Peace of the Presence

3rd Sunday of Pentecost
Scripture: St. Mark 4:35-41

The Sea of Galilee is between two large mountain ranges. It sets in a bowl its water coming in from the north. This is a natural wind tunnel, causing the sea that is like a sheet of glass to become rough with high waves, some of which are several feet high.

When Jesus and His disciples started across the lake, the surface was a sheet of glass. About half way across the wind came blowing hard.  The little boat is tossed about like a toy top on a flat surface. Jesus is laying on a piece of carpet with a small pillow. The helmsman stands on deck a couple feet away. The waves were hitting the boat so hard that the boat was taking on water.

The disciples were afraid that the boat was about to sink.  They woke Jesus up, saying, “Teacher don’t you care that we are about to perish?”

Jesus gets up and sternly rebukes the wind and waves. Jesus tells the wind and waves “BE SILENT…BE MUZZLED”. The wind and waves die down immediately. The sea surface returns to being a sheet of glass. The disciples marvels that even the wind and waves obey His command.

What is interesting here is that Jesus used the same words to the wind and waves that he used to silence a demon-possessed man in Mark 1:25: “Be Quiet.” Here in Mark 4:39, Jesus says “QUIET ... BE STILL.” This passage not only shows the power of Jesus, but that He can bring peace in the storms of life that we face.

There is a tale of a gardener who loved a certain flower and he spent extra time tending to its every need, using only the best products for its care. One morning, he went to the garden to check on his flower. It was gone! No trace! He began to rant and rave over who would do such a trick. Why would anybody steal his most precious flower?

Standing there in the garden, he felt the presence of something. In his mind he heard a voice. The voice said, “Hush! I plucked it for myself.” Then he realized it was the voice of the Lord, speaking to his heart. He at once realized that Jesus could calm the storms of our rage in an instant and in the darkest moments of our lives.

Jesus offers us peace when our lives are asunder, such as during the loss of a precious loved one.

His presence comes to us when we don’t know what to do. Often the real tragedy is not that we don’t know what to do, but so often we do not humble ourselves to be guided by Him. He offers us peace of His presence, when the storms of life are raging within us.

Remember the enemy of peace is worry. We worry for ourselves and our loved ones and about the unknown future. Jesus speaks to us as a Father who’s heart and love never causes His precious child a needless tear.

I love the words in our hymn on page 512, Stand by Me.

“When the storms of life are raging,
Stand by me.
Stand by me.
When the storms of life are raging,
Stand by me.
Stand by me.

“When the world is tossing us like a ship upon the sea,
Then who ruleth Wind and Waters,
Stand by me.
Stand by me.”

Jesus the Christ, is the only one that can grant us true peace of body, mind, and spirit. Amen!

Secret of Endurance

2nd Sunday of Pentecost June 7th,2015
Scripture: 2nd Corinthians 4:16-18

The secret of endurance is like both sides of a coin. It has things that are seen with our eyes and things that are not visible but are felt in our heart.

I looked up the words "endure" and "endurance." The dictionaries use phrases like:
  • To hold out against
  • To sustain without impairment
  • The power to bear life encounters without resistance
  • To support adverse forces with not yielding to them
The things that are seen are man-made earthly items, while the things not seen are from God’s love, grace, and eternal presence.

Paul’s words include all those in the earthly life, that may or may not happen to us in our lives, like the strength of one’s body in it’s youth. We see that strength fade away in the aging process of life.

Through this life we need to feed the soul that keeps us health and wise in the Lord’s presence and love. It is in the human body that we suffer many things that weaken us, yet it is the soul that keeps us strong and aware of God’s presence even in our suffering.

Paul was convinced that suffering and adversity happens if we endure them with God’s presence and strength, they are worth the GOAL and the PRIZE we seek: Eternal LIFE! With God as our helper.

Suffering may destroy our body, while with the Spirit with God at the helm of our lives we will win the VICTORY over SIN AND DEATH!

As we look back over our lives, we will all see suffering in many situations. Have you seen them as events that awaken our faith journey? As an event that has sustained us? For we realize that the Lord walk beside us at all times, often holding our hands, but at other times carrying us though that situation, until we can stand and walk under our own strength.

Thomas Wood penned these words:

"I remember.
I remember
The fir tree dark and high.

"I used to think their slender tips
Were close against the sky.

"It was a childish ignorance
To know I’m further off from Heaven
Than when I was a boy."

We all know the countless pitfalls that Paul endured during his journey in life, but he never lost sight or failed to believe that all his earthly suffering, were nothing compared to the glory that awaited him at his death because he endured these pitfalls while being baptized in Christ’s blood and eternal life.

I am as guilty as you are of having slipped into a state of self-pity, asking the Lord, "Why me? Why me?"

Because I was seeing and allowing myself to see only my eyes and not the heart of God. When I have stopped dead in my tracks and look back in all the years of my life, I see countless times God working in and through the pitfalls of my life. Even at birth, there was a struggle for my twin and I. But God intervened.

This reminds me of the poem “Footprints in the Sand.”

"One night I dreamed I was walking along the beach with the Lord. Many scenes from my life flashed across the sky.

"In each scene I noticed footprints in the sand. Sometimes there were two sets of footprints, other times there was one only.

"This bothered me because I noticed that during the low periods of my life, when I was suffering from anguish, sorrow or defeat, I could see only one set of footprints, so I said to the Lord,

"'You promised me Lord,
that if I followed you, you would walk with me always. But I have noticed that during the most trying periods of my life there has only been one set of footprints in the sand. Why, when I needed you most, have you not been there for me?'

"The Lord replied, 'The years when you have seen only one set of footprints, my child, is when I carried you.'… My Precious, precious child,

"I love you and I would never leave you."
-Mary Stevenson

During your times of trial and suffering, when you see only one set of footprints in the sand…
… it was then that God carried you.

How do you see your life? With only your eyesight or through the eyes of God?

For He sees not who we are or how we are living, but who we might become through His living presence and power in our lives.

Lord we thank you for the ability to endure this life’s struggles and pitfalls, for we know they are nothing compared to the JOY and LOVE that You offer and give to each one who acknowledges You as their redeeming God!

AMEN!

The Family of God

1st Sunday of Pentecost
Scripture: Romans 8:12-17

Upon our adoption into the Christian church by the action of our faith, we become a new creature. In Paul's words in our text today, he describes the laws for an adoption by Roman culture at that time. In that adoption, a person’s life changes completely.

We need to refresh ourselves on that process of Roman adoption. The birth father would symbolically sell his son three times. He would then buy him back twice, but the third time he would not buy him back. The new father would go to the magistrate who had the power to accept or reject the action of the birth father. All the rights of the boy being adopted, his birthrights, were transferred to his new father, and the lad gained a complete new identity.

If another male child was born in his new family, that child did not become heir to his father’s wealth. Adoption at that time in history was a serious and long process.

There were four major steps in an adoption.

  1. The adopted person lost all rights with his birth family.
  2. He gained all birthrights with his new family.
  3. In the eyes of the law, the adoption wiped out all of his records and previous life before he was adopted. It was a clean slate.
  4. A father had total control over his children, including the power of life or death, at his fingertips.

This is what the Apostle Paul was thinking about when he was talking about Roman adoption. What Paul says is that God’s Spirit witnessed with our spirit and that we are all children of God. Paul is saying that it is the Holy Spirit who witnesses the adoption into the family of God.

Once we were an absolutely powerless over sin, but God in His mercy has bought us back into His possession through the blood of His Son, Jesus Christ. All of our past is canceled. Our sin debts are paid in full. The slate is wiped clean and we begin a new life with our God. We become heirs of all of God’s possessions. If Christ had to suffer, then we too inherit that suffering. But if Christ was raised to life and glory, we also will inherit that life and glory.

This is the picture Paul is painting of a man or woman who becomes a Christian. They enter into a new life and family with God. We have done nothing to deserve it, and it cannot be earned.

It is a gift from our Lord and Savior. God the great Father, in His loving mercy and amazing love, has taken away our lost and helpless lives in poverty and strife. God had adopted each and every one of us into His holy family.

We are debt-free and our sins are canceled. They have removed as far as the east is from the west, never to be recorded by God again. We enter the glory of God through the shadow of Jesus. Amen!

The Gift of the Holy Spirit

Pentecost Sunday
Scripture: Acts 2:1-21                                    

In the first 13 chapters of Acts, there are more than 40 references to the Holy Spirit. Now the early church was a Spirit-filled church. That was precisely where the church’s power supply came from.

What actually happened at Pentecost we really don’t know.  Yet, we are certain that something greatly changed the disciples and us today.  It was far, far more than just speaking in tongues.

The disciples were huddled together in the upper room, behind locked doors, in fear of their lives. The Lord appeared unto them and breathed the Holy Spirit in them. They emerged from the upper room and walked the streets and by-ways, preaching that the Lord\has arrived.

They were proclaiming that Jesus is the Son of God, whom the people crucified and sealed in a tomb. They shared that Jesus arose, offering all of God's gracious love.

The Old Testament speaks of this great event in Acts 2, starting in verse 16:

“No, this is what was spoken by the prophet Joel:

17 “‘In the last days, God says,
    I will pour out my Spirit on all people.
Your sons and daughters will prophesy,
    your young men will see visions,
    your old men will dream dreams.
18 Even on my servants, both men and women,
    I will pour out my Spirit in those days,
    and they will prophesy.
19 I will show wonders in the heavens above
    and signs on the earth below,
    blood and fire and billows of smoke.
20 The sun will be turned to darkness
    and the moon to blood
    before the coming of the great and glorious day of the Lord.
21 And everyone who calls
    on the name of the Lord will be saved.’”

In our day and age, less and less focus has been on the fulfillment of this great prophecy. It’s high time – past time – that we allow these words of God to be watered down. We need a rebirth!

  • of that first Pentecostal day
  • of the in-filling of the Holy Spirit in the world
  • of our nation, 
  • in each one of our hearts and lives.

We have slowly programmed out the loving Spirit of God out of our lives and even out of His church. Christ is not the main thrust in our lives any more. Instead of being Christ-centered and Spirit-filled, we give Him the leftovers of our time.

Until we wake up, Spirit-filled and motivated, He will decline in our world and our individual lives.

God, please awaken each of us to the Holy Spirit who seeks to reign supreme in our lives. Amen!

Jesus' Ascension

7th Sunday after Easter
Scripture: Acts 1:9-11

It is important that we have a firsthand account of Jesus’ ascension. We discover this in Acts 1:9-11. “After He said this, He was taken up before the very eyes of the disciples in a cloud that hid Him from the disciples.” Two men dressed in white stood beside them.

“Men of Galilee, why do you stand here looking into the sky?” they asked. “This same Jesus who has been taken up from you into Heaven will come back in the same way you have seen Him go into the heavens.”

There are two reasons for firsthand accounts of Jesus’ ascension.
  1. It was necessary that there should be an eyewitness.
  2. We know that for someone to be a credible witness in a court of law, he or she should be an eyewitness.
If Christianity were but a think-so-too, it would have died off many years ago.
  1. A real witness is not the witness with words, but with deeds. 
  2. One of the most suggestive facts is that in Greek the word for “witness” and the word for “martyr” come from the same word.
  3. An eyewitness must be loyal no matter what the outcome. Thus the disciples did become martyrs.
Jesus spent 40 days after His resurrection from the dead as an eyewitness to the power of God to win the victory over sin and death. Thus, it is absolutely correct to say that we do not regard Heaven as just someplace beyond the sky.  A place of Heaven is a place of blessedness where we will one day and forever be inseparable from God.

If Jesus was to give His followers irreversible proof that He was going to His Heavenly glory, wherein one day His faithful followers will go to be with Him, one day His followers would go with Him.

But we don’t need to worry about when the second coming will transpire.  But it will happen. But it is foolish and useless for us to speculate on how it will happen, for Jesus told us His Father in Heaven has fixed the time and date, and not even Jesus knows the hour or the day.

Jesus’ second coming means that Christianity is not stationary. Rather, it’s going somewhere. God the Father has a plan for each one of us, so history is not a haphazardous conglomeration of events. It also is going somewhere.

God so loved His creation and mankind that when mankind stumbled and fell from grace and glory He sent His beloved Son Jesus, the Christ, to redeem us. Even when mankind murdered Him, God did not forsake His creature, man, but once again gave mankind another chance for the blessed eternal life.

We need to realize, with all that’s going on in our world today, that God is still in control. While Satan seems to be in control at this moment, when the final battle between Satan and God happens, God and His creature man win the battle.

In the meantime, we must forge ahead as the battle rages on, offering our small bits of spiritual energy toward the final goal, aiding the winning of the battle along with and for God. Let us pray!

Jesus Loves

6th Sunday of Easter, Mothers Day
Scripture: St. John 15:9-17

Our scripture text speaks of a Father God’s love for all His precious children, showing us that love through His Son Jesus, our Savior.

While Christ's love is offered to each of us, He does not force his love upon us. We encounter His love as we except His Son, Jesus’ love. Loving all others as we are instructed does not mean we accept them as Christ accepts us. Rather we acknowledge them as God acknowledges us and cares for them as He care for us, wherein we seek to treat them as full brothers and sisters by the blood of Jesus Christ.

One type of human love that I know that imitates Christ’s love for us is the mother’s love for her child.

The Greek called it "Storge" (ฯƒฯ„ฮฟฯฮณฮฎ storgฤ“) which means "love" or "affection" and especially of parents and children.  It is a natural affection, like that felt by parents for their children. In so many ways, her love is sacrificial... as Christ loves us.

I know many such mothers who sacrifice themselves for their children, and today I’m lifting up two…

My wife Judy and daughter Renรฉ are these 2 women.

Judy’s love is so much in giving totally. She refuses to eat or place anything on her plate before my plate if filled and I often have to take the first bite. She goes out of the way making others happy and giving to them first over herself.

Other examples of a loving, selfless mother mother:

  1. a mother who dies giving birth to a child
  2. a mother who’s birth mother is unable to do it herself
  3. a mother who is really a child/teenager herself
  4. a mother who adopts a child who’s birth mother could not raise the child (such as Renรฉ)
  5. a mother who take on the role with a special needs child

Plus there is an army of ladies who never give birth to a child but step up to the plate when the need arises to love a child. And let's not forget the aunts and grandmothers. All of these situations mentioned offer Motherhood and reflects God’s eternal love for all the little ones.

Recall from the scriptures in Matthew 18:6,  when a disciple told Jesus to send all the children away…

Jesus said, “If anyone causes one of these little ones—those who believe in me—to stumble, it would be better for them to have a large millstone hung around their neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea.”

For many today, we have only precious memories of our mothers who gave us life but now is in the fullness of God’s heavenly Kingdom. We thank You, oh God, for loving mothers, who loved us. And thank You for sharing Your divine love for us also. For those of us who've lost a mother, we know they wait with You in the heaven now for our reunion when we pass. Amen!

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!