Friday, March 31, 2006

Lent: Friday, March 31, 2006

Old Testament Lesson

Exodus 2:1-22

God was watching out for Moses from the time of his birth, and God had a plan for him. Moses, though, made some pretty big mistakes. He killed a man. Two of the greatest heroes in the Old Testament (Moses and David) are responsible for the death of someone. This point cannot be brushed over. Moses was not perfect, no man is, and we see that he committed a crime that many of us would judge as one of the worst a human could commit.

In spite of that, God had a plan for him. God desired to use Moses in spite of his mistakes. God desires to use each of us, no matter how far we think we may have gone, no matter what we may done. God can still use you, God can still do great things with you, if you will allow. He was going to do great things with Moses, used him to free His people. What will he do with you, if you will allow?

New Testament Lesson

1 Corinthians 12:27-13:3

We all have different gifts and different callings; they are not the same. There is one thing, though, that we can all do. We can all love. It is the greatest of all the gifts of the spirit. Love is what our faith should produce. Jesus says that we are to love God and love our neighbor. From my tradition as a Methodist, John Wesley said that is the goal of our salvation, to have us live in perfect love, that perfect love of God and each other. That is what we should be striving for, to have God's love so fully fill us that His love overflows into our love of each other. That love, that is the trust evidence of the Christian life. That is the greatest of the all the gifts of the spirit.

Gospel Lesson

Mark 9:2-13

In this passage, we see Jesus in His full glory. This is Jesus as He truly is, glorious beyond words. We serve a savior worthy of our praise. He is not worthy just because of what He has done for our lives, but He is worthy simply based on who is. He is God! He is perfect! He is the very force of Creation, the one that Paul says holds all of Creation together (Colossians 1: 15-20). And He desires to know us personally. He is worthy of all our lives and all our praise.

Thursday, March 30, 2006

Lent: Thursday, March 30, 2006

Old Testament Lesson

Exodus 1:6-22

We see in this text two heroes in the Bible, the Hebrew midwives. They were commanded by Pharaoh to kill the male children, but they feared God more than Pharaoh. In our lives, we have competing authorities. We have human authority, and we have God's. Sometimes they match up; sometimes they are the same. But, sometimes, they do not. What God may want you to do may be different than what humans want you to do.

Then the question becomes who do we fear more? Sometimes I believe that as the Church and as Christians we are more afraid of the judgment of the world than we are of the judgment of God. We would at times rather be thought of well by the world than be obedient to God. If we obey God, follow His commands, then thing will work as they should. They might not work out like we'd like, but they will work for our God. Today, who is our true authority? Is is God? Or is it human? Today, whose judgment do we fear worse? God's? Or another humans? We should fear God and obey Him, above all else.

New Testament Lesson

1 Corinthians 12:12-26

None of us are the same, but God needs each of us. We all have different gifts and grace and they are each needed for the church to be what it is called to be. No gift is great than the other. No calling is greater than the other. They are each of equal importance, and are all needed for the church to be the church. Just because I'm a preacher doesn't mean that I'm a better Christian than anyone. It just means that that I have a different calling.

In fact, we are all called. In our baptism, our Lord calls us as one of His own, and He calls us to mission; to be obedient to Him. Each of us has a calling. Each of us has something we were put here to do, and for the church to be the church, we need to each be about our calling. The church needs us, and we need each other. Do not take for granted your church, and your church should not take you for granted as well. Be faithful to God will your gift, us it to His glory, and He will do great things with it, and the church needs all of our gifts and graces. If we pull together as one in the church, the Lord can do great things in our midst.

Gospel Lesson

Mark 8:27-9:1

We see Peter here within a couple of verses have one of his greatest moment of faithfulness and moments of denial. First he confesses Jesus as the Messiah and is praised, then a couple of verses later says that there is no way that Jesus can suffer and die, and Jesus calls him Satan. We see in this passage why both of these thing happen.

He does right because he is listening to the spirit. He does wrong because his mind is not on the things of God. Our obedience, our faithfulness, these things are all predicated on listening to God and doing as He wills. If we are not listening to the spirit, if we are listening to God, then we will suffer the same rebuke as Peter, our minds on are not on the thing of God. But, if we are in tune with God's Spirit, then we will give Him the praise He deserves.

Today, we see Peter at one of his highest and lowest. Our lives are like that as well; moments of defeat so close to moments of victory. We will be victorious or defeated no base on our our own strength, but how we listen and obey the Holy Spirit.

Monday, March 27, 2006

Lent: Monday, March 27, 2006

Old Testament Lesson

Genesis 49:1-28

We see in this blessing that God has a plan for each of the 12 tribes. No blessing is alike, they all reflect their personality and reflect what they have done in their lives. You can notice that the sons that had acted righteously in the past (i.e. Judah) received a "greater" blessing.

It is interesting to note that Jacob said of Judah

You are a lion's cub, O Judah;
you return from the prey, my son.
Like a lion he crouches and lies down,
like a lioness—who dares to rouse him?
The scepter will not depart from Judah,
nor the ruler's staff from between his feet,
until he comes to whom it belongs
and the obedience of the nations is his
Of course, as Christians who do we know that comes from the line of Judah? Jesus, our Lord and Savior. Even here, we as Christians can see the working of God at this point in bringing forth salvation through Jesus Christ. God is always at work in powerful ways that we cannot see or understand. He is at work, even right now, in your your life, doing something amazing. The question becomes will we choose to go along with what He is doing, or will we choose to go our own path. We do have choice to make today. Will we choose life or death, will we choose to go along with God, or go our own way?

New Testament Lesson

1 Corinthians 10:14-11:1

Paul reminds us again today that just because we can do something doesn't mean that we should do something. We live not just for ourselves, but for God and for the body of Christ. We each have a witness that we are to uphold, and if we live in a way that while not being sinful, but that does hurt another person, that is not good. On one hand, we as Christians should not care what others think. We live for the praise of God, not for the praise of others. But, conversely, we should care what others think, for if our life does not bring glory to God, and in fact turns folks away from God, we are not living as we should. Today, does your life make folks want to learn more about God, or does your life turn people from God? We do not live merely for ourselves.

Gospel Lesson

Mark 7:24-37

In this text, we see the power of faith. The woman in the text had the courage to ask Jesus for healing even though she was not a Jew. She knew that the Lord would honor faithfulness, regardless. She didn't care what other thought, she knew that only Jesus could provide the healing her child needed. It is funny what you will do to help your child, isn't it. And, if we as human parents will go to the furthest reaches to help our children, how much further will God go to help His. Our love as a parent is only a fraction of what God's love is for us. He loves us more than we can ever know, and all He asks of us that we be faithful; that we give Him all that we are, and He will give us life.

Sunday, March 26, 2006

This is a picture of the wheelchair ramp that was built this past Friday for Greg McMahon. A bunch of us from different churches in the Neshoba/Kemper county area came together to build this ramp that would make it easier for him to get in and out of the house while he is still wheelchair bound.

Not being mechanically inclined, I tried my best not to break anything, and I didn't! But, it was a lot of fun and more importantly, helped Greg and his family out.

Here we are getting ready to eat afterwards, because if there are Methodists doing anything in the world, it must involve food.

You can find our more about the Ramp Ministry within the Meridian District by clicking here, or by sending me and email at atstoddard at gmail dot com.

Friday, March 24, 2006

Lent: Friday, March 24, 2006

Sorry the blogging is short and late today! This week has been a little crazy, but things should be back to normal next week Some folks from our area helped to build a wheel chair ramp for another person in the community today, and it was a real blessing. In that vein of thought I'd like to share with you a quote attributed to John Wesley

Do all the good you can,
By all the means you can,
In all the ways you can,
In all the places you can,
At all the times you can,
To all the people you can,
As long as ever you can.

Today, take time to go good others. A good deed is doubly blessed. The one that does good is blessed as is the one that receives good. Today, take time to do some good deed for someone else.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Lent: March 23, 2006

Today, only a New Testament Lesson

Mark 6:30-46

Jesus today took a situation that looked like it could not work and made a miracle. God is the in the business of working miracles. God can do more than we can ever imagine with what we offer Him. Today, he had some bread and some fish and fed 5000. It doesn't take much for God to perform a miracle, it just take all. All we have to do is give Him all that we are, and he can do great things. But, until He has all of us, He is limited.

Today, do you offer Him your entire life, or merely just part. Until He has all, he can't do in your life what He would like. But, once He has all, He can do great things, do more than you could ever imagine.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Bare with us please!

Sorry no blogging yesterday, my daughter was sick and had to stay out of daycare until the late morning, and was unable to get the devotional sent out. All is back to normal now, though, and she is feeling much better.

Lent: March 22, 2006

Old Testament Lesson

Genesis 45:16-28

God's plan always works out better than our plans. I've talked to so many people in my life that wanted to do it their way, and when they find their lives broken under the wait of the world, only then do they see that they followed the wrong path. We have choices in all of life; we can choose our way, or God's way. His plan is for our benefit, His plan is for our good. We think that we know best and that we can decide which way is the best to go. But, we also see how we wind up when we choose our way and not Gods.

Today, listen for God's wisdom in what you should do. We know right from wrong. We know truth from a lie. Listen to God. Do what God wants, what He will, and trust in Him. He is at work in your life even now.

New Testament Lesson

1 Corinthians 8:1-13

As Christians, we are to know that we don't just live for ourselves; we live for God. And in that, we must always remember that others are watching what we do, watching how we life. What type of witness do we give? What type of example do we set for others. Today, Paul says, yes there are things that you can do and not hurt you,but they may hurt your brothers and sisters. Today, we have to ask ourselves, just because we can do something, should we do it?

As a parent, I have learned that there are always 2 little eyes watching everything I do. And it doesn't really matter what I tell her to do, what matters is what do I do? If I live a holy life, she will see that example. But, if I live a life like I want to do, but tell her to do what I say, not what I do, guess what. She will probably do what I do, no matter what I say. Today, does you life point others to Jesus? Or does you life hinder folks in coming to God. As Christians, we live for more than just ourselves, we live for the glory and honor of God.

Gospel Lesson

Mark 6:13-29

Herod today had do something he didn't want to because of his pride. It is our pride that get us in trouble. It is pride that that keeps us from asking forgiveness, it is pride that keeps us from forgiving. It is pride that keeps us from admitting our weaknesses, it is pride that keeps us from fully giving it all to God. Today, what does your pride cause you to do that is wrong? Today, what does your pride cause you to keep from doing that you know is right. It is the pride that goes before the fall. Today, is your pride setting you up for a big fall?

Monday, March 20, 2006

Ordination thoughts

This past weekend I went Jackson for my ordination interviews. It was a very interesting experience. It was, for me, a good experience. Those that know me know that I’m a little on the obsessive/compulsive side, and a little pessimistic. Ok, a lot pessimistic. I told my wife before I left that not only would I be deferred for a year but I would probably get kicked out the UMC.

We are fortunate in the Mississippi to have around twenty or so folks up for ordination this year. I have had a several friends that had complications and started the process with me, but have been delayed a year, and a good friend, Jerry Salley was with us in spirit this weekend, but he passed on into true life four months ago.

I arrived at Alta Woods UMC in Jackson that evening, nervous, ready to get it over. I saw a good friend, Greg Hazelrig, and normally he’s the cool one, but I think even he was a little nervous, as his interviews were that night. Before the interview began, we had a service of remembrance of baptism. I don’t know if any of you have ever participated in that service, I have that service every Baptism of the Lord Sunday, which is normally the 2nd Sunday of the New Year. That was a great reminder that in baptism, we find our all calling and that all that are baptized are called.

Greg had his interview, and I went and found a hotel to stay in that night. I came back and we had a cup of coffee, and talked about his interview. Everything went great for him, and I know that he’ll get through.

I did not sleep the night before my interview. I did watch King Kong, and it was pretty good.

I attempted to eat breakfast Saturday morning, but settle for a cup of coffee. Arrived for the interview, and I was batting leadoff. First one in. I joking said as we were walking down the hall, does the black hood go on before the interview or afterwards.

I sat down for my first interview. It was on theology. And, it went well. The questions ranged from my calling, to what would I preach if I had only one message (that God reaches out to us and longs to bring us into relationship with Him and with each other), what actually happens in communion (the real presence of Jesus Christ is made known in our hearts through the power of the Holy Spirit “virualism”), what happened in Baptism (the mark of the new covenant, God is the one that is acting), and the connection between orthodoxy and othopraxy (right belief is not enough, it must show forth in right action, but right action finds its birth in right belief). All in all, I think things went well.

Then came my practical ministry interview. And honestly, this was more of a blur. I think I used all my bullets on the first one, and don’t remember much about the second. I remember telling my call story, talking about the need for visioning and organization, and where I see myself in five years (I said, hopefully still at Coy, but I will not presume upon the Bishop and Cabinet where I should be)

All in all, things when well. They said they would let us know something this week, so now the process of holy waiting. But, whatever happens, I did my best and did all I can do. I started the process towards ordination in 1998 as a candidate, and if I am ordained this year, it will be 8 years. It has been a great process. I’ve leaned much about the church, and myself. I’ve made great friends and had great mentors. And my love for my church has only increased. I wait now, patiently, knowing that what ever happens, God is at work. And I have hope for my Annual Conference, and for our church. I know that God is still at work.

Lent: Monday, March 20, 2006

Old Testament Lesson

Genesis 44:18-34

Love sometimes causes us to make hard decisions. Today, Judah knew that if he did not bring Benjamin back with him, Jacob would grieve himself to death. So, not knowing what would happen, he tells Joseph, let me stay as your slave, and my brother return to our father. He was willing to lay down his own life for that of his family. Jesus says that there is no greater love than to lay down your life for your friends (John 15:13). Our faith call us to lay down our lives for others. There are times when that may mean our actual lives. But, it also means our desires, our wants, and even our pride. We must lay these down and serve others. We are place others above ourselves. Jesus said that the greatest must be the least and must serve (Mark 10:43-44). We are called to life of service, and in that service we find life that the world cannot give. In Jesus Christ, and in obedience to Him, we find the life we were created for.

It is from the line of Judah that Jesus Christ comes. The book of Revelation calls him the Lion of the tribe of Judah. In Christ, we see that same love that knows that the only way we can be reconciled to the Father is through the power of the cross and the empty grave. He laid down His life for us. We are called to do the same; for God, and for each other.

New Testament Lesson

1 Corinthians 7:25-31

This passage is Paul's main teaching on marriage and on a lot of issues. The time is short. We should not live to comfortable in the world, for our Lord will soon return. We should not fix our eyes upon this earthly realm, but rather we should wait for our Lord return.

We as Christians cannot live to engrossed in the world. However, we should not be in an ivory tower, either. As much as I love monastic spiritually, we cannot withdraw from the world. We are to be in the world, not of the world. But, our values must be different, our lives must be different, our dreams must be different, in short, we must not live life the world. We must to conform to this world, but be transformed by God (Romans 12:2). Too often, we as Christians want it both ways, we want to live for God, but live like the world. We cannot. We must be different. If we are seen as odd and peculiar, that is actually the way it is supposed to be. We must stop seeking praise from our culture, and seek praise from our God, for that is all that matters in the end.

Gospel Lesson

Mark 5:21-43

This passage has one of my favorite quotes in the bible, "she had suffered a great deal under many doctors." I imagine some of us can relate to that. In this passage, we Jesus heal to people Jarius daughter and the woman that was bleeding. In both cases, he was right on time. For the woman that was sick, to her, he was right ton time. But, for Jarius' daughter, he looked to be late. But, it was all as it should have been. Jesus was where He need to be at the time.

In our lives, we can think that God is late; that God is not answering our prayers the way that we would like. He is right ton time. He is where He needs to be, and He is placing us where we need to be. Even when we think God is late, keep praying. He is at work, and He is doing something great. Don't give up, don't stop praying. He is at work. We just have to keep that faith.

Friday, March 17, 2006

Lent: Friday, March 17, 2006

Today's blogging is coming to from Jackson, via my laptop. I'm here for ordination interviews. Remember me, as well as Greg Hazelrig and about 15 other preachers that go before the Board of Ordinated Ministry this weekend.

Old Testament Lesson

Genesis 43:1-15

Sometimes, things happen in life that cause us to grieve, and we don't know why. Today, Jacob grieves because his youngest son is going down to Egypt and he thinks that he may never see him again. He doesn't know that this is part of God's plan to reunite his family. How often have we went though something, not knowing why, only to one day find out that is was part of God's great plan.

God is at work in ways that we don't fully understand. In life, we can't always trust experience. We can't always trust our reason. We can't always even fully trust what we think that we see. We can only fully trust in God. He is doing things we can't experience at the time, see at the time, or understand at the time. He is at work in all of our lives. We just have to trust, even when we don't know why or what He is doing. Is at at work in all thing for the good of His children.

New Testament Lesson

1 Corinthians 7:1-9

In marriage, we are to work together, and for each other's good. We see here that while Paul seems to exalt celibacy, he also says that those that marry, their marriage relationship should be that of a shared journey. He said that they should realize that the in the marriage relationship, they exist for each other. One is not Lord over the other but they are to exist to serve one another. In service we find greatness, in service, we find the true joys of marriage. Examine a lifeless marriage. More than likely, either one person is doing all the serving, or neither is serving at all. For marriage to be at its fullest, then both husband and wife should show their love in serving and loving each other.

Gospel Lesson

Mark 4:35-41

To me, this is one of the most important questions the disciples ask Jesus. Teacher, do you care if we drown? How often have we been in a place where didn't know if God heard our prayers, or cared if we lived or died. In moments of frustration, loss, or hurt, we can think that Jesus doesn't care if we drown.

How does he respond? He calms the waves. He does care. No matter what our doubts tell us. No matter what our fears tell us. No matter what the world tells us. He does care. Sometimes he calms the waves of the storm, sometimes, its the waves of our heart. But, our Lord will calm the storm, and we will not drown.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Bowling with the youth

What a way to spend a rainy day.

Lent: March 16, 2006

Old Testament Lesson

Genesis 42:29-38

When Cain murdered Able, Cain famously responded to God, "Am I my brother's keeper?" That is a phrase that has lingered through in our language. Are we our brother's keeper? On one hand, no. We cannot control the actions of another. The only person in life we have any control over is ourselves. Are we living as we should? Are we faithful? Do we pray? We cannot make decisions for others, and often they will make bad decisions.

But, we see in Reuben in this text someone that is their brother's keeper. He promises his father that he will look out for Benjamen. While we cannot control others, we can look out for them. We can have their best interested in mind. We can pray for them. We can encourage them. We can be a friend. We cannot and should not seek to control others, We can, though, be a means by which God shows His grace to other's. Reuben placed other's interests above his own in this text today. Are we willing to place other's interests above our own?

Paul puts it this way in Philippians 2: 1-4

If you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any fellowship with the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.

As Christians, that is what it means to be our brother's keeper.

New Testament Lesson

1 Corinthians 6:12-30

Verse 18 says that we should flee from immorality. We should not go looking for sin. Temptation will find us. The devil is lurking, seeking whom he may devour (1 Peter 5:8). As a Christian, you should not be placing yourself in places where you will be more likely to give into temptations. We should literally flee from it.

The sin it talks about here is sexual sin. We live in a sexual perverse time, but the world has always been sexual perverse. This is not the first age with adultery, homosexuality, or other sexual sins. But, what is different in this age is that the social norms have changes and things that were unthinkable 50 years ago are now accepted. In times past their may have been social pressure to refrain from sinful acts, now there is social pressure to engage in sinful acts. This means that the Christian today must have discipline within themselves (and by God's grace) to refrain. We must flee from sin. We must not go looking for it. Temptation will find us. Let us not seek it out. Paul will talk later in Corinthians though, that when we are tempted, God will provide a way out.

Gospel Lesson

Mark 4:21-34

In the parable of the mustard seed, we see that a little faith can do great things. None of us are yet what we should be. But, if we can just start with a little faith, God will grow it. If we start trusting in God, we will see it grow. We are not yet what we should be, but praise God we are more than we used to be. With a little faith, and God's grace, we can do great things. Do you place your faith in Him today? With just a little, He can change the world.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Benedict Bloging

Sorry the blogging is late and short today! I had to watch my beautiful daughter by myself because my wife was out of town last night and let's just say we're both alive, and honestly, that's all that matters. Today's post is different, it is a thought from Insights for the Ages, website I like to read each day. It is a reading from the Rule of Benedict, which is a guide for living for monks in the Middle Ages. It may be over a thousand years old, but it has much wisdom for today. I read this each morning in conjunctionwith the Bible, and I hope you find it helpful. The italics are from the Rule, and the comments are by Joan Chittister


March 15 - July 15 - Nov. 14

Care of the sick must rank above and before all else so that they may truly be served as Christ who said: "I was sick and you visited me (Mt 25-36)." and, "What you did for one of these least of my people you did for me (Mt. 25-40). Let the sick on their part bear in mind that they are served out of honor for God, and let them not by their excessive demands distress anyone who serves them. Still, the sick must be patiently borne with, because serving them leads to a greater reward. Consequently, the prioress or abbot should be extremely careful that they suffer no neglect.

The rabbis say, "The purpose of maintaining the body in good health is to make it possible for you to acquire wisdom." Benedictine spirituality is about coming to a sense of the fullness of life. It is not about being self-destructive or living sour lives or dropping down pits of privacy so deep that no other ever dare intrude. Benedictine spirituality never gives up on life even though death is known to be the entry to its everlasting joy. Why? Because, the rabbi shows us, every day we have gives us another chance to become the real persons we are meant to be. Why? Because, the scripture says, to serve the sick is to serve the Christ.

The point for us all, perhaps, is never to give up on life and never to doubt that every bit of kindness, every tender touch we lay upon another in life can heal what might otherwise have died, certainly in them, perhaps even in ourselves.

Let a separate room be designated for the sick, and let them be served by an attendant who is God-fearing, attentive and concerned. The sick may take baths whenever it is advisable, but the healthy, and especially the young, should receive permission less readily. Moreover, to regain their strength, the sick who are very weak may eat meat, but when their health improves, they should all abstain from meat as usual.
The abbot and prioress must take the greatest care that cellarers and those who serve the sick do not neglect them for the shortcomings of disciples are their responsibility.

Care for the sick, in the mind of Benedict, is not a simple warehousing process, though that in itself could have been a great contribution to a society without hospitals. Care for the sick, in Benedictine spirituality, is to be done with faith, with attention and with a care beyond the technical. The infirmarian is to be "concerned." Baths, a very important part of Roman therapy and hygiene in a hot and sticky climate, and red meat, a treat used only rarely in early monastic houses both because of its scarcity and because of its purported relationship to sexual agitation, are both given generously and recklessly. Care of the sick, you see, is done in the name of God and to the person of the suffering Christ. Nothing was too much. Nothing was to be spared. Nothing that could do good was to be called forbidden.

We have to ask ourselves, in a society of technological health care, how much of it we do with faith and lavish attention and depth of soul and a love that drives out repulsion. We have to ask ourselves how willing we are to take a little of our own energy in behalf of those who are no longer the life of the party, the help on the job? How much of our own precious time do we spend on those with little time left?

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Lent: March 14, 2006

Old Testament Lesson

Genesis 42:1-17

God forgives sin, but sin still has consequences. Today, we see that Joseph's brothers are facing some of the consequences for their action. While God used their actions to eventually save their lives, at this point, they do not know that. They do not recognize their brother Joseph, all they know is that the Egyptian leader is holding them in prison unlit the younger brother comes.

We could say, Joseph should have forgiven them right then and their, and yes, he should have. But, quite often, forgiveness does not come easy. It is hard to forgive those that have done wrong by you. It is hard to forgiven those that have harmed your family and your children. We cannot forgive by ourselves; we can only forgive through God's grace. We can only forgive through the power that He gives. Today, Joseph is on the road to forgiveness. We will see the end result a couple of chapters down the road. He is not there yet. Is there someone today that you need to forgive? Can you do it today? If so, do that. IF not, pray for the grace that tomorrow you may be able to do. We are called to forgive each other. It is hard, but by God's grace we can.

New Testament Lesson

1 Corinthians 5:1-8

In this passage, we see that one person's sin is so great that it brings shame to the entire church. Part of the reason why their is shame is because the church doesn't care. Too often, their is sin done in the name of the church. As a proud United Methodist, there are sometimes things in the name of my church that I am not proud of. We must not be content with sin. We cannot be content with sin in our own lives, or in the life of our church.

Before we can go about the hard and necessary work of striving against sin in our church or in our denomination or even in our family, we must go about the hard work of looking within our own lives for sin. For a sinful group only comes from sinful people. As we go about the hard work of calling others tor righteousness, we must make sure that we are striving after righteousness ourselves. Now, I'm not saying that we have to be perfect to speak, but we must be hypocrites when it comes to righteousness. Brennan Manning once said "The greatest single cause of atheism in the world today is Christians that acknowledge Jesus with their lips, but deny Him with their lives. That is what an unbelieving world simply finds unbelievable." We must call our church and our world to righteousness. We must call ourselves to righteousness as well, and hold ourselves to the same standards.

Gospel Lesson

Mark 3:19b-35

Jesus says that whoever does the will of His father is His family. We are part of a family. Those that believe, those that obey the will of God, we are part of the family of God. Remember how happy you were when a family member had a baby? That is how happy we should be when when someone is saved; when someone comes home. For in this family, you aren't born through natural means, but rather by the power of the spirit. Today, don't look at fellow Christians as strangers, but rather seem them as part of the family. There's an old hymn, "The Family of God," and the lyrics read:

I'm so glad I'm a part of the Family of God,
I've been washed in the fountain, cleansed by His Blood!
Joint heirs with Jesus as we travel this sod,
For I'm part of the family,
The Family of God

You will notice we say "brother and sister" 'round here,
It's because we're a family and these are so near;
When one has a heartache, we all share the tears,
And rejoice in each victory in this family so dear.

May this words remind us today that are part of a great family.

Monday, March 13, 2006

Lent: Monday, March 13, 2006

Old Testament Lesson

Genesis 41:46-57

Joseph was blessed by God after all he had endured earlier on in his life. God is at work in all of our lives, placing us where He needs us to be. We have to, though, choose to go where he leads. Joseph could have been bitter, he could have turned against God, but instead, he trusted God and stayed true to him, even when he didn't know how the road would end.

Faith in God is trusting in Him, even when we don't know how things will end. It is easy to trust in times ease and when we know the end result. Will we trust, even when we don't know what God is doing. He was at work in Joseph's life, bringing him to the place that God needed him to be. He is doing that in our lives as well. God is bringing us to where he needs us to be. The question is, how will we respond when we don't like the way the road looks. Joseph trusted God. What will you do?

New Testament Lesson

1 Corinthians 4:8-21

Humility is one of the greatest of virtues. Humility is not a hatred of one's self nor, is it thinking little about yourself. Rather, it is what a professor of mine in seminary called "self forgetfulness." It is where you just forget about yourself and focus on God and focus on others. Pride comes from only focusing on yourself. Humility comes from focusing on others. Today, where will your focus be? Will it be only upon yourself? Or will you focus on God and focus on others. That focus, that determines our humility.

Gospel Lesson

Mark 3:7-19a

Jesus in this passage appoints the 12 Apostles to go and to do Him ministry. We as the church and as Christians continue that today. The church is called to be the Body of Christ. I've always like that concept. That means that we are a the physical "body" of Christ upon the earth right now. That means as the church, we should be about doing what Jesus would have us to do, and what Jesus would. We need to be about His work, about His mission, about His gaol, about what He would have us to do. We should not be about ourselves, but about Him. And, in Him, we find life.

Today, who are we living for? Is it Jesus, or is it ourselves? He sent the 12 out to do His mission. He sends us out as well. Will we be faithful to that mission today?

Friday, March 10, 2006

What to show an atheist

Lent: Friday, March 10, 2006

Happy Anniversary to my wonderful and beautiful wife. I definitely married above myself.

Old Testament Lesson

Genesis 40:1-23

There's an old saying, "no good deed goes unpunished." While Joseph is not being punished in this text, it seems as though in his life when things just look like they are going to really start being good, something happens. His brothers throw him in a well and sale him, Potiphar's wife lies about him. He interprets these dreams, and they forget. But, he never gives up hope. He knows that he is being faithful and in the end it will work out. The Word is full of encouragements not to give us. To the one that overcomes is a constant refrain in the book of Revelation.

Will we preserver today? Will we do good even when there is no reason? Will we pray even when we don't feel like? Will we forgive? Will we ask forgiveness. I've noticed that it seems to be much harder to ask forgiveness sometimes than it is to forgive. Will you preserver today in your work? In your family? In your school? In you spirit? We cannot give up when things don't go the way we'd like at first. We must keep going. Joesph did, and God had a plan for him. He does for us as well.

New Testament Lesson

1 Corinthians 3:16-23

We must learn to view things through God's eyes. We must seek His wisdom, not the wisdom of the world. We must come to view our bodies as the temple of the Holy Spirit, not something created just for our pleasure. When we see things in the proper perspective, it changes the way that we live and act. If my body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, then yours is as well. That should affect the way I treat you, and treat everyone. For God so loved the world that He gave His only son. That means everyone. That means that we are called to love everyone, serve everyone, be a light to everyone, show God's love to everyone, even those we might not like. If my body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, so is yours. That means that God loves you and I am called to love you. That is the way that God's wisdom calls us to live.

Gospel Lesson

Mark 2:13-22

I don't like going to the doctor. Most of us do not. But, when we're really sick, we'll go whether we want to or not, for we come to realize that we need the help that they can give. Today, Jesus said he did not come to save the righteous, but the sick. Now, that is kind of an odd statement, for the bible says that we are all sick, we are all sinners. There is none righteous, no not one. So, what is Jesus talking about? Sometimes we think that we are not sick, when we really are. We think, oh, I'm not a sinner. I go to church, I serve on committees, I haven't broken any laws, so I'm doing OK. When in truth none of us all. We are all sick. We are all in need. We are all in need of the healing that Jesus provides us. We cannot live without Him or the grace that He gives.

But, we have to realize that. Do you today think that you are strong enough to live without Jesus? He came to heal the sick. Do you realize your great need for him? Or are you content to pretend like you don't need Him, and stay in your sickness. The sick can be healed, if they will let the doctor take their sickness. Will you choose sin today? Or will you choose to be healed by Jesus?

Thursday, March 9, 2006

Lent, Thursday, March 9, 2006

Old Testament Lesson

Genesis 39:1-23

Notice in this text, it says constantly that the Lord was with Joseph, and yet he gets a bum deal. Just because the Lord is with us doesn't always mean things will necessary work out the way that we want them. I'm sure that Joseph didn't want go to prison. Just because things are not going the way that we want or that we plan doesn't mean that God is nto with us. God is always with His children and the Word says in Romans 8:28, "And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose."

The story of Joseph will show us that God is at work in all things. Everything he is going through is part of God's greater plan. I don't know what you are going through today, but God can bring some good out of it. He is at work in all things, for a greater purpose. May we have the grace to have faith in God's greater plan.

New Testament Lesson

1 Corinthians 2:14-3:15

We all have jobs to to for God. No great is greater or lesser. A preacher needs an fire congregation, and an on fire congregation needs a preacher. We should not look at our callings as greater/less, but rather in terms of how they need each other. Paul says that some water, some plant, but all all work for the greater good. We all have a calling and that is to be faithful to God in all that we do. And if we are faithful, God will be at work, and He is the one that deserves all the glory and praise.

Gospel Lesson

Mark 2:1-12

These friends were not content to see their friend stay in his present condition; they took him to Jesus. Are we content to all our friends and family stay lost in their sin? Are content to see them living hopeless lives? Are we content to see them far from God. These folks carried their friend to Jesus. They could not allow him to stay as he was. We have friends that need the Lord. Are we content to let them stay as they are? Or will we carry them to Jesus. They must still make the decision to accept Jesus, but are we doing all that we can? Are we letting the Holy Spirit use us? They would not allow their friend to stay as he was. What about you and me?

Wednesday, March 8, 2006

Lent: Wednesday, March 8, 2006

Old Testament Lesson

Genesis 37:25-36

This looks bad. I guess the hero of this story is Reuben, for at least he was concerned about his brother. Joseph's brothers have done a despicable act in selling him to these travellers. Remember, they don't know how this story will turn out. They didn't know this was God's working to actually save their own life. Can you imagine being so jealous you would sell you own family into slavery? That is what they did today in the text. Let's not paint over this, they sold off their own family out of jealously.

That is what sin does to us. It turns us into something we don't want to be. I remember commercial a couple of years ago that showed young children saying things like, when I grow up I want to be a doctor, a ball player, a lawyer. Then a voice said, no one says when I grow up, I want to be a drug addict. No one wants to wind up doing terrible things because of their sin. But, that is what sin does. It turns us into someone we were not created by God to be. That is why we must take sin so seriously. That is why we must nip it in the bud. If we play games with it, it will destroy us. What sin is there in your life you are playing games with? We must rid ourselves of it, for our life, our family, and our faith.

New Testament Lesson

1 Corinthians 2:1-13

The question we face as Christians is would we rather be considered wise by the world, or wise by God. If we follow God's wisdom, that will make us truly wise, but it will also make us out of step with our world and our culture. We cannot have it both ways. We must choose one path or another. Will we choose to follow God's wisdom of the world. Only one will lead to life. Now, if we follow God we must be prepared to receive the scorn of the world. Jesus said if they hated me, they will hate you as well.

We have to be ready to be looked at funny, to be questioned, to be seen as odd. So many Christians want it both ways, they want to try to be faithful to God, but yet still live by the standards of the world. We cannot have it both ways. We must make a choice, and be ready for the consequences of that choice. If we choose to follow God, we will face scorn. But, we will have life, now, and for all eternity. The choice is would we rather receive the temporary praise of humans, or the eternal praise of God? Whose wisdom will we follow today? God's? Or this worlds?

Gospel Lesson

Mark 1:29-45

In the middle of stories of healing today, we see Jesus pray. We must not forget that even while we was the very son of God, the very substance of God, Jesus spent so much time in prayer. What about us? Do we spent the time needed in prayer? Or is prayer something we just rust through.

One of the reasons I blog is in hope of whoever reads it, it may help lead you to deeper consider the Word of God. I hope that they also drive you to prayer. Without it, we can't do anything. We can't properly understand the Word, we can't know God's wisdom, we can't do anything. None of us pray as we should. Don't let the be a hindrance. Just start today, praying as often as you can. Do you have time in the car driving to work? Pray. Do you have a few minutes with nothing to do at work? Pray. Do you have some times between classes? Pray. There is always the opportunity to pray. May we take advantage of it.

Tuesday, March 7, 2006

Sunday School gets to the point

Don't know if you caught this, but who says the UMC is getting soft! At least it was a student, not the teacher.

I agree with Shane about this. Right now, sitting in my church working I've got a pocket knife on me, and I'd imagine a good many of the men and boys at my church have a knife on at church occassionally. This is not a good thing, that a child would do this, but I believe that this church should be commended for trying to reach out to its community. If we as the church aren't trying to make a difference, who will.

I guess the question is, should churches start putting in metal detectors?

Hat tip

Lent, Tuesday, March 7, 2006

Old Testament Lesson

Genesis 37:12-24

There are two things at play here. First the brothers should not have been jealous of all the special attention Joseph received from their father or for the dreams he was having. We have to learn not to be jealous of other's success. Sometimes it is easy, but quite often it is hard when we feel like that success is not earned. But, what is that to us? We are called to live our life to the best of our abilities and be faithful to God with all that we can. We cannot control others and we cannot control decisions other people make, and in that same way, we should not covet the success of others, ill gotten or not. Did Joseph deserve all this special attention. The brothers obviously thought now. The challenge for us to not focus on others, but within ourselves. How are we living as we should? If we live faithful lives, then honestly, that is all that matters.

But, if we are given some special reward, then we shouldn't rub it in. You can almost picture Joseph walking around everywhere with his coat of many colors, just to show his brothers that he had it and they didn't. If we are blessed by God with something, then we should remember that we have been blessed by God with it. He deserves the praise and the glory, and if we are to brag about something, may that something be God's mercy.

New Testament Lesson

1 Corinthians 1:20-31

We see that thought from Genesis put forth here by Paul.Not many of us where much when the Lord called. He called the weak the shame the strong. He calls us not because we are worthy, rather He calls us to make us worthy. And this calling comes through preaching Christ, and Him crucified. As we are in the season of Lent, our thoughts should never drift too far from the cross. We should constantly be bringing back to our minds what our Lord did for our sake. It was through His suffering and through His blood that the penalty for our sin was paid. Once again, if we feel to need to start getting arrogant and bragging, let us remember what our Lord did for our sake and for out salvation. We did not earn it, it was done through grace.

Not many were wise or strong or brave. But, through grace of God you can be. Only through His grace and by clinging daily to that grace can you be transformed. I have a friend that reminds me constantly in the midst of life, pray, read the Bible, and go to church. These three simple steps don't sound complicated but in being faithful to them, we are being faithful to God, and in that we will hear God speak. By clinging to God we will hear God, for it is thought Christ, and Christ alone, that we are saved.

Gospel Lesson

Mark 1:14-28

We see in the calling of the disciples the phrase "at once" and "without delay" used. Mark shows us that Jesus had a sense of urgency. He had come for a purpose and He came with something to say and with something to do. We see that later in the text when it says that He taught with authority, and the people were not used that type of teaching. God had a purpose in Jesus Christ, and that purpose was the redemption of the world, in all that believed would have eternal life. He walked and lived with that sense of purpose.What about you? Do have a purpose in life. Whether you know it or not, you do. Only in Christ will you find that purpose, and when you do find it, it will give your life a sense of urgency. Jesus did a lot 'at once" and "without delay."

What about you? Do you move through life with purpose, or do you just kind of float around. God has something specific for you. Apart from Him you will not know it, and you will float. With Him, you will find it, and find what you should be done. Do you know your purpose? Do you know Jesus Christ as your Lord? That is how we find that purpose.

Monday, March 6, 2006

Lent: Monday, March 6, 2006

Old Testament Lesson

Genesis 37:1-11

Joseph had a gift from God in the ability to have and interpret dreams. We see other stories in his life where this gift from God was of great help to him. Today, he shared a dream he had with his brothers, and they didn't too much of that dream. Two things could be at play here. First, Joseph didn't have a lot of tact to how he told folks about these dreams. That could definitely be part of it. The other could be that the brothers just did not want to hear this news. Sometimes the Lord speaks things to us that we just don't want to hear. Sometimes he tells us to repent. Sometimes he tells us to do something we don' t want to do. To forgive someone we don't want to forgive. To serve someone we don't want to serve. His brothers didn't take this news well. How do we take what God is trying to tell us? Do take His reproval well? Or do we ignore it and do what we want to do? Only when we listen to and obey what God says for us to do can we move into the fullness of life that God longs for us to have.

New Testament Lesson

1 Corinthians 1:1-19

We cannot let our divisions separate us as Christians. Now, I'm a Methodist, it is who I am. As someone once said, "Methodist born, Methodist bred, and when I die, I'll be Methodist dead." That said, I will not let my beliefs as a Methodist separate me from brothers and sisters in Christ that may be Baptist, Catholic, Pentecostal, Presbyterian, or another Christian denominations. Now, we may have disagreements over theology and practice, but it we hold to Jesus Christ as the way to the Father then we can be one.

I do not believe that denominations are a bad thing, for we all want to worship God in the way that is most comfortable, but that said, we cannot let this divide us. For far too long, we have allowed these things to divide the people of God. Every Sunday we affirm the Apostle's Creed, which says, I believe the holy catholic church meaning that we believe in the universal church, open to all that believe in and are saved by Jesus Christ, regardless of denominations or doctrines. We cannot let these things divide those that believe. We can argue, we can discuss, but as John Wesley said in his sermon The Catholic Spirit. "If thine heart is as my heart," if thou lovest God and all mankind, I ask no more: "give me thine hand." If our hearts are right with God, regardless of what denomination we are part of, we can give each other our hand.

Gospel Lesson

Mark 1:1-13

After this great moment, his baptism, Jesus is lead into the wilderness to be tempted. If the devil will tempt Jesus, will you and I not be tempted as well? We should be ready for the coming temptation. We should keep our guard up. None of us can say today that we where not away that Satan may try to tempt us.

That said, we still have choices to make. We can lay our sin upon the devil, for we knew the temptation was coming. We may be tempted, but we still have to made the choice to give into it. Jesus was tempted as we are, yet remained without sin. Today, will you give into the temptation? Or will you strive against it? Will you seek to overcome it? Will, through power of the Holy Spirit, will you vow to be something different today, not giving into the same old temptations.

Friends, we do not have to be captive the temptations of the past, we can rise above. Today, what will you do, and what choices will you make?

Friday, March 3, 2006

Prayer and Healing

I'm blessed to serve a church that takes prayer very seriously. The altar call is not just a time for folks to come to conversion, but it is a time anyone that feels the need to come and pray. Our Sunday night service ends with family prayer time at the altar where families come together and pray, and after Bible Study on Wednesday night, folks return to the sanctuary to pray.

The Word of God says that the prayer of the righteous is powerful and affective (James 5:16). In our church in the past six months or so, we've seen a woman that everything showed she would have breast cancer suddenly turn up cancer free. Last night we had one of our teenagers flip her car and walk away bruised and bloody, but walk away.

Today, I heard from a member that has leukemia. Three weeks ago because of the the high doses of chemo he was taking he was in a coma, on a ventilator. They did not know if he would make it out. Plus, even if he did, the leukemia would be who knows how strong.

He recovered from his coma. He needs a lot of PT, but he's alive. I talked to his wife a few hours ago and when the doctors did the latest blood test, there was no leukemia present. Now, that's not to say that it might not come back or to say that he is out of the woods. But, there is no way this family could have received better news at this point in their healing.

Why? Why did all these things happen? Was it just simply dumb luck? Or was it because of prayer. I believe that in my church we are seeing God do some amazing things because we are coming to Him in pray. Is everyone healed? No, they aren't. We still have many that are sick and hurting.

But, some how, some way, our prayers are heard. The prayers of God's people are powerful. In the Gospel there was a village that Jesus could do no miracles because of their lack of faith. God can still do amazing things, if we have the faith. I don't know why in some cases there is healing and in others there is not. But, I do know that I have witnessed as a Pastor things that can only be done by God.

Pray for those that are sick tonight. Our prayers matter. They do change things. Pray and believe. See what God can do.

Lent: Friday, March 3, 2006

A shorter biblical blog today, but a “pre bible" thought. Today is the first Friday during Lent and while Lent is considered a time for prayer and reflection, Friday is especially. It was on Good Friday Jesus was crucified for our sin. Today, and each Friday during Lent, take time to look within your own heart for sin that is there. Take time to pray for you faith. Take time to pray for the lost in your community and family. Take time to pray for the sick. We should devote ourselves to prayer not just in this season, but all year long.

Gospel Lesson

John 17:9-19

Jesus today does not prayer that we are spared from suffering. Today, he prays that God is with us in our suffering. We will not be spared from the struggles of life. Some of these struggles we will bring on ourselves others will happen for no discernable reason. But, in both, know that God is with us and will be with us in spite of the struggle. Sometimes when we go through trials we are tempted to say, why has God left us? It is actually in those times, if we will look closely that God is most present in our lives. Today, if it is God’s will may we be spared such trouble, but if not, then may we realize that God is in our midst. Only in Him can we make it through trials and tragedy. We will go through such things. May we have the grace to cling tightly to our God in our hour of need.

Thursday, March 2, 2006

Lent: Thursday March 2, 2006

Old Testament Lesson

Habakkuk 3:1-18

God is a mighty God, able to save. Sometimes we can forget how strong and powerful God is. We haven't seen God send down fire from heaven in our time, so we tend to only think of God as a God of love, which He is. But, if we read the Word, we see that He is also might and strong and powerful. In this text, it is God that brings judgment, it is God that defeats the evil one and it is God that shakes the very earth.

While we are to boldly approach the throne of grace (Hebrews 4:14-16) we must never forget who we are approaching. He is the same God that expelled Adam and Eve from the Garden, the same God that brought judgement to Israel for it's sins, and the same God that we all one day stand before and give an account. While God is our friend, He is also so much more. Let us never make the mistake of taking Him too lightly.

New Testament Lesson

Philippians 3:12-21

We see two type of people in this text. Those that are enemies of the cross and those that are citizens of heaven. Those that are enemies of the cross live only for their own pleasure. They live for their appetites and glory and their minds are on earthly things. They seek only their own please and could care less about the glory of God. They will face judgement for this.

The citizen of heaven places everything under the control of Jesus Christ. And in doing that, God, through the power of His spirit will renew them and their bodies. Those that chase only their own pleasure find destruction, and those that place themselves under Jesus' Lordship find life. Today, which do we do? Do we seek only what we want? Or do we discipline ourselves? Do we obey our Lord? Do we follow? In chasing our desires and sin, we find death and judgement. In following our Lord, we find life. Today, will we follow ourselves, or will we follow Jesus?

Gospel Lesson

John 17:1-8

Jesus prays that His followers may know eternal life, and that is knowing God and Jesus. What does this mean? What does it mean to say that is eternal life. First, it means that is the only way into that full communion with God. Eternal life is not based upon our works. Now if we are a Christan, our lives will show forth good works, but those works in and of themselves are not Christianity. Christianity is faith in God and believe in Jesus Christ. That is the way to eternity. Believe of and submission to Jesus Christ.

Second, eternal life can begin now, because it comes through that knowledge of Jesus Christ. Today, through our walk with God through Jesus Christ and by the Holy Spirit, we can get a foretaste of Heaven. It is not a full glimpse, but in the moving of the Spirit, we can experience in a very, very small way what eternity with God will be like. And if the movement of the Spirit in souls now is amazing, imagine what eternity will be like. First believe, second obey; that is the way to this eternal life.

Wednesday, March 1, 2006

Ash Wednesday: March 1, 2006

Old Testament Lesson

Amos 5:6-15

At the heart of Lent and of Ash Wednesday is the notion that we are to seek good and not evil, but in reality we seek evil, not good. Today is a day to look within our hearts and find the sin there and come to realize just how much harm that sin does to ourselves and to realize the price that Jesus Christ paid for those sins.

Today in this text we see that sin is more than just just the things we thinking about, it also how we treat those less fortunate than we are. Today in this text, there is no mention of judgment for murder, lying, stealing, or adultery. Now, each of these are sins, and they will bring judgement, unless repented of. Today in this text, the sin is how they treated the poor. As much as we should repent of what we think of as sin, we should also repent of how we treat those less fortunate than ourselves. We are called to love God and our Neighbor. Do we do that? If not, we have much to repent of.

New Testament Lesson

Hebrews 12:1-14

God disciplines His children not just for discipline's sake, but because we are His children, and He expects so much more out of us. We can do so much for God, but quite often we do so little. We expect so much out of our children, and how often have the words "We taught you better than that" come out of our mouths. How much more should God say that. Do we not know better? And do we still sin? Do we still turn from God, even through we know we should not? Do we not choose our way over His? The Word says that He will discipline His children to give them life. Today, will you choose life from God or death from sin? Those are choices that we make today and every day.

Gospel Lesson

Luke 18:9-14

The Prayer of the tax collector should be our prayer today. Lord have mercy on me, a sinner. We should not think that we are more than we are. We are merely sinners, saved by grace. Lord, have mercy on me, a sinner.