Thursday, December 22, 2016

The Word Became Flesh

Jesus, God incarnate, the word became flesh, and lived among us. can you believe that? The God that created the universe, humbling Himself and being born as a little tiny baby in a manger, to live as one of us. He did it out of His great love for us, even with all of our limitations, He became one of us, He lived with us to get our attention, to reach out to us and show us how great His love is.

Today you can find support groups for almost anything. There are support groups for widows and widowers, alcoholics and families of alcoholics, or those that struggle with other addictions or personal issues. Why are these support groups so important or effective? Because the only person who is really able to reach an alcoholic is another alcoholic. They know the struggles first hand, they empathize and can offer that support that no one else can.

So it is with Jesus, God, Maker of Heaven and Earth, Full of divine power and wisdom. Yet, out of love, He chose to be one of us, a real live human, to experience everything that we do, walking in our shoes. This is the message of Christmas, that God so loved the world that He became one of us, to make us part of His family, to claim us as His people, and to show us how to live in love for the whole world. Jesus is the Eternal Word made flesh so that we may experience His love now and forever.


Thursday, December 15, 2016

What does Christmas mean?

  I wonder what Christmas means to a mother who has lost her husband, who has 4 children to care for, works everyday but never making ends meet, never quite getting things done. What does Christmas mean to her?
I wonder what Christmas means to an 80 year old man in Zimbabwe, living in a hut, who knows nothing of shopping malls, or what a Christmas tree is. I wonder what Christmas means to him?

 I wonder what it means to the little homeless children with smudges on their cheeks and sparkling eyes that look up and thank me for giving them one meal a week. What does Christmas mean to them?

 I wonder what it means to missionaries who are half way around the world, separated from family and friends, sacrificing so much to bring the precious gospel message to those who have not heard. What does Christmas mean to them?

 To store owners it means the busiest time of the year. Stores have longer hours and hire extra people, and it definitely means higher profit to help them get through the lean times ahead. For their employees it might mean a Christmas bonus, a little more money in their pockets to help with Christmas shopping.
To many adults and teenagers it means parties and fun. For children it is a time of impatience, with time passing so slowly as they wait for Christmas morning.

 Do we go through all the buying presents, making special meals, and decorating, but somehow forget who's birthday it really is? It's Jesus' birthday and it might not be the exact day He was born, but it's a time for us to remember His birth and what it is supposed to mean to us.

 Look at Luke 2:8-14
And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 10 But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. 11 Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. 12 This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”13 Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”

  In those days shepherds were at the low end of the social ladder compared to all the influential people of that time. They weren't respected, lived in the fields with their animals, and had no power or prestige. Yet God chose to make the announcement to them. The fact that He chose the shepherds helps us to understand the real meaning of Christmas. God so loved the world that he gave his only son and He chose to announce it to the shepherds first of all, and in that one message God made known some very important truths.

 First, it tells us that no matter how insignificant we think we are, God knows us and we are important to Him. All throughout the bible we see God using and honoring people that the world would overlook or ignore. The Apostle Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 1: 26-28
26 Brothers and sisters, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. 27 But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. 28 God chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not 
  A young Jewish boy was sold into slavery by his brothers and carted off to Egypt. But, when God wanted a very important message delivered to the mighty pharaoh, It was Joseph the slave who was brought out of the dungeon to interpret that message. God uses the lowly and despised to show his power.
When God decided to choose a mother for His Son, He went passed all the the beauty parlors and fashion shops. He went passed all the diamonds and gold and went to a insignificant village called Nazareth. He chose a peasant girl who was not dressed in designer clothes, didn't have a sophisticated education, but she was pure so God chose her to be the mother of His only begotten Son.

  When Christ comes, he is not born in Mt. Sinai Hospital with doctors and nurses around, He is born in a stable wrapped in cloths and laid in a manger, and when God delivers his announcement, He delivers it to shepherds. It is like Jesus says in the Sermon on the Mount, if God cares about sparrows and lilies, then he cares about you and me. The world will laugh at you and look down on you and say that that is foolishness. But, Paul says " The foolishness of God is wiser then man's wisdom and the weakness of God is stronger then any man's strength.

  We need to hear that, don't we?  Teenagers in orphanages watching the young kids getting adopted, and realizing that it probably won't happen for them. They need to hear that. Single mothers with no help from their estranged husbands need to hear that. Homeless people living on the streets, not knowing where their next meal will come from need to hear that. People who are lonely need to hear that. Widows or Widowers need to hear that. Everyone needs to hear that message. All of us have felt rejection in our lives, felt left out. Christmas comes and the light shines and God says "NO!" Your wrong. I made the announcement to the shepherds and He makes it to us. Unto you a Savior is born.

  The second thing I think it teaches us is that life matters. Not only to us, but our lives count with God. Imagine those shepherds sitting around the campfire wondering if life was really worthwhile or not. Does it make a difference whether we watch the sheep or not?  We, like the shepherds wonder too. What difference does it make if I get out of bed in the morning? Our lives are like endless cycles of things that seem to not mean anything, or make a difference. When God made his announcement to the shepherds, He is also saying to us that our lives are worthwhile, it is His gift to us. So we must live every golden moment of it, because your life Matters to Him. We should see that every life matters, everybody's life counts for something. It is impossible to live on this earth and not influence somebody in one way or another, good or bad.

I remember seeing a cartoon of 2 farmers standing in a field in Kentucky. Snow was falling lightly and one farmer said to the other "Anything exciting happen today?" And the other farmer says "Nothing exciting ever happens around here", " there was a baby boy born over at the Lincoln's place.". That baby grew up and became the President of the United States. He changed the course of history and liberated the slaves. One life can make a difference. I wonder if on that night there were people in Bethlehem standing around asking, "Anything exciting happening today? " And maybe they were told, "No nothing much", "Just  some woman giving birth to a baby in a stable." "Nothing exciting ever happens around here." Except that baby changed the world.

  Life matters, life counts. Your life and mine. Lives of shepherds and lives of kings. All are important to God.

Friday, December 9, 2016

My Picture of Joseph

      This week I wanted to write something about Joseph, I looked everywhere I could think of, from the bible to the internet and to my surprise I didn't find one quote from Joseph. I have never given it much thought before this week, but Joseph doesn't say one word in all of the gospels, he just listens and obeys. I can see where one could assume that his words are written in the bible, we can hear him having conversations with Mary, and for sure the Angel Gabrielle. We can imagine him talking to the inn keeper, we can visualize him teaching Jesus about carpentry, but he just fades from the scene. I have found out that it is thought that Joseph was much older than Mary, and when Jesus starts His ministry Mary seems to be alone, and even though the bible doesn't say she is a widow, we can kind of figure that Joseph has passed.

      I think Joseph thought he had his life pretty well planned out. His trade and his marriage were all tightly wrapped for him, but then his world is turned upside down when he found out his bride to be was pregnant. Joseph wanted to do things the right way. He thought about divorcing her, but wanted to do it without calling attention to the reason. He could have had her publicly shamed, or even had her stoned to death for adultery. But Joseph protects her reputation by moving up the wedding date, and then the Roman census took them away from the wondering eyes of the town.

      Thanks to the genealogy of the Gospels, we know that Joseph came from the royal lineage of King David, but I can easily picture Joseph as a humble man. The brief mentions of Joseph in the bible suggests to me that he was a quiet man that didn't purposely call attention to himself. He was available when needed and willing to take on hardships. Joseph was looking forward to fathering his own child, but was instead fathering a child that was not his own, but he accepted the humbling experiences around the birth of Jesus, and he trusted in the divine care of God every day. There were no training manuals or directions on how to be a father to the Son of God, but he used faith and compassion. Biblical scholars paint Joseph as an excellent choice for a provider and protector of his family.

      There is not one Christmas pageant performed anywhere that Joseph plays a big role in, but in the most important Christmas pageant of them all, his part was very important. His role was to take care of Mary and the Baby Jesus, to protect them, and get them where they needed to be. Joseph had the important role of caring for the needs of others. Does that sound familiar?

      When our lives take a turn for the worse, and we cry out, Lord how can this be? Like I am sure Joseph cried out, but we must be again like Joseph and hear the still, quiet voice from God saying trust Me. God does not always lead us down the easy path, and we might not ever understand everything that God does, but He says trust me and all things will work out for good.

      I have heard a saying that says the best thing a father can do for his kids is to love their mother. Joseph's love for Mary was a excellent example of Paul's definition. Love is patient and kind. Love does not envy or boast, it is not proud or rude. Love is not self seeking or easily angered. It keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil, but rejoices in the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, and always perseveres. (1 Corinthians 13) Instead of being angered and annoyed, Joseph accepted Jesus as his own, Joseph accepted the will of God that was revealed to him. He followed what he was told. They journeyed to Bethlehem, then to Egypt, and then back to Nazareth. I can easily see Joseph receiving his son as a true gift from God.

      Joseph became a father to the Messiah, who would teach us about the true grace of God. Joseph was entrusted with naming their son and thus defining His mission, the name Jesus means Savior. I have read where archaeologists have uncovered ruins of a city called Sapphoris near Nazareth, and it is believed that Joseph spent a lot of time there working carpentry jobs. Maybe even with his young apprentice and son Jesus. You see, when Jesus came home, the people cried out, is this not the son of Joseph the carpenter?

      There is so much I would love to know about Joseph. Like where and when he was born, how he spent his days, what he sounded like and what he said, or when and where he died. The last time we hear of him is on that pilgrimage to Jerusalem when Jesus was 12. I think it's safe to say that he was a man of few words, but he did what he was supposed to do. Sure, we don't know much about Joseph, but scripture gives us the most important knowledge of what kind of man he was. Joseph was a righteous man, and he may of thought that being righteous only meant doing the right thing. But, he found out that it also meant being the right person.....

Friday, December 2, 2016

Don't Let The Grinch Steal Christmas From You

     Today I would like to talk about a book by a certain author. He has written at least 44 books, they are published in 34 different languages, and can be found in homes all over the world. His books are so well respected that he goes by the title Dr. That's right, Dr. Seuss, and the book I would like to discuss is How the Grinch Stole Christmas.

     You all know the story. The Grinch lives in a cave with his dog, and he is one of the meanest creatures to ever live. The book says he's as charming as an eel, cuddly as a cactus, and a bad banana with a greasy black peel. This guy is one mean dude, you don't want to touch with a 39 and 1/2 foot pole. In the story it is made well known that the Grinch hates Christmas and everyone who celebrates it. So he devises this plan to ruin Christmas for the cheery people of Whoville, and even drags his poor little dog in to it. On Christmas Eve, the Grinch sneaks into every house in Whoville and steals everything that has to do with Christmas. As he is climbing back up to his cave, positive that he has ruined Christmas for everyone, the book tells us that every Who in Whoville, the tall and the small, were singing without any presents at all. He hadn't stop Christmas from coming, it came. Some how or other, it came just the same. And the Grinch, with his Grinch feet ice-cold in the snow, stood puzzling and puzzling, how could it be so? It came without ribbons, It came without tags, it came without packages, boxes, or bags. And he puzzled 3 hours, til his puzzler was sore.Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn't before. Maybe Christmas, he thought, doesn't come from a store, Maybe Christmas perhaps, means a little bit more.

     You see, the Grinch realized that there is something more to Christmas than just decorations and presents. He saw that there was something more to the true meaning of Christmas. So as Christians, what is the true meaning of Christmas, especially with so many different voices speaking to us? Jesus was the fulfillment of a promise, a promise that is at the heart of what we are preparing for. It was a promise that through the birth, life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, we would learn that God is a God of power, but also a God of love, a God of joy, and a God of peace. But, most of all, He is a God whom we can put all of our trust, and all of our hope into. Hold fast to what is inside your heart, that faith and hope in Jesus Christ, Because He has redeemed us from our sins, He removes those things that gets between us and God, and He is the One that gives us hope for a better life, for us, our family, and the whole world.

     This season, you will come across Grinches, and they will try to hide the true meaning of Christmas from you, please don't let them. Ask yourself, what is it that I am truly hoping to get on Christmas day, that day we chose to celebrate the birth of Jesus? What is it that God has promised to us and no one can take away? As Christians we know that our faith and hope is in a Child who was born one night to bring us salvation and the promise of life everlasting. Don't let that Grinch steal Christmas from you.......... Amen

Friday, October 28, 2016

Climb that tree and find Jesus

                                                                Luke 19:1-10

     Does it seem sometimes that there are people who have everything this world deems valuable or important? That maybe they have achieved total peace and happiness? They are looked at as successful, they are looked up to, some even call them idols. Maybe you even have felt a tinge of jealousy about what somebody else has had. Zacchaeus was one of those people. He had power, he had control, and he had money. I would bet that there were people in Jericho and surrounding area who would trade places with him in a split second. But, you don't judge a book by it's cover, because there was more to Zaccaeus than meets the eye. Sure, according to the world's standard, he was a very successful man, but it is what he lacked that was making a difference in his life. So he went and climbed a tree, and when Jesus came across this little man, all of his needs were met.

     Maybe there is someone right now reading this blog, who seems to the outside world to have it all together. You seem happy and successful, but you feel something missing in your life. I am writing this to let you know that Jesus Christ has exactly what you need. If you climb that tree as He passes by, He will give you what you are missing.

     Zaccaeus was a tax collector for Rome, which meant he was aloud to take taxes from the people in any amount he wanted. Which meant if Rome wanted 10%, he could take 15% or even 20%. I think it is safe to assume that this made him a very wealthy man, and because of his contract and position with Rome, Zaccaeus was a man of power in Jericho. People probably were very afraid of this man.

     Even though Zaccaeus was wealthy and successful by the world's standards, even he knew something was missing. A lot of people do. They try to drown it in alcohol, or forget about it with drugs. Maybe they try to hide it behind tough talk, intimidating people, but when no one is around and everything is quiet. and it's just you and God, the truth sounds out from your soul as loud as a thousand trumpets and you know you need something that you don't have. You  try to keep it buried deep within, but there is something you can do about it. Climb that tree and find Jesus.

     The Bible tells us that Zaccaeus was seeking to see Jesus, he had a desire to see if what everyone was saying about this Savior was true. You may wonder through life looking for something, you probably don't even know what that something is. But when you feel the Love of Jesus, it will fill you with hope and belonging. He will make a difference in your life.

     So how do we know Zaccaeus was saved that day? Notice what happened to him, his salvation is shown to us in 3 ways. First, he obeyed the Lord's call. He came down out of that tree and opened his home to Jesus. Second, not only did Zaccaeus open his home, he also opened his heart. Zaccaeus freely gave himself to Jesus by opening his heart to Him. Jesus stands and knocks on the door of our hearts, but you must open that door and let Him in. The third way is that Zaccaeus was overjoyed at this opportunity to be with Jesus. Joy comes from the gift of salvation, He will give you a joy that can't be described or duplicated by anything that comes from this world. The joy you get from the Lord is an everlasting joy. When you place your joy in worldly things, they along with your joy will pass away. But, when Jesus is the source of your joy, it will abide forever, Because Jesus' Love and Grace will too.

     In this verse, Jesus reminds us that He was there then to save sinners, and that is still His mission today. Jesus took this wicked man and in an instant saved him forever. That is what Jesus does for all of those who come to Him by faith, eternal salvation becomes yours and mine through Jesus Christ. I know some of you reading this might need something in your life, if you climb that tree to seek Him out, He will save you regardless of who you are or who you have been. Don't let anything stand between you and Jesus. Whatever you are missing Jesus has it, just climb that tree and seek Him out...... Amen





Friday, October 7, 2016

Are there any goats in your house?

                                                               Luke 17:11-19

    I came across a little story that I would like to share. It goes something like this.
There was this man who was living in Budapest, and one day he went to the rabbi and complained. He says life is unbearable, there are 9 of us living in one room, what can I do? The rabbi tells the man to take his goat inside to live with them, The man argued, not believing what he had heard. But the rabbi insists, do as I say, and come back in a week.

    A week later the man comes back looking even more distraught than before. We can't stand it he tells the rabbi, the goat is filthy and stinks. The rabbi tells him to go home and let the goat out, and then come back in a week. A happy, beaming man returns to the rabbi a week later exclaiming life is beautiful, we enjoy every minute of it now that the goat is gone, only the nine of us.......

    So now, let me ask you this. Are there any old goats in your life? Life sure can be made difficult, almost incapacitating with a mess like that, can't it? I think you know I am using the word "goat" in place of the word "sin." Something that makes our life unclean, keeps us separated from God. In Luke 17:11-19 we meet 10 lepers who had this same kind of problem.

    I looked up the definition of the word leper, and I found 2 meanings. First definition was pretty obvious, a person with Leprosy. The second one I found was, a person shunned for moral or social reasons. In the reading from Luke it tells us about 10 lepers, I think it seems pretty easy to see that we are dealing with the first definition of leper, and that is someone who has leprosy. Jesus, have mercy on us is what Jesus hears as he is walking the boarder that day.

    Now, in Jesus's time leprosy was a very horrible thing. There was pain and disfigurement, but there was also isolation and rejection from society that came along with the diagnosis. Lepers would gather into colonies because they needed the company, people didn't want lepers around. They were sent out into the wilderness because people were afraid they would contaminate them.

    This interaction between the lepers and Jesus is stunning to me. Why? Because Jesus did not turn away from the 10 lepers. Jesus could have just kept walking, or He could have told the lepers about the law that Moses had written. The person with such an infectious disease must wear torn clothes, let his hair be unkempt, cover the lower part of his face, and cry out "unclean!, unclean!" As long as he has infections he remains unclean. He must live alone, he must live outside the camp. (Leviticus 13:45-46) But Jesus didn't treat the lepers this way, He exposed His heart, The heart of God. He showed them what was evident and on display for all to see.

    Let's remember an earlier encounter that Jesus had with a leper. In Mark 1:40-42 it says A man with leprosy came to Him and begged Him on his knees, if You are willing, You can make me clean. Jesus was indignant and reached out His hand and touched the man. I am willing He said, be clean. Immediately the leprosy left him, and he was cleansed.

    So, why did Jesus help the lepers? Compassion. Compassion, love, and concern for the condition of humanity. In His interaction with the lepers, we get a peak at the depth of God's love for us. He knows about suffering and pain, and He was not going to ignore it. He would not let any old goats separate them from His love. So Jesus healed the lepers.

    Do you remember that second definition of a leper? A person shunned for moral or social reasons. So, let's think about that for a minute, let's think about the fact that our condition before God is exactly that. Paul says in Romans 3:23 For all have sinned and fall short of the Glory of God. We are all lepers before God, because our goat causes us to be outcasts, and it is a deadly disease. Paul tells us again that the wages of sin is death. (Romans 6:23)

    Now think about what happens when we recognize our brokenness? What happens when we come to Jesus with our goats? Jesus, Teacher, have mercy on us! When we cry out, we know Jesus will respond with love. His compassion for us will be the same as it was for the lepers. That is why the Apostle John wrote, if we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive our sins, and purify us from all unrighteousness.

    God has been knocking on our doors for generations. He has desired for us to be cleansed of our leprosy, to put our goats back outside. Come now, let us reason together, says the Lord. Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be white as snow, though they are red like crimson, they shall be like wool.(Isaiah 1:18) When we cry out, Jesus, have mercy on us, we are made pure and clean.

    God's compassion was made clear to us when Jesus was beaten and crucified on the cross to cure us of our spiritual leprosy. He died on that cross because of His love and compassion for us. He saw our brokenness and took it upon Himself to restore and heal us. And, by His resurrection He showed us He overcame death. The good news is that we are restored to God's family, that was the message of the Apostles. God was reconciling the world to Himself through Christ, not counting men's sins against them. (2 Corinthians 5:19)

    Putting the goats back outside, cleansing us of our spiritual leprosy, is the greatest need in life of any person. God, through Christ, has taken care of that for us. we have been so richly blessed and loved. He has taken care of the most needful problem in our life. That which made us outcasts. We go through other trials and difficulties, but in Christ and what He has done, heaven is ours.

    Like the lepers, sometimes it is hard to put this tremendous blessing into perspective. Only one leper could do that, only one returned and thanked Jesus, and that one was a Samaritan, people who were considered half breeds, not proper Jews. Yet it was this Samaritan leper who truly realized what Jesus had done for him. He recognized that Jesus made his life clean, He had eliminated the leprosy and the sin barrier. He fell on the ground as Jesus' feet and thanked Him for making him well, and Jesus tells him to get up and go on your way, your faith has made you well.

    You see, the others were cured of a disease. They could return to their lives just the way they were before. But the Samaritan, he received a greater blessing. When he asked for mercy he got more than a cure of leprosy, he found a savior. He went back to life a changed man. He recognized that God had lovingly and miraculously cleansed and restored him. His cleansing went deeper than just being healed of leprosy, there are no goats in this man's house.

    No eye has seen, no hear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love Him. We are cleansed and made part of His family through Christ. There are no goats in our house, just lives that have been blessed by God's love and compassion. Get up and go on your way, your faith has made you well..... Amen


Friday, June 3, 2016

God Wants Life Not Death

                                                                     Luke 7:11-17

     So how do you respond to the needs or troubles of others? In many different places in the Bible it tells us that Jesus was moved to the depths of His soul when He met people in need. Today , our use of the word compassion doesn't even come close to the true meaning of the Hebrew word splagchnizomai, which means you have so much empathy or sympathy for someone's troubles that it gives you pains, or yearnings from the bowels. Why did Jesus feel so much compassion when He met the mother of the dead young man? He not only grieved the death of this boy, but He also had concern for the widowed woman who had now lost her son. Because now, with the losing of her son, she has lost her future livelihood and security.

      The Bible tells us that God takes no pleasure in the death of anyone (Ezekiel 33:11). God wants life, not death. Jesus not only had a deep compassion for this widow who now has lost her son, but He has the ability to restore life. Jesus then approaches the dead young man and makes physical contact with the boy, which probably shocked anyone who had seen it. You see, the Jews had a belief  that contact with a dead body made one spiritually unclean or impure. Jesus' physical touch and empathy for the widow's loss not only shows the depth of His love, but also shows His desire to free everyone from the grips of sin and death. When Jesus spoke the words "Young man arise" it not only brought him back to life, but it also brought him freedom for his soul.

       Jesus is the Lord of the living as well as the dead. He chose as His own one whom death had taken as its prey. Just by the power of His word, He brought life back to a child marked for death. When Jesus died on the cross for our sins, He defeated death by rising again, just as He had promised His disciples. Even today, Jesus promises to anyone who believes that they shall have an abundant life with Him, and in Him now and forever (John 14:19). Do you trust in Jesus? He can give you renewed hope, He can give you the courage and strength to deal with life's trials, misfortunes, and despair....... Amen


Wednesday, May 11, 2016

I made it through

      The first weekend of the play is done, and from what I could tell, it was a pretty successful weekend. Everyone played the parts to the fullest, and the crowds laughed and clapped, it was awesome. We have 6 more shows to go, and I can't wait to get back out there and do it again.

      I made it through. When I was standing there seconds from walking down the aisle, my heart was racing, I was sweating and shaking, and just so nervous. I said to myself, "Mike, you have acted before, you have preached sermons to more people than this, calm down." Ahh, but I have never sang or danced. For as long as I can remember, people have made fun of the way I sing, and here I am walking down the aisle as Father Christmas getting ready to sing and dance in a show.

      So as I am about to sing, I just said OK God, please get me through this. I got up there and just went for it, I got all the words right, I didn't trip when I was dancing, and I don't think I embarrassed anybody. as the weekend went on my confidence grew and I think each performance got a little better. God didn't all of the sudden make me a great singer, or a great dancer, but what He did do is walk down that aisle with me. He gave me the courage to stand up and do something that people have made fun of me for before. Heck, I make fun of myself all of the time for the way I sing and dance.

      My faith in God gave me the strength and the courage to conquer my fear. He stood there by me as I sang, He danced right along with me, in front of all those people, so I didn't feel alone. He also put great people around me to support and encourage me. I am not going to try and tell you that my talent level has gone up to the level of the others in this play, but He did help me to realize that everything I do is to glorify His Name. By having faith in Him, and getting up there to sing and dance, I showed the strength and courage that my faith in the Lord has given me. God goes with you through all of your troubles, trust in Him, and He will give you the strength and courage to deal with it........



Monday, May 2, 2016

What if I fail?

Here we go again, another year another play. This time we are doing Narnia the Musical, and every role has to sing, and some even have to dance. Anyway, for those of you who know me, This would be an obvious play for me NOT to try out for, so I didn't. But, I guess they didn't have enough people try out, so they asked me and to make a long story short, I am in this play and my character has to sing and dance. (Perfect !!)

As the rehearsals went on, and I am watching and listening to everyone dance and sing, I sit and wonder why I am in this play. The talent level between me and everybody else is huge. I am almost totally deaf in one ear, which also causes me to be somewhat tone deaf. I can't hear the music to start my song, I have to have Mr. Beaver tap me on the shoulder to tell me when to start, and I don't sing, I kind of speak to the music.

So, this friday is opening night, and most of the cast sang a couple songs before each service this last Sunday to let everyone know about the play. As they sang, I sat there and wondered again, why am I in this play? Is it because there was no one else? Or, maybe it's because I am loud so when they run short on mic's I really don't need one. I really can't seem to figure out why I am in this play.

All I know is that God calls us to step out of our comfort zones. I think this is the farthest out I have ever been and it scares me a lot. I'm afraid I am going to embarrass myself, or worse yet, everybody else in the play. What if I trip, or forget the words, or start my song on the wrong beat, what if I fail?
There is only one thing to do, and no it's not quit, although I thought about that. I am going to put it into God's hands. When you turn it over to God, you don't carry those worries any longer, He has them. Even when the cares are still there from a natural standpoint, He has the load, not you. You can do it, you can cast all of your cares on to God, He tells us to do so. Put your trust in God, He won't let you down.....

Friday, March 4, 2016

Not Causing, But Caring

                                               Sermon preached on Feb. 28th, 2016
                                                             Luke 13:1-9
      I think one of the hardest question for a pastor, or any christian for that matter, is why?
Why did God let this happen? "This" may be the death of a loved one, or "this" could be the struggle of a lingering disease, the total destruction of property by a terrible storm. "This" could also be the  random act of some criminal. Yes, I think "why" is the hardest question a Christian could face.

      In our Gospel lesson for today Jesus speaks on two situations that bring up this question. The first was concerning the death of some Galileans ordered by Pilate. The other was about a tower in Siloam that collapsed and killed 18 people. So, Jesus asks the people a question, "Did these people suffer more because they are worse sinners"? And each time, the answer is "No". Jesus did not then, or does He now, equate individual sin to suffering. But, He does equate it to a sinful nature, the sinful nature of the world we live in today. He says that because of sin all will perish, so He urges repentance by all people.

      Jesus is addressing a problem that is just as important today as it was back then, this view that people have of God, which show Him to be an angry Father that hands out punishment to every disobedient child. And then, the question gets asked time and time again, "Why, what did I do to deserve this"? If this were the way of God, I don't think there would be a person left on this earth.

      God is not the angry judge, judging each deed and then giving out punishments of sickness, death, and tragedy as He sees fit. This is not the God that Jesus shares with us in scripture. But, there are people who believe that everything that happens, bad or good, comes directly from God.

      On January 23rd, 2015, Sheilia's family, my family suffered a tragic loss. A 17 year old son, nephew, grandchild, cousin, and friend was killed in a tragic skiing accident. As we gathered with family and friends to celebrate his life, I overheard people say things like it is all God's will and we must accept it". Another said "It is all part of God's plan and we must live by it," or "God is testing our faith." I even heard one person say "There is a silver lining in every cloud and we will find out God's reason for this some day." I got so frustrated, and angry. I had to go into the bathroom to calm down. I so badly wanted to stand on a chair in the center of the room and scream out at the top of my lungs "MY GOD DOES NOT PUSH 17YR OLD BOYS INTO TREES !!!!!"

      You see, we cannot accuse or blame God for all the brokenness in this world. If God were the author of death, how could He, at the same time, be the Author of Life that we see in the resurrection we celebrate every Sunday, and especially on Easter Sunday? Is God the god of the dead, or is He the God of the living? It doesn't happen both ways.

      God is more than the angry judge, God is more than the angry father, dealing out punishments that fit the crime, there is more to our God than this. Look at the story of Moses' call and you will see a God who has compassion  and cares for our people. He doesn't want to see His people suffer any longer. He tells Moses, "I have seen the affliction of My people who are in Egypt, and have heard their cry because of their taskmaster, I know their sufferings, and have come down to deliver them out of the hands of the Egyptians." Notice God didn't say " I am sorry for causing your people to suffer, and now I want to change that. I will deliver them out of this evil I have caused." No Way, God is not responsible for the suffering the people were encountering. But, what He did do, and what He is still doing today, is delivering people away from their suffering. He did, and still does care for the suffering of the people.

      Once or twice a month, Sheilia and I prepare community supper. Well she prepares it, I just do the dishes. When I eat my meal, I try to sit by someone I have never met before. On this one occasion I sat down with this person who was sitting alone.We started talking, and I felt this connection, I knew the dishes were piling up, but I didn't want to break this connection. I ended up telling her my story, and then she blew me away and told me hers. She told me that 10 years ago she lost her husband to cancer in the prime of his life. She said that he was forthright and full of fun, sensitive and compassionate, vital, young, and about to die. It came as a blow, why him, why now? The she said came the fear, anger, and frustration. They prayed together of his dying and some of the fear was destroyed, and there was some measure of confidence and hope about the new worlds each of them would face. 10 years have past now passed she said, and she has journeyed through deep valleys of loneliness and tears. Her sorrow has been great and she feared that it might grow greater. Even so, she continues on with a certain confidence and hope, but she wonders about many things. How can it be that he who is dead continues to minister to her? How can a man's life work be completed and a marriage fulfilled in so few years? How is it that, in the midst of sorrow and heart ache, she found God, not causing, but caring?

      She found God, not causing, but caring. Is that not the view of God we see from the cross, a God who cared enough for His people that He died on a cross so that people would live? Our God is a loving, caring, merciful God. He is so consumed by these characteristics that He sent a form of Himself, His Son, Jesus Christ, to die, so we would not be separated from Him any longer. God does everything He can to be caring and loving to His people.

      I just can't understand how people see a God of Wrath. They must not be able to see the cross, or see the love, or maybe they can't accept that gift of salvation. They turn God into a God that they have to earn their salvation from, so that they can say they had a hand or some action in their own salvation. Some people even see God as a puppet master, controlling and manipulating as He sees fit. They can't see the freedom in the Gospel of Jesus. They see a God who controls everything good or bad. You see, we have that freedom. We have the freedom to choose, we have the freedom to live our lives the way we choose to live them. And, that choice is what brought the consequences of sin and brokenness into this world.

      So then, the question is not "What did I do to deserve this?" As if the puppet master was dealing out the path of our lives. The question should be "How can God help me live with the consequences of the sin that is a part of my life. Instead of placing the blame on God for the brokenness of the world, we should instead turn to Him in prayer, in repentance, in hope, and faithfulness. Instead of building a wall between us and God in time of brokenness, we should be tearing down the wall that separates us from God, so that we can let His caring, and love for us enter into our lives. Instead of blaming God we should drop to our knees and ask God to walk with us, to strengthen us, to build us up, and give us the courage to continue in His Mercy and Grace.

      This tragedy I am going to tell you about left this man widowed, childless, and homeless. The fire swept through the entire house and everything was gone. It took some time for the loss to fully sink in, but when it did, it came like a rock. Like Job in the O.T. he could not be comforted. When the shock lifted, anger and resentment took it's place, filling his every waking thought. God had not been fair, He didn't protect his family, He did not come to explain why, and what's next. He was in a wilderness as bad as the Sinai. The greatest temptation was to add to the loss by forfeiting his faith. Why not? He felt justified. No one would blame him, some might even support him. He prayed with anger, daring God to hurt him further, challenging Him to give any reason why he should hold on to the thin string of faith he had left. He prayed angrily, but he prayed.

      The pain continued to grow, and the emotions built up inside him until one afternoon it all came out in a scream so forcefully, so loud, that it hurt his throat. No words were spoken, just a loud angry scream, as if to say I've hurt all I can, I have paid my dues for love........Help me....... He said the quiet that came was quieter than any silence he had ever experienced. He felt a peace that had not been there for a long time. Scripture might tell you that angels came down and ministered unto him, satan had been defeated. His health started coming back, and he finally remembered that God was caring for the loved ones he lost. He felt God caring for him, and that God can handle all of that honest anger, his honest emotions, feelings, and denials, running away from the pains and hurts of life. God can handle it, and we must let Him. When we do, then we will come to know how strong His love is for us. God can handle it...... Let Him.....

      As Jesus teaches us in the parable at the end of this Gospel lesson, God is a patient and loving God, who wants His children to come to Him. Our response to God when we encounter the brokenness of this world should not be to blame Him, but to come to Him in repentance as He waits for us. God does not want His children to be separated from Him, He will wait, and give many chances to repent, and build that relationship with Him. God is not an angry judge, He is patient, kind, and loving father. He gives His children so many chances to trust in Him and bear that fruit. He helps His children to grow as tall as that fruit tree grew.

      Does individual sin equal individual suffering? No..... God does though, through Jesus Chris, equate individual sin to individual forgiveness, because our God, is a God of love and mercy..........Amen