Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Transfiguration Sunday: Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Old Testament Lesson

Proverbs 30:1-4, 24-33

In this passage, we read the teacher say that there are things that do not look like much; a lizard, locusts, but yet they do much. Greatness does not come only from size, but from being faithful to your task. Sometimes we think that we cannot do great things for God because our faith is not that of Mother Teresa. That is not what God asks of us. All He asks of us is to be faithful. If we are faithful, He will do the rest. John Wesley said Christians should be the happiest of people, because all they can do is be faithful in their ministry, and then leave the rest of God, and He will work it out according to His plan. It doesn't matter how old or young we are, how much money we have, how long we've been in the church. All that matters is that we are faithful. And, even the faith of a mustard seed can move mountains. True faith, even in small amounts, is very powerful and God can change the world with it.

New Testament Lesson

Philippians 3:1-11

Sometimes in like in the Proverbs text we think God can't use us because we aren't much. And then sometimes, like what Paul alludes to here, God can't use us because we think too much of ourselves. Paul warns us today put no confidence in the flesh. He had every reason to do so, but he said that these things were worthless when compared to the knowledge of Jesus.

Too often, we put too much stock into what have done. I heard a sermon once where the preacher said that they asked someone to talk about their faith and their salvation, and they talked about being Chair of the Administrative Board, talked about being on the PPRC, talked about being on different committees. We can think that if we just do stuff, we've done all that we should. Paul said today its not about that, it's about that faith, that walk, that relationship with God through Jesus by the power of the Spirit. All else is worthless other than that, and it must be the foundation of all that we do.

Gospel Lesson

John 18:28-38

Pilate asks the $64,000 question today. What is truth? That is the question that so many people ask today. Truth has become subjective, and what is right for me might not be right for you. Pilate today has Jesus Christ standing before him and does not recognize the Son of God in his midst because He is not the truth that he wants. Quite often, we want truth to agree with us, so that what we want to do is right. Jesus doesn't do that. He does not affirm what want to do, He commands us to do what He wants us to do. Through prayer, we must ask God for wisdom and truth, not merely ask God to bless what we've already decided to do. We must seek God's truth and then follow when we know it. For, the only thing worse than not knowing the Truth is to know the Truth and not follow.

Monday, February 27, 2006

Thoughts on Spring and Church

I’m not a big fan of winter. I’m not a big fan of snow. Lots of folks love the snow, it looks so pretty, and the kids love to play in it. I know that is true, but when I see snow, I think of ice, and ice means that the lights can go off, and I like my heater too much for the lights to go off. I tell people that I wanted to deal with snow and ice, I’d move up north, but I live in Mississippi for a reason!

One of the by products of the cold during the winter is that on Sunday, some say that it is too cold to come to church. The weather will start warming soon as we draw close to spring, and that is great. I always assume that attendance will pick up on Sundays since it is not so cold, but then I hear, preacher, its too nice out, so we decided to go to the lake or spend time outside.

So, during the winter, we don’t come to church because it is too cold, and during the spring, so nice, so we don’t come to church. Of course, we can’t come to church during the summer because it is summer, it’s hot, and besides the kids are out of school. And the fall! That’s football season and we have to drive up to Oxford (or maybe Starkville) for the game.

I know that we all love God, but we seem to have a hard time fitting him into our schedule. But, we do love God, right? 1 John 5:3 says, “This is love for God: to obey his commands.” The word of God says in Hebrews 10:24-25, “And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.”

Transfiguration Sunday: Monday, February 27, 2006

Old Testament Lesson

Proverbs 27:1-6, 10-12

There are few things in life better than a good friend. The Word says that a friends kisses can be trusted while an enemies' cannot not. Then in the next chapter, it says that we should strive to be a good friend. I know this is common sense, and it is something that we have heard since childhood, but most of the Proverbs is a lot like that. It is stuff that we already know, but need to be reminded of. The way to have good friends is to be one. The way to know the love and community of deep friendship is to be a good friend. It is like so much of life, when we take the attention off ourselves and place it upon others and upon God, then we see how life should be lived. But, so often we focus only on ourselves. In doing that, we make ourselves miserable. But, in focusing upon others, we live a happier, more content life.

New Testament Lesson

Philippians 2:1-13

What right do we have to think too highly of ourselves, when we see what Jesus Christ did for our sake. He humbled himself to death to save you and me. Humility is a virtue, but we have misconstrued what it means. It is not about beating yourself up, or thinking that you are worthless. It is “self forgetfulness.” It is about forgetting about ourselves and focusing on God and others. In many ways, it is like being a friend. It is about focusing on someone other than ourselves.

That is something our culture does not encourage. We are told it is all about us. When we read the Word of God, we see that it is not about us. It is about God and other people. Jesus is the very son of God, yet he humbled himself for our God. Can we do that? Can we humble ourselves for the good of others? The John the Baptist says in the Gospel when Jesus comes that “He must become greater, and I must become lesser.” Can we say that same thing today? In doing that, we will find that life is about God and in God, we will find life. Life is not in out stuff, our jobs, or anything else. Life is in Jesus Christ.

Gospel Lesson

John 18:15-18, 25-27

In the Gospels, two folks sinned against Jesus on his last day. Judas betrayed him, Peter denied him. Both of them did something that was terrible wrong, and both of them expressed regret. The difference being that Peter did more than express regret; he repented and was restored. Judas did not. We will sin. We will make mistakes.

Now, I’m not saying we need to go and look forward. Don’t go looking for sin, and don’t begin making excuses for your sin. But, when you do make a mistake, what will you do? Will you choose the path of Judas or Peter? We will all make mistakes, how will we handle it? Will we repent or will we stay in our sin. CS Lewis once said that shame is not in the falling down; the shame is in the not getting back up. When you sin, will you repent, ask forgiveness, and keep walking? Or will you stay mired in your sin? Those are our choices.

Friday, February 24, 2006

Seventh Sunday after Epiphany: Friday, February 24, 2006

Old Testament Lesson

Proverbs 8:1-21

This passage talks about wisdom, and right in the middle of the passage, we see what wisdom looks like, to fear the Lord is to hate evil. Also in Proverbs it says that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. Fear of the Lord is such and important and misunderstood concept. I believe that we have lost that understanding that we are to fear the Lord. It more of a holy reverence.

We are to love God, desire God, walk with God, but are to also have a holy reverence of God. We know that He walks with us and cares for us, but He will also judge us, He also had the power of life and death, He also spoke through the prophets, punished Israel for their sins, and raised Christ Jesus from the dead. His He our best friend? Yes, but He is so much more. He is the King, creator, Father, and judge, and we should love Him, but also respect and fear Him. And if we have that holy reverence of God, that will change how we live and see things, and wisdom begins there.

New Testament Lesson

Philemon 1-25

Philemon has one of my favorite verses in all the bible, v. 6, "Be active in sharing your faith so that you will have a full understanding of every good thing we have in Christ." The more we share our faith the more we are aware of how blessed we are. The more we talk about God, the more we know the grace of God. The more we count out blessings, the more blessings that we know we have. Likewise, the more we complain, the more we have to complain about. The more we focus on the bad, the more bad we see. But, if we share our faith, we will come be better know how much God loves and how much grace He has given us. Today, share your faith with someone, maybe a friend, a spouse a co worker. I'm not saying you even have to witness (thought not a bad idea) but just talk about how good God has been to you, and see if that doesn't increase you own faith, and remind you all the good things you have in Jesus Christ.

Gospel Lesson

John 12:9-19

In this passage, we see Jesus ride into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday. He is hailed as the king, as the son of David, the crowds lay the coats and palms before Him. To you or me, this may be the high point of our lives. For Jesus, this was the beginning of the last week of His life, and these crowds that cheered in on Palm Sunday will be crying crucify Him on Good Friday. We read this and think, oh that's terrible. But, we do the same thing. We come to church and praise Him on Sunday, but through the week, through our actions; through our sins, we shout crucify him, crucify him. We do the same. We praise on Sunday, we deny on Monday.

Today, through your actions, will you praise Him, or will you shout crucify. Those are the choices we may ever day. Today, how will you live, today, will you bring honor to Jesus, or will you deny Him through your actions, through your words, through your sin.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Seventh Sunday after Epiphany: Thursday, February 23. 2006

Old Testament Lesson

Proverbs 7:1-27

In this passage, sin is seen as so tempting, which it is. None of us are tempted to do things we don’t like. No one is tempted to eat broccoli, they are tempted to eat cheeseburgers. Today, the temptress comes in this text, and she speaks words that lead one to destruction. The text says like an ox lead to slaughter. That is what sin does to us. It looks so good, it looks like it will be the greatest thing ever. But, in fact, it will destroy us. We have all seen in our lives, people and families destroyed by sin. I believe no one commits sin thinking about the harm it will do their family; they aren’t thinking about that, they are thinking only about the good.

Likewise, the things of God look burdensome to some. Scripture, prayer, church; these things infringe upon their time. But, in reality, these things lead to life. It is the easy road of sin that leads to destruction, the disciplined road of God that leads to life. And, in reality, God’s road is not burdensome, but life giving. Today, will we choose the “easy” road of sin that leads to death or the “hard” road of God that leads to life?

New Testament Lesson

1 John 5:13-21

John reminds us in this text that those born of God will not continue to sin. That is not to say that they will commit sin, for we will all make mistakes. However, the one born of God cannot and must not continue a life of sin, that being a life of willful disobedient sin. We should be working to be more faithful each day, to know God’s grace more each day, and to allow that grace to work in our lives, that we can be more like our God calls us to be. We will make mistakes, we will commit sins. We will fall. The question becomes, will we get up?

Gospel Lesson

John 11:55-12:8

Mary honored Jesus today with the finest thing that she had. Mary didn’t have a lot of money, we are assuming she and her sister Martha were not married, since the text does not mention their husbands. She had this perfume that was worth a year’s wages, and she took part of it to wash Jesus’ feet. She knew that this earthly possession was of no worth when compared to the gift of serving Jesus. She literally laid it at his feet. Do we lay our possessions at his feet? Do we lay down our best at his feet? Or does He get the crumbs? Does He get what’s left over? Does He get the remains? Today, Mary served Jesus with her best. Do we do the same?

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Seventh Sunday after Epiphany: Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Old Testament Lesson

Proverbs 6:1-19

The book of Proverbs is not hard to understand. It can be hard to live by, for it calls us to live a good life. A life of hard work, a life of humility, a life of obedience to God and His wisdom. These things are not treasured by this world. Humility is not a virtue in the 21st century, yet, in Proverbs, it may be among the highest of virtues.

Today in this text, we see that if your pride has you bound, the only way out is to humble yourself, and gain your freedom through humility. Christ can that we may be set free. So, why then, would we allow our pride to make us captive again? Jesus Christ humbled himself to the point of death on a cross. Can we not humble ourselves to the point of asking forgiveness? Restoring a friendship? Confessing our mistake? Saying we are sorry? Through humility, we will find freedom from these things. Through pride, we will find chains. We road will we choose today?

New Testament Lesson

1 John 5:1-12

This is love, that we obey God. I’ve never met a person in my ministry that wouldn’t tell you that they love God. Everyone loves God. Have you ever met anyone that would tell you that they love God? The question then becomes how many of us love God with our lives. Love of God is not words and talk, love of God is obedience to God and His commands. It is not merely enough to say that you love God, we must obey God. That is how our love for God is truly shown. Today, do you love God? Do you obey Him? Do, will you love God? Will you obey Him and follow Him where He leads you in your work, in your, family, in your church (yes, tonight is Wednesday night!), and in your life?

Gospel Lesson

John 11:45-54

This text is exact opposite of what we should see in church. The religious leaders were more worried about their power and prestige than they were about Jesus and the hope that he was bringing. If they would have only listened to Him, they could have been set free. Instead, they only thought about what they wanted, and how this Jesus would affect their life. Too many folks miss Jesus because they are too focused only on what they want. Too many churches do not do effective ministry because they are only focused on what they want, not what the Lord wants. Too many Christians live ineffective lives because they don’t want to give up full control of their lives to Jesus and His mission. Friends, if we are a Christian, then, we have no choice. He must be in control. He must be leading. We should not hold onto power (be it in our church, in our family, or in our lives), we should give Jesus full power and control. He knows what He is doing. Do you trust Him enough today to give Him control? In doing that, it is the only way he will be Lord of your life.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Seventh Sunday after Epiphany: Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Remember JoAnn Nicholson as she goes for surgery this morning.

Gospel Lesson

John 11:30-44

Many of us know verse 35 which says only Jesus wept. I always tried to use this a memory verse when I was in UMYF (United Methodist Youth Foundation for the non Methodists), but our leader did not buy it. This verse is important, though, because it shows how God does hurt over our loss. The Word says that Jesus is the visible image of the invisible God (Colossians 1:15), and here we see Jesus weeping over the loss of a friend. When we hurt, we know that our God understands our hurt, our fear, all these things, for through Jesus Christ, God Himself experienced it.

Jesus' tears were not the end, through. Jesus plan was to raise Lazarus from the dead. CS Lewis calls Lazarus the first martyr in Christian history, because he was already in heaven (to be absent from the body is to be with the Lord -- 2 Corinthians 5:8), had to come back to life, only to have to die again one day in the future. This shows the power that Jesus has over death. The grave cannot hold Him back. He is life and all that believe in Him will have that victory over death. Through Jesus, we can have life, right now, and in the age to come. He has come that we might life.

The question then is, are we truly alive, or are we just going through the motions. Life is too precious today to merely pretend to be alive, God has more for you today than to just go through motions of life. Today, may you know His grace, and may you know His life.

Monday, February 20, 2006

Just got tagged

Bro. Greg tagged me with the following challenge:

List seven songs you are into right now. No matter what the genre, whether they have words, or even if they're any good, but they must be songs you're really enjoying now. Post these instructions in your blog along with your seven songs. Then tag seven other people to see what they're listening to.

This works out well, since I am the owner of a new MP3 player and a proud member of Napster, so I'm worked up to share my favorite songs. I'm such a geek. Ok, here goes

1. Common People by William Shatner. Ben Folds wrote and sang on this song, and while ole Billy Shatner is a joke among music fans, this song is really catchy and actually pretty good.

2. Medley by Third Day off the Second Offerings CD. Anytime a band goes from Turn Your Eyes upon Jesus to With or Without You in the same song, that's pretty cool.

3. Respect by Otis Redding. Aretha Franklin's version is really good, but Otis Redding's is actually better. I know you don't believe me, but you need to hear it and check it out.

4. Rockin the Suburbs by Ben Folds. A couple of words that I woudn't advise you sing in church, but is very satrical and very funny.

5. Wicked Man by Ben Harper and The Blind Boys of Alabama. Ben Harper is very eclectic and this a great combinaion with the fameous Gospel Group the Blind Boys of Alabama.

6. Far Behind by Candelbox. I like the grunge music and this was one of the most underated songs of that genre.

7. There Goes my Life by Kenny Chestney. I do like county musically, especially Johnny Cash. Not a huge Kenny Chestney fan, but ever since my daughter was born, this song really does get to me.

I could do this all day.

Faith and Feeling

I'm preaching a sermon series on Sunday on the fruit of the Spirit. Last night, we talked about kindness, and my basic theme was that we have mistaken the "feeling" of kindness for the action of kindness, if we feel like being kind that is enought, and we don't have to change the actions that we make. For examples, I used the General Rules of the Methodist Church. These were things that were move us to action, first, eliminating sinful action and then starting good action; love of neighbor and God.

This brought me to thinking about religion in general, and I guess within my parrish in specific. So often, I beleive that we mistake feeling for action. If I am under convcition of sin, that is enough. I don't have to actually repent and change, just merely feeling that guilt is enough. At Coy, folks like thier "toes stepped on," and I tell them that is all nice and well, but having the toe stepped on is not enought, the foot must then turn adn repent.

When we mistake feeling for action, trouble begins. CS Lewis said in The Screwtape Letters,

"The great thing is to prevent his doing anything. As long as he does not convert it into action, it does not matter how much he thinks about this new repentance. Let the little brute wallow in it ... let him do anything but act ... as one of the humans has said, active habits are strengthened by repetition but passive ones are weakened. The more often he feels without acting, the less he will be able ever to act, and, in the long run, the less he will be able to feel.”

These feeling or emoitons must product action. We must not mistake they way we feel for a changed life. Kindness is not emtion only and repentance is not conviction alone. They must both produce action; they must both produce a changed life.

Seventh Sunday after Epiphany, Monday, February 20, 2006

Old Testament Lesson

Proverbs 3:11-20

This text talks about two things that we see a lot of in Proverbs, discipline and wisdom. Notice it says that God will discipline His children and then a verse later talks about how important wisdom is. It is wisdom that tells us punishment is not for punishment's sake, but if we are punished, it is for our own good, for God is longing to make us into something greater. And while it is a different understanding of the word discipline, it is discipline that makes us more into what God would have us to be. It is discipline that causes us to pray when we do not feel like it, it is discipline that causes us to be within the body of Christ on days when we'd rather stay in, it is discipline that causes us to read the Word when are pressed for time. For us to fully be who God calls us to be, we need not only God to discipline us, rather we need to discipline ourselves. And in that, we find through His Grace, wisdom.

New Testament Lesson

1 John 3:18-4:6

This is a passage I'm not sure I've read since college, but it was one of my favorites. God's grace is greater than our hearts. Sometimes, God can forgive us, but we cannot forgive ourselves. I've had folks come to me in my ministry, convinced they had committed the unforgivable sin. I always ask, do you feel sorry for doing it and want forgiveness, and they always rely, yes. Then, you haven't committed the unforgivable sin. The reason why is unforgivable is because by that point you are so far from God, you cannot and would not ask forgiveness; you wouldn't even care. So often, we cannot forgive ourselves. We hold onto our failures, to our defeats. Friends, we live by grace. We cannot save ourselves, only God's grace can do that. We don't have to be perfect. We will makes mistakes. Now God is at work on us, and we must not be satisfied and content living in sin, We are as Wesley said, going on to perfection, but we are not there yet. We live by grace. If God can forgive us, why can't we forgive ourselves. His grace is greater than our hearts.

Gospel Lesson

John 11:17-29

Martha didn't see Jesus full plan, because she could not. None of us can. No human can; only God. She didn't know what was to come. She didn't know that Jesus would raise her brother from the dead. She didn't know what Jesus had in mind. Neither do we. Many times, we do not know what God is work on in our lives; we do not know His full plan. We only see in part, and sometimes, we don't even see that. We have to trust that He knows what He is doing. Martha did not know what great thing Jesus had in store for her family; we do not know what great thing God has in store for us. We must simply trust. Whatever you are going through right now, God is at work in it, to bring something good out of it. You may not know what; but God does. Trust in Him; He is at work.

Friday, February 17, 2006

Sixth Sunday after Epiphany: Friday, February 17, 2006

Old Testament Lesson

Psalm 32:22-33:17

It is God that is worthy of all of our praise, and God is the one that we should rely upon. This text today says that no king is saved by the size of their army, but by the God. Only in God do we find our safety and contentment. We can worry about work, we can try to take everything into our own hands, but only in God do we rest easy. We rely upon doctors and nurses, but only God bring healing. All of the goodness in life comes from God; all of our protection comes from God. He is looking out for His children and will be in the midst of whatever happens and will bring out some good out of everything. I know those words are hard to believe in the midst struggles and trials, but God will bring good out of whatever we go through, and He is worth of our praise.

New Testament Lesson

1 John 3:1-10

How great is the love of God that we should be called the sons and the daughters of God. How great a love have we received! How worthy of God of our praise that He calls us His children! And if we are His children, we should not keep living like we did when were not. We should not keep sinning, we should not keep living like the world, but we should live like God would expect His children to live. What do you expect out of your children? Why do we think God would expect any less out of you and me? We are blessed to be called the children of God; let us live in the same manner.

Gospel Lesson

John 10:31-42

If we read the Gospels, Jesus was never really all that popular. His disciples liked and followed Him, but it seems like they never fully understood Him until after the Resurrection. And, He always faced opposition from the religious leaders of the day. Jesus doesn't always bring peace. Quite often He brings division, for we have to decide whose side we are on. Are we on His side, or are we on the side of the world. Jesus said Himself in one of the Gospels; He didn't come to bring peace, but a sword. We have decided if we are fully committed to Him, and that full commitment is the only way to life. Are we fully committed? Or do we just want enough Jesus to keep us out of hell? He demands that full obedience, and in doing that, we will face opposition from the world, and then the question is, whose side are we on?

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Sixth Sunday after Epiphany: Thursday, February 16, 2006

Old Testament Lesson

Genesis 32:3-21

Jacob today follows in the footsteps of his grandfather Abraham. God told Abraham to go to a land that He would show him, and he did. Today, Jacob does something to me that is even more brave, and takes more faith. God told him to go back to the land, and he would meet Esau. Now, he had done Esau wrong several times, and had stolen his blessing and birthright from him. Esau had every reason to kill Jacob. Jacob knew this; and he went any way. It is one thing to step out on faith, not knowing what the result would be, but not necessarily fearing danger. Today, Jacob stepped out on faith, and he feared that he and his family may have been killed. Why did he do this Because God told him to. So, he stepped out on faith. That takes faith. He trusted God more than he was afraid. Today, what is greater? Our fear or our faith? Out Faith must be bigger, because we have faith in a great God. Today, may your faith out weight your fear.

New Testament Lesson

1 John 2:18-29

Today John writes about antichrists, those that work against the spirit of Christ. There are false shepherds, there are those that will seek to lead God's sheep astray. That is why it is so important for us to know the voice of God so that we can follow when He speaks. A sheep will not follow any voice but the true shepherds. So should it be for us. So many voices try to crowd in, voices of sin, voices of pride, voices of power. We must learn to listen for the true shepherd. For their will be what John calls today antichrists that will try to lead God's people astray with false teaching. Can you distinguish between what is of God and what is not? Do you know the bible well enough to tell? We must take time to listen to God through scripture, through prayer, through the means of grace that we can distinguish between the true shepherd and these false ones. There are false shepherds seeking to destroy God's people. Make sure you know His voice so you will not be lead astray.

Gospel Lesson

John 10:19-30

Just like yesterday, the texts all fit so well together. The reason why Jacob stepped out on faith was that he knew the voice of the good shepherd. In 1 John, Johns warns the people to be on the look out for those antichrists that would come and listen for God's voice. Today, Jesus tells us that He is the good shepherd. So, for us to listen, for us to know the good shepherd, we must know Jesus. In Him, we have now, and in the age to come. Are you walking daily with Him? Are you spending time seeking to meet Him through the power of the Holy Spirit in prayer, in the Word, through service to others, through devotion to God? Are you listening for the voice of our Shepherd? He calls His sheep. Are you listening?

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Sixth Sunday after Epiphany: Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Old Testament Lesson

Genesis 31:15-50

Jacob decided to run from Laban in this text. And actually, for once, Jacob didn't really do anything wrong. Rachel had stolen the possessions from her father, and Jacob knew nothing about it. Jacob decided today to leave to separate his family from Laban, who had caused them much pain. Sometimes as Christians, we have to make pains to separate ourselves from those that could harm us, our family, or our faith. We have to keep the main the the main thing, and and if there are things that keep us from being faithful to what is most important, we must be on the lookout for them. And if their are things that can bring harm to our family or our faith, we must willing to get rid of it, no matter how hard. Jacob left today ton ensure his family a fresh start from under Laban. Under Laban, they had food and safety, but they were not free. God desires that we be free from whatever enslaves us. Today, Jacob made that decision of freedom through obedience to God. We must make that same choice.

New Testament Lesson

1 John 2:12-17

We see this same thought echoed in this text as well; we must stay true to our love of God. Today, John says that we must not love the world, for it will pass away. Sometimes as Christians, we try to live too much like the world. It is easy with all that we see on TV, hear on the radio, read on the Internet. We must be different. We must live different than the world. If their is no different between they way we live and the way that the world lives, that is a problem. We must live for God, in all that we do. We must not be captive to the world and it's desires. The world will pass away, but God will not, nor will His children.

Gospel Lesson

John 10:1-18

These passages all fit so well together. We see here in John that is the good shepherd that will actually give life. The thief will rob, kill, and destroy, but Jesus came to give us life, life now, and life in the age to come. Where to do we find our life today? Is it in our bank account? Car? Job? Power? Lust? Where? If it is anywhere other than Jesus, then we are in trouble and are setting ourselves up for a fall. This world and this culture will not give us life; they will destroy us. Only in God is there life. Where is your life found today? Is it in Jesus? If not, then we need to examine how we are living.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

What I should have got for Valentine's Day

If only my wife read my blog, I would have gotten each of these on this day of love.

Monday, February 13, 2006

The Work of Ministry

One of the things I've learned in my few (7) years of serving as a pastor is that your focus is so important. We've had a lot going one at church recently, business meetings, Valentine's Banquets for our adults and children, and lots of sickness. And in these times of business, it is easy to lose track of what is the better thing. You remember Mary and Martha from the Gospels. Martha was so busy doing good things that she neglected to spend time with Jesus who was right there with her. Mary wasn't doing as much, but she spent that time with her Lord, and He told them that was the better thing.

So often in ministry we neglect the better thing. We get busy doing and going, working and preaching, that we can forget what really matters. It is relationships that matter. First with the Triune God, and then with God’s people. We can get so focused on forms and meetings, so focused on programs that we forget the people that the programs should reach. I'm blogging later today that I normally do because I had a friendly breakfast with a church member. I thought about maybe canceling to get some work done, but then I remember that was work. It was the work of ministry. That is what I cannot and we cannot forget. What is the real work of ministry.

Sixth Sunday after Epiphany: Monday, February 13, 2006

Sorry, one last day of a short devotional, and then things should return to normal tomorrow. Sorry about no devotional last Friday, I was on the road.

John 9:1-17

Two things of great, great importance in this text. This is one of the best stories in all the bible. First, the disciples ask Jesus who was to blame for this man's blindness, was it his sin or his parents? Jesus says neither, rather it was so God's glory could be seen. When something bad happens it us, it does not always mean that God judging us. Sometimes we do things that have consequences, but sometimes, bad things just happened for no real reason, other so that God's glory can be sin. Our sin does not always cause these things to happen. This man in the text was not blind because of his sin, or the sin of his parents. God is not up in heaven, with lighting bolt in hand, waiting to get us. He is a loving father that longs to know his children better, and will discipline them if they need it, but he is not looking to get us. How many of us as parents are looking for a reason to punish our children? We do when they need it, but we do go around, looking for trivial things to punish them about. Neither does our Heavenly Father. He will punish when we need, but this man's blindness was not a punishment for sin, and neither are our tragedies in our lives.

Secondly, Jesus used spit and dirt to heal his blindness. As Max Lucado says, if God can use spit and dirt, he can use me to. And He can use you, as well. Will you let him use you today in your lives? He used spit and dirt. He can use us as well.

Thursday, February 9, 2006

Fifth Sunday after Epiphany, Thursday, February 9, 2006

One more day of a short blogging. I went to the Kemper County Prayer Breakfast this morning and heard some speakers from the Meridian Naval Airbase. It was a pleasure to hear these men, and we should daily keep our service men and women in our prayers.

John 8:21-32

Jesus said that if you hold to my teachings, we are His disciples. We can't separate obedience to him from love of him. Our love is seen in how we obey Him. Notice in the text, the folks he was talking to never fully understood what he was saying. Jesus would say something, and you can almost see them looking at him and going "huh?" They were listening, but they weren't really. They weren't being led by the spirit. We can read the Bible all day long, but if the spirit is not leading, it will not sink in. We can read every devotional under the sun, but if the spirit is not leading, then we aren't doing much. We can do all these things, but if the spirit is not leading, then not much will be accomplished. They heard Jesus, but they weren't listening to the spirit. Is God speaking to us today? Are we listening? Are we listening with the Spirit? God will speak to us today. Will we take the time to listen to Him today. It is not that He is not speaking, it is that we don't always listen. They heard Jesus speak today, but they did not listen through the Spirit. May we not make the same mistake.

Wednesday, February 8, 2006

Fifth Sunday after Epiphany, Wednesday, February 8, 2006

Remember Greg McMahon in your prayers today

Shorter blogging today, only the Gospel Lesson

John 8:12-20

To know the father, we must know Jesus. Those in the text today did not understand that, and so they missed Jesus. They were expecting Jesus to be someone or somewhere else. We see that notion a lot in scripture. In Matthew 25 in the parable of the sheep and the goats, the goats are cast aside because when they did not do to the least among them, they did not do to Jesus. They were not expecting to see Jesus among the least, but there he was. The religious leaders did not expect Jesus to come as he did, but there he was. Do you expect to only encounter Jesus in church? What about in your job? Your conversations? Your family life? The promise we celebrated in Christmas a couple of months ago was this, Emmanuel, God is with us. There were no conditions place on where God was with us, simply God was with us. Will you find Jesus in your life today? He is there. What is he calling you to? And will you follow? They missed Jesus because they weren't looking for Him. Will you and I do the same?

Tuesday, February 7, 2006

Fifth Sunday after Epiphany, Tuesday, February 7, 2006

Old Testament Lesson

Genesis 26:1-6, 12-33

Today in the text Isaac's first choice was to go down to Egypt. After all, during this time of famine, Egypt would have enough food, and his family would survive. But, the Lord told him to stay in the land he was in, and he did. In that obedience to God, the Lord blessed him. God kept the promise that he had made to Abraham and Isaac was blessed. In his obedience, the Lord blessed him.

I know that this a dead horse that I beat a lot, but our obedience to God is essential. It is not just enough to say that we love God, we must obey Him. Even when it doesn't make sense. Today, it would have made for sense for Isaac to go down to Egypt, he knew that there he would be OK. But, the Lord willed for him to stay in the Land, and he obeyed. In that obedience, the Lord blessed him. Now, if we obey, we will grow rich and powerful like Isaac? Maybe, maybe not. I know a lot of obedient folks that are barely getting by. But, if we obey, we will have something better than worldly possessions. We'll have the peace and the joy of God, and that is of infinite worth.

New Testament Lesson

Hebrews 13:17-25

The ending of Hebrews reminds us that while we are called to obey (as mentioned above), it is God that equips us and gives us the grace to obey. There is that relationship between God's grace and our obedience. The closer we are to God the more we obey, and the more we obey, the closer we are to God. We can only obey through God's grace. We can't do it on our own. Now, we can do somethings right, I guess, but we can't be very good on our own. We see it in Scripture. Time after time when folks obey God, He uses them, and we when it is over, they wander from God, and fall into sin. That is what happened to Noah after the flood, that is what happened to Abraham when he and Sarah went down to Egypt. That is what happened to David. And Peter. And so many others. If this happened to these folks, will it not happen to you and me? That is why we must stay close to the God that equips us, so that we can obey, and in that obedience, we find the love and joy of God.

Gospel Lesson

John 7:53-8:11

This is a text we have read many times; the women caught in adultery. A couple of things. First, as the old saying goes, it takes two to tango. I've always wondered what happened to the "man caught in adultery." She is the only brought to Jesus. We don't know who the man is, but God does. Our sin might not always be made known in public, but that doesn't mean that God's doesn't know. Just because you aren't caught doesn't mean that you aren't guilty.

Second, he tells her that she is no condemned. Jesus tells those that brought her to him, if there are any without sin, let them cast the first stone. Jesus forgives. His grace is amazing. He longs to forgive us our sin and restore us to right relationship. And the story ends there, right?

No, the last thing Jesus says is to go and sin no more. Grace is not a black check to sin. Grace is not a permission slip to sin. Grace is empowerment to live for God, not just forgiveness of sin. Today, Jesus forgives us, if we repent. And He tells us the same thing he told her. Go and sin no more. You are forgiven (if you ask). Go and sin no more.

Monday, February 6, 2006

Super Sunday and Sunday night worship

Yesterday was the Super Bowl and now all will be sad until next August when football comes back. I know my wife is happy at least. She won't have to put up with football for several months, and I think she is secretly plotting ways to rid the world of football games forever. Super Bowl Sunday always brings up an interesting question. What do we do with Sunday night worship?

I don't know how many churches still do Sunday night worship. Growing up in south Mississippi, Sunday night worship was part of our religious landscape. When I served in the Mississippi Delta, we didn't have service, and neither did any of the larger churches, and I do not believe that other denominations had services as well. In my current appointment, we do have Sunday night worship. So, I've had it all ways.

There are complications and blessings to Sunday night worship. First, as a preacher, that's one more sermon! You sometime think you may run out of stuff to preach about. And, it is hard to sometimes find a theme for Sunday night worship. At Coy, I use it for different sermon series. I find it is helpful to do some teaching sermons that would really fit within the flow of our Morning worship. Right now I'm preaching on the fruit of the Spirit, previously, I've the membership vows of the UMC, things such as that.

And I find that to be the blessing. You have a committed group of folks on Sunday night that really take the Word of God seriously, that really do want to grow in their faith, that really do want to learn. I was very pleased with the crowd we had last night for worship. We had basically our normal Sunday Night crowd, which thrilled me to know that there were these folks that want to spend time worshiping God, even on the night of the Super Bowl.

So, would I cancel Sunday night service for the Super Bowl? No way. Not if we normally have it. Remember the fuss over canceling church on Christmas? Now, this is different, but in some ways the same. Do we rearrange our schedule as the church for other things, or do we say, this is who we are, and we will not conform the world. Part of the identity of my church is Sunday night worship. Canceling that for the Super Bowl would have been giving up part of who we are to conform.

Is this is a life or death issue? Is this a salvation issue? Of course not, but I have found here, and I have found in myself, that it is important. It comes back to who we understand ourselves to be, and much of that understanding will we give up to conform to the world. For too long, the church has given up too much of that identity. Do we start with Sunday night worship and the Super Bowl? I don't know. But, it was on my mind this morning.

Fifth Sunday after Epiphany, February 5, 2006

Old Testament Lesson

Genesis 25: 19-34

Jacob and Esau are two complicated folks. When you look at them, Jacob was a scoundrel, and we think, how could God pass down the promise through this sorry joker. But, two things to notice. First, once again the promise of God is not dependant upon the person, but rather upon God. Jacob was sorry, but his sorriness did not cancel out the promise of God. All throughout the Bible, God used imperfect people to do His will. The same holds true today. God uses imperfect people like me and you to do His will. We must strive and seek after Him, but if God is going to use only the perfect ones, then there would be no one left for God to use.

Second as much as Jacob was a scoundrel, Esau just didn't' care. He the birth rite, and he sold it for food. He chose his own pleasure over the higher thing. So often, we choose what we want instead of what God needs us to do. If we will do God's we will be satisfied. Now, we may not every everything we want, but we will have what we need and will be satisfied in God's grace. So often we chase the things of the world, thinking they will make us happy, and we find ourselves empty. Only in God can we be full, and only is His will can we find not what we think we want, but what we really need.

New Testament Lesson

Hebrews 13:1-16

These are the concluding remarks of Hebrews. Most New Testament letters end with similar thought, which basically can be summed up in this, do what is right. Today, we see words of encouragement to hold to sound doctrine, care for the less fortunate, love both friend and stranger, stay away from lust (both sexual and of money). In all these things, do the things that you know are right. Christianity is not complicated; Jesus said we are to love God and love neighbor. That is not hard to understand, it is just hard to do. CS Lewis said no one knows how bad they are until they try very hard to be good. The faith we are to live is not hard to understand, but we cannot do it on our own. We need God's grace each day. That is why we must read the Word, pray, and spend time with God' children. We need the grace that we receive in this things. We need His grace to live as He wants. We cannot do it on our own. We cannot do the things God wants us to with Him. But with Him, we can. Are you spending enough with Jesus that you can do the things that He will? Apart from Him, we can do noting, with Him, all things are possible.

Gospel Lesson

John 7:37-52

This text has one of the more famous verse in scripture "Thus the people were divided because of Jesus." That's not an image we always think of with Jesus. We think of Him in terms of unity and peace. But, the Word also says that He will bring division, because He forces us to make a choice. Are we with Him, or against Him. Jesus does not settle for second in our heart, either. We cannot be lukewarm, we must either be hot or cold for Him. What are we today? Are we obedient to Him, is He Lord our lives, or is Jesus just a Sunday thing. They were divided because of Jesus. He makes us choose. Do you chose to follow Him today? That is the choice that we must make, today. Which way will we choose?

Friday, February 3, 2006

Christian Football

We all know that football is God's favorite sport, and this post is further proof of that.

Hat tip

Fourth Sunday after Epiphany: Friday, February 3, 2006

Old Testament Lesson

Genesis 24:1-27

Boy, if getting married was only as easy in this text today. One of things we know and believe, but do not fully understand is God's plan in things. We know he is at work, doing something for our good. We don't always understand why things happen the way they do; we don't always understand what role our choices make in God's plan, but we know they are all working for our good and for God's plan. That is what Wesley believed in sharing your faith. All you can do is do the best you can do, and then leave the rest up to God. We are not they Holy Spirit, we don't get folks saved, but we can do our best and put forth our efforts, and the Lord will bless it. Today, God had a plan for Issac. Now, everyone had to do their part, but God had a plan. Today, God has a plan for each of us as well.

New Testament Lesson

Hebrews 12:3-11

I don't like disciplining my daughter. She cries, and it is bad. But, the job a parent is not to always make their children happy, but to do what is in the best interest of that child and help that child to grow into responsible adulthood. If we as human parents feel that way, how much more must our God feel that way? Is His job as God to always make us happy? No, sometimes He must discipline us to help us to grow into the child of God that He needs us to be. We don't enjoy the discipline, and I'm sure it is something God would rather not do, but there are times for our good and for the ultimate purpose God had for us, that He must discipline us. It shows just how much He loves us, though. Just like a loving parent wants the best for their child, so does out God want the best for His children.

Gospel Lesson

John 7:1-13

One of the things that Jesus dealt with was lack of faith from those closest to him. Today, His family did not believe. Often times, His disciples didn't believe. But, he keeps faithful to the mission that God has sent him for. Today He knows the time is not right, so he does not go publicly to the feast. His mission was primary for Him. As Christians, are we the same? Do have our mission from God as the primary focus of our life? Do we even know what our mission is? Do we have a purpose, or do we just float around, wondering why nothing make sense for us. We must know our purpose and must be faithful to God through it. What are you here for? God has something for you. Do you know what it is? Have you spent time in His word and in prayer seeking it? When we know that purpose, and are faithful to it, things will fall into place. Do you know your purpose today? If so, are you faithful to your purpose today?

Wednesday, February 1, 2006

Fourth Sunday after Epiphany: Wednesday, Febuary 1, 2006

Old Testament Lesson

Genesis 22:1-18

Søren Kierkegaard was a Dutch philosopher and wrote on of the most powerful books ever written about this text of Abraham being tested by God. He asked what do we make a God that could ask Abraham to do this? How do we handle a God that would do this? He is only answer was with Fear and Trembling, which was the name of that book. God is not human, and He demand things of us the we don't understand or like. After all He is God. I think that is the best way to understand this passage. In this passage, though, Issac was not going to be sacrificed. If Abraham would not do it, then his life was spared. If he followed through, God had a ram in the bush. Either way he was going to be fine.

We don't know what God will ask us to give up. We don't know what God will ask us to do. We don't know where God will send us. We cannot control God. We live an age where everything seems computerized and controlled, but God is not. God gave Abraham and Sarah this son, and then He tells Abraham to sacrifice him. God does not play by our rules. We are supposed to play by His. We should never totally lose our fear and trembling of Him.

New Testament Lesson

Hebrews 11:23-31

By faith, they did this things. Notice, the text didn't say that Moses had faith, so he didn't do anything. He decided to kick back and relax because he has faith. Faith is the beginning of our walk with God. Faith is what starts everything. It is by faith that we do stuff, because that faith calls us to do stuff. If we have faith and we feel like we're re done, we have nothing else to do for God, then we need to look again at the Word. It is by faith that they were obedient to God. It is by faith we work for God. Our works are not the point, but the faith is. That faith, however, will produce those works. By faith, what do you and I do?

Gospel Lesson

John 6:52-59

Jesus tells them that he is the way. Their forefathers ate manna, today, they can eat the true bread from heaven. It is through Jesus that life comes. He tells them that in eating and drinking His body and blood, they will have eternal life. That once again shows the importance of Holy Communion. But, it also shows the importance of Jesus. It is through Him that life comes. Not through what was done in the past, not through the traditions of the past, but through Jesus. The question is not do we keep all the traditions of our ancestors, but do we have Jesus. In the text, they were faithful to the past, but refused Jesus. Let us not make the same mistake. He is the way to heaven, not by works, not by tradition, not by anything else.