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.