Jesus’ Teaching vs. Man’s

4th Sunday of Epiphany
Scripture: St Matthew 5:1-12
  
One day Jesus sat down on a mountain to teach. As he spoke He gave us glimpses of God’s kingdom, wisdom and economy. Today we realize that God’s ways are completely different from those of humans.

In Verse 3, Jesus says, “Happy are people who are hopeless”. In some translations of the Bible it says, “Those poor in Spirit for the Kingdom of Heaven is theirs”! While our culture says, you can do it, trust yourself, relay on yourself, Jesus says happy are the ones who recognize their own inability to change themselves and depend on God for the most basic of necessities of their lives.

Jesus continues saying happy are people who grieve because they will be made glad, pity those who lose a loved one, pity for those who are sad, grieving and crying. While our human standard would say, blessed are those who never have anything bad happen to them or to anyone they love. While the comfort aspect of God’s character can only be known in suffering, the God of comfort will make the grieving glad.

Man’s culture says, happy are those who make a name for themselves. Happy are people who are humble and will be happy for they will inherit the earth. No one inherits something they work for or deserve. The humble will inherit what is God’s to begin with.

Jesus teachings go on to say Happy are people who are hungry and thirst for righteousness. Happy are people whose lives are harassed because they are righteous. Human wisdom would call us to live so that others would esteem us. As humans we think we should live in such a way that we avoid harassment and insults.

1 Corinthians 1:27-28 says: But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the strong. God chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things-and the things that are not-to nullify the things that are.

It is clear that God’s ways are very different than the ways of the world! We need to practice God’s value system and set aside the value system of the earth’s system of mankind. We need to set our lives around the know standard of the Lord. If we do not, we are on the pathway to damnation and spiritual death.

The road we travel toward heaven is easy if we seek the presence of the Lord to travel with us. He seeks to be our constant companion as the Living Lord. We live in a world of instant gratification, but the Beatitudes are about delayed gratification in the heavenly kingdom if we live by them.
Let us pray!










Wanting Special Recognition

3rd Sunday of Epiphany
Scripture: St Matthew 4:12-23 ,1 Corinthians 1:10-18

In Matthew’s Scripture we see Jesus propelling himself into his earthly ministry. He called Peter and Andrew, and then James and John. The roles of James and John have significant teaching about many persons who seek to follow Jesus as their Lord. They were called by Jesus, The Sons of Thunder!
It is just before Passover, and instead of really trying to understand the real meaning of Jesus’ pending death, the brothers start to jockey for position,and topping it off they enlist their mother’s aid to make this happen. Now they have traveled with Jesus for three years. They have witnessed Jesus and the miracle at the home of Jarius where He raised Jarius’ daughter from her death. There were at the Mount of Transfiguration, where they experienced Jesus’ transformation and heard the voice of God. Yet as Jesus drew near to the time of His death and the end of His earthly ministry, they had not yet grasped the full scope of it.

How can we, you and I, remember the amazing life, teachings, death and resurrection of our Lord today if we are guilty of jockeying for special treatment for our humble effort to be faithful unto Him, when we ought to open our lives offering Him all our love and abilities?

In our text from Corinthians is clear that Paul was addressing the leaders of the infant church with the same problem. Are there leaders in churches today who are jockeying for position? Some want the big church, with several helpers. There are churches with huge salaries and many perks. Their desire is often not the main thrust in their ministry.

In what ways does our faith still lack the Lord’s total will in our lives? And is that lack of the Lord’s will in our lives that opens the door for the devil to get into our thoughts and actions, destroying the fruitfulness of our ministry to the Lord. In our desire to be top dog, do we fail to hear the voice of the Lord and to totally submit to His will? Jim Jones is an excellent example of how the devil can destroy our ability to serve the Lord.

When we hear a message Sunday after Sunday, do we hear the Lord or do we hear a teacher mispronounce a word and center on that mistake and totally block out what the Lord is saying all together. Teachers are human. All make mistakes. Any way the devil can cause us to block out the entrance of the message he can and will try to do.

I recall when I had a young family and we traveled 17 miles to the first service before going to a second church. Anyone who has children has experienced the “unholy hour before the Holy hour”. Many times the attitude I had by the time I reached my time to preach, was nothing like the message I was about to deliver. I am sure if the Lord had not been involved in the message the devil would have had a hay-day! It is so easy not to be spiritually involved in the worship service depending what is transpiring in our lives. Our thoughts drift to the list of things we need to do, the child misbehaving, the harsh words spoken on the way.

Here are James and John, who walked daily with the Lord for 3 years, witnessing more than one of His miracles, and yet the did not grasp the real scope of His earthly ministry.

It excites me to think of what might become a spiritually reality if we all, including me, were prepared for the miracle He might offer every one of us. We must tune in to hear the Lord calling and receive the blessings He has for us today and everyday.

Let us stay tuned for what is coming your way as we pray.









The Word Becomes Flesh

2nd Sunday of Epiphany
Scripture: St John 1:29-42, 1 Corinthians 1:10-17
 
John’s gospel testifies that Jesus is the Son of God. John the Baptist tells his disciples to follow Jesus. One of the disciples shares with Jesus that someone in the crowd is preaching the love of God, but it wasn’t one of them. He wondered if he should stop him from preaching. Jesus tells him to leave the man alone, for no one can preach and teach about the love of God without the Holy Spirit being in his life.

There were many leaders saying that they had the only way to the fullness of God’s love. This was causing great difficulty for fruitful growth in the early church. This attitude has been a serious problem throughout the centuries for church growth. While the only true Christian church is the church that preaches the fact that the only way to the eternal throne of God in His heavenly kingdom is through the blood of Jesus, His death and His resurrection from the grave.

What appears to many is that not all the church believe that this is the only way! Men and women do not all encounter the living Lord in exactly the same way. Thus our different ways of interpreting Jesus’ love can and may be a stumbling block for some.

Some stumbling blocks maybe: Some believe to be baptized one must be immersed completely under water, while others practice by sprinkling or laying water on the individual head. Some denominations will not let you become a member of their church until you are baptized. The Quakers don’t believe in water baptism at all. It is only a baptism by the Holy Spirit. Others still believe that they are the only true Christian church. Some hold fast that if you are not a member of their church you can not take Holy Communion in their church. Eating in the sanctuary may be forbidden. You must have a separate building for fellowship. In most Christian churches there is the belief that the Spirit is united with the Lord at the moment of death. While the Advents believe that the Spirit remains with the body until Christ comes again. At that time the Spirit will rise and meet the Lord in the air as he descends from heaven. This is not all the differences of man’s interpretations and actions that can divide and stop church growth. Thus we see why some will not belong to a local church…until that church gets its act together!

One of the great witnesses in our church and her members is the Community Choir here in Clay County. The choir is made up of 25-30 people from 12-16 different denominations. This shows the church in unity. All are persons who love the Lord and desire to share that love through His gift of music. Thus, they share the greatest Christian experiences, His Holy Birth and His death and His resurrection.

It makes no difference of the church name above the door or the sign in the yard! What matters is the Love of Jesus in our hearts and lives. If we don’t get the church unity, how can we offer His greatest gifts to the world? We are the life, the human body, with many parts. Each part has its special function that makes it healthy. The earthly church is the Body of Christ in the world, spreading His love for all!

Let us pray!

Prepare the Way of the Lord

 

1st Sunday of Epiphany
Scripture: St Matthew 3:13-17,Acts 10:34-43  

Now I know that all of us did some preparations before we entered the sanctuary today. We picked out the right clothes, combed our hair, shaved if needed and readied ourselves for church.My leading question is this, what and how did you prepare your spirits to be in the presence of the Lord and His Holy Spirit?

Our scripture has a long list of individuals He prepared to bring alive his Holy Spirit in our lives. There is Elizabeth and her husband long past their child bearing years. The Lord said that a child will be born to then and “you will call him John”. We encounter Mary a teenager, betrothed to Joseph a carpenter in a non-sexual relationship during the year of their betroths. Yet Mary was pregnant by the holy power of God. When the child was born he was to be called Jesus and acknowledged as the son of God. There were shepherds in the field that night when angels appeared proclaiming the birth of the long awaited Messiah. They went to see the baby in the manger, left the scene and told everyone they saw that they saw the baby in the manger, the son of God.

John and Jesus are cousins, yet 30 years later they were to meet for the first time at the Jordan River. John had been baptizing people; the baptism of repentance, saying now is the time to seek the love of God. Until that time people worshipped God out of fear, not in the loving relationship that we have today. When John consented to baptize Jesus, as he came out of the waters the voice of the Lord proclaimed “This is my beloved son, in whom I am well pleased”. There were a chorus of angels, singing and praising God.

As we look and praise those who God has chosen as an instrument on his behalf, they are still individuals just like you and I. At the gathering of church each week, and daily as He prepares us for Christian service in the world today, our activities enable us to share His redeeming message in our lives with everyone we interact with. We prepare daily in our earthly lives for living in this world. We plan, schedule and arrange things daily. What would change in our world if we spent as much or even half that amount of time spreading the gospel of Jesus Christ. All it takes is for us to realize that we are a chosen vessel and equipped to be His spokesperson today.

We are millions of God’s hands in the healthcare business today, the doctors, nurses, aides. We are the staff at a local nursing home caring for those in need. Every work force has been called to do special labor in God’s work force. The Church today is the education department to share and spread to the masses God’s love for each and every one of us. Let us pause and look at God’s work force in our church family. From the least of us to the greatest, God can and will use us to spread his love in the darkest places of the world. Let us wake up, shout for joy for the love the Lord has given each of us to be in his ministry.

Go forth as a laboring force of the Lord today, for the harvest is great. While we don’t think we can do certain things, we need to be mindful that with God’s presence in our lives we can accomplish much more than we realize.

Amen

The Visit of the Magi

Epiphany Sunday
Scripture: Ephesians 3:1-12, St. Matthew 2:1-12

Epiphany is commonly referenced as a “AHA moment.” An AHA moment can be like a light bulb flashing on and off. It signals that something unusual is about to take place.
When the Magi came to bring gifts to the Christ child, their gifts showed the world as the AHA moment that Jesus came to the world as both Lord and Savior, this baby, God himself in human form, offering us the abundant life on earth and the eternal life in His heavenly Kingdom. Each time we read study and recall the magi visit and believe the story, we are inviting Christ into our lives.

There are several traditions in this recorded story. Sometime around the year 500 a legend arose that the Magi were named Gasper, Melchior, and Balthasar. Many scholars believed they visited the Holy family when Jesus was a toddler. Another rumor in the 8th century was that they were not from the east as the gospel stated, but in fact they were from Ireland. Some modern churches in India believed that they came from India. And yet another Christian tradition in China claims they were Chinese.

Whatever tradition we draw from, there is only one thing we know for certain and that is that they were foreigners who traveled from far away to proclaim the miracle of the birth of the Christ child.
In the gospel of Matthew, they came to Jerusalem looking for the Christ child. There is not the slightest need to think that the story of the coming of the Magi is only a lovely legend. It is exactly the kind of thing that could easily have happened in the ancient world.

When Jesus Christ came into the world, the world was in an eagerness of expectation. Men were waiting for God and that desire was on their hearts. They were disappointed that they could not build the golden age without God’s presence. It had been a huge, long waiting period for the Messiah to come. When He did come, to the ends of the earth, all mankind would gather at His cradle. His coming would be the first sign and signal that the world be the conquest of God’s reign.

Not all men would rejoice He came. King Herod did not want to be second place in the ruling of the world. He sought to destroy the babe born in the stable. Herod’s reaction to the good news was out of hatred and hostility. Chief priests and scribes were completely indifferent. They were so engrossed in the temple rituals and their own legal activities that they simply disregarded Jesus’ birth as the promised Messiah.

They were 3 different reactions to the birth of the Messiah.
  1. King Herod saw Him as a threat to his kingdom.
  2. The chief priests and scribes wanted to maintain their control over mankind and the rules of the temple.
  3. The Magi came in search of the Messiah, the long awaited Messiah who would intercede and rule with love and compassion offering new life.
The question I wish to convey to you today is this; of these 3 different responses to Christ’s arrival, which one are you searching out in your faithful relationship with the lord? I pray that is for the abundant life on earth and the eternal life in His heavenly kingdom. I hope and pray that you are like the Magi, who searched diligently and long until you experience Him as lord of your life.

Let us throw open the doors of our hearts that Christ might enter in and become a living entity within our lives.

Amen.