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 

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Creating God Into Our Image



      In 2009 Israeli President Shimon Peres was addressing an audience at a global faith conference in Israel. He was discussing the issue of religious violence when he asked this question: Did God create us in His own image, or has humanity created a God to fit it's own image? It is a very powerful and note worthy question and one that should be considered deeply. Could it be, that from the very beginning, man has been more focused on creating a God to fit our image and our need instead of trying to understand how we were created in God's image?

      Just like the writers of scripture, we as people are trying to make sense of the experiences we have from a relationship with God. And, like the Israelites, our idea of God comes from our fears and affections. the result, unfortunately, is that we see God in the image that we have made Him into, instead of seeing ourselves in God's image. We see God as a judge, because we judge. We see God as an angry God, because we are angry. We see God as a controlling God, because we need to be in control. We see God as a jealous God, because we are jealous. We see God as a vengeful God, because we seek vengeance. This list can go on and on because it's true, we make God into our own image. In doing so we lose sight of what it means for us to be created in God's image.

      We are living in a time when people of all religions are attributing all kinds of craziness in this world to God. People of so called "faith" fly planes into buildings, killing thousands of people, because that's the image they need God to be. Other people of "faith" start what they call just wars, because they created God the way they needed Him to be. Still, other people of "faith" deny others their worth as children of God, all in the name of a God they created into their own image. We all do this, We take our projections and we layer them on God 1 by 1 until we no longer see God as God is. We put God in a box and make Him so small so we can manage what we can't comprehend or imagine. The truth is God is greater and bigger than anything beyond all understanding, and that scares most of us to death.

      When I see the way some people of "faith" treat women, I think your God is too small. When I see people of "faith" say you can't be faithful and dance, or drink wine, or enjoy physical pleasure for the sake of pleasure, or even love whom you choose, I think your God is too small. How much more would we reflect our likeness to God if we chose forgiveness over anger, instead of persistence, we choose silence, instead of remorse we chose gratitude and acceptance. I wonder how much more our world would reflect God's peace and justice if we stopped creating God into our own image and risked living as people created in the image of God?

      You see? God is love, not hate. God is merciful, not vengeful. God is forgiveness, not anger. God is our freedom, not our fears. The more we believe this about God and ourselves, the less we will create God into our image and live more like people created in God's image....... Amen !!

   

   

   

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

It's Never Too Late

                                                                   Isaiah 40:31
                                                     Those who hope in the lord
                                                     will renew their strength.
                                                     They will soar on wings like eagles,
                                                     they will run and not grow weary,
                                                     they will walk and not be faint

       I opened up my bible to a random page and this is the verse that I immediately went to. This verse told me that I need to try and tell you something that I hope you hear and heed. I wish I could give you advice so you could avoid all of life's pitfalls and mistakes. Mistakes that a lot of people have made. Mistakes I have made, and mistakes made by the Apostle Paul. There are a lot of different mistakes that people make, we all make them because we are not perfect. Some mistakes are bigger than others and we are going to make them, but I am here to tell you that no matter how bad you mess things up, it's never too late, and there is always hope for a brighter tomorrow. 

      I found myself at the age of 12 or 13 addicted to drugs, I was robbing and stealing to get money for my drugs. I started working for the drug dealers, selling their drugs and hurting those who owed money and couldn't pay. I was stuck in this dark place with no way out that I could see. But, remember what I said. It's never too late, There is always hope for a brighter tomorrow. I know some people who have lost everything because they were addicted to gambling. I hear stories of girls getting pregnant at very early ages. I have known people who got married and cheated on their spouses, or even hit them.  But remember what I said. It's never too late, there is always hope for a brighter tomorrow. 

      Everything I am telling you is true. We all are going to make mistakes, we all have and we all will. Some of us might make very bad choices that will result into very bad consequences. But I want you to know that what it says in Isaiah was true.....
                                                         ...those who hope in the Lord 
                                                            will renew their strength. 
                                                            They will soar on wings like eagles
                                                            they will run and not grow weary, 
                                                            they will walk and not be faint 

      It's never too late, there is always hope for a brighter tomorrow when you put your hope in Jesus. The sad fact of it is that sometimes we have to hit rock bottom before we are willing to turn to Him. Some may not make any serious mistakes and live a blessed life, but I want the rest of you to know that it's never too late, there is always hope for a brighter tomorrow when you put your hope in Jesus. 

      The Apostle Paul had endorsed the murder of Christians, and was on his way to arrest or kill more when he met Jesus on the road to Damascus. Paul was probably about 50 when he saw his mistakes forgiven by Jesus. He ended up writing 13 books in the new testament from the age of 50 up until he died. It's never to late, there is always hope for a brighter tomorrow when you put your hope in Jesus. 

      You see, I serve a God of 2nd and 3rd chances. I serve a God who forgives. I serve a God who redeems and restores. So when you make mistakes, or if you hit rock bottom, remember these words. It's never too late, there is always hope for a brighter tomorrow when you put your hope in Jesus. It's never too late to ask God for forgiveness, and to see Him put your life back on the right track. 
                                                  ...those who hope in the Lord
                                                     will renew their strength
                                                     They will soar on wings like eagles
                                                      they will run and not grow weary
                                                      they will walk and not be faint...... Amen

Friday, April 21, 2017

Let God use you

     As the sun rises in the morning, the sky turned from black, to purple, to pink, and then blue. The men in their boats were accustomed to seeing the sun rise, they were fishermen. Their job requires them to fish at night when it was cooler so they could get the fish while they were active and eating. After a long night of fishing they were cleaning their fish so they could sell them to those who would take them and sell them in the market. For some of these fishermen it was a very lucrative business, their fish was salted down and sent all the way to Rome. As they were finishing their days work so they could go home and sleep to get up and do it all again that night, a man they all know walks up to the shore and speaks just a few words to them, but those words would change the course of their lives.

     That may have been exactly what it looked like that morning on the Sea of Galilee when Jesus walked by those boats where Peter, John, Andrew, and James were working. When He called out to these four men it forever changed their lives. The public ministry of Christ was just getting started, and one of His first acts was to choose these men to assist Him in His work. He was calling ordinary men to do God's work. Even today Jesus is busy calling people. He is calling us to come to Him for salvation. He is calling us to come to Him for service. Friends, Jesus is calling. I wonder if He is calling you for something right at this very moment.

     I am not sure about you, but if I were going to start a kingdom, I would probably look for some very specific kind of people to help run it. I would probably get some very skilled politicians, and maybe some great military leaders to help me lead my kingdom. I would probably recruit some great minds so I could have the most forward thinking kingdom. Maybe talk to celebrities and cultural elites to get them to participate in my kingdom, so it would be considered the hip and in place to be. Jesus called fishermen. Not the most likely candidates to call on when starting a kingdom. But, it is not unusual for God to call these kind of people. He called David, a Sheppard. He used Shipharah and Puah, two midwives who defied Pharaoh. He used Shamgar, who was only mentioned once in scripture, to kill 600 philistines and save Israel. These were people who the world might call nobodies, but these people were nobodies of whom the world was not worthy. You see, the truth is God chooses ordinary people far more than not. Maybe that is because He has so many to choose from.

     None of the 12 disciples brought high credentials into their roles. They came from modest backgrounds with little to no distinction what so ever. They were an eclectic group of ordinary, run of the mill people. None of them were educated in Theology, or fit the mold of "Super Christian" or a "Religious Super Star." Yet, they were chosen to carry the timeless message of Jesus Christ. For Jesus to leave His ministry to these 12 men was a huge gamble. What if they couldn't do it? what if they didn't do it? Was there a backup plan?

     Twenty one centuries later, Jesus is still leaving His work to ordinary people. What are our credentials? Super Heroes? Mega stars? No, just people who find themselves on our knees, Acknowledging that we are inadequate and utterly dependent. Sound a bit overwhelming? Guess what? It's not. That's because Jesus gives us a recipe that blends in with our ordinariness. You take a big bowl, add 1 serving of our weakness, and add His strength, stir and serve. Is it good you may ask? I say not just good, but perfect.....Amen
    

    

    

Monday, April 17, 2017

If You Don't Have Love

      How can we be Christians without the character of love? How can we claim to be Christians and not show love? It is a fruit of the Spirit, it is a sign that we have truly been empowered by the Spirit of God.

      If you listen to Paul you will see that love is so much more than a feeling that makes your heart flutter. Love is so much more an action. if you rely on just the small feeling part then it can be lost. But the love I am talking about is the agapao or agape love, a love that is unconditional, that can't be lost or fallen away from, because it is unconditional, it is an active love. In John 21 Jesus tells Peter if you love me, feed my lambs, tend to my sheep. Paul tells the church, If you have everything, but you don't have love, then what do you have?

      If you have that new car, but you can't forgive someone, then what do you have? If you have that corner office job, but can't show love to your neighbor, it's like a loud gong or clanging cymbal. What do you have if you don't have love? Love should be our character as Christians. Paul even tells us, if I didn't love others, I would be of no value whatsoever. He even goes a step further to tell us what is and what isn't love.

      Love is patient: Let's think about how patient Jesus was with His disciples and with the throngs of people coming to be healed. We must be patient in the church, we must be patient at home, we must be patient in our communities.

      Love is Kind: Kindness is free, it doesn't cost any money to give or receive. It's just as easy to go around with a smile on your face as it is a frown. Kindness is a big step towards the Christian aim in overcoming evil with good. To give someone a smile, or a cheerful handshake. To say a kind word of comfort, or cheer. How about paying someone a visit? Love does not criticize the work of others, how others worship, even if you don't like it. That isn't the character of love, and it is not the character of a Christian.

      Love is not jealous: Love is the complete opposite of jealousy, it is impossible for it to covet. If God bestows a blessing on someone, we rejoice with them, we do not show sorrow or discontent over the blessings of others.

      Love is not boastful, love is not proud or rude. Love does not demand it's own way. Love is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. You see where this is going? If you are keeping score, that is not love. Love is gentle, it is not self seeking.

      Love never rejoices over injustices, but celebrates when the truth wins out. Love never gives up, it never loses faith, it is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance. Love will last forever. Do you realize that?

       Love is not beaten or down trodden, Love is never defeated or dejected. Love is in the forgiveness of a brother or sister, not seven times, but seven times seventy times. No one is beyond the redeeming love of Jesus Christ. No one, whom the world sees as worthless, is worthless through the eyes of Christians.

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Be There

                                     Luke 15:11-32

      The parable of the prodigal son is one we have all heard throughout the years. The message that comes out of this story most times is that the prodigal son realizes his mistake and is repented of his sin, and therefore was restored in his relationship with his father. But, did you ever wonder what would happen if his father wasn't waiting for him as he made those last steps home? Since I don't think fathers get enough credit sometimes, I thought I would talk about a father that doesn't seem to get a lot of attention in the Bible. We don't know much about this father, but it is the father's joy at the return of his son that I would like to think about.
     
       I read through this parable a number of times, and I got a strong and definite feeling that even though this father loved his son enough to let go, he never stopped praying for his sons return. He could have said, "That spoiled brat took my money and left, now he is on his own."  But that is not what we see. Instead, we see a father waiting and preparing for his son's return as he waits for the Holy Spirit to work in his son's life. I think as fathers, the first lesson we can get from this parable is we need to "be there." This father never gave up, he used patience, he was able and willing to wait on the Lord. This can only happen if this father has a relationship with God. You need to have that relationship with Christ that enables you to trust Him, not only eternally, but daily as well.

      Another thing that I got from this parable was how filled the father was with compassion, his mercy was like the mercy God has shown to us. Can you imagine having your temper and need for payback in such control that all you show is mercy and compassion? There are so many people in the world that have never heard the words I love you or you are forgiven. How will your children remember you the most? It seems to me that as a compassionate and caring father is a good start.

      Finally, this text shows me that not only did the father forgive the son, but he showed that with a response. He put his arms around him and kissed him. Wow !!! Do you think the son knew he was forgiven? I bet he did, and the party that came next made it complete. This father left no question about the love and forgiveness he had for his son. I would like to think that a hug given at the right time is better than a new I-Pad or Kendall every time. I see many fathers today try and buy their children's affection, when all that is needed is a little verbal or even physical affirmation such as a hug. Think about the significance that puts on the fact that one of the last things Jesus did before going to the cross was to wash His disciple's feet. I think this was one of Jesus' ways of showing the disciples that they were forgiven, His hug. His example to us on how we should forgive others. I don't know about you, but as a father, beyond getting a new tie, or just being seen by my child as a provider, I would like to think that I was as Godly a father as the prodigal father. I want my child to love me, and to know that I will always "Be there"........Amen.

Monday, April 3, 2017

What will we do?

                            People shall praise You forever and ever. Psalms 45:17 (NKJV)
One of the most common questions asked by believers about Heaven is, “What are we going to do?” After all, eternity is…eternal. It’s not even what we can consider a long time. It’s infinitely more than any amount of anything we’ve ever experienced or measured. And so it’s only natural to stop and wonder what we’re going to do.
Scripture doesn’t leave this question unanswered. When it comes to our eternal occupation, we will worship the Lord forever and ever.
For many of us, there’s a hitch in our heart when we hear this. “I enjoy singing songs about God, but I can’t imagine doing it forever!” That’s because we often fail to understand what true worship is, the kind of worship we’ll be engaged in.
Think back to a time when you loved someone so much that you spontaneously responded to him or her. Maybe it was when you were a little kid and drew your parents a picture expressing how much you love them. Or perhaps it was when you hugged a grandparent.
Hold that moment in your heart and mind…because that’s a faint foreshadowing of true worship. It’s when we respond to someone with all we have in us. We don’t hold back, and we take great joy in expressing our heart to that person.
When we see God in Heaven, every earthly shroud that separates our heart from Him—our sin and our limited understanding—will be removed. Our adoration of Him will be unlike anything we’ve ever known. We will respond to all that He is with all that we are, and it will last for all eternity.
“What are we going to do in Heaven?” Our eternal occupation will be an expression of love that will never end!
“You are worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honor and power; for You created all things, and by Your will they exist and were created.” (Revelation 4:11 NKJV Bible

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Not Good Enough

                                                                  Isaiah 6: 1-8


   I know my last post was about feeling as if we are not good enough, but I felt I left something unsaid. I am not sure exactly what that is, but I am going to blog about it once more. I will attempt to bring it from another angle, maybe a more personal angle. anyway, I hope that it will touch someone that needs it.
 
   As a young kid, 11,12,13, I remember times when so called Christians, either through their actions, words, or even silence, told me that I was not good enough, that I didn't measure up. I played baseball through the YMCA and the coaches were volunteers from the local church. I used to hang out with the coach's son at school, and one day he came with his dad to practice. It turned out that it was his birthday and he asked his dad if I could come to the party. His dad turned and said loud enough for everyone around to hear, "You can't hang around him, his parents are divorced." I was told that maybe my mother did something wrong, and that we were being punished, that we were not good enough. But, 30 years later when I became a Christian, I found out that wasn't true.

   Humans can be so cruel to each other. Maybe you have been told this in your lifetime, or maybe you still feel this way today. I know I have to keep reminding myself in my daily actions that I am good enough. For some of us, the scars from our younger years still haunt us and affect our individual achievements throughout our lives. We may turn to alcohol, or drugs. We may feel that we are not good enough to ask that girl or boy to the prom. We may feel that we are good enough to finish high school, or go after that job we really want. We don't feel good enough to reach our full potential, and it can even affect our relationship with God.

   In Isaiah 6, we find Isaiah struggling with that problem of not being good enough. Like some of us, Isaiah feels that low self esteem. We might think, "who am I that God might want to use me?" "I am not good enough to share God's message of hope with others." Or, "I am bound to sin and I can't get free." The guilt, the addiction, the shame, or I tried already and failed, whatever it might be separates us from God and prevents that intimate relationship with Him...

   In the first 8 verses of Isaiah chptr. 6, it describes the prophetic vision of Isaiah. He is called to the throne of God, and he is feeling awe and terror. Isaiah is struck with that feeling and realization of unworthiness, and he cries out, "Woe to me, I am ruined, I am a man with unclean lips and live among people with unclean lips. Yet, I have seen the King, the Lord of Heavenly Forces." How many of us would feel terrified to be in the same situation? Would you feel "ruined" if you stood by the throne of God?
 
   A friend of mine came to me to talk about some things he had done, he was afraid of not being good enough and losing his salvation. I reminded him of all the stories of people coming to Jesus, people who had mad mistakes, people who have done things they regretted and wished they had never done. They had sinned and felt guilt. I reminded him that if they were truly sorry and confessed and asked Jesus to forgive them, that He didn't turn anyone away. I said, if you are truly sorry and asked for forgiveness, Jesus says to you as He did to them, "My child your sins are forgiven, go in peace."

   There is no doubt, we all make mistakes. We all do things we wished we hadn't done. We hurt others, sometimes on accident, sometimes on purpose. When Jesus walked this earth, time after time, He talked to people and invited them into a relationship with Him. Sometimes in these relationships Jesus disturbed the comfortable, and sometimes He comforted the disturbed. But, He related to each one. Then and now, Jesus is the embodiment of Grace.

   God's grace is a weird concept in our world today, where strings are always attached and nothing is free. We as Christians need to realize that one of the greatest gifts we can share in this world today is our belief in salvation by grace, through faith. At the cost of His life, Jesus died to save and redeem you and me. He did all of this so we could be free, free to live, free to love, and free to serve. You know, everyone of us must be very, very important for Jesus to shed His blood for us, and grabbing a hold of that radically changes the way we look at ourselves, and the way we look at our lives.

   Isaiah's vision was meant for people like you and me. God desires a relationship with us. Yes, we are sinners who live among sinners, and we live in sinful times, but God comes to where we are, makes us clean and calls us to serve. Isaiah realizes that he is a sinner in the presence of the Holy God, and the realization hits with overwhelming force. Yet, it is this realization that opens up Isaiah to forgiveness.

   verse 6 says to us that as soon as Isaiah was aware of his sinfulness and confessed to it that one of the winged creatures flew to him with a glowing coal from the alter, held with tongs. Isaiah writes, "he touched my mouth and said, See this has touched you, and your sin is removed." Then, I heard the Lords voice saying, "Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?" I said, "I am here, send me."
May we respond as Isaiah did...... Amen

 

 

Thursday, March 23, 2017

A Good Question



      I want to look at a question today that was asked by one of the most pivotal people in the bible. John the Baptist was key to connecting the Old Testament with the New Testament. His message and mission were very clear, to prepare the way for Jesus Christ. Christ's baptism was the beginning of His public ministry, so the acknowledgment of Jesus by such a respected prophet like John gave Jesus an excellent launching pad for His introduction as the Son of God.

      The question I want to look at is asked when Jesus comes to be baptized by John, and I think it is good for all of us to witness. John says to Jesus, "I am the one who needs to be baptized by you, why are you coming to me?" (Matthew 3:14) Let's put on John's sandals for a minute. How would you have felt? Maybe the same way? Maybe though, our hesitancy might have been a little greater. I mean, Jesus even said that John the Baptist was one of the greatest men ever. "I tell you the truth, among those born of women there has not risen anyone greater than John the Baptist." (Matthew 11:11) So, if John was hesitant to feel worthy enough to baptize Jesus, how much more would we feel unworthy? But, in His answer to John's question Jesus gives us peace and hope.

      Many of us ask, "Are we good enough?" Or "Can we measure up?" Can God really use us, imperfect as we are, with all of our scars and blemishes from sin? How can the imperfect be of service to the Perfect? Let Christ answer that question for us. Let's look at this dialog closely. John says, "I am the one who needs to be baptized by you, why are you coming to me? Jesus replied, " It must be done, because we must do what is right." So then John baptized Him. (Matthew 3:14-15)
John's baptism, as is ours, was one of repentance, but Jesus had no reason to repent, He was sinless, but wanted to identify with sinners. And that my friends is where our hope lies. Without him we are not good enough, but with Him we are.

       I think one of the most extreme statements Jesus ever made is found in Matthew 9:12-13.
"It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. But, go and learn what this means, I desire mercy and not sacrifice. For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners." You see, Jesus didn't condemn the "Bad People" He showed them love and understood them, even though He had every reason for condemning them. So, as fellow sinners, we must share with them where we found our bread. I believe that one of the biggest reasons the world isn't coming to christianity is because they think it is for the righteous, so they think it isn't for them. I think we have done a poor job informing the world that Christians aren't perfect, just forgiven and accepted. Jesus said in John 12:32, But I, when I am lifted up from the Earth, will draw all men to Myself. Jesus let John baptize Him because He wanted us to know that through Him we are good enough.

      Do you feel the Holy Spirit working within? Do you hear His gentile whisper? He is there because he desires you to come to Christ. The Holy Spirit and the church want you to know the purposeful life that Jesus can give us. The Spirit and the bride (the church) say " Come...whoever is thirsty , let him come, and whoever wishes, let him take the free gift of the water of life." So the answer to to the question is Yes !!!! Through Jesus Christ we are good enough to be of service to God. So give it all to Christ, today.

Monday, March 20, 2017

Reflect your light

     A few years ago, around this time of year, I was in a play. The play was made up of a bunch of little stories, and one of those stories got deep into my soul. It was called reflect the light. It goes something like this.

     At the last session on the last morning of a two week seminar on Greek culture the professor turned and made the ritual gesture: "Are there any questions?" He was greeted with silence. These two weeks had generated enough questions for a lifetime, but for now, there was only silence. "No questions?" The professor swept the room with his eyes. Alas from the back row, "Professor, what is the meaning of life?"
The usual laughter followed, and people stirred to go. The professor held up his hand and stilled the room and looked at the gentleman who asked the question for a long period of time, asking with his eyes if indeed the question was serious or in jest. "I will answer your question." Taking his wallet out of his hip pocket, he fished into the leather billfold and brought out a very small round mirror, about the size of a quarter. And what he said went something like this: "When I was a small child, during the war, we were very poor and we lived in a remote village. One day, on the road, I found broken pieces of a mirror. A German motorcycle had been wrecked in that place."I tried to find all the pieces and put them together, but it was not possible, so I kept only the largest piece; This one.  And by scratching it on a stone, I made it round. I began to play with it as a toy and became fascinated by the fact that I could reflect light into dark places where the sun would never shine, in deep holes and crevices and dark closets. It became a game for me to get light into the most inaccessible places I could find. "I kept the little mirror, and as I went through life, I would take it out in idle moments and continue the challenge of the game. As I became a man, I grew to understand that this was not just a child's game but a metaphor for what I might do with my life. I came to understand that I am not the light or the source of light. "I am a fragment of a mirror whose whole design and shape I do not know.
Nevertheless, with what I have I can reflect light into the dark places of this world, into black places, in the hearts of men and change some things in some people. Perhaps others may see and do likewise. This is what I am about. This is the meaning of life." And then he took his small mirror and, holding it carefully, caught the bright rays of daylight streaming through the window and slowly reflected them onto all that were in the room.

     Are you letting the light of Christ reflect off of the mirror in your heart? Are you letting God shine through you? That is what the beatitudes are about. Reflecting God's light into the World. That has always been the purpose of God, that when He came into our lives that He would fill our lives so much that He would shine through. That people would see Him in our attitudes and actions. That we would let Jesus Christ live through us. The beatitudes are a mirror that reflects God's light. The beatitudes are like a light bulb that can only get the power to shine when plugged into the power of God. The beatitudes were meant to be our attitudes. The Holy Spirit has come to live in us that He might live through us that He might shine through us, to meet the needs of a hurting, struggling world.

     The beatitudes are a self portrait of Christ, and we are called to transform our lives into the image of Him. Although He was God, with all the rights and privileges of a deity, He made himself with no reputation, He took on Himself the form of a servant, and made Himself in the likeness of man. He humbled Himself and became obedient to death, even death on the cross.

      Jesus mourned, He wept for Lazarus, He wept over Jerusalem, He was a man of sorrows and knew grief. He was meek, He hungered and thirsted for righteousness, and he was merciful. If you measure Christ's life to these qualities, You would find that He was a model of them all. It is all about Jesus, about opening up our lives so that we may be transformed into the image of Christ. Only by maturing in our faith, only by receiving the Holy Spirit, will we walk in authentic spirituality.

     According to Romans 8:29, God's purpose is for all Christians to take on the character and image of Christ. So, I think it is reasonable to state the following, The beatitudes describe qualities that are available to every Christian. They show the evidence of a yielded life. They are not produced by the Christian, but they are produced in the Christian. They tell us what the world will see reflecting in a life fully given to the Lord. The Beatitudes do not reflect individual qualities, but a complete mirror of life mastered by Jesus.
The evidence that one is surely reflecting their light, is that they show the beatitudes in them. Not on a perfect basis, but on a consistent basis.

     Seek ye first the kingdom of God, and all these things will be given unto you. The happiest people I know are the ones who have yielded themselves to the grace of God......Everyday. Why? Because theirs is the kingdom of Heaven, they are comforted, they inherit the earth, they are filled, they obtain mercy, they see God, and others see God in them, for they are called the children of God.

     I heard a little boy get asked what a saint was, and he said a saint is someone who let's the light shine through. A saint, or a person pure in heart will let the light of God shine through. I want you to do something for me, get up from where you are at and go look into a mirror. Are you allowing God to fill your life so much that you are reflecting His light? If His light is not reflecting through you then take the first step and yield to Jesus, let the Holy Spirit transform you. Let a beatitude life fill you and make you whole. My friends, let God's light reflect through you, yield to His love and let His light shine through you.........Amen

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

It's God's Party






     I was having a conversation about Psalm 23 with a friend of mine. Mostly about vs. 5, and setting the table in the presence of our enemies. So I started thinking about the meaning of the verse. As I was looking at it, the meaning wasn't immediately clear to me. Is the table set before our enemies so that we can sit together? If so, think about how powerful a suggestion of forgiveness that would be. Or is it done to show our enemies how beloved we are, kind of like rubbing their faces in it. That would be satisfying, but I don't think that Jesus would be that petty.

     We have to remember that the Psalms are by, and large, prayers. And whatever you might think about the people that wrote them, or their meaning, they were prayed by human beings. That doesn't take away from them being powerful and spirit led. We read these each week assuming that they have meaning not only for their time, but for ours as well, and I don't think that could be possible unless God was involved in the reading and the writing. If we are honest with ourselves, we don't always pray for the things we should. Like any obsessed Hawks fan, I know I have asked God for a little "Divine Intervention" every now and then. But, do I really think that the world will end if Richard Sherman doesn't get another interception? Probably not. The point I am trying to make is that the prayers of humans back then were not any better or worse then prayers by humans today. I am sure there were times when they prayed for the elimination of their enemies when they should have been praying for something more eternal, and holy. If we look deeply into this verse, I think that might be what we see here. The table is set for me, not me and my enemies. I think the author is saying that this table is mine and only mine, and no one else is going to get any of it. That might be the case, but I don't think that is the message God is trying to make.

     Let's stop and think for just a second. When we look at scripture in the whole, there are teachings that tell of God giving victory over foes, against seemly insurmountable odds. That is God's victory. There are also teachings of God also being there in defeat, That still is God's victory, no matter where in the moment we are. We also see time and time again, the teachings of amazing stories of forgiveness. Ishmael and Isaac reuniting to bury their parents. Jacob and Esau let brotherly love overcome sibling rivalry. Or, how about Judas being at the table when bread is broken? Jesus prays for forgiveness for those that would cause him to die on the cross. I am not sure what the author intended, but the overwhelming story of salvation is that enemies do sit together at God's table.

     So, as we can learn from scripture, the Kingdom of Heaven operates very different than our own human world. Enemies sit at the same table. Barack Obama and Edward Snowden, Steve Jobs and Bill Gates, Alex Rodriguez and every baseball fan on the planet. It is something that our human minds can't fully comprehend. If God is the host, then He is the one who gets to do the invites. We might not like some of the people on the guest list, but it is not our party. So, where does that leave us? Imagine you are the Psalmist and put yourself in his place. You are sitting there ready for this amazing feast, looking forward to shoving it into your enemies face, and BAM !!!!! You notice He as set up places for them. Who is it? What do you feel inside? Anger, or joy and forgiveness? Do you start looking for another table, or start asking for the check?  Faith my friends, is not for the weak at heart, and don't misunderstand what I am saying, there is a lot more to forgiveness than just sitting down to a table. If you have heard any stories or experienced reconciliation and forgiveness you see or feel the courage and pain it takes. Forgiveness is a hard, hard thing and sometimes reconciliation can only occur beyond the grave, because it needs God to be involved that badly. If we want to call ourselves Christians, then we at least need to recognize this. There is room for everyone at God's table. No matter the distance between you and your enemies, the distance between you and God has already been closed, because it is always God's victory........Amen

   


     

     

Monday, March 13, 2017

Crazy Love

 

                                             This post is written on Mathew 21: 33-46
     
     It is very crazy to love someone. Love, is crazy. On Dec. 31st 2016 my wife and I have been married 26 years, that is kind of crazy when you think about it. Choosing 1 person out of the many in this world to spend the rest of your life with. But, that is what I did. I said to my wife that I will have and hold you, for better or worse, for richer or poorer, in sickness and health, to love and to cherish, from this day forward until death do us part. Whoa !!!! It is both selfless and crazy to say these things, but that is what you do when you love someone. Isn't there a song that says something like I'm crazy for loving you or something like that? Anyway, that's the kind of crazy love we see in this story today. 

     So here we go with another story with a vineyard. The first is the story of the owner who paid his workers the same no matter how long they worked that day, Crazy right? The 2nd is the story of an owner who asked his sons to work, and one said yes and didn't, the other said no and did. Crazy? This one is the craziest of them all.  And, it goes something like this. 

     There once was this wealthy farmer who owned a vineyard. He grew organic grapes, and had a big reputation of making upper scale wine at a very fair price. The farmer invested all he had into his vineyard. The security was the best and he had a top of line wine press. After many years of working the vineyard and making wine, the farmer decided he would retire and move away, and he hired some farmhands to work the vineyard for him. When harvest time came around, he sent some servants to collect his share of the harvest. When the servants got there the farm hands grabbed the first one and beat him. The next one was murdered, and third ran for his life dodging stones being hurled at him. He ran all the way back and told the farmer what had happened, so the farmer sent even more servants down to his vineyard and the same thing happened. Now the farmer was at the end of his rope, he is so desperate to reach out to his farmhands. He thinks they will surely respect my son, so he sends his son down to the vineyard. When the farmhands saw the son coming they said to each other,"Let's kill the son so the vineyard will be ours." So, the farmer had sent his son and he was killed. Now, at the end, we are left wondering what the farmer will do.

      So, to be honest the characters in this story are supposed to represent people other than themselves. The farmer in this story represents God, the farmhands are us, God's chosen people. The servants sent by the farmer represent the prophets sent by God, and the Son must be Jesus.

      Now, let's start with the farm hands. How can they think that they are going to inherit the vineyard by killing the farmers servants and then his son? It's crazy I tell you, CRAZY. But, not as crazy as the farmer. Think about it, He sends servants and they are beaten or killed, then he sends more servants. Not an army, but servants and the same thing happens. So, where does he come up with the idea to send his son, his heir, by himself to deal with these thugs? It's absolutely crazy I tell ya. Who would be so crazy as to do this? Well maybe, just maybe it's this crazy farmer who is so desperate to be in a relationship with his farmhands that he would do anything, risk anything, to reach out to them. He acts more like a desperate parent who will do or say anything to reach out to a lost child. It's truly crazy. the kind of crazy you get from being in love. Now we have this crazy farmer, but we also still have the question Jesus asks. What will the farmer do when he comes back? All the the pharisees that were there listening could think of was violence. " He will put those wretches to a wretched end." With those words, the pharisees condemn themselves. That my friends, is part of Mathew's narrative, to have his opponents condemn themselves.

      How do we condemn ourselves? By trying to make things our possession. We think of the church as ours, not as the Body of Christ. We seek to take on the world challenges for self serving reasons, instead of Christ driven reasons. We start to see stewardship as a burden instead of a joyful response to everything that God has done for us. It also happens in our relationships with our families. We take for granted the love that others have for us. Love is never a matter of meeting half way, but a matter of going that extra mile. And, when love is truly the motivation, that extra mile is never a burden. If we truly look at this story, it invites us to look at and consider a different question. Not what will that farmer do, but what has God the farmer done for us? He sent His Son to us, who have taken God's blessings for our own and not given back to God. And when we killed Him, He raised Him from the dead and sent Him back to us with the same message of His crazy, desperate love. This story shows us the crazy, desperate love that God has for us. Love that is offered over and over again to anyone who will receive it. In our lives, God reaches out to us. It is kind of crazy if you think about it.