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.