Abiding with Jesus

3rd Sunday in Lent
Scripture: St. John 4:5-26

In James 1:25 we are made aware not to forget what we have heard, but to do it, and there will be a blessing for what we have done. We set in church hearing an inspiring plea to do something special for Christ. We tell ourselves “I’m going to do that.” As we exit the church service it totally slips from our heart and mind. Jesus has set many examples of getting with people who are not in fellowship with His abiding love and grace.

One example is at Jacob’s well. He is resting at Jacob’s well, its high noon and He is thirsty. A Samaritan woman approaches the well. He asks her for a drink of cool water. She responds in astonishment. “Why do you ask me to give you a drink for Jews have no use for us Samaritans’, and you have nothing to put the water in?” Jesus then replies, “If you knew who I am and ask me, I would give you living water that would fill you up, flowing through your whole body”. She replies, “Give me this living water that I won’t need to come to the well daily. Jesus tells her to go and tell her husband. She replies, I don’t have a husband. Jesus replies that she speaks the truth, for she has had 4 husbands and the man she now lives with is not your husband. She says, “I believe you are a Prophet.” Now Jesus has traveled out of His way to be at Jacob’s well where He confronts the woman. Do you remember the last time you went out of your way to offer someone the Living Water for their life?

Another example is John 5,where we see Jesus at the Healing Pool. Jesus has traveled from Jacob’s well to Jerusalem near the sheep gate, to be with this person who believes the water has healing powers if they are the 1st in. There an invalid man waited a long time to be the first one in the healing waters. We are told that the 1st one in the healing water will be healed. He tells Jesus when the water shakes he is not fast enough to be the first one in. The invalid tells Jesus that he has no one to help him get in the pool. Jesus tells the man to “Get up, Pick up your mat and walk.” The man did just that! It was the Sabbath and one church leader condemned Jesus for healing on the Sabbath.
The great lesson from this scripture is if we want to be an agent of God, we need to get out of the church and be with the people who need spiritual and physical healing.

I remember responding to a request of a man in the parish I once served in. He asked me to go with him to see a friend and co-worker who was slowly dying with cancer. Arriving at the man’s home, we were welcomed in. I asked Him if he knew the Lord and Savior. He began to give excuse after excuse of why he was not a child of God. After listening to him, I finally told him all His reasons were only excuses that we build up on our lives. Before we left his earthly home, he accepted Christ as his Savior. Less than 4 or 6 weeks later, I had his funeral.

We have to help one another to tear down the brick walls that we build that block out the Living Water of Christ that is offered freely. To all who confess and believe that Jesus is the Son of God who offers all of us freedom from sin and death. We need to pick up ourselves, walk out of the church and invite all to have eternal life with the Lord of love and grace.

Let us pray.

Stanger at Night

2nd Sunday in Lent
Scripture: Romans 4:1-5, St John 3:1-17
I really like this story about Nicodemus. I can see myself in many aspects of the story. While I have known about my Lord and loved Him greatly, all my actions are not all that He desires. At times His love radiates from my daily life. I was somewhat like Nicodemus as I came to Him in the darkest moments of my life. Yet one can not really love the Lord with ones whole being if we only seek His presence when we seek something from Him that is a desire for us.

We all know John 3:16 by heart, yet if we don’t show that love all the time and openly, are we sure that we totally believe in Him? There is a lot more of Nicodemus in each one of us than what we are willing to admit or open up too. Nicodemus was a Pharisee and a member of the Jewish Council. But he still felt like something was missing in his life. Not wanting to admit this to the rest of the council, he gives to Jesus under the cover of darkness. He addresses Jesus, saying “Rabbi, I knew that you are a teacher sent from God for no one could perform the signs and things you are doing if God were not with Him.”

Jesus replies, “I tell you, no one can see the Kingdom of God unless they are born again.”

Nicodemus asks, “how is this possible, for he cannot enter again into his mother’s womb.”

Jesus replies to Nicodemus a 2nd time, “No one can enter the Kingdom of God unless they are born again by the water and the Spirit of God.

Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the water and the spirit gives birth to the Holy Spirit in new life. The Holy Spirit is like the wind. No one can see the wind, but we can feel it and see what it can do, whether it’s a gentle breeze or a frightening storm destroying everything in its path. The Holy Spirit is more like the gentle breeze. One can sense its presence, a silent, guiding presence that offers comfort and direction in one's life.

This congregation has seen and felt the Holy Spirit working in many of our lives. When Derek Mitchell was told that there was a mass in his small body that had to come out and it was cancer, there appeared a cloud of darkness all over our church family. We could not understand why God would do such a thing to a small child. Surgery was planned. His whole family was gathered at the hospital. Judy and I were among that gathering. When they came to take him to surgery, the nurse told him he could walk beside him, ride in a wheel chair or drive a battery powered Jeep. He jumped ahead of her, got in the Jeep, and raised his little hand waving bye to all of us. As he disappeared down the hallway, tears were flowing in abundance from all of us.

Minutes passed like hours, and hours like days. The doctor finally returned. He didn’t know what had happened. The tumor was there, they saw it on the x-ray, but once in surgery it was gone! There was no sign of cancer anywhere. Today he is a tall teen, enjoying life, family and fellowship of other Christians. We knew what had happened and we knew why! The Lord of all life took care of that situation.

When we are up against a brick wall, with no sight ahead but more bricks, God is here. He doesn’t leave us hopeless. We need to remove the bricks so we have the desire and ability to love and serve Him more in all aspect of our being. I don’t know the brick wall or road blocks in your lives, but I do know who can and will remove them.

Let us pray.

Test in the Wilderness!

1st Sunday in Lent
Scripture: Matthew 4:1-11, Romans 5:12-19
Our lives and the world are full of temptations. Even when we are living a good clean life, we as Christians allow ourselves to drift away from our loving Savior and slip into the hands of Satan. We are created with free will. And with the free will we desire our way and actions in our lives that do not please our Lord. Even the Son of God, Jesus, was tempted. Are we stronger than Him?

Absolutely not! Our hearts are stronger in the love for our Lord, but our flesh is weak.

Jesus was tempted after spending 40 days and nights in the wilderness. Satan saw His condition and confronted Him with 3 temptations. The pains of hunger must have been great, wherein the devil told him to use His power and turn the stones into bread and quench His hunger. But Jesus replied, “You shall not tempt the Lord.”

So the devil tried a 2nd time. Taking Jesus to a high mountain, he showed him all the glory of creation. “See all this glory, it is mine. I will give it all to you if you will bow down and worship me.”

Once again Jesus replied, “You shall not tempt the Lord.”

Now the devil doesn’t give up easily. A 3rd time he takes Jesus to the Holy temple, placing Him on the highest point. He challenged Him to fall down, because IF you are the Son of God you will not be injured. After this temptation, Jesus told Satan to be gone, and Satan left Him. The angels came and ministered unto Him. If Jesus faced temptation, what makes us think that we will not be tempted by the devil, because we have confessed our faith in the Lord? It is here that our freedom of will kicks into high gear.

This is what happened to Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. They were in a paradise on earth. Eve was tempted by the devil to take from the tree of good and evil, then share with Adam. It was then they saw that they were naked. Hearing the voice of God, they hid because of their nakedness. God called them, and Adam responded telling Him that they hid because they were naked. God knew they had eaten of the tree of good and evil. Adam replied, “The woman you gave me gave it to me”. So Adam tries to pass the buck, blaming not only Eve but God Himself for His downfall from grace. God makes clothes out of leaves and chased them from the Garden, telling them of their punishment for disobedience to Him. Eve will bear great pain in childbirth. Adam shall make a living for himself and loved ones by the sweat of his brow.

It is because of that same free will; want to have it our way and not God’s way in our lives, that we face the temptation of the devil daily in our lives. Some says that they have not sinned; facing temptation in their lives is the spirit of the devil. If you confess and believe that you are walking on very, very thin ice.

We don’t go out to sin against the desires of our Lord. It is because of our self will that we do things we want and not in the covenant of our Lord. Good people slip into sinful actions ever so easy. Good people shoplift, taking small item that they can slip into their pocket or purse. I have heard of cases where professionals go into the restroom with their briefcases with books under them and proceed to put them in the briefcases and leave without paying. I know of a barber who had a very profitable business. He would steal Kool-Aid and serve it to his customers up till the day he was caught. Sadly, he could afford it. An example of a good person who let self will slip into their life.

The devil causes all of us from time to time to yield to the lower nature of our humanity. Be aware, he is more active in the Christian’s life where he works to see what can cause the Christian to fall from grace.

Let us pray.

A Transfiguration Experience

8th Sunday after Epiphany
Scripture: Exodus 24:12-18,St Matthew 17:1-9

The Greeks understood that a transfiguration was much more than a transformation from the inside that reveals itself on the outside. It is an inside experience that causes a total change in the spiritual life and completely changes the individual who then becomes a new person.

We can see that first reference in Exodus when we read about Moses and his encounter with the Lord on the mountaintop. God called him to the mountaintop where he encountered God’s presence. He spent 40 days on that mountain with the presence of God. It was there that God gave him two stones tablets with the Ten Commandments. God then told him to return to the people below. As Moses descended from the mountain, the people could not and would not look at him; his face was frightening, as bright as the sun and his clothes as bright as a million candles. The people were afraid to look at him!

The transfiguration of Jesus was the Lord’s way to teach Peter, James and John as well as all of us who Jesus really was. Can we even imagine that experience? The disciples saw Jesus talking with Moses and Elijah. It was believed that they would return from the dead, the sign that the Messiah had come. This was evidence to the disciples that Jesus was truly the Messiah.The transfiguration of Jesus was a divine key that would enable the disciples to carry Jesus’ message to the whole world. They did not fully understand that transfiguration of Jesus until after his crucifixion, death and resurrection from the dead.The people remembered the voice heard at Jesus’ baptism as he came up from the water: “This is my beloved Son; I am well pleased with him.”

There are times in scripture that God tried to get His people to understand how much He loved them and offered His only beloved Son as a ransom for our sins. Time and time again God showed His great love for all of us.

Recall the 40 years journey in the wilderness. The people were up in arms against Moses for bringing them out into that wilderness journey. They were dying of thirst and starving to death. God told Moses to strike a rock and water came pouring out of it for all to drink and to water their animals. To feed them, God sent manna to fall from heaven and quail to provide meat to fill their bellies.
The transfigurations in the Holy Scripture are the gifts from the Heavenly Father to give ample evidence of the depth of His love for us. It is my deepest desire and hope that the Holy Father will give each and every one of us a transfiguration encounter to experience the love of God for each of us. And that encounter will equip us to walk daily with Him regardless of what is happening in our lives.

Remember that God loves you and I love you too.

Let us pray.

A Call to Love

7th Sunday of Epiphany  
Scripture: St Matthew 5:38-48,1st Corinthians 3:10-11

The call of a Christian is first and foremost a call to Love. In fact, Jesus himself said that others would know that we are His disciples by the love that we share to all others. We are called to love because we have been loved by the Lord. The truth is we have been loved when we were enemies of God. Christ died for us while we were sinners. It is that same love that God shows us that we are to share and offer to all others. It is an unexpected, extravagant love. We are called to love not with our voices, but with our hearts and actions to all others.

In Leviticus 19, many of the verses of scripture express a multitude of different loving expressions. Moses’ speech to the entire ensemble of Israelites is about many ways we express God’s love to others. We are to be Holy because our God is Holy.

Some examples of different ways to express our love:

Don’t reap the whole field of grain; leave several rows around the field for the gleaners’ and the wild animals. When gathering your grapes for fruits and wine, gather only one time, leave the unripe to ripe and leave to the gleaners’ and bird of the air. Show you true love by not withholding wages from your worker, not even for one night. Don’t pervert justice or show partiality to anyone. Don’t spread lies or slander among your people. Don’t do anything that endangers your neighbor’s life, says the Lord. Don’t reap revenge or hold a grudge among your people but love your neighbor as yourself ways the Lord. Thus we must love your neighbor regardless of whom they are or where they love. All these actions carry love to a much deeper level.

In Matthew. the words written in 5:38, Jesus takes the actions of love to a greater and deeper level. He calls us to love our neighbors, to love everyone, even our enemies, as they are all His beloved children. We are to love regardless of what they do to us. He also instructs us that if you are requested to go one mile, go two. The first is what is required of you to do; the second mile shows that you love Him even if He requires you to do something for Himself. This shows how much God loves both of you.

Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 3:10-11 these words: “By the Grace of God has given me, I laid a foundation as a wise builder, and someone else is building on it. But each one should build with care. For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ.”

Let us pray.

Life or Death

6th Sunday of Epiphany
Scripture: Deuteronomy 30:15-20 , St Matthew 5:21-37

According to Deuteronomy 30:15-20, every day life and death, blessings and curses are set before us. Blessings are waiting for us if we will love the Lord and walk in His ways and keep His commandments. However, if our hearts turn away and refuse to listen and obey, we will have spiritual death. What will you and I choose; a blessed life or spiritual death?

God’s commandments are for our well being. The Psalmist wrote in Psalms 119:1-2 that those who walk in the Lord’s instructions are truly happy. Those who guard God’s laws are also truly happy for God is in their hearts. Following God’s commandments brings happiness and wholeness to their lives. While the blessing God’s desires for us goes even deeper than that, it means that our hearts rest in God’s Holiness.

In Matthew 5, Jesus makes it clear that if we keep the commandments of God He opens our hearts and gives us a deeper reality of His love for us. We have heard that is said “don’t commit murder”, but it is implied that if we are angry with a brother or sister we will be in danger of judgment. If we say “you fool” we will be in danger of the fires of Hell. We need to be very careful of the curses that rule our hearts, like anger or malice, so it does not rub off into our lives and actions.

Everyday we have a choice. Every second, every moment we choose. Will we choose life in the Lord or spiritual abandonment and the fire of Hell? Will our disobedience reap destruction and consequences? Will we obey God’s commandments and receive the blessings the Lord offers us? God desires to bless us. He desires that we not merely survive but to live in the fullness of His love and blessings.

Today’s message reminds me of the sin of omission and the sin of co-mission. While we would not and do not strive to sin, we all do it daily by not living up to the will of the Lord. Daily we live in a world of sin and death. That is not the way that the Lord desires us to live. We all fall short of the abundance of God’s blessings when we allow the ways of this world to take center stage in our hearts and lives blocking the blessings of the Lord to rule our lives.

May we all seek to center our hearts and our tongues to the blessings of the Lord and not on earthly things.

Let us pray.

Meaningless Worship

5th Sunday of Epiphany
Scripture: Isaiah 59:1-9 St Matthew 5:13-20

The text for today is a strong and clear example of meaningless worship.

Like many of us today, many Israelites were doing all the right worship things. But they were also doing all kinds of the things that were absolutely the wrong things for worshipers to do. Their worship habits and their lifestyles were completely at odds with one another. They quarreled and brawled and then fasted. God made it quite clear that was not what he desired.

When we gather to worship are we here to please ourselves or to serve and please our Lord? If we are to please our Lord in no uncertain terms, He wants our worship to break the chains of injustice. As a just God, He desires our worship to display justice for all, not just for a loved one or a few close friends. We are to be God’s warriors fighting for just treatment for all His beloved people.

As a warrior for the Lord, we should be actively fighting for the homeless, the outcasts in our midst, provide food and clothes for those in need, helping those suffering who need healthcare and especially for those who don’t know Him as a loving and caring Lord.

The church is said to be a sleeping giant. It is time to awake up to the needs of all God’s children.
So once again I ask, are we here to worship to please and satisfy our needs and desires, or are we awakened to the shallowness of our lack of real concern to the masses in our community, state, nation and the world?

Often the ways we worship falls all to short of God’s desires and love, not just for ourselves, but for all God’s children.

Matthew’s text asks us: Does our praise to God display that we are warriors for His kingdom on earth and a reflection of His Heavenly Kingdom?

Worship is so much more than lifting our voices in song, in prayers or in speaking. There are so many other ways we can worship the Lord.

We can watch the news for an excellent example of those who showed real worship. As an avalanche destroyed a hotel, many were buried alive. There were those who came to search, some using their hands in the snow to search the buildings for survivors. Hearing voices above them a couple huddled together for another 60 hours before they saw the light of day. Not only did they find many alive, but they also found 4 or 6 newborn puppies. They had been without food or drink for several days. Shortly thereafter they found the mother and reunited the pups with her.

This is one example of real worship. Real worship is that we see that the need is there and as we are the hands and feet of God, we put the action in our life.

Gracious Lord, open our hearts and actions to see that real worship in more than praising God with our voices. Real worship is being on the front lines, fighting for God in a multitude of ways.

Let us pray.