Graduation 2018 – Thoughts

Deuteronomy 6:10-13  New Living Translation (NLT)

10 “The Lord your God will soon bring you into the land he swore to give you when he made a vow to your ancestors Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. It is a land with large, prosperous cities that you did not build. 11 The houses will be richly stocked with goods you did not produce. You will draw water from cisterns you did not dig, and you will eat from vineyards and olive trees you did not plant. When you have eaten your fill in this land, 12 be careful not to forget the Lord, who rescued you from slavery in the land of Egypt. 13 You must fear the Lord your God and serve him. When you take an oath, you must use only his name.

 

The importance of allowing God and His Word to guide us is brought forward by Moses in the following 4 verses from our last post. It is a clear message to all of us and especially applicable as it is written in Deuteronomy. It is being given to a new generation of people that are preparing to go into a new land and embark on a new and different path forward. His advice here is in preparation to keep us from getting distracted when we go out into a bigger and different world. Our students and young folks will be going into a world where in many cases they will participate in a place and culture that will already be in place when they arrive. Moses helps us understand that while there are benefits and advantages in places where things are set up and provided for us I.E. – College Classes, Town Infrastructures, Company Pay Scale and Benefits ……. There is also the temptation to be drawn away from God and his purpose in our lives. He reminds us that no matter what path we take and what environments we go into that we are NOT to forget our foundation in God’s Word and his Love for us. Living our lives by keeping his Word in front of us and on our minds and hearts ( Vs. 5-9 ) will help keep us on the right path as we go forward into new places.

Graduation 2018 – Thoughts

Deuteronomy 6:5-9    (NLT)

And you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your strength. And you must commit yourselves wholeheartedly to these commands that I am giving you today. Repeat them again and again to your children. Talk about them when you are at home and when you are on the road, when you are going to bed and when you are getting up. Tie them to your hands and wear them on your forehead as reminders. Write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.

It has been said that life is about the journey more than the destination. No where is that more evident for us as Christians than in God’s word. For Christians Heaven is  a worthy and wonderful destination but the path in this life is what God has chosen us to share with one another and God is not just all about our journey he wants to be everywhere in it. In fact, He finds a unique value in each of us and our purpose as we move along this road in life today.

Our biggest challenge is allowing him to guide and lead us thru it. As graduates prepare to go down the next path on their journey whether that be to college or from college into the work world there are many questions and anxieties that await both them and their parents. There will be many new things to absorb on this journey – new relationships, new cultures, new viewpoints and opinions and even new philosophies on life and Faith. Moses words in preparing his people for their next path are of great value to us also. Many things may change or appear to change but the foundation of Truth in God’s word can be constant for us each day. There are many voices in our day to day lives shouting to be heard and express their faith or viewpoint and see if we will change our lives to align with them. Moses tells us we continually repeat God’s direction for us and we continually keep God at the center of our thoughts and actions, keeping our lives centered in Truth. Truth can never change, never be wrong and yet somehow with all that power it is not often used so the shouters lead the world to believe that the truth is a malleable concept that can not only change but can be different and individually defined by how we  feel in any given day at any particular moment. God’s Word keeps us centered on His Truth and love for us and keeping him at the center of our lives keeps us on track each day and in all new directions that are in front of us.

Memorial Day

Joshua 4:4-7     (NLT)

4 So Joshua called together the twelve men he had chosen—one from each of the tribes of Israel. 5 He told them, “Go into the middle of the Jordan, in front of the Ark of the Lord your God. Each of you must pick up one stone and carry it out on your shoulder—twelve stones in all, one for each of the twelve tribes of Israel. 6 We will use these stones to build a memorial. In the future your children will ask you, ‘What do these stones mean?’ 7 Then you can tell them, ‘They remind us that the Jordan River stopped flowing when the Ark of the Lord’s Covenant went across.’ These stones will stand as a memorial among the people of Israel forever.”   

 To some Memorial Day is merely the beginning of summer and to others it’s a solemn day to remember those who have passed from this life. However, to the war veteran and to the families of fallen soldiers, Memorial Day carries significance so deep that words cannot express their hearts.

When we look into the eyes of those who still mourn these once vibrant men and women, we often sense their loneliness and pain. We hear them choke back tears as they simply say the ranks and names of their military brothers and sisters at a Memorial Day service. White gloves, dress uniforms, rigid posture, and perfectly executed salutes represent the reverence and respect flowing from within. Those who have been personally affected by war understand and appreciate this day of remembrance.

What should we say to those who sincerely honor this day? “Happy Memorial Day” doesn’t seem fitting. “I’m sorry for your loss” may be more appropriate. What would the fallen soldier want from their comrades and the rest of the country on this day?

In an often quoted Memorial Day speech given in 1884 by Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr., he ended his address with these words, “Our dead brothers still live for us, and bid us think of life, not death — of life to which in their youth they lent the passion and joy of the spring. As I listen, the great chorus of life and joy begins again, and amid the awful orchestra of seen and unseen powers and destinies of good and evil our trumpets sound once more a note of daring, hope, and will.”

The American soldier who gave his or her life for U.S. citizens to enjoy life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness won’t be telling us how to observe the holiday. But I believe that Holmes’ proposition to “think of life, not death” would honor the fallen soldier. Their sacrifice follows the example of Jesus Christ laying down His life for our freedom. It’s selfless love for others – not so others can mourn, but live forever !

 1 John 3:16

“We know what real love is because Jesus gave up his life for us. So we also ought to give up our lives for our brothers and sisters.”

Pentecost – A Chosen People

The arrival of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost confirmed God’s promise of both forgiveness and eternal life in Jesus.

Peter preached the first sermon of Jesus’ Church in explaining God’s plan of salvation and the fulfillment of the Passover in Jesus’ death and resurrection, as well as the Pentecost and the promise of the Holy Spirit. The people present heard and believed and sought to be a part of the Faith that Peter had invited them to.

 Acts 2  (NLT)   

37 Now when they heard this, they were pricked in their heart, and said unto Peter and to the rest of the apostles, Men and brethren, what shall we do? 38 Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost. 39 For the promise is unto you, and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call.

Peter’s sermon focused on Jesus purpose as the Messiah, His rejection by His people and God’s fulfillment of his plan of salvation. Christian belief on this seems straightforward yet we often overlook the importance of Pentecost as a pillar of our faith.

 

  •           We believe on Faith in the Virgin Birth – God
  •           Jesus Life, Death and Resurrection – Jesus / God
  •           Promise of the Comforter – Holy Spirit.

God’s confirmation in the Trinity ( Father, Son and Holy Spirit )

 These 3 beliefs in our Faith are clear markers of how we are a chosen people.

1 Peter 2:9  (NLT)

But you are not like that, for you are a chosen people. You are royal priests, a holy nation, God’s very own possession. As a result, you can show others the goodness of God, for he called you out of the darkness into his wonderful light.

 

If we are Chosen or in the translation “owned” by God then there should be some differences in how we confirm our Faith.

The easiest way to better understand this is to look at a few of the other major beliefs, their basis and the Faith they require.

 

  • Hinduism – A belief system based on deeds with no specific founder. The soul is immortal and upon death It migrates into a new life here on earth and the life being better or worse is based on one lives in this life.
  • Buddism – Living by 5 precepts set out by Siddhartha Gautma. After life based on deeds in adhering to the 5 precepts.
  • Islam –  As prescribed by Muhammad in the Koran based on the 5 pillars of Islam. Deeds based Faith
  • Judaism – Follow the Torah ( First 5 books of the Holy Bible ). Reject Jesus as a “False” prophet and do not recognize the Virgin Birth, Life, Death or Resurrection of Jesus. Follow Abraham, Isaac & Jacob and are still looking for the Messiah. Eternal Life based on Faith and Deeds under God’s judgement.
  • ChristianChristians believe that Jesus of Nazareth was the Messiah (or Christ) whom the prophets of Judaism had spoken about in the Hebrew Scriptures. Christians also believe that Jesus was the incarnation of God unique in history.  His death on the cross is seen as an act of atonement for all the evils that are done in the world and his resurrection from the dead is seen as offering new life and hope to the world. For Christians, the Spirit of God is present in the world working for forgiveness, healing, peace and moral challenge. The Spirit calls believers together for worship and community in the world-wide church.  Christians profess and live the Love and Peace of Jesus Christ.

The Birth of the Church – Pentecost 2018

Pentecost – The Birth of the Church

In the Old Testament the first celebration in the Jewish year was Passover. Fifty (50) days after the Passover the Jews celebrated the feast of Pentecost or “First Fruits” in memory of the first new grain harvested from the land after their exit from Egypt. Now some 1500 years later Jesus was sacrificed on the day of Passover when all Jewish followers were observing a lamb sacrifice in memory of the first Passover provided by God while they were in slavery in Egypt. Fifty (50) Days later the apostles have gathered together to celebrate Pentecost and the promise of “firstfruits” was fulfilled by God in these apostles. Paul confirmed that Jesus Christ was killed on the cross and raised again on the third day and became the Pentecost or “first fruits”

1 Corinthians 15:20    (NKJV)

The Last Enemy Destroyed

20 But now Christ is risen from the dead, and has become the firstfruits of those who have died.

Unlike other Christian observed holidays that are date based ( Christmas , Easter … )  and fall on any day of the week the celebration of Pentecost is always on a Sunday. With the day being just “another day” with no tie to a date it is most likely to be taken for granted and just passed by. Christians understand the Day of Pentecost as the birthday of the Church. The Holy Spirit of God descended on the Apostles and other followers of Jesus and moved them to speak in other languages and dialects so that all of those who had come for the OT celebration of First Fruits so that they understood them speak of the fulfillment of the spiritual “first fruits” in Jesus Christ resurrection. Peter spoke the first sermon of the new Church age and three thousand ( 3000 ) souls were added to the Church that day. Pentecost has to be considered in the context of both the OT and NT views and looking at the Pentecost as an ongoing celebration of the “first fruits” of our faith. It was and is all about our recognition of “first fruits”. All that we have is a blessing from God and as such our love and appreciation for him moves us to return to him our offerings as it was celebrated in the OT.  It is also a full recognition of Jesus as the “first fruits” of them that died and in his resurrection is our Hope of an eternal home in heaven. Pentecost is our reminder of that God has perfect timing and perfect messaging. Why with 365 days in a year would the God send the Holy Spirit exactly on the Day of Pentecost for Jesus Followers to connect to his resurrection just as the Jews in the OT celebrated “first fruits” with their choice offerings of grain, oil and land. The things that gave them not just life but abundant life.

  John 10:10 New King James Version (NKJV)

10 The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.

Acts 2  (NLT)

The Holy Spirit Comes

On the day of Pentecost[a] all the believers were meeting together in one place. Suddenly, there was a sound from heaven like the roaring of a mighty windstorm, and it filled the house where they were sitting.Then, what looked like flames or tongues of fire appeared and settled on each of them. And everyone present was filled with the Holy Spirit.

Many today are waiting for God to move on them with the Holy Spirit and to experience another Pentecost. To wait is misses the point and purpose of Pentecost. The “first fruits” of those that died in Jesus Christ allowed the Holy Spirt to come and empower our lives to be abundant in service today. The purpose of Pentecost is yet to be fulfilled in our lives in service to God. In returning to him our “first fruits” in our lives and helping others to see the future that awaits our Faith in the Jesus Christ to be completed in our resurrection into God’s presence at our death. Our lives should represent that Faith each day of our lives as we share the gift of the Holy Spirit with others.

The Promise of the Holy Spirit – Pentecost 2018

The Promise of Pentecost  – Sunday May 20, 2018

John 16   (NLT)

The Work of the Holy Spirit

“But now I am going away to the one who sent me, and not one of you is asking where I am going. Instead, you grieve because of what I’ve told you. But in fact, it is best for you that I go away, because if I don’t, the Advocate won’t come. If I do go away, then I will send him to you. And when he comes, he will convict the world of its sin, and of God’s righteousness, and of the coming judgment. The world’s sin is that it refuses to believe in me.

 

 

The Gospel of John Chapter 16 finds the apostles in a state of confusion that is all too familiar to us. Jesus was with God before the world began, he left and came to earth in human form and now he is going back to the One who sent him?

It all so hard to connect that the apostles like us can’t even come up with a good question. They are sad because they don’t want Jesus, their friend, to leave and they don’t really know where he is going? Fortunately for them and for us God’s plan is far ahead of and far better for us than we can grasp. Jesus is clear in this text if He does not fulfill God’s plan then the Holy Spirit ( Advocate / Comforter ) will not come.   Jesus says in “Verse 8” that when the Holy Spirit comes he will convict the world of  its “sin, God’s righteousness and judgement” . With the Holy Spirit as the navigator and the Bible as a compass the Church can go out from its foundation of Peter’s confession of Jesus as the Christ  ( Matt 16:13-20 ) and fulfill the purpose God has for the Church in the book of Acts and the purpose to which we are called today. Pentecost will bring to us the reminder of God’s enabling power thru the Holy Spirit in our lives.

Mothers Day Reflections on Mary

MARY  – The Mother of Jesus

LUKE 1

26 In the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, 27 to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. 28 The angel went to her and said, “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.”

29 Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. 30 But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favor with God. 31 You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus. 32 He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, 33 and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; his kingdom will never end.”

34 “How will this be,” Mary asked the angel, “since I am a virgin?”

35 The angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called[b] the Son of God. 36 Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be unable to conceive is in her sixth month. 37 For no word from God will ever fail.”

38 “I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May your word to me be fulfilled.” Then the angel left her.

 

Talk about your Personal EPT . . . I mean Mary’s was early, EARLY!  And accurate, too. Angelic visitation definitely qualifies as a sure thing. But the favored girl had to have some concerns because unwed pregnancy was a little different in her day. You could get stoned for it. I’m sure she was very relieved to find out that the angel had given her future husband, Joseph, the same message. And yes, she was going to give birth to the divine Gift of heaven, but, as any mother knows, all gifts come with some work attached. She still had to change the Baby Jesus’ diapers, soothe him as he teethed, teach him to walk, and clean up his skinned knees. She had to cook the meals and wash his clothes and do all the things that moms do for their children. It’s interesting the places we see Mary pop up in the gospels — for example, at the temple sending out an APB for her missing boy. (I believe I might have grounded Jesus if he told me that he was just doing his father’s business, but no such reaction from Mary is recorded.) Another of my favorite mother moments of Mary’s was when she was at the wedding feast apparently exasperated with her thirty-year-old son for not doing that “thing” he could do with the water. When Jesus seems to refuse to come through the way she knows he can, she goes around him and tells the servants to get ready to do something for him. And Jesus does the miracle. I would have loved to have been there to see the looks pass between mother and son that night. And then we see Mary at the crucifixion. Disciples may scatter, followers may be in hiding, but a mother stays when the rest of the world walks away. In fact, Mary is a rich tapestry of real motherhood: a lot of excitement followed by years of work and moments of intense pain. But through it all, mothers are there for their children in all circumstances.

Although Mary’s life held great honor, her calling would demand great suffering as well. Just as there is pain in childbirth and motherhood, there would be much pain in the privilege of being the mother of the Messiah.

Mary was the mother of the Messiah, Jesus Christ, the Savior of the world and a willing servant. She trusted God and obeyed his call.

The angel told Mary in Luke 1:28 that she was highly favored by God. This phrase simply meant that Mary had been given much grace or “unmerited favor” from God. Even with God’s favor, Mary would still suffer much. Though she would one day be highly honored as the mother of the Savior, she would first know disgrace as an unwed mother. She would nearly lose her fiance. Her beloved son would be rejected and cruelly murdered. Mary’s submission to God’s plan would cost her dearly, yet she was willing to be God’s servant.

God knew that Mary was a woman of rare strength and obedience. She was the only human being to be with Jesus throughout his entire life — from his birth until his death. She gave birth to him as her baby and watched him die as her Savior. Mary also knew the Scriptures. When the angel appeared and told her the baby would be God’s Son, Mary replied, “I am the Lord’s servant … may it be to me as you have said.” (Luke 1:38). She knew of the Old Testament prophesies about the coming Messiah.

Mary was young, poor and female. These qualities made her unsuitable in the eyes of her people to be used mightily of God. However, God looked upon the quality of her trust and obedience. He knew she would willingly serve God in one of the most important callings ever given to a human being. Just like Mary, God looks at our obedience and trust–usually not the qualifications that man might look upon. God will often choose and use the most unlikely of our choices.

Life Lessons:    Mary must have known that her submission to God’s plan would cost her. If nothing else, she knew she would be disgraced as an unwed mother. She must have thought that Joseph would divorce her, or worse yet, he might even have her put to death by stoning. Mary may not have considered the full extent of her future suffering. She may not have imagined the pain of watching her beloved child bear the weight of sin and die a terrible death on the cross. Still, she willingly submitted to God’s plan. Can we willing accept God’s plan? Can we even rejoice in God’s plan, like Mary did, when we know that it will cost us dearly?

Luke 1:38

“I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May it be to me as you have said.” Then the angel left her. 

The Mountains in Our Life

2 Corinthians 5:7   For we walk by faith, not by sight.

“Faith does not require us to move the mountains but

just get out of our own way so God can move them”

After Easter – Doubt ( Part 3 )

BELIEVE

Do you go through life with continual questioning and doubt – do you find yourself always looking for logical  answers to satisfy your reason and mind ?

I want to see it to believe it.  We on many days could be considered a  “Doubting Thomas”

John 20:26-27   NLT

26 Eight days later the disciples were together again, and this time Thomas was with them. The doors were locked; but suddenly, as before, Jesus was standing among them. “Peace be with you,” he said. 27 Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here, and look at my hands. Put your hand into the wound in my side. Don’t be faithless any longer. Believe!”

A week later, the disciples again find themselves locked in a room, afraid of arrest and persecution.  Although the scripture tells us that the doors to the room were locked, Jesus appears, standing in their midst.  His first words were “Peace be with you.”  But then he singles out Thomas, and demands that he step forward. “Put your finger in my wound, see my hands, reach out and touch me.  Do not doubt, believe,” Jesus demands of Thomas.  And with those words, Thomas immediately recognizes Jesus, and says, “My Lord and My God.”  And Jesus responds, “Blessed are those who have not seen, and yet have come to believe.

The beauty in this story for me is in Jesus’ love for Thomas – even in his doubt.  By Jesus’ compassion for Thomas, Jesus acknowledges that deep faith requires perseverance, it requires attention to both the head and the heart, and it takes time.

There are people who do not need to see to believe.  People who have heard the old, old stories and imprinted them on their hearts.  As we grow older and navigate our way thru more and more of life’s circumstances we tend to get a better long term perspective of God’s plan and His love and faithfulness for us. It is why we see many of our older members of our communities to be so well rooted and read in the Bible ( often knowing them better than pastors and SS teachers ). They have lived and seen lived out so many life experiences where faith was proven out that in their minds it is just a daily truth for them. God has supported and strengthened their faith over time and the fact that God is in control of this world is now a part of their lives and the foundation that they live their lives on every day.

When we doubt in our day to day life and our cynical nature holds us up waiting on God to show us a sign we would do well to remember Jesus words to Thomas    …….Don’t be faithless any longer. Believe!” 

Even as a believer and Pastor the resurrection is still  a mystery I continue to ponder.  I still live Thomas’s question; I continue to wonder about how it might have happened.  But theologically, I know that resurrection is truth.  Resurrection faith is our assertion that life is stronger than death, that love is stronger than hate, that hope is stronger than despair, that truth will overcome evil.  I find great comfort in the words of Paul to the church in Rome,

Romans 8: 38-39

38 And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons,[p] neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. 39 No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.  

The story of Thomas is not about doubting. The story of Thomas is about a merciful and loving Jesus who will come to us where we are and give us what we need to believe. Accepting Jesus extends to us both Mercy and Grace. Mercy is not getting something we deserve and Grace is getting something we never deserved at all. Forgiveness of our sins is God’s Mercy provided in Jesus death and the promise of Life beyond this life in Heaven is God’s Grace provided in the promise of eternal life through Jesus resurrection.

After Easter – Doubt ( Part 2 )

 Worry and Fear.

Luke 24 : 35-38       Jesus Appears to the Disciples

 35 Then the two from Emmaus told their story of how Jesus had appeared to them as they were walking along the road, and how they had recognized him as he was breaking the bread. 36 And just as they were telling about it, Jesus himself was suddenly standing there among them. “Peace be with you,” he said. 37 But the whole group was startled and frightened, thinking they were seeing a ghost! 38 “Why are you frightened?” he asked. “Why are your hearts filled with doubt?

We live in the paradox of faith and doubt.

Do you go through life with continual questioning and doubt – do you find yourself always looking for logical answers to satisfy your mind ?

Doubt is a such a normal condition to us that we fail often to look at where it comes from and what affect it has on our lives.

The Walk – In our daily lives like the travelers on the road to Emmaus we encounter life and the stress of circumstances. That puts a doubt in our hearts and brings our minds to worry about our present and future under a fear of uncertainty. We long for a return to normal because it brings us the comfort of the known. Normal is less Doubt because we really don’t think about it so there is also less Fear and Worry.

We tend to really want to rely on our ability and knowledge of things to prove out everything in our lives. We value our wisdom that is built from a hands on “ show me” attitude to try to confirm even our spiritual lives and often ignore the simple yet profound nature of the Gospel Jesus Christ and Gods wisdom :

1 Corinthians 1:18-25     (NLT)       The Wisdom of God

 18 The message of the cross is foolish to those who are headed for destruction! But we who are being saved know it is the very power of God. 19 As the Scriptures say,   “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise and discard the intelligence of the intelligent.” ……………………. 25 This foolish plan of God is wiser than the wisest of human plans, and God’s weakness is stronger than the greatest of human strength

Reason is our logical box and has the limit of what we individually can process and understand – it is what we always try to fit life into. Faith doesn’t share that limit. The apostles had Jesus with them and had him reappear to them after his resurrection and still they doubted – They needed to fit the spiritual into their “logical box” of life that made sense to them. If it didn’t make sense ( that is they could not touch or feel it like Thomas )   they couldn’t believe.

The result of this leads us to physical solutions and a shortage of spiritual space for faith . So many times we think I will come to God when I get my life right ……………………. When I have things in order and life is normal and I have no worries or fears I will come and serve God.

God is looking for us where we are ( like the two he found to on the road to Emmaus and his return to find Thomas ) – if we can’t accept him where we are then how can he use us anywhere else. We recognize that God’s plan is far removed from ours but it is his plan in the end that will be accomplished. We must come to God with our shortcomings of doubt, fear and worry and allow him to lead us to a more productive life in his service.