Tuesday, December 23, 2014

The Hope That Christmas Brings

 This is my 3rd sermon , preached on December 21, 2014 At Messiah Lutheran Church, Auburn WA

                                                        Luke 1:26-38

      If we look back over 2014 I think we will see that it has been a very tough and trying year.........It has been tough all over the world........It has been a tough year for our country.........It has been tough year in our own state........How about right here in Auburn, or right here at Messiah? It has been a very tough and trying year...........

      We begin in Oso with the mudslides on March 22nd. 43 people lost their lives that day. Families lost members, friends lost friends, and I think everyone was affected by this tragedy. Then there are the multiple shootings in schools, movie theaters, and malls. Some of those in Seattle and the surrounding communities. Many of us have lost loved ones this year, people who are near and dear to our hearts in a way that no other person is. Others may have had the shock and blow of unexpected illness in their families, and I know some are dealing with unemployment and money problems. Their lives, and the lives of their family's have been changed by these experiences, and in the some of the stories I have been involved with as a Stephens Minister, I have felt their pain and their fear. It has been a difficult year for many of us.

      Let's think about the soldiers who lost their lives fighting the war on terrorism to protect our freedoms. Think about how those deaths have affected the lives of their families knowing that their sons, daughters, brothers, sisters, or even friends won't be coming home. How about right here in Auburn, or even right here at Messiah? We have lost members, family, or friends. In our homes someone won't be there, and Christmas won't be the same. Questions  and concerns . What will Christmas be like, what else will be missing, who else won't be there? Maybe money is tight right now and it just doesn't feel like Christmas at all. It affects us all, we've already felt like we were trying to juggle things while walking on a tightrope, and then the world falls over  and we lose our balance and fall off. Some of us have never felt anything like this before and we don't want to ever again. Yet we still wait for the uncertain future and what it will bring us. It seems like time and time again the security of our world has been shaken.

      This Christmas will be different. Whether or not we have experienced a personal loss in our families, we share the loss with our church family, we share the loss of our church family, and we share the loss in our country. There are many of us who are dealing with serious illness or death in those we love and we are worried. There are some who are struggling financially and things are only getting worse. Christmas coming only makes things more difficult. Many of us are dealing with other issues and struggles , and we need help. Our relationships are in jeopardy, our sanity is in jeopardy, and our serenity is in jeopardy. For some, it just doesn't feel like Christmas, and for others, they just wish Christmas would go away. This year will not be the same, places will be empty, traditions will be different, celebration will be diminished, joyfulness will be a little quieter, and the warm glow a little less bright. For many of us......No, for all of us, this will be a different kind of Christmas.

      There are a lot of similarities between our lives, and the lives of Mary and Joseph. They would find themselves in some very similar situations. Their country was under military occupation by the Roman Empire. There were a lot of unknowns and concern for their family, friends, and country men, both economically and politically. The Hebrews had no control over their future. They had no certainty of what was to come. There was no stability in their lives. And, even though it's not talked about, I'm sure there was tragedy, death, illness and even financial worries as part of their lives. I think they probably felt like a lot of us feel here today.

      In our reading from Luke Chapter 1, we hear the story of a great miracle in the face of difficult times. We read a story that could have started with once upon a time. We read of the angel Gabriel who made a visit to Nazareth, a city in the countryside of Galilee. There he visited a teenage girl, around the age of 15. Her name was Mary and she was engaged to a carpenter named Joseph. Gabriel came to bring her a message. He greeted Mary as one who was favored by God. Mary was greatly troubled by this greeting from the angel, being chosen by God doesn't bring any ideas or goals that consume our daily lives. Some would assume that those who are favored by God will enjoy the good life, being wealthy and having social standings, or be in good health. But, that would not be the case for Mary. She will have a baby out of wedlock who would grow up to be executed. There was no wealth, no royal title, and no recognition at all for this mother who would give birth to a baby that would be King and his kingdom will never end.

     Do not be afraid, Gabriel says to Mary, for you will give birth to a son. His name will be Jesus. He will be the son of the Most High, the Son of God. Through Him the whole world will be saved. For God, in His infinite wisdom has a plan. God knows our need for a savior. God knows of our need for Christmas. God knows we need His presence right here in Auburn, right here at Messiah. being able to relate to us on one hand, and able to save us with the other. God knew then and He knows now that there are times when the uncertainty and the severity of the events in our lives will overwhelm us. He knew of the kingdoms that would rise to power, and their leaders would grow strong and overwhelm and overpower others. He knew these leaders would oppress and hurt others, and He knows these kingdoms will crumble and fall away. God knows we need Jesus, all human, all God, a King to reign over His people forever, for His kingdom is a spiritual kingdom built out of love for us all.  You see, the central figure in this story is not Mary, and it's not the angel Gabriel, The central figure in this story is the gracious and loving God who gave His Son, Jesus Christ, whose birth is the hope and promise of God's redeeming love, Emmanuel, God with us.

      God's blessings may not take away our pain. God's blessings may not bring our health back. God's blessings are not going to erase the events like Oso, or the school shootings. His blessings are not going to bring our loved one's back, God's blessings can be a difficult gift to accept because they often call for great courage, great strength, great energy, and great faith. We are often asked to face what we would rather not face. We will be asked to grow through events and areas we'd rather not grow. But, no matter how overwhelming it may seem, as unbelievable as it may be, or incomprehensible as it is, Gabriel tells us........Nothing is impossible with God. An old barren women can have a child, a virgin may conceive. God can pit Himself into human history as a child, and from a tomb He shows us there can be resurrection and life. The Holy Spirit can empower a world, form a church from where there was none, and reach out far and wide.

      I know, we have heard this story before, We have heard it so many times that we have lost sight of the awesomeness of this story, the awesomeness of God entering human life with all of it's corruption and violence, to give us hope , to rescue us from our own sinfulness, to send us Jesus, our deliverer. If there has ever been a Christmas we need to remember that God loves us, that God gave us His Son, and that Son  was born among us as human, if there was ever a Christmas that we need to remember that nothing is impossible with God, it is this Christmas.

     When the angle Gabriel delivered this message to Mary, after he told her about this miracle that was to happen, after Mary had heard all this news, do you know what she said? I am the Lord's servant, may it be as you have said. I think Mary knew that this meant greater challenges in her life, but I also think Mary knew that these blessings brought hope from a relationship with God. She could have said no, she could have rejected God's invitation, but she didn't.

      I wonder, as we celebrate this Christmas that will be a different kind of Christmas for all of us......I wonder if we can grasp a hold of the hope that Christmas brings........I wonder if we can understand the magnitude of the impact Gabriel's message had on Mary's future and on our future today. I wonder, can we understand, even a little bit, what it took for Mary to commit to the path she chose, and can we understand the enormity of that commitment. I wonder, can we follow her lead, even in some small way. I wonder, in the light of events that have happened this year, and that will happen in the years to come, if we can find the hope that Christmas brings........Amen

   


   
       

   

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

I will not stop

      Growing up I was always told by someone that I was bad, or no good. Most of the time it was by someone who was in a leadership role, like teachers or pastors. Kids were told they couldn't hang out with me because my parents were divorced, or because I lived in the poor neighborhoods. Even my own grandparents were a part of it because they didn't like my dad. My mother was the only one in my life at that time that showed me unconditional love. When someone, especially a child, is told continuously over and over again that they are bad, dumb, wrong, or no good by people that are supposed to be mentors or teachers they are going to believe it and then start to live it.

      That brings me back to my last post where I said I will not write another blog post. I was attacked personally by some people and had others just turn their backs on me for a post I put on facebook, and a recent sermon I preached at my church. I think because of my past I have a self confidence issue and things like being verbally attacked and told I am wrong affects me a lot more than most and makes me question what I believe. I am struggling deeply with my faith because of what I see and what I am getting from people who call themselves Christians.

      I was talking with a good friend of mine and he reminded me of the beatitudes especially one of them. Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. He also reminded me that I have preached 2 sermons and posted many posts on my blog that have touched many more lives in a positive way, and that the more people I bring closer to God, the more people Satan will put in my way to try and stop me. Well he almost succeeded, but I won't let him. It seems that God has given me these gifts, and I will not stop preaching His word because I have been called to spread the Word of God. So, like it or not I will keep posting on my blog, and I will keep preaching sermons when God calls me to do so.


Mark 16:15 NIV    He said to them, Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation.

Amen....

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Just trying to make you think

       When I first started my blog it was to tell my story, or my journey. After a while it turned into a place where I would write down my thoughts, a place to get other Christians to think about their faith or about Jesus. To think about the examples that He gives us on how we should live. Never have I claimed to be an expert, and never have I ever called anyone out or pointed a finger at anyone, and I have always tried to never judge anyone. But, lately it seems that my thoughts or words, and even my last sermon have angered people. They are so angry with me, or my wife that they have unfreinded me on facebook, or even given us the cold shoulder at church, and some have chosen to call me names. It has me bothered so much that this is probably my last post on this blog, but also had me strongly considering finding another church, but we are so deeply involved and in love with our church that that changed my mind. My wife and I believe strongly in our faith and what Jesus teaches us and we just try to share that. When you post something on Facebook, you leave that post open for comments and just because some people don't agree with your comment and post doesn't mean they are making a personal attack on you. People have different views on things and that's OK, but to turn your back on someone and walk away without even aknowledging them because of their views is not. Once again, I am not pointing a finger at any one person I am just trying to get you to think, maybe think about what Jesus would do......

Thursday, July 24, 2014

God's Perfect Design

         Everyone of us is engineered by God. He wants us to understand His planned design and for us to reflect His glory in everything we do, by loving the way He made the unchangeable designs of our lives. The greatest reminder of God's creative power is the understanding that each and everyone of us that has ever lived is uniquely different. From our fingerprints to our DNA, we are truly different, a spiritual snowflake if you will. God's fingerprint on us means that no 2 of us are alike. In all the generations dating back to Adam and Eve, no one person is exactly like another.
        
         Each one of us are created to a perfect and complex set of plans, made up by God Himself. The thing that sets us apart from all of God's other creations is that we were made in the image of God. Within every cell of our human body is a set of God's fingerprints know as DNA. This human genome is an exact engineering that lays down everything about your physical body. And, once we are regenerated by salvation, we have another set of plans made up of God's gifts and callings that connects to how God designed our unchangeable features. Our reaction to the spiritual DNA that God has given us with our salvation added to the design of our bodies and our physical gifts makes such a wonderful life for those who know God.

          So, each and everyone of us was perfectly created by God for His glory. And, each aspect of our being that we had no choice in, is a reflection of God's power. Where we were born, who we are, how we look, all of our imperfections and weaknesses, and all the countless other details, are all a part of God's perfect design. Each one of us are the handiwork of  God, like spiritual snowflakes, no 2 exactly alike. We are like rare precious jewels, no one is worthless or unimportant in God's plan.

         

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Super Moms

      Christian moms have super powers, and never get the respect they deserve. Their kids have heroes like Iron Man or Captain America, but the real super heroes are moms. They are SUPER MOMS !!!! Moms chase demons out of closets and from under beds, tend wounds, and turn tears into giggles. And at the end of the day they still have smiles on their faces when the children get home from school and dad gets home from work.

      Christian moms are the only ones that can cook breakfast and get the kids off to school on time,  work a full time job, put the trash out that dad forgot, do the laundry, cook dinner, clean the house, help the kids with home work, and still find the time to spend with God. The Holy Spirit gives moms the power to do things dads can't do. When a child asks dad for permission to do something, dad says go ask your mother. The Holy Spirit gives mom the power to know when their children are lying, and to know how to ask them questions to get the answers they want. You can truly see the fruit of the spirit in their lives. (Galatians 5:22-33) But the Fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, long suffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, and self control.

       Christian moms have been given other gifts of the Holy Spirit as well. (1 Corinthians 12:8-10) -Wisdom, knowledge, faith, healing, even interpretation of tongues. You want to know what the baby is saying? Ask mom, dad would have no idea. Moms love their children like God loves, with agape love, love that is unconditional. All mothers are special, but Christian moms have that relationship with the Lord to lean on. They are SUPER MOMS !!!! So let us honor our mothers and always give them the respect they deserve. Moms are a gift from God and we need to cherish them as such. Amen.......

Friday, May 9, 2014

Nature is the proof of God's existence



      I was up on the roof of the building at work at with the HVAC guy when we turned and saw a double rainbow going across the sky. Both were so bright and clear the HVAC guy turns to me and says, "Who says there's no God?" The beauty of the whole thing was overwhelming, and we both stared at it awestruck for a few minutes.

      It's true we can't see God, but we see the proof of His existence through His creations. We can't see the wind, but we feel it on our faces, and see the leafs on the trees move when it blows. We can't see the air, but we feel it fill our lungs when we breathe. We see the billions of stars shimmer on a clear summer night, we see the sun and the moon make their circle. My family camps and hunts frequently and when I look at a tree or a plant I see beauty from every angle, no matter which way I look at it. Everyone of God's creations fit together perfectly. The sun and the moon rotate perfectly everyday, water provides for plants, and beast alike, it provides for the necessities of life. It feeds the crops, and allows the earth to give up it's fruits.

     Look at the birds, listen to their songs thanking God for another glorious day. Watch them care for, protect, and play with each other. Look at how God has made sure they are fed, and clothed in the beautiful colors that God has given them. Think about the flowers, they are beautiful, delicate, and full of splendor. Think about that mountain range, tough, tall, permanent, and hard. What about rivers, lakes, or oceans?

     Nature was God's first missionary. Where the is no bible there are sparkling stars, where there are no preachers, there are spring days. If a person sees nothing but nature, then nature is enough to show something about God. Everyone of us should take the time to go outside and contemplate God's Creation. The wonders we see around us are just a taste of how glorious God really is.


    

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Betrayal

      being betrayed by someone you trusted and considered a friend is very hurtful. If you have ever experienced betrayal, you know how hurtful it could be. Perhaps someone was bad mouthing you behind your back without giving you a chance to defend yourself, or maybe they shared your deepest darkest secret. It doesn't matter how you have been betrayed it is very painful thing to go through.

      In the bible there are many men who have been betrayed by someone close to them. Of course Judas is the one that comes to mind first. We all know that Jesus chose Judas after praying all night long. They spent everyday together for 3 years, talking and eating together, praying and even laughing together. Can you imagine how broken hearted Jesus must of felt? Judas knew Jesus, knew what His mission was, and yet betrayed Him for just a few coins. Maybe you know someone who is going through this now, or maybe even you are experiencing being betrayed. I want you to know this right now, Jesus knows what you are going through, He knows your pain. He has compassion for you that only someone who has been through the same thing can have.

      Jesus knows this pain, He was to be betrayed by the 12 that were closest to Him. But, even through this pain Jesus responded by washing the disciples feet, even though He knew He would be betrayed.  He gave them supper, even though He knew He would be betrayed. When Jesus gave that piece of bread to Judas, He not only revealed who Judas was, but also revealed who He was. He is the One who feeds His enemies, and goes on loving them to the very end.

      When we are betrayed Jesus says we must respond with love. Not anger for anger, don't plot your revenge. Jesus tells us in Mathew 5:43-48, You have heard that the law of Moses says, love your neighbor and hate your enemy. But, I say love your enemies, pray for those who persecute you. In that way you will be acting as true children of your Father in Heaven. For He gives His sunlight to both the evil and the good, and He sends rain on the just and the on unjust too.If you love only those who love you, what good is that? Even the tax collectors do that much. If you are kind only to your friends, How are you different from anyone else? Even pagans do that. But you are to be perfect, even as your Father in Heaven is perfect.

        Being perfect like our Father in Heaven is showing the one who betrayed you the Love of Christ. Turn your shock and anger into love and compassion. When we are betrayed, we must not also betray ourselves by giving into anger, revenge, hate, or despair that can be produced in our hearts. Take that pain to Jesus Christ, who already knows the excruciating pain of betrayal.

        I will leave you today with this word from Romans 12:21, Don't let evil get the best of you, but conquer evil by doing good.  Amen ......

Saturday, April 19, 2014

What does Easter mean to you ?

      I have asked this question to many people, and most of them have quoted bible versus, but never can really tell me what it means to them. So, I am going to attempt to put into words what it means to me.

      For me, Easter not only means that Jesus is alive, but Easter also gives me the promise of life after death, because Jesus conquered death. Thanks to His resurrection, I have peace with my past, because I put my trust and faith in Him I have been forgiven. All of my sin, all of my shame has been washed away.

      Easter is a celebration of love, it is a day to remember the most love filled act ever done. You see, God loved me so much that He gave His only Son so that I can have eternal life with Him. When my days come to an end on earth, He will greet me in paradise and I will spend all eternity with Him.

     Easter is a time of renewal, a time to refocus on the love and awesome sacrifice of our Lord and Saviour. A time to remember that death, His and mine, is not the end, but rather a new beginning. That is what Easter means to me.

Friday, April 11, 2014

The Promise


     We have all had someone break a promise to us, and the older you get the more jaded you become. Promises that people break to us make us "wiser" or less trusting, or they may even break us deep down inside. But, promises that are kept give us life, and hope. They are the cause of us realizing joyful dreams. We need to realize that our faith is only as good as the object it's put into. People, even though they mean well, will fail us. But, God never will.

      That leads us to "The Promise," The only truth that matters, and makes a difference. The one that gives us life. In the Old Testament Jesus is call the Promised One. He is God's great "YES" to all of us. Though people may make us skeptical and leery, Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit strengthen us and give us the hope that we can trust God fully. YES, we can trust God. We can trust God with our marriages, we can trust Him with our family, with our children, with our careers, with our finances, with our health, even with our lives.

      Jesus Christ, the Promised One, came as promised. He died for us, and rose again, as promised, and placed His Holy Spirit in us. Our God does not break promises, He doesn't lie to us saying He will be there and then doesn't show. He is with us 24/7, day or night, even in our lowest darkest times. He knows your worth, He highly regards your unending value. He looks at you and says YES !!!! This is My precious child, this, is My masterpiece.

      Jesus is our savior, our helper, and our friend. He is our YES from God, He is YES for the whole world. He is not only with us, but God is for us. And, as Paul says in Romans 8:31, If God is for us, who can be against us. With God you won't find any fine print, there aren't any need for disclaimers. With God we don't have to be leery, or skeptical, because God keeps His promises. This should give us comfort in this world that is running out of control. Nothing can stop God's holy purpose. He promised to send us a savior, and He did, in-spite of the failings of His people, and strong opposition by His enemies. Jesus came to fulfill the promises of God, and all of the promises God made are fulfilled through Him. Wouldn't it be an awesome thing If you and I could keep our promises like God keeps His.......Amen

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Contemporary or Traditional?



     I have heard the questions and infighting about whether we should use contemporary music in worship and if it honors the Lord. It is something that has been debated for years or even decades. What should be a source of peace and love, very often produces among Christians hostile disagreements over the selection of worship music. In fact, it has become one of the leading causes of disagreement and fighting among church members, and has even lead to church splits. To our shame, there are believers who sulk and fume from their pews and threaten to stop giving money if their particular brand of musical tastes are not satisfied.
Musical tastes vary as much as the church members themselves. There are those who love the traditional hymns while there are those who prefer more modern contemporary worship music. Some churches have even added 2 or 3 services to appease everyone. Still, there are churches that refuse to change and even brag, "You won't hear any contemporary music in our church." What they fail to realize is that when those hymns were written, they were considered contemporary too.

     The contemporary church movement has tremendously impacted both the church and the culture. Many of the new churches that start are contemporary and a lot of traditional churches have added a contemporary service. A whole new generation of Christians are now trying church and finding that the contemporary worship brings them closer to God, And the contemporary services continue to grow. The appeal of the contemporary service is undeniable. Since it has started we have seen a good deal of growth, and the vast majority of that growth has come from those who have been nonchristian people. The contemporary service has become one the most effective way to reach spiritually seeking people, because there is a significant effort to make the Gospel message understandable to all the seekers who come. Because there is an openness to innovation and change the people will come.

     What is important to remember is that the contemporary worship or church is just that, Worship and church. The message is absolutely faithful to Jesus and the Bible, but the methodology is definitely modern.
Relevance is the word for the contemporary church as it tries to find a timely way to communicate a timeless message. The immense amount of change in our culture has necessitated a response from the Church. Computers, e-mail and the Internet were not even on the radar screen 30 years ago yet today they are such a part of modern life no one could live without them.

   the contemporary worship has been very effective in reaching the younger people and engaging them. There has also been an impressive movement in the diversity of people who attend a contemporary worship, people from all kinds of ethnic backgrounds. What connects such a diverse group of people is the vision. People find it quite enticing to experience worship in a culturally relevant way. Listening to music they hear on the radio, singing praise songs with a live band. Hearing messages that are practical and relatable to their lives are more important than different backgrounds. 

     There are still those who argue that the old hymns are tangible links to our past. This is certainly true, for these hymns have stood the test of time, and many are rich in Christian doctrine. The lyrics of Martin Luther for example, give excellent instruction in sound Christian theology, but there are also some wonderful Christian artists today glorifying the name of Jesus Christ with their gifts. People will always be asking if drums, guitars, and even keyboards belong in worship. All musical instruments in themselves are neither good or bad. So, the question is this. Does a piece of music educate and instruct believers, while bringing honor and glory to Christ Jesus? If so, what difference does it make if the accompaniment is provided by a piano or a guitar? Perhaps Ephesians 5:19 is the answer to this issue in that it promotes worshiping the Lord and encouraging others in 3 different styles of music. Speak to one another with Psalms, Hymns, and spiritual songs. Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord......Amen

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Why do you worship

     Why do you worship?  You could be a lot of other places, doing a lot of other things, so why do we go to worship? There is one thing we know that is consistent about Sunday, it comes every 7 days. I even checked the almanac, and we have not missed a Sunday yet. It is a continually occurring presence in our week. Not only can we not prevent it, we rely on it's consistency by marking it with worship. Laurence Stookey says in his book "Calendar" that Sunday worship is not simply an old habit  that the institutional church has not yet managed to shake. Rather, it is an affirmation of the continuing and dependable presence and activity of God in creation. Sunday worship and God's presence with us are all continuing and dependable. And in turn, we are all called to be dependable in our worship.
    
     There are many different reasons why we come to worship. In my discussions with fellow Christians we came up with many different reasons why people worship. Some of those reasons were: to renew ourselves, to take time to be with God, because we are free to do so, for the fellowship, or even because it is seen as an obligation. While all of these answers have some merit, if I truly understand worship, then these are not the reasons we are to be in worship.  There is only one reason why we worship, to praise God. We shouldn't go to church to see our friends, or to hear songs. We don't go to listen to a sermon or to take communion. We come to praise God, and all those other things help us to accomplish this goal. When we listen to a sermon, sing songs, have fellowship with others, and take communion, we are engaging in acts of praise, we praise God through our words and actions, through our relationships, and through our presence. Faithfully going to worship every Sunday is in itself an act of praise.

     Look at the word act, it is very important because worship is supposed to be active.
Also, the word liturgy, which is the order of the worship service, actually means the work of the people. The Psalms tell us to dance, sing, and to shout our praise. When we worship we are not the audience, God is the audience and we act for Him. Worship is something we do, it should be used as a verb and not a noun. There is a difference between going to church and worshiping. Worship is not a time to rest, it is not a time to kick back and put your feet up. Worship should not push us back in our seats to be comfortable, it should push us to the edge of our seats, anticipating the next great works of God in our lives. When we leave worship we should be energized, not from rest, but from being enlightened by God's word, and nourished at His table from simply being in His presence. By studying the scripture, the soul stirring singing, and the symbolism of the sacrament, we are acting out our praise to God

     Psalm 95 says, come let us worship and bow down, let us kneel before the lord our maker. That my friends is an act of putting a knee on the ground, an act of humbly praying, and laying ourselves at the feet of God. It may be only one time a week, but we need to say I am not in control, my life is not my own. I don't know what's best Lord, Your will be done. The mood we bring to worship helps determine what we get out of worship. If we come because we feel it is an obligation, our entire worship will feel like an obligation. So, why do we come to worship each and every Sunday? We worship because we need to do it. We need to be constantly reminded of our dependence on God, and our call to give Him thanks and praise. God is the Lord of our lives, and we need to come and say it with passion and faithfulness. That my friends is why we are here. Amen .

    




Friday, January 24, 2014

Are we serving God or playing God ?

                                               


      The Spirit leads Jesus into the desert where He is tempted. Satan tempts Jesus to settle a little identity crisis in an easy way, by acting out His divine nature, and to leave His humanness behind. Jesus' options come down to this, He could use His Godly powers or He could remain in His human form. Keeping his human form was a tough, but necessary decision for Jesus to make, if he was to fulfill His role as the Messiah. These were not easy temptations for Him. Lucky for us we are human and have no choice in the matter. So, we don't have to deal with these terrible temptations.

      Except.......We do. It has been that way since the very beginning of creation. We all know the story of Adam and Eve, and the serpent, and that darn fruit. You know, the only kind of fruit that God told them not to eat. How did the serpent get them to eat that fruit? He promised them that if they eat the fruit they will be just like God. Even though we would die if we fell from a high building, even though we can't turn stones to bread, and even though we can't control the empires of the world, we continue to be tempted to play God.

      The problem isn't that the things we try to do as God are bad, like feeding people, or maybe stopping oppressive forces. The problem comes in when we are playing God, then we are not worshiping the true God. If we speak as if we are God, then we are not listening to the voice of God. I recently heard a story about a man, who was very popular in the marriage ministry, was getting divorced. When he told everybody about it he referred to a story about a shoemaker who was so busy that his wife went without shoes. He said that he has been that shoemaker, so intent on being a god, that he forgot about following God with his wife. That is another problem with playing God, it not only distances you from God, it also distances from other people. We place ourselves above them in ways that prevent true equality that we long for in the Kingdom of God.

      It is very easy to find these public examples of people giving into temptation, but what about us? Surely, as humble Christian folk, we know better then to try and play God. Don't we? We don't pick our stance on an issue and then go pray and search scripture for confirmation that we are right. We don't go on crusades for our cause, not paying attention to the destruction we leave in our wake. We don't get so busy with all of our good works that we forget to even talk to the One that has called us to do good. Well, maybe every now and then. The brownies you can hide, but that forbidden fruit dangles out there in the open, all of the time. Being human is such a rough deal sometimes. We let our egos get in the way, even when we are doing something as seemingly selfless has helping the poor. Are we serving God, or playing God? Sometimes it is a difficult distinction to make, but I think the way we treat the people around us can give us a good clue. When we remain humble in our own humanity as we look to serve God, we can recognize and respect that same humanity in the people around us.   

Monday, January 13, 2014

Why was Jesus Baptized

13 Then Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan to be baptized by John. 14 But John tried to deter him, saying, “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?” 15 Jesus replied, “Let it be so now; it is proper for us to do this to fulfill all righteousness.” Then John consented. (Mathew 3:13-15)

I have been asked by a few people that if Jesus was sinless, why did He need to be baptized? I will tell you why I think He was baptized and I hope it helps.

When John was baptizing people, it was a baptism of repentance. But, Jesus was sinless and had no need for repentance. Even John was surprised and confused by Jesus coming to him. John knew that he was a sinful man and in need of repentance himself, and was not fit to baptize the spotless Lamb of God. John said I need to be baptized by you, and you are coming to me? Jesus replies by saying it should be done because it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.

In my view there are few reasons why Jesus would come to John to be baptized. Jesus was about to start out on His ministry and it was suitable and proper for Him to be recognized by the one who baptized before Him. John was the voice crying in the wilderness that was prophesied by Isaiah, calling people to repentance to prepare them for the coming of the Messiah. By baptizing Jesus, John was letting all know that here is the One they have been waiting for, the Son of God. The One he had said would baptize with the Holy Spirit and fire. This is also when Jesus would recieve the Holy Spirit, when Jesus came out of the water the heavens opened up, and the Spirit of God descended on Him like a dove. There was a voice heard from above that said This is My Son, whom I love, with Him I am well pleased. (Mathew 3:16-17)

I think that the baptism of Jesus also shows that he identified with sinners, and by that baptism He was taking our place, Jesus took the place of sinners when He came to John the Baptist that day. It says in 1 Corinthians 5:21 God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. And His righteousness would fulfill all the requirements for sinners who could never hope to do so on their own.  Lastly, I think that by Jesus coming to John He was showing His approval, that it was approved by God in Heaven.

This is what I got out of my reading and studying of scripture. I have no formal training and just post what I feel in my heart. I hope this helps anyone in anyway to come closer to God and experience the love that He has for us....

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Who do you want to be in 2014

Colossians 3:12-14 (NIV)

12 Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. 13 Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone, Forgive as the Lord forgave you. 14 And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.

       I overheard a conversation the other day about how people are meaner and more aggressive these days. I didn't want to believe it, it couldn't be true. But, the next day I was driving to work and this car cuts me off, I had to hit the brakes so it wouldn't hit the front of my car. It keeps changing lanes and getting right on the rear end of other cars, trying to make traffic go faster. It darts in to the right lane as traffic comes to a fast stop, the driver had to slam on the breaks to keep from hitting the car in front of it. The lane I am in starts to go a little faster, and as I pass the car I glance over and see that it's a little old lady who can barely see over the wheel. That same day I am at the store standing in line, and it is very busy. They had 15 lanes that could be open, but they only opened 3. The lines at these 3 lanes are so long they are going down the aisles of this store. After a few minutes of standing there I hear a man in another line start complaining about how slow it is, berating the cashiers and calling them names, displaying this attitude of meanness, and impatience towards others. Christmas is over so I guess the spirit of kindness is gone and people are reverting back to their old ways.

     This is why the reading from Colossians fits perfectly with this time of the year. The new year has arrived and people have made resolutions. Many people try to reinvent themselves this time of year. They make resolutions about their health, their jobs, or maybe even their attitudes. But, let me ask you this. What kind of person do you want to be in 2014? Today I bring you seven new years resolutions, seven things you can strive to be as people of God. In the reading today these resolutions are described as items of clothing, and God is saying that how people are treating other people is wrong, and here is how you can change. Here is how you can start over just like buying a new set of clothes. Look in verse 12, "Therefore, as God's chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. These are 5 articles of clothing that you don't want to leave home without.

      First is compassion. A compassionate person is someone who wants to help the people around them. What is happening with the people at church, what is happening with my family, friends, neighbors, people at work, or the guy holding the sign on the corner. What can I do to help you? Clothe yourself with compassion.

      Second comes kindness, I also saw an example of this at a store. A women's little child reached over from the cart and pulled big bag of candy off the shelf and when it hit the floor the candy exploded all over the floor. One of the young people working at the store came running over there and said, "Don't worry about this ma'am you go right on with your shopping and I will clean this up." Clothe yourself with kindness.

      Next comes humility. Being humble means that you recognize your own weakness, you don't think about how great you are. About 5yrs ago, when I got laid off, I thought they were lucky to have me, that I was the best maintenance man they had. I was smarter and worked harder than anyone else. I was really into myself and only focused on my own greatness, and when I lost that job it taught me a lesson on humility. Do you know who in the Bible is described as the most humble person on the face of the earth?  We can find that answer in Numbers 12:3, Now Moses was a very humble man, more humble than anyone else on the face of the earth.  I am sure he recognized his weaknesses pretty fast, as he tried to lead 2 million people through the dessert. Clothe yourself with humility.

      Then comes gentleness. Gentleness is not road rage by a little old lady, gentleness is not the man ranting and raving about having to stand in line for too long. I remember the first time I held my new born daughter. I was never more gentle in my life, I was so afraid I would drop her or break her somehow until I gently handed her to my wife. I was so careful as not to hurt her or disturb her in anyway. That my friends is exactly how God wants us to treat others. Clothe yourself in gentleness.

      The fifth article is patience. Patience is when the grocery clerk has no clue. When it's the bank teller's first day on the job. Patience is when the guy working on your car tells you that you need an air filter, even though you just changed it last week. Be patient with the people around you, even in trying times. Patience is a calm endurance based on the certain knowledge that God is in control. Clothes yourself in patience.

      These first five New Years resolutions are very important. Instead of being mean and aggressive, I resolve in 2014 to put on these new articles of clothing. This is who I want to be in 2014. I will be compassionate, I will be kind, I will be humble, I will be gentle, I will be patient. I will deal with people in a new way, a nicer way, a way that pleases God and witnesses my faith in Jesus Christ.

      Now comes along the sixth item of clothing. It is set apart from the others so we can spend a little more time looking at it. Verse 13 says, Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you have with each other. A grievance is a legitimate reason to be mad at someone. If someone promised to pick you up, and they leave you sitting out in the cold, you have a grievance. Ladies, if your husband promises you he will clean the kitchen, and then falls asleep on the couch, you have a grievance. I am pretty sure we could all come up with a legitimate reason to be mad at someone, but in 2014 I want to be a forgiver. I want to forgive whatever grievance I have with other people.

       So, what does it mean to forgive? Let's look at the last part of verse 13. It says, Forgive, as the Lord forgave you. Jesus has many legitimate reasons to have a grievance with us. All the things that Jesus tells us to do, and we don't do them. All the things Jesus tells us not to do, and we do them. But, Jesus forgives us. It's like a bill collector who sees all your debt you piled up. He sees your passed due credit card bills, your late hospital bills, and that bill collector tells you that as of right now your debt has been wiped clean, you are debt free. That is how Jesus has forgiven you, He wipes all that sin off your account, He holds no grudges. Jesus doesn't say I forgive you for what you said to your wife the other day, but I will remember it. No, He says I forgive you and forgets it as though it never happened. That is how Jesus forgives, and that is how He wants you to forgive others. Sure, you may have legitimate reasons to be mad or upset with someone, but Jesus says forgive. Forgive them the way I have forgiven you. Completely wipe that grievance away and hold no grudges. This is who I want to be in 2014, I want to forgive as Christ has forgiven me.

      Fianlly in verse 14 it says, And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity. This is the seventh and biggest item of clothing. After you have put on compassion and kindness, humility and gentleness, patience and forgiveness, then, over all these you put on love. So, what kind of love are we talking about here? When we think of love we probably think about a 2 way love, Phileo is the Greek word for this kind of love. In other words it means you love me and I love you back. I love you because there are certain things about you that are good, and you love me back for the same reason. A 2 way love. But, that is not the word for love used here. When the verse says overall these virtues put on love, it's talking about a special kind of love. The greek word for this kind of love is agape, meaning a one way love. You love me, even if I don't love you back. This is the kind of love that God has shown the world, even though the world didn't love God. God loved the world so much, that He sent us His only Son. And even though we didn't ask for it, Jesus died for us on the cross. God loves us, even though there isn't anything good about us to love. That is the kind of love God is talking about here, a one way kind of love. Love someone even though they are unlovable. Even if there are a million reasons to not love someone, love them anyway. And over all these virtues put on love, which bounds them all together in perfect unity.

      So, where are we to get the strength to carry out these seven new years resolutions?If you are always mean, aggressive, and proud, how can you just throw those old clothes away, those old attitudes? How can you suddenly put on these new attitudes of compassion, kindness, and humility when just last week you were yelling at someone who cut you off in traffic? How can you throw that attitude away and put on gentleness and patience? Christ will help you, spend time with Christ in 2014 and He will change you. Spend time learning about His humility in the manger. Spend time learning about His compassion at the cross. Spend time learning about how He has taken away all your sin, and how far He was willing to go to save you. Spend time with Christ in 2014, His forgiveness will turn you into a forgiver. His one way love will turn you into someone who will show one way love to others.

      This my friends is the most important New Years resolution a person can make, to spend time with Christ in 2014. You can't do these things without spending time with Christ, and so my resoloution this year is to spend more time with Jesus in His word. I will not make excuses, I will not allow my culture to tell me that the word of God is not important. I will sacrifice things in order to spend more time with Jesus. I will hear His word at worship, and I won't let anything get in the way. I will set time aside during the week to study His word on my own. I will spend more time with Jesus and He will change me. Who do you want to be in 2014? Amen.