Archive for October, 2017

All Saints…

all-saints-dayHebrews 12, verses 1 and 2 tells us; “Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.”

Today is November first which also tells us that it is not only the day after Halloween, but it is All Saints Day. Within many churches, this is the day when we remember those who we have lost, who have passed away. This Sunday, all over the world, remembrances will take place for our loved ones who have passed away in the previous year. Although this is usually a somber worship service, I find the desire to make this a celebration. We are celebrating the lives of these saints, people who have lived their lives as an example of Christian living. They instilled in us their love for us and for those around them, and so we remember them this day.

The passage from Hebrews today lets us know that although others have passed away, they are not far from us. We are surrounded by a cloud of witnesses. This could certainly mean that we are surrounded in our everyday lives by those who are saints, by who they are and what they do, but also those who are no longer with us on this earth.

I know that if I ask you to tell me about your parents or grandparents, you would tell me about how they lived and how they taught. Their examples of how to live are within each and every one of you. Many of our life lessons came from someone who is no longer with us, and they got their information from those before them, and the cycle goes on and on. So you can see how this great cloud of witnesses is never that far away from us.

So, I encourage you today, tomorrow, and especially this Sunday for All Saints Sunday, to reflect on those lives who have formed you into who you are today. Whether is it someone who is still alive or someone who has passed on to paradise, think about the lessons they shared with you. Think about how they taught you to live and how to love. And then celebrate them. Name them in your worship services this week, or just in your own time, thank God for them.

Then, thank God for the future hope we all have, that one day we will all be together once again, gathered around the table for a feast and celebration like no other!

Show Me Your Glory

Show-Me-Your-Glory-Sermon-Slide2There are many stories in the Bible about encounters with God and Moses was no stranger to them. This past Sunday, we looked at one in particular. In chapter 33 we find Moses asking to see God, he wants God to show him His glory. Moses wanted to see the presence of God. He wanted to know God, to verify that God was with him. Isn’t that how we feel sometimes?

We want to know God in a far more intimate way than we have in the past. We want to truly have a relationship with him. We want to know that God’s presence is right here with us, right now. God, show us your glory!

But then God speaks. God tells Moses that he cannot see God and live, so he will protect Moses by placing him in a cleft of a rock, place his hand over him as he passes by and then he will remove his hand so that Moses can see him from the back side. We need to realize just how important this is for us today. Moses sees the backside of God, not his face, not what goes before him, but the backside. Moses sees where God has been. He sees God in the deliverance from Pharaoh and his army, in the Manna from heaven, in the water from the rock. Moses sees the glory of God in the giving of the law.

God’s glory is revealed in all of the actions of the past. This is so revealing in our knowledge of God.

We want God to show us his glory so that we can know him more, and here is a story about Moses who is asking for the same thing, and God gives him a view of where he has been. We cry out show me your glory, and God says, “I have.” I have shown you my glory and you see it every day. Every morning you wake up and witness the sunrise. You watch as all of creation surrounds you, as people interact, as love pours out from all those around you. You see my glory in your community as people work together to help others. You see my glory on the faces of all those young ones who come up every Sunday for our children’s message.

You see my glory throughout history, in the healings you have witnessed, in the lives that have been changed, in the love that is expressed between friends and strangers. You see my glory in the stories of Abraham, Moses, Ruth, Mary, Peter and so many others from scripture. You see my glory in the life, death, and resurrection of my only Son, Jesus Christ. God says, “you ask for me to show you my glory, I tell you that I have.”

We see the glory of God by what he has done, not what we try to predict that he will do in the future. Like Moses, we see God’s glory in all of those times God has acted, delivered, and loved us. We may ask God to see his glory, but we have already seen it, and we continue to see it every day.

So, when I asked God to give me a sign, to show me your glory, when I was discerning a call into ordained ministry, I was initially discouraged because there was no huge sign that told me I was doing the right thing. There were no blinking lights pointing me down the right path.

But after a good amount of reflection, I could see where God had been in my life. I saw how he guided me on a path that led to my decision. I could see God’s glory in all the little things in my life that helped me become the person I am today and how they all contributed to this call God has for my life in ministry.

So, I ask all of you, have you asked God to show you his glory? Have you wanted to know more of God in your life? Are you beginning to ask those big questions of faith and direction but need a little help? If you are, then I encourage you to take time to reflect on where God has already been active in your life. Pay close attention to the path that you are on, because you are on it for a reason. God knows the reason, and he wants to show you his glory, just as he did for me, for Moses, and for so many others that God is calling today.

Diverse, not Divided…

Indian CornToday I want to look at a piece of scripture that surely focuses on prayer. It is Philippians 4:1-9. Here is where we find “do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be known to God.” But we must notice that in two verses, just before this one, we find Paul writing about two people who are arguing. Verse 2 says; “I urge Eudia and I urge Syntyche to be of the same mind in the Lord.”

Most of this letter to the Philippians tells us how to live the Christian life, how to persevere to proclaim the gospel. But we get hints throughout, that there is something not quite right at the church in Philippi. And here it is. There are two women who are arguing, fighting, disagreeing on issues, and this is compromising the gospel of Christ.

I don’t know about you, but when I walk into a restaurant, or coffee shop, or even a retail business and hear people arguing, especially the employees, I find it hard to want to stay there. I usually want to leave as quickly as possible. Why is that? I guess we could say that we are looking for a pleasant experience. We don’t want to become a spectator of conflict.

Arguing, badgering, name calling, or other forms on conflict within relationships makes us uneasy. It brings all of our differences to the surface for arguments sake, for declaring who’s right and who’s wrong. The focus is placed on disunity instead of unity with diversity.

Where else have we seen this played out? Where have you seen arguments, fighting, name calling daily? Sure, social media, newscasts, even city council meetings. And when you are on the outside looking in, you can see what that does to the credibility of anyone pushing their own agenda, even if it means at someone else’s expense.

So, what if this happens within the church? What happens then? Do people look at us in the church and think; “oh, that’s just how the church operates?” Do they think about who Jesus is and say; “I think I like Jesus, but if he taught us to act that way, I want no part of him?”

But we can be unified in Jesus Christ. Jesus never said that we should be blindly following along, especially when it comes to worldly beliefs. We don’t all have to look alike or act alike. God has made us different. We are fearfully and wonderfully made, in God’s image, not in each other’s image.

We don’t have to all be democrats. We don’t all have to be republicans. We don’t all have to be Methodists, or Lutherans, or Catholics, Presbyterians, Brethren, Non-Denominational, or whatever else you want to throw in there. We are different, but that doesn’t mean that we can’t be unified in Jesus Christ!

But showing unity in Christ means that we must handle disagreements differently. We can agree to disagree on some topics, on some ideas, but on the gospel message, the truth of Christ, that we can’t disagree on.

Jesus Christ died for each one of us. That is not debatable. How we decorate for Christmas, what music we worship with, what day we worship on; those we can disagree on. But it doesn’t have to divide us. So, if we find ourselves in the middle of arguments for whatever reason, we can look at this letter from Paul to the church in Philippi for guidance in resolving those issues. This letter is full of ways to put our priorities on Jesus and his teachings which will help us in resolving our issues.

We are to live as a united community, diverse, but not divided.

Broken to Pieces

Broken-to-PiecesMatthew 21:33-46 is usually referred to as the ‘Parable of the Tenants.’ This is one of Jesus’ many parables in which he taught. This one, however, describes God’s story. It is the bible told in ‘cliff notes’ form. You could even say that this is God’s story in ‘tweetable’ form. It is the story told in 11 short verses.

In this story, we have a landowner who builds the vineyard and all that is within from the fence, to the press, and even the watchtower. He then leaves this vineyard to the tenants to grow and produce fruit. When they do produce, the landowner sends servants to collect the fruit only to be turned away or even killed by the servants. Over and over this happens until the landowner decides to send his son, certainly they will respect his son, right? No chance, the tenants threw the son out and killed him. They never learned. The tenants got a “I want it all” attitude. They didn’t just want the fruit, they also wanted the whole vineyard.

It’s pretty easy to figure out who the cast of characters is within this story. The landowner is God as he has created everything for us. The tenants were the religious leaders of the day. The servants would have been the prophets that God has sent, and the Son is Jesus Christ.

The problem that we run into is that we are sometimes found to be the tenants from this story. We want it all. We want the glory, the acclaim, and certainly the fruit of our labors. We become like Veruca Salt from Willie Wonka’s Chocolate Factory when we proclaim the we want it all and if we don’t get it, we will scream. I think we all have a little Veruca Salt within us. It’s hard to get away from. Our culture dictates so much of this through advertising. The world tells us that we are nobody, unless we have this or that, unless we have a good job, a nice house, a new car. We want it all, and we want it now.

Then God sends his servants to speak truth into our lives. This can be done through pastors, spouses, family and friends, but doesn’t have to be limited to those. God can use anyone or anything to speak those messages into our lives. He wants to break us of the chains which hold us hostage to the world’s message of wanting it all.

Think of it this way, as we listen to the world’s message of wanting it all, we begin to follow and start to build walls around us, maybe for protection, maybe it’s just stuff that gets in the way of our relationship with God. The more we listen to the world, the harder the shell around us gets, the thicker it builds up. Then we hear a message from God that tells us that the way we are living is not what he desires for us. A crack begins to form, starting to break away all of the stuff that is keeping us from a restored relationship with God.

Matthew 21:44 says, “The one who falls on this stone will be broken to pieces; and it will crush anyone on whom it falls.” This is talking about Jesus Christ as the stone and many have talked about this as a double-edged sword, but I see hope in this passage. Sure, if Jesus’ judgement falls on us, we will be crushed. But what if when we fell on Jesus and we are broken to pieces, what is really happening is that that outer shell of stuff that has been keeping us from a relationship with him is broken to pieces?

Have you fallen on Jesus and allowed him to break your stubbornness, your desire for it all, or your resistance into pieces? Once you have, you can be restored. Your relationship with Jesus can be restored.

Today is the day. You can be restored. All you need to do is fall on Jesus, ask him to forgive you and you will be restored.

Can I Tell You Something?

Hope-is-Found-Here-Sermon-SlideCan I tell you how much God loves you?

I know that you might hear those three little words from many people in your life. Maybe your spouse tells you this every day, your mom or dad, grandma or grandpa, boyfriends and girlfriends, even friends. But have you heard or felt just how much God loves you today?

Think about it, God created this whole universe. He created everything around you and yet, he also created you. There have been many times that spent some time outside at night just looking at the stars and being in awe that God also created me. Not only that, but God breathed life into your lungs. We have God’s breath living inside us. Can I tell you how much God loves you?

God pursues us. His prevenient grace reaches out to us every day. Just as he pursued the Israelites throughout the many years, he still searches us out. As quickly as we run away from God, God runs after us. He wants a relationship with us and will stop at nothing to get it restored. Can I tell you how much God loves you?

God so loved the world that he sent his only Son, that whoever believes in him will have everlasting life. God gave up his only Son, Jesus Christ, for you. God loves you with a sacrificial love. Jesus died in our place, so that we don’t have to. Can I tell you how much God loves you?

But even with all of this, we still feel at times that it’s not enough. We feel alone, abandoned, worthless. We have times when we are sick, battling diseases, experiencing loss in our lives through loved ones, family members, miscarriages, and so many others. We face abuse or even are bullied. We feel that our lives have no meaning because of how we are treated by others. We get broken by the world around us and become like the Psalmist writes in Psalm 31 verse 12; “I have been forgotten like one who is dead; I have become like a broken vessel.”

If you feel this way today, if you hear these words and say, ‘yes, that’s me,’ then God has some words for you today. You may feel like you have cast aside, beaten, and broken, but God still loves you and he will never leave you. And if we can look at history, we can see that God does his best work with broken vessels.

Job, Moses, David, even Joseph faced times of trial, times when they easily could have felt like life wasn’t worth living anymore. But God was with them, he never left their side, and their best years laid ahead of them.

So if you are facing hard times, if you are dealing with things that are bringing you down, remember that God is with you and that the worst thing is never the last thing. There is hope. God loves you so much that he has plans for you beyond what you can see right now. I know there may be a mountain in front of you right now and it seems like you will never get to the peak. Let me tell you that with God’s help, you will.

God has plans for your life, and it’s not to stay stuck where you are right now. We must remember that God works in all things. He will take your life as it is and work things for the good. We are reminded of that in Romans 8:28 when it says that He works all things for the good of those who love Him. Trust in God, and he will take that life that may look like a broken vessel and put it back together again. He will use that situation that you are in to his glory. You may not see it right now, but I promise at some point in your life, you will see it.

Trust God in all things. Amen.