Christmas Day

Scripture: Isaiah 62:6-12, St Luke 2:1-7
The mighty words of the prophet Isaiah proclaim, “We see your salvation comes.” At Christmas we rejoice that our salvation is in the birth of a Savior who looks like an average human baby boy, but is promised to be so much more. Our reading for today shows a glimpse of how this salvation comes, what it looks like and how we can know it is real. We must examine them in light of our contemporary contexts for receiving the gift of salvation.

The psalmist tells us our salvation comes as light and joy, while Luke’s detailed account of the birth story proclaims that salvation comes not through fear, (although there was a little of that), but through the shining glory of a lord and great joy of the good news. Lest we forget from where this salvation comes, in the letter of Titus, we are reminded that it comes not through our own merit, but according to His mercy through the water of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit.

Yes, today is a celebration not merely of a baby, although that gives us much to celebrate, but a celebration of our salvation! Throughout scriptures this salvation has been anticipated and proclaimed. How will it be proclaimed in our communities and among the people of faith today?

Consider what words we might use in our context to describe the arrival of our salvation on this Christmas day and everyday of our lives. How do we know it is real? How will people experience the light, joy, mercy and rebirth that are the salvation of our world?

Each time we tell the Christmas story we are obligated to repeat the stories of Christ’s birth everywhere and in any way we can possibly share it. The gift of Christmas is our calling as disciples of the living Christ in our lives. Thank you Holy Father, Son and Holy Spirit that we are worthy to share the reality of your precious gift of salvation through the example of your son, Jesus Christ.


Least in His Kingdom

4th Sunday of Advent
Scripture: St Matthew 11:18-25
Our text for today shows us how little we know about Jesus. It shows us and we must remember that in the gospels we have only a basic knowledge of Jesus’ work on earth and the things we do not know about Jesus far out number the things we do know.

We must be careful to catch the tone in His voice as he says many things. “Woe onto thee” is far more expressive of sorrowful pity as much as it is of anger. It is not the acceptance of one who is in a large temperament because his self esteem has been torched, nor one who is blazingly angry because his has been insulted , nor one in a passion of hatred at his people on earth at his time of his ministry among us.

For like our Lord, we can not and must not answer someone in anger who has misunderstood us. It was and is the sin of people who forget the responsibility of privilege that we have as a child of the living God. For unto the city of Galilee and even here today, there has been given privilege, a chance and an opportunity which comes to us through our lord and Savior.

We dare not condemn a man or woman gone astray, through ignorance or never having the chance to know any better. And we must never, condemn a child for that which we might condemn an adult. We can not expect to have someone who has never heard about Jesus to respond in the same way as a person who has grown up within the family of the church. We have a great Christian responsibility to respond with Christian ethics as we are members of the community of Christ.

Years ago, while serving in Richmond, IN community, I heard a radio preacher say he had never sinned since he became a pastor. By his own actions, in fact, he may have condemned himself.
Jesus tells us, from his own life experiences, he has been insulted and misunderstood by the religious community of His time. Paraphrasing Jesus words, the Rabbis and the wise men rejected Him while the simple people accepted and flocked to Him. When I left to study for the ministry, many in my small home church were extremely happy, while at the same time saying “don’t let your education destroy your faith in the Lord and your commitment to Him.”

I found this little saying sometime ago, and it comes to mind once again:

“Still to the lonely soul
He doth himself impart
And for his dwelling and his throne
Chooses only the pure at heart”

May we each strive, with the Lord’s help, to seek a pure heart.

Let us pray.

The Greatest Question!

3rd Sunday of Advent
Scripture: St. Matthew 11:2-11
Jesus response to John’s question, don’t ask for confirmation of who I am, “I am.” You can see who I am by my actions. Jesus repeated this 3 times. He further says that God’s people have to seek for who I am.
What John was seeking was much more than a bargain, for John was much more than a prophet. John had been arrested, and was in a cold dungeon. It was a very narrow space, just enough space to lie down. The light came in from a small opening at the top of the cell. One might be able to see out by standing on their toes, but you could hear voices, even if you could not see anyone. This was very hard on John for his life had been an open space in the wilderness. As a child of the desert, John’s life was under the canopy of the sky. Fresh air blew in his face. And most important, he was free to move around.
Hearing the voices, John asked his disciples to go and seek Jesus and ask him, “Are you the one or must we look for another?” Jesus told John’s disciples to tell John this:
  • The blind are receiving their sight.
  • The lame are walking and running about.
  • The lepers are cleansed.
  • The poor are receiving the good news.
  • Blessed is the man who does not take offense of me.
As a dying man, John can not afford to have any doubts about Jesus the Messiah, sent from God.
The supreme argument for the church today is not intellect or debate. It must be the experience of a change in ones life in allowing the power of god to control one’s life and lifestyle. Is the Lord’s changing power a major force in your life?
I ask you once again, why did the masses go out to the wilderness? Did they go out to see a reed shaken by the wind? What they discovered was not an ordinary man. They saw and felt something extra ordinary in John’s life. No one would go out into the wilderness to see an ordinary man!
Truly, John was more than a prophet. He had a special message to convey making us aware of great spiritual awakening. It had been told for centuries that Elijah would return to herald the coming of the Messiah. To this day, when the Jews celebrate the Passover feast, a vacant chair is left for Elijah’s arrival.
A prophet of today is a man or woman with god’s wisdom in their minds,God’s truth on their lips, and God’s courage in their heart, body and soul. Certainly, John had all three of these spiritual gifts. While John’s message was not a gospel of good news, it was basically and fundamentally a warning of the destruction to come.
It took Jesus and his death on the cross to show all mankind the
  • Length
  • Breath
  • Depth
  • Heights
...of the love of God!

The great question still exists today. Will each of us spend ourselves physically is need be for the hop and eternal life of god’s kingdom, even if we loose this life for the goal of his eternal love in the heavenly kingdom?

Let us pray.

Prepare the Way!


2nd Sunday of Advent
Scripture: Matthew 3:1-12


Who invited John the Baptist to the Christmas Party? He was wearing clothes made of camel skin, had an odd diet and was sharing an intrusive message! Or was the message not for one Sunday each year but for daily use in our lives, to shake us up and point us toward the reign of God. A dynamic message that is quite different than what most of our churches share week after week. His message of repentance is not a message of threat, but a promise for a new and better lifestyle.

It is both often and at the same time for us to focus much on the path, a path not looking to the future. For starters, perhaps we don’t have to spend money that we don’t have that our family members and friends don’t really need. What we need most is our attention and presence focusing on the Lord. Perhaps preachers should offer guidance for persons to refocus on what they really need and what is important.

John arrived on the scene preaching in the wilderness of Judea, crying out “repent for the kingdom of god is at hand”. As a prophet of god he said, “Make ready the way (road), by which the Lord is making, He is near. Make ready the road that the Lord may enter your life in a new and exciting way. He fearlessly denounced evil wherever he saw it. When Herod the King, was in a sinful marriage, he rebuked him. If the ordinary people were living a life of sin, unaware of God’s presence in his life, wherever he saw sin in the state or the church he loudly rebuked it.

If John were alive today, what would he rebuke in the church today that would awaken us to what the church is really about? Lord, we need a resurrected John the Baptist to emerge and awaken all the churches today. Our beloved UMC and countless other churches in rural America need a great spiritual awakening.

It appears today that the mega church is the new style. Huge church buildings, large membership, multi-paid staff are missing the target of the down and out in smaller churches that need the Lord also.

Our main reason for being a Church community is not to just add more on the rolls, but to make disciples for the Lord. We don’t need to keep up with the large churches across town, but we need to offer the in-churched a new and fresh life with the Lord Jesus as their guide and example.

A cousin of mine had a grandchild who recently took his own life. He was 18 years old with a small infant son. A young man, who could have been reached to know the Lord and be a disciple, is gone.

What are we doing to make new disciples? Where are we going as a church to reach out to those struggling with life?

With the drug culture in our community, just imagine just what any one church can do to save the youth and others. When I was young we heard of drugs in places like Chicago, New York, and Los Angeles. Today it exists in our own back yards. What a wonderful Christmas we might have next year if we spent as much money on reaching others as we spend on maintaining our air-conditioned, sanctuaries.

John was not afraid to rebuke even a king of his sinful lifestyle. Oh yes, it cost him his head but it gave him eternal life in the kingdom of heaven. May we aid in the fight to reclaim our society for the Lord Jesus Christ!

Let us Pray.

Pressing Onward

1st Sunday of Advent
Scripture: Isaiah 43:18, Philippians 3:13-1
The Upper Room for last Tuesday really spoke to me: Paul is saying that the church and its leadership must forget all that has transpired and press on to the goal that the Lord has set before them. We should not, and shall not, rest on what has happened, but look forward to the blessings the Lord has in store for us.

Each new experience is to strengthen our service and love for the Lord. He knows what He would like us to accomplish for Him. He is in control for each and everything that transpires in our lives. And He promises to be with us 100% of the time!

I like a sign that was hanging in my father’s doctors office on Maple Ave. It read, "everyone that enters in brings joy, some when they enter and some when they leave." That reminds me of my years as your pastor, the joys we have shared over the years as well as the times of discourse. That includes the joy that lies ahead in our future. The leadership that will come after me will lead in a slightly different manner, but they will still be a disciple for the kingdom of our Lord.

In each new encounter within our lives, there are joys and sadness. Your doctor may announce you need to have surgery. I recall my feelings when I asked my doctor if I could go home from the hospital. His response was absolutely not, as I needed my gallbladder removed!

Lamentations 3:22-23 speaks about the stressful happenings in our lives. Because of the Lord's great love we are not consumed, for His compassion never fails! It is a new day every morning. Great is the faithfulness of our Lord!

May we each step backwards for a moment, recalling a painful and stressful time in our lives. I cannot imagine Paul’s feelings when the voice of the Lord spoke to him on a Damascus road. He was on his way to take Christians to Jerusalem to be tried and executed. He fell to the ground when he hears the voice calling him. He cried out, “Is that you Lord?” The Lord stated, “I have chosen you.” What a transforming life experience fell on Paul and often falls on us. From being the chief enemy of the Lord to one of His people, Paul was transformed into one of the greatest missionary of Christ in the Christian movement!

Lord, You are calling all of us to new and exciting labors in building your earthly kingdom. Each one of us is only a drop of ointment to salve the hurts and pains of this earthly life and we pray that each new morning your blessings will fall fresh upon us.

I praise You, Lord, for calling each one of us and continually helping us to envision each change in our lives as a new and exciting challenge for your eternal love. Help us not to dwell on yesterday or today, but the future that lies ahead for us. Give us only a glimpse that our futures will bring this church and our lives to new and exciting ministries.

In Jesus' name we pray, amen!

First Fruits and Tithes

Last Sunday of Pentecost/Thanksgiving Sunday
Scripture: Deuteronomy 26:1-11

Thanksgiving has become an American institution with ritual foods and the pardoning of the turkey, and Inter-faith civic prayer services and serving dinner for the homeless. This national holiday dates back to 1862 when President Lincoln proclaimed it as a national day of thanks. It was intended as a day of unity among the north and the south. It was a day of thanksgiving in the midst of a bloody civil war.

Thanksgiving is something that should be our vocation constantly 365 days a year, but few among us are naturally thankful for our many blessings that the Lord has given us. Thus we need to be reminded daily to be constantly thankful for the multitude of blessings that we have. Thankful people need to express a attitude of gratitude for blessings that we have as the people of God.
Our text from Deuteronomy is a demonstration of our gratitude unto the Lord for His daily blessings. Everything we have in material goods has only been given to us to make this life a blessing. That is why we don’t take anything with us when we leave this world.

Our thanksgiving gatherings are not just gatherings of friends and family members to stuff our tummies with fattening foods and drinks. It should be a time that is set aside from our daily activities to pause, and reflect on the gracious love of our heavenly Father who through our sweat,blood and tears has built this great nation, giving thanks for all our blessings where the hands and heart of god has guided us and directed us.

Like his people who wandered in the wilderness for 40 years before entering the promise land, do we grasp the fruits of a gracious god who blesses our humble effort? On the first day of thanksgiving, they broke bread and sipped wine, giving thanks to the Lord for watching over them.
Are we so comfortable with ourselves and our life style that we can’t pause and give thanks unto the Lord not only for ourselves and all others? For we live in a free nation under the umbrella of a Loving God who has reached down from above to care for us. Now can we reach out and touch others that they may feel his presence as we feel it and give thanks not just on Thanksgiving but each and every day of our lives.

Let us pause for a moment or 2 setting in silence, reflecting on God’s love and blessings in our lives as we share in Holy Communion today.

A Warning Against Idleness

26th Sunday after Pentecost
Scripture: 2 Thessalonians 3:6-18
Paul quotes his own experience, all his life Paul was a working man using his hands. The Jews glorified work. A man who does not teach his son a trade, teaches him to steal. Paul was a trained Rabbi, but the Jewish law laid it down that a Rabbi must take no pay for his teachings. He must have a trade that will satisfy his daily needs by the work of his hands. Thus we find Rabbi’s who were bakers, barbers, carpenters, and a host of other trades.

They believed in the dignity of honest toil and were sure something is lost when they became a scholar. Scholars lost something when they withdrew from life refusing to work with their hands.
Thus, Paul quoted this saying, “if a man refuses to work, neither let him eat. It is the refusal to work that is important.” This has nothing to do with the unfortunate man who through no fault of his own can not work or can find no work to do. Further, Paul says, “he was probably borrowing a bit of good old workshop morality, an industrious worker, who would forbid his lazy apprentice to eat dinner.”
We have a perfect example in Jesus himself. He was a carpenter in Nazareth. Legend has it that he was so good at making ox yokes that people came from near and far to buy one.

There is a story of a man who bought a house without seeing it. He was asked why he did this. His reply was “I know that the man who built the house was a Christian and he built that house with Christian ethics, one brick at a time.”

Paul’s’ instructions that those who disregard the work ethics, would be doubtful of that person’s love for his Christian brothers “All we can do is to aid him in his behavior, that he might see the light of his behavior and repent in his idleness.”

We need to go back to the fall of man is the Garden of Eden and for their failure to obey God’s instructions to not eat from a certain tree. The punishment for their actions, God said Eve would suffer pain in childbirth and Adam would earn a living for himself and Eve by the sweat of his brow.
One of our basic Christian actions is to aid and encourage someone who is idle and is failing to use their god given gifts. The joy that we might encounter when we aid someone like this is far beyond our understanding of the results of that person’s life when they turn a new leaf in their life.

Let us pray.

Stepping up to the Plate

24th Sunday in Pentecost
Scripture: St. Luke 19:1-10

Little did I know how true that would be a month after I wrote this message… The Cubs stepping up to the plate and after 70 years winning the pennant!

As we look at the story of Zacchaeus once again, I want you to see him stepping up to the plate. He wanted to see this traveling prophet, but was a small man, with a small body thus he climbed up into a sycamore tree. He paid no attention to the crowd who tried to quiet him down, saying “you are a sinner, He will have nothing to do with you”As Jesus walked by, he looked up in that sycamore tree telling Zacchaeus “you come down, for I’m going to your house today”.

I can see that little man almost jumping off the tree limb, and coming to rest at Jesus’ feet. Can you?
He stated if I have cheated anyone, I will repay them 4 times what I stole from them.That is one more time than the Jewish law commanded a person to do to make amends. Jesus tells him, “today salvation has come to you and your house and you are truly a son of Abraham”.

How often have you or I been sitting in a pew and we blindly step up to the plate after the spirit of god moved within our lives and we get involved with something special at his prompting?

It’s like a little 4 year old standing at the shore of water in the gulf, seeing the water coming in, fearful of the waves, and we are afraid to get in the water. After much coaxing, the child gets their toes in the water. Each time the waves come in, she puts her foot in a little deeper in the water. After a few minutes, she is knee high in the water, running to and fro playing and having fun.

Because of the fear of the unknown, we all have doubts and reservations in our discipleship duties to the Lord and his church. We fail to trust Him.

We are like the servant whose master gave him one talent to make more, and he was afraid he might lose it, thus he buried it in the ground. When the master confronted him with what he had done, he said “I know you are a hard man in business and I was afraid of what might happen if I lost your talent.”
How often are we like the 4 year old afraid of the water or the unproductive servant burying the talent?

Andrew seeing Jesus the prophet stepped up to the plate, calling Peter to come and see the prophet. Peter stepped up and became a mighty, mighty voice for Christ. He was a man with many faults and yet Jesus said “you are the rock and I will build my church on you.”

Dr. Billy Graham was a plain, simple man, full of faith. He stepped up to the plate and has become a great missionary encouraging thousand all because he was not afraid to step up to the plate.
If each one of us would step up to the plate, allowing the Lord to use our humble efforts, can you envision what might happen in our world today, a world that is crying for love? Regardless of the simple gifts most of us think we have, when we step up to the plate, allowing the Lord to use us, we will have blessings in abundance and his promise He will walk each step with us.

Lord, help each one of us make new disciples in your precious name and divine love.

Let us pray.

Too Young, Too Old

Here's a picture of some of our family. From left to right we have Rene (daughter), me, Sylvia Lori (daughter), Judy (wife), Jeremy (grandson), and Lee (son-in-law). Lori was visiting us before moving to South Carolina, Jeremy was visiting for the weekend, and my son Randy also visited us for about a week. We celebrated Jeremy's birthday early since so many of us were together for the weekend. No matter what life throws at me and Judy, we are blessed that all our children know the Lord. 

This week we had a special guest who helped with the preaching. She's my daughter Lori, who also goes by Sylvia. Her in-person speech was phenomenal. Lori gave us a good set of stories and good historical information about the Bible that proves that each of us can answer the Lord's call, from the young Samuel in the temple to the public figures who would qualify for the senior discount today. She shared with us her prepared notes, which aren't nearly the same, but there's still a lot of wisdom in them. Her message is both encouraging and convicting.

21st Sunday after Pentecost
Scripture: 1 Samuel 3; 1 Samuel 16:20-23

There's a list of things we're too old for.

There's a list of things we're too old for. Mini skirts, long hair, snowboarding, driving, riding a bike, skating.

Have you ever said someone or yourself was too old or too young?

Often people think people are too young or old to serve our Lord. It's as if each congregation has a magic age to be old enough. But when it comes to being too old, we tend to self-impose our own restrictions. We "retire" from service.

I chose today's scripture because we have extremes of too young and too old in Samuel and Eli's story. Samuel came to the temple to serve God when he was weaned. That would have been between 1 1/2 and 5 years old. Each year his mother brought him a new tunic as he had outgrown his previous one. Eli was almost blind when Samuel came to the temple and his eyes continued to fail. Samuel waited on Eli at a young age. Eli was a high priest and he continued in that position until his death. Eli had two very old sons — not good sons — named Hophni and Phineas. They did evil in God's eyes. They made sacrifices and did other things they shouldn't have. Eli had rebuked his sons, but they didn't listen and Eli overlooked that.

God called Samuel. Samuel. Samuel. Samuel ran to Eli 3 times when he heard the voice. Then Eli realized it was God calling Samuel. The 4th time, God revealed to Samuel Hophni and Phineas' fate. Samuel had to tell Eli. Samuel later lead the people and served as the high priest who annointed Saul and David when David was just a lad.

David went into Saul's service playing the harp to soothe the spirit that raged against Saul. (Today they think Saul was bipolar.) As a youth David slew Goliath. He served Saul faithfully to Saul's death. David was king 40 years.

David's son Solomon was a young man when he assumed the throne and asked for wisdom. Solomon was faithful in his younger years, but as an old man he turned away from God. Of the kings of Israel, the ones who weren't bad started at a young age. Joash, who ruled from age 7 to 47, repaired the temple that was let to fall apart from neglect. He took up offerings from repairs. Josiah, who ruled from age 8-39, found the Book of Law during repairs and renewed the covenant.

Solomon was a young man. So were Jeremiah (whose father was a priest) and John the Baptist when  they started. Jeremiah 1:5 says, "Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, And before you were born I consecrated you; I have appointed you a prophet to the nations."

Noah was over 500 when he had sons. Abraham had Isaac after he had turned 100.

Samuel served God all of his life. Eli died in service as a high priest. Stephen and other Christian martyrs were killed in brutal ways. We really have it easy today. The apostle John died of old age natural causes, although some say he did so after having escaped exile in Patmos and unsuccessfully being boiled in oil. Philip was tortured and crucified. Paul was beheaded. Peter was crucified upside down. Bartholomew/Nathaniel was flayed and martyred. James was killed by the sword. Thomas was pierced by the spear. Andrew was hanged and burned.

Unlike a lot of the Biblical people I have talked about who served until their death, others may have served cogently for a time and then drifted away or walked away like many Christians seem to do. God wants our hearts and our service for all our lives and into eternity. The Israelites had three big problems.
  1. Their hearts wandered, desiring things they didn't have (coveting).
  2. They grumbled when they didn't get them.
  3. They turned away from God and sought other ways to obtain what they wanted.
Are we any different?

We are called to serve, not grumble. Yes, there may come a point when you are unable to do what you do for God now, but have you prepared someone to take your place at that job or will they have to assume your position not knowing what needs to be done? Mentor someone today and say you have done this long enough to answer any questions. Also, ask God where and how He wants you to serve next.

Service to God is given from our hearts out of thanksgiving for what God did for us. He sent His Son. Jesus willingly came, served, died, and rose again so we could have forgiveness of sins.

I know Dad and many aging pastors serving because God called them, but where are their Samuels who can step into their places? If you feel God calling you for anything, GO. Christians don't retire; they just move up. Are you moving up? Do you feel God calling you? Maybe you need to rededicate your heart and your life. Maybe you have been negative or a grumbler and need to confess. You're never too young or too old. The altar's always open. Humble yourself before God. Say I'll serve for life and then move up.

At the end of the service, we stood up and came together as Lori led us in a round of prayer. May we feel God's call and love and reach out to our neighbors with it. Amen!


20th Sunday after Pentecost
Scripture: St Luke 17:5-10
If we have the faith the size of a mustard seed, we could say to the mulberry tree be uprooted and planted in the sea and it would obey us. I think we sometimes hear Jesus’ comments as rebuke that if we only had a little bit more faith we could fix our broken relationships, be healed of cancer, find a job and had all the money we think we need we would be happy. We think our painful situations in our lives are because we are a failure or unworthy.

How often do we have feelings just like the reasons I just referred to? Yet I don’t think that is what Jesus is saying here. I think He is telling us that we have what we need. It doesn’t take a 40 gallon vat of faith to repent and be forgiven for the sins of our life.

Notice He is speaking in a plural sense. We are all connected to Him with the faith we already have, and we are connected to one another by that same faith. Our faith may be personal but it should not be private. We aren’t given even a mustard seed of faith only for ourselves, but to be connected with the little bit of faith that countless others have. If we connect our faith with one another our 40 gallon vat will overflow a hundred, a thousand or a million times over.

Life without faith is like a stick trap used to catch small animals. Jesus is saying it is impossible to construct a world without temptation by ourselves. Only all the faith bits that come together can change the world of sin and death. Our text tells us that we can not put any claims on God with our little bit of faith, only by joining together can Christ’s kingdom on earth become a reality. When we have done our very best, we are only doing our duty in serving the Lord.

Recall these words from a great hymn:
“Were the whole realm of nature mine,
That were an offering far to small
Love so amazing, so divine,
Demands my soul, my life, my all.”

While it maybe impossible to satisfy the claim of God’s love, every lover knows that nothing he or she can do could sanctify that claim for Gods gift of eternal life. May we use the faith we have been given, joining together with countless others to share our little bits of faith with all others.

Let us pray.

The Rich Man and Lazarus

19th Sunday after Pentecost
Scripture St Luke 16:19-31
There was a rich man who dressed in purple and fine linen and who feasted in luxury everyday. Purple, the color of the robe, was for the high priest and were very costly.The word used for feasting, is a word that is used for a glutton, and he feasted in exotic foods everyday.

In doing so, he did not practice the 4th commandment:“6 days you shall labor, but the 7th day is a Sabbath, a day of rest. It is a day of praising the Lord”Not only did he not obey the Sabbath, but he did not let his servants do it either.

Now in a country where the common people were fortunate if they ate meat once in an entire week, we see this rich man's actions as a figure of self indulgence and selfishness in addition to gluttony. At that time, people did not have silverware, knifes, forks, spoons, or napkins. Food was eaten using one's fingers, which were cleaned off with huge pieces of bread that were then thrown on the floor. It was that bread that Lazarus was waiting for. The rich man is a picture of wealth and luxury.

The second man was named Lazarus. It is strange that only Lazarus is given a name. Lazarus means “God is my helper.” Lazarus is pictured as a beggar covered with ulcerated sores all over his body. He was so helpless that he could not even ward off the street dogs, unclean animals that pestered him constantly. Lazarus is the picture of helplessness and object poverty. Such is the scene in this world that abruptly changes to the next world. There Lazarus is in glory and the rich man is in torment.

What was the sin of the rich man? He had not ordered Lazarus off his property, nor sought even to remove him from his gate, and he had no objections to Lazarus eating from his floor around his table.Nor did he kick him each time he passed by him. He accepted Lazarus as part of the landscape. He thought it was a perfectly natural event that Lazarus should lie in his pain, hungry while he wallowed in his luxury.

Someone once said, “It is not what the rich man did that got him into hell, only that as he looked at Lazarus he did not see a suffering human who was in need of medical care and food. He did nothing to help him.”

As he looked up from the fires of hell, seeing Lazarus in the arms of Abraham, he pleaded with Abraham to send Lazarus to his warn his brothers. Abraham refused, saying, “During your lifetime you received your good things, and Lazarus in like manner evil things; but now he is comforted here, and you are in agony. Besides all this, between you and us a great chasm has been fixed, so that those who want to go from here to you cannot, nor can anyone cross over from there to us.” Yet the rich man pleaded to send Lazarus to his father’s house to warn his brothers. Abraham said they had Moses and the prophets, and if they wouldn’t listen to them, they will listen to no one. The rich man continues to plead to Abraham that if someone from the dead speaks to them they will respond. Once again Abraham replied that neither will they believe or be convinced if someone were to rise from the dead.

The challenge for all of us, not only the rich, is to see the needs of others regardless of what situation and respond according to our God given abilities. Jesus made a strong statement regarding wealth and possessions. Wealth and possession demand our loyalty and they can replace the Lord in our lives.

In this life Lazarus laid in the street outside the home of the rich man. When he awoke from death, he was in the arms of Abraham in heaven. The rich man lived in luxury and when he awoke from death, he was in eternal torment in the fires of hell.

In our great nation, the wealthiest in the world, 14.5 % of the population, 49 million people, struggle to put food on their tables. 15.9% of those 49 million are hungry children. (These statistics are from the Bread for the World organization.) I know we help in our community to help feed the hungry, yet I don’t think we really understand the scope of the hunger problem.

May our Lord shed new light on the needs of our neighbors, so that each of us might give just a little more to fight hunger in our community, our nation, and around the world.

Let us pray!

A Shrewd Manager

18 Sunday after Pentecost
Scripture: St. Luke 16:1-13

Luke enlightens us about a rich man and his shrewd manager. The rich man learned that his manager was skimming off some of the profits for himself. He called him in.

Here's something to think about: What is this I learned about your actions? I want an account of your actions and I give you two weeks to prepare for an audit.What is clear that neither the owner nor the steward are rosy in their actions with one another. Both are rascals!

We find in our world today such people. If only the Christians of today were as eager and genuine in their labors for the living Lord as they are in an attempt to obtain goodness and to gain riches for themselves. What a difference our actions would be in sharing the love of God to everyone.

A rabbi once said, “The rich help the poor in their world, but the poor help the rich for the world to come.”

Timothy 2:1-7 shares that the church prays for certain things for those in authority. She prays for a life that has tranquility and understanding. She likewise prays for a time of peace and freedom from war and human rebellion from God, as well as freedom from all things that disturb the peace of God’s realm. Yet she prays for so much more. She prays for a life that expresses goodness and reverence for all the children of God.

Gentleness is a great word that describes an attitude of mind, which respects mankind and honors god. This gentleness has a grace and divinity not sent by humans, but from the love of God for all of us. This is what you and I ought to covet, not the things of this world.

Here is our downfall, for we live in a heathen world that seems to override our understanding of gods desire for all of us. Gnostics produce their theories of 2 gods who are hostile toward one another.

God the Father created all of us. Jesus the Christ, God the Father, and the Holy Spirit are 3, not 2. God is our creator. Jesus is our mediator, the one between our sins and our salvation. The Holy Spirit is God's living presence in our lives.

The Jewish world once said it is the angels who are our mediators, but this is not the Jewish thought today, for mankind has a direct line to God, Jesus Christ His only Son and the gift of the Holy Spirit that dwells within us. Jesus is our envoy. He speaks for us and represents us before the Heavenly Father. Jesus is the key for eternal life in the fullness of the heavenly kingdom. It is through Jesus teachings and our personal confessions that we are given assurance of eternal life.

We cannot earn it. It is a gift from God through the spilled blood of Jesus, His Son, on the cross.

One final question for this sermon: Are you on an iceberg that is slowly melting from the eternal fire of death and damnation, or do we stand firm on the Solid Rock, Jesus the Christ, to manage our lives?

The Lost Sheep

17th Sunday after Pentecost
Scripture: St. Luke 15:1-10

There is no other scripture in the Bible that speaks of the love of the Lord and the depth of His love for the lost sheep.

We find in 1 Timothy 1:12-17 that we have been saved by our Lord to not only serve Him but to also seek the lost sheep of His Flock. Have you ever thought or considered that you have gifts and graces that the Lord has given to you that only you can use to call the lost sheep back into the flock of the redeemed? What special gift do you have to offer Him?

At the bus stop in front of the church sits an old man, waiting for his ride down to the library, where he will spend yet another day searching for a friend in the loneliness of the day.

In the corner of the coffee shop, perhaps a Starbucks, a single mother sips her non-fat mocha latte until closing time. She glances up every time the door opens for someone to come in, to see if hope has walked in and spotted her.

Hidden in a group of friends, walking the corridors of the mall, a teenager waits for this parents to call. It’s the call that will let him know that his parents really care for him.

You have 100 places to be and a million things to do, but are you willing to step up to the plate and search for these people, simply smile, and say “I love you and the Lord loves you.”?

Now we can begin to grasp the true message in the parable of the lost sheep as we sit comfortably, cuddly warm, and safe with the 99 who did not stray.

Do you identify with the old man sitting on the bench waiting on the bus? Did you know his wife of 50 years has recently died? All of his family is miles away. They never send cards or letters or call him on the phone. He longs for a relationship, even with a stranger. Will you respond to his need?

Do you identify with the single woman sitting at Starbucks who longs for conversation?

Do you identify with the teenager, lost in the crowd?

Yes, I know we have hundreds of places to go and millions of things to do before the end of day, but can’t we let these things wait for an hour or two and allow the Lord to use us in making others aware that someone cares about them? We are the hands and heart of God in this vast world in which we live. Do you feel a sense of urgency to reach out and touch someone with the love of God today?

I sense that is why the Lord placed so many churches across this great land. Each and every one of us has something special, a gift, to carry the message of the Lord to the lost sheep. Once we find the lost sheep, let us offer them the most precious gift possible, the Lord Jesus Christ!

I didn’t grow up in an active church. I was lost and wandering in the wilderness of sin and spiritual death. Over many years, many offered me a glimpse of the presence of the Lord, but until I became open to feel the Lord’s presence in my life and His personal invitation to be His servant I was lost in the wilderness. Each time we offer the Lord’s love and blessings to someone, He rejoices. Have you felt those blessings in your life as you talk to friends and strangers sharing your personal journey with them?

If you sense the feeling of the Lord as part of the 99, that is wonderful. But it is nothing compared to the joy you will receive when you offer someone who is wandering in the wilderness of sin, the Love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.


A Devastation is Planned

16th Sunday after Pentecost
Scripture: Jeremiah 18:1-12
As we take up Jeremiah’s text today, we see that God is planning a devastation. The information we have is an excellent 3-point sermon.
1. The pottery shows the presence of God as the divine Potter. He may turn at any moment and change the circumstances of our lives if we repent from our evil ways.
2. The clay represents mankind being made as the potter has desired. He will remake mankind when we fall by the wayside. He created us in His own image, saying, “Be fruitful and multiply.”
Mankind is the clay, which is warped as we stray from His love and grace. Still, He is willing to remold us and make us able to walk in the fullness of His love and grace. I sense that mankind has strayed very far from God’s presence today. God desires to remold and make us as the potter did the clay when it was not perfectly formed.
Jeremiah’s mission was to call the stray ones back to the fold of God’s care.
We must repent of our sinful ways and return to our Lord, Jesus the Christ. No matter how far one has strayed, nor how far the depth of that straying, Father God has the power and the will to lift us up from the miry clay of our sinful acts.
In the story of the prodigal son, our Lord is the Father in the depth of the Father’s love for us. We all know the story, but have we really grasped the depth of God in the earthly father’s actions of love for his fallen son? There’s nothing that compares to the love of Christ the way the love of that father does. He yields the return of his fallen son, and when he sees him coming down the road (a sight no parent wishes to see their offsprings in), he doesn’t hesitate. Rather, he runs to meet him, throws his arms around his neck, and hugs him. I imagine there are tears of joy streaming down his face.
He calls one of his servants, saying, “Bring a robe for his body and a ring for his finger. Kill the fatted calf. We’re going to have a celebration.”
The scripture states, “There is more joy over one sinner who repents than for 99 who do not stray from the fold.” One of the greatest sins in the world today is that we do not celebrate the returning sinner coming home as the scripture tells us to.
Many of us in the fold think we are really good because we did not stray. We have completely lost sight of the depth of our own sinfulness before the Lord touched our own lives and made us whole in His loving grace. The Christian churches today are full of retired Christians. They believe they are right with God and that they have nothing more to do for the assurance of their spot in the kingdom of God in heaven.
They are equipped by the Lord, but they have strayed from the path of righteousness because there’s no retirement for the faithful disciples of Jesus Christ. We don’t sing out in our lives and our souls, “Savior, like a shepherd, take my hand and lead me that I may be a faithful worker in your vineyard today.”
The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few.
Tomorrow we will celebrate Labor Day, thanking the Lord for all the joys and riches we have obtained with the different gifts God has equipped us with in labor. Still, when was the last day you prayed and asked the Lord to give you wisdom and strength to labor for His faithful kingdom? We pray, “Thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”
May we pray that the love and actions of our lives will be offered in God’s laboring, drawing others from the wilderness of sin and death that He has drawn us from. We should pray that they may glimpse the blessed love of Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen!

Israel Forsakes God

15th Sunday after Pentecost
Scripture: Jeremiah 2:4-13

Jeremiah was a young priest who God sent to His fallen children, the Israelites, seeking to draw then back into His fold.

They had strayed far, far from His presence and He longed to have them back.

Jeremiah’s whole ministry was a challenge and an opportunity to draw them back into a covenant relationship with God. God promised them, “I will take you as my own people, and I will be your God.”

Throughout Israel’s long history, time and time again they strayed from God’s loving presence. Still, God always kept a remnant of them, offering them chance after chance to be redeemed. He offered them the promise land, a land flowing with milk and honey. Praise God! He is slow to anger and full of patience with them, as well as with you and me yet today.

I believe that God allows us to stray not because He wants us to, but because He created us with free will. And because of that free will, we want to do our thing, our desires and not the will of God; however, there will be a day of judgment for our behavior.

I’m going to take a big step here and ask this:

Are we so busy today with the world so full of noise that we don’t hear the voice of God speaking to us?

Paul was so bent to destroy the Christian movement that he was seeking Christians to take back to Rome to be crucified. As he was traveling, God struck him down on the road to Damascus. Paul’s words were, “Who are you, Lord?”

I sense with all my heart that we are a special chosen vessel of the Lord today, intended to share His message of love and forgiveness to the whole world. He has planted us in his promised land. But like the chosen people of Israel, we have forsaken God’s desire for our own. We have raped our land of its rich minerals for the sake of a profit while not doing God’s will. We have allowed society to cripple the church’s witness and time with God for one or two hours of time a week in our lives. Look at the church’s services today compared to what it was 50 years ago.

Commerce today is 24/7 today. The church has no control or voice in our world. If someone goes to the corner of our streets, crying out the love of God, they are labeled a religious freak or fanatic.

Yes, I know the Lord is slow to anger and patient, but let us wake up to the potential to see the judgment that I spoke of. It is more than 2000 years closer to us than when Christ walked among us on the earth.

Let us pray!

Not Peace, but Division

13th Sunday of Pentecost
Scripture: St. Luke 12:49-59

We all love a gentle Jesus. Recall these images of our Lord:
· A soft, glowing headshot
· A man holding a lamb on His shoulders
· Jesus sitting among the little children, holding one on His lap
· A tiny baby cuddling in His mother’s arms

Yet there are also the images of Jesus being crucified and suffering and dying on a cross. We don’t often envision Him as an angry, irate, and temperamental one, but there is the image of Him chasing the money chargers from the temple with a raised whip in His hands. He used a raise voice to call the Pharisees and Sadducees a “brood of vipers.”

And we gloss over these words of our Savior: “Do you think I have come to bring peace to the world. No, I tell you, but rather division.

We don’t care for a Jesus who stirs up divisions and irritates us, yet He speaks truth to the power of this world, both political and religious, and to all others. For there will be a final judgment for all our human actions.

Life can be a terrible experience through one must pass, a life full of decisions until we pass through and emerge triumphantly from them, until we climb the golden stairs to the heavenly kingdom.
Jesus had the cross ever before His eyes and mind.

Oh yes, there will be divisions between mankind, even members of our family and members of the world’s family.

The story of the vineyard in Isaiah 5 comes to mind. Even when the vinekeeper does everything right, the outcome might not be a harvest one hopes for.

A man built a vineyard on a fertile hillside and removed the stones from it, dug in the soil, and planted choice vines. He hoped for a harvest and built a fence around it and a winepress for the fruits. In the fullest of times, he went to see the fruits of his labors. The grapes were unfit for wine.
We are God’s chosen ones today, and we have a choice: whether to accept Him and engage in a spiritual rebirth and “Awakening” to encounter a new life with Him.

But created with free will, our lifestyle may be like that vineyard’s, producing unfit grapes or unfit actions by our behavior for the Lord. We yield to the lower side of humanity and its lifestyle.
Satan slips in and drives a wedge between us and our Lord, rendering us unfit to produce blessings for our Lord.

May we see that divisions between us are not always bad, for it may be division that awakes a spiritual awakening and revival in our lives. The Lord can open the doors of our lives open to deeper love in Him.

It’s like the person who said cancer was the best thing that ever happened to him. Not the illness, but the awakening to what is important in his life: his loved ones and realization of love and need for his Lord.

May we take the divisions that happen in our life not to separate us from one another or the Lord, but as a spiritually awakening growth that happens in our lives, awaking us to the fullness of this life and the life that awaits us in the heavenly kingdom.

Let us pray!

No Room in Heaven for Earthly Things

12th Sunday after Pentecost

Scripture: St. Luke 12:13-21

Two things stand out about this rich man in our scriptures in this parable.

First, he never saw beyond himself. Second, he never saw the need for the eternal kingdom that is open to all who believe in Jesus Christ, the Son of God.

We go into God’s closet and are shown a brand new pair of threads that are made just for us. Are we lost in the material things of this world?

In Christ, we are dressed in a new wardrobe. Every item in our new way of life is custom-made by our Creator with His label. A new Easter outfit cannot be worn with our old, smelly tennis shoes. Our new clothes of renewal cannot be worn out with our shoes and stinky socks of anger, malice, and slander. Once we put on the garments God has created for us, we must rid ourselves of the filthy garments of this world.

The image of filthy rags works for this present world only. We think very highly of our closets overflowing with the latest styles for today. However, in this parable Luke turns our attention away from our earthly positions to the eternal treasures that are meant to define our labors for the Lord. Even new Easter clothes don’t make it into the eternal kingdom of God.

We are to turn our hearts to labor to cultivate the true eternal gifts of our Lord. The scriptures from Luke and 2 Colossians 3:1-11 could not be more aligned in their meaning. The scriptures tell us to set our minds on the things that are above, not on the things of this earth. We are, therefore, to store treasures that are rich in God’s love for us in abundance.

The rich fools’ total lives and labors are totally centered on the material labors of this life.

His words were on himself: I, me, my, mine

A schoolboy was asked what part of speech is “my” or “mine.” He answered, “Aggressive pronouns.” The rich fool was aggressively self-centered.

· “my crops”

· “my barn”

· “I know”

· “I’ll tear down”

· “my small barns and build bigger ones”

· “then I’ll sit back and live the good life”

But the Lord said to him, “Fool, your life will be taken from you this very night. Then, who will get all your earthly treasures.”

While not many of us think we are rich fools, when we are compared with people in our community and the world who have little or nothing, we are living in abundance. How have we used our blessings to express our love unto the Lord? Are we still using our blessings for earthly things?

What is wrong is that there are more rich fools still seeking to tear down their little barns and build bigger ones to store up more? Jesus tells us not to be concerned about what we will eat or wear. If He feeds the flowers of the fields and the birds of the air, who neither sew nor reap, how much more are we taken care of than these creatures, us who were created in Jesus’ very image.

Let us pray!

Miracles of Jesus

Here's an really cool list of where to find records in the Bible of the miracles Jesus performed on earth. I scanned and uploaded it (with some help from my descendants and their new-fangled technology).

Clash of Temperaments

10th Sunday after Pentecost
Scripture: St. Luke 10:38-42
When there’s a clash in temperaments, we need to stop and recall this old Indian proverb:
“Don’t condemn a person until you have walked a mile in their moccasins.”

Jesus knows what is about to happen as He is on the way to Jerusalem. This is a stop of rest and relations with two precious friends, Martha and Mary. He is beginning to realize the intensity of inner battle in His heart. He prays, “Father, not My will but Your will be done.”

As we come to the reality today of a large number of friends are coming to our house for dinner, Martha is excited about this event. As the lady of the house, she has prepared for this in-gathering.
· She has cleaned the house from top to bottom.
· The best china has been polished.
· A beautiful tablecloth made by her mother drapes the dining room table.
· The table has been prepared with the best silverware.

Now it’s time to prepare the food. There will be between 20 and 25 guests. The potatoes are ready to be cooked. The meat of the day, lamb and goat, is slowly roasting in the oven. There is gravy to be made and there are several veggies to prepare. Martha has baked apple and cherry pie for dessert. As she walks by the kitchen door, she sees her sister Mary among the men as she is speaking. And her temperament boils over! She says, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me alone to prepare this large meal? Tell her to give me a hand.”

Jesus says, “Martha, Martha, you are worried about the little things, yet only one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the better thing, and that shall not be taken from her.”

One person may say, “Lord, of all the pots and pans and things, since I have no time to be a saint by doing lovely things or walking late with Thee or dreaming in the dawn’s light or storming heavy gates. Make me a saint by getting meals and washing up the plates.”

Now think, once again, where Jesus is about to go. To Jerusalem, where He will be crucified.
May we all open our hearts and minds and quietly meditate on who we are: Martha or Mary.

May we pray unto the Lord, asking Him, “Heavenly Father, have mercy on me, a sinner, and save me by Your grace.

“Open our hearts and lives to see that divinity is possible for each of us when we center down and hear your low, soft voice whisper.”

God calls us all. Insert your name into this statement: “Richard, I love you and will use whatever you offer me to bring peace to you and all others. I need a kind word and helping hands to show and to spread My love for and to a sinful world today.”

Help me to be faithful to my commitment to You. Let us pray!


Today, we did not have a regular session in the church building. Rather, we answered the call to be the arms and feet of Jesus in our community and volunteered at the local 4H. Check out the pictures Katie posted on Facebook!

Who is My Neighbor?

8th Sunday after Pentecost
Scripture: St. Luke 10:25-31

One hot North Carolina afternoon, a family is going home from a family outing. Then they came upon 2 Native American teenagers selling watermelons at a 4-way crossing.

They stopped to get a melon. They immediately started to barter about the price. After several unfruitful tries with no luck…

…one of the teenagers stated, “Sir, these are the only things we have in this world.” The man was so touched with the words of the teenager tears appeared in his eyes and began to run down his cheeks. They bought all the melons the boys had.

In a movie, the interaction between these 2 white men in their 30s and these 2 young native boys would not look like that.

This is a good example of a story about who my neighbor is.

Luke 10:27 reads that we must love the Lord our God with
· all our heart
· all our being
· all our strength
· all our mind and love
· our neighbor as ourself

Our scripture for today tells us the story of the good Samaritan who stopped to help a bleeding and beaten man left on the road to die.

As one views this scripture, one is told that our neighbors are not just the person who lives on either side of us, nor the person who crosses the street, nor the one who lives behind us.

ALL of these are our neighbors. Any of us should be ready to reach out to anyone who needs help.

One side of my family tree has a real problem with alcohol.

A cousin at age 18 or 19 was arrested by the Illinois state police in 1957 for driving 100 miles an hour, seeking to get away from it all. He was fined and classified as a drunken driver.

Another, my own brother, became an alcoholic. Praise God that today he is a dry alcoholic, but he is still an alcoholic. His drinking took its toll on his body, and at 84 years old he struggles daily with his health.

· A man who beats his wife and children
· Another one who abuses his little children

All these and countless of millions of others are a serious problem to our social environment, yet each one of them is our neighbor. We must help them any way we can to correct their addictions.

Like our Lord, we need to reach out to these individuals.

All too often, the good Christians in our world don’t see or sense people with these social problems as neighbors, and we either fail to reach out or flatly refuse.

Our Lord has reached down to see and touch each one of us.

Likewise, we need to reach out and embrace each one of these people with the same love and compassion and concern that Jesus gave to each one of us.

All too often the church’s population stays safe and secure within the confines of the church structure.

God, help us and forgive us, for we have almost completely lost Christ’s ministry of searching out and reaching real needs of others who so desperately need to be understood and loved.

Anyone who would lower themself to aid the suffering like our Lord Himself did as a suffering servant, dying for each and every one of us, offering each of us forgiveness. We need to do the same.

For all humanity is the offspring of the church of Jesus Christ.

Let us pray!

Laborers for the Harvest

7th Sunday of Pentecost
Scripture: St. Luke 10:1-11

Today’s text includes the labors of the 12 Jesus sent out before sending a 2nd group of 70.

The number 70 is the number of how many were chosen to help Moses in leading the Israelites in the wilderness.

70 is also the number of Sanhedrins, the supreme counsels for the Jews.

If we relate these 2 groups of men as the helpers of Jesus, we are talking about laborers for the harvest.

Luke, in chapter 10, is nothing short of emphasizing the amazement and terror these men experienced.

Jesus, sending his followers out 2 by 2 ahead of Himself, showed all His faithful disciples the things that may be required of them in serving. He provides a kind of traveling checklist that includes danger, dependence, and the deeds of His power.

Today we have a big picture understanding of where that may take us. That’s hindsight 20:20 theology. The 70 came back with joy and surprise. They were amazed at the power He had given them.

Does this mean that they might have power like Jesus Himself? Absolutely yes!

There is one essential thing we must do to find the Lord: One has to leave home.
• Adam and Eve, for disobeying the Lord, were sent into the wilderness.
• Abraham and Sarah became wanderers.
• Jacob journeyed far from his family.
• Jonah ran away to the sea. There he found wisdom inside a whale.
• Elijah lived in the wilderness.
• Ezekiel was alone with the people of Israel, living in exile.
• The oldest Biblical law, found in Exodus 22:21, states: “Don’t mistake an oppression for punishment, because you were once an immigrant in the land of Egypt.
• Jesus also includes Himself in the stories because He wandered from heaven to earth.

Wanders in sin, the lost sheep, and a despised woman are all at home in the realm of God’s love.

I believe that God sends out you and I yet today to gather the lost sheep of His flock. The decline in the Protestant church in the United States is because we all stay in the church building

Meanwhile, the harvest for sinful brothers and sisters wander in the world for each passing day. At the same time, laborers for harvest grow smaller and smaller. Some Christians stay in the safety of the church, afraid that the sinful world may engulf them if they leave it, yet someone left the church building to harvest and seek each of us out so that we may encounter God’s love.

The greatest love one can experience is the living presence of Jesus in their heart and life.

Father God, help us to cry out for mercy as sinners. Have mercy on each one of us so we will step up from the plate and serve You.

One local church I served a while back when I was reappointed has stepped up to the plate to gather in the harvest.
• A certified accountant with many years of experience. (Ed)
• A professional typist for several lawyers. (Judy)
• A chemist, who experienced 2 tragic deaths in his family: his father and his sister. (Tim)
• A church janitor, who became a layspeaker and now serves as a laypastor. (Linda)

Who among us will be the next one to step up to the plate and hit a home run for God with Jesus guiding us?

Let us pray!

Children of God

5th Sunday after Pentecost
Scripture: Galatians 3:23-29

Before coming to Christ, we were under the law. By following that law, we were being drawn closer to God.

The Jews practiced and followed the law to its uttermost. They used the law to separate one another by misinterpreting it. They acted like someone was sinning if they walked a certain number of feet on the Sabbath. (8 feet? No, 9 feet J). Yes, the law was like the action of an older slave, whose only responsibility was to care for the children of his master.

It was there to see that they did not fall into temptation, take them to school, keep them safe in the afternoon, and take them home in the evening.

It was not to teach the child, only to be sure they did not give into the temptations of that day.

Jews separated humanity into classes: clean and unclean. Gentiles were unclean and Jews would have no contact with them if possible at all.

All of God’s children are for the fulfillment of God’s promise to Abraham, that his seed would be multiplied as the grains of sand, uncountable. God loves all people. There’s no distinction between Jew and Gentile, male and female, rich and poor, black and white.

We know that God created a perfect world and gave man control over it with one command: Don’t eat from a certain tree in the garden. Over the years, we have said it was an apple tree and Adam ate an apple. The apples were supposedly polished to the fullest of a beautiful creation. The devil tempted Eve and said, “You will not die if you eat from the tree.” And she gave Adam some of the apple, and he ate it as well.

Because of that, God sent them out into the world and sin became a reality in God’s once-perfect creation.

Mankind is still the birth child of God, who loves all and seeks to draw them back into a relationship with Himself. He restores us to His presence.

A Gentile was baptized and circumcised upon seeking to convert to Judaism.

Christ baptizes each of us with His holy spirit, which enables us to follow Him and love Him. He offers all of His children eternal peace and an eternal presence in His heavenly kingdom.

As children of God, we often act like children of this world. And like our earthly parents who still love us when we do wrong, God still loves us when we fall into the ways of the world. He never stops loving us, even when His heart may be broken.

The Lord will never quit loving us, nor will He quit seeking to restore us to His love.

There is much “information” about the “unpardonable sin.” Some say it is taking the Lord’s name in vain or not loving our neighbors.

While I don’t believe there’s an “unpardonable sin,” I believe an unforgivable sin is one we realize yet will not seek restitution with from our Lord. When we ask God to forgive us, He does forgive us and our sin is never recalled or remembered by Him, our Lord and Savior.

We know we are earthly children by the actions of our parents, while at the same time we are God’s children, not just for the time of this world, but for eternity.

Let us pray!

Arrested - A Life Crucified and Risen for the Lord

4th Sunday after Pentecost
Scripture: Galatians 2:15-21

The life of the early church was dealing with a great problem. That problem was over the common meal shared by all members who gathered. The food was provided by pooling whatever one had to share with the others. All were invited, including Jews and Gentiles, rich people and poor people, and slaves and free people. This meal was probably the only full and decent meal that many had all week.

Paul stated that the young Christian church could not continue if certain members of the church were excluded. The church is for all people, and we all are are one in the sight of God. There is neither Jew nor Gentile, rich nor poor, slave nor free person.

Paul saw that the strenuous actions were necessary to combat this practice, for the Love of God was for all people. Simultaneously, he saw elements within this common meal beginning to separate and divide the membership of the church. The Jews had many types of “kosher” food laws that governed their meals. There were also definitions as to what was clean and unclean, and the Gentiles themselves were considered unclean and many Jews did not accept them. For a Jew, eating pork was considered sinful.

Yet the scriptures state that nothing one put into their mouth and passes through their body can defile them. Only that which he speaks that is harmful to his witness to the Gentiles. Paul states that no amount of observing strict laws can make a person right with God! A person cannot earn their righteousness. They must accept the gracious offer of the love of God that makes a person right with God. This was a concept that Jesus tried to get across to the people of the early church.

That concept still plagues mankind today! There are still people in the church who still believe their works "have merit with the Lord."

Jesus was saying that by simply holding on to the law one cannot wipe out their sinful nature. The old practices must pass away, for this is a new day. All people are permitted to come to the Lord for forgiveness of their sins, for His gracious salvation is offered to all.

There are 2 great temptations that all Christians must come to grip with:

  1. There is a temptation to try to earn God’s favor. That is an unhealthy reason for volunteering to do something for the church.
  2. There is a temptation to judge our actions as superior to someone else’s to curry God’s favor.

In reality, it is only through the grace of God that any one of us will see our Lord face-to-face in the heavenly kingdom. If you or I were on trial for being a Christian, would there be enough evidence to find us guilty?

Let us pray!

Arrested for the Lord

3rd Sunday after Pentecost
Scripture: Galatians 1:11-24

It was Paul’s contention that the Gospel he preached to men was not a story or secondhand tale. It had come to him directly from the Lord. That was a big claim to make, and proof is always demanded from some physical source. Yet Paul had the courage to point only to himself, noting that his radical change of life was given unto him by the Lord. It is here that Paul humbles himself, seeking no glory for himself. Glory goes to the Lord for turning his life completely around.

When someone is proceeding headlong in one direction and turns suddenly headlong in the opposite direction, all their values of life are turned upside down. There must be some explanation for such a change.

Paul’s explanation was that God had led him with His hands upon his shoulder, resting him and pointing him in a new direction. One should not be ashamed to tell the world about their radical change in life. Paul has two things to say about this life change.

1. It was not premeditated. The change in his life was in God’s plan for his life. J. Gossip tells how Alexander Whyle came to his ordination in his first appointment. God had been preparing him and the church to faithfully serve Him, sharing in God’s earthly kingdom.

God is preparing me but this congregation I serve for special works in God’s earthly kingdom that I could never dream of. Long ago, God set in place the factions that would put us as pastor and congregation together. This was long before either of us envisioned being involved in His ministry.

Look at Paul preparing himself for service. First he went to Arabia for 3 years to be alone with the Lord, and here God equipped him for his life. Finally Paul goes to Damascus for a second time. Can we imagine what transpired in his heart as he relived his conversion and invitation to full time Christian service?

It was some time later that Paul returned to Jerusalem, knowing that he was taking his life in his own hands. His former Roman friends were out for his blood. They saw him as a turncoat and a renegade.

I see many of Paul’s happenings in my journey to become a pastor. While the Christian ministry is a great blessing anyone can encounter,  it is not without trials, temptations, and pitfalls.

2.) Where one is being led by the Lord, He offers comfort, wisdom, and whole host of blessings.

He only asks when one is up against the army of the devil and his band that we hold on to our faith, for that moment will pass and the light of a new day for the Lord will shine brightly again. Let us pray!

Grasping the Love of the Lord

3rd Sunday after Pentecost
Scripture: Galatians 1:1-12

As we begin a 5 week series of messages from Galatians, we need to look close at Paul's past plus the fear of Paul’s actions before and after his conversion experience.

The Galatians had heard of Paul’s savage treatment of the early Christians. The Galatians questioned Paul’s actions because he was not appointed by the early church leaders, nor did he study to prepare himself for his ministry.

Paul did claim that his office was taken directly from the Lord Himself for he was certain that the Lord had called him on the road to Damascus.

Leslie Weatherhead tells of a young boy who decided to become a preacher. He was asked when he had come to this decision, and he replied he came to that decision after hearing a certain sermon in his school chapel. They asked him who was preaching at that service, and he replied that he did not remember the preachers name. But he did know that God spoke to him that day.

Only God can make someone a minister of the gospel. The real test of a Christian is not whether they have gone through certain ceremonies and taken a special vow; it is when someone senses and feels god directly calling him in a face to face experience.

An old Jewish priest said this about the office he held, "It was not my father nor my mother’s wishes that I entered the priesthood, only by a special calling when the Lord himself said 'i want and need you.'"

The real reason that Paul had the abilities and tools for ministry was because he was certain that the Lord had called him. Every effort that he put forward to spread the gospel was because it was given to him by the Lord.

It is not only Paul who has been given the task of ministry as a servant of God. Every man or woman who claims to be a Christian, regardless of who they are, is a minister of the word. What he or she doesn’t realize is that they have the gifts to serve humanity as a faithful Christian.

All of us have a task to perform before we exit this life and enter the heavenly realm.

Paul state that he is giving himself unto the Lord from the gifts that he has received from the Lord. Paul wore the marks on his body for giving himself totally for the Lord. He was beaten 39 lashes more than once and shipwrecked several times. He was proud of what he endured as a faithful servant of the Lord.
Personally, I know of no scars in my life because I have confessed to be a Christian.

Lord forgive me and forgive us for exploiting your love. Help us to be a soldier for the cross. Give all of us strength if and when our faith and love are put to the real test as a Christian.


The Spirit of Truth

1st Sunday after Pentecost
Scripture: St. John 15:12-15

Jesus called us and choose us to be His friend. It is a blessing and a tremendous privilege to be called a friend of Jesus. We are not slaves but partners with Him because slaves have no rights. Slaves have only the desires and wishes of their slave masters. We are chosen to be loved by the Lord, and we are traveling with him constantly through the ups and downs of our lives here on earth.

One should feel sad for a gloomy Christian, for that act is contrary to the joys of being faithful believers of the Lord. The gloomy Christians do more harm than one would realize in the building of the kingdom of God on earth. We are chosen to bear witness unto our Lord even at the lowest ebbs our life. As we have accepted the Lord’s love for ourselves, we are to share that love with all others.

Recall the jingle of many of our childhoods, “Jesus loves the little children, all the children of the world. Red and yellow, black and white, they are precious in His sight. Jesus loves the little children of the world.”

The idea of being a friend of God is seen in Isaiah 41:8, where God called Abraham His friend.
Wisdom is a special gift that the Lord gives to all His friends. We no longer need to question the Lord’s presence in our lives, for His presence is always felt within us. We are no longer slaves who have no rights because we have experienced and sense the Living presence of the Lord.

When we are up against anything, it should send chills down our spins  to realize the Lord is with us.
Our deeds and actions are a living advertisement that we love and labor for Him, the King on earth and in Heaven.

What a blessed gift to advertise for the Lord. Our lives here on earth may often show little rewards, but the retirement of His children is wonderful when this life is over. We store up treasures in heaven, not on earth where rust and moths can enter in and destroy.

Because the fruits of our lives’ services do not bring instant results, it’s hard for us to be content in our society that wants things instantly. With instant food, you just pop it into the microwave and can enjoy it within a few minutes.

The fruits of the Spirit are given unto us during the labors of this life. As Galatians 5 tells us, they are love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. When we follow and feed on the fruit of the Spirit, we have an abundant blessing throughout our daily lives. Let us pray and thank the Lord for this wealth of blessings.


The Day of Pentecost

Day of Pentecost
Scripture: Acts 2:1-8

The function of an apostle of Christ is to be a witness of the resurrection of the Lord. The real mark of a Christian is not that they know of their Lord, but that they know Him as a personal Savior in their lives.

One of the common sins of us Christians is that we tend to regard Jesus as someone who just physically lived and died. We should study his life as a historical figure, but not as just a man. A qualification of a Christian is that we live daily with Him as a divine figure within our hearts and lives.

We can reflect and test how we live that out by answering this question: When someone hears us speak, do they see only us or do they see and hear the presence of the living Lord in our actions?

Jerome K. Jerome tells us of an old cobbler during the coldest day of winter. The cobbler let the door of his shop wide open. When he was asked why, he responded, “I leave it open, so that if the Lord comes by He might enter in.” In our packed schedules of our daily lives, do we leave the door of our heart open? If the Lord would come by, we should ask Him to come in and fellowship with us.

Lady Aclaimed told people about her small daughter who had a spasm of temper. After that storm would pass, she would sit on the steps making things up. She eventually said, “I wish Jesus would come and stay in our house all the time.”

The reality is that Jesus is with us at all times, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, regardless if we are awake or asleep.

We don’t know precisely what happened on the day of Pentecost. But we do know that it did happen. That day was a supreme day for the Christian church, because the Holy Spirit came as never before. The Holy Spirit was always with us, even though some think that it did not exist before the day of Pentecost.  On that day, the Holy Spirit became a dominate reality in the life of the church and our life.

Paul’s conversion on the road to Damascus was a pentecostal day in his life. Transforming him from an enemy of the church to become its greatest missionary at that time. Our attention is so much caught on the story of speaking in tongues that we lose the real essence of that day.

One of the fundamentalist branches of Christianity believes that if you do not speak in tongues or interpret then you have not been baptized by the Spirit. Speaking in tongues is a gift from the Lord, but our Lord does not give the same gifts to everyone.

The Holy Spirit is a gift from Lord to all who claim Him as Lord and Savior. It is the Holy Spirit who enables us not only to hear the word of the Lord, but also respond to those words as an individual. Perhaps if we would listen to the words over the clamor and noises in our lives, one could realize the power of the Lord that exists in them, wherein every day would be a day of Pentecost for us.

Let us pray!

Sorrow Turns to Joy

7th Sunday of Easter
Scripture: St. John 16:16-24

Jesus tells his disciples, “In a little while you will see me no more, and then after a little while you will see me.”

His disciples said to one another, “What does he mean by ‘a little while’?”

Sorrow and joy are like a woman giving birth to a child. There is pain and grief in the birth process, but that turns to joy when she holds that child. Seeing its beauty, she forgets the pain and celebrates the joy of the child. When Jesus spoke these words to his disciples, He was looking beyond the moment in time to when they and all others will see Him in the heavenly kingdom.

There may be a time when it looks as if our Christian faith offers us little comfort and hope as we struggle with this life. Experiences like losing a favorite job or the stress of raising children and dealing with their behavior or even death of a precious loved one like a spouse, parent, or child. We must always remember the struggles of our Lord, who was physically human and yet fully divine. As an example, in John 11, when Jesus stood at His friend Lazarus’ tomb, He wept. We will likewise face many of these difficult issues in our life.

I will never forget the young lady in the Columbine shooting who was asked, “Are you a Christian?” Without hesitating, she said, “Yes!” The shooter responded, “Well, go to Him now,” and he shot and killed her.

Do you believe in our Lord regardless what life is throwing at you right now? It is in deep sorrow and stress that one should look to the Lord for help and guidance. I believe that there are two precious things about our Christian faith that we must never forget.

  1. Jesus said, “I will never leave you or forsake you,” in Hebrews 13:5 and Deuteronomy 31:6.
  2. Our love for Him is of our free will. He gave us a choice yet some people here on earth live their life independent of the presence of Jesus
Our pain and suffering might press us to question our faith in that moment, but Jesus’ presence in our life at all times encourages us to hold firm to our faith. Those experiences strengthen us with an enlightening new relationship with our Lord. When we truly travel with our Lord’s living presence in our lives, absolutely nothing that life throws at us can destroy his presence in our hearts and lives.

We must reach out to Him with praise and prayer and for hope and guidance in regards to whatever the situation might be. God listens to our prayers, but we should pray like Jesus did that His will be done, not ours. Often we are like little children in a candy store; we want that candy right now, but our parents say, “No.”

With a new and fresh relationship with our Lord, we can accept whatever answer He gives us to our prayers for the tough situations, for He know what’s best for us. May the sorrows of the moment grant us eternal joy and peace as we hand our whole lives over to Him since He knows best.

Let us pray!

The Advocate

6th Sunday of Easter
Scripture: St. John 14:25-31

When Jesus stated He must go away and that He was going to His Father in Heaven, He mentioned that He would give us a very special gift, “The Advocate.” He spoke about the Holy Spirit. He stated that the Holy Spirit would teach us all things that would aid us in a life of fellowship with our Lord.

There is never a time in our lives as Christians that we cannot learn something new, fresh, and exciting about the guidance of the Holy Spirit’s actions and activities in our lives. The Spirit reminds us of what Jesus teaches in our ministry. Jesus said we might not know the future of his teachings, but the Holy Spirit would enlighten us.

One can read the same scripture many times and suddenly, like a light going on, we have a new understanding of that scripture. This is what the Holy Spirit does; He works within us.

Christ said that He offers us peace in our lives. That is something that we all need in our lives today. We live in times of great turmoil, but it is the presence of the Holy Spirit that calms the storms that rage in our lives. It is the Spirit of life that offers us a glimpse of the future gifts from our Lord.

If we really grasp the truth of our Christian faith, we should always be glad when those we love leave us in death for they are going to the Lord! We should grasp the rest and release from the ills of this life, because death is not the end but a doorway to the heavenly kingdom. Frequently it’s a release from serious pain and suffering when our health has begun to fail. The Spirit speaks to us when the struggles of life are a serious problem. It reminds us of the earthly struggles of our Lord.

Jesus was not afraid of the cross. He knew that evil would not have the final word in His life. Struggles can strengthen our faith. No one wants these struggles, but they are part of our human life.

The Spirit reminds us of the vindication Jesus provides. The moment of Jesus resurrection from the grave was a victory over this life. Unlike a conscience, the Holy Spirit does not provide us with shame or humiliation; rather, He provides us victory over our flesh and peace.

The Advocate is our helper and guide over this life enabling us to be more obedient with our love and service for our Lord. The Holy Spirit is the living presence of the Lord in our lives, living daily while on this earth. We need to praise the Lord for the gift of the Holy Spirit.

Let us pray!

A Convincing Story

5th Sunday of Easter
Scripture: Acts 11:11-18

Today's scripture is a watershed of reality of the Christian faith. We are witnessing that all people of every nations are open to salvation through the blood of Jesus Christ.

Peter had initially been on trial for going into the home of a Gentile. Strict Jews would have never conversed with a Gentile. It is barely conceivable that one would only go into a Gentile’s home. A Jew sitting at the table and eating with them was unheard of. Here Peter outrages the ancient law and must defend his actions.

Peter’s defense was not an argument. It was a statement of the facts. Whatever his critics might say, the Holy Spirit had come upon the Gentiles and must be noticed.

Here is the kicker for Peter’s defense: Peter took 6 brothers with him, totaling 7 people. An ancient law, which the Jews would have known well, states that 7 people were necessary to completely prove one’s case. Roman law, which they would also have known, states that 7 people were enough to seal the authenticity to complete a document like a will. Here Peter is reminding the critics that 7 witnesses prove that Christianity is for all people, Jews and Gentile alike.

While this does not make a bad person good, it does bring a person to the Spirit of God. The duty of Christians is not only to talk about our faith. We are called to live it by our actions and to reach out to a world in need. God’s love and forgiveness is for all humankind.

True repentances is a change of spiritual death to spiritual life that leads to everlasting walk with the Lord of love. Let us confess how we have not been God’s little children when we fail to love as we have been loved.

Who are we to get in the way of our Holy God? We put people into neat, little boxes, but You rip them open so folks can dance in Your joy. We imprison others with our unmet expectations, and You set them free with a word. We build walls around those we don’t know, and You tear them down, so they can run wild in Your kingdom.

Who are we to get in Your way, Saving Power, especially in the way of Your forgiveness offered to all! Give us your vision that sees everyone as equal – forgiven, loved, and covered by grace – even as we seek to follow You, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Let us pray a unison prayer for forgiveness, that we may be witnesses through our words, actions (including love), and unity as the body of Christ!

Call of Resurrection

4th Sunday of Easter
Scripture: Acts 9:36-42

Every time people run towards danger to help other, resurrection has happened. Every person chooses love over hate, resurrection has happened. Every time people come together instead of dividing, resurrection has happened. When the disciples rushed in to care for their friend Jesus’s sheep, resurrection had happened. It happened again when the women rushed in to care for their friend Tabatha. Resurrection happened.

We are called the people of resurrection and we are called to offer Jesus’s resurrection to others.

In our scripture today, when Peter first arrived it was an average pastoral call. Then he found his friend had died. I am sure he was greeted with solemn faces. Many were in tears. There were hugs and loving touches for all who were grieving. Many had received hugs and kisses from the woman they call Dorcas (Tabatha). The widows stood beside Peter weeping and showing him the tunics and other items Dorcas had made while she had made when she was with them. What a wonderful loving tribute for a precious friend that had just left them in death.

Peter dismissed the grieving widows. Now there was only their friend Jesus, a couple other friends, and Jesus’ disciples in the room. Here Peter initiated Jesus’s healing, telling Dorcas to get up and out of her death bed; immediately she stood up!

Then Peter call the saints and widows, showing them the risen Dorcas. For a few moments, it appeared that Peter commanded the limelight that show us Peter in action, yet it showed us the source of Peter’s power when he healed Dorcas. Peter did not say, “I healed you.” Rather, he said, “I heal you in the name of Jesus the Christ!”

It is here that Peter refers to Christians as saints. From then on, Peter continually referred to the church members as saints. That does not mean we are perfect in any way, only that we are holy agents of the Lord Jesus Christ, that we have been equipped to spread the Gospel story. And if and when we do, Jesus’ resurrection power is working within us.

We need a new, fresh, and exciting revelation that the Lord uses us in a multitude of ways to spread his word of love to the whole world. I love the hymn that gives us these instructions: “Count your blessings, name them one by one … see what the Lord has done us.”

Even the multitude of gifts of our lives given to others in Jesus’ name will bring some type of resurrection to those people. Still, we need to know and understand that the Lord loves us, regardless of whatever we might accomplish in His name.

Resurrection is happening all around us right now. This hemisphere of the earth has rested for several months. Spring has sprung! We have seen new life come forth in many ways. The trees are starting to bud, flowers are peeping their head out of the earth, and we see a multitude of colors. The resurrection of God’s creation is all around us, but the greatest resurrection is in our hearts and lives as we encounter a fresh awareness of the Spirit of God in our lives.

Praise the Lord! We are the saints of God. The resurrection is all around us, alive in our hearts and lives. Let us pray!

Love's Extravagance

3rd Sunday of Easter
Scripture: John 12:1-3

When is love is extravagant?

Throughout the scripture we read of love extravagant and often personal shame. In John’s Gospel we read that Jesus went to the house of a Pharasee and took his place at the table.

When a woman of the streets, who was a sinner, came in weeping loudly. She approached him, her tears fell on his feet, and she knelt down, drying his feet with her hair. This was a display of extravagant love.

There is the story of the good Samaritan, which shares both shame and deep love. A man traveling alone on the Jericho road was beaten, robbed, and left for dead. They even stole his clothes. 

When a priest came upon him, he passed on the other side of the road, offering no help to the injured man.

Later, a Levite came by, seeing the man lying on the ground, hurriedly passed by offering no help.

A third man came upon the injured man. He was a hated Samaritan, yet he got off his donkey to tend to the injured man. He bandaged his wounds, offered him wine, picked him up and put him on his own donkey.

Who was the one to show extravagant love?

A 6th grade teacher, a young married woman in her second teaching position, came to our town. My twin brother, who had rheumatic fever, was living with our grandparents some 6 miles away. She took his studies to him every week for many weeks. I was invited to go with her. She lived 20 some miles in the opposite direction, where her husband was in college, from my grandparents. She got no support from the school system, no pay. She did this out of extravagant love for one of her students.
This is something that every one of us who proclaims to be a Christian should do if we have an opportunity.

Let us pray that the Lord will open our heart eyes to someone who we might offer extravagant love for that is what the Lord did for each one of us on the cross.

Remember these words He spoke:
“Father if it is possible, may this pass from me, but not my will thy will be done.”

Pray for me.

I met a young man as I exited the parking lot at Walmart. I noticed he had a warm jacket on, and that his clothes were neatly pressed and clean. He had a sign that read, “I am homeless and need your help for lodging and food.”

I questioned his appearance and need, for he did not appear as many who stand on that same spot asking for help who are untidy, and often dirty clothes with 3-5 days of beard.

I did not help him.

Easter Sunday as the Swearingen clan was sharing their Easter dinner, a woman came in asking for help. She needed gas money.

Dean called me and asked where can she get that aid. It was the weekend, and she said she did not know of any places in Brazil. We asked several questions. She said she was from Terre Haute. She knew where the Light House Mission was but did not have enough gas to get to Terre Haute.

Dean and I questioned why she left Terre Haute knowing she did not have enough gas to get back.

Peniel is not on 40 or 340. It is one mile north, on Kennedy Crossing.

While serving the Richmond area, a young man stopped by the church one Sunday afternoon, stating that he had a job in Indy but did not have enough gas to get there. Could we help him out?

We offered him the help; he accepted it with a grateful heart and thanked us, saying he would be back next week to repay us.
Next week came, and as usual in most of these situations, we did not see him.

Two weeks passed, and on a Sunday morning when I went into the sanctuary, I saw that young man. He said he was sorry for being a week late, but they only pay once every 2 weeks. He said, “Here is your money and a little extra to help someone else who might be in the same situation.”

That is the only person who asked for help who said they would repay, in my ministry of 45 years, who kept his word.

When we help someone showing extravagant love, often is it a blessing for us as well as whoever we gave the help.
When we help someone there are 2 blesssings. A blessing for the one we helped, and one for us as a giver of extravagant love.