Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Mission Update: Wednesday, December 27, 2006

It is amazing how much doing good for others can make you feel productive. So often we spend out time either working for our boss or company, or doing good for ourselves or our family. Even as a pastor, i spend more time focused on church stuff or care within the church than I do doing good, especially those that are in sincere need.

This mission trip is showing me a couple of things. First, we spend too much time in the church focuses on institutional survival verses actually doing something for Jesus. We spend more time worried about budgets and meeting and numbers and attendance, and for too little time worried about if we are making a difference for the Kingdom of God. The church does not exist merely to keep the doors open. We exist to do good for Jesus Christ and proclaim His salvation.

Second, salvation is not just about spiritual healing, but about physical. I know many folks that say they are saved, but there salvation exists only inward. If our inward salvation doesn't call us to outward action, then is there really anything inside? In doing such mission work, you actually feel, and know, you are doing something for Jesus.

Third, and last for today, but not for the week, mission work is no just on the Mississippi Gulf Coast. Its everywhere. Its at work. Its in our families. Its in our neighborhoods. Its in our church. It's everywhere. Everywhere there are folks in need.

As Christians, and as the church, are we meeting those needs? Are we at least trying to? If not, then what are we doing?

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Mission Update!

Be in prayer for us here on the Gulf Coast this week. We have 8 folks from church here doing mission work, me, Sandy Nicholas, and 6 youth. We will be working out of the Vancleave, MS area, and staying at Vancleave UMC. I'll try each night to send updates letting you know how and what we are doing.

Friday, December 22, 2006

No bloggging next week!

There will be no blogging next week. I will be out of town next week on a mission trip to the Gulf Coast with the youth from church. The blogging will start again on New Years Day. Have a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

Advent: Friday, December 22, 2006

Old Testament Lesson

Isaiah 10:5-19

We see here that God was going to use Assyria to punish His people, and Assyria began to think much of their own might. They began to think of themselves more highly than they ought. And the Lord says he will bring punishment upon them.

God uses whom He will and He punishes who He will. Because you have been used by God in some powerful way does not mean that you are beyond the reach of His arm for punishment. And, because He has punished you in a way does not mean that He cannot use you. If fact, His punishment often is a mean of preparation for being used. Today, looking within your life and see the areas where the Lord is working on you, and know that in those areas, the Lord is getting you ready for a mighty act.

New Testament Lesson

2 Peter 2:17-22

We see in this powerful passage it would actually be better for us not to know the ways of God than to know them and turn from them. If we see anything in the Bible, from the Old to the New Testaments, we see that the one that will be judged the harshest is the one that knows truth and does not obey. The one that will be judged will be the one that knows what God want them to do, that knows how God wants them to live, that knows who God wants them to be, and turns away.

Today, those of us that know truth, let us spend less time counting the sins of others, and spend more time looking at our own faithfulness. Let us spend less time making sure they are following the law of the Lord and more time making sure we are. Let us spend less time fussing about others lack of faithfulness and more time making sure we are faithful. For, it is better for us not to know God's will than to know it and ignore it.

Gospel Lesson

Matthew 11:2-15

John wanted to make sure that Jesus was the Messiah. How did the Jesus respond? Do you see the good that is being done? Tell him what you see, folks are healed, the poor are helped, God's will is being done. Today, if someone comes to to you and wants to know if you are a Christian, how would you respond? Would you say, look, see my name on the roll book at church? Look, see the committees I've served on? See the checks I've written?

Or would you say, see the good I do each day in my life? Friends, our faith is lived out in a day to day way. Today, if folks want to see that we are Christians may they see it in our lives. As the old hymn goes:
We are one in the Spirit, we are one in the Lord
We are one in the Spirit, we are one in the Lord
And we pray that our unity will one day be restored
And they'll know we are Christians by our love, by our love
Yeah they'll know we are Christians by our love

We will work with each other, we will work side by side
We will work with each other, we will work side by side
And we'll guard each man's dignity and save each man's pride
And they'll know we are Christians by our love, by our love
Yeah, they'll know we are Christians by our love.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Advent: Thursday, December 21, 2006

Old Testament Lesson

Isaiah 9:18-10:4

We see here that the people have turned away from God and have turned on each other. That is part of what we see in life. In the times in life when we are in discord with family and friends, the times in life when we are fighting against one another, these are problem the times when we are not at peace with God.

Jesus tells us if we have ought with our brother, take our offering from the alter and go make it right with them. Sometimes, though, we have to make things right with God before we can make it right with them. The people of Israel were at war with one another because they were not at peace with God. They would go through the motions of faithfulness to God, but they were not truly faithful. It was not until they were at peace with God they could be at peace with one another.

Today, is there someone you not at peace with? Today, are you at peace with God. Prayerfully consider in your life how these two are connected.

New Testament Lesson

2 Peter 2:10b-16

We see in this passage the danger of giving into the flesh. We will become like depraved animals, never having enough. The flesh cannot be satisfied. It cannot be satisfied with food, with sex, with money, with power. The flesh always wants more and more and more. The flesh only wants to see its desires fulfilled, and yet at the end of the day, the flesh is always empty for it can never be satisfied.

But, when we live by God's grace and God's law, we see that why we might not get what we "want," we will be satisfied. We will have the things we need most for life, love, grace, mercy, and peace. Today, will you choose to live by the ways of the flesh and be eternally hungry? Or will you live by the ways of God and be eternally satisfied?

Gospel Lesson

Matthew 3:1-12

We see John tell the ones coming today that they should come not just for baptism, but they should come with repentance and a desire to live a holy life for God. In John Wesley's day, people would mistake their infant baptism for salvation, and they would tell him they were baptized as an infant, to which Wesley would reply, do not tell me of your baptism, tell me of your conversion.

Most, if not all of us have been baptized. Some, like my children, were baptized as infants. Others as adults. However, do not mistake baptism for salvation. Baptism is about God marking us as His very own, a child of the New Covenant, someone He died to save. We still must accept that baptism as our own, we must accept that offer of salvation as our own.

Today, you can tell me of your baptism, but also, tell me of your conversion.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Advent: Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Old Testament Lesson

Isaiah 9:8-17

We see in this passage the Lord longed to give mercy to those that were in sin, to those that had turned away, if they would just return and come back to Him. They would not, and because of that, there was no mercy. The only think limiting God's ability to give mercy is our ability to receive mercy.

If, though, we do turn turn from our sin, we cannot receive His mercy. For, as long as we remain in sin, we love sin more than mercy. We love sin, more than doing right. We love sin more that God. John 3 gives us that famous passage of John 3:16, which we all know. Do you know the verses that follow it?

John 3: 19-21

And this is the judgement, that the light has come into the world, and people loved darkness rather than light because their deeds were evil. For all who do evil hate the light and do not come to the light, so that their deeds may not be exposed. But those who do what is true come to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that their deeds have been done in God.'

They loved darkness more than light; they loved sin more than God. Let us not make that same mistake.

New Testament Lesson

2 Pet 2:1-10a

This is one of those passages that we can have a long drawn out discussion about who exactly where the angels that were punished and all that; but, lets think about what is most important. If God would punish these, if God would punish His people Israel, why do we think He would not punish us as well. Just like a parent does not take great joy in punishing their children, neither does God take great joy in punishing us.

But, just as a parent will punish their child, so will our God. Today, as we draw close to Christmas, may we also draw close to our God.

Gospel Lesson

Mark 1:1-8

We see that Mark didn't have time for the manger, didn't have time for the shepherds, didn't have time for the wise men. He launches right into John the Baptist and his message of repentance and salvation. Mark gets right to the point, Jesus came to save the people from their sin.

Mark maybe a good think for us to remember in the coming days. Let us remember that the ministry and work of Jesus didn't end in a manger, and He was not born simply so that we could sing Silent Night and give presents. He was born to save the people from their sin; He was born to teach us how to live and serve; He was born to show us God's great love and to give His live as an atonementfor the world.

Let us remember who is He is, and why He came. And, let us live out the mission He gave us to live.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Advent: Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Old Testament Lesson

Isaiah 9:1-7

In this passage, we see that He has given us a Son whose name is Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Prince of Peace. And, I love the image that He shall break the yoke that has been placed upon our backs. He will break the yoke of sin, the yoke of hatred, the yoke of brokenness, all of these yokes by the grace of God, and through the power of Jesus can be broken.

Through Jesus, there is a light that shines in the darkness. It shines in the darkness of this world, bringing forth light and and a call to repentance, but it also shines in our hearts, calling us out of darkness. It calls us out of the darkness of unbelief, of unfaithfulness, of sin. The light shines, and the Son frees. Today, through Jesus, we can know light, and freedom, and grace. Today, through His grace, we can live!

New Testament Lesson

2 Peter 1:12-21

We see in this passage another mention of that light, shining in darkness. Today, Peter is talking about the Word of God, the prophesies of God. We all believe that in receiving Holy Communion, we can receive God's grace in a powerful way. Wesley taught that searching the scriptures (a daily Bible discipline) was also a means of Grace. And through this, we can receive God's grace to live the holy life He calls us to.

Today, in this moment, you can receive God's grace through His Word. Today, you can receive His light, through the Word. Today, you can receive the power you need to live the life He has called you to, through the Word. Today, His light shines, today, may we receive it.

Gospel Lesson

Luke 22:54-69

Here we see the symbolism of Peter, standing beside a light, and following The Light, but still choosing the darkness of denial. He had three chances to stand with Jesus, to claim Him as his own, to glorify Him. And, three times he denied.

Why? Maybe fear. Maybe he was worried. Maybe he just panicked. We don't know. We simply know that three times he denied Jesus. And, we know this. In John Gospel, three times, after the Resurrection, Jesus came to Peter and asked Him if He loved Him. And, for each of the three denials, Jesus gave him forgiveness, and a way to make it right.

You sin can be and will be forgiven, if you will receive it. The only think keeping us from God is not our sin, but our pride and unwillingness to receive His forgiveness. Today, if you will take it, you can be forgiven, through His amazing grace.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Advent: Thursday, December 14, 2006

Sorry for no blogging yesterday. I had a touch of a stomach bug and it knocked me down most of yesterday morning.

Old Testament Lesson

Isaiah 7:1-9

King Ahaz sees all these troubles coming, he sees all these nations conspiring against his country, and he is rightly worried. When we are charged to take care of someone or called to lead something, and we see things beyond our control going wrong, it worries us, it scares us, it greatly troubles us.

Isaiah comes to him today with a message from God. Stand firm. If you do not stand upon your faith, you have nothing to stand on. God is at work, God has a plan, God is always doing something. Stand upon. Do not stand upon what you think you can do or what your plans are. Stand firm upon God, stand firm upon your faith. He is working. Trust in Him. As the Word says, we walk by faith, not by sight. Today, may faith open your eyes so that you can see what God is doing.

New Testament Lesson

2 Thessalonians 2:1-12

We see in this text that Satan uses all powers of deception to fool and trick those that do not believe. That is why we must always be aware, always looking, always examining, always testing. Satan is the father of lies, and we must make sure as well that we are not buying his lies. We must make that we are listening to God's voice, not to his.

There are always voices coming at us from every side, and they are not all from God. That is why we must spend time with God, listening to His voice, so that we will know it when we need to hear. Unless we spend time with Him, we will not be able to hear Him. Today, listen to His voice, and know that He is calling you to something great today.

Gospel Lesson

Luke 22:1-13

Two things jumped out at me when I was reading this. First it was the day when the Passover lamb was the to be sacrificed. Now, we then to think of this as talking about the Passover and the meal that Jesus and His disciples where getting ready to eat. But, there is something deeper going on. What was Jesus, but the lamb that was slayed for before the foundations of the world (Revelation 13:8). This was the day that was set aside for our salvation.

And this ties into the second thought. God's plan was at work, and the disciples found everything prepared as they needed it. Friends, God's plan is beyond you and me. It is great than us. It is working in ways that we can never fully understand. But, it is at work for our salvation, and the salvation of the world. Today, let us look around for what God is doing. And let us join in His great plan of salvation.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Advent: Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Old Testament Lesson

Isaiah 5:13-25

We see the Lord's judgement come against His people. We see that it was tough, that it was harsh, and that it was painful. Why did it come? Because they departed from His will and His way. They were not who He called them to be. And, because of their sin, they faced judgement.

How much pain do we bring upon ourselves because we are not faithful? How much pain do we cause ourselves and those that we love because we do not live in the way God calls us to. Thought obedience to Him, we find freedom. To obedience to ourselves we find pain an loss. Today, may we find the grace to obey God and follow where He leads.

New Testament Lesson

1 Thessalonians 5:12-28

We see that we are admonish the weak and those that are idle, those that are not doing what they should be. But, Paul tells us that we should be patient with them. We should be loving, not vengeful or wrathful. We should speak to those that are in sin in love. Why? Because has not our God been patient with us while we were in sin, and even now, when such sin exists in our lives.

How can we be patient? How can we be loving and caring in such a might way? The Word tell us, pray without ceasing. Without prayer, we cannot do these things.

Gospel Lesson

Luke 21:29-38a

Be on guard, be in prayer, look up, so that your heart is not weighed down by the stuff of life: drunkenness, sin, and yes, worry. This is an issue, like most, where I am speaking to myself above all else. Do not worry about this life, do not worry about what shall be, do not worry about these concerns. Place your faith in God, place your obedience in God, place your hope in God. And, He will not put that hope away.

Do not allow your soul to be weighted down, but allow it to be free and sour as God would have it to. Allow it to be free and mount up on wings like eagles. Today, may we not be weighted down, today, may we live.

Friday, December 8, 2006

Advent: Friday, December 8, 2006

Old Testament Lesson

Isaiah 3:8-15

We see here the Lord reminding us that He will judge the wicked for their sin. And look at what of the judgements He states against the people today:

It is you who have devoured the vineyard;
the spoil of the poor is in your houses.
What do you mean by crushing my people,
by grinding the face of the poor? says the Lord
God of hosts.

How we treat others matters. How we treat the least among us matters. How we treat those that have less than we do matters. It is not just enough for us to pray, it is not just enough for us to read the word. It must impact ours, it must change the way that we live, it must change the way that treat those that are less fortunate than we are.

As we draw close to Christmas, are your eyes focused only upon yourself, and your wants? Or do you take time think about, and act on behalf of the poor, the needy, the distressed? Today, God stands in judgement against His people because they did not. Today, may we not receive the same judgement.

New Testament Lesson

1 Thessalonians 4:1-12

We are to live lives of self control and discipline. We are not to live according the desires of the flesh, but rather the will of God. We are not live only the way that we want, but rather, the way that God wants. We are not to do only what we want, but rather what God wants. For our will and and our way leads to death. God's will and God's way leads to life. Today, which way will you choose?

Gospel Lesson

Luke 20:41-21:4

We see Jesus remind us today that we must be careful that our religion is not just for other people to see. What is important is how close we are to God, not how close others think that we are to God. If our religious acts are done only so that other people can be impressed by how holy we are, that is not good.

We do not need to be concerned about how much other people think we are holy, we need to be concerned about how much God thinks we are holy. If your religion is done only for others to see, then in that you have your reward. Be very careful to make yourself appear more holy than you really are. We are all just sinners saved by grace, and it is God that deserves any praise from the good in our lives, not us.

And this echoes the Old Testament passage. He attacks their outward only religion, and He attacks how they mistreat the poor and those that are in need, particularly the widow. And then, He shows them that this mistreated widow is actually more holy than they are, for she gave from all that she had.

Wednesday, December 6, 2006

Advent: Wednesday, December 6, 2006

Old Testament Lesson

Isaiah 2:1-11

We see here a contrast between what God wants to do and what the people. He wants to teach the people His way. He wants to instruct them. He wants to help them to live in peace and love and righteousness. He wants good things for them.

The people want to consult idols and diviners. They want to do it their way. They want to walk by their own wisdom, not by Gods. They want their truth to be truth. Instead of coming humbly to God, they stand proudly on their own.

And, because of that choice, they fall into sin, and they will be judged. Today, will follow the wisdom of God's teaching, or the folly of our own?

New Testament Lesson

1 Thessalonians 2: 13-20

We see here that Paul commends the people for being imitators of other churches. There's an old saying that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery and while I don't know if that is true, there is something to be said for doing what others are doing. If someone is Godly, watch what they do, and do as they do. If someone is mature in the faith, what what they do and do what they do. If someone is doing great things for the Lord, what they do and do what they do.

We, through must be aware, that others are watching us. Let us live in such a way where they can say, now that is a Christian, let me do as they do!

Gospel Lesson

Luke 20:19-26

We see here that they tried to trick Jesus, but He was able to see what they were doing. Friends, do we try to trick Him at times ourselves? Do we try to pretend that we are better than we really are? Do we try to portray ourselves as much righteous than we really are? He could see through them, and He can see through us. Let us not play games with Jesus, but come to Him as we truly are. And in that, He will give us the grace that we truly need for this hour.

Monday, December 4, 2006

Advent: Monday, December 4, 2006

Old Testament Lesson

Isaiah 1:10-20

We see here that the Lord condemns just going through the motions. He condemns, just "playing church." God doesn't want false sacrifices. He wants us to wash and really be made clean. He wants us to really change. He wants us to be obey. He doesn't want us to act Christian, He wants us to be Christian.

And how did He make this possible. He gave us His only son in the form on a new born baby, to grow into a man that would show us what life was supposed to be. Jesus Christ showed us how to love, how to serve, how to obey, how to live. And then, He died upon the cross for our sins and rose from the dead for our victory. Today, don't go through the motions of faith, really live faith. Don't just do what you've always done, do something great for Jesus. He gave us life and wants us to truly live it!

New Testament Lesson

1 Thessalonians 1:1-10

We see in this passage that when the people of this church were saved, it came with power. What does this mean? Could they fly? Did they have x-ray vision? What does it mean to talk about this power?

It means that they were able to do more than they thought. They were able to do things that they didn't think were possible. They were able be more for God than they ever thought they could be. they could do more for God than they could ever imagine. Through God and His power, we can do great things. Through the power of the Holy Spirit, God can use us in great ways. Through Him, we can know these things.

But first we must know Him and His salvation. Today, have you taken that first step?

Gospel Lesson

Luke 20:1-8

We see here that Jesus was preaching the good news, and the teachers of the law came, trying to set a trap for Him. Here He was, teaching, sharing, preaching, and loving. And the religious leaders could have joined in and helped Him. Instead, they tried to stop Him. They could have been part of what God was doing, or they could work against what God was doing. They chose to work against it.

Today, you will see things God is doing or things that God wants to do. Will you choose to join into what God is doing? Or will you work against it? Only in following God and following His spirit and plan will we know new life. Today, will you join into God's work, or will you choose to stand there on the sidelines?