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

Community

   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

Matthew

  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.



Thursday, August 10, 2017

Are We Sinking Or Swimming?

                                          Matthew 14: 22-23

                     Are We Sinking Or Swimming?

   Are you drowning in doubt? Or are you walking on water in faith?
   So, we pick up this week with Jesus sending the disciples out in a boat to cross the Sea of Galilee, after He had just fed the 5000, promising to meet them on the other side. That’s when things go bad, when they are a considerable distance from land a storm blows in bashing waves against the boat, the disciples see what they think is a ghost walking on water and they cry out in fear, but Jesus says to them Take courage, It is I, don’t be afraid. So Peter says, Lord if it is you, tell me to come to you on the water and Jesus said come. Peter gets out of the boat and walks on the water, but once he notices the waves and the wind, he takes his focus off of Jesus, and begins to sink into the sea of doubt, a doubt of his own making.
   Friends, what are the things in life that bash us with the storms of doubt while it feels like God is miles away on the shore? Just like Peter, we hear what God has to say, but then Satan puts that little spark of doubt into our minds. It tells us that God’s word is not good enough, that His track record with His people isn’t good enough and we start to drown in our own sea of doubt. Whether you are the disciples in a boat or a person in a pew, the cold waves of doubt are always threatening to pull you down.
   You know, we hear God’s promise that the righteous are not forsaken; neither will their children beg bread. But the economy remains uncertain at best, and that doubt creeps in. We look at our big beautiful church, and the newness has worn off, but that mortgage remains, and that doubt creeps in. We hear God tell us that His word will never return empty, but will always accomplish His purpose, but we wonder whether or not the empty pews or chairs will fill up. We hear God’s promise that nothing can ever separate us from the Love of Christ, but then we look at our rocky marriages, and that doubt creeps in. We hear God’s promise that we can do all things through him, but then our sins or addictions hold us down even though we know in our heads that Jesus forgives the sins of the world, but in our hearts we feel the icy wind of a guilty conscious, and then that doubt creeps in. 
   Are we sinking or swimming in life? Is our faith barely treading water? There is only one thing we can say, the same words that Peter cried out. Lord Save Me!!!! Lord, save me from drowning in the Sea of Doubt. Lord save me from focusing on my own issues, Lord save me from my sinful self. Save us He does !! In vs. 31-33 it says, Immediately Jesus reached out His hand and caught him. You of little faith He said, why do you doubt? And when they climbed into the boat, the wind died down. Then those who were in the boat worshiped him, saying truly you are the Son of God.
    You see, at first Peter’s faith was strong at the site of Jesus; maybe some would call it reckless faith. Peter pushed aside what he knew of wind and waves, and he asked Jesus for permission to walk to Him on the water. Jesus says come and Peter walks on water, but then that doubt creeped in. But, in that instant of faith, Peter walked on water. That is how faith works, regardless of what the mind, heart, or the body experiences, faith holds God to His promise. When everything seems impossible, faith hears God’s promise and says absolutely possible. 
   God doesn’t promise us that we will walk on water on demand, but think of the things He does promise us, through a little water and a few words, God put the devil to flight and creates faith in children that aren’t old enough to say mommy. He makes you a promise with the bread and wine, you receive the Body and Blood of Jesus for forgiveness. Our God tells us that while we were sinners, Christ died for our sins. Jesus tells us that He will go before us and prepare a place for us so that He can come back and get us. Hold on to these promise and not only will you be walking on water, but you will walk through the gates of heaven. 
   You say, OK Mike all good and well, but that wind and those waves look scary. So, tell God something he doesn't already know. It’s because of that scary wind and waves that God made His promises in the first place. And those promises are always powerful, they sent Moses to save the Israelites, and the Israelites to the Promised Land. His promises brought Peter out of a boat and onto the water. His promises brought faith to your heart and hope to your future. God’s promises have built a church, and those same promises will fill it as God sees fit. All of this my friends, you can count on….

Jesus' Prophecies Have A Purpose

Advent 1.5

How Many Heads Do You Have?

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Live Like Jesus

  I was getting ready to go to worship last Sunday, and I was looking in the bathroom mirror brushing my teeth, and the song I can only imagine by Mercy Me came on. I tried to imagine what Jesus might look like, does he look like me? Do I look like Him? Then, it was like I got hit with a 2 X 4. Once again I have to be reminded that we as Christians are supposed to live lives that resemble and reflect the life of Jesus Christ.
   So, there is the question, do I resemble Jesus? Does the life I lead reflect Jesus? I guess the point I am trying to make is that we the church are actually the living and breathing body of Jesus. We the church have to reflect Christ to this world. If someone wants to know what Jesus would do, they should be able to look at Christians and know what He would do. If someone wonders what Jesus looks like, they should be able to look at Christians and see Jesus.
  I guess that might be a question for everyone, not just me. Do we as young people, or adults, or husbands and wives, or grandparents live a life that reflects Jesus Christ? Act like a Christian in any circumstance. Follow Jesus' greatest commandment: Love God completely and everybody even if they treat you wrongly whether you know them or not. Jesus said "love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you" Jesus says in John 13:15, "I have given you an example, that as I have done, so should you do." In I Corinthians 11:1, Paul says, "Imitate me as I imitate Christ." Ephesians 5:1 says, "Be imitators of God as dear children. Set aside time for meaningful prayer. Make intercession for people who do not pray enough for their own development, i.e.: children, cousins, friends, enemies and family, etc. In Ephesians 1:16 Paul prays for a "Spirit of Wisdom and Revelation." I recommend that you say the prayer in Ephesians 1:16-23 for yourself everyday for one year and God will open up your spirit and develop your understanding. You will have so much spiritual insight that you make a big impact on others.
   Be patient with people who anger you; work on trying to forgive those who may have hurt you. You must learn to love your enemies. God loves everyone, and we need to, also. Say farewell to selective loving. If you have a hard time loving your enemies, pray to God for help. Treat others kindly as you would like to be treated. Even simple acts of kindness like holding a door open for someone are good deeds that can help.
  Volunteer to help people. For example, you could take a shift at a soup kitchen near you,visit a person staying in a nursing home. Remain conservative in your ethics, moderate and modest being sure to remember that pride can be dangerous. Pride may imply that you are judging others falsely, and is said to be the mother of all sins, because pride resides in each one of us. The source of all sin is oneself and not considering others. These are just a few examples of how to live like Jesus. I am not claiming to an expert on Jesus, but through my studies this is what I have learned. We all need to live more like Jesus, if we do the world will become a much better place.

Compassion

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

Love

    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, but Catholics, Baptists, 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 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

Righteousness

                                                               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.......

Wednesday, May 24, 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..........

Friday, May 19, 2017

What is Faith ?

   What does faith really mean? The translation in the dictionary puts it like this,
1
  a : allegiance to duty or a person : loyalty
  b (1) : fidelity to one's promises
(2) : sincerity of intentions
2
  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
3
  : 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

Envy

  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.
 

Compassion

                                                                 Matthew 14:13-21
                            https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Matthew+14:13-21

      A man named Peter Ustinov once said, "charity is more common than compassion. Charity is tax deductible, compassion is time consuming".

      Today, I am going to talk about compassion. Godly, Christ like compassion. Compassion in the midst of our own wants, our own needs, and our own limitations. Compassion shown to others, because compassion has been shown to us. Compassion because Jesus looked for the broken and poor, He dealt with them with compassion, and then left them for us to care for.

      All four of the gospels tell this story, each with a different amount of details, some with much conversation, and some with little. But anytime something is mentioned more than once, to me that says it has special significance. 3 times means you better sit up and take notice. But 4 times? You had better engrave it into your soul. And that my friends are what we are here to do today. To make the word of God a living part of us.

      So, Matthew's account, where we are today, is pretty straight forward. Easy to understand and digest. Matthew addresses this miracle from the simple standpoint that Jesus saw the needs of the people and He met those needs in a way that only He could. Yet, He didn't do it alone. He used His disciples, just as He does today.

      I think one of the biggest statements made in this story is found in verse 14, When He went ashore He saw a large crowd, and felt compassion for them, and healed their sick. Let me talk about the word compassion for a moment. It is translated from the greek word splanchnizomai, which means yearning with the bowels. Have you ever been so deeply moved with sympathy or empathy for someone that your stomach ached? Then you have a feeling of the depth of Jesus' pity was for the people that followed Him.

      Compassion is that internal yearning, that deep sense of empathy or sympathy, and concern for people who have great needs, which affects us physically because of it's intensity. It is such a deep emotion that it can't easily be shut down or ignored. We simply cannot walk away from people in great pain, desperate need, or deep poverty. Jesus had splanchnizomai on the people, and so He dealt with it. We are to have that kind of compassion for people and deal with it just as Jesus would if He were standing there in our place.

      Imagine being tired, hungry, and emotionally over worked. Then you look out and see some poor person with such a great need that they are just a pitiful sight. You can tell by looking at them that their problem is not a quick fix, it's going to take some effort. That's when most people would turn and make nimble practiced justifications for not responding to the need they see. But, Jesus completely disregards His own needs and focuses on the needs of those He came to save and to serve. No matter how tired or needful Jesus was, He always gave to others first. This is the kingdom principle that must be a part of the walk of faith of believers today. If a person is a true Christian, then they are by definition a disciple of Christ.

      In verse 15 it says, when in the evening, the disciples came to Him and said,, this place is desolate and the hour is already late. So send the crowds away, that they may go into the villages and buy food for themselves. So, what do the disciples see? they see the need of the people, and they see their own limitations. They see the world through the eyes of the flesh. What they don't see is Jesus as they should have. They don't see their circumstances through the eyes of the master of all of creation sitting in their midst. This is the Jesus who has healed thousands, driven out demons, given sight to the blind, made the deaf here, and raised the dead. How is it that they couldn't see Him as the one who could feed several thousand people? They couldn't see it because they were focused on themselves. Sure, they saw the people and their needs, but their focus was on themselves. Isn't this like us in our own lives? We see the needs of others , look immediately at the resources we don't have, and we fail to respond to the need before us. Do we believe that we are the hands, feet, arms, mouth, body, wallet, ride, smile, kind word, gentle touch, shelter, provider, etc. etc. of Jesus Christ? Then how should we respond when we see need?

      In verse 16 it says, But Jesus said to them, they do not need to go away, you give them something to eat. In other words, take what you have and give it to those in need. Do it in faith and trust Me for the rest. Being concerned for people is just the start. Now do something for them. What was their response? They argue, can you believe it? They actually argue with Jesus. Who can argue with Jesus like that? I better be the first to raise my hand because I can. I argued with Him the whole time I was writing this sermon. But, He turned my heart around and got me to see that He was giving me an opportunity to live this message. So, I took it, and the blessing is wonderful all the way around. I can't even begin to tell you how many times , or how often I have felt a prompting from the Holy Spirit, and have discussed, argued, cajoled, minimized, justified, and rationalized not doing what was needed. There are always reasons not to, atleast I seem to always be able to find them. Maybe it's just me, but there are always this fear factor that makes me get to concerned about the response I am going to get from the gallery. But, I forget about the gallery that I am supposed to be playing to. Jesus Christ is the gallery I am supposed to play to, if you will, because He has given me the example to follow, and He is there cheering me on. Saying, They don't need to go away, you give them something to eat. Take from what you have, that I have given you, and give it to those that are in need of it.

      But, in Vs. 17-18 they said to Him, we only have 5 loaves and 2 fish, and He said bring them to me. You see? Right there, Jesus tells us that we bring Him what we have and allow Him to bless it and use it. When was the last time you took a look at what you have and prayed, Lord this is what I have and it is Yours to use as you desire to touch the life of someone else? This is not a prayer that immediately jumps to our lips when we see the need that someone else has. We, like the disciples try to figure things out in our own minds. We fall back on what we think we know, on what we are used to. Being a disciple of Jesus requires a radical shift in thinking, a drastic alteration of our view of the world and how it operates. If we truly believe that we are indwelt by Jesus Christ through the Holy Spirit, then when we are there, Jesus is there. How would Jesus respond?

      In Vs. 19-21 it says, Ordering the people to sit down on the grass, He took the 5 loaves and 2 fish, and looking up towards Heaven, He blessed the food, and breaking the loaves He gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the crowds, and they ate and were satisfied. They picked up what was left over of the broken pieces, twelve baskets full. There were about 5000 men who ate, besides women and children. As the messiah promised to Israel, Jesus would provide for all of their needs. He was well aware that the sick and lame needed healing, He was even more aware that every man, woman, and child present that day needed the redemption that the promised Messiah really came to give. That is always the deepest need of every man.

      In this last portion of Matthew's account we see a pattern instituted that has been continuing on since that very day. Jesus gave to the disciples that which He blessed, and they in turn give it out to the people. This is the pattern for all those who minister for Jesus Christ. Not only do the miracles of Jesus testify as Him being the Messiah, they are His way of demonstrating the depth of His compassion fro those in need. He can provide for every need, and He will. Our focus is to be on His Kingdom and His righteousness. Jesus Christ requires that we care more about the health and well being of others than we care about our own. He will care for us, we are to care for others.

      Do you believe that this is what Jesus requires of us? Do you believe he really meant it. Do you belong to Him, or do you belong to you? Do you believe in Him, or do you believe in you? Do you see through the limited vision of the flesh or are you asking Him to open the eyes of your heart and let you see as He sees? Jesus promises that if we give, it will be given to you. Do we believe Him, or are we like the disciples and believe only what we have known, only what we see, or only what we can imagine? The message here is that all of us have an opportunity to give sacrificially to others, and we need to take that opportunity when it presents itself. It is time for everyone of us to step out of the box, step out of our comfort zone, step out of the church setting and really be Jesus Christ to this world. What do you have to lose? Nothing, it's all His anyway. We just have to live like we really believe that what we believe is really real.

      A man named Peter Ustinov once said, "Charity is more common than compassion. Charity is tax deductible. compassion is time consuming......Amen



     

Thursday, May 11, 2017

What's love got to do with it?

    Being deeply loved by someone gives you strength, While loving someone deeply, gives you courage. That is a quote by Lao Tzu, an ancient Chinese philosopher. Though he was not a Christian, if I hadn't of mentioned the name of the person who had said this, you might have come to the conclusion that it could be a quote about God's love for us.
 
     I have been giving a lot of thought about the people in my life that gave me unconditional love. Before I found God there were 2 people that saw through everything that I was, and found the good that was in my heart. Not only did they find it, they brought it out.
 
     When I was around my mom I could feel her love physically, like it embraced me and held me tight. I  remember feeling happy and joyful inside, like it brought the good out from somewhere deep inside me. When I was around my mother I was a nice person. It wasn't an act I was putting on for her, just being around her and knowing she loved me gave me strength and lifted me up. When I was in my home with my mother the world was shut out, there was no evil or rich and poor, I wasn't a thief, or a drug dealer, I didn't need to be under the school tripping on Acid or LSD. When I was around my mother I knew I was loved. Love has a lot to do with it.

      I have been married to my wife for 26 years now, and she hasn't killed me. She has always made me feel special and important. When I fell in love with her, she was the first person that I wanted to give my heart to. I was scared and it took a long time for me to be able to let her love me fully, I always tried to push her away, because I didn't think I deserved to be loved, that what I had done and where I had come from made me unlovable. She could have gotten rid of me a few times, but she kept showing me that love, and finally it helped me gain the courage to grow and become a man who can love and be loved unconditionally. Love has a lot to do with it.
  
     I now realize that their love for me was also God's love for me. Their love has led me to God's love, which is greater then any you can imagine. God has put love in us, and through His love, has taught us how to love. God's love is amazing, and anyone can experience it if you just open up your heart and let it be filled. Let Him love you to strengthen you, then show love to Him, so you can gain the courage to go out and spread that love. As the great MLK said, " Hate can not drive out Hate, Only love can do that". Love has a lot to do with it............. Amen.

Friday, May 5, 2017

Why The Hate?

    As I sit here and write this I am thinking to myself "Don't be judgmental," but I have seen some things during this election, that as a Christian has me concerned. I have seen and heard people use derogatory and judgmental language to describe someone and it pains me to see it. Everyone on this Earth is a brother or sister in Christ and to call someone a riddled crack whore without knowing her story, or calling a pregnant 16 year old a slut without knowing her situation, or calling a homeless man sitting on the street corner holding a sign asking for help lazy is wrong and against what Jesus Christ has taught us.  In an era of tolerance, probably one of today's worst reactions is a destructive trend that needs to be put in check. There is a hypocritical, judgmental attitude that tears someone down in order to build up yourself. Jesus is not giving us a generalized statement to turn a blind eye or overlook sinful behavior just for the sake of tolerance. Today His words of warning against judging are even more needed in our angry, critical, hateful world.
 
   Jesus warned about the danger of pointing out the faults of others. He said people with planks in their eyes should not attempt to remove specks out of other people’s eyes. He challenged His hearers to choose humility rather than hypocrisy by always applying the truth to themselves before noting the faults in others........Amen

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

We Must Share It With Others


   I was doing some studying for this post the other day, looking for scripture about God's grace, and I decided to take a little mental break. On the way back from my break an idea popped into my head, I wanted to see what I could find on the subject on the internet, no matter how outlandish I thought it was or sounded, and what I found kind of disturbed me. I found site after site stating in one way or the other, that grace was conditional and had to be earned......

   Grace cannot be earned, if we had to earn grace every single one of us would fall way short. I think Paul thought this was one of the most important things in his letters and he said it in Titus 3: 4-7.
But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life.
 And, in Gal.2: 16 it says,
16 know that a person is not justified by the works of the law, but by faith in Jesus Christ. So we, too, have put our faith in Christ Jesus that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the law, because by the works of the law no one will be justified.

   So, if grace is not earned and freely given, then it must be a gift. There it is right there, God's grace is a gift, freely given. I can't say it any better then that.

   Now that we have established that grace cannot be earned, that it is a gift from God, now what? We are to share His gift of grace with others. We must forgive and set aside our differences and share the Grace of God with every one. We are called to be the light on the hill, be an example to everyone, to show that even if we have different views we can come together in community and let God use us to make our country or even the world a better place. 

   Mathew 4: 4-16 says, 14 “You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven. 

   As Christians we need to set our differences aside and join together in the one thing we all as Christians have in common, Jesus Christ. If we are all forgiven and given grace then everything else is non-essential. We need to be the light on the hill showing that even though we have differences we can come together and work for the better. Because it is what Jesus tells us to do.

   I am going to end with my favorite quote from the 3rd book of the Apprenticeship Series, the Good and Beautiful Community........If you have the love for Jesus in your heart, than take my hand and walk with me in fellowship..............Amen