Thursday, December 28, 2017

Christmas 2017

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

What if nobody likes me?

Living with low self esteem has me stuck inside a mind that is continuously overthinking and worrying about what others think of me. But, at the same time I am concerned with the fact that people are probably not even thinking about me or acknowledging my efforts at work or wherever. It's a continuous tug of war against myself, knowing that I won't win even though society says I should.

I wake up in the morning and look in the mirror and imagine what it's like to be fully content with what I see looking back at me. When people tell me I am handsome, funny, smart, a great friend, or whatever, it's not that I don't appreciate it, I am just waiting for the day when I can feel the same way.

Social anxiety kills me, when I am not worrying about not being able to make friends at a party or something, I'm freaking out because I have to present a project to the bosses at work. What if I say the wrong thing, or my body language says the wrong thing? What if nobody likes me?

I think one of the most misunderstood things about low self esteem is that I feel that I have to go out of my way to help others to make them happy, hoping they will become my friend or make us closer friends, solidifying our relationship.

Being overly sensitive is not a quality I would choose to have. It's not that I can't take a joke, but it can be a little dis-heartening to have someone comment on an insecurity I have, such as being a loud talker, or dressing a certain way. In my own mind, as soon as I start making decisions for my own happiness, I think I am being selfish or self-centered. 

Feeling as if you are not good enough is a hard feeling to shake, but I don't mean to feel this way. I know I shouldn't have to apologize for low self esteem, but it seems to put a burden on my family and friends. They shouldn't have to help build me up and boost my confidence because I am incapable of doing it myself.

This is not a cry for attention......

It's a release....

Friday, December 15, 2017

How can a 12 year old boy who lost his dad at an early age feel ashamed?

I don't remember having a low self esteem during my childhood until I was 12. That is when my dad died, and I began to feel a deep , pervasive experience of shame. I mean, who experiences shame over losing their dad far too early? I felt different and disconnected from the flow of human connection. How can a 12 year old boy who lost his dad at an early age feel ashamed?

I was the only kid in school whose dad was dead, and I remember a time in 6th grade when the teacher had the class make father's day cards. I remember the teacher, who was ignorant of the situation, and maybe life in general, asked me why I didn't make a father's day card for my dad. One of the kids in the class jumped up and started chanting, "He doesn't have a father" over and over, and at recess all the kids in my class were chanting that phrase. I found myself wishing that everyone's dad was dead.

Shame had become a constant childhood companion, I felt deeply different from the other kids whose families were "normal." I never knew when someone might ask me about my dad, or a teacher would ask us to draw pictures of our family, or make father's day cards, or our school would sponsor a father and son activity. I lived in fear of being found out.

Even today, at 50 years old, I still feel some shame or experience low self esteem about not having my dad. Whenever I see a dad and son celebrate something together, of course I am happy for them, but there is still that little voice inside my head that tells me I never got to do that. I don't have those memories to share, I don't have stories about the things I got to do with my dad, I don't have that first thing we did together and it hurts.

38 years have past, and it is as shameful today as it was back then. The low self esteem affects me everyday of my life, the questions of ability and knowledge come into play. Am I good enough or smart enough? It's an everyday struggle, but with help from God and those around me who love me and support me, I make it through each day, one day at a time. 

Monday, December 4, 2017

We must remain humble in our service


      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 you 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.  

Wednesday, November 29, 2017


   I am going to tell you a story from the bible, It comes from Luke Chapter 17: 11-19. This story introduces us to 10 mystery men, I say this because we don't know a lot about these men. They might come form totally different backgrounds, be of different ages, and for all we know they might not like each other very much. But, they have one thing in common, one experience that brings them all together. They had lived pretty regular, boring lives up until something happened, leprosy.

   In those days they were outcasts and made to leave the city, and somehow they ended up banding together. So, here they are together along a lonely, remote border between Samaria and Galilee with no hope for a cure. One day, hope appears. They have heard stories about Him, they have heard that He can do miraculous things. He has made the lame walk, given the blind sight, He has made the mute shout for joy, and unplugged the ears of the deaf. If He could do all of those things, maybe He could heal them. They cry out to Jesus, Master, Have mercy on us. He hears them, and sees their situation. Jesus simply tells them to go and show themselves to the priests, and there is only one reason Jesus would tell them to do this. They are the ones who declared them unclean and banished them and are the only ones who can declare them clean and allow them to return to their lives.

    As they are running to the priests they see themselves being healed. Nine of them keep running to the priests to get their gift of new life. One of them stops dead in his tracks and returns to Jesus, praises God in a loud voice, falls to his knees at Jesus' feet, and gives Him thanks and praise. It's very surprising to me that only one of the ten returned to do this, but even more surprising is the last thing we know about these men. The nine that didn't return were Jews, considered to be part of the people with a covenant with God. The one that returned to give Jesus praise was a Samaritan, supposedly cut off from God's covenant. The fact that Jesus was a Jew makes it even more surprising that a Samaritan would return and give thanks and praise.

   It is important to realize there was a difference in healing that day. The nine who kept going and never returned were looking for a physical healing, and Jesus gave them that. But, while their disease may have been healed, they still have to face the wages of sin someday. The healing they sought will only last for a relatively short time. The Samaritan who returned, yes he has the healing that the other nine had, but he also realized that Jesus had a lot more to give.

   Jesus can give the kind of healing that will last for eternity. That is why the Samaritan returned to give thanks and praise, and that is why Jesus said rise and go, your faith has made you well. The Samaritan knows he doesn't deserve any of this because of who he is, but this is because of who Jesus is. So, in this week after Thanksgiving, it's appropriate to really look at what took place on that small border near Samaria and Galilee. And as we do, we realize that the truth be told, we have a lot of similarities with the lepers in this story.

   As you have your Thanksgiving leftovers, remember Who it is that gives you everything, remember that you were once an outsider from God. Jesus Christ has lived, died, and risen again, and once again has given you some pretty amazing gifts, so that you are no longer a stranger, but a redeemed child of God. Yes indeed, in the words of the 107th Psalm, we rejoice to say, give thanks to the Lord for He is good, His love endures forever...... AMEN


Friday, November 10, 2017

Waiting on Jesus

                                                               Matthew 25: 1-13

Jesus will come again to completely establish His Kingdom. But, Jesus comes into our lives today in many ways. He comes into our lives in answered prayers, in a peace that passes understanding, in unconditional forgiveness, and a love that overflows.

Waiting for Jesus' return is difficult for us, but lets also recognize that there are opportunities to experience and show others Jesus' presence today. Every time we work towards justice in this world, we testify to the presence of Jesus. Every time we bear each others burdens, we testify to the presence of Jesus. Every time we advocate for the poor, or reach out to the friendless, or work to make this world a better place, we testify to the presence of Jesus in our lives.

Waiting and preparing can be hard to sustain, we can grow weary in our work, frustrated by the lack of outcomes we see, or distracted by that thousand and one other obligations that fill each of our lives. long story short, we must admit that on any given day, we may discover that we are a foolish bridesmaid. So lets reclaim the church as a place where we can find help in our waiting, all kinds of waiting, and support as we try to live our Christian lives. I find it very impactful, that when first century Thessalonians found their waiting intolerable, Paul gave them these words, "Therefore encourage one another."

The Book of Revelation tells the story of the apocalypse. At the end of that book the final words are, Amen, come Lord Jesus. Make these words part of your everyday as we live out the lives of disciples of Jesus Christ waiting for His coming presence.

Friday, November 3, 2017

The Greatest Discovery of All

If you could pick one discovery as the greatest discovery ever what would it be? There have been a lot of discoveries over the years that have changed people's lives. How about Anesthesia, or the light bulb? There is the theory of relativity, or maybe Penicillin, even the discovery of DNA could be your choice. I know some out there would say that chocolate was probably the greatest discovery. But, I don't think these discoveries, as great as they are, even come close to the greatest discovery of all.

The discovery I am talking about happened on the very first Easter Morning. The two Marys, Mary Magdalene, and Mary, the mother of Jesus, got up early one morning and went to the tomb. At the tomb they witness an earthquake, an angel coming down from heaven and removing the rock to the tomb. The angel tells them that Jesus has been raised and told to tell the disciples that He would meet them in Galilee. Then, they see the resurrected Jesus Christ, they grab hold of Him and then they worship Him. Their discovery of Jesus being raised from the dead changed the world.

Christians are human and make mistakes just like everyone else, but Jesus uses us to accomplish great things. Christians have started universities and hospitals, Christians were the first ones to start caring for the sick and the dying, even at the risk of their own lives. We have taken the gospel to the four corners of this world, and with that gospel we brought along modern medicine and education. He uses faith based communities to reach out to the poor and homeless right here in our own country. The world has been changed by people whose lives have been changed because of the discovery of that empty tomb and the discovery of Jesus' resurrection, that He conquered death.

Modern medicine by itself, can't take away that guilt or shame that wells up inside us as we struggle with that dark side of our lives. The gospel of Jesus, that there is a God who loves us, unconditionally, and that He forgives us, completely breaks the chain that sets us free from our shame and guilt. Science and technology can't answer those burning questions like who am I, or why am I here? But, through Jesus Christ we can realize that we are children of God, created as special and unique people who are given different abilities so that we can serve God by serving others. It is Jesus Christ who takes us away from our self-centered, selfish lives and calls us to live beyond ourselves. We realize there is more to life then power and prestige, there is an overcoming power of love, people who have been loved, loving others. That is why the discovery of the empty tomb is the greatest discovery of all........

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Mustard Seed Sized Faith

                                                                Luke 17:5-6
                                                                Acts 2:42-47

    I think there are many times when we are intimidated by our faith. The church's mission is to make new disciples in Christ for the transformation of the world, and we are the church. But, I know a lot of times we think to ourselves, How can I do this by myself, I am not very good at sharing my faith with others. What if people reject me, what can I offer, I am a sinner too, or do I even have enough faith to take on this task?

    Our call as Christians and the strong belief we have can seem overwhelming at times. I am just one person, what can I do? In Luke 17, the apostles are feeling the same way. When they were faced with what looked like an impossible task, they cried out to Jesus, "Increase our faith!" I know many of you have said the same thing, I know I have. And, I don't think there is anything wrong with that.

    When thinking about the call of discipleship, the apostles thought that they didn't have enough faith to accomplish the task ahead. So Jesus tells them, "If you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this Mulberry tree, be uprooted and planted in the sea, and it will obey you." Wait a minute, what ????

    If you held a mustard seed in your hand, you might not be able to see it. It is probably one of the most smallest seeds in existence. And sometimes, just like that mustard seed, we have problems seeing the faith that we have. When the going gets tough, or we are called to tell someone about Jesus, we have a rough time finding the faith to do it. But Jesus is telling us that the faith we need is already inside of us. All we have to do is to tap into it.

    Just look and see what happened to the apostles after the Holy Spirit came at Pentecost. That scared group of followers became empowered to stand up and proclaim with boldness, clarity, and conviction, "Let all of Israel be assured of this: God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ." "And when the people heard this, they were cut to the heart and said, what shall we do?" The answer, "Repent and be baptized, everyone of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the Holy Spirit." We are told that "Those who accepted this message were baptized, and about 3000 were added to their number that day."

    So, do you think the disciples would have ever imagined that this was possible? Days before, they had locked themselves behind closed doors in fear of the people who became their brothers and sisters in Christ. And yet they let their belief and trust in God to use their mustard seed sized faith to save the people. They were ordinary people, just like you and I, but they were also the church, just like you and I.

    Right away the people dedicated themselves to the apostle's teachings, to their fellowship, their breaking of bread and prayer. Everyone was filled with awe, and many wonders and signs were done. All the believers were together and had everything in common. Selling their goods and possessions, they gave to anyone in need. They broke bread together in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of the people, and the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved. And all they had was a mustard seed sized faith.

     You know, you feel it or see it. When we as a church, live our lives like this, we find that we have a little more spring in our step, sometimes to our own amazement or surprise. There might even be a new attractiveness to us, a new energy we have found as we celebrate God's generosity, by being generous ourselves. And that attractiveness is what draws other people in.

    This takes faith, and it must be done in the community of the church. We can't do it alone, we must do it together, that is God's plan. This is who and what we were made to be. So when the apostles said Lord, we are not strong enough, please increase our faith. Jesus responds by basically saying that you already have the faith required for what I am asking. All that you need is faith no bigger than a mustard seed.

    You See? What Jesus is saying is that we as the church, have enough faith to change the world for Him. Jesus tells us that, "It's half the size of a grain of rice, yet it grows into a bush so large that birds come and make nests in it." Meaning that other people come and find their home in the church which is built on faith, a faith that calls us forth and shapes who we are.

    We then become the body of Christ on this earth. We are empowered to continue Christ's ministry, which is what we are called to do. All it takes is trusting God to be God, all we need is God and each other, and all we have to do is just do it. We need to stop wringing our hands and act on that faith which lives in each of us. Jesus has given us the faith we need to accomplish these things for God's kingdom.

    The early church were doing these things, they were generous and committed. They were praising God by putting that faith into to action. They were enjoying the favor of the people, and God added to their numbers daily, those who were being saved. Of course they were, and of course He did. That is how it works, the Gospel hasn't changed. God's power hasn't weakened, and people still need to be saved. God has entrusted us with great faith, anything is possible. Are we ready to experience it first hand? All it takes is mustard seed sized faith. Amen.....

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

What is Faith?

What is faith? I bet, if you ask 5 different people you will get 5 different answers. Most skeptics would say that faith is believing in something without a lack of real evidence, or believing in something that you know in your heart isn't true.

If you go to the dictionary for the definition of faith it says, A belief and trust in and loyalty towards God; belief in the traditional doctrines of a religion; or firm belief in something that has no proof. I don't think any of these provide an absolute answer as to what faith really is.

I think faith is your belief, but also your relationship with God, I think they go hand in hand. Without that relationship there is no faith. Faith is probably the most essential part of Christian life, because without faith you can't have God. Hebrews 11: 6 states, "And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that He exists and that He rewards those who earnestly seek him."

 Hebrews 11:1 gives us this description of faith, "Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see." So the Bible tells us that the place that true faith comes from is God, for it is by grace you have been saved, through faith, and this is not of yourselves, it is the gift of God, not by works, so that noone can boast. (Ephesians 2 : 8-9)

Faith moves way beyond anything we can know, it is fiercely personal yet inevitably communal. Faith is giving control of the bus over to God, letting go of everything and holding on to someone that won't let go of you.

Monday, October 23, 2017

Even For You and Me

      Peter Replied, "Repent and be baptized, everyone of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins." Act 2:38

      The words of hope from this passage are for you my friend. They are for you because no matter what your family, your neighbors, or your friends might be saying about your past mistakes, God is different. Instead of rubbing your nose in the dirt because of you your failures, God is willing to forgive you and take you in, or even take you back.

      The blood of God's Son, Jesus Christ, shed on Calvary's cross has already paid the complete price for all of your sins. Unbelievable to human mind, heart, and thinking, God has already prepared a gift of forgiveness for you. This gift comes at a great cost, but it's price has been paid for and wrapped up when the Father's only Son, our Savior, cried out from the cross: "It is finished!" (John 19:30) Jesus' resurrection on the third day tells us the Lord's great gift of Grace will always be there, always be alive. You can be sure that God is inviting you to receive this gift of perfect and total forgiveness.

      These words of the Gospel regarding the saving work of Christ were penned over 2000 years ago, and the passing of years has not changed their impact. These same words remain powerful  for the believing father now living in Africa, for the heart broken mother living behind the garbage can, or for the disillusioned teenager begging for money at the store. These words are even for you and me.

      Oh, unto all of you, to whom God has entrusted the proclamation of His Gospel, never forget, never forget, that the Gospel is the Power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes......(Romans 1:16)   Amen..........

Thursday, October 5, 2017

Step Out Into the Deep Water

  Picture in your head, if you will. Jesus is standing on the beach lakeside, and the crowd waiting to hear Him speak is pressing Him. Down on the water He sees two boats sitting empty because the men who owned them were washing their nets. Jesus gets into Simon Peter's boat and asks him to pull away from the beach.

  Now that He was away from the press of the crowd He could teach them. When Jesus finishes teaching them, He decides to use an incredible sermon illustration to extend His lesson. He tells Simon Peter to put out into the deep water and let down your nets for a catch.(Luke 5:4)

   Jesus says, Put out in the deep water, not Let's stay here where it is shallow and safe. Could He be implying the real possibilities in life are where it is deep and risky? Is He inviting us to venture out, take a chance, be adventurous and active?

  So, even though Simon Peter fished all night and hadn't caught a thing, he sets out to the deep water with Jesus. I am sure most of you know the rest, they catch more fish than one boat almost two boats can handle. Why? because they were willing to follow Jesus' word and set out into the deep.

  Like this story, Jesus calls us to step out into the deep water. But, we are called by Him to be fishers of men. If we are going to do that we need to leave the shallows and venture out into the deep and dangerous waters of this world where real people are to be found.

   How? By sharing with someone what it's been like for you to be a follower of Christ, of being a part of a church family. There is no pressuring needed, just share what you have experienced. If they seem interested, then invite them to come see for themselves.

   I am sure talking about your faith makes you uncomfortable, you might get a little embarrassed, or like Simon Peter you think I tried that once and it didn't work. But all you have to do is do what Simon did that day and trust Jesus.

   In other words just be yourself, the honest, loving, accepting, non judgmental Christians we are supposed to be. Jesus calls us to step out of our comfort zones, to be adventurous, to simply trust in Him. We are called to witness and to service. Jesus still asks, Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?

Friday, September 29, 2017

The Parable of the Two Sons

                                  Matthew 21:28-32

 I think anyone who reads this can identify with the father or the sons in this story. Some might have a son or daughter who has acted in this way, or you might be a son or daughter who has acted this way. The father asks the first son to work in the vineyard and he says no, but later he goes and works in the vineyard. He goes to his second son and asks him to work in the vineyard. He says yes, but gets caught up in something else and doesn't do it.

   When Jesus asks the religious leaders of the day, Who did the will of their father, they answered the first son. With this answer, the chief priests and elders convict themselves, because they are like the second son. They are religious people who say yes to God, and then never back up their words with actions. Sinners, like tax collectors and prostitutes, who first rejected God, then responded to His love and grace and chose to follow Him are like the first son. So, as we read this parable, I think we need to ask ourselves which son are we like?

   In this world, there are so many things that distract us from our walk with Jesus. Our lives are demanding, we have budgets to balance, bills to pay, bosses to please, cheer and water polo games to attend, relationships to nurture, and illusive goals we are pursuing. We struggle to balance our lives, manage our time, prioritize our objectives, or just make our lives sane. Maybe we get comfortable, we like the lifestyle we have attained, and we get nervous that we might loose it. Humans are creatures of habit, we don't like change in our routines. We like the safety and security of our comfort zones and we don't like to step out of them. All of this adds to our acting like that second son, we say yes to God, and then never find the time to do it. Our actions do not back up our words.

   We say we want to grow in our faith and get closer to Jesus, but we never find the time to get involved in a bible study,  or prayer, or meditation, or even just picking up the Bible and reading it. We say everything belongs to God, and that God has blessed us abundantly. We affirm that we are called to share what God has given to us, but when there is a challenge, we don't respond. We find excuses, my car needs fixed, there is college to pay for, retirement to save for, vacations to take, or keeping up that certain lifestyle.

   The Holy Spirit moves in our lives and directs us towards God's purpose, and wants us to realize that being a disciple of Jesus Christ is more than praying a sinner's prayer, or proclaiming our faith in the words of the Apostles' or Nicene Creeds. Discipleship is more than just saying yes, it is backing up our words with steps of faith. Discipleship is following Jesus wherever He may lead us, and trusting that He wants the very best for us. Being a follower of Jesus Christ means stepping out of our comfort zones and into the safety and security of the arms of Jesus, which is better than any safety or security this world can offer.

  Like almost all fathers, this father continued to love both of his sons, even the one that didn't do what he said he was going to do. He was not disowned and kicked out of the house. No matter what, God continues to love us. His love for us is so great that our lack of actions, denials, or betrayals will not change His love for us. Still, He calls us to follow Him, to back up our words with actions and discover the abundant life that is ours through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ...... Amen 

Monday, September 25, 2017

What is fair?

                                                                 Matthew 20:1-16

   The actions of the landowner in this parable are actually a story about God's Grace. I think we all understand that the money paid to the workers was not connected to the amount of work they had done that day. The money they received that day was an example of the landowner's (God) grace. 

   The workers who worked all day complained that they should be paid more, and that it wasn't fair for the landowner to pay those who only worked part of the day. But, the landowner tells them that he paid them exactly what he had promised, and then asks them, shouldn't I be able to do whatever I want with what is mine? 

   There it is right there, the graceful truth. Everything belongs to God, none of us can lay a claim to any of it, God will give His Grace to anyone He wants, and in any amount. Grace is just that, grace. It has no strings attached, grace is an expression of God's love.

   We can find out a lot about ourselves by the actions of the workers. How often do we find ourselves envious of the blessings that God gives to another person? Why do they get that great vacation? We work harder than they do, we deserve that vacation more. It is one of the hardest things for us to say the words "It couldn't have happened to nicer people." But, we know it could have, it could have happened to us.Our me first attitudes and our envy towards others destroys our ability to be thankful and live in gratitude. Instead, we are like the first workers in this parable, grumbling that we weren't paid enough or complaining that life isn't fair.

   It drives me nuts when you are waiting in line to take an exit off the freeway, and someone comes up and jumps in front of you at the last second. If they are in the back, or last, they need to stay last, they need to respect those of us who were first. But this is not what it is like in God's Kingdom, Jesus says the last will be first, and the first will be last. Clearly this is what's happening in this parable, the workers who were hired last were paid first.

   If you look throughout scripture, God chooses the least and the last and lifts them up. God chose a murderer, Moses, to lead His people out of Egypt and into the promised land. God chose a small, skinny kid, named David to be the King of Israel, and a teenage girl, from the backwater town of Nazareth, to be the mother of God. He chose a lowly carpenter to be the adoptive father of Jesus Christ. None of these people were great by earthly standards, but they were still chosen by God. 

   The Christians who persevered and endured, who came first, had to deal with the failures of Christians who were still recipients of God's Grace. We need to be ready for the time when God will lift up the last and the least. We might want to pay less attention to this world's champions, and pay more attention to the ones this world calls also-rans.

   It is pretty humbling when this parable uncovers how big of a role envy plays in our lives. But, it is also thrilling to be reminded of the vastness of God's Grace. Grace that we have experienced, as well as those we least expect have experienced. Maybe we should be less worried about the fairness of this world, and realize that we need to just be thankful for whatever God's Love and Grace pours into our lives, and the lives of others......Amen

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Let the Children Come

People were bringing little children to Jesus to have him touch them, but the disciples rebuked them. When Jesus saw this, he was indignant. He said to them, "Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. I tell you the truth, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it." And he took the children in his arms, put his hands on them and blessed them. Mark 10:13-16.

 Here Jesus is making a remarkable statement, He says that unless people receive the Kingdom of God as a little child would, they won't go to Heaven. Jesus isn't saying that an adult can't be saved, He is simply saying that if we don't humble ourselves as little children do, we will die with the pride that blinds us.

 In Mathew 18:3-4 Jesus clarifies this when he says “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever takes the lowly position of this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.

This is where we can really see what Jesus meant when he talked about being as a little child. Jesus meant that we need to humble ourselves before God. The sinful world is saturated with worldly pride, and stubbornness. Children don't know a lot about receiving the Kingdom of God, they aren't very concerned about death, resurrection, and eternal life. Children don't really worry themselves with these kinds of things.

 This is what Jesus is trying to tell us, we do not need to fear. We have His promise that we will not be alone, that He is waiting for us when this life ends, that our new life in God's Kingdom will be wonderful and joyful. To receive God's Kingdom as we would as little children, we need to remember how to play, how to find joy in everything we do, how to be goofy and silly, just remember how to have fun.

 Jesus tells us to trust, to relax in His arms, knowing that He will take care of us and all of our needs. Jesus tells us to play and have fun, to find delight and joy in ourselves and all of His creation. When we find these, we receive the Kingdom of God. So today, go to the park and feed the ducks, sit on your front porch and blow bubbles into the wind, join your children on the play ground,or help them to gather a bouquet of dandelions. Whatever it is you do, be a little child and receive God's Kingdom......Amen

Thursday, September 7, 2017


   God did not make us to live alone. He created us to live in a community. A community is very powerful, being together means having the ability to succeed together for God's Kingdom. But what happens when the community suffers? After all, we are human.

   Developing a community is hard thing to do, it involves risk taking, it involves letting yourself be vulnerable to other people. By nature, all of us are selfish, and filled with pride, that is who we are. It doesn't make it right, it means we need to learn to overcome it.

   The sad truth is that people are going to hurt us, and we are going to hurt other people. That is a reality, someone is going to accidentally or intentionally hurt your feelings. It starts when we are children, kids making fun of other kids. then as teenagers/adults, we start to make prejudgments of others. Can you believe what she is wearing? Well, I heard that he...., I can't believe they came to church dressed like that, How can they live like that? We can go on and on.

   As we learn to live more like Christ we can change the world for His purpose, we can be the community He created us to be. In Gal. 5:22-24 it says but when the Holy Spirit controls our lives, He will produce this kind of fruit in us, love, joy, peace, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self control. Here, there is no conflict with the law. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have nailed the passions and desires of their sinful nature to His cross and crucified them there. (NLT)

   So how do we develop these loving relationships? I am so very glad you asked. In loving relationships there must always be patience. In 1 Timothy 1:16 it says, But that is why God had mercy on me, so that Christ Jesus could use me as a prime example of His great patience with even the worst sinners. Then others will realize that they too, can believe in Him and have eternal life. (NLT)  Patience is the ability to take a great deal of punishment without losing your temper, without becoming irritated or angry, or taking retribution. We must learn to use self control, and not to make snap judgments.

   In loving relationships there must also be kindness. Kindness is that state of being that has the character of loving affection, sympathy, friendliness, patience, gentleness, and goodness. Kindness is shown through the way a person speaks, or acts. It is more like a decision than an emotional feeling and act. Prov. 25: 21-23 says, If your enemy is hungry, give him food to eat, if he is thirsty, give him water to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head, and the Lord will reward you. As a north wind brings rain, so a sly tongue brings angry looks. (NLT)

   In loving relationships there must be gentleness, we must be sensitive to others. In Col 3:13 it says, You must make allowance for each other's faults and forgive the person who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others. (NLT) forgiveness is me giving up the right to hurt you because you hurt me. It doesn't mean we become doormats, but it means we are honest but gentle, stern but kind.

    Most conflict can and will be resolved with honest, but gentle communication. we need to be careful of taking on the attitude of anger, malice, or gossip because we don't want to be like the world anymore. We must be different because we are followers of Jesus Christ. When we opened the door and asked Christ into our hearts we made the decision to not live as we used to, but to follow and learn to be more like Christ.

   Patience,  kindness, and gentleness helps to bring unity to a community, and will develop loving relationships that will last........ Amen

Thursday, August 31, 2017

Show Your Faith, Take Up The Cross For Jesus

                                     Matthew 16:21-28

   Jesus knew why He had come, to take up His cross, and follow the will of God. It was absolutely essential for Him to go to Jerusalem, to unjustly suffer and die on the cross at the hands of wicked, hateful men, and on the third day be raised again. By doing so, He took our sins, my and yours, off of our shoulders, and through this awesome forgiveness, restored our relationship with God.

   You see, just as Jesus did for us, He call us to take up our cross and follow Him. Sometimes though, I think we misunderstand what our cross is. Our cross is not something that all people have in common, Christians and non-Christians. Illness, disease, struggles in relationships, or job difficulties are not necessarily crosses because all humans have these in common. I think our crosses are something that Jesus puts in front of us because we are His disciples. Caring for the lonely and forgotten, giving a hug to the untouchable, loving the unlovable, to help above your tithe to help meet an unforeseen ministry challenge, or any other way that God is calling you to take up your cross and follow Christ.

   Finally, in Matthew 16:27 Jesus says, The Son of Man is going to come in His Father's glory with His angels, and then He will reward each person according to what he has done. Now we know that He does not promise eternal life because of what we do, but from what is in our hearts. How willingly we take up our cross to follow Him demonstrates the faith in our hearts and our loving response for all that He has done for us. It is faith which He promises to reward with His gift of eternal life.

    Show others the faith you have in Jesus Christ, show them the compassion that He has shown to you, take up your cross and follow Jesus....Amen


Friday, August 25, 2017


  Today as I was reading my bible, I started thinking about Matthew. Now Matthew, not unlike myself, was probably not the person most of us would recruit for a ministry. Neither I or Matthew would have met the expectations of what a good disciple of Christ would look like in a ministry setting.

  Matthew was not at all liked because he collected taxes for the Romans. I was not a tax collector, but as a drug addict, and dealer, I shared Matthew's moral values. Everybody at that time knew the moral behavior of tax collectors for the Roman Empire was one that most people would not want to imitate because they had their hand in every part of the daily life.

   Matthew was a tax collector in Capernaum, a small fishing village. When the fisherman returned with their daily catch, Matthew would be there, ready to tax their catch. He also would tax them for the number of nets they had on the boats. Of course, Matthew would tax them more than what he gave to Rome so he had money in his own pockets. It wasn't hard to see why he was hated, and didn't even come close to the approval of the Pharisee who were watching when Jesus walked up to Matthew and said follow me.

   So when Matthew gave up his life and left with Jesus, and was seen in the presence of other sinners, the Pharisee naturally asked the disciples, why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners? This is not how proper followers of the law behave, the Pharisees did not like anything less than the perfection that they thought they personified. You see, even their name set them apart, the name Pharisee literally means "The Separated Ones." Scripture tells us that the Pharisees separated themselves from the common folk, the tax collectors and sinners. They separated themselves from anyone not like them.

   Now we must ask ourselves why did Jesus eat with those sinners, and why did He associate with social outcasts? Jesus Himself provides the answer, Those who are well do not need a physician, but the sick do. Go and learn the meanings of the words, I desire mercy, not sacrifice. I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners. And, the facts are, that we are all sinners. St. Paul's letter to the Romans says all have sinned and fall short of the Glory of God. (Romans 3:23) Paul did not say just the tax collectors sinned, or the thieves and murderers sinned, or even the adulterers have sinned, He said all have sinned, and that means everyone.

   Unfortunately for the Pharisees, they couldn't understand that nobody, including themselves, could be made right before God through their own doings. They were so caught up in all the things they did for God that they believed God was indebted to them. as a result they were so wrapped up in themselves that they had no time, or place, or purpose for a person such as Matthew. But that is not how Jesus viewed things, because Jesus walked right up to Matthew and said follow me, and Matthew got up and followed Him.

   That my friends is the same call that Jesus gives to you and me. And if anyone should ever ask you how God has called you? You can tell them that God has called me, a poor sinner, to be His disciple in His creation. You see, the good news is not that Jesus came to call the righteous, but the sinner. Jesus did not come to heal the healthy, but to cure the sick. And the sickness that covers us all is our sin that only Jesus Christ Himself can cure through His mercy and forgiveness.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Are You Wheat or a Weed?

                                                              Matthew 13:1-9, 18-23

   Today, let's compare ourselves to this parable. Let's find out if we are weeds or wheat. We can ask ourselves the question, do we want to look like the wheat only when it is convenient for us, and then look like the weeds the rest of the time? How about if I put it another way? Does our faith in Jesus Christ or the responsibility of living a committed kind of life get turned on and off when it suits us? Many people label Christians "Hypocrites" because they say one thing, or expect something from others, but not themselves. Are you like that? Am I like that? Do we have one standard for ourselves, and a different standard for others? Do we live out what Jesus has demonstrated in His life as the way of living out our lives here on Earth? We must ask ourselves if being a disciple of Christ ends when we walk out of the church doors on Sunday, and then starts again when we walk back into the church the next Sunday? Or, does being a Christian do something to your life, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week? You are the only one on this planet who can answer these questions, you are the only one that knows what is hidden in your heart and mind.

   Another question this parable brings up is, are we being productive in our lives? Are we bearing fruit for God? Jesus says that the wheat bears good fruit, but the weeds bear no fruit. Are you willing to bear fruit, to get involved for the sake of the Gospel? I know my church always need people to help with projects, or responsibilities that come with the church. I have always wondered why it is so hard to find people to help feed the poor in a Christian church if we are bearing God's fruit. Jesus Christ is asking you right now, to search your hearts and souls, to see if you will bear fruit for Him. He asks us if we, you and I, are willing to get involved with what He has going on? He is asking us to bear fruit for Him......

Thursday, July 20, 2017

How many heads do you have?

                              Sermon I preached on Sunday July 12, 2015 on Mark 6:14-29

  I have to start by admitting to you that I had a very difficult time with this passage. I have spent weeks staring at it, praying about it, and what seemed like endless hours of research. I was looking for that point of brilliance that would dazzle and amaze you, once more showing my preaching skills, once more being the "Golden Boy." But, up until Friday night I drew a blank. I had nothing, nada, zip. So I started reading the passage over and over again each time getting a new thought, and then writing them down. This is what came out.

      To me anyway, this passage is pretty straight forward. Mark's intention of placing this story where he did seems to be pretty clear. It is sandwiched between 2 stories of discipleship. On one side you have the story of Jesus sending out the disciples 2 X 2 to share His ministry, and on the other side is their return from that ministry, and in between is the story of John's beheading. It's an obvious connection from this story to that of discipleship. A lot of my research went in that direction, reminding us that the Christian call is maybe a call to suffer, or maybe it is a call to face death, standing up to the evil powers of the world and not back down as they scream horrible threats at us. I thought that would be my sermon to preach. It would be easy to write. Add a couple of quotes, a sad story, talk about the bible, and voila a sermon. But, God won't let me go there, He won't let me take the easy way out.

      So then I thought about writing my sermon to assign blame. I could place the blame on Herod and his family. Then I could expand by placing blame on the power structures, exposing the powers that be, another easy sermon to write. Establish the wickedness of Herod and his family and friends, present some contemporary examples of this form of wickedness, place some blame, and voila, a sermon. But, God won't let me go there either.

      It is true, most everyone in this story seems easy to blame, there seems to be plenty to go around. So, why can't I blame these people? Why can't I hold these ugly acts against them? Because blaming limits my ability to hear the whole story. When I place blame it allows me to feel a sense of superiority. Then the temptation is too great to avoid finding contemporaries so I can continue the blame game. It's the liberals who are to blame, or it's the conservatives, or the homosexuals, or the heterosexuals, or the rich, or the poor, or the addicts, or it's the kids today. You can fill in the blank, there is always someone to blame. It's safer to blame, it's easier to blame, it hurts less to blame. When I blame, I don't have to see myself in the story, when I blame, I give up my power to change.

      But, there is another direction to go, the more dangerous of the choices, the road less traveled. So, I have danced around it long enough. It's time to head down that road less traveled. It's time to go where God was telling me to go, to face the ugly truth, it's time to face why this passage was so hard for me.

      When I read from the bible I try to identify with the people in the story. I figure out which one is closer to who I am, and it helps me to understand what is being said. In this story I want to so badly identify with John the Baptist. Mark's gospel begins with John, Chapter 1, verse 1. It is clear to me that in Mark's mind, John is critically linked with the beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ. The gospel writers portray John in 2 roles, that of a prophet and, as a forerunner. The prophetic part of John is of one who came out of the desert to proclaim the coming of the kingdom of Heaven, and issue the call to repentance. He wore a camels hair cloak and a leather belt. He ate locust and wild honey. The second role, a forerunner was a military term that was used to describe soldiers who would run ahead of the army to either announce or prepare for it's arrival. John announces and prepares for the Kingdom of God by announcing and preparing for the one who is to come after him, who was to be more powerful than John. He also scouts the territory, because the resistance that John receives, Jesus will receive.

      This story of John's death is the only story in Mark that is not about Jesus, or maybe it is.  Mark is saying that John's ministry points out the beginning of the story of Jesus Christ, John's death signals the beginning of the death of Jesus. John was a man with a mission, a man with convictions, a man who did the right thing regardless of the consequences, and a man that makes no sense to me at all. And yet, I want to identify with John, the honorable one, the one with convictions, the one who does the right thing regardless of the consequences, a man who trusted God so much that he risked his life and lost it. I want to identify with John so much, but I can't. But I do find that I identify Herod. The one without honor, the one who changes his convictions to whatever pleases him, the one who is more concerned with his own image. Herod is a man who makes much more sense to me. He is the man I am closer to if I am to be honest with myself.

      I have identified with shady people in the bible before, but they were people who eventually changed their ways. They were people who usually ended up having convictions, who did the right thing eventually. They were people whose biggest inability is one of not understanding what was happening around them. Herod, his biggest liability is is own sense of power. It is his sense of self importance, his misguided attempt to be revered, to look good, to be the "Golden Boy".

      When Herod heard about Jesus, He said it as John the Baptist raised again, but I don't think this is necessarily a resurrection confession made by Herod. To me the statement seems to be maybe more of an exasperation statement. Man, when is this all going to end? It's John the Baptist all over again, when is this going to end? Herod had John arrested because he challenged the validity of his marriage to Herodias. A popular figure that used scripture in public to declare the illegitimacy of the family was a serious political threat. This arrangement also allowed Herod to protect John from his wife, because Mark tells us that Herod loved to hear John preach.

      So then, Herod has this party. It was his way to show off in front of all the important people, the military leaders, and the first families of Galilee, and all of his supporters and potential supporters. Then, his stepdaughter danced and Herod was so pleased that he promised her anything, even half of his kingdom, which he really didn't have. Herod made empty promises in front of important friends and supporters. So she took the opportunity given and coxed by her mother, asked for John the Baptist's head on a platter. Herod not wanting to lose face in front of all these important people had to concede. The man who was allegedly protecting John conceded. And John, the honorable one, the man with convictions, the one who did the right thing, and took the road less traveled, died.

      As I mentioned earlier I try to relate to the people of the bible. From Moses to Judas, I know in me there is the possibility of being either one. So, I believe that the bible should be used to point the finger at myself and not others, seeing myself as I truly am, and reminding myself of who I am capable of being if I am not careful. When I am not careful, I behave like Herod. I don't think Herod was an evil man, I think he was just doing the best he could do with what he had. He was just trying to hold on with what he had left. I think Herod became Herod by default and not decision. I believe that if I had the power that Herod had, my palace would be filled with all the severed heads of those who stepped on my toes, because on my best day I am no better than Herod.

      So then, the question comes up, who among us is better than Herod? Who among us has not twisted events, facts, or details to suit our own purposes? Who among us has not placed more value on our own image than on human need? Who among us has not given into the easier of 2 choices, doing the wrong thing simply because it was the easy way, because the right thing was just simply to terrifying? Who among us has not given into our own pride, or fear, or our own sense of superiority? Who among us would not have cut John's head off if we were in that same position?

      So maybe this is a sermon on the cost of discipleship after all. Only the cost is not where we end up, but of seeing who we really are. Or maybe it is a sermon about blame, only we find that we are all equally to blame. We are all equally to blame when it comes to abuses of power, when it comes  to suffering, when it comes to death, when it comes to the deaths of the honorable ones. The ones who do the right thing. No one get's out without owning up to a piece of the responsibility. Maybe it is a sermon about both of these things, but if you and I Identify with Herod, then maybe, just maybe this is a sermon about grace.

       Grace is a word that is often used, but seldom pondered. It is a word that some use in very limited terms. It is a word that we sometimes use to justify our actions. But, grace is not an abstract concept. It is not a means that allows me to justify my actions. Grace is the only thing that allows me to get up one more time. It is the only thing that allows me to face my past, a past that is filled with severed heads and bogus promises, a past of which I am very seldom proud. Grace reminds me that even though I am, on my best day, just like Herod, I am somehow a part of God's activity in this world, even though I have severed a lot of heads. This story is about the good news of Jesus Christ, and that good news is that maybe, just maybe, through the Grace of God, I may make it through the day without adding another head to my collection. You know, for someone who had nothing to say, I have been saying it for a long time. So now, how do I end this sermon? How do I end this long nothing to say? How do I present grace in such a way that it can stand up to the person I know I am?How can a little word stand up to a giant past?

      The thing about life is that so much of it is trial and error. Some of us have made so many mistakes that we are afraid to try. We have made so many errors that we don't feel worthy to try. Yet, when God calls us, He does not call us as the people we will become, He calls us as the people we are. And I can guarantee that there is not one person here whom God is not calling. On one occasion, when I was doing some research, I found the Heidelberg Catechism, and in that I found these words that have echoed in my head since I read them. The question is asked, what is your only comfort in life and in death? and the answer is, That I belong, body and soul, in life and in death, not to myself, but to my Faithful Savior, Jesus Christ, who at the cost of His own blood has fully paid for my sins.

      You see? That is the good news brothers and sisters, we do not belong ourselves, we belong to Jesus Christ. The Christian promise is not that we will be free from pain, fear, pride, violence, or abuse, the Christian promise is that whether we receive  pain or cause it, whether we find ourselves in the position of John the Baptist or of Herod Antipas, we belong to Jesus Christ......... Amen



Thursday, July 13, 2017


    The Bible has a lot to say about love. It says that God wants you to love Him, it says God wants you to love your neighbors, but it also says that God loves you. There is so much written about love in the Bible that some call it God's Love Letter.

    At the time when Jesus was born all people cared about was the rules. Do this, do that, wear this, don't wear that, worship here, Rule after rule. There was a little love, but most people were only concerned about following the rules. But Jesus cared about love, He came down among us to show us how much He loves us. He loves us so much, that He died on the cross to wash our sins away so that we can live with Him forever and always.

    There were a lot of people who really liked Jesus' message of love, but there were also a lot of people who thought following the rules was the only thing that counted, but they forget that we are human and we make mistakes. Then what? One mistake? Is that it, and then it's over? No way people, Jesus came so when we make mistakes, He has saved us. It is such an awesome way to show how much He loves us.

    One day the rule followers tried to trick Jesus and asked Him which rule was the most important one to follow. Jesus said "Love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and with all your mind, This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is "Love your neighbor as yourself." All of the laws hang on these 2 commandments. Jesus turned all of those rules into just 2 simple ones. Love God, Love others.

    When you keep the Sabbath for Jesus, that is a way of showing Him love. When you honor your mother and father, that is a way of showing them love. Every single rule fits into Love God and Love others, every single commandment is about showing love. It's so simple if you just look. Jesus loves us so much that He forgives us when we forget to love Him or our neighbors like we should, but that is great news, because we could all use a little more love.            

Monday, July 10, 2017

Rest For Your Soul

       Sermon I preached on Sunday July, 9th at Messiah Lutheran Church in Auburn Washington
                                                   Matthew 11:16-17, 25-30

   I don't think anyone here would call me a biblical scholar. Heck, I barely have a high school education, but for those of you that have heard me preach before, you might remember me mentioning that I like to argue with God while I am writing them. When Pastor Chuck and I got together to discuss what I would preach on and this reading came up, I was like yeah I got this one. I have done bible studies on it, and blogged about it, I have this one God.

   I had this sermon written pretty much 2 weeks ago. I even had a part about baptisms in it because Pastor Chuck said there would be baptisms today. I went over it at Family Camp, practicing how I would preach it, but that entire time I had this little voice in my head telling me that is not what I was supposed to preach, this is not the message that is supposed to go out. But, I kept pushing that voice aside, I have this one God.

   I argued and fought with that voice all week, right up to about 12:30 AM Thursday morning. I sat straight up in bed, wide awake, because I hit my head on the upper bunk. Then I realized we were having an earthquake, and I was like OK, I get it God, so I rewrote my sermon......

   I am going to start with a question. Have you ever found yourself dissatisfied with someone that it doesn't matter what they do, you aren't going to like it? No matter what this person does, it annoys you? I think I might be that person to God. But, when you stop and look at the situation, you discover it isn't really what they are doing that annoys you, but it's who they are. Or, maybe when look closer you might find the issue is not with them at all. but with you, your own heart, your own unwillingness to love thy neighbor, or your unwillingness to change.

   It sounds like Jesus is going through a time when it doesn't matter what He does, or how He tries to reach the people, they will not be satisfied. Jesus points out that John the Baptist was sent living an austere life, neither eating or drinking, and the people said he has a demon. Jesus comes eating and drinking, and He is called a glutton and a drunkard, and ridiculed for eating and drinking with the wrong kind people. Well people, what is it that will make you happy? What is it that will satisfy you?

   Both Jesus and John were dismissed by many as irrelevant in their day and time. Jesus says that the people are acting like children who can't play nicely together. The one side wants one thing, and the other side wants something else, and they cannot agree, so in the end they will do nothing.

   I was having a conversation with a pastor friend of mine a few weeks ago, and I asked him what it takes to get past the many distractions in the world and get people motivated and inspire them to engage in the ministry of the church, or even come to worship or bible study? He said to me that while it may seem that we have to compete with many things in this world that would take people's time and energy, our greatest challenge is to overcome their inclination to do nothing. That just blew me away, I had not thought about it that way, something so simple and it seemed so profound to me. Doing nothing is easy.

   Jesus has carried out His work in word and deed so that the people may learn who He is. In previous chapters Jesus has taught the crowds with His sermon on the mount, He has healed the centurion's slave, the paralytic, 2 blind men, and many others. He has cleansed a leper, cast out demons, and yet His contemporaries prefer to sit on the sidelines, not involved  in what Jesus has going on. Doing nothing rather than taking seriously Jesus' message of life and salvation, His ministry to the people or the work of His disciples. You see my friends, this Gospel Lesson is a call to discipleship, a call to take up the work of Jesus in this world that needs to hear what He has to say, a world in need of healing, love, and care.

   Jesus calls to us over the other voices, desires, and pressures. Come to Me, take My yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle  and humble at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light. It may sound like Jesus is inviting you to rest for awhile in some of these words He says, and at the same time there is this taking up of His yoke, His cause, His purpose, Jesus' ministry.

   To me, there are a few things to notice about what Jesus is saying here. First, there is this yoke of Jesus. You may have noticed that I have interpreted as Jesus' purpose or cause, His ministry. This is what He calls us to, but then He shows us an easier way through the use of that same word.

   I am not sure everyone here knows what a yoke is or what it is used for, so I will explain a little. A yoke is a farm tool that is placed around the shoulders of a horse, or an ox, or even a mule, to pull equipment such as a plow, to do it's work. Sometimes a yoke would be used to hook a number of horses together to pull a covered wagon or coach to provide transportation. But, the interesting thing about this yoke, which makes it relevant for us here today, is that you can hook a number of animals together, you can yoke them together, so they would all pull together. The yoke helps them pull together in the same direction.  Jesus' yoke, His mission, does that for us today. It draws us together, binds us together to carry out the mission Jesus has given to us, to spread His message of life, love, and salvation, and to carry out His message with deeds of healing, caring for, and providing for others.

   Jesus also says, learn from Me. There are  many ways we can learn from Jesus. We can read the gospel stories about Him and allow Him to teach us by example. We can read Paul's letters and learn from them what the church is called to be about, how the church members are to live and work together, how the church carries out it's ministry in the community and the world through it's members.

   One of the commentators I was reading while writing this sermon talked about a pastor he knew that required all new members to go out on visits to visit the sick at care facilities and hospitals, to mentor and teach. Some of these members would say what are we paying a pastor for? The Pastor's answer was you are paying me in part to teach you how to be disciples. Discipleship is an important witness to our faith in Jesus.

   Finally, Jesus says, you will find rest for your souls, for my yoke is easy and my burden is light. If you are carrying out the ministry of Jesus, how can that ever be restful and how is that yoke easy and light? First off, it doesn't say that it will be restful for your body, but for your soul, which casts that rest into a whole different light. You will experience joy, love, and the Grace of  God as you carry out the ministry that He is calling you to. I know some of you have experienced this in serving others. How many times have you heard it said by those who went on a mission trip or served in the community, That I got more out of it than they did?

   We all have burdens, things we carry around with us. Sometimes they are worries, sometimes job stresses or retirement stresses, or the sense of burden from the things you believe you are expected to do. If you are doing something because you feel like you have to, or it is expected, or you want something out of it, then you can sense that task as a burden. You will become weary physically, emotionally, and spiritually. But, that is not what Jesus is talking about here. He is envisioning another motivation for taking up His cause. That would be appreciation, thanksgiving, and joy for what He has already done for you. Your relationship with Jesus takes on another dimension when you think of doing what you are called to do from this perspective.

   You see? Jesus calls you to be yoked with Him, to take up His cause in word and deed, He calls all Christians, not just Lutherans, or Catholics, or Baptists, but all Christians, to be yoked together, unified, all of us working together with one purpose, His purpose. It is Christ Himself who is the yoke that binds us together. It is in Christ where we find our rest.

   With all that goes on in this world, you may find it difficult to imagine where or how, but it does happen, and it happens right here. It happens right here through baptisms, it happens right here when we come together again and again to hear the word of God proclaimed, to give thanks for all God has done in Christ Jesus, and it happens right here when we receive, touch, and taste the word of God shared as we gather around the sacred meal of bread and wine, grace and acceptance.

   You who are weary come, you who are carrying heavy burdens come and leave them here, at the cross. Know the joy of Christ's presence in your life, and then go in peace and serve the Lord....... Amen






Thursday, June 29, 2017

2 X 4 upside the head

I found this story as I was studying on some things, and it kind of hit me on the head with a 2 X 4, as my good friend would say. It does not say who told this story, or if it is even true or not, it was just an eye opener and great reminder for me. My hope is that it will be that for someone who might read my blog.

There is this married couple with a 5 year old daughter, They are not "poor," but they are not "rich" either. Mom and dad both have to work to get the bills paid. Dad has a job that requires him to make 200 people happy with an hour commute both ways. Mom has a job that she can mostly work from home, but also is in charge of getting the 5 year old from school or taking her to Dr. Appts, etc....

So one Friday after a hard week of work the family is grocery shopping together. The 5 year old is in charge of driving the race car cart, and is having a blast doing it. She is singing and happy, but mom and dad keep telling her to quiet down and behave, as the aggravation of dealing with the crowded grocery store builds upon the busy work week, the long commutes, and running the child around. Mom and dad go from barking at the child to barking at each other as they try to get through all the people.

On the way home the barking at each other continues, but dad is also barking at all the other drivers like they all need to get out of his way. Mom is barking at dad for cussing at the other drivers, and the 5 year old is sitting in the back singing as mom and dad bark at each other, and every now and then throw in a quiet down for her. The 5 year old puts down the window in the back seat and dad barks at her to roll it up. She tries to tell her dad something, but he just tells her to quiet down and roll up the window.

When they get home it's more of the same, mom and dad barking at each other as they head into the kitchen. The 5 year old tries to follow, but dad just tells her to go to bed, so she goes to her room. When mom and dad come to tuck her in she is sitting at her window with it wide open. Dad barks at her to close the window, you will let all the heat out. She tells her mom and dad that she is listening to the angels sing, but her mom just tells her to close the window, we don't hear any angels singing. The little girl closes her window and crawls into bed, she then looks at mom and dad and says, "If you want to hear the angels, you have to listen with your heart."  BAM !!! 2 X 4 upside the head !!!

When you read your bible, you hear God's voice through your heart. When you say your prayers, they go to God through your heart. We are all filled with the Holy Spirit, the Counselor promised by Jesus. This part of God did not come to us as someone we can touch and see, but rather the Holy spirit came to live in our hearts. The Holy Spirit is already in your heart, all you have to do is ask God  for a fresh filling everyday and the Holy Spirit will prepare your heart to hear God's voice. That still, small voice inside you is the one that will help you hear God's voice, and see the opportunities that God has put into your life......

Monday, June 26, 2017

We are all one in Christ Jesus


       Prejudice, Discrimination, Segregation, Stereotyping and Racism. Our Society needs to stand up and fight against these offenses.  God is color blind, are you?

      Prejudice uses a man's outward appearance to form an opinion of a man's character. Discrimination takes away a person's right to have. Segregation takes away a person's right to belong. Stereotyping takes away a person's right to be. Racism takes away a person's right to be born.......

      It seems ironic to me that the differences between races are exaggerated when people are labeled black,white, yellow, red, or any other color. Those very words cause us to separate into opposing groups, rather than emphasizing the closeness of us all, they make the differences in us more important than the similarities.

      Stereotypes lead to prejudice, stereotyping is a lazy way of lumping together a certain race, a certain class, or even a certain occupation, and then adding to each individual the same characteristics of the group. Just because some in a certain group have the same characteristics, doesn't mean everyone in that group share them. Stereotypes like all blondes are dingy, all men are pigs, or all women are bitchy, do not demonstrate careful, calculated observations. What they do show is laziness of judgement, and blind acceptance as some generalization as to being the rule for all. Scripture says that those who judge according to outward appearance are foolish, that we do not see people the way God sees them, for the Lord does not see as man sees, for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart. (1 Samuel 16:7)

       Prejudice is very ugly, it separates people, isolates people, and it excludes people. Prejudice is the thought of an ignorant mind that sees itself as better. It thinks it understands a person or their actions without having any first hand knowledge, or before obtaining all the facts. Prejudice comes from ignorance, and leads to more ignorance. Prejudice is blind, after Jesus had given sight to a man that was born blind, He sharply points out the Pharisee's prejudice, And Jesus said, for judgment I have come into this world, that those who do not see may see, and those who do see may be made blind. Then some of the Pharisees who were with Him heard these words and said to Him, Are we blind also? Jesus said to them, If you were blind, you would have no sin, but now you say we see, therefore your sin remains. (John 9: 39-41) Prejudice is never neutral, it reacts very strongly for or against someone or something without knowing the facts. Sometimes, it is confused with conviction, but there is nothing noble about Prejudice.

      Racism is not new, It goes all the way back to Biblical times. It uses crude, ugly descriptions of people, that are demeaning and offensive. Such ugly slurs should never be spoken by people who are bought by the blood of Jesus Christ. Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but what is used for necessary edification, that it may impart Grace to the hearers. (Ephesians 4:29)
Racism is a small minded man's way of elevating himself by putting others down and stepping on them. (Philippians 2:3-4) Racism is foolhardy and arrogant, one race is no better than the other because we all came from the same blood, the same ancestors. And He has made from one blood every nation of men to dwell on the face of this earth, and has determined their preappointed times and the boundaries of their habitation. (Acts 17:26)

      Racism is a sin of pride, One thinks he is better than another because of the color of his skin. For if anyone thinks himself to be something when he is nothing, he deceives himself. (Galatians 6:3) God must think that racism is an important sin to overcome, because He performed a notable miracle to dispel the Jewish prejudice against the Gentiles. Peter's first hint with his vision of the animals descending from Heaven upon a great sheet. The conclusion of all those events(Acts 10:1-23) was unmistakable, God has shown me that I should not call any man common or unclean... In truth I perceive that God shows no partiality, but in every nation whoever fears Him and work righteousness is accepted by Him. (Acts 10:28, 34-35)

      Prejudice, and racism, will blind us to the truth, and cause us to believe a lie. I charge you before God and the Lord Jesus Christ and the elect angels that you observe these things without prejudice and do nothing out of favoritism. (1 Timothy 5:21) You see? Race means nothing to God, He shows no favoritism to any race, God is color blind. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus (Galatians 3:28)

Friday, June 9, 2017


                                                               Romans 14:13-18

      The things in this world that people look for to find joy are very different from what the Gospel tells us. I think it is most clearly pointed out in the scripture reading above. If we look into the political world, the financial world, the business world, or the world of education, it becomes very obvious that the world's ways puts stumbling blocks into the way of others to slow them down and gain the advantage and leave them to eat dust as we pass by them on the road of life. But, what is it that brings us true joy as disciples of Christ? I think Paul says it best in Romans when he gives us a pep talk and encourages us to seek righteousness, and in doing so, find peace and joy. How do you seek righteousness you may ask?

      Well first, you must check your attitude you carry in life. If our spirit is competitive, then we will
never approach it. If we carry a spirit of  bitterness, then we will never approach it. While this scripture uses food as an example, it's not about food at all. It is something totally different that gets in our way as we seek righteousness in this world.

      There are those that say you can only obtain righteousness through the classical spiritual disciplines like prayer, worship, meditation, fasting, and studying. And, while is I strongly encourage Christians to live out those disciplines in their lives, I don't believe that you can find righteousness exclusively through these disciplines. They may help you on your path, but they are of little use to you if the spirit behind it has a "Holier Than Thou" attitude. "Self Righteousness" is one of the greatest errors in our search, and is totally opposite of what we are taught as disciples of Christ. It's like taking the pharisees approach to it, and shouting your piety from the roof tops. or making sure that everyone knows when you are fasting, or praying. By doing this, we become self righteous and fall further away from righteousness.

      What I think will help our journey toward righteousness is to look truthfully at our own lives and remove all the things that would keep us from finding the righteousness that God desires for us. What is it that causes, as the scripture says, "A weaker brother or sister to stumble"? What is it that turns people of the world away and causes them to be skeptical about the Christian Faith, and want nothing to do with the church or the people that follow Jesus?  How about a negative spirit, a judgmental attitude, a legalistic approach to faith, or pointing fingers at the weakness or frailties of others? All of these do nothing to bring people into the faith and can turn people so far away that we will never be able to share the love of Christ with them.

      I sit here and tell you that we cannot shame people to faith, we must love them to faith. We must get close to them in their frail and sin scarred condition and show them how much Jesus Christ loves them. It is Christ's desire to have a loving relationship with us. It is also His desire that we would lead others to share his love. There is not a better example of the love we are supposed to share than the love Jesus shares. He has never said to one person that they must live a sinless and blameless life before He healed them. He never once passed judgement on someone for their position in life. Instead, he met people were they stood and shared His love unconditionally, and that drew them to Him.

     It is that kind of love that we should show the world, and we should do it so that our weaker brothers and sisters won't stumble, but that they should walk safely into the arms of a waiting and loving Savior. You want to know true joy? Seek righteousness. Where does that righteousness come from? It comes from a loving response to Jesus Christ. We cannot do it on our own, we can only get it as a gift from God, and a willing spirit that is the image of and likeness of Christ......Amen

Monday, June 5, 2017

God is Love


We are not the source of our love, God is. Scripture says God is love, and that He sent His Son into this world so that we may live through Him. And, as we experience His life we will naturally radiate love, for it says God IS love. It is not that God has love, or does love, it is the fact that love is defined by the nature of God. And if God is love, nothing that you have done can make Him love you less, and if you doubt the depth of His love, just think about Christ stretched out on the cross for you, because He wanted to spend eternity with you.

When we realize God loves us even though we have done things that don't please Him, We will learn to love others that have done things that don't please us. The Bible says God hates divorce, but even if you have been through a divorce, I want you to know that God loves you. God is truth and He hates lies, but even if you have lied God loves you. If you have cheated on your taxes, God loves you. Even if you have had an abortion, God still loves you. In Ephesians 3, Paul tries to explain that our passion should be to embrace as much of the love of Jesus as possible. It is not enough to say that we must seek to know His love, we must understand it's dimensions, and Paul gives us 4 dimensions to explore. Width, length, height, and depth.

When I try to imagine the width of God's love, I think about how encompassing it must be. He loves the unlovely just as much as He loves the lovely. His love expands to those we dislike, and to those we like. When everyone else walks out on you, He walks to you. What kind of tape measure can you use to measure that kind of love? Here is how wide it is, as far as the East is from the West.

I think when Paul used the word "length," He was talking about the endurance of God's love. When we are ready to quit and give up, God is just getting started. His love endures forever, and it goes far beyond anything we can imagine. He is so stubborn in His love for us that He refuses to stop loving us. Into the dark and through the storms, He looks beyond our failures and our faults and His love endures forever.

What is the height of His love? His mercies go higher than heaven. How high is heaven? There are over 1 billion stars in our galaxy, and each star is multiple light years away, some even thousands. 1 light year is 186,000 miles per second traveling for 365 days straight. There are an estimated 100 billion galaxies. Can you imagine how high that is? His love is higher than all of that.

Oh, and the depth of His love! How deep is your pit? How dark is your storm? His love goes deeper, and if you are at the bottom of a well and trying to find God, you won't have to look far because He is right next to you. Like a treasure that hides it's most precious stones in the depth, so is His love. Haven't you discovered that in the hardest of times, times when you are in deep loneliness, pain and heartache, that is when we discover the intimate times with God. His light shines brightest in the dark.....Amen

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

How do I know

       The Christian walk is a walk of faith. It is very rare for God to speak to someone in a voice that can be heard by the ear. So, how do I know it is God leading me, or just my own idea? There is nothing that guarantees this is the way I should be going. It would make it so much easier if there were some guarantees, something that says this is what God wants me to do.

       The walk of faith I am on means I walk with a belief and/or hope that this is what I am supposed to be doing. I am walking with a certain feeling in my mind, in my soul that it is God leading me. I know it is God leading me because that feeling stays with me, it never goes away. I cannot forget about it, it does not just feel like an idea, but a deeper emotion. It feels more like a must do sort of thing, a deep in my heart and soul must do sort of thing.

      When I see people walking with the Lord, following that deeper emotion, when I see God working in their lives or even in my own life, I am reminded again that my life does not belong to me. When I remember who I belong to, I have more confidence that what I am doing is the right thing. When I let myself be lead by the Holy Spirit, only then do I personally feel hope in my choices, and circumstances that my future holds. Only as I am walking in faith, will I be lead by the Holy Spirit.

     I gain peace, even though I don't know what the future holds, because I walk in that faith. Sometimes I forget and the worrying and the burdens of life creep in, and I have to be reminded every now and then, but I know Christ is there saying trust in Me. My walk of faith stands firm when my eyes are set on Jesus Christ, but when I lose sight of  "why" I do things, the specifics of "what" I do will not matter. The foundation of my faith is the Love of Christ, and to spread that love to all peoples through His Gospel. All He is asking us to do is look to His face.......

Friday, May 19, 2017

What is Faith ?

   What does faith really mean? The translation in the dictionary puts it like this,
  a : allegiance to duty or a person : loyalty
  b (1) : fidelity to one's promises
(2) : sincerity of intentions
  a (1) : belief and trust in and loyalty to God (2) : belief in the traditional doctrines of a religion
  b (1) : firm belief in something for which there is no proof (2) : complete trust
  : something that is believed especially with strong conviction; especially : a system of religious beliefs.

  Does that sum up how you feel? I know it doesn't for me.
  I over heard a man standing in line today at a store, and he said "faith is something you believe in, even though you know in your mind that it doesn't exist." Wow, is that really what faith is? Not to me. I think the main thing he got wrong is that faith starts in the heart and not the mind. If you go to church every Sunday and pray and worship, but in your mind you are thinking that God doesn't exist. Is that faith?
  Faith is described in the bible this way, (Hebrews 11 : 1 NIV) Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance for what we do not see. Faith can start by looking at the wonders of His creation, which will show us His unseen attributes, but faith must grow and become active in the heart powered by the gift of God's Holy Spirit.
  There is a faith built into every human, this faith only believes what it can detect with one of our 5 senses. With human faith we can fly in an airplane we don't totally understand, and don't know the pilot, but we trust everything will be OK. We can sit in a chair we have never sat in before and trust that it will hold. This is human faith, built into everyone by God.
  When it comes to faith in God, you have to believe in something you can't see. You have never seen God or the devil, you haven't seen heaven or hell, and you haven't seen sin, so you don't know what it looks like when your sins are washed away. That is the difference, you can't believe in things you can't see with human faith, you must open your heart, let God into your life, and use the faith that is powered by the Holy Spirit. This my brothers and sisters is what true faith is all about.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017


  I think when most people struggle with envy it is over money, or jobs, or maybe someone has more toys then you. You know the saying, he who has more toys when you die wins. But, the envy I struggle with is the envy of the Sunday school kids and the AOB students at my church.

 When I was growing up the only experience I had with religion is a pastor telling me I was no good and would never be any good. My parents were divorced when I was 5 or 6 and I grew up in the projects, I didn't have a safe place to go to hang out and receive mentorship, so by the time I was 12, I was doing drugs, and committing crimes most adults would never attempt. No one even tried to talk to me about God, they just wanted to tell me how bad I was and that I would never amount to anything.
  The kids that go to my church are loved and taught about God and how much God loves them. They are encouraged and told they can be whatever they want to be. But, the thing that I envy the most is the friendship they have with each other. I see them all hanging out together, laughing and having fun. The church has functions and field trips that they go on and they have a week of bible camp in the summer that they don't want to come home from. They hang out, help each other with home work, play sports together, grow up together. I never had that.

  I guess you could say I envy their childhood. I struggle with it every time I see them playing and laughing with each other. I try as hard as I can to make sure my daughter has a great childhood. I tell my daughter everyday that she can do or be whatever she wants to be, that with hard work and her faith in the Lord she can become whatever she sets out to be. But, first enjoy your childhood, be a child, and don't grow up to fast.  I didn't have the mentors in my life to help me choose the right paths and because of the choices I made and some of the adults I encountered, I lost my childhood. Don't lose yours.