God's Voice

1st Sunday after Christmas
Scripture: St. Luke 2:41-52

Christmas, the season of gift giving, is over.

Now, gifts receive various treatments.
Some are cherished.
Others are exchanged.
Some are tucked away and forgotten, only to be redeemed at another time.

Mary and Joseph received the gift of God’s Son Jesus. His birthday was with not a lot of fanfare. A new star was seen in the heavens and shepherds saw and heard angels speaking directly to them.

Some time later (upwards of 2 years), the 3 wise men found Jesus and His parents in Nazareth.

When Jesus reached 12 years of age, He was considered a man as is the Jewish tradition. He and His parents go to Jerusalem for the feast of the Passover.

In returning home, they travel a day’s distance before they discover Jesus is not with the group.

Three days later they find Him in the temple. Mary says, “Son, why did You worry us, causing us to look for You for three days?”

Jesus responded, “Did you not know that I must be about My Father’s business?”

As Jesus grew, God His heavenly Father filled Him with wisdom and great love.

When His parents found Him in the temple, the priest and elders marveled at His wisdom.

At this time, Mary and Joseph still aren’t ready for the boy Jesus to begin acting in these unpredictable, Spirit-led ways.

Now this is not the first time a young boy was called to serve the Lord.

Recall how Hannah prayed to the Lord that if she had a son she would dedicate her son Samuel to God’s service. When he was quite young, she took him to the high priest Eli and left him there.

Some time later Samuel was wakened up in the middle of the night, hearing a voice.

He thought it was Eli and went to check on him. Eli told him it was not him and told him to go back to bed.

That happened twice more before Eli told him that voice is the voice of God calling him.

Eli said, “If it happens again, say, ‘Here I am, Lord. What do you want?’ and obey His wishes.”

I too have heard the voice of God calling me. That’s why I stand before you as your pastor today.

God still speaks to all people: young, middle-age, and senior citizens. Often we do not hear Him, and thus we do not respond to Him.

Not too long ago, I was asked by Chloe if I would baptize her. I said I would check with her family. After checking, I was told that was her wish and not the family’s. Chloe is 9 years old.

I don’t know what caused her to want to be baptized, yet I believe the Spirit of God was involved in her decision. If this is a beginning of an invitation for a Spirit-filled life and service unto the Lord, praise God that He still calls little ones for special service in His name!

I would like you to do something for me. Sit quietly in your comfortable chair without the TV or radio on. Sit in the stillness of that hour. Focus on the Lord and His actions within your life.

It may surprise you that the still, soft voice of God is searching and inviting you for a special ministry.

For as long as there is air coming in our bodies, as long as we are breathing, there is an opportunity for the Spirit of God to call you and use you for His great ministry. As we start this new year, may we focus more of our time and energies on the love of the Lord that is open to each and every one of us.

Let us pray!

God's Blessings Come in Strange and Wonderful Ways

4th Sunday of Advent
Scripture: St. Luke 1:39-43

Luke’s scriptures tell us God’s prophetic words are often different from we interpret or expect to happen.

For centuries, Israel talked about a Messiah who was to come. And He would rid Israel of all of its enemies, setting up a new Israel. At that time a great war would take place and Israel would win the war.

Isaiah prophesied a great prophet quite different from a warlord would come leading the Israelites to repentance.

He wrote that a virgin would give birth and conceive a Son. He would be called the Son of the Most High God, and He would save His people from their sins.

The people of that day were no different from how we are today. They were all busy doing their thing and could not see the signs of the approach of a Messiah, especially in the manner and fashion that Jesus came.

Isaiah’s Messiah was not a Messiah of war and bloodshed. Rather, He would be a Messiah of love and mercy.

God saw Mary, a teenager, a righteous God-fearing lady, and sent an angel unto her telling her that she would conceive and bear a Son.

Mary’s question then was, “How can this be, for I am a virgin?” The angel told her that it would be by the power of the Most High God that she would conceive and bear a son - God’s Son - and He would redeem Israel and the world.

Mary’s answer was, “May it be done to me, the handmaiden of the Lord.”

When Joseph discovered that Mary was pregnant, his first thought was to set her aside quietly, not causing her disgrace. Joseph also was greeted by an angel, who said, “Be not afraid to take Mary as your wife, for her pregnancy is by the power of the Most High God.”

Mary and Joseph were betrothed at this time. The betrothed period was 12 months. They lived as husband and wife, but there was no sexual activity.

If Mary had been pregnant by human activity, it would have been a disgrace. She could have faced terrible, terrible consequences. Being stoned to death was the most serious. And if not stoned, she would be disgraced the rest of her life.

I don’t think that we realize the consequences for a young woman caught in pregnancy during the betrothed period. And yet, both Mary and Joseph were God-fearing individuals and they believed the angel’s activity in their lives.

The angel told Joseph that Mary would bear a Son and His name would be Jesus, and He would save and redeem His people.

Christmas is the birthday of the Christ Child, Mary’s firstborn, God’s only Son.

As for the gifts we share at Christmastime, giving to one another is because of three wise men who took nearly 2 years to find Jesus and His parents in Nazareth. They bought gifts fit for a king: gold, frankincense, and myrrh.

The gold represented a wealthy person. Jesus was wealthy as the Son of God.

Frankincense and myrrh are elements for preparing a dead body, showing that Jesus would suffer and die for our sins, the sins of the world.

Praise God that He loved His fallen creature and in redeeming Him sacrificed the blood of His precious Son, our Lord and Savior, whose birthday we celebrate yearly as a reminder of how much God loves each and every one of us. Amen!

A Summons to Repentance

Third Sunday of Advent
Scripture: St. Luke 3:7-18

Crashing into our advent season to tear our attention away from the distractions that assail us at this time of the year…

We need to draw away from the glitter and the tinsel, the shiny trappings from under the tree that take us away from the heart of our faith.

These distractions provide us a way out of being challenged by our Gospel message. This affords us a way to avoid the uncomfortable Gospel truth.

John proclaims it is time for a change in our ways, permitting the Lord Jesus to enter into our lives. Instead of harking back to the way things are, what if we started looking for God’s presence in unexpected places and ways.

What if we prepared to hear the good news from unexpected persons, even strangers we meet and see while shopping? It’s high time we wake up to the fact God lives at the margin of our lives today, waiting, just waiting, to meet us there.

John’s Gospel was not just good news, yet there are three outstanding messages that John was seeking to share with us:
1. It was a demand that we share with one another.
2. It was a social Gospel that laid down that God will never resolve the situation of the man who has too much while his neighbor has far, far too little.
3. His message orders the man not to leave his job, but to work out his own salvation by doing that job as it should be done.
· Let the tax collector be an honest tax collector, not lining his own pocket.
· And let the soldier be a good soldier.

It is today a man’s duty to serve God where God has placed him. Nowhere is that better stated than in an old Negro spiritual:

"There’s a King and Captain high, and He’s coming by and by,
and He’ll find me hewing cotton when He comes.
You could hear His legions charging in the regions of the sky.
And He’ll find me hewing cotton when He comes.

There’s a man they thrust aside
Who was tortured ‘til He died.
And He’ll find me hewing cotton when He comes.

He was hated and rejected.
He was scorned and crucified.
And He’ll find me hewing cotton when He comes.

When He comes!”

When He comes!

He’ll be crowned by the saints and angels when He comes.
They’ll be shouting our Hosannas!
To the man, the man denied.
And I’ll be kneeling among my cotton when He comes."

It’s John’s conviction that no one can serve better than in their daily life and labors where the Lord has placed them.

We all feel that if we were someone else, say a great preacher like Dr. Billy Graham, we could preach the Word. Like we are all like a snowflake, there are no two just alike. And there are no two persons equipped alike to share the love of God.

John was quite sure that he himself was only the forerunner of the King of Kings who is to come.

The greatest gift any one of us can offer the Lord is just to be who we are, allowing the Lord to equip and use us to spread His good news with the gifts and graces that He has endowed upon us.

We must strive constantly to be open to God’s love and that small voice that is calling us over the clamor of the world in which we live. When He comes, our gracious King will be riding on a great white horse, a symbol in battle that He comes in peace and love, and not war.

Advent is a special time for spiritual renewal in our humble lives. God created us with free will, wherein we can accept that spiritual renewal or we can reject it.

How will you spend this advent season this year?

Let us pray.

Prepare You the Way

2nd Sunday of Advent
December 6, 2015

Opening statement: There are lots of ways to get ready for Christmas. Some get ready by decorating a tree and/or the house. Others wrap gifts for the family members and friends. Some bake special cakes and cookies that they serve only during the advent season.

However we prepare, I think that what the prophet Malachi wants us to consider is that we have no idea what we are doing.

However, we know intellectually that we are getting ready to receive the Christ child and to see what new things God will do for us.
While there are time-honored ways of preparing for and welcoming the Christ child…

Malachi states we forgot something important. We have a white-washed vision of “God is with us.”

It’s not going to be a Christmas-card experience, nor a beautiful one with small candles burning in the darkness. This is far more than the burning of one candle. We are telling about the True Light that has come into the world.

The light of these candles is a fire burning so hot that injustice can’t stand it. This is a messy and sometimes difficult situation to perceive.

Our Christmas cards and nativity scenes and Macy’s windows and parade don’t even begin to get to the reality of “God with us.”

In spite of our best intentions, we can’t possibly begin to prepare for something like this. There is a sort of motto of the Reformed Presbyterian church:
“reformed and always being reformed, bringing reform and recreation by the spirit of the living God, who is continually and always working within our lives.”

I wonder if that motto might apply to our advent season. Luke shares with us the appearance of John the Baptist preaching in the wilderness, preaching a baptism repentance, whereby our sins may be forgiven.
This action of John was first mentioned in the book of Isaiah the prophet.
A voice of one crying in the wilderness
Get the road ready, for the Lord is coming.
Make His path straight and the rough places smooth, and all flesh shall see God’s salvation.

At Jesus’ birth, the world was not hearing the ancient message of the prophet, and I wonder if we have captured that message yet today…

At the time of Jesus’ birth, if the king of that day was planning to visit his subjects, a forerunner was sent out telling of the king’s coming, “Prepare for his coming!”

That tradition is still followed today at the coronation service in Westminster Abbey when a new queen is being crowned. Everyone is seated for the service and out of nowhere a small army of men and women come forth with brooms and vacuum cleaners and prepare the road, the carpet runway, for the approaching queen.

As we enter into this advent season, what stands in our path, our lives, that needs to be swept away, that we might encounter a new and fresh awareness of the birth of our Savior?

That God the Father loves us so very much that He sent His own Son to earth as a sacrifice for our sins…

That is the true and only gift of Christmas that we should offer our family, friends, and associates. For Jesus is the reason for the season!

It’s not fancy-lit Christmas trees, fancy packages under it, nor large family gatherings. Those are only a very, very small part of it.

The real and only reason for Christmas is God’s gracious love for His creation, mankind, that He sent His beloved Son in human form to earth.

Lord God Almighty, help us. Enable us to capture the real Christmas Spirit.

Worry and Its Cures

First Sunday of Advent
Scripture: St. Matthew 6:25-34

The Merriam-Webster Dictionary reads,
“worry: to think about problems or fears : to feel or show fear and concern because you think that something bad has happened or could happen.” As we enter into the scripture today, it sounds familiar, for the text appears like what I shared last week from Luke.

Except today our thrust is not personal possessions; it is about our worried state of mind.

If we are honest with ourselves, we should all admit that we worry about certain things.
Jesus relates several different arguments and defenses against worrying.

In verse 25, He points out that we are not to worry about our lives, stating, “If God gives us life, He will attend to our needs.” We are to trust Him.

He goes a step further, stating that if the birds of the air who neither gather nor store up in abundance their food to eat and we are much more than the birds of the air, God will surely feed us also.

Now this does not mean that we are to set back and expect God to send manna from heaven daily to feed us. Rather, we should trust Him as our God and our God-given ability to prepare for ourselves nourishment for the body.

A Jewish rabbi wrote these words:

“I have never seen a deer drying figs for food. Nor a lion as a porter. Or a fox as a merchant. Yet, they are nourished by their Lord without worry.”

Jesus states that any worry is useless. It could mean that no man or woman can add a cubit to their life. A cubit is 18 inches. Then Jesus saw the flowers of the earth and spoke about them as one who loved their beauty.

He said that the blooms on the hillside of the landscape are beautiful today and gone tomorrow. Yet even Solomon in all his glory was not as beautiful as one of those flowers.

He goes on to advance a very fundamental argument against worry. Worry, He states, is a characteristic of a heathen, someone who is abandoned, who has abandoned God and God’s love.

Worry, then, is essentially distrust in God and the nature of God’s grace.

Such distrust is understandably in a heathen’s mind and heart. They are unaware of God’s actions and what He can do.

That is beyond comprehension for one who believes in God and addresses God as “Father.”

Lastly, Jesus says that worry can be defeated. We can acquire the art of living one day at a time. “Do not worry over tomorrow’s evil, for you know not what today brings forth. Perhaps tomorrow you will not be alive and you will have worried for a world that shall not be yours. Each day is lived as it comes. Each task is done as it appears. Then the sum of all days is found to be good.”

Jesus’ advice about worry is to not worry. Just handle the demands of each day as they come without worrying about the unknown future.

If we center down our worrying about a tomorrow that might not come for us, we rob ourselves of the multitude of blessings that God offers and gives us daily.


An Abundance of Possessions

Last Sunday of Pentecost/Thanksgiving Sunday
Scripture: St. Luke 12:15-31

As we approach Thanksgiving Day, we should be thankful and praise the Lord for all our earthly blessings, including the spiritual blessings that He offers to each and everyone.

Many are in great need for even the things we have to just survive. Jesus said to his disciples and to you and me, “Do not worry about your life, what you will eat; or about your body, what you will wear. For life is more than food, and the body more than clothes. Consider the ravens: They do not sow or reap, they have no storeroom or barn; yet God feeds them. And how much more valuable you are than birds! Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to your life?”

Scripture tells us of the rich farmer who had a great problem. The crops and his fields had produced such an abundance of grain that when it was all gathered in he would have no room for it in his barn. Then he reasoned with himself. He decided to tear down his small barn and build much larger one. Then he would have all the storage he needed, allowing him to sit back and enjoy life.

But Jesus threw him a curve ball, warning that his life was almost over. He asked His disciples (and you and me) who would get the fruits of his labors and his worry? Who would reap his great harvest?

Earthly possessions are like a great sandcastle built on the shores of the sea. When the high tide come in and the water flows over it, it will be destroyed! When the sea recedes at low tide, there will be no evidence that it even existed.

I saw and witnessed a human tragedy. A man told me that he live on the wrong side of the tracks. Life was rough and they had very very little. Though a miracle of God, he was able to get a good education and earned a degree in business. He became a wealthy businessman during the oil boom in Alaska and had a large company with many employees. They repaired and sold equipment needed to produce oil. He build a large beautiful home on a bluff overlooking cook inlet near Kenia River Peninsula. He remarked more than once in my presence that he was a self-made man. That he deserved everything he had, but all his earthly possessions came at a tremendous price.

He was a failure as a husband and father of two sons. His wife told me that she would divorce him instantly if it were not for the two boys. In her state of mind, she started drinking. She was having a tremendous problem with alcohol. The boys were in high school and excellent in sports and academics; they were also hooked on drugs. Family life was shot! They had plenty of material goods, but she was the only one who occasionally came to church.

As we prepare to celebrate Thanksgiving, what are you and I really thankful for?

I pray we are thankful for much more that a large family gathering with a table piled high with a large turkey in the middle of the table, mash and sweet potatoes, all sorts of vegetables and fruits, a large assortment of pastries, and pumpkin pie piled high with cool whip. While it’s a special time with family and friends, the real reason we should celebrate Thanksgiving is to thank and bless our Lord for His divine presence in our lives!

I recall that a few years ago as I prayed over our Thanksgivings dinner – perhaps praying a little longer than I should – as I paused just momentarily one of my young grandsons said, “Amen!”  The whole laughed and that ended my prayer and the family started filling their plates.

Who did you invite to share your Thanksgiving dinner with? There is a knock on your door. There is a stranger. He looks like he hadn’t changed clothes or shaved for weeks. He says, “I am hungry and cold. Could I possibly get something to eat?”

In your shock of seeing him, you thought, “Wait a moment.” And then you make him a brown bag. He thanks you, turns, and is gone.

In my state of mind after this real encounter, I remembered Hebrews 13:2 saying, “Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it.”

What do you thing would happen if we had invited him in to sit at the table? Let us pray!
Happy Thanksgiving from Pastor P. and Judy!

The End of the Age

25th Sunday of Pentecost
Scripture: St. Mark 13:1-8

Seeing a beautiful building, Jesus’ disciples said, “Teacher, see that stone building. How wonderful it is!”

Jesus replied, “You see that great building, but the day will come when not one stone of it will rest upon another.” They were looking at the temple that King Herod was building, one of the wonders of the world at that time. He began the construction in 20-19 BC on top of Mount Moriah. It was still not finished when Jesus looked at it in this passage.

Instead of leveling the mountaintop, Herod had a massive masonry work to enclose it on a huge platform. It had stone pillars 40 feet long, 12 feet high, and 18 feet wide held the structure up. And it had a marvelous bridge with arches built 41 and 1/2 feet tall to reach it.

We now have a glimpse of the shock and dismay of the disciples as they looked at this huge construction. They heard Jesus statements about it, that it would crumble and leave not one stone upon another. Here Jesus forecasts the awful terror at the siege that will lead to the final fall of Jerusalem. This is an insight into the last days before he comes a second time.

From scripture it is my understanding that during that period of time it will be a holocaust that will make Hitler’s terror look like a picnic in the park! Christians will experience tremendous persecution with terrible sufferings and deaths. It would be a great blessing if we were already in the heavenly kingdom by that time.

At a time when a pastor preached hellfire and damnation and asking the Lord to come quickly, A teenage Christian stated while at the alter when praying, “Please don’t come now.” Her spirit cried out, “I want to grow up, finish high school, and graduate. I want to learn to drive a car. I want to go to college. I want to be kissed by a handsome boy, fall in love, get married, and have children. Please Lord, don’t come now.”

The urgency of the gospel is not to scare or frighten anyone; rather, it is a warning because we don’t know when Jesus will return. We do know He said He would return. Jesus tells us that even He doesn’t know the day or the hour of His return. Only the Father in heaven know when that will happen. We get so wrapped up with this life, that we put the Lord’s return on the back burner of our lives.

If we don’t make our plans to be with Him, which is a precious gift He offers to all who will confess and believe in Him, when He comes He won’t come for us. Often we are like a child who has been warned not to touch the hot burner on the stove for fear we will get burned. Like a child, we put off making amends for our eternal life with the lord.

If we fail to make amends, the outcome will be a tragic event in our lives, robbing ourselves of the perfect eternal life that He has offered each and everyone who believes in Him, confesses their sins, and accepts His offer of the eternal, abundant life.

The pathway to eternal life is available. Life is much like a 2 lane highway. Which road are you traveling? The road of the world or the road that leads to the heavenly kingdom?

Let us pray.

The Widow's Gift

24th Sunday of Pentecost
Scripture: St. Mark 12:41-44

Thoughout his ministy, Jesus calls to our attention those on the margin of society, those who have gone unnoticed:

  • the poor
  • the blind
  • the lame
  • the beggar
  • the leper
  • the military personnel
  • the widows
These are some of the people on the margin of our society today, those who are excluded and looked down upon or simply ignored.

We enter the scriptures as Jesus is sitting and watching the crowd as the temple offering is being gathered. Between the court of the Gentiles and the court of women was the gate called Beautiful. Jesus had gone there to sit quietly and restful after the arguments and the tension at the court of the Gentiles. The court of the women was nearby.

There were 13 collection boxes called the trumpets because of their shape.  Each was for a special gift to buy corn, wine, or anything needed to buy for the sacrifice. Many people threw in large quantities of coins for the offering. There came a poor widow who put in all she had: 2 copper coins valued at about 1/16 of a cent.

Jesus, seeing her gift said, “She gave more than all the rest had put into the coffer.”

Here is a lesson in giving: real giving must be sacrificial. It is never the amount of the gift, but the sacrifice one offers in giving the gift. There are few people who will offer a real sacrifice to the Lord in supporting his work. Giving that is real has a certain recklessness in it. The widow might have kept one of her coins.  It was not much but something she probably needed badly. She gave everything she had.

There is a great symbolic truth here. It is our personal tragedy that we don’t trust the Lord to be part of our activity. It is a strange and lovely thing that the widow in the New Testament is who Jesus hands down to history as a pattern of sacrificial generosity.

When we put ourselves totally at Jesus’ disposal, we can not imagine what might transpire in our lives and in his church. We have not matured from giving only what is left of our resources because we use them to maintain ourselves and our comfortable lifestyles. We are happy to offer the Lord what is left over of our resources, including time, talent, and income.

In looking in depth at my own life and actions I am appalled of how little I actually give in sacrificial giving.

When I looked at my personal property, I found 5-6 TVs, more clothes in my closets and dressers than I can wear in a month, cupboards, and freezers full and bulging with food.

While Judy and I do support our Lord with our tithes of all resources that come into our house, that is not sacrificial giving. That is only what we are obligated to give. Sacrificial giving is when we do without a multitude of our desires and wishes and support the work of the Lord with those resources.

That is the first step in sacrificial giving.  While it may be a small step it is a step in the right direction, I don’t see much sacrificial giving in my life.

I am challenging myself and you to continue giving our obligations to the Lord, our 10%, and then begin to go a second and third mile in sacrificial giving for the lords work in our lives, our community and our world, and becoming a joyful and faithful servant of our Lord Jesus Christ.

May we all pray about our sacrificial giving unto our Lord.

Let us pray.

The Great Commandment

23rd Sunday of Pentecost
Scripture: St. Mark 12:28-34

There was no love lost between the experts of the law and Jesus. The task of these experts of the law and the Sadducees was to interpret the law and to see that each rule and regulation was followed the letter of that law.

When the scribe came to Jesus with his question, which was often a matter of great debate, he was trying to trip Jesus up by the way he answered. This debate had gone on ever since Moses had received them on Mount Sinai. He had received 613 laws according to tradition. 365 were according to the days of the sun year, and 248 accorded to the generations of man.

David came and reduced the 613 to 11 in Psalms 11. Isaiah came and reduced the 11 to 6 in Isaiah 32:18. Micah came and reduced the 6 to 3 in Micah 6:8. Isaiah then brought the 3 to 2 in Isaiah 66:1. Finally in Habakkuk 2:1, the 2 were reduced to 1 with these words: “The just shall live by faith.”

We can see by the actions of the rabbinic ingenuity, that the law interpreters tried to contain and expand the laws of Judaism over the years. When the expert of the law in today’s passage came questioning Jesus, the issue of the law was still a hot issue in Jewish debate and discussion.

Here Jesus takes the 2 great commandments and puts them together. Deuteronomy 6:4 says, “Hear, oh Lord! Thy Lord is one Lord.”

The Jewish law Shema is a statement in which each service in the synagogue worship service begins even today. There are 3 statements of the Shema, which is contained in a small leather box that each devoted Jew would wear around their neck or on their wrist. The statements are contained in a small circular box that is attached to the door of every Jewish household door. Here is where Jesus stated a tremendous need in each of our lives: We are to love the Lord our God with our whole being, heart, body, soul, and we are to love our neighbors as ourselves.

It is so easy to make our worship service as a thing we do on Sunday morning within the confines of the church building, instead of an action we do constantly and daily in our lives. We need to be reminded that worship and service unto our Lord should be 24 hours a day each and every day.

We are to be concerned not only about ourselves, our family, and our friends, but also our neighbors and people around the world. We must love the neighbor as Jesus loves each of us, because His great Spirit must dwell in each of us. We should never think of them and/or us for Jesus’ blood was shed on calvary’s cross for all our sins.

Over the years we have separated ourselves from one another. We have

  • the haves and have-nots.
  • the educated and non-educated.
  • blue-collar and white-collar worker classes.
  • the pigment in our skin.
  • the nations we live in.
  • names and denominations of churches we attend.
If we don’t seek to be one in Christ, we are no better than the heathen who does not seek a relationship with the Lord. We have become so comfortable with ourselves and our relationship with the Lord that we don’t seek to reach out to those who don’t know Him.

May we seek to turn a new leaf in our life, searching and seeking that all others will love the Lord our God as their God? When was the last time you reached out to share your faith with someone outside your family circle or your church community?

Let us pray.

Healing by the Roadside

22nd Sunday of Pentecost
Scripture: St. Mark 10:46-52

As Jesus was passing through Jericho on the way out of town with His disciples and a great crowd, things really happened! Jericho was a very special city. The temple that had 20,000 priests. They worked in 26 groups, except at the celebration of the passover, when all 20,000 were on duty because of the great crowds.

At the edge of the city, near its gate, sat a blind beggar asking for alms. His name was Bartimaeus. Hearing the shuffling of many feet, Bartimaeus asked what was going on. He was told that the teacher Jesus was passing by.

He immediately started crying out loud, “Jesus, son of David, have mercy on me!” Many around him told him to be quiet and not badger the teacher, and Bartimaeus cried out even louder,
“Jesus, son of David, have mercy on me!”

When he was told that Jesus was calling him, immediately he threw off his coat, jumped up, and headed out to find Jesus. Now this could not have been very easy for him because of his blindness. Would it not be exciting to be a Bartimaeus type of person!

Look briefly with me of the action in this biblical story. There is Bartimaeus’ sheer persistence. He would not allow any one thing to stand in his was to get to Jesus.

He had a desperate desire and that desire in ones life that gets things done. His responded immediately and eagerly when Jesus called him.

Many of us hear and feel the call of Jesus in our lives, yet we don’t immediately respond to his calling. We say, “Not now. Wait until i get this done.”

Soon we forget the calling. But Bartimaeus went to Jesus like a bullet fired from a gun! He had a great need and sensed that this wandering teacher could fulfill it. We often shortchange ourselves of a great blessing when we don’t immediately respond to the nudging of Jesus.

What a blessing Judy and I have had during these last 10 days sharing openly our faith with many who stopped by. In return they shared their faith stories also.

Bartimaeus, while not having an adequate theology of who Jesus was, trusted what he had heard about Him and had faith that He could heal his blindness.

One writer penned these words: “We must ask people the think, but we should not expect them to become theologians before they become Christians.”

Indeed, in Bartimaeus’ situation he trusted his gut feelings about Jesus. When Jesus asked him, “What do you want me to do?” he simply said, “I want to see,” and immediately his eyes were open and he followed Jesus.

Our faith response is the key step in walking faithfully with Jesus throughout our lives.
There is no pretraining; we must pick up our pallets and move out! There are no future glimpses of what our future might be if we faithfully respond to Jesus calling; there's only faith and knowledge that if we will follow Him daily, He will faithfully walk daily with us.

In our society today, we have been preprogrammed to want to know the outcome of our actions. In a very short time, we see Jesus on the cross-of calvary, winning eternal life for each one of us that will respond to his love. A faith journey does not tell us what will transpire in our lives, only that Jesus will walk with us regardless of what transpires.

May we all walk in true faith in Jesus love. Amen!

Faith of a Child

19th Sunday of Pentecost
Scripture: St. Mark 10:13-16

Who actually "follows Jesus" in Mark’s writings? It is not the disciples. That is for sure. They kept misunderstanding Jesus' ministry and mission for 3 years. They kept getting His theology wrong to boot. Not once in Mark’s writings are they actually described as "following Jesus," but a few situations in the scriptures we discover a few who did.
  • In Mark 15 an anonymous man did follow Jesus.
  • In Mark 14 an anonymous woman understood that Jesus the crucified was marked as the Son of the living God. 
  • In Mark 10 we discover that a blind beggar followed him. 
When Jesus walked among us here on the earth, little children who had no status flocked to Jesus. He blessed them and held some in His arms. When Jesus took them in his arms the disciples saw them as a distraction, a waste of precious time.

We understand that he was on his way to the cross and his death. Jesus' time on earth was short, yet he had one final lesson that he had to get across to his disciples and you and me: The only hope we have to enter his eternal kingdom is to come as a little child, a child who has not been misguided by the ways of the world. We must have the humility of a little child.

While there is the child who is an exhibitionist, such children are rare and almost all are products of misunderstanding. They have not yet learned to think in terms of place pride or prestige, nor have they learned to discover their importance.

They are a child of obedience. While a child often does not obey, their instinct is to obey. They have not yet learned false pride and independence that separates them from others. They are a child of trust. It seems that they accept the authority of all others and have confidence.

An example of trust and confidence is when daddy throws them up in the air as they return to him all fear is gone when they see the smile on his face and the chuckle in his voice. They have not yet learned to expect the worlds dangers and still believe in the best of all people.

And that trust in people can be a dangerous thing, because not all adults are trustworthy.

A blessing of a child is that they have a very short memory. They have not yet learned to hold grudge or harbor bitterness.

Even when a child is playing with another and they have a spat over a toy and come crying saying, “I won’t play with him again!” Before their eyes are clear of tears, they are playing together as if nothing ever happened. Praise God for the little children and their short memory.

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we adults could have maintained that childlike attitude when our feelings get hurt and we don’t get our way? Jesus in our text seeks to teach his disciples that we must maintain our childlike understandings when involved with others in our adult world.

Regardless of our age and our knowledge the surest way to enter the kingdom of God is like a little child. We confess and believe in him as youth or adults, but somewhere in life we have lost that childlike understanding. Our world would be a better place if we consciously kept the humility, the trust, and short memory of the wrongs of life. It appears often that we hold onto misunderstandings and misguided remarks while Jesus our lord does not remember our failures when He forgives us.

Can you imagine with me what this world might be like if we all acted as little children act in love, and obedience without and reservation? 

Let us pray!

Two Kinds of Wisdom

17th Sunday of Pentecost
Scripture: James 3:12-4:3

We see in our scripture today 2 kinds of wisdom.
  1. A wisdom that guides us in our human nature
  2. The wisdom of God that guides us by his Holy Spirit
The problem is that these 2 kinds of wisdom of personal action are divided by a narrow gap. Human wisdom is one that bears little true evidence of the love of God for one another. While an individual might be a great scholar and think about the great peace he has in his heart, his actions shows a different picture of his reflection in a mirror. His words may be as sharp as any razor blade and louder than a great clap of thunder with much fury within them. His heart is full of bitterness that destroys his actions and responses to the needs of others. He is arrogant and full of self-pride. His actions are 3-fold. His standards are earthly standards. He moves by the characteristics of mortal men's impulses. His heart and actions are those of persons who live in the darkness of reality; his drive for wisdom is completely different from those God desires that we maintain.

On the other hand, true wisdom is a special gift that is given us from God. This wisdom is described as a breath of true wisdom from God that influences our thoughts and actions. In Solomon 7:25 we discover these words: "Give me the wisdom from the glory of the almighty."

True wisdom is pure. Pure evidence that the individual has gone through the right ritual relationship with the Lord.

While their hands are pure, their hearts are not.
True and pure wisdom is the wisdom that produces a right relationship with mankind and with God. It is a relationship that separates mankind from mankind, making a man look for a personal relationship with the almighty. True relationship is full of mercy and produces good fruits for the kingdom of God.

When we see someone in great need we might say:
  • “It’s their own fault.” 
  • “They made the wrong choices that produced this situation.”
  • “ It’s their problem, not mine.”
As Christians we should see the situation but place no judgment on the individual or his needs.

There is a saying: “Only by the grace of God, I might be in that same situation.” As true Christians, we cannot and should not refuse to help that person in need, for Christian wisdom comes to us from God through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Christians should not pause and say “it’s his fault” and refuse to lift a hand or fingers for the one in need; rather, we should praise God who has blessed us and enables us to respond to the needs of others.

Regardless of who is the fault of the situation, God has reached down and out to help us in times like these. Wherein, we need to reach out and help others in need. The ultimate choices in life are between pleasing ourselves and pleasing others of God's children.

Our battleground can not be just to please us. That is a savage battle that destroys God's image within us. The Lord asks us not to battle for self-needs, but for the needs of others. To see and to feel the pain of others we need to move swiftly to reach out and touch that situation as God has reached down in our lives to intercede in our pain and our need.

True wisdom is having the ability to alleviate the suffering of others. Remember that even a cool glass of water offered to someone who thirsts will be seen and God will bless that simple show of love and it will not go unrewarded.

What is really needed in our world today is less of the wisdom we are taught through modern education and more of the blessings we receive through God's wisdom guiding our lives.

Let us Pray.

Taming the Tongue

Sixteen Sunday of Pentecost
Scripture: James 3:1-12

Each one of us has the most dangerous earthly weapon. It has the capability of destroying our character and the ability to be fruitful in our Christian witness.

It is our tongue. The church should be a place where words do not hurt others but build them up as a child of God.

Our tongue should be an instrument of peace, joy, and reconciliation, not a tool of disaster or discourse.

There is no one in the world that has not sinned because of the slip of their tongue. James echoes those words when he shares with us that the tongue can become a deadly weapon. We do not slip up intentionally, but the scriptures are full of situations about this deadly sin. Paul says, “There is none righteous for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of the heavenly father.  If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.” In Ecclesiastics 7:20 we see these words: “There is not a just man upon earth, that doeth good, and sinneth not.”

There is no sin into which easier to slip into that does not have grave consequences when we slip up with our tongues. James 3:7-8 includes these words: “For every kind of beasts, and of birds, and of serpents, and of things in the sea, is tamed, and hath been tamed of mankind: 8But the tongue can no man tame; it is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison.”

The psalmist penned these words:
“Thou madest him to have dominion over the works of thy hands; thou hast put all things under his feet: All sheep and oxen, yea, and the beasts of the field; the fowl of the air, and the fish of the sea, and whatsoever passeth through the paths of the seas. O Lord our Lord, how excellent is thy name in all the earth!”

Man’s ingenuity has tamed every wild beast, but the tongue alone is beyond taming. To tame means to control, and to render useful and beautiful our exchanges with one another. We all know too well that there is a cleavage in our human nature:

  • something of the ape and something of the angel
  • something of the hero and something of the villain
  • something of the saint and something of the sinner

James is sure this villain is a man’s tongue, for we can change our temperament in a split second when we open our mouth before we bridle the tongue. The weakest person can bridle a large horse, but it takes a giant of a person to bridle their tongue. While our tongues are free to speak praises and adorations, one can destroy their character in the split second if they don't bridle their tongue.

Once it is uttered, one can not take it back, and one must live with the results of that slip of the tongue. Even when we seek to make amends for our actions, we can not forget that action and it is here that the devil takes a molehill and blows it into a mountain.

I heard a preacher on TV say that when the Lord called him to preach, he had not sinned since that day. His tongue proved otherwise!

Lord God, help us not to slip into sin because of a slip of a tongue. All of us have sinned through this small mouthful of tissue when we lose control of our emotions and feelings.  Help us Lord to bridle our tongues. In Jesus' name we make this request. Amen!

Rich People

18th Sunday of Pentecost
Scripture: Mark 10:25/James 5:3

Why do some rich people think they are going to heaven? Do you think that Jesus was badmouthing them?

Some rich women bankrolled Jesus and his disciples. Thus it seems like it is an unfair guess that Jesus thought kindly of them. One sugar momma was Mary Magdalene, who would be among the first to see the resurrected Lord, along with Susanna, and Joanna.

Joanna’s husband was King Herod’s administrator. We see and read in Luke 8:3, “These women and other women, provided support for Jesus and his disciples.”

Not all-rich people are selfish and spiritually bankrupt, even though there’s a heap of verses that seem to  trash the rich because of these reasons.

They wrote laws favoring themselves. They bought off politicians and judge, while today the poor would get public defenders. Rich people underpaid their workers, cheated their customers, and many ignored the poor.

When Jesus said “it is harder for a rich man to get into the kingdom of heaven than a camel to get through the eye of a needle,” he was referring to the camels’ gate into the city. This gate was much lower in height and narrower in width than any other gate in the city. Traders use this gate because it was closest to the market place. If the camel was heavy laden with a high load, they either had to unload the camel or possibly help him crawl through on his knees.

Jesus here was using an extravagant illustration to drive home his point: Wherever your heart is, is where your treasure is. Is your treasure earthly and heavenly? Both Jesus and James both made this point.

Jesus stated, “Why do you see the sawdust in someone else’s eye and cannot see the wooden beam in your own eye?” Not all-rich people are shut out of the kingdom of God. One such person who entered was Joseph of Armethea. He donated his own tomb for Jesus’ burial. This is a wonderful example of a rich guy with a compassionate heart. Joseph had been a secret follower of Jesus’ earthly ministry, yet he was a wealthy member of a top Jewish council and a member of the Supreme Court that orchestrated Jesus execution!

He came out of the closet when he asked Pilate for Jesus’ body. He wrapped Jesus’ body in clean white linen and laid him in his own tomb. Joseph apparently respected Jesus more than he coveted his relationship with his own colleagues. He put Jesus first and he likely paid a terrible price, diminishing many earthly returns in his earthly kingdom. Joseph lost the respect of his co-hearts, lost his seat on the council, and got a cold shoulder from his Jewish business associates. All his earthly means and assets took a nosedive.

While his was concerned about this, he was more concerned about his relationship with the Lord. It’s wonderful that we seek earthly treasures, but they will not get us into the kingdom of God! There is only one treasure that we need not only for this life but also for the heavenly life. That treasure is a personal relationship with our Lord.

What earthly treasures are you willing to give up or sacrifice for your real treasure, Jesus the Christ?

Let us pray!

Listening and Doing

14th Sunday in Pentecost
Scripture: James 17-27

James is much like our Lord in that he calls it as he sees it.

Jesus often loses patience with the scribes and Pharisees, primarily when they are not living the law that they want to preserve, but He spoke with good reason.

There are few individuals who have not been unimpressed by the dangers of being too quick to speak and too slow to listen. A scholar’s work includes these words: “quick to hear and quick to forget” and “slow to hear and slow to forget”

Be ye swift to hear the words that you may be correct to understand them. Remember, if we are slow to anger one might not stick their foot in their mouth.

While one might be tempted to be angry with a slow learner, a backwards person, and especially a lazy person, we might accomplish more of our desire if we encourage these persons and do not expect them to measure up to our standards. Our response to them always shows our true character.

Here James presents us with a vivid picture. Paul speaks of a man who goes to the church service, listens to the message, and leaves thinking that his listening has made him a Christian. He deceives himself thinking that attendance in public worship, hearing the word preached, is enough that he has faithfully served the Lord that day. It is not ok that he has shut his eyes, plugged up his ears, and closed his mind and heart to what has just happened in the worship service to and for him.

James is seeking to remind us that what we hear in the service must be lived out daily in our lives as we interact with one another.

I was appointed to a local church with much pride that they had 5 weekly services of Bible study and prayer meetings. About 50 people were involved in these special services. They were extreamly proud of this track record. Then a newcomer was asked to join in one or two of them. He said, “You must be quite knowledgeable about the scriptures and your love of the Lord is wonderful, but what are you doing with all that knowledge and love in making new disciples for the Lord, spending 5 nights in a week in these 2 events? When do you go out to the streets of your community and tell of his love?”

That went over like a bucket of ice water being poured over their heads!

Don’t you know that the worship service is to equip you to share your love and knowledge of the lord.

The Sunday morning worship, Sunday school classes, prayer meetings, and bible studies are all wonderful, but they were meant to prepare us to tell His story in making new disciples.

Do you recall the words of that great hymn “Jesus Calls Us?”

Jesus calls us o’re the tumult
Of our lives wild, restless sea
Day by day His sweet voice soundeth
Saying Christian follow me!”

Are we faithful to His calling?

The problem today is the church today has become a spectator sport. We come to the church to be with others like ourselves who love the Lord. We take in great spiritual insights that make us feel good, thinking we have met our spiritual duties for the week. Then we go home and return next week once again to have that warm fuzzy feeling. But God has blessed us with relatively little blessings because we did not labor in His vineyard.

Jesus calls us.  Yes Jesus calls us even you and me.  What are we doing about that calling?

Let us pray...

The Armor of God

13th Sunday of Pentecost
Scripture: Ephesians 6:10-20

As Paul takes leave of his people, he is sees a giant struggle that lies ahead of him: house arrest with a Roman guard chained to his wrist. 24/7.

Now, life in the ancient world was different from our lives today. They widely believed in demons, devils and evil spirits. The air was full of these elements just waiting to pounce upon us as God’s people, seeking to derail us from our walk with our true God.

Looking at his guard and the armor he wore, Paul makes a great spiritual comparison to how the guards’ armor reflects our armor in the battle against evil forces.

  1. The belt around his waist is the belt of truth. As Christians we can move freely and quickly because in any of our life’s situation He knows the truth. Our God walks daily in all our lives’ actions and situations.
  2. The breastplate of righteousness covers the chest. Words are no defense against accusations that are hurled against us, but a good life displays a true person.
  3. There were the sandals of preparation. One’s sandals are a sign that one is equipped and ready to go out and spread the good news. This means all persons, male or female, lay or clergy have a few sermons just itching to be shared.
  4. There is the shield of faith. Paul is not thinking about a small round shield, but a full body shield to protect one as the fiery darts of evil are thrown at us. The dart is a long stick, a point dipped in oil, lit with fire that seeks to destroy the words of God.
  5. There is the helmet of salvation. We must always remember that it is not something that looks back to our sins, but something that means God’s forgiveness of our past and strength for the present and the future.
  6. There is the sword of the Holy Spirit, “which is the word of God.” The sword is not a 2-edge sharp weapon that may cause death, but the presence and words of God that can pierce the darkest sin and evil that seeks to destroy us as Christians.
  7. Paul’s final weapon is prayer. Paul states 3 types of prayer:

  • Constant Prayer
  • Intense Prayer
  • Concentration Prayer

As they say, “a limp prayer never got us anywhere.”

The Jews had this saying. “Let a man unite himself with the community in his prayers. Always pray for others before praying for oneself.”

Finally, Paul, after praying for others, prays for himself. He does not ask for comfort, or for peace. He allows God to move in his life as God sees fit, not as he desires. We would do well to remember that.

No Christian leader and no Christian pastor can go on unless their people are ever upholding them in prayer. Thank you all for your support, and please keep the prayer for the ministry here. Amen!

His Body and His Blood

12th Sunday of Pentecost
Scripture: St. John 6:51-59

We may take it in a quite general sense that Jesus spoke about eating His flesh and drinking His blood. The flesh of Jesus was His full humanity. If Jesus had come only in His flesh and not of God, where would we be today? Certainly not attending a worship service in His heavenly house.

The spirit that denies that Jesus came only in the flesh is the antichrist. Jesus insists that we must cluster, grasp, and never let go of the full humanity of Christ.

“Jesus was bone of our bones and flesh of our flesh.” What does that mean? Jesus, as we have encountered Him, was – is – the Mind of God, who fully became human. In other words, God was in the flesh, living among us here on earth.

He took all the failures of our human life. He endured all our human situations, struggled with our human problems, and endured our human temptations, working out our human relation with Him

It is as if Jesus said, “Feed your heart, mind, and grace out of my manhood.” Jesus took all the pitfalls of our human life upon Himself. Suddenly, life and flesh are shod with the glory of God where they had been touched with God’s living presence.

It was and is the great belief of the Greek Orthodox Christology that Jesus defined our flesh by taking it on Himself. To eat Jesus Christ’s body is to feed on the thought of Jesus Christ’s manhood until our manhood is strengthened and cleaned and purified by Him. But John meant more than what he was thinking at the Lord’s Supper. He was saying:

“If you want life, you must come and eat at the table and drink of the cup of wine, which somehow is the grace of God, bringing you into a redeemed, loved, relationship with Christ Jesus, the Son of the Living God.”

We cannot draw on the fullest of the Christian life in words unless we sit at the table of love. It is here that the sacrament is a special appointment with our God. He felt in His heart that at every meal in the humblest home or the greatest mansion beneath the canopy of the sky with only the grass we celebrate the Lord’s sacrament. John refused to limit the presence of God to an ecclesiastical environment and a collective liturgy. He believed that we can find Christ anywhere in a Christ-filled world.

Lord, God, help us as we have slipped away way too far in our society. Take from us all activities that stand in the way of a redeeming fellowship with You. Amen!

Be Ye Angry and Sin Not

11th Sunday of Pentecost
Scripture: Ephesians 4:25 – 5:2

John Wesley echoed Ephesians 4:26 in cautioning us to take heed to not sin when we are angry.

Anger is not evil, but we should feel only pity for the sinner. If we are angry with a person, don’t permit or allow it to turn into a sin by your action against that person. It is difficult to not allow our anger to turn into sin. We must not permit our anger to produce falsehoods, and we must be mindful there is more than one type of anger.

One such anger is said deliberately and almost unconsciously, causing great hurt and wronging to someone. It can and often does show flaw in one’s character. That will be difficult to make right if even possible.

In our Christian life, we must have the RIGHT kind of anger. There are flaws in our thought process which at sometime causes all of us to lose our cool when selfish anger blows up.  

Crossness and bad temper are without defense!
There is an anger that without it would make a worse place to live and the world would lose much without that type of anger. Case in point:

The slave trade caused much anger between people. It caused a civil war and allowed people to be free people. Slavery divided the nation. It was used as an excuse for free labor, and it tore what family life the slaves might have had.

Case in point:

When someone has been in prisoned, having served his time, they may have vowed to change his lifestyle often employment is hard to find.  And if they find employment, it seems like most co-workers know their history, and many make it extremely hard for them to make the adjustment to being a law-abiding citizen.

Case in point:

The anger between my father and my twin brother completely tore up our family life at my age 16. It was over my father’s lady friend and harsh and terrible words were uttered by my brother. He was ordered out of the house, not to be there when my father returned from work. Then my father looked at me and said “either me or him. You can’t have us both.” My father and brother never spoke to one another again. My father and the lady married several years later and she would not permit a good relationship between my father and me. That continued for over 20 years.  We were reunited when one of my sons took his marriage invitation to his grandpa. Edith came in, sat next to our daughter in law to be as if nothing had ever happened, and the past 20+ years evaporated in emotions and feelings instantly.

I know personally of how words spoken before putting one’s thought pattern in the right mode can take years before it can be buried in history in one’s life. These 3 cases mentioned, have changed the lives of countless people. When people act in anger for the right purpose in God’s will. With what’s going on in the world today, the pains of our history and lives could cause us to deal with the same type of deadly anger. 

I pray that we as a nation and the world would never have to endure another Holocast. But with some of the factions in the world today, if good God fearing people fail to get angry at what’s going on in the world and do not band together in unity and prayer asking God to help us, who knows where we are headed!

Be mindful that not all anger is evil!

Let us pray…

Grace to Grace

Tenth Sunday of Pentecost
Scripture: Ephesians 4:1-16

The purpose of the church is to make new disciples for the kingdom of God on earth, to build up the living, active body of Christ until all of us have a unity of faith, acknowledging Jesus as the Son of the Living God.

Christ knows us and calls us.  He knows the potential within our lives and believes we can aid in transforming the world that God has created. With ordinary people like each of us, we can lead others in making this world a more caring, loving world than it is today.

Today this world operates on discourse, disharmony and disunity.

  • In many family units
  • In the communities we live in
  • The world as a whole 
  • And even within the church

We are called and equipped to create a sacred oneness as agents of Jesus Christ. The church is the one source that has the ability, but for the church to create that unity we need to dispel all discourse and our personal agendas. We need to take those differences to the Lord asking him to enable us to transcend our differences. We must love one another as He loves us.

The grace to ask ourselves is at our fingertips; it is within our grasp. That is one of the basic factors of the Christian church. Love one another as the Lord loves us!

Christ knows that we have an instant struggle, a daily battle loving one another as he loves us. It is possible for us to love one another by seeing that we are not perfect persons. We are only God’s children in process. We need when we have wronged one another wrongly

  • to stop that action instantly!
  • to see deep down the goodness that is in each one of us and see what the Lord sees in us.
That is a goal that we must seek to attain. When we hold on to our ill feelings about one another, we are hurting not only ourselves but the image of the Lord who lives within us. Likewise we limit the fullness of God’s grace and we are one missing the goal of unity with one another and our Lord.

It’s wonderful that our Lord has the ability not only to forgive us, but He forgets our sin and it will never be brought up against us again. It would have been wonderful and a blessing if we had the ability to forgive and forget our transgressions against one another.

It is here that Satan attacks us full force to destroy the love of God within our hearts! When we yield to our human frailties we sacrifice the grace of God within us.

Lord God, help us for we all are guilty of this sin causing us to lose faith and Your divine grace. Help us forgive the way You have forgiven us. Amen.

Father God

9th Sunday of Pentecost
Scripture: Ephesians  3:14-21

When I say "father," what image do you feel and see in your heart and mind?                                        
Paul is making a huge step of faith when he speaks of the Holy God as Father. Fatherhood comes with a large responsibility. While a man can be a sperm donor, he may never care for the child as a father. In the Old Testament, God was not spoken in terms of as a Father.  In the Old Testament, God was seen as an impossible entity to approach. To see God face to face meant instant death. It was only on the Day of Atonement that the High Priest could go into the Holy of Holies, where the Ark of the Covenant was, to offer prayer for the sins of the people.

Recall when Moses came down from Mt. Sinai. His face shown like the sun and the people believed that he had been with God.

It’s only in the New Testament, that the writers speak of God as a Father. Recall when Jesus was baptized by John in the Jordan river.  When He came up out of the water, the voice of God was heard saying “This is my beloved Son."

Paul said in Ephesians 3, where he talked about sharing with the Ephesians, that God is our Heavenly Father.  He also said that He transcends all aspects of our earthly father.

It is through Jesus Christ’s blood we can approach God personally, yet today every church family has members who question the basic fact that our faith response makes God approachable. That is simply not the case.

Do not be swayed from the truth by the last person you have spoken to. Stand firm in the faith and in scripture. Paul speaks of a clever trickery and many that offer their opinion.

Like James Jones' followers in Guyana, they were deceived. These people are excellent actors.
In seducing and causing many to fall from grace. There are some that follow the preacher and not the Lord he preaches about.

Who was the first one to call God The Father? It was Jesus!

God the Father is not an entity out in outer space, nor just in Heaven.
He is right here, right now in this sanctuary.
He hears each word that is spoken.
He senses each thought in our hearts and minds.
He sees each of our reactions to what is going on.
He knows us better than we know ourselves.

Paul is making us aware that if we water down our understanding of a loving, caring Heavenly Father, we are shortchanging ourselves to the fullness of the Father Grace. Paul makes aware that it is ever so easy to abandon our faith by often following mortal man and not the Father in Heaven.

If we don’t hold onto the Faith, it causes spiritual stagnation and narrow mindedness. That leads to limited understanding of the fullness of God's presence.

Praise God the Father who loves us and knows us. In spite of ourselves His love is so great that He sacrificed His only Son as a ransom for our sins.

Let us pray… Thank you Heavenly Father. We can comprehend your love for us for forgiving our sins through the blood of Your Son Jesus Christ. Amen!

A Holy Seal

Seventh Sunday of Pentecost
Scripture: Ephesians 1:3-14

We are all sealed with a holy seal when we confess our faith. God placed that Holy Seal upon us by the sacrificed blood of Jesus Christ, his only begotten Son.

Paul begins the letter of Ephesians claiming 2 things:
1.) He is an apostle of Christ.
2.) His approval came only through the will of God.

Paul’s apostleship means that his action is through his commissioning as a gift from God. He likewise is amazed that God could use him, with such a dark and sinful background. As Christians, we must never be filled with pride. We must only be filled with wonderment and amazement that the Lord sees our worth in spreading the Gospel.

When we confess our faith and love for Jesus in our hearts, we are sealed with the Holy Spirit for the tasks that lay ahead of us. That seal is for God’s grace and peace.

The grace and peace from God is always a precious gift. It is impossible for us to obtain by our own efforts. We can never earn it. It is always a gift from the Loving Lord. God’s peace is something that is independent of our own outward circumstances.

One might live a life of ease and luxury in the world. One might have the finest things in life...

  • a huge fine mansion
  • a large bank account
  • a host of friends

…while having no real sense of peace within their heart and life.

Take some of the 3rd world nations. They might make a couple dollars for a whole day’s work, yet they can have a smile on their face and a real sense of peace in their heart.

The explanation of that peace can be seen in the one set of footprints in the sand, the awareness that God is carrying them through this ordeal.

I sense that Paul thought a person who has the love of God in his heart and nothing more could have the peace of God. He reminds us that many of the choices we make can rob us of God’s peace. For we were created to be God’s chosen ones, but by our own default we reject the will of God!

The choices we make in our own lives may draw us away from God’s love or draw us closer to His love because he created us with free will.

There is a story of a rich man and beggar (the 16th chapter of Luke). The rich man never saw the beggar at his doorstep, but the beggar asked the rich man to send Lazerus to warn his 5 brothers that they should not follow in his footsteps.

19 “There was a rich man who was dressed in purple and fine linen and lived in luxury every day.
20 At his gate was laid a beggar named Lazarus, covered with sores
21 and longing to eat what fell from the rich man’s table. Even the dogs came and licked his sores.
22 “The time came when the beggar died and the angels carried him to Abraham’s side. The rich man also died and was buried.

23 In Hades, where he was in torment, he looked up and saw Abraham far away, with Lazarus by his side.
24 So he called to him, ‘Father Abraham, have pity on me and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, because I am in agony in this fire.’

25 “But Abraham replied, ‘Son, remember that in your lifetime you received your good things, while Lazarus received bad things, but now he is comforted here and you are in agony.
26 And besides all this, between us and you a great chasm has been set in place,
so that those who want to go from here to you cannot, nor can anyone cross over from there to us.’

27 “He answered, ‘Then I beg you, father, send Lazarus to my family,
28 for I have five brothers. Let him warn them, so that they will not also come to this place of torment.’”

The choices we make now, may seem inconsequential and yet if the rich man would have given the beggar a drink of water, the Lord would have seen it and blessed him.

We always have 2 choices in life.

  1. We can go the way of the world
  2. We can go above and beyond the world… 

laying treasures in heaven, laying great treasures in Heaven.

Who are we going to follow? The way of the world or the way of God?

Rejoice in His holy seal that God seeks to put upon our lives. Amen!

Thorns or Grace?

Sixth Sunday of Pentecost
Scripture: 2nd Corinthians 12:1-10

Our scripture starts out with Paul speaking about a man in Christ giving of himself to the Lord. Paul knew this man for 14 years. In this passage, he spoke about being "caught up in the 3rd Heaven."  He likewise states that he did not know if this was with his body or without his body being in the Spirit.

About this man I will boast. About myself, I will not boast. I will not be a fool, for I will speak only the truth.

Paul speaks about a thorn in his flesh. Some believe that it was a form of Malaria Fever that haunted the coastal area he traveled in. Others thought it might have been a Spiritual temptation or "constant doubt" that he was doing the will of the Lord.

Others thought it was fear from shirking his duty.

Yet others thought it was carnal temptation. Monks and hermits shut themselves in monasteries to tame the instinct of sex.

Yet none of these solutions can be right for 3 reasons:
1.) The text states that it was severe pain.
2.) Others thought it was physical suffering of a deformity.
3.) The pain was intermittent.

It states in 2nd Corinthians that Paul might have had a weakened body. Sometimes he could hardly share his love for the Lord.

Paul does not tell us nor does the scripture identify the thorn in Paul’s side. Paul asked the Lord several times to remove the thorn. The Lord said no. His grace is sufficient.

Paul would not let the thorn in his side stop him from serving the Lord.

What is the thorn in your side? We all have at least one that limits us from our ability to faithfully serve the Lord our God. Are you limited in sharing your faith with others? Fearful of not saying the right things?

We are not to worry about what we might say, for the Lord said He would give us His words. Just tell your story. Tell them your love of the Lord and how He has been with you every step of the way. Remember the footsteps poem I shared a few week ago?

Some won’t try to increase their limited abilities because of the lack of education or even comfort level.  

I cannot sing on tune or read music, yet I enjoy making a joyful noise unto the Lord. That’s all that is required of us. With all the thorns in my life, the Lord had not made me useless in speaking the Word of God for 45 years.

We need to stop holding back our gifts and talents the Lord has given us. I knew a lay pastor who had a speech impediment, not unlike Moses. He stuttered constantly when speaking, yet when he started to preach his speech was clear and without any evidence that he had a stuttering problem.

We need to not be limited by the thorns in our lives that seek to hinder us of our true capabilities to share the Love of Christ. As we seek to serve the Lord, may He not remove the thorns in our lives, but use them to spur us on and do his will as He desires rather than settling for our unwillingness to step out in faith.

May we praise the Lord with the amazing grace that He has given each and everyone of us who is willing to be used by Him to tell His story.



Fifth Sunday of Pentecost
Scripture:  2 Corinthians 8:7-15

The mother church in Jerusalem was in crisis!

She was in great need, trying to continue her ministry. We don’t know exactly what the need was, only that she was in need of a lot of money. Hearing of this, Paul, who was in Macedonia, starts a fundraising drive to help erase that need.

Seeing the Macedonians and their generous hearts, even with their own needs, Paul asks them to help the mother church. So, even with their own poverty yet with their overflowing generous hearts, the church responded to those needs.

Now, no gift can be in any way a real gift  without the giver,giving a bit of themself wrapped into the gift.

The same is so very true with all our gifts given unto our LORD. Paul sites several reasons for being generous. He set the example that others could follow. The church in Macedonia was a poor church, yet a church very generous in helping others.

Another example is that of our Lord Jesus the Christ. He sacrificed Himself on the cross. The generosity showed there did not start with the crucifixion. Nor did it being at His birth; rather it began in Heaven when He chose to lay down His life so that all of us might have abundant life on Earth and eternal life of peace in heaven.

I want to praise you as members of the Peniel Church. When I requested a special offering for Nepal’s Earth Quake, while we took some out of the Mission Fund, we raised nearly $500 more through your individual giving.

Paul reminds us of the strange way that life has a way of evening things out. It’s a true saying that far more often than not we find the measure we respond to others is the same measure that is returned to us.

We cannot outgive God! Paul includes his appeal with phrases from Exodus 16:17-18, the sharing of the Manna and quail in the wilderness. The Israelites did as they were told.  Some gathered much manna; others gathered less.

When they measured it by the omar, he who gathered much did not have too much and he who gathered little had not too little.

We need to realize all of our gifts given unto our Lord, proportional to our ability, is a blessing.
No gift is too large and no gift is too small. Remember the lady with the 2 mites?   The Lord measures all of those gifts using the same yardstick.

The more we put into something, the more we get out. Our Christian action is response to our faith. If we put only a little of our faith into actions, very little will we get out of it.

Matthew 6:1 does caution about giving to the needy: "Be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of others to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven."

2 Corinthians 9:7 says:
"Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver."

So we gave almost $1,500.00 to the people of Nepal, who will never know who you are,
but they will know it came from the Church.

Let us pray!

Blizzard of Trouble

4th Sunday of Pentecost
Scripture: 2 Corinthians 6:1-13

In all the chances and changes in his life, Paul maintained one main concern: to show himself as a sincere faithful minister of Jesus Christ. He would say without reservation that the Christian life style is not for the faint of heart.

When Satan and his demons throw trials and temptations at you, you must persevere.

Winston S. Churchill said, “Success is not final; failure is not fatal. it is the courage to continue that counts.”

In today society too many expect that once they confess their faith in the Lord Jesus the Christ life will be a bed of roses… roses without thorns.

In our text for today, Paul is sharing the eternal conflict of a true Christian life style. There are all sorts of conflicts that constantly weigh down our hearts and spirits.

I was going to my office to prepare this message when the telephone rang. It was about 9:30 AM, and it was my nephew calling to tell me his sister had killed herself. She was my only sister’s daughter. I had to spend quite a bit of time to get my thoughts together. I don’t understand the “why” in this situation, only that the Lord will guide and comfort our whole family during these difficult days,

Like Paul, I know the Holy Spirit is in all of life’s up and downs and He will be with us always. God loves us regardless of whatever is going on in our lives. I can’t imagine what it would be like to be in prison, yet Paul was in prison seven times for speaking about  the Lord.

He suffered at least two beatings with a cat of nine tails and got 39 lashes. Because he was a Roman citizen they were not permitted to give his 40 lashes, as the 40th lash might have caused his death.

I don’t know how many ship wrecks he was involved in.

And we get upset when someone says something that offends us or hurts our felling. If Paul had acted that way there would be no Christian church today. But he stayed with his course of action in preaching and witnessing the Gospel, that we might have a true witness to the pitfalls of being faithful to our confession in Jesus Christ our Lord.

As I look back over the trials and treatment of Paul and His labors to preach the Gospel, I can not see one time in my whole ministry even once that I have suffered anything like Paul suffered for his love for our Lord. And today we are a spoiled lot. We gripe because its either too hot or to cool. We get furious when someone says something about us or what we supposedly did or didn't do.

Remember the old saying: “It’s unwise to change horses in the middle of the stream!”

But in spite of our narrow tempers and misunderstanding with one another, the church is still alive and doing business for the Lord Jesus the Christ. May each of us look at our service for the church today and where we may be a stumbling block to one another. Maybe we should repent, ask for forgiveness, and then seek to find the gifts of the Spirit God gave us to illuminate His presence… in us!


Peace of the Presence

3rd Sunday of Pentecost
Scripture: St. Mark 4:35-41

The Sea of Galilee is between two large mountain ranges. It sets in a bowl its water coming in from the north. This is a natural wind tunnel, causing the sea that is like a sheet of glass to become rough with high waves, some of which are several feet high.

When Jesus and His disciples started across the lake, the surface was a sheet of glass. About half way across the wind came blowing hard.  The little boat is tossed about like a toy top on a flat surface. Jesus is laying on a piece of carpet with a small pillow. The helmsman stands on deck a couple feet away. The waves were hitting the boat so hard that the boat was taking on water.

The disciples were afraid that the boat was about to sink.  They woke Jesus up, saying, “Teacher don’t you care that we are about to perish?”

Jesus gets up and sternly rebukes the wind and waves. Jesus tells the wind and waves “BE SILENT…BE MUZZLED”. The wind and waves die down immediately. The sea surface returns to being a sheet of glass. The disciples marvels that even the wind and waves obey His command.

What is interesting here is that Jesus used the same words to the wind and waves that he used to silence a demon-possessed man in Mark 1:25: “Be Quiet.” Here in Mark 4:39, Jesus says “QUIET ... BE STILL.” This passage not only shows the power of Jesus, but that He can bring peace in the storms of life that we face.

There is a tale of a gardener who loved a certain flower and he spent extra time tending to its every need, using only the best products for its care. One morning, he went to the garden to check on his flower. It was gone! No trace! He began to rant and rave over who would do such a trick. Why would anybody steal his most precious flower?

Standing there in the garden, he felt the presence of something. In his mind he heard a voice. The voice said, “Hush! I plucked it for myself.” Then he realized it was the voice of the Lord, speaking to his heart. He at once realized that Jesus could calm the storms of our rage in an instant and in the darkest moments of our lives.

Jesus offers us peace when our lives are asunder, such as during the loss of a precious loved one.

His presence comes to us when we don’t know what to do. Often the real tragedy is not that we don’t know what to do, but so often we do not humble ourselves to be guided by Him. He offers us peace of His presence, when the storms of life are raging within us.

Remember the enemy of peace is worry. We worry for ourselves and our loved ones and about the unknown future. Jesus speaks to us as a Father who’s heart and love never causes His precious child a needless tear.

I love the words in our hymn on page 512, Stand by Me.

“When the storms of life are raging,
Stand by me.
Stand by me.
When the storms of life are raging,
Stand by me.
Stand by me.

“When the world is tossing us like a ship upon the sea,
Then who ruleth Wind and Waters,
Stand by me.
Stand by me.”

Jesus the Christ, is the only one that can grant us true peace of body, mind, and spirit. Amen!

Secret of Endurance

2nd Sunday of Pentecost June 7th,2015
Scripture: 2nd Corinthians 4:16-18

The secret of endurance is like both sides of a coin. It has things that are seen with our eyes and things that are not visible but are felt in our heart.

I looked up the words "endure" and "endurance." The dictionaries use phrases like:
  • To hold out against
  • To sustain without impairment
  • The power to bear life encounters without resistance
  • To support adverse forces with not yielding to them
The things that are seen are man-made earthly items, while the things not seen are from God’s love, grace, and eternal presence.

Paul’s words include all those in the earthly life, that may or may not happen to us in our lives, like the strength of one’s body in it’s youth. We see that strength fade away in the aging process of life.

Through this life we need to feed the soul that keeps us health and wise in the Lord’s presence and love. It is in the human body that we suffer many things that weaken us, yet it is the soul that keeps us strong and aware of God’s presence even in our suffering.

Paul was convinced that suffering and adversity happens if we endure them with God’s presence and strength, they are worth the GOAL and the PRIZE we seek: Eternal LIFE! With God as our helper.

Suffering may destroy our body, while with the Spirit with God at the helm of our lives we will win the VICTORY over SIN AND DEATH!

As we look back over our lives, we will all see suffering in many situations. Have you seen them as events that awaken our faith journey? As an event that has sustained us? For we realize that the Lord walk beside us at all times, often holding our hands, but at other times carrying us though that situation, until we can stand and walk under our own strength.

Thomas Wood penned these words:

"I remember.
I remember
The fir tree dark and high.

"I used to think their slender tips
Were close against the sky.

"It was a childish ignorance
To know I’m further off from Heaven
Than when I was a boy."

We all know the countless pitfalls that Paul endured during his journey in life, but he never lost sight or failed to believe that all his earthly suffering, were nothing compared to the glory that awaited him at his death because he endured these pitfalls while being baptized in Christ’s blood and eternal life.

I am as guilty as you are of having slipped into a state of self-pity, asking the Lord, "Why me? Why me?"

Because I was seeing and allowing myself to see only my eyes and not the heart of God. When I have stopped dead in my tracks and look back in all the years of my life, I see countless times God working in and through the pitfalls of my life. Even at birth, there was a struggle for my twin and I. But God intervened.

This reminds me of the poem “Footprints in the Sand.”

"One night I dreamed I was walking along the beach with the Lord. Many scenes from my life flashed across the sky.

"In each scene I noticed footprints in the sand. Sometimes there were two sets of footprints, other times there was one only.

"This bothered me because I noticed that during the low periods of my life, when I was suffering from anguish, sorrow or defeat, I could see only one set of footprints, so I said to the Lord,

"'You promised me Lord,
that if I followed you, you would walk with me always. But I have noticed that during the most trying periods of my life there has only been one set of footprints in the sand. Why, when I needed you most, have you not been there for me?'

"The Lord replied, 'The years when you have seen only one set of footprints, my child, is when I carried you.'… My Precious, precious child,

"I love you and I would never leave you."
-Mary Stevenson

During your times of trial and suffering, when you see only one set of footprints in the sand…
… it was then that God carried you.

How do you see your life? With only your eyesight or through the eyes of God?

For He sees not who we are or how we are living, but who we might become through His living presence and power in our lives.

Lord we thank you for the ability to endure this life’s struggles and pitfalls, for we know they are nothing compared to the JOY and LOVE that You offer and give to each one who acknowledges You as their redeeming God!


The Family of God

1st Sunday of Pentecost
Scripture: Romans 8:12-17

Upon our adoption into the Christian church by the action of our faith, we become a new creature. In Paul's words in our text today, he describes the laws for an adoption by Roman culture at that time. In that adoption, a person’s life changes completely.

We need to refresh ourselves on that process of Roman adoption. The birth father would symbolically sell his son three times. He would then buy him back twice, but the third time he would not buy him back. The new father would go to the magistrate who had the power to accept or reject the action of the birth father. All the rights of the boy being adopted, his birthrights, were transferred to his new father, and the lad gained a complete new identity.

If another male child was born in his new family, that child did not become heir to his father’s wealth. Adoption at that time in history was a serious and long process.

There were four major steps in an adoption.

  1. The adopted person lost all rights with his birth family.
  2. He gained all birthrights with his new family.
  3. In the eyes of the law, the adoption wiped out all of his records and previous life before he was adopted. It was a clean slate.
  4. A father had total control over his children, including the power of life or death, at his fingertips.

This is what the Apostle Paul was thinking about when he was talking about Roman adoption. What Paul says is that God’s Spirit witnessed with our spirit and that we are all children of God. Paul is saying that it is the Holy Spirit who witnesses the adoption into the family of God.

Once we were an absolutely powerless over sin, but God in His mercy has bought us back into His possession through the blood of His Son, Jesus Christ. All of our past is canceled. Our sin debts are paid in full. The slate is wiped clean and we begin a new life with our God. We become heirs of all of God’s possessions. If Christ had to suffer, then we too inherit that suffering. But if Christ was raised to life and glory, we also will inherit that life and glory.

This is the picture Paul is painting of a man or woman who becomes a Christian. They enter into a new life and family with God. We have done nothing to deserve it, and it cannot be earned.

It is a gift from our Lord and Savior. God the great Father, in His loving mercy and amazing love, has taken away our lost and helpless lives in poverty and strife. God had adopted each and every one of us into His holy family.

We are debt-free and our sins are canceled. They have removed as far as the east is from the west, never to be recorded by God again. We enter the glory of God through the shadow of Jesus. Amen!

The Gift of the Holy Spirit

Pentecost Sunday
Scripture: Acts 2:1-21                                    

In the first 13 chapters of Acts, there are more than 40 references to the Holy Spirit. Now the early church was a Spirit-filled church. That was precisely where the church’s power supply came from.

What actually happened at Pentecost we really don’t know.  Yet, we are certain that something greatly changed the disciples and us today.  It was far, far more than just speaking in tongues.

The disciples were huddled together in the upper room, behind locked doors, in fear of their lives. The Lord appeared unto them and breathed the Holy Spirit in them. They emerged from the upper room and walked the streets and by-ways, preaching that the Lord\has arrived.

They were proclaiming that Jesus is the Son of God, whom the people crucified and sealed in a tomb. They shared that Jesus arose, offering all of God's gracious love.

The Old Testament speaks of this great event in Acts 2, starting in verse 16:

“No, this is what was spoken by the prophet Joel:

17 “‘In the last days, God says,
    I will pour out my Spirit on all people.
Your sons and daughters will prophesy,
    your young men will see visions,
    your old men will dream dreams.
18 Even on my servants, both men and women,
    I will pour out my Spirit in those days,
    and they will prophesy.
19 I will show wonders in the heavens above
    and signs on the earth below,
    blood and fire and billows of smoke.
20 The sun will be turned to darkness
    and the moon to blood
    before the coming of the great and glorious day of the Lord.
21 And everyone who calls
    on the name of the Lord will be saved.’”

In our day and age, less and less focus has been on the fulfillment of this great prophecy. It’s high time – past time – that we allow these words of God to be watered down. We need a rebirth!

  • of that first Pentecostal day
  • of the in-filling of the Holy Spirit in the world
  • of our nation, 
  • in each one of our hearts and lives.

We have slowly programmed out the loving Spirit of God out of our lives and even out of His church. Christ is not the main thrust in our lives any more. Instead of being Christ-centered and Spirit-filled, we give Him the leftovers of our time.

Until we wake up, Spirit-filled and motivated, He will decline in our world and our individual lives.

God, please awaken each of us to the Holy Spirit who seeks to reign supreme in our lives. Amen!

Jesus' Ascension

7th Sunday after Easter
Scripture: Acts 1:9-11

It is important that we have a firsthand account of Jesus’ ascension. We discover this in Acts 1:9-11. “After He said this, He was taken up before the very eyes of the disciples in a cloud that hid Him from the disciples.” Two men dressed in white stood beside them.

“Men of Galilee, why do you stand here looking into the sky?” they asked. “This same Jesus who has been taken up from you into Heaven will come back in the same way you have seen Him go into the heavens.”

There are two reasons for firsthand accounts of Jesus’ ascension.
  1. It was necessary that there should be an eyewitness.
  2. We know that for someone to be a credible witness in a court of law, he or she should be an eyewitness.
If Christianity were but a think-so-too, it would have died off many years ago.
  1. A real witness is not the witness with words, but with deeds. 
  2. One of the most suggestive facts is that in Greek the word for “witness” and the word for “martyr” come from the same word.
  3. An eyewitness must be loyal no matter what the outcome. Thus the disciples did become martyrs.
Jesus spent 40 days after His resurrection from the dead as an eyewitness to the power of God to win the victory over sin and death. Thus, it is absolutely correct to say that we do not regard Heaven as just someplace beyond the sky.  A place of Heaven is a place of blessedness where we will one day and forever be inseparable from God.

If Jesus was to give His followers irreversible proof that He was going to His Heavenly glory, wherein one day His faithful followers will go to be with Him, one day His followers would go with Him.

But we don’t need to worry about when the second coming will transpire.  But it will happen. But it is foolish and useless for us to speculate on how it will happen, for Jesus told us His Father in Heaven has fixed the time and date, and not even Jesus knows the hour or the day.

Jesus’ second coming means that Christianity is not stationary. Rather, it’s going somewhere. God the Father has a plan for each one of us, so history is not a haphazardous conglomeration of events. It also is going somewhere.

God so loved His creation and mankind that when mankind stumbled and fell from grace and glory He sent His beloved Son Jesus, the Christ, to redeem us. Even when mankind murdered Him, God did not forsake His creature, man, but once again gave mankind another chance for the blessed eternal life.

We need to realize, with all that’s going on in our world today, that God is still in control. While Satan seems to be in control at this moment, when the final battle between Satan and God happens, God and His creature man win the battle.

In the meantime, we must forge ahead as the battle rages on, offering our small bits of spiritual energy toward the final goal, aiding the winning of the battle along with and for God. Let us pray!