Pruning for Growth

5th Sunday of Easter
Scripture: St. John 15:1-8

John is telling us that our lives are much like that of a fruit tree.

The fruit tree has many branches that do not bear fruit, and the fruitless branches take nourishment from the tree, robbing the tree of a larger crop of fruit.

Our spiritual activities that do not bring new disciples for the kingdom of God ae much like the non-fruit-bearing branches of the tree. Yes, we are spiritually filled persons, children of God, but are we producing new life for the kingdom of God, or just holding onto the status quo?

There are many ways that the church becomes fruitless in bringing new life into the congregation. So much of our energy and resources are spent on maintaining ourselves; so little is spent on making new disciples.

Self-maintenance on our church budget, as an example, includes all our utilities, wages, supplies. All these items are needed; don’t misunderstand me.  But some of these are for our comfort, while many have the idea that everything we spend is for outreach ministries and growth.

If we were focusing more on outreach, the church would be overflowing with humanity. Imagine and dream with me a moment or two. What would be the results of spending on outreach as much as we spend on ourselves?

There are quite a few ways in which we might become fruitless in making converts for the Lord, but here are two:

  1. We can refuse to list to the message and voice of the Lord as He calls us to be His disciples.
  2. We can listen to the Lord and then give Him only lip service.

While we can accept Him as our teacher and guide, we also need to move out of the church structure doing His business wherever we can and whenever we can in our lives. There is one thing we must remember, a principal of the New Testament: uselessness invites devastation.

As I look at the church in our nation today, I see that it is in a downward spiral. We have allowed society and the business world to take priority in our lives. Today the church has lost some of its priority. How about Sunday evenings and Wednesday Prayer meetings?

Activities start 7:30 - 8:00 am even on Sunday mornings, including sporting events and games. Work schedules have done a number on church attendance. For instance, some jobs now require 12-hour shifts with 4 days on and 3 off continually.

It has been stated that the Christian church will no longer be the largest church in the United States within 20-25 years. All these things I mentioned are harmful for church and personal spiritual growth.

Thus we must revamp ourselves and use what every time we have seeking to make new disciples. Time is short!

We need to be a living church or we will not be THE church of Jesus Christ.

Let the Lord guide us in new ways to spread His Gospel of Love and Life, and let the Lord guide us away from distractions. Amen!

Laying Down Our Lives

4th Sunday of Easter
Scripture: 1 John 3:16-24

God created us in His image and loved us as His own children while giving us the ability to love Him or rejecting Him. When man fell from God’s grace, we were ejected from the Garden of Eden.  From that point on, mankind has struggled to encounter God’s love.

Into the human heart there are bound to come doubts of God’s love.  Anyone with a sinister mind and heart must some time wonder if he or she really is Christian at all.

John’s heart is quite simple yet very far-reaching. If we feel love for our fellow human being welling up with our heart then we can be sure that the heart of God is in us. We are conscious of many sins if we are conscious of God’s love to some degree.

John would have said that a so-called heretic whose heart was overflowing with love and whose life was beautiful with service is far nearer Christ than someone who is impeccably orthodox. What is the meaning of that last statement?

While our hearts condemn, God heart is infinitely greater.

  • God is all Holy.
  • God is all knowing. 
  • God is all pure.
  • God is all powerful.

Therefore we should fear God! He has the right to condemn us, yet through Jesus and His grace we are saved, with hearts crying out, “God be merciful to me, a sinner!”

While our hearts condemn us, God’s love is greater. It is our knowledge of the Gospel that gives us hope. While mankind judges us by our actions and deeds, the God of all love and grace is the final judge and jury.

Let us look into the scriptures. 1 Kings 8:17-18 tells us that David said “I live in a fine palace, while God has no earthly temple to dwell in. I will build Him a palace.” But God said “You shall never build me a house on earth.” That’s because David had blood on his hands with the killing of Uriah. In verse 19, God continued... “But because it was in your heart to build me a temple, your son Solomon, who is your own flesh and blood, will build a Temple for me.”

The devil seeks to destroy the love of God in our lives by continually reminding us of the things we wish we had done for our Lord but we did not do them.

Mathew Chapter 25:37 says, “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38 When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39 When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’40 “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’”

Therefore we are God’s hands actively living in the world today. Use whatever He places in your hands and you shall be blessed.

Walking in Faith

3rd Sunday of Easter April 19, 2015
Scripture: I John 3:1-7

We often overlook the letters of John only because of their small size, but they have tremendous gifts to offer us in our struggles, to remain faithful to our Lord.

What a tremendous gift to be called "the children of God!"

The reason so many don’t know us as His children is because they don’t know HIM.

The world does not recognize us because they don't see us as agents of God's divine love.

There is a Scottish paraphrase of our scripture for today:
"Behold the amazing gift of love
The Father hath bestowed
On us, the sinful sons of men,
To call us sons of God!

"Concealed as yet this honour lies,
By this dark world unknown,
A world that knew not when he came,
Even God’s eternal Son.

"High is the rank we now possess;
But higher we shall rise;
Through what we shall hereafter be
Is hid from mortal eyes.

"Our souls, we know, when he appears,
Shall bear his image bright;
For all his glory, full disclosed,
Shall open to our sight.

"A hope so great, and so divine,
May trials well endure;
And purge the soul from sense and sin,
As Christ Himself is pure."

John begins this letter demanding that His people should remember their privileges.

Just belonging to a great school, a great regiment, a great church, and great household is an inspiration to fine living. It's even more to bear the name of the Family of God. This in itself ought to keep us on the right pathway, seeking to climb higher and higher towards the Lord.
But John points out, we are not merely CALLED "the children of God;" we ARE the children of God.

There is something here that is noteworthy: We are the children of God by the greatest and wonderful gift of God’s Son, Jesus the Christ!
By nature, man is a creature of God because God is his creator, but it is by grace that mankind becomes the children of God.
The Old Testament tells of our covenant relationship with God. The New Testament shares with us our adoption as God’s children, because of the blood sacrifice of His beloved Son, Jesus Christ. By the deliberate act of God, all Christians enter into the Family of God.

Immediately the question arises: if man has that great honor, why are so many downtrodden, displaced, and unrecognized by the world? The answer is quite simple. When Jesus came into the world, the world did not recognize him as God’s son, nor has it recognized the Christian as a child of God.

Therefore, some are bound by their faith in the eyes of a sinful world, yet God promised he would not leave us or forsake us, if we remain faithful to His promises.

“I will be your God if you will be my people.”

Let us pray.

Praise or Doubt

2nd Sunday of Easter
Scripture: St. John 20:19-30

It’s late on the first day of the week after Jesus has been raised from the dead! The disciples are huddled together in the upper room, where they shared the Passover meal with Jesus. Thomas is absent from the group. Jesus comes and stands in their midst saying, "Peace be with you."

They all rejoice in seeing Him once again. For a second time Jesus says, "Peace be with you." And then He breathed upon them the Holy Spirit, saying, "if you remit the sins of anyone, they are remitted. If you retain them, they are not forgiven.”

He then said that “God the Father has sent Me. Now I am sending you. Go and make Disciples of all men and nations.”

Bishop B. F. Westcott calls this “The Charter of the Church.”

It means 3 important things:

  • Jesus needs the Church
  • The Church needs Jesus
  • Jesus sends out his Disciples

One thing is quite certain: no man or woman can forgive another man or woman’s sins. Yet it is a great privilege of the church to send out men and women for Christian ministry.

At the ordination of an Elder in the U.M.C., these words are spoken: “Take the authority to preach the word and share the scriptures.” They announce that God forgives sins! These human agents are to bring the message of forgiveness and truth of the scriptures.How that is received depends not only on the messenger, but the message itself.It depends on the credibility of the messenger if people will respond to the message. If they respond, it is always with the aid of the Holy Spirit.

Over these last 2,000 years, has the church been faithful as the living presence of God and His love for the world?

Thomas is an example of how someone may or may not respond to the message of God’s forgiving love. Thomas expressed first hand evidence by seeing for himself Jesus’ wounds, and that he and 500 other witnesses saw Jesus alive again.

It is here that we need to take that confirmed faith and share that faith, not our denomination. We need to hear and listen to the voice of God through the Gospel message like the church in Jesus’ days on Earth. She was not a perfect church, nor is she today.

False prophets come leading the masses astray. James Jones was one such person. Yet the church is God’s tool in the world today to spread His love and forgiveness. Today, have we gotten ourselves sidetracked from our primary goal? Is our focus to make disciples of all persons.

A second function of the church is to be God’s hands in our lives today, to prepare the road for new life that will emerge from the church’s actions today.

When Christians come together sharing their faith and not their denomination, new and exciting life will emerge! Let us pray together!

Seeing Jesus

Easter Sunday
Scripture:  St. Mark 16:1-20

Before we can fully experience Jesus’ resurrection, we need to once again grasp and comprehend that he had truly died. We so often skip over the horror of his death and jump right into his resurrection, not wanting to realize what he suffered for our sins.

Today we see the women going to the tomb to anoint his body for burial.  Not to take him lunch or to offer him a change of cloths or expecting to hear his voice, once again. Let us walk with these women, as they go to the tomb. Their conversation was about who would remove the stone from the entry? It was way too heavy for them to move. They had asked no one to come and help them. They were just like you and me.

We go to the cemetery and go to the grave of a loved one, that we might feel close to them once again and recall the happiness they brought to us in this life.

Mark want us to realize the great miracle that just transpired.

He was dead, but now He is alive once again! This is a new day. Only 1 other has been raised from the dead: Lazarus. It was by the power of our Lord, Jesus the Christ to prove that He had the power over sin and death.

As they looked into the tomb, they were dumbfounded. They saw a lone figure of a man dressed in white where the body of Christ had lain. He asked, “Who are you looking for?” Mary answered “Jesus, who was crucified.” The Angel told them, “He has risen just as He said.” He also said, “Go tell my disciples, I am going into Galilee.”

Jesus had previously said “Destroy this body, and in 3 days I will rise again”  (John 2:19).

In fear and great wondering, Mary goes to find Peter and the other disciples, to tell them what had just happened. In the account of Mary, standing and crying in front of the open tomb she sees a figure of a man. Thinking he might be the caretaker of the cemetery, she asks him, “Where have you taken Him? I want to prepare Him for a proper burial.”

Only when the figure addresses her by saying “Mary!” did she realize that He is the risen Lord Jesus!

All too often we gloss over Jesus’ terrible death and the interchanges with Mary, disclosing the risen Lord. For we are so excited that He has risen that we completely lose sight of what Christ’s resurrection means for each one of us. That we worship a RISEN… LIVING… SAVIOR!

He’s in the world and wants to live in our hearts and lives.

Easter is so much more than:
Colored Eggs
Chocolate bunnies
Decorated baskets
Easter lilies
New cloths
Family gatherings
Sunrise services with breakfast

Easter is the reality that our Savior lives! We can have life abundant and eternal with Him in the “here and now” and in eternity.

Therefore, regardless what this life might bring, like …

  • A freak accident that snuffed out the life of a young mother with 2 small children…
  • A freak air tragedy that disappears with no trace…
  • A plane that falls from the sky , at the hands of a very sick pilot…

We have a living Lord to help us deal with life. Regardless what is transpiring, He walks with us in this life daily, Offering us His abundant love and presence with us.

Praise the Lord! Our Savior liveth, that we might live also.

Praise the name of Jesus, the Christ, our Lord.


Palm Sunday
Scripture: St. Mark 14:1-25

In Mark’s Gospel we read of Jesus ridding into the Holy city of Jerusalem on a colt/donkey.

The cheering crowd greeted him. They laid their outer garments on the ground and were waving Palm Branches, shouting "Hosanna!" Hosanna means "blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord." But the hosannas are short lived, for under the noise of the crowd, the air waves are lightly saying, "Crucify Him! Crucify Him! We want Barabbas. Give us Barabbas!"

The timing makes us aware that the Feast of the Passover and Unleavened Bread are only 2 days away. The whole city is full and overflowing with people, for every male is required to attend the celebration if he is within 15 miles of the city.

Other key things have transpired in Jesus' life.
1. A woman anointed him with costly perfume
2. We hear of Judas' remarks about what a great waste the perfume was. It could have been sold and the money used to feed the poor, for its value was a total year's wages

There in the upper room after dinner Jesus shared holy communion with His disciples, saying that one of them will betray Him. They all ask, "Is it I?"  Jesus tells them,  "it is the one that dips his fingers in the bowl with Me."

Judas gets up from the table and leaves the upper room. He goes out to the chief priests and agreed on 30 pieces of silver to betray Jesus.

In the meantime, Peter says "Even if all others forsake you, I will remain faithful!" Jesus tells Peter that before the rooster crowed 3 times Peter would betray Him.

Judas has second thoughts and tried to give the silver back to the chief priests. They say it is temple money, tainted with blood. Because it was blood money it could not be put back into the temple treasury, so they used it to provide for the burial cost for the very poor, yet today it is known as Potter’s Field.

By that point, all the hosannas had changed to "Crucify Him! CRUCIFY HIM!"

It's like a great gathering at a worship service. The speaker is a renowned speaker. The words set one's heart into a blazing flame by the Holy Spirit. They want to do something because of Jesus' love and presence in their lives. They are being enthralled by the Holy Spirit. They cannot even wait to leave the service to get started laboring afresh, on a new path for the Lord. Their hearts and minds are full of many things that they can do for Jesus. They leave the church filled with joy and excitement.

Hearing the door close behind them… suddenly, instantly, the cool air hits them and engulfs them, and the spiritual renewal and excitement is draw completely from their hearts and lives. The only thing that they hear loudly is "Crucify Him! CRUCIFY HIM! We want Barabbas! Give us BARABBAS!" In all the spiritual joy and heartfelt enlightenment disappears instantly from their lives and hearts. It's as if someone poured a bucket of ice water down their backs!

As we leave the service today, how will we feel? Like a washed-out person or one filled with the Holy Spirit?

As we are celebrating Holy Week, we remember that Jesus must die for my sins and for your sins.
But this is NOT OVER YET! Come back next week to hear the rest of the story.

Let us pray.

Day of Decision

1st Sunday in Lent
Scripture: St. Mark 1:9-15

As Jesus and his disciples come down off the mountain, He tells His disciple not to tell anyone what had happened on the mountaintop.

He knew in His heart that they did not really understand what had transpired while they were up on the mountain. They did not yet understand that He must suffer and die. They were steeped in Jewish history. Elijah had to come three days before the Messiah would appear.

On day one, Elijah would stand on the mountaintop of Israel and lament that the Israelites doubted the Lord's peace. On the second day, he would settle all doubtful points of ritual and ceremonial practices. He would cleanse the nation of Israel using words that all Jews would understand. He would be stating that Elijah had already come and that Elijah was mistreated, beaten, and put to death.

He was speaking of John the Baptist as Elijah. The Jews would treat him badly and kill him. Now, if the Jews treated the forerunner of the Messiah likewise, they would kill the Messiah.

Why did this happen after years of looking for the coming of the Messiah. It was all because they wanted it their way. They refused to see it God’s way. This is something that Peter and the others did not want to happen.

Jesus said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan!”

When men and women seek to shut the still small voice of God out of there lives and hearts, the word of God will not be seen, heard or felt. It does not matter how high-sounding a person confesses the Lord; if their actions do not show the "fruit of the spirit," there is no eternal sense of the presence of the Spirit of the Lord. The masses then are seeking a messiah only to get something from him to sweeten their own lives.

Jesus came to offer us a blessing here on earth and eternal life in the heavenly kingdom. We see that the Lord faced many of the same situations that we must face, but He won the victory over sin and death. He Offers us that same victory.

His heavenly Father did not keep His precious Son from the pitfalls of physical life. By enduring them He won the victory and grants us that same victory.

"If" is a little word with a big meaning. If we confess our sins in His holy name, we must remember he paid the price giving us victory over sin and death.

Praise be the name of the Lord, Jesus the Christ, who paid the price for your sin and mine, giving us eternal life in the fullness of the heavenly kingdom.

Praise to the Lord!!!! Amen!

Prolong the Moment

Last Sunday of Epiphany
Scripture: St. Mark 9:2-9

When I read the account of the transfiguration I feel a strong kinship with Peter, who bursts out in a bunch of nonsensical words wanting to prolong the oneness with the heroes of ancient Israel. He felt the need to do something. He was hopeless and out of place with these 3 heroes of the faith: Moses, Elijah, and Jesus.

I must state and confess I have been in Peter’s shoes more than once. What about each of you?

As Jesus starts his earthly ministry, he needs to know if He is on the right path. His Heavenly Father assured Him that He was in His visit with Moses and Elijah.

Moses was the great “Law Giver.” He brought the 10 commandments down from the mountain. Moses said, “Obey these commandments and you will be on the right pathway for this life.”

Elijah was the greatest prophet of Israel, sharing with how one should live as a child of God. Do this and you will be on the right pathway to God.

All of us would like to be sure we are doing what Jesus would like us to be doing and we do this by reliving the great spiritual moments and experiences of our life. I treasure my invitation to be a servant of the Lord.

I experienced the light that Moses illuminated when he came off of Mount Sinai and I heard the voice of God as plain as you hear me now. He said, “Come follow me and feed my sheep.” Again I experienced the presence of God in the garden by the tomb while Rev. Ida Easley was singing We Are Standing on Holy Ground.

The Transfiguration enabled Peter, James, and John to continue on the pathway of God after Jesus’ crucifixion.

When one is at an all-time low spiritually, one needs to relive the special moments with God. This will lift a person on his spiritual journey to a higher plain.

Our Heavenly Father tells us to continue on our spiritual journey regardless of what is transpiring in our lives. Covet the deep spiritual moments in your life and rejoice in them, for the devil will constantly try to sidetrack us...

… while God always walks hand-in-hand with us! Amen!

A Private Miracle

5th Sunday after Epiphany
Scripture: St. Mark 1:29-39

As Jesus begins His earthly ministry He offers a glimpse into the fullness of that ministry. It starts with the healing of Peter’s Mother-in-Law.

There are 3 aspects of this portion of scripture:

1.) He never separates WORDS from ACTION
2.) He never separates SOUL from BODY
3.) He never separates EARTH and HEAVEN
Jesus sees Peter’s Mother-in-Law sick in bed with a fever. They never speak a word to one another. He simply takes her hand and says to her, "Rise from your sick bed." Then the fever left her, wherein she begins to serve the him and the disciples a meal. There is no evidence of fanfare or show in His actions.

Jesus is our Master. He ministers to the whole BODY and SOUL Jesus displays the evidence of BODY and SOUL in this miracle.

We experience "the feeding of the masses" at Thanksgiving and Christmas… yet we seldom focus on the spiritual side of life then. But what about the rest of the year, for we desperately need nourishment of the body and soul daily?

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we paid MORE attention to our spiritual needs daily and LESS to our physical needs?

We need to take time daily to recharge our spiritual batteries. This is evident after Jesus healed and ministered to the needs of others. In fact, He often went off alone to recharge and communicate with OUR Heavenly Father.

It’s a proven fact that after 8 hours of labor, our energy level starts to dwindle. 12-hour work schedules CAN be less productive than an 8 hour day because our energy level.

Some say “I DON’T NEED THE CHURCH”! My late Father-in-Law said often “Why should I go to church and spend time with those hypocrites? Because I spend 40-some hours with them at work.”

The desire of Jesus while on Earth was that there was No Separation between WORDS and ACTIONS, BODY and SOUL, because one is a child of God in all ACTIONS.

Little is Much in the Hands and Heart of Our Lord

4th Sunday after Epiphany
Scripture: 2 Kings 4:1-7

We enter the scripture today and see a widow with two small boys who are facing a desperate situation. The husband and father of her sons was a servant of the Lord; he died after an illness and left them a tremendous debt. She has only a small jar of olive oil to her name to maintain herself and her sons.

Olive oil is used for almost everything at this time:

  • food
  • lights
  • heat
  • medicine
  • bathing for some of the rich

There is a knock on the door. She opens the door to see the man who the debt is owed to. He demands his money. She says she does not have any. He says, “I will be back in a week and if you cannot pay me, I will take the boys and sell them into slavery to pay your debt”.

She cries for mercy and time. He refuses her request. She is beside herself and does not know what to do. She goes to Elisha, a prophet, telling him her situation.

He asked her, “What do you have”?

She says “Only a small jar of oil”.

He tells her to tell the boys to go into their neighborhood asking for an empty jar, take the jar to their mother, close the door, and take the oil and pour into one of the empty jars. There will still be more oil, and Elisha instructs them to continue this process until all the jars are full and take the oil to the market place and sell it.

This is enough to pay off all their debts and provide them enough oil to live on.

Elisha was much like our Lord Jesus Christ in that he had wisdom, compassion, and care.

Now, no one escapes:

  • hardships
  • misfortunes
  • sorrows
  • pain
  • or affliction

We often think that if we were rich, these things would not befall us. Wouldn’t it be nice to have all the needs of this life?! But this is not the case.

I like the American Indian saying “Don’t judge any man until you walk in his shoes for two full moons.”

No one is exempt from having life’s troubles. Everybody experiences difficulties. Our scripture today is about a young preacher and his family. He dies quite young after an illness, leaving them in great financial need. They are a good family, yet they face life’s financial needs, difficulties and problems. Misfortune may or may not befall any one of us.

Our precious Lord even endured many hardships during his life on Earth. He was arrested, given many lashes, beaten nearly to death, forced to wear a crown of thorns, tortured, and tormented. Then He was crucified on a cross between two thieves.

Yet our Lord Jesus the Christ walks daily with us each step we take and each moment in our lives, enabling us to preserver through each calamity that befalls us because of the promise and certainty of eternal life.

Have you ever felt that each calamity in our lives is a badge of courage and honor?

Even though we will endure some pain and suffering there is hope, rest assured, the free gift at the end of the line is eternal life in His holy presence. Amen!