Monday, December 31, 2007

Greetings from Israel

Good evening, or morning, or whatever time it may be for you. I am currently in Tiberius, Israel, right beside the Sea of Galilee. Originally I wanted to upload pictures of my trip to this blog, but due to Internet problems in the hotel, that won't be possible.

We'll be back in the States next week, so my normal blogging will resume then. So, till then, Happy New Year and we'll talk to you soon!

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Advent: Thursday, December 20, 2007

This may be my last posting for a few weeks. After Christmas, Holly and I are going to the Holy Land for 11 days, and during that time, I won't be sending and devotionals out. The posting will resume when we get back, around January 8 or 9.

But, while I am in Israel, I am going to try something. I'm going to keep a running journal of all that we see, and all the pictures I take. I'll keep that journal here on this blog. Well, I'm going to try to do this. I've never been to Israel, so I assume I'll be able to get on the Internet and upload pictures, but I don't know for sure. Check back in next Thursday or Friday and see if I've been able to upload anything! Merry Christmas, Happy New Year!

Old Testament Lesson

Zechariah 4:1-14

We see in this passage how God accomplishes the things that He wants to accomplish. Not by might, not by power, but by His spirit. We are able to do the things we do not by our own strength or might, but through His. Remember in what we accomplish, it is His power that makes it possible.

Also, remember that when face a mountain that we don't feel like we can climb, we will climb it, but not by our strength or power, but by His. The Holy Spirit calls us to things, and enables us to things that we never thought possible. And, through our own power, they would not be possible. But, by God's spirit, nothing is impossible.

New Testament Lesson

Revelation 4:9-5:5

I love the imagery seen in this passage for Jesus. The Lion of the Tribe of Judah. The Lion is the king, mightiest of all the animals. He is the one that rules the jungle and is all powerful. And that is how Jesus is seen in this passage. He is the Lion, He is the king, He is all powerful. And He is the fulfillment of all that God has done, He is the fulfillment of God's plan, He is the completion of God's work of redemption. He is worthy of all praise that we could give to Him, for our life and for our salvation.

Gospel Lesson

Matthew 25:1-13

Once again, we get the message, be ready. Be on watch. Be looking. We never know when the Lord will return, and we never know when He will appear in our lives. We don't know in what new ways He may call us to something today. So, be ready! Be alert! Be looking. You never know when we may encounter the Lord!

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Advent; Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Old Testament Lesson

Zechariah 3:1-10

There is a description of Satan seen in the Bible, "the accuser of the brethren." We see it here as well, where Satan accuses Joshua of sin. But, we see as well what happens with that accusation. It cannot stand against God's grace and the one that had received God's grace.

We all hear that little whisper in the back of minds. . . .you're not good enough. . . look at what you've done. . . . how could God use you? . . . forgive you. . . . restore you?

Remember that just the activity of the accuser of the brethren. Remember, those accusations cannot overcome God's grace. Remember that through His grace, you are loved, redeemed, and forgiven. Remember through that grace you can by used by God in ways that you could never even imagine. Don't listen to the voice of the accuser saying that you can't. Listen the voice of God saying you can.

New Testament Lesson

Revelation 4:1-8

We see here one of the main messages of Revelation. God is Holy. God is other. God is worthy of praise. That is the one concept that keeps coming back again, again, and again. God is Holy. That defines everything in Revelation. God is Holy.

Gospel Lesson

Matthew 24:45-51

Jesus encourages us to in this day, be at work for whatever it is that the Lord has called you to. Be at work in that. Be at work in your calling, bet at work in His grace, be at work in who He has made you to be. Be faithful today!

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Advent: Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Old Testament Lesson

Zechariah 2:1-13

In much of the Old Testament, God is distant. He tells Moses stand, and he can see the backside of God's glory when he passes (Exodus 33). Moses does speak with God face to face, but only Moses. God is the Temple, in the Holy of Holies. God is in the Ark of the Covenant, which was so holy that if you touched it would die. God is too strong and powerful. God is far away.

Yet in this passage, we see the promise of what we have in Christ. God is not far away. God is not impersonal. God is in our midst. God is with us. God in just a far away holy God that we can't know or touch. God is our friend, our companion, our guide, the lover of souls. Today, rejoice, for God is with us. He is as close as our next breath, and through faith we can reach out and touch Him.

New Testament Lesson

Revelation 3:14-22

Ah, the great condemnation of Laodicea. They were neither hot not cold. They were just lukewarm. Isn't it odd that God would rather have someone work against Him than to be only halfway for Him? Why is that? God doesn't just want part of us, He wants us all. He doesn't just want an hour on Sunday, He wants all our week. He wants to convert all that we are into who He wants us to be.

And, if He only has part of us, that will never happen. It isn't until we are completely His that He can completely change us. For instance, how many of us have given a prayer concern over to God, and then took it right back and continued to worry about it. The reason why we have no peace over that issue is because we have only paid lip service to handing it over. It isn't until we truly give our concerns to God, and leave them there, trusting in Him, that we will have the peace we crave.

Likewise, it isnt' until we are fully His that we can truly know the fullness of His grace. So today, lets be hot for God. Let's not be lukewarm. Let's be completely on fire for Him, and in doing that, we'll know the life and peace He longs for us to have.

Gospel Lesson

Matthew 24:32-44

Today, live expectantly in reality of Christ's coming. Be looking all around for Jesus in your midst. Look for Him in areas of service. Look for Him in ares of obedience. Look for Him all that you do today. He is returning one day, we don't know when. But, we do know that today, in some way, we will each have an opportunity to serve Him. Today, look for that chance. And, when it comes, take advantage of it! Today our Lord will come to each of us with a chance to serve. Today, may we do what He leads us to do.

Monday, December 17, 2007


This is my newest article for the Southern Sentinel, entitled "Singing"

I heard someone say that can’t wait to get to heaven, because when they get there, and they join in the heavenly choir, they know for once, their voice will sound good. I understand that thought. Some folks question if I can preach. No one questions that I can’t sing. I wish I could. But, unfortunately, that gift went to my wife. And to the choir at First United Methodist. And, to a lot of folks here in this town. But, not to me.

But, in this time of year, I feel like singing. There is just something about the Christmas season. It is something about this time of year. Maybe it is the sparkle in a child’s eye when they see Santa Clause around town. Maybe it’s the joy that ripples throughout town while watching a parade around the square. Maybe it’s the hairs on the back of neck being raised when you hear a Christmas song sung in the just the right way.

But, whatever it may be, in this time of year, we just feel like singing. Now, that is not to say that everyone feels that way. For some of us, this is not the happiest time. Perhaps it’s the first Christmas without the one we love. Perhaps this time of year brings back bad memories. Perhaps we’ve been struggling and there is not as much under the tree as we’d like.

It’s then that the truth behind the songs that are sung becomes most real. We sing not in praise of Santa or the tree of the family or anything else. We sing in praise of the fact that unto us a Babe was born. One was born to save us from our sins, to teach us to love each other, and to love us.

This year, sing out. Sing not because life is perfect or easy. Sing not because we have everything we want. Sing not for any of these reasons. Sing because you are loved! You are precious in God’s sight. You are of a sacred worth! You have been given a gift that is great than anything you could ever imagine!

You have been loved by a Mighty God. You are loved by a Might God. That is why we feel like singing.

Advent: Monday, December 18, 2007

We've been fighting computer problems this morning here in the office, so today just an Old Testament reading.

Old Testament Lesson

Zechariah 1:7-17

One of the constant themes of the Old Testament Readings during the season of Advent is that in spite of the sin of the people; in spite of their turning away, God is sending a new hope. God is sending someone that will bring about peace and hope and love. God is sending someone that will restore things to the way that it ought to be and bring about the life that God wants for His people to have.

So, even in the midst of our wilderness wandering, God is there. Even when we've turned away, God is there. Even when we feel like we've lost our way, God is there. He is always calling us back home, calling us unto Himself, calling us back to life.

Even now, in this moment, He is calling back. Come on home, even now.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Advent: Thursday, December 13, 2007

Old Testament Lesson

Amos 9:1-10

We see the Lord's judgment coming stronger and stronger in this passage until it is nearly about to explode. And then He says, but I will not destroy all of the House of Jacob. Even this, in this moment of wrath from God, there is grace extended. Even this, when God is most likely to rain down judgment upon those that have turned away; He says that if they will turn back, they will be saved.

Even in that dark moment, grace is there. So is it in our lives.

New Testament Lesson

Revelation 2:8-17

One of the overriding themes we see in Revelation is that the people will not be spared from suffering. Just because you follow the Lord, it does not mean that it is all a bed of roses. In both of the churches mentioned in this letter, they had been faithful. And yet, they had suffered with persecution and trouble. So, even in the lives of the faithful; trouble will come.

That is why we hold fast to Jesus, so that when the time of trouble comes, we'll be ready. Remember, His grip on us is always there, even in the storm.

Gospel Lesson

Matthew 23:13-26

And we contrast God's grace with the lives of the Pharisees. God extends grace, God extends mercy, God extends hope and salvation and grace. And the Pharisees extend judgment and self righteousness and legalistic pride. May we offer that grace of God, not the judgement of the Pharisees.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Advent: Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Old Testament Lesson

Amos 8:1-14

We see here in this passage the Lord is mad because the people are going to church. That's a little odd. He says He is tried of their festivals of their offerings of all the things that they do that are the form of religion. That is not what He wants. He wants a broken and humble heart.

Believe me, I'm a preacher, church is a good thing. I hope everyone that reads this will be in church this coming Sunday. We each need desperately what church can provide. But, the point of faith is not just to go to church, it is to become more Christ like. Church is not the end of our faith, it is just the beginning. Church helps to shape us so that we can go into the world and be salt and light.

The Lord wants our hearts. He wants our love. He wants all that we are. The people in this text went to the temple, but didn't give Him their hearts. May we go to Church, but may He also have our hearts.

New Testament Lesson

Revelation 1:17-2:7

In each of the seven churches of Revelation, we see the Lord critique what is happening. In Ephesus, we see Him tell the people that they had lost to their first love. Lotsof things compete for our attention in life; lots of things pull at our time, at our wallet, at our schedule, at our souls. May we never let all the things that pull at us take us from our first love.

Gospel Lesson

Matthew 23:1-12

We see one of the greatest criticisms Jesus had of the religious leaders was their pride. Jesus over and over again told His people to be humble. To serve. To not boast. To be lowest. For if we humble ourselves, it will be God that will lift us up. But, if we walk around proud, as the word tell us, it is the pride that goes before the fall.

May we remember that our Lord came to serve and not to be served. And, may we do the same.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

A Whispered Prayer

Here's my newest article for the Southern Sentinel

A Whispered Prayer

My daughter has recently learned to say the blessing. We’ve always said one before we have eaten together. That’s how I grew up. My dad would always say a prayer over the meal before we would eat. It’s all I know. So, as I now have my own family, I took to saying the blessing when we would sit down to eat. Plus, I’m a preacher, and that’s what preachers do. I always joke that during this time of year when we sit down to different meals with different families, I pray for food. Literally. I pray, I get to eat. As my cousins joke, “Andy, you get paid to do it anyway!”

But recently, that’s recently changed. My three year old, Sarah, she has learned the old blessing that so many of us learned in our childhood, “God is great, God is good, let us thank Him for our food. By His hands we are fed, Give us Lord our daily Bread. Amen.” And, now I’m bragging, but for a three year old, she does pretty well. And, I’ll also brag, it makes me really proud of her when we sit to eat at the house, or with complete strangers, when she bows her head and says the blessing for us.

But, she doesn’t say it very loud. She’s young, she’s a little quiet, and unlike her dad, she doesn’t have a loud voice. Sometimes, it can be hard to hear what she is saying when she prays.

Bill Moyers once was asked to give a blessing when Lyndon Johnson was President. Moyers said the prayer, but not very loudly. After the blessing the President commented, “Moyers, I couldn’t hear what you said.” Bill Moyers replied, “Sir, I wasn’t talking to you.”

I don’t care if my daughter ever says her prayers loud enough for me to hear. She’s not talking to me. She’s talking to God. So is it with all of our prayers. When you pray, you are talking to no one else, but our Father in Heaven.

Today, take time to talk to God. Don’t worry about what you will say. The words don’t matter anyway. What matters is the heart. Take time to talk to God. He wants to hear from us. Today, let us whisper that prayer. It doesn’t matter if anyone hears or not. God hears. And He’s who we are talking to anyway.

More FUMC pics

You can click here to see some more pictures of our children's Christmas programs from this past Sunday, as well as some pictures of our yearly Plumb Pudding Party!

Advent: Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Old Testament Lesson

Amos 7:10-17, 24-25

This is one of the great rebukes in scripture. The king tells Amos to get away and stop preaching bad news to him, and Amos says, I'm not a priest, not a prophet, I'm just a shepherd. And, I'm just doing what God has called me to do. And, God did call, and he did do.

God calls those that are willing to go and serve, not just those that are qualified. Today, do you feel called to something? Then, do it! Don't worry about anything else. If you are called, then go! God will take care of the rest.

New Testament Lesson

Revelation 1:9-16

One thing we see in Revelation is a lot Biblical imagery from the Old Testament, but, this really isn't the forum to really dig down to that level. (Although, those that receive this from Ripely FUMC, I'm going to teach Revelation next year during Sunday School). But, the one thing that Revelation shows us is the importance of the whole of scripture. It is so important to keep things in context when reading them, and focus more on the big picture than all the small details. When we have that big picture in mind, we will be able to see what God is trying to say to us.

Gospel Lesson

Matthew 22:34-46

In this passage, we see the goal, the completeness, the whole of our faith. We see ultimately what we are put here to do; what we are grow towards, what should be the heartbeat of our faith. We see what we are here for and what the Lord wants us to do above all else. Love of God. Love of Neighbor. Those two things must be our guiding principal in all of live. Does what we do further our love of God? Does it further our love of neighbor? This is the command of God for the Christian. Love God. Love Neighbor. The rest takes care of itself.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Pictures of FUMC Children's Program

You can click Ripley FUMC's picture blog to see pics from our Children's Christmas Program's from yesterday

Advent:: Monday, December 10, 2007

Old Testament Lesson

Amos 7:1-9

We see the Lord give Amos warnings of potential destruction that is to come, if the people do not turn from their ways. Destruction, though is not sure to come. If they turn from their ways, if they turn to the Lord, they can and will live again. They must turn. The plumb line is laid out to measure them. But, it is not complete. There is always a second chance.

So it is for us, there is always another chance. Let us take advantage of God's grace that is new to us in this new day.

New Testament Lesson

Revelation 1:1-8

In this beginning of Revelation, the Lord says that it is given so that folks can understand what He is doing. Sometimes in life, God doesn't makes. Sometimes, His plans aren't always clean. Sometimes, we are at a loss for what He is doing. Sometimes, we just don't know.

But there will come a time when we do understand. There will come a time when we do see. There will come a time when we do know. Just keep holding on, and believe. God will let us all know, one day.

Gospel Lesson

Matthew 22:23-33

God is the God of the living. So, all that are in Him are alive. So, today, live! Live like you've never lived! Know His grace, and know His life! Today, live.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

On the Road Again

This is my latest article for the Southern Sentinel

One of my earliest memories may tell you a great deal about me. One of the things that I remember first from my childhood was my brother bringing home a new 8 track that we played in our home stereo of Willie Nelson singing “On the Road Again.” I remember that like it was yesterday and to this day I love that song.

That may be because I come from a family of travelers. My dad is a trucker driver. Before they adopted me, he used to travel long haul, all over the country. When they got me, he hauled boxes between Fernwood, MS and Birmingham. And now, he hauls chickens for Sanderson Farms in McComb. My brother was a trucker driver, too, before an injury. He hauled groceries, and then the mail all over the Southeast.

But, Andy, you’re not a trucker, right? You’re a preacher? That’s right. But, since we’ve been in the ministry, I’ve lived in Jackson (Raymond, to be exact), then the Delta (Cleveland) and East Mississippi (Philadelphia). And now, here in Ripley. So, my family has gotten to see a lot of this wonderful state, and we’ve been able to sing “On the Road Again” some ourselves.

I tell you this to remind you about how great it is to have a home. You don’t know the adventure of traveling, if you don’t have a place to lay your head on at night. You don’t know how fun it is to see new things, if you don’t have something familiar to come back to. You don’t enjoy being gone unless you have something to come back to.

As someone still pretty new to Ripley, and Tippah County, I’m sharing all this with you to let you know, as someone not “from around here” what a wonderful place we live in. What a great part of the world to call home. We live a great part of the world with community spirit, with a desire to be the best place we can possibly be.

What a great place to call home! As we travel a lot during this season, with all the places we will go, with all the time “on the road again” don’t forget where home is. Don’t forget what great place this is, and don’t forget to do your part!

For, the only way that our home can continue to be the great place it is, is if we all do our part! In this season, and in the coming New Year, let’s all do our part to continue to make Ripley and Tippah County the shinning stars that we know that they are!

Advent: Wednesday, December 5, 2007

There will be no blogging tomorrow. I'll be out of town for the Pastor's Leadership School and the camp ground we will be staying at does not have Internet access. So, we'll resume on Monday.

Old Testament Lesson

Amos 3:12-4:5

We see in this passage that the Lord condemns these people for many reasons, but one of the main ones is because they are not taking care of the needy in their midst. There are folks around them in need, and they are doing nothing to help them. That is a great lesson for us this morning.

Today, we will encounter people in need. It man be physical need. It may be emotional. It may be spiritual. Someone may need a shoulder to cry on. An ear to listen. A kind word. A hug. Somehow, some way, we will each meet someone in need. May we do all that we can to help those that we meet.

New Testament Lesson

2 Peter 3:1-10

One of the virtues that this passage teaches us is patience. This book was written almost 2000 years ago. At this time, folks were getting tried of waiting for the return of Christ. Some that opposed the church said, see, He's not coming. 2000 years ago, folks were getting impatient waiting for His return.

You can go to Google and look up anything having to do with Jesus return and get thousands of pages. Some folks seem to be more focused on His return, than on doing His will. He will come when He is supposed to return. Let's not worry about that. Let's worry about doing all the good that we can do right now! For His sake, and for His kingdom! Let's do what He has called us to do!

Gospel Lesson

Matthew 21:23-32

We see Jesus tell the teachers of the Law that if they do not believe, there false religion will not be enough. In the above two lessons, I talked about how we are to be going and doing. Yes we are. But, before we go and do, before we do these things, we must make sure our heart is right. For the religion of Jesus starts with that heart, and moves outward. Today, may we focus our hearts on Him. Then our actions will follow.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Advent: Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Old Testament Lesson

Amos 3:1-11

In this passage the Lord tells us that He does nothing without first letting His people know what is happening. One of the gifts that God has given us is that He wants us to cooperate with His plan and what He is doing. So, to do this, He lets us know what He is going to do. In this passage He is warning about coming judgement, saying, have I not told you what I plan on doing?

But, in our lives, if we will watch, and listen, and pray, we will see what He is going to do. We just have make ourselves aware, and discipline ourselves to be looking. If we do this, then He will surly let us know what His plans for us are.

New Testament Lesson

2 Peter 1:12-21

One of the truths we see in scripture is the need to be reminded of things. In this passage we are told that we will keep being reminded of what has been taught and seen in the past. That's a good thing. Sometimes life can be so busy that we can forget. We can forget God's grace, God's call, God's plan. So, we need to be reminded.

I've always like the last verse of that old hymn, "I Love to Tell the Story."

I love to tell the story, for those who know it best
Seem hungering and thirsting to hear it like the rest.
And when, in scenes of glory, I sing the new, new song,
’Twill be the old, old story that I have loved so long.
Just because we've heard it before; we all need to be reminded of that great story.

Gospel Lesson

Matthew 21:12-22

One of the more amazing things that we see in scripture, in my opinion, is that those that opposed Jesus got mad when He helped people. They would get mad when He would heal the blind, or cure the sick, or raise the dead. Why?

They got mad because He didn't do it the way that they felt like it should have been done. He didn't do it by their rules in their way. Isn't that sad, to get mad when good is done?

Sometimes, thought, if we are not careful, we can fall into the same trap. God may be doing something good in our lives, but it is not done the way that we'd like for it do be done. And, we can sometimes get mad. Remember, in this life, to look at the good being done, and not always focus on whether its done the way that we like or not.

Monday, December 3, 2007

Advent: Monday, December 3, 2007

Old Testament Lesson

Amos 2:6-16

We see that one of the things that the Lord condemns the people for in this passage is that not only did they do wrong, but they led others to do wrong. One of the things that we must always know is our power and influence. There are always folks watching us. Seeing how we live, seeing what we do.

That sometimes puts undo pressure us on us, doesn't it? It makes us feel like we can't make any mistakes, or else. That is not what that means. Living the Christian life means that sometimes we make mistakes. And, what do we do when we do that? We say, I'm sorry. We say, I made a mistakes. We ask forgiveness.

The Christian life is not about false perfection. It is about real life, trying to be obedient to Christ, and we we fall, get up and keep going. Let us always ask forgiveness, and offer forgiveness. For, as we have been forgiven, we are to forgive each other.

New Testament Lesson

2 Peter 1:1-11

Sometimes we get the feeling that we just can't do whatever it is that we are called to do, or that we feel led to do. We think that the mountain is to high, or the valley too wide that we can't jump across. Today, in this passage, we see that all these great things, power, and strength, all that we can ask for, are there for us in Christ Jesus.

If He has called you to something, you can do it! Through His power, there is no mountain too high! Today, you can! Believe it! He is with you. Rely upon His strength and power.

Gospel Lesson

Matthew 21:1-11

The two events that bind our faith together are Christmas and Easter. On Christmas, our hope was born, on Easter, our hope suffered and died so that we could be reconciled to God. In this passage, we see Jesus enter into Jerusalem on the back of a humble donkey, entering what He knew would result in the cross.

One thing we see in the life of Jesus is humility. He was the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. How did He enter into the world? A manger, something used for the feeding of animals. How did He enter into Jerusalem? Not a stallion, as a conquering king would do,but on the back of donkey.

Christ humbly did these things to show us that life is not in exalting ourselves or in seeking gain only for ourselves; life is found in living outside of ourselves. Living for Him, living for family, living for purpose. Today, may we see that true life comes from living in the hope of something greater than ourselves.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

My wife is awesome!

Like most preachers, I married above myself. My wife Holly was recently featured in an article in the Interpreter about healthy eating during the Holiday Season. Click here to see how awesome my wife is!

Ordinary Time: Thursday, November 29, 2007

Old Testament Lesson

Zephaniah 3:1-13

We see even in the starkest condemnation of the people, which the first part of lesson is, there is always the hope of salvation and grace. Yes, the Lord condemns the people for their sin, for their selfishness, for there turning from Him. But, He also says that there will be a remnant that is saved.

No matter what path we wind up on, there is always the opportunity to turn back around and come back home. We see that in this passage. The people had turned from God, they had wandered away and begun to do their own thing. The Lord says, you will reap what you so. But, if you turn back, you will be saved.

Grace is always calling us back home, no matter where we are.

New Testament Lesson

1 Peter 2:11-25

One of the commands that Peter gives to the people is to be a good citizen. Be part of your community. He puts it forth in terms of obeying the Emperor, but what he is urging us to do is be active in our society. Take part in the things of our community. Work for the common good. Find an area where your gifts and graces can be used, and use them. Don't sit on the sidelines, be a part!

There are places in your hometown, in your church, in your family that you can be part of. In this season, find your place, and join in! We'll all be better for it.

Gospel Lesson

Matthew 20:1-16

One of the things the things that I am most thankful for in life is God's grace and that His mercy and love towards me are not dependant upon me, but rather are dependent upon who He is. We cannot earn that love, mercy, and grace, it is freely given. In this parable, the mistake that many ofthe workers made was that they thought they had "worked" harder than the others, so they should be able to determine who received the most.

The Lord said no, He gives grace freely and to all. Isn't that wonderful? God's grace is given to us simply because of who God is. Today, you don't have to earn God's love. He simply loves you, more than you will ever know. Today, rest in that knowledge.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Ordinary Time: Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Today, just a quick thought. I had have a little car work this morning, so I'm running late. But, while I was waiting, I was doing some reading. This book I was reading is entitled Rejoicing in Hope and it is one of the Advent Bible Studies that many folks will be doing. I was reading in these first chapter about Hope and how it sometimes requires waiting. And the hardest thing to deal with with waiting is losing hope. Sometimes we feel like our prayers may not be answered. Sometimes we feel like we are hoping in vain. Sometimes it feels like there is no reason to even hope.

And at time the most dangerous thing that we can do is to be tempted to give up hope. We can think that things will never change, that there is no reason to hope and that there we should just give up on waiting for things to improve.

It is in that place that Advent comes to us, telling, do not give up! The Christ Child is coming! Your hope is not in vain. The Lord hears. The Lord will answer. You have a hope, even now!

So, today, in whatever you are doing, do not give up hope! The Lord hears, understands, and will answer. Today, and always, keep on hoping!

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Ordinary Time: Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Old Testament Lesson

Nahum 1:1-13

We see in Nahum the same duality we see in other Prophets. God is strong, God is righteous, God will bring forth justice upon the other and those that do evil and oppress others, those that worship false idols, those that do no follow the Lord will receive justice.

That's a pretty common thought in the prophets. But, something stood out to me in this passages. In the middle of the text, it says this, "The Lord is good." Sometimes what is the good thing means that we must stand up against what is wrong. Righteous is means taking that stand against injustice, against what is wrong, against what is tearing people apart.

The Lord was bringing justice to the world through the prophets. In the same way, He can use each of us to bring some justice to our world by doing what is right and good today. Today, may we be instruments of God's grace.

New Testament Lesson

1 Peter 1:13-25

Part of being used by God is living in such a way that we can hear His voice. Today, Peter tell us to discipline ourselves. Take time each day to do the things that we need to do to fully know God. Take time for the discipline of prayer. Take time for the discipline of reading the Word. Take time for the discipline of service to others. These are things that we must do.

Not because God will be mad if we don't. But, it is in doing these things that we can find His grace, we can hear His voice, and we can know what He has called us to do.

Gospel Lesson

Matthew 19:13-22

We see two people come before Jesus. We see the children, who left behind everything they were doing to come to Jesus. And we see the rich young ruler, who would not. One of the things that is so amazing about children is their focus. When they want something, they focus only on that. When my daughter wants to watch Dora the Explorer in the morning, that is all that she is worried about.

How many of us have the same childlike focus on Jesus? The rich young ruler did not. Other things had his attention more than Jesus. How about us? What other things pull our attention away from Jesus?

Monday, November 26, 2007


I just posted a couple of new articles that I have written for the Southern Sentinel. I hope you enjoy them!

The Eye of the Storm

One of the fascinating things about a hurricane is the eye. It is in the middle of the storm, almost ride dab in the center of a hurricane. The winds are raging all round the eye. The waves are crashing. The power and chaos of the storm whirls completely around the eye.

Yet, the eye is calm. Even in the worst storms, the eye is relatively safe. On the Coast, when the eye of a storm pass over, folks can actually walk outside, take a look around, and see the damage that has been done. It can be a chance in a storm to take note of how things are.

But, the eye doesn’t last long. Before you know it, the wind is wiping, the rain is falling, and the storm is back. The winds shift directions after the eye passes, but the result is often the same. The storm is back with its full force.

I hope this past Thanksgiving was an eye for you. I know many of you had a lot of work to do, lots of cooking, cleaning, and other things that were essential to do. But, I hope that even in that, if just for a moment, you were able to find a time to let the winds pass around, to let the work and worry slide away, and, if just for that one moment, rest in the joy of family and thankfulness.

I hope you had your eye. For, the busyness of the season is upon us. There is much work to be done. There is shopping and cleaning and cooking and church and family and this and that. And instead being full of the Holiday Spirit, we are just tired.

So, we need to find our eye in the storm whenever we can. Maybe it’s a cup of coffee with your children. Maybe it’s the look of joy on a child’s face when they see what St. Nick has left for them. Maybe it’s hairs on the back of necks being raised when we hear “O Holy Night.”

In this season, find time for your eye. For, if you don’t the storm of busyness will wash us away. Make time for your eye. Even in the strongest storm, there is an eye. Even in the busiest season, there is a time for rest. For, if we don’t, the storm will blow us over. Take time to enjoy the season. Take time to find your eye.

The Clock

A couple of months ago I preached my best sermon yet at First United Methodist. I say this rather humbly. The reason why it was my best was because it was my shortest. As a mentor of mine once told me, “Andy, there is no so thing as a bad short sermon.”

The reason this sermon was shorter than usual was because my clock was wrong. I have a clock I keep on the front row to help me know what time it is and to keep track of how the worship service is running. Well, that one Sunday, some of young men (and you know who you are!) moved my clock ahead 10 minutes. So, instead of getting out at our normal time, we got out 10 minutes early. When I found out, it made sense why I go so many compliments on my sermon that day!

I got a good laugh out of this, but it also got me thinking about time. Sometimes we want time to move a lot faster than it is. When we are in the doctor’s office, the clock moves so slowly. When we are waiting to hear results from a test, it moves so slowly. When we are waiting to get out of school, it moves so slowly.

Sometimes, it moves too fast. You turn around and your kids are grown. You look up and wonder where the years went. You suddenly realize that life is moving and moving fast.

So, we have to make the best of our time. Today is gift. Today is day that unlike any before it or to come. It is precious in its own right. It is something to be lived in, cherished, and taken advantage of.

We can’t do anything about the past. It is done. We can’t control the future. There is nothing we can do about it. But, today, this moment, it is ours! It is given to us by God for a purpose and for a reason.

But, let’s be careful, for if we don’t, we’ll look up and it will be over. It will be like my missing 10 minutes that morning. We look around saying, what happened? Where did the time go?

While there is no such thing as a bad short sermon, lives are not like that. Let’s not live short lives. Let’s not waste time. Let’s not forget just how important this moment is. Let’s live. Let’s live fully and deeply in the moment God has given us. Let’s live in this day, this time that the Lord has given.

Ordinary Time: Monday, November 26, 2007

Old Testament Lesson

Joel 3:1-2, 9-17

One of the constant themes we see in nearly all the Old Testament Prophets is this notion that God's people would be tested, that it would not always be easy, there would be struggle and trial. But, God would always make a way. There will come a time when God's people will be restored, where things shall be as they should have been.

Here we see God tell the people, Jerusalem will be made as it should be, holy, and pure. God will restore His people. Even in the darkest night of the soul, God will shine a light and will bring hope to His people.

New Testament Lesson

1 Peter 1:1-12

One of the notions that we see quite often is that those of us that stand today stand on the shoulders of our parents and grandparents, on all those that have gone before us. We need to remember all that has been done to bring us to this point in life.

And likewise we make the way for others that will follow us. Just as we stand upon the shoulders of those before, those after us will stand on our shoulders. May we live in such a way where they may have the tallest view.

Gospel Lesson

Matthew 19:1-12

We see here Jesus teach us the importance of family. So often in life, so many things push and pull against us. So often, other things try to take priority in life. One of my professors in seminary told us once, it does no good to cross a bridge in life, if our family doesn't make it with us. Today, may we realize what a joy, bless, and gift from God family is.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Ordinary Time: Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Today, I'm going to skip ahead and use the Gospel Lesson for tomorrow, Thanksgiving Day. Next week blogging will return to its normal schedule and normal length. Have a great Thanksgiving Day!

Matthew 18: 1-9

Jesus tells us to be childlike. Over the next few days and weeks, do me a favor. Watch the children. Watch the children tomorrow as dinner is laid out and folks enjoy this time. Watch them as they sit in the laps our their grandparents. Watch them as they play with their siblings and with their cousins.

Watch them as they anticipate Christmas. Watch them as they see St. Nick for the first time at the mall. Watch their eyes light up with wonder and with joy.

And see how we as adults are so quick to complain. So quick to become cynical. So quick to lose our joy. So quick to forget how magical this season is.

Watch the children. Maybe that is what the Lord was talking about when He told us to be like them. In this week, may we watch, and may we have the same sense of joy.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Ordinary Time: Monday, November 19, 2007

Today, we will just a Gospel Lesson. Blogging this week will be shorter; I've got a couple of surgeries, and then there won't be any the end of this week; we're going to spend Thanksgiving with my family, and they don't have internet access there. I hope I can survive! :)

Gospel Lesson

Matthew 17:1-13

In this passage, we see Jesus in all of his heavenly glory. We see Him as He truly is. We see Him as He was before creation and as He is now. Part of what is so beautiful about our faith is the reality that God is close to us, that God wants to know us, that God wants to walk with us each day; to be our friend.

But, we need to also be careful to remember that He is still God. He is still other than we are. He is still mighty and strong and the creator of the universe. He is personal, and He is almighty.

And this knowledge of the almighty strength of God makes it more amazing that this powerful and mighty God wants to be our friend; wants to be in relationship with us, wants to walk with us and talk with us. Today, remember the almighty power of our God! And remember that our is also close as our next breath.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Pictures from Ripley FUMC

There is a new blog where we will post pictures of things happening around Ripley FUMC. Our picture blog can be found by clicking here.

Good Stuff

I'm not a MSU fan, but this is funny.

Ordinary Time: Thursday, November 15, 2007

Old Testament Lesson

1 Chronicles 10:1-14

We see in Saul a life start off with such potential become wasted. If you remember from when Saul was named king, he was an obvious choice. He was tall, good looking, strong, all the things that you would want in a king. Except, his heart was not in it, and his heart was not with the Lords.

David, if you remember, was not an obvious choice. He was the runt of the littler, if you will. But, his heart was with the Lord, and he was the one that because the great king.

Quite often, where our heart is, that is greatest concern, and the most important thing. So was it for Saul, so was it for David, so is it for us.

New Testament Lesson

Revelation 19:1-10

So much of what we see in Revelation is about the worship of God. It is about the saints laying before the lamb and worshiping Him, giving Him honor and glory and praise. That is what eternity will be like. Should we not begin that worship today? Should not our entire lives be an act of worship to God? Everything we do today, can and should be done to the glory of God. For our lives are a gift to us, and in turn, we live our lives as a gift to God. Today, may we give to God everything that is His.

Gospel Lesson

Matthew 16:1-12

One of the things that I like most about the disciples is that they just don't get it about half the time. The Lord will say something, and they will be like, huh? What are you talking about? That gives me hope. If the very ones that walked and talked in the flesh with Jesus didn't always understand and didn't always get it the first time, maybe I shouldn't feel so bad if I don't either.

Today, remember that the disciples weren't perfect, and the Lord did great things with them. He can, and will, do the same with us.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Ordinary Time: Wendesday, November 14, 2007

Old Testament Lesson

Nehemiah 7:73b-8:3, 5-18

In this passage the Law is read, and the people are taught it. They are taught what the Law is, what it means, and what they are to do. But, aren't these the people of the Law? Wasn't the Law given to Moses? Didn't they used to have the Temple and all the things that go with the Law?

Yes, but they had forgotten. They had forgotten about the Law, and forgotten how to follow the Law. Sometimes, you have to be reminded of what you know is true.

Today, the same is true for us. We have to reminded sometimes. Reminded of what God wants us to do, but reminded of who we are. We are His, the Sheep of His pasture. Sometimes, life can make us forget who we are, and whose we are. Today, remember. Remember that you are called by His name and you are His. Remember.

New Testament Lesson

Revelation 18:21-24

We see here that even Babylon the great is fallen. The Bible tell us in Proverbs that it is the pride that goes before the fall. Sometimes we can get so sure of things and too confident in our own strength that if we are not careful, the fall awaits us. Babylon was great and powerful, but no thing and no one is greater or more powerful than our God.

Gospel Lesson

Matthew 15:29-39

Here in this moment, it did not look like the people had enough to eat. Yet, through the grace of Jesus, and the power of God, provision was made in ways that no one thought possible. The Lord looked upon the people, had compassion and love for them, and He fed them. He gave them what they needed for that moment.

So in our lives. Instead of bread from heaven, He give us grace for the moment. And just as the was enough food to meet the needs of each that was gathered, so is thereenough grace to meet each of our needs.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

New Essays

Each week I submit an article to the local newspaper here in Ripley. Sometimes they are run, sometimes not. I decided it might be a good idea to put them on my blog as well. So, from now on, each Tuesday, I'll post a different essay related to something that's going on in my life. I hope you enjoy them!

The Leaves

It’s been busy in the Stoddard household recently. We’ve birthdays and practice and sickness and preparation and all kinds of stuff. The stuff that everyone knows and everyone endures and that leaves everyone tired and haggard at the end of the day. You walk around sometimes so busy and so consumed by what you are doing and you look up and say, “Man, what happened today.”

We’ve all been there. We’ve all been busy. We’ve all spent so much time working on something and wondered, where did the time go?

Today, I was worrying about my schedule. I was thinking about all the things that I need to do and the lack of time that I have to do it in. And then I stopped and looked out the window. I could see the most beautiful leaves. I saw red and yellow and orange. I saw wonderful color all around.

And then I stopped and thought to myself, how long have the leaves been like that? How long have the leaves been changing? Days? Weeks? Months? I honestly couldn’t tell you.

And that got me to thinking about priorities. Sometimes we spend more time looking at the worries of life than we do looking at the beauties of life. How many of us spend more time worried about different things: time, schedule, finances, whatever; than we do focusing upon the things that truly matter?

The laughter of a child. The joy of families gathering together in the time of the year. The spirit and life within our wonderful town? The grace of God? The leaves?

It is so easy to focus on things that are important, but not the most important. It is so easy to get consumed with the responsibilities of life than we can miss the very reason for life. We are here to live and love and to serve. We are not here to miss the point of living.

But, we get busy and we forget. I had a pastor that once told me, “Andy, if the devil can’t make you bad, he’ll make you busy.” Sometimes we get so busy living life that we forget to actually live life.

Today, may each of us live life to the fullest. And may we notice the leaves.

Ordinary Time: Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Old Testament Lesson

Nehemiah 9:26-38

We see the continued story of the Israelites in this passage. The one thing we notice right off the bat is that they weren't perfect. They never did just as God wanted them to do. They wandered away. They followed false idols. They did the things that they just were not supposed to do.

Yet, God still loved them. God's love for them was based upon who He is, not upon who they are. They were imperfect, He is perfect. They were not true, He is true. He loved them simply because they were His, no matter what they did.

The same is true for us. god's love for us is based upon who He is, not upon who we aer. He loves us because He is love. Rest in that love today.

New Testament Lesson

Revelation 18:9-20

In Revelation, Babylon is the great power that is oppressing the church. It looks like ti will never be defeated. However, we see in this passage that Babylon is defeated and the people of God triumph over this thing that looked to great to ever be conquered. Remember, there is nothing is impossible for God. Even the greatest problem or hardest hurt. Nothing is impossible for God.

Gospel Lesson

Matthew 15:21-28

This is one of those passages that lots of books have been written about. Why did Jesus speak to this woman so harshly? There are lots of theories which I won't go into in this space, but look simply at her response. She didn't give up. She kept on. When she didn't get the answer she wanted, she kept on pushing for the goal of seeing her daughter healed.

Sometimes things don't go our way. What will we do then? May we have the grace to be like this woman and to never give up until we achieve the goal that God has for us.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Ordinary Time: Monday, November 12, 2007

Old Testament Lesson

Nehemiah 9:1-15

This might be a good passage for this Veterans Day remembrance. We see the people confess their sins, and confess the sins that have been committed in the past. Part of living as God would have us to live is to confess that we are not perfect. No one is. Part of the Christian life is confession and repentance. Part of the Christan life is turning from our mistakes of the present and the past and living as God would have us to live.

So today, as we celebrate those men and women that have served our country, let us also pause and reflect upon how we can better be the society that god want us to be. And, the way that begins is by each of us being the people that God needs us to be.

New Testament Lesson

Revelation 18:1-8

One of the lessons that Revelation teaches us that God will intercede on behalf of his people. Today in this text, we see the fall of Babylon, the one that oppresses the church and oppresses God's people. All throughout Revelation, God is at work on behalf of His people, even in the darkest moments. That is the lesson ofthis book; don't give up, even in the dark moments. Don't lose hope, God is still at work!

Gospel Lesson

Matthew 15:1-20

We see the Lord tell the people today, honor me with your hearts. If you do that, your actions will be alright. It goes heart, then actions. We must focus our hearts upon Him. If we do that, our lives will will follow suit.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Ordinary Time: Thursday, November 8, 2007

Today, I want to share a devotional thought with you. This is from the Christian Quote of the Day by my good friend, Dr. Rocky Henriques .

God is our refuge, and what comfort that brings! He is your refuge when you awaken in the night filled with fear, and cold sweat breaks out. He is your refuge, your strength, a very present help when events transpire that you cannot understand.
--Charles Swindoll

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Ordinary Time: Tuesday, November 7, 2007

Old Testament Lesson

Nehemiah 13:4-22

We see Nehemiah begin the reforms in the land. Sometimes we can wander off from where we used to be or where we should be, look up and say to ourselves, how did we wind up here? At that point, we have two choices. We can continue on the road we are own, the road that leads us further from where we want to be. Or we can turn around and go back home.

Today, the people have returned to the promised land, but they also return to some of the same mistakes. Nehemiah says, no, we are not going to do it this way this time. And, they begin the process of doing things as they ought be done, and living in the way they ought to live.

They had the chance to come home and do things at they ought to be done. So do we, every day of our lives. Each day is a day that no matter where we are, we can turn around and start towards where we want to be.

New Testament Lesson

Revelation 12:1-12

We see here in the battle between good and evil, between Satan and Michael, this war that even wages within our soul. This war of doing what is right and good, or doing what we want to do, regardless of the consequences. But, as we see in this passage of scripture, in the end, it is good that will win out. It is good that will ultimately defeat the powers of wrong and evil, and we just have to hold on, and do what is right. If we do what is right, God will take care of the rest. Today, live in the grace of God, and do that which He has called you to do. And know that He will take care of all the rest for your good and His glory.

Gospel Lesson

Matthew 13:53-58

This is passage that shows why no preacher wants to serve their home church. The folks remember you from when you were young and got in trouble and had to be taken out. Why would we want to listen to you. What could you possible have to say to us? Today, may we be careful not to discount what someone had to say to us. Let us not be hasty and deciding who God will or won't speak through.

God will speak through whoever He wants to. May we have ears to listen. Today, the people didn't hear just words because they thought that they knew Him; what could He have to say to them. Today, may we have our ears open that we can listen to God through whomever He wants to speak to. My we listen, for God may speak in ways we don't expect.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Ordinary Time: Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Old Testament Lesson

Nehemiah 12:27-31a,42b-47

It's one thing to have to wait. We've all been there. We hate waiting. It's another thing when that thing we've been waiting for comes to pass. That is what is happening here. The people had waited for many years for Jerusalem to be restored, and starting here, things are really starting to come together.

When we are waiting for the Lord's plan to come into place, be it in our lives, or in the life of our church, or in the life of our family, or wherever, don't lose heart. It's easy to do, but we must hold on. For He is not done, and He is still at work. It may take some time, just as it did for Israelites. But, He is still at work.

New Testament Lesson

Revelation 11:1-19

Boy howdy, you have to love Revelation. I think the key thing that we always need to keep in mind when we are studying, reading, and praying over Revelation it to remember that God is at work in ways that we don't understand, and God is always at work for the good of His people. And, God always opens the door for folks to return to Him. We see it quite often in Revelation; we'll see something happen, but right before it does, the Lord give folks a chance to turn around and come back. His grace extends that far. His grace will always come, seeking us out. If we will only respond to His outstretched hand.

Gospel Lesson

Matthew 13:44-52

We see Jesus tell us that the kingdom is hidden. We see its hard to find. But, we all see that it is hidden in the common things. We see it in a pearl. We also see it in a net. Today, we will see the kingdom. We'll see in a smile. In a warm word. In a hug. In all the small and ordinary things that God uses to make our lives extraordinary. Today, the kingdom is all around. May we have eyes to see.

Monday, November 5, 2007

Ordinary Time: Monday, November 5, 2007

Old Testament Lesson

Nehemiah 6:1-19

Believe it or not, people have always gossiped. Hard to believe, but it is true. Here, Nehemiah is at work trying to do good, trying to get the wall rebuilt, and others are saying, the only reason he's doing it to be king! They are hurling gossip and insults at him, when all he is trying to do is to do what is right.

In life, we can't control what others say. We can't really control what they think about us. All we can control is our actions. Some folks my look for wrong motivations in right actions. Some folks may be looking to tear down. Some folks may refuse to see good in certain people.

There are two things we must do in this situation. First, we must do what is right, regardless of what others may think or say about us. We must learn to tune out the gossip and the slander, and listen to God.

Second, lets make sure we are not the ones looking to tear down, looking to gossip, refusing to see good in folks. Let's learn to and forgive, even those that may think are our enemies. After all, is that not what the Lord told us to do?

New Testament Lesson

Revelation 10:1-11

In Revelation, many things happen that don't make much sense to any of us. But, the one thing that in put forth over and over again, is that God is control and at work. Even in situations that don't make much sense to us or that we can't understand. God is at work. We need the grace to trust, even when the situation around us doesn't make sense.

Gospel Lesson

Matthew 13:36-43

Notice it is up to God and the angels to do the casting into the fire at the end. It is not up to you and me. Let's be careful before we starting throwing those that we think are weeds into the fire, for God may yet make them wheat. Let's remember that all we are is because of all that God has given us through His grace; and let us learn to rest on that grace.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

All Saints Day: Thursday, November 1, 2007

Today is All Saint's Day. It is the day where we stop and take a moment to remember those that have gone before. Those that have shaped and influenced our lives, but yet are no longer with us here on the earth. They have joined that great company of heaven. They have gained that eternal reward. They are now fully alive in Christ, as we each hope to one day be.

So, today, on this day, our reflection will not be upon a Biblical passage but on the life of someone you love. Particularly someone you love that has passed into true life.

Today, think about that person that shaped your faith. Maybe it was a grandmother, a parent, a teacher, a friend. Think about what they have taught you about love, above mercy, about hope, about peace.

How do we emulate that in our lives? How do the lessons that we have been taught show forth in the way that we live? Do we allow Jesus to shine through in our lives as they have done in their lives? Are we living in such a way where someone, someday will stop on this Holy Day and reflect about us?

OK maybe one passage from the Bible. Hebrews 12 tell us that we are surrounded by a mighty cloud of witnesses. So, let us keep pushing and working and trying. Let us keep up the struggle and keep up the fight for a holy life. Let us keep doing that which the Lord has called us to do.

Today, let us remember those that have gone before. And, let us live in such a way where honor what they have taught us and live in the truth and love their savior, and our savior, Jesus Christ.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Thomas' First Birthday

All Hallows Eve: Wendesday, October 31, 2007

A Happy All Hallows Eve (or All Saint's Eve) or Halloween, depending on you perspective and number of children in your house! Today is October 31, and lots of stuff has happened on this day. First, in 1517, Martin Luther nailed his 95 Theses to the door of the church in Wittenberg, thus starting the Protestant Reformation, which lead the way to the eventual formation of all Protestant Churches.

But, All Hollows Eve is also a day of preparation for All Saint's Day, which is tomorrow, and is celebrated in many churches this coming Sunday, where we honor and thank God for the Saints that have gone before and have joined the Lord and all the company of heaven.

And, it's also Halloween. Much like Mardi Gras, this holiday actually has Christan origins, like what was mentioned above. You can find out more about the Christian origins of Halloween and find some neat ways to focus upon our Faith during this day by clicking here.

Today, just a Gospel Lesson

Matthew 13:18-23

Today, what type of dirt are we? Are we ready to hear what the Lord longs to say to use through whatever means He may use? Are we ready to listen? Are we ready to take it in? Are we ready to grow from it? In all the different instances, the same Word was spread about, but the soil was not ready to receive what was there through the word.

Today, are we good gardeners? Are we tending the dirt of our souls? Are we pulling out the weeds that seek to choke off the word? Are we watering our souls through prayer and the word to keep our hearts from becoming hard? Are we offering forgiveness and grace to those that need it, and maybe even to those that don't?

Today, are we letting the word seep down deep into our souls and change who we are? Growing us closer to God? Today, what type of dirt are we? May we be good soil, and may God's word grow deep in our hearts.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007


Good Morning,

Sorry about the lack of blogging yesterday. It was a long weekend with a long Monday, and my day just kind of got a way from me.

This morning, I want to ask you a question for my own guidance with my daily posting. Are they helpful to you? If not, is there any way they could be improved? Is there something that you would like to see instead of what I blog each day?

My blogging started out a couple of years ago as my own personal thoughts on the daily Bible readings for that day, but since then, they've transformed, and my own personal devotional life has changed some as well.

And today I was thinking about how as a pastor do you get people to buy into what God is doing and help them catch the vision that the Spirit may have, and the only what that can happen is through the grace of God working in their lives.

So, as the church, and as a Pastor, I have to do all that I can to allow that to happen. How does that happen? Through what Wesley called the "Means of Grace." Some of these are public: worship, communion, things of the like.

But, some are private: bible study, fasting, prayer. I want my daily posting to be a means of grace to you, something that allows you grow closer to God and deeper into His word.

Is it doing that? If not, how could it better do that? Feel free to comment or email me today or in the coming days with any thoughts. And, I'm not fishing for a compliment. I'm actually more interested in ways in how my daily posting can change and grow.

Thanks for you input.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Ordinary Time: Thursday, October 25, 2007

Old Testament Lesson

Ezra 1:1-11

After much darkness and pain, today, in this passage, we see the sun shine again. We read the pain of Lamentations. We read the prophets saying that destruction was coming. We read bad news after bad news after bad news. Today, we read some good. We see that the rain stops, the wounds are healed, and that life will spring forth from death. The people get to return home! The people get to go back to promised Land! God has not forgotten them. Just as in the Exodus, He is taking His people back to where they need to be. The night is over, and the sun shines again.

Remember, even if it is night in your life right now, God has not forgotten you. The sun will shine again. This too shall pass. God is not done with you yet. The will be joy and peace and comfort that is coming in the morning. Hold on, hold fast, help is on the way. The people returned to the Promised Land. God is still at work. Just as He is still at work in our lives.

New Testament Lesson

1 Corinthians 16:1-9

We see Paul giving very important instructions here about something that the church has always done. Taking up the collection! But in this passage, as it is now, the "collection" or "offering" or whatever you prefer to call it, is important. In many ways it is our response to the graciousness of God. He is a God that has given us so much, and in turn, He wants us to give back. Give our time, give our talents, give our gifts, and give our service. In short, give from all that we have.

And yes, that does mean money, but that is not all. That is just part. What God wants from us is something very simple. He wants all of us. He wants all that we are. And, when we give Him all that we are, He gives us something. He give us life more abundant, life grander than we could ever imagine. Today, give yourself away. And, in the giving away of yourself, you find more life than you could ever think possible.

Gospel Lesson

Matthew 12:15-21

We see Matthew quoting from the Old Testament this passage, showing that God's plan was always at work. He was making things ready for the coming of His son, for that was His ultimate plan and His ultimate means of salvation for His people. God's plan is always more that you and I can see. It is deeper and it is wider, and it is more than our minds can even understand.

That is why is so important for us to trust. We don't always know what He is doing. We don't always know His plan or see His path. We just have to trust and walk down the road that He has shown us. If we follow the light that He gives us, we will be where we need to be. He is always at work, doing more than we can see. He was making things right for the coming of His Son. The people just had to trust. Just like now, sometimes, we simply have to trust Him when we don't see what He is doing. Thankfully He always sees what He is doing.

Ordinary Time: Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Old Testament Lesson

Lamentations 2:8-15

Sometimes in life, things happen that are so tragic that all you can do is weep. You may know in your mind that God is at work and He will bring something good out of it, but in the midst of the storm, all you can do is weep. We see the Prophet look at his destroyed city today, and all he can do is weep. He knows what has caused this, and we will later see that he does have hope for redemption. But, at that point, all he can do is cry.

Sometimes life kicks us good, and we can merely just weep. When that happens, may we know that our God holds us in His arms.

New Testament Lesson

1 Corinthians 15:51-58

This passage is part of the liturgy for a United Methodist service of committal, and each time I say it at a graveside, it gives me great hope. This body must be changed to enter into eternity. This life must be changed to enter into forever. We must pass through the Jordan, and we will come out the other side transformed. But, in a good way. For when we pass through the Jordan, and enter into true life, we can then say, where oh death, is thy sting.

Remember, what we see here and now is not the end of reality. There is a life far grander and far more real that we have not seen, but through Christ, we will know.

Gospel Lesson

Matthew 12:1-14

We see Jesus today call out the people because they were more concerned with keeping the letter of the law instead of the spirit of the law. The Lord wanted broken and contrite hearts, He wanted mercy. He was not as concerned with people following a checklist. He wants us to love Him. To love each other. To serve Him. And to serve each other. If we do this, we will satisfy every demand made of us. If we love. If we trust. If we live in grace. Today, let us not be so concerned with checking things off a list as we are about living and loving and serving. If love God and love neighbor. We will be the people that God needs us to be.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Ordinary Time: Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Old Testament Lesson

Lamentations 1:1-12

Lamentations may be the saddest book in all the Bible. In this book, the prophet weeps over his fallen city. He weeps because of the destruction. He weeps over what sin has caused to happen. He weeps over what used to be and over what can now never be. He weeps because that which was once so great now lies in ruins.

One of my favorite quotes ever is by Max Lucado. I've quoted it a million times and through my life I'll probably quote it a million more. The reason why God hates sin so much is because of what it does to His children. You can read Lamentations and see what sin can do if we let it go unchecked.

New Testament Lesson

1 Corinthians 15:41-50

We see here Paul talking about the first Adam and the second Adam. Through the first Adam, that is, Adam, sin entered the world. Through the second Adam, that is, Jesus Christ, life and salvation entered the world. Jesus Christ came to undo the effects of the first Adam. He came to set right those things which were corrupted by the fall. In short, He came to restore the world, and to restore each of us. He came to bring salvation and healing, and wholeness. He came to restore us.

Gospel Lesson

Matthew 11:25-30

Here is that great passage where the Lord tells us to come to Him, if we are weary. Today, are you weary? Are you tired? Are you burdened by life and its concerns? Are you weighted down? Are you stressed? Are you over come? Are you just plain old tired?

Go to Him. Rest in Him. Find life in Him. It is there. Rest and peace and comfort are there, in Christ Jesus. Are you weary today? Rest in Him.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Ordinary Time: Monday, October 22, 2007

Old Testament Lesson

Jeremiah 44:1-14

There is much to be gained by looking around. Today, the Lord tell those that are His, but not living in Israel: look. Don't you see what happened when my people departed? Do you see the destruction that came upon them? Do you see how their sin lead to their doom? Do you see what their actions caused? Don't do the same thing.

There is much that we can learn from looking at our own mistakes, and the mistakes of others. The only bad mistake is one that we don't learn from. Today, may we look within, and look around, and see the things that we can learn from. May we grow from all we've done, good and bad, and may we set a positive, not negative, example for others.

New Testament Lesson

1 Corinthians 15:30-41

Paul reminds us that this life is not permanent, and as great and glorious as it is; it is just a reflection of what is to come one day. That can give us hope in all of life. As grand and wonderful as life is now, God has something better in store. So remember today and always, this life is just a glimpse of what awaits and this life is a just a fore taste of what is to come. Something sweeter is on the way.

Gospel Lesson

Matthew 11:16-24

We see here Jesus mention some of the criticism he receives. Some said He had a demon. Others said that He was a drunkard. That's a pretty broad cross section right there. The reason why folks didn't know what to make of His was because they weren't used to anyone like Him. They'd never seen someone love and serve and forgive as He did. They'd never seen a life lived out so full of grace. They'd never encountered one so full of God.

Now, of course He was the Son of God and God Himself incarnate, but He was also human. And He showed us how to live and love and forgive. And folks aren't used to that. They aren't used to lives lived out of grace. Today, may we live in such a manner, and may grace shine forth in all that we do.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Ordinary Time: Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Old Testament Lesson

Jeremiah 37:3-21

We see Jeremiah do something that most all prophets have to do, but no one likes to do. It is to tell someone something that they don't want to hear. The king wanted to hear good news. It would have been easier for Jeremiah to tell him good news. But, he could not. He had to tell him the truth. He had to tell him what God had told him to say, and what he knew was right.

A true friend is someone that will tell us not what we want to hear, but what we need to here. Many folks will tell us the things that we think we want to hear. It is rare to have someone actually tell us the things that we must hear. May we seek out true friends and may we be true friends.

New Testament Lesson

1 Corinthians 14:13-25

Paul tell us that it is better to speak 5 words that will help someone as opposed to 5000 that would not. We need to remember in life that we live not just for our own desires or our own wants or our own spirituality, we live to be a help to and a service to others. Paul's primary concern was that in all that he did and all that he said, he would strengthen what God was doing through the church. He wanted to contribute to the work of the Holy Spirit in the world. May we do the same.

Gospel Lesson

Matthew 10:24-33

We know today that God takes an account of us. He knows even the hairs on our head. Take heart. You are not forgotten. The Lord has not forgotten your plight, your worried, or your concerns. Know that He knows what is going on and He cares. If He can count the hairs upon our hearts, cannot He also count the concerns upon your soul?

So, today, let us cast our cares to Him, for He cares for us. Trust in Him, lean on His understanding, and live in His amazing grace, knowing that He cares for you today.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Ordinary Time: Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Old Testament Lesson

Jeremiah 36:27-37:2

We see the Lord instructing Jeremiah to tell the people about what is coming, about the trouble that is coming to their door because they would not listen. The prophets often told the people the things that they did not want to hear, in hopes that they would repent and return to God. But, they would not.

In life, we may hear things sometimes we don't want to hear. Our doctor may tell us to change our lifestyle. Our preacher may tell us to forgive an old hurt. Our parents or our children may say or do something that we cannot bear to hear. In these times, listen. Listen particularly if it is something that we need to hear or do, but just simply do not want to. Listen, and act. Be aware of how the Lord may speak and follow His voice when He does.

New Testament Lesson

1 Corinthians 14:1-12

We see Paul tell us today that the point of our gifts, that the point of all these things that the Lord has given us is so that the church can be built up and the Good News spread. The gifts that the Lord has given us: music, speaking, leadership, teaching, whatever gift you may have today, it was given you for a higher good. It was given you for purpose more than yourself. It was given so that we can do good and change our world, through the power of the Holy Spirit.

Today, are we using what God has given us for a greater good? Are we using His gifts in the way that He would have us?

Gospel Lesson

Matthew 10:16-23

We see the Lord telling His followers, don't worry when you have to say something. Don't worry when you have to speak in my name. I'll give you what you need to have. I'll give you the words to speak. I think this comes down to trust. Do we trust Jesus to be there in the times that we need Him? Do we trust Him to give us the words, or the strength or the courage. He said that He would. Do we believe?

Today, may we find the power that comes when we live by the power of our belief. May we live in the power of trust. May we live in the power of grace.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Ordinary Time: Monday, October 15, 2007

Old Testament Lesson

Jeremiah 36:11-26

We see the Lord condemn what is called the "false fasting" of the people. It is interesting to note that while the Lord demands action, what He truly desires is actions with a right heart. Thus the saying, the Lord loves a thankful giver. It is not just enough to give, we want to give with the right reason and right intent. Sometimes, giving with the wrong heart can actually turn someone against giving and cause them to not to want to give in the future.

That's what has happened here. The people have fasted, but not with the right heart. The Lord wants them not fast, but to fast for the right reason. Today, may the actions we take be taken with the right reasons and with the right heart.

New Testament Lesson

1 Corinthians 13:1-13

We could spend a million years talking about this great passage of scripture, but I'll simply piggy back what we talked about in the first reading. Paul tell us that if he surrendered his body to flames, but does not have love, he had done nothing. It is not just enough to do. We must be. It is not just enough to be busy for the Lord. We must be still and listen. We must allow His love to sweep over us and then let that love be our motivating force for action.

That's hard sometimes. I'd rather be busy than listen. But, sometimes, we have to slow down. We have to stop. And, we have to allow God's love to saturate us so that we can be the people that we need to be, to do the things we need to do.

Gospel Lesson

Matthew 10:5-15

Today, we see the Lord tell his disciples to sit and wait for the people to come to them. Not, that's not what we read. We read Him tell the disciples to go! Go everywhere preaching the good news! Go all over. Don't wait for them to come to you, you go to them! You have great news of hope and love and salvation! Go and tell it on the mountain!

Today, may we go. May we take this Good News we have and live it out loud. Let us not wait! Let us go!

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Ordinary Time: Thursday, October 11, 2007

Old Testament Lesson

2 Kings 23:4-25

In the past few days and weeks we've seen a bunch of kings, most more evil than the last. Today, we see perhaps the greatest king since David, Josiah. He did right in the sight of God. He tore down the idols, he destroyed the places of false worship, and he brought back the Passover and the correct worship of God. He was righteous and he was good.

Yet, he came from a sinful father. His upbringing was not the best. In spite of that, he chose what was right. Perhaps this has two lessons for us. First, just because someone comes from what many deem to be a "bad" family does not mean they will turn out that way. Second, and more important, what we can we do as the church and as individual Christians do to make sure that persons that aren't born into the best of situations see light and love and mercy. What can do to make that possible?

New Testament Lesson

1 Corinthians 12:1-11

We see today that in spite of different gifts, they all come from the same giver. All of our talents and gifts, as diverse as they are, all come from the same Lord. May we never be more in love with the gift than with the Giver. And may we always remember that all of our gifts, great and small, are given to glorify the Giver of life and love and mercy.

Gospel Lesson

Matthew 9:18-26

We see Jesus bringing life to two hopeless situations today. One as a daughter than was dead, the other a women very sick. In both cases, people turned desperately to Jesus, knowing He was their last hope. In both cases, Jesus brought life to situations that looked hopeless. But, let us never forget, there is no hopeless situation. For, as long as God's Spirit is at work, God's people are on the move, and God's light guides us each, there is nothing too dark, no situation too hopeless, no need too great, that God can't work.

Remember, He is not done with us yet, and remember there is no darkness to dark that God' can't bring light.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Ordinary Time: Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Good Morning. Thomas came though well yesterday, he's feeling better and already back in daycare. Today just a quick quote, courtesy of my good friend, Rocky Henriques and his daily Christian Quote of the Day.

God has a way of answering my requests, my prayers, in ways I never even dreamed of -- not always in a pleasant way, not always in a way I would have chosen, but always in a way that He sees best.

--Alan Smith

Monday, October 8, 2007

Ordinary Time: Monday, October 8, 2007

Good Morning. I wanted to let you know that there will be no blogging tomorrow. My son Thomas is getting tubes put in his ears and we have to be there pretty early in the morning. We'll resume Wednesday, though

Old Testament Lesson

2 Kings 21:1-18

We see in this passage the power of individual responsibility. Manasseh knew better than to do the things that he was doing. After all, he was raised by one the only good kings in the history of Judah. But, he still did wrong. Maybe he became king to quick at age 12. Who knows the ultimate reason he departed from the Lord. But, for whatever reason, he did.

And with all the evil he did, he knew better. He was raised better. He had the means to do right, but he did not. There are circumstances in life that we can't control. But, in everything that we do, we do have a choice. Today, in spite of whatever challenges may come, whatever problems we face, whatever adversity is in our way; may we choose to do right.

New Testament Lesson

1 Corinthians 10:14-11:1

I think one of Paul's most important teachings is one of the last things he writes in this passage. Do all things to the glory of God. That is so important for us to realize that everything we do; from work to play, should be done to the glory of God. Sunday morning is not the only time we worship God; we worship God in every act of our lives, for everything is done to His glory.

Today, may every act we do, everything we do, whether it exciting or drudgery, in all things; let us do it to the glory of God.

Gospel Lesson

Matthew 8:28-34

I heard someone recently say this passage is the first recorded instance of deviled ham.

But, in a more serious vein, I think one of the important things in this passage is what happens at the end. The people ask Jesus to leave. They are concerned and overwhelmed by His power. The know He comes to bring change; and they don't like or want change in their lives. They don't want the salvation He offers, hard is that is to believe.

So, they ask Him to leave. May we never be so afraid of what Jesus may ask us to do that we ask him to leave, as they did.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Ordinary Time: Wenesday, October 3, 2007

I won't be posting the rest of this week, I've got to be in Jackson, MS early tomorrow for the Pastor's Leadership School. I'll start back again Monday. Have a great weekend!

Old Testament Lesson

2 Kings 18:9-25

We see the northern kingdom today defeated. And things aren't looking too good today for the southern kingdom of Judah. The king of Assyria comes today, taking gold and mocking God. He comes tells Hezekiah that it would be best to go ahead and submit to him, don't rely upon Egypt to come and save you, and surly don't rely upon God.

That is a message that we hear today and we may even think sometimes ourselves. In a dangerous world, in a world with a lot of trouble, in a world where everything seems to be shifting, we are tempted to place our trust in many things. Do not forget that our ultimately safety, strength, and hope comes from nothing else other than God.

New Testament Lesson

1 Corinthians 8:1-13

Paul reminds us that we live not just for ourselves, but for the entire body of believers. So, there may be something that does not bother us; that is not a problem for us, but if we do it, it may cause someone else to stumble. Paul tells us that in that case, we should refrain. We live not just for ourselves. We live as part of a body, which is the church. And we should live in a way that helps to build up each other, strengthen each other, and encourage each other.

We must listen to the spirit, and hear what He says. Remember, we live not just for ourselves, but for each other. May we live in a way that really does strengthen the body and that gives glory to God.

Gospel Lesson

Matthew 7:13-21

Jesus tells us this morning that things are not always what they appear. The broad gate looks like the way that leads to life. It doesn't. False teachers look like they preach truth. The don't. So folks that say Lord, Lord, look faithful. They aren't.

Then, what are we to do? How are we to know? How do we know which way to go? Remember, we follow not paths or humans. We follow Jesus. Listen to Him, stay close to Him, fall in love with Him. And, when the time comes for choices, He will lead us where we need to be.