Archive for January, 2019


disgust-bulletin-imageWhat do you find disgusting? What is it that you find revolting? Maybe we can think of it this way, what do you have contempt for? We find something that we really don’t like, something that we might hate, and we resent everything with it. There are many examples in scripture of people who had disgust or contempt on their hearts. Let’s look at just a couple.

Jonah is a story that many of us are familiar with. It is about a man named Jonah who heard God’s call. He is called to go to Nineveh and share a message which you could say was designed to call the people there to repentance. It was a message of destruction. But Jonah didn’t want to go. He didn’t want to deliver the message.

The story goes that Jonah ran the other way, away from Nineveh. He gets on a ship headed as far away as he could, but then a storm rises up. The ship is tossed around and the people on board begin to pray to their gods, asking for mercy. They began to throw all their items overboard to lighten the load, hoping that would help them survive. Finally, they asked Jonah about why he hadn’t prayed to his God. Jonah informed them that all of this was his fault. That he had been running from God and that they should just throw him overboard and everything would be fine. Well, that’s just what they did. Immediately, a big fish came and swallowed Jonah, and there he lay for three days; in the belly of the fish. Jonah comes to his senses and repents. He tells God that he will finally go to Nineveh. The fish spits him up on the shore and Jonah makes his way to the town. What’s more disgusting than that. Three days in the belly of a fish, slimy, stinky, and just plain gross. No shower, he just walks right into town. Can you imagine the smell? Disgust, absolutely!

Why does Jonah feel so strongly about Nineveh? Why would he not want to give God’s message to them? Because he didn’t like the people in the town of Nineveh. You see, he knew that if this message made it to town, they would want to be saved. He also knew that God would forgive them, and he didn’t want that. Maybe if he ran away, the message wouldn’t make it to the town and God would destroy them. That would be good for Jonah, right?

Jonah felt disgust and contempt for the people, which kept him from doing the will of God. That makes me wonder; are there people you feel disgust or contempt for? People that you would rather never see again, ones that hurt you in the past? Do you think God is calling you to care for them? To help them? Maybe just to love them? Do you think your disgust could get in the way of loving them the way God is calling you to love them? After all, we are called to love our neighbor as ourselves.

How about another one. Do you remember the story of Joseph? Well, maybe not Joseph himself, but what about his brothers? Here is their younger brother, Joseph. Their father doesn’t hide the fact that he thinks Joseph is pretty special. So much so, that he has a special coat made for him, you know, the one of many colors. None of the other brothers got a special coat, let alone the favor of the father. Strike one! The disgust and contempt begin to form.

Then Joseph pulls his brothers together because he has some exciting news. He’s been having some pretty awesome dreams and he wants to tell them all about the dreams. There’s one little problem. The dreams are about all of the brothers bowing down and worshiping Joseph. Strike two! The disgust and contempt are in full effect now. The brothers plan and scheme a way to get back at him, maybe they’ll kill him. They wanted to, but Reuben talked the brothers into just throwing him in a pit. He wanted to come back later and save his brother but didn’t get the chance. While Reuben was away, the rest of the brothers decided to sell Joseph into slavery. They completed the deal by lying to their father about the whereabouts of Joseph. The disgust and contempt the brothers had for Joseph clouded their judgement to do good and honorable things. It got in the way of loving their brother the way they should. The story does have a happy ending as Joseph makes it all the way to be the right hand of the Pharaoh. And while he was there, he was able to save his family during a great famine. But it could have been worse, had the brothers carried out their first plan.

Disgust and contempt are not good things to have in the middle of any relationship, especially your family. I wonder if there are people in your family that you need to reach out to in order to tell them that you love them, maybe that you are sorry or that you forgive them.

Where is there disgust or contempt in your life? How is God calling you to get rid of them today?

Advertisements

fear imageWhat are you afraid of? What do you worry about? My daughter is terrified of thunderstorms. I am deathly afraid of bees. Not that I’m allergic to them, I just don’t want them anywhere near me. Other people are afraid of losing things, of the dark, of strange places, of meeting new people, and the one particularly showcased in social media; the fear of missing out. We constantly scroll down the endless feed on our Facebook accounts, afraid that something might happen that we don’t want to miss. Or maybe the fear that will never live up to what we see on social media. We see all the exotic places our friends travel to, the wonderful food they take pictures of, and the perfect family activities they just experienced, and we wonder if we can keep up. But fear isn’t the only thing, there is also worry. We worry about being a good parent or spouse. We worry about not having enough time, about obstacles that are in the way of our dreams. We even worry about the unknown. We worry, just to worry.

So, what do we do? Are there simple ways that we can eliminate worry and fear from our life? Where’s the life lesson in this? I think we can to look to scripture for a few answers. Now, these are just a couple of ideas and there are plenty of others, but I hope that by looking to some of the people of the bible and the struggles they had with fear and worry, that they will be able to help us with some of our own fear and worry.

Gideon was just another Israelite working out in the fields when God spoke to him and called him to lead an army against the Midianites. Certainly, worry and fear come whenever you are leading a group into battle, but God creates even more worry when he whittles Gideon’s army from 22,000 to 10,000. That’s more than half, how is he going to win the battle with less than half of his army. But God wasn’t done yet. He eliminates another large number until Gideon is down to 300 soldiers. 300; from 22,000! This is going to be impossible! Can you imagine what was going on in Gideon’s mind? The fear and worry about the upcoming battle and how this was going to play out? I know that he was afraid, because Judges 7:10 tells us; “But if you are afraid to go down, go down to the camp with Purah your servant.” Gideon goes down to the camp. He hears about a dream that God had given the battle to Gideon and that he was victorious. So, they fight, and they win.

Gideon gave his fear over to God. He surrendered his plan and followed God’s. He also knew that he wasn’t alone, that God was there with him. So, remember that God is with you, and surrender your fear and you worry to God.

We hear about Abraham and his conversation with God over the City of Sodom. God announces that he is going to destroy Sodom and wants Abraham to know about this plan. Now, remember that Abraham’s brother Lot was living in Sodom. How would Abraham have been feeling, knowing what God’s plan was. Certainly, he was worried about his brother’s life. So, Abraham begins a bargaining session with God. “If I can find 50 righteous people in Sodom, will you spare them?” God’s response was yes! “Ok, what if I find 45? What about 40, 30, 20?” God again says yes, he will spare them. “What about 10?” Abraham was worried. He confronted his worry with a conversation with God. He spent some time alone with God, praying.

When fear and worry grab hold of us, we need to get away for a little focus time. We need to spend a few moments alone with our creator. I keep encouraging you to take 15 minutes every day to spend reading scripture and talking with God. How are your 15 minutes? This is another step in eliminating worry in your life. Give it up to God and spend some time talking with God about what’s going on in your life.

Finally, King David was a busy man. Running a kingdom can keep you on your toes. I can only imagine the many things he needed to do every day. I’m sure he would have worried about having more time. We can see this in the many Psalms that he wrote. So many times, we hear him speak about being afraid. The fact that he wrote so many Psalms, and many about fear, tells me that David found the time to slow down and write. When we are in a hurry, fear and worry are not far behind. We need to stop the hurry to eliminate the worry.

So, give your fear and worry over to God. Spend 15 minutes in alone time with God, have a conversation. And then slow down, eliminate the hurry and know that God is with you.

Go and Tell…

MicrophoneThis past Sunday we celebrated the baptism of the Lord where we recognize John’s baptism of Jesus in the Jordan river where the dove descended upon Jesus and we heard the voice of God tell us that this was God’s son and that God was well pleased with him and that we should also listen to him. One of our scripture passages from this past Sunday came from Acts chapter 8, verses 14-17 where we hear of another group that was baptized. Let me share those words with you today.

“Now when the apostles at Jerusalem heard that Samaria had received the word of God, they sent to them Peter and John, who came down and prayed for them that they might receive the Holy Spirit, for he had not fallen on any of them, but they had only been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. Then they laid their hands on them and they received the Holy Spirit.”

Many of us might remember the story of the good Samaritan, the Samaritan woman at the well, and maybe even the thought from the people in Jesus’ time that Samaria was not a good place to be. The people there were not to be liked. They were not to be invited in, or to even have a relationship with. But Jesus taught something completely different. He taught that we should love all people, and that included the people in Samaria. It didn’t matter who they were or where they lived, they too were god’s children, so who were they to judge them or worse yet, hate them?

The apostles hear that Samaria has received the word of God, they have heard someone share the witness of Christ and they are being changed, transformed. They begin a new life in Christ. So, Peter and John travel to Samaria to pray for these new believers. They want to support them in every way they can. It didn’t matter who they were or where they lived, they were baptized and therefore, they were family.

When you look around you, what do you see? Do you see all the differences in people? Do you see democrats and republicans, educated and uneducated, different shades of color, gay or straight? Do you see those with money or those without? Do you see popular or unpopular? Or do you see something different? Do you see people the way God sees them?

God views each of us the same way. We are God’s children and he loves us all just the same. God wants us to do the right things, but doesn’t love us any less when we mess up. More than that, God calls us to love each other the same way. We are given the two great commands to love the Lord our God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength and then we are to love our neighbors as ourselves.

This can look like our story today from Acts as Peter and John travel to a place that used to be forbidden for the Jewish people, but God has welcomed them into the family and so, Peter and John go and welcome them by showing support for them and praying for them. What if we did the same? What if, instead of judging others for who they are, where t

hey live, how much they have, what they look like, or anything else, we just loved them and supported them? What if we prayed for them?

Can you imagine the change in this world if we would follow this simple, but profound command to love? I encourage you to do just that. I want to challenge you to pray for those whom you would normally find yourself judging or condemning. See what happens in your life. I think you might be surprised at the changes that happen within yourself as you share these moments with your creator. Allow God to transform your heart, and remember that you are a child of God.

Epiphany

three-wise-men-750277I remember working on a car stereo back in my high school days. They were projects that I would enjoy; modifying the dashboard for the new stereo, running wires to the fuse panel, speakers, and amplifier. After a couple of hours of painstaking work, the moment of truth came. I turned the car on and then turned the stereo on, except nothing happened. No lights, no sound, nothing! I went back over everything, double checking my power connection, the speaker connections and could not find where I went wrong. Why was this not working, I was sure that everything was hooked up right. Well, a couple more hours passed by of fiddling with it, walking away from it, even having conversations with it, more like arguing with it. Then the epiphany, my Aha moment came.

For those who know about electricity, you will understand. On the wiring diagram, I saw a black wire that seemed to just go to the car, but not connected to anything. So, I didn’t connect it. Well, this black wire is the ground wire and without it connected to anything, more importantly to the cars frame, no power would go into the stereo, hence, nothing happened. I finally realized my error, I saw clearly this project in a new light and after properly connecting the ground wire, the stereo started, and I once again had music. These Aha or epiphany moments happen throughout our lives.

In our scripture lesson from this past Sunday, we are heard about the three wise men. This Sunday is called the Epiphany of the Lord and it marks the day when Jesus Christ is manifested to the Gentiles, represented by the wise men. That is the church’s definition of Epiphany. The wise men come and encounter Jesus Christ and are changed, they have an epiphany moment, an Aha moment, and are changed, how can you not be? I can’t imagine anyone encountering Jesus Christ and not being changed in one way or another.

These wise men, or magi, have come from the east and are searching for the child born to be the Messiah. When they finally found the place where Jesus was born, what did they do, what was their response to their encounter with Jesus? Worship! They presented the child with gifts and bowed down to worship him. They were changed, like the others were changed, but in a much different way. Their lives were dramatically altered because of this encounter. Their lives changed direction. It is said that they returned home, but not by the same path. Herod was waiting for them down the original return trip, but they were new men with new lives. They no longer lived like they used to. The song “Thanks to Calvary” by the Cathedrals speaks about the changing nature of encounters with Jesus Christ. Here is one of the lines from the song; “Thanks to Calvary, I am not that man I used to be, thanks to Calvary, things are different than before.” An encounter with Jesus Christ changes everything. When the change happens, we don’t want to live like we used to anymore. We don’t want to take that trip back down the same path which brings pain and misery. The wise men didn’t want to travel back home by the path which led to Herod, they wanted to go another direction.

Have you encountered Jesus Christ? Have your lives been changed by the Christ child who brought light to this world? It is a very real question, a question that needs an answer. Other questions arise from this, why are we here? Who are we? Who am I?

If you have encountered Jesus, what was your response? Were you hostile towards his calling for change in your life? Were you indifferent, looking more towards what you are doing here in this building than to a relationship with Jesus? Or were you joyful, worshiping God for the change he has brought into your life?

One of my epiphany moments in this life came while working on that stereo so long ago. It came when I realized that the stereo needed to be grounded in order to work. It needed to be connected to the foundation, the frame of the car, otherwise nothing was ever going to be heard. Another epiphany comes today, as I realize that God’s message will never be heard unless we are grounded in our foundation, our relationship with Jesus Christ. Is your ground wire connected? Are you receiving the power you need to face your day, your circumstances, your life?

If not, how do you plan on getting connected? Attending worship, studying the bible, spending time in prayer are all good ways to get connected. Will you strive to connect today?

Is It Over?

christmas-ornament-701309_1920It’s a new year, over a week after Christmas. Now, I have to say that most of the time, we try to leave our Christmas decorations up as long as we can, at least until January 1st. I know that we should try to keep them up until Epiphany, which is this next Sunday, but there are many times that has been impossible, especially with the tree. I remember one year, after noticing that needles were dropping from the tree faster than leaves on a good and frosty autumn morning. We didn’t want to touch the tree, we couldn’t bump it, for fear that all the needles would fall off.

We decided that Christmas day was going to be the day we took the tree down. Sure, we were careful the week before Christmas, only lighting the tree when we would be in the room with it, Carefully making sure we didn’t smell smoke or light candles within 20 feet of the Christmas tree. So, we began to remove the ornaments, one by one. We remembered once again what each one meant to us, just like when we hung them only a few weeks earlier. We removed the girls’ first ornaments, our first one as a couple, ornaments that we bought each year as a family, and even those that were gifted to us by friends and family. By the time we removed the last ornament, we realized that we also removed every last needle on the tree. Charlie Brown had nothing on our tree that year. Bare sticks were all that was left. I remember feeling grateful that no spark or open flame got anywhere near that tree over the final week or so. Who knows what could have happened.

But then, as I looked where the tree once stood, I thought, is it all gone now? Is the wonder gone? Is the excitement gone? Now that the tree was removed, and the decorations came down, was Christmas really over? There have been years when the feeling of Christmas left right after the gifts were opened, the decorations were down, and the stores all moved ahead, without even a remembrance of what we just experienced. How is that possible? How can we just plug right along into the next season, the next holiday, the next anything, forgetting all about what we just experienced? Is it over?

Christmas is not just a once a year thing. It is not just something that we feel around December 25th, and then put it away just like the decorations, until next year, until the next holiday. When we do, we miss the meaning of this wonderful celebration. The Christmas carols, the lights and sights, the snow, the faces of family and friends, the gifts, all of these helps to remind us of something greater than we are. They remind us of the wonder in this season, the wonder of Christmas. That wonder is the birth of a King, but not just any king. It is the King of Kings, the Lord of Lords, the Prince of Peace, Wonderful Counselor. This child is Emmanuel, God with us.

So, how do we keep this feeling with us? How do we keep the wonder of Christmas all year long? I think we do this by living a Christlike life. To live as a Christian, as a child of God. It is to love each other, to allow the peace of Christ to live within us, caring for one another.

Remember; Christmas is not a one-time story, but a continual story. The wonder of Christmas is that God is with us. My prayer is that we will all live into that promise of God being with us, so that all who see us will know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that the promise God gave all of us is real, and it’s for them too. Christmas is the assurance that no matter how far we have traveled from God’s will in our lives, no matter how far we’ve fallen, no matter how much we’ve sinned, or how badly we’ve been hurt, abandoned, judged, or viewed by others, God has come to be with us. To walk with us, to love us, to cry with us, to encourage us, and to redeem us.

You see, Christmas isn’t the whole story, it’s the beginning of the story. And it is a story that continues on through the cross where Jesus offered his life for you and for me, to redeem us, to make us right with God. Through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ we receive the saving grace of God. And it all began with a star, a whisper of a name, the humbleness of a manger, and the hope in a promise.

It is not over. It will never be over. It has only begun.