and I was just seconds from speaking I said, "God please help me" and He did. As I started to say my lines they just flowed out of me, like they were actually my words, I felt what it was like to be Phillip, to be shocked and saddened that one of us would betray Jesus to die on a cross.

     I think this is showing a good example between letting God be in control verses you trying to be in control. When we try and take control of things we are pretty limited at what we can accomplish. If you don't trust that God's power is there for you, than it won't be released. But, if you ask God to help you and pray for his strength, then you and He can handle anything. We can do all things through Christ. ( Philippians 4:13) So as I go on through this play I ask God to be with me and help me and I don't feel so nervous anymore. I still feel a little butterfly in my stomach, but with God's help I will get through it and I can't wait for opening night.......

Sunday, March 31, 2013

     As christians we are called to speak out against sin, to call a sin, a sin, to call evil, evil. We should not sugar coat it, or hide it. We should not say it is OK, but we all need to remember that we have all sinned and fall short of God's glory. I pray to God everyday that I never talk about someone's sin in a judgmental way. When someone has crossed the line and sinned we should not look at them with a judmental spirit, there should be no finger ponting going on. We should look at it and handle it with gentleness and love.
     Let's look at James 4:11, it says, “Do not say evil against one another, my brothers. He who says evil against his brother or makes himself his brother’s judge, says evil against the law and is judging the law." We are part of the same family, we are brothers, relatives, we have the same Father. Our Father who art in Heaven. We have the same Savior, Jesus Christ, "our Lord". We have the same Holy Spirit living inside of us. We have been saved by the same blood, the blood of Christ. It is the Devil's job to speak against God and his family. When we look at someone, or speak of someone in a judgmental way, we are doing the Devil's work. It is unchristian to judge others, that is not what we are supposed to be doing.

     Do you remeber what Jesus says the greatest commandment is? It is found in Mathew 22: 37-39.
It says, ’YOU SHALL LOVE THE LORD YOUR GOD WITH ALL YOUR HEART, AND WITH ALL YOUR SOUL, AND WITH ALL YOUR MIND.’ "This is the greatest and foremost commandment. The second is like it, ’YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF.’ When we judge someone we are breaking God's commandment. James tells us that when we speak evil of one another we are breaking God’s law and disobeying His commandment. By speaking evil against them - we are not loving our brothers and sisters in Christ. We have become their judge – not their friend. To judge one another is unloving and unchristian.

     God is merciful. He gives forgiveness where there should be condemnation. Shouldn’t we act the same way? Do you know the story that Jesus told in Mathew 18? It goes a little like this. A man owed $50,000 to his boss. His boss was kind enough to forgive him of the debt. The man then went out and found a guy who owed him $5. He strangled the guy because he wouldn’t pay up. When the boss heard the news – He went to man who had owed him $50,000 and said, “Who do you think you are? I forgave you a huge amount. This other fellow only owed you a little bit – yet you would not forgive him. What’s up with that? Is that how you play the game? Don’t give out what you so richly have received? Remember you will be forgiven in the same manner you forgive.”  God has shown us mercy. God has shown us love. God has shown us forgiveness. How should we treat those around us? How should we behave?

   Remember what 1 Corintians 13 says, If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.  And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.  If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.  Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful;  it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth.  Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. ( 1 Corinthians 13:1-7)

     I will leave you with this, Mathew 7:1-5. “Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.


Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Mathew 14:25-33,
25 Shortly before dawn Jesus went out to them, walking on the lake. 26 When the disciples saw him walking on the lake, they were terrified. “It’s a ghost,” they said, and cried out in fear.
27 But Jesus immediately said to them: “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.”
28 “Lord, if it’s you,” Peter replied, “tell me to come to you on the water.”
29 “Come,” he said.
Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus. 30 But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, “Lord, save me!”
31 Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. “You of little faith,” he said, “why did you doubt?”
32 And when they climbed into the boat, the wind died down. 33 Then those who were in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.”

     So I have been to a few rehearsals now, and I think that the Story of Jesus walking on the water, and showing the disciples that through faith you can conquer your fears can be applied to what I am doing with this play, trusting that God is with you always, no matter where you are He is right there with you.
     The first couple of times I went out and tried to act in front of people I was very nervous, I couldn't get my lines out, I couldn't act. One night one of my Stephan Minister friends was talking about Peter and how he always doubted, and needed proof, and didn't have faith that Jesus could help him walk on water no matter what the conditions. That got me thinking, I had never even thought that God would want to help me over come my fear of talking in front of people. Remember, God wants us to step out of our comfort zones, tells us to step out of our comfort zones. If He wants us to do this, then why would He not be there to help us. Now I add that to my daily prayers, as well as saying a little prayer before I go on stage to say my lines. I still get a little nervous, but knowing that God is there helps. Always remember that no matter what you are going through in life, God is there with you. Having some faith can be very powerful.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Unity in anything is the key

    A couple of nights ago I was suffering from a bout of insomnia, so I was watching the National Geographic Channel. They were trying to find evidence of the existence of the Tower of Babel. I think most people would consider this a negative story where people were acting badly and God came down and scattered them. But, there is a positive in this story too, In Genesis 11: 6 it says, If as one people speaking the same language they have begun to do this, then nothing they will plan to do will be impossible for them. I think that is a very powerful statement about unity, and the impact you can have when people are unified and thinking as one mind is truly amazing. Very few organizations, including churches, have true unity. I think a lot of the problems for this are poor communication, Gossip, and lack of shared purpose.
   Poor communication can come in many forms. For example, if the left hand doesn't know what the right hand is doing then conflict sets in. If someone sees someone else doing something, and they don't know what they are doing and why they are doing it, then it gets misunderstood and seen as competition. This causes inter-company gossip and whispering.
    Gossip will destroy any organization, or church because it is very degrading. Gossip by definition means when a negative is discussed with anyone who can't solve the problem. I find it very interesting that people would never consider committing adultery, but will gossip with and about anyone, but in Galatians 5:15 it says, But if you bite and devour one another, be careful that you don't consume one another. In Galatians 5:19-22 it says they are on the same list. The acts of the sinful nature are obvious: sexual immortality, impurity and debauchery, idolatry and witchcraft, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy, drunkenness and orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the Kingdom of God. Dissension is another word for gossip. Many of us have been in organizations, or churches where this is the norm, this doesn't create unity, it destroys it.
    Lack of a shared purpose, such as the goal, vision, and mission statement should be shared by all.
When you don't have that same vision, or you have people in places that are out for their own agenda despite the people they may hurt on the way, that destroys the organization, or church from within. When your organization, or church has made it clear that unity is a core value, then the core of the organization, or church, will act to keep the unity.
    I need to know that everyone in our organization, or church are all on the same team. I really don't think that is too much to ask, and I take it personally when the people in our organization, or church  are not united together. We must find a way to build unity in the church, if we succeed at doing this we will achieve amazing results. The spiritual, emotional, and practical power of unity is amazing when put into motion.