Thursday, May 31, 2007

Pentecost: Thursday, May 31, 2007

Our youth returned from their mission trip yesterday afternoon. Thanks for all your prayers. They did a great job; they worked hard, and had a good time. Believe it or not, the two are not mutually exclusive! Habitat for Humanity is a great organization, and we really enjoyed our time with the Lauderdale chapter. Onward with the blogging!

Old Testament Lesson

Isaiah 65:17-25

We see the Lord here tell us that He is going to undo the things that have happened because of the fall. Because of the fall, we are sinful. Because of the fall their is sickness, and pain, and tragedy, and death. Because of the their is calamity in nature, because of the fall, things are not as the Lord intended them to be in creation.

He will undo these things. He will make them right. He will return things to the way that were when He first created everything. In other words, through the power of God, the effects of sin can be undo. Now, in this time, there is redemption and salvation from our sins. And part of salvation is that undoing of sin our lives. As Charles Wesley wrote in that great Methodist hymn, "O For a Thousand Tongues to Sing," He breaks the power of canceled sin!

Through His grace, these things can be, and will be undo. Let us keep our hope on what is to come, not only in the world, but in ourselves. But let us not stop working today to bring about that future reality.

New Testament Lesson

2 Timothy 3:1-17

We see Paul give Timothy (and each of us) warning about what is to come. There will come a time when people love their own pleasure more than serving God. They will love their sin and treachery more than God. They will turn from what is right to that which is wrong. They will not seek to live as God has commanded, but will seek to live as they think they want to.

That time is here, but there has never been a time in human history where that time has not been here. The writer of Ecclesiastes says that there is nothing new under the sun. The problems and temptations we face today have been faced by generation after generation.

So, then, what do we do? Paul says turn to what is right and true, and stay grounded in that. In this day of shifting sand we must stay connected to the things that we know our true, our church, our prayers, our walk with God. And Paul reminds us must of all today, the Holy Scriptures. Stay rooted in that. Stay connected to the Bible. Stay within it. If we do that, God will strengthen us, convict us, challenge us, and bring us back when we go astray. Stay where you need to stay, and God will move.

Gospel Lesson

Luke 12:13-31

Jesus tells us not to worry about the things of this world or worry about clothes, money, etc. Easy for Him to say, He doesn't have a mortgage or car note! I think the point of what He might be saying is that we need to be careful about where we place our joy. So many of us have undue stress due to that mortgage or car note because we place our ultimate joy and hope on the things of this world. We don't rest in God. We don't find our peace, our hope, our joy, our very life in God.

Today, do you rest in Him? Or do you spend all your time running around, worrying, stressing, obsessing? Today, remember, God will take care of you. He will not leave you orphaned. He will be there for you. Rest in Him. Find your relief in Him. Rest in Him. And in Him, and in that rest, you will find life.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Aldersgate Day!

I was looking at my calendar just now and I realized that today is Aldersgate Day! Those of you that aren't Methodist (and maybe those of you are that are Methodist) may be wondering what in the world Aldersgate Day. It was on this day in 1738 when John Wesley was a religious meeting at the Aldersgate Society in London where he heard Martin Luther's Preface to Romans' read. It was in that moment that
"while he was describing the change which God works in the heart through faith in Christ, I felt my heart strangely warmed. I felt I did trust in Christ, Christ alone for salvation; and an assurance was given me that He had taken away my sins, even mine, and saved me from the law of sin and death."
What does this have to do with the rest of us, other than that great phrase, "heart strangely warmed." Wesley spent many, many years trying to earn God's love and God's grace. He preached. He studied. He traveled to America. He did everything he could think of to make God love him.

But, nothing worked. He could never find that grace that he sought so desperately. He became discouraged and even disillusioned. He was at a loss for what to do. He didn't know how to make God love him.

Then, this breakthrough. He realized that God loved him, forgave him, and called him. And at that moment, he was set free. He realized that God loved him, even him. And, he felt his heart warmed with God's all amazing grace. He was set free.

What does this mean for us? Today, through Christ, you can be free. You can life. You don't have to earn God's love. Let me say that again. You don't have to earn God's love. He simply loves you. You don't have to make Him. Just receive. Just receive what He longs to give you. Today, we can each be set free from these things, and feel our heart strangely warmed.

Today, may each of our hearts be strangely warmed with the knowledge of Gods' grace.

Easter: Thursday, May 24, 2007

Old Testament Lesson

Ezekiel 18:1-4, 19-32

We see here the Lord say that we are each responsible for ourselves. If we are faithful, we will live, but if we are unfaithful, we will not have life. He tells Ezekiel that the one that sins is responsible for that sin. While the effects of the sin of the parents are passed down to the children, the children will not be judged for the sins of the parents. The parents will be judged for their own sin, just as the children will be judged for their own sin.

While we may learn sin from parents or others, we are ultimately responsible for our own sin and our own decisions. We must take pain to look within ourselves, make wise choices, and do what is right. Let us not lay our mistakes at the feet of others, but let us learn from them. Let us grow from there. Every mistake can be a way to grow, but only if we choose to learn lessons. Let us examine our lives, our choices, and our weakness, and learn from that. And, in that, we can grow closer to the Lord.

New Testament Lesson

Hebrews 7:18-28

Jesus is the mediator of the New Covenant, and through Him, we have access to grace and love and peace. Through Him, we can know God, we can know life, and we can know freedom. For by grace through faith we are saved, and that grace through faith is the ultimate freedom. We are saved not by the things we have done, or are doing, but by faith. Likewise, our mistakes do not cause us eternal condemnation. It is grace through faith by Jesus. Today, let us be thankful for that freedom we have in Christ.

Gospel Lesson

Luke 10:25-37

First, what must we do to inherit eternal life? Serve on the PPC committee? Be a preacher? Be a bishop? Teach Sunday School? Got to church? What did Jesus say today? Love your God, love your neighbor. Love God with all that you have. Love God with every fiber of your being. Love Him with abandon. Love your neighbor like you love yourself. Revere your neighbor. Serve your neighbor. Help your neighbor. Lay down your life for your neighbor. What must we do? Love God and Neighbor. That's the list.

Who is your neighbor? Anyone you meet.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Easter: Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Old Testament Lesson

Ezekiel 7:10-15, 23b-27

The last verse of this passage sums up why all these things will happen. They will know that He is the Lord. Punishment comes not because the Lord loves enjoying punishing His children. In this case, the people had forgotten He was the Lord. They had begun to believe that it was by their own strength and might they had done such things. It was not. And, in their sin, they had begun to think they were above punishment. They were not. The Lord was going to make sure that they knew that He was the Lord.

For us, let us not think that we are too far removed from God. We do not deserve ultimate credit for our victories; God does. And, likewise, let us never think that we are "above the law.' Sin has consequences. Sin will destroy. Sin will bring bad things. In all that we do, let us remember that He is the Lord.

New Testament Lesson

Hebrews 6:13-20

Just as the Israelites ultimately placed their hope on the oath that God swore upon Himself, we place our hope not in our own goodness, but we place it in the work of Christ. For Jesus has become for us the high priest. He is the mediator between us and God. He is the one that we fully trust in for our future hope and for life, now, and in the age to come. Not by anything that we can do, but by all that He has done.

Gospel Lesson

Luke 10:1-17

We see Jesus give a warning to those that reject what is right, today. We see Him say that it will be more tolerable on judgement day for the most wicked than it is for those that know what is right, but choose not to live in it. In life, there are lots of things that we don't know. There are lots of things that we don't understand. There are lots of things that we cannot fathom.

But there are many things that we do know, understand, and fathom. We know we are to love. To obey. To forgive. To serve. To live fully for Jesus. Do we do those things? Today, don't worry about the mysteries you don't understand. What about the things you do understand? Do we live by them?

Monday, May 21, 2007

Easter: Monday, May 21, 2007

Old Testament Lesson

Ezekiel 4:1-17

One of the things that we see in the Bible is that God sometimes asks folks to do some odd things. Go and read this passage and then ask yourself, would I do that? That's a little weird. OK, a lot weird. But, God asked him to do this. Why? To demonstrate something to God's people. God was having Ezekiel symbolize their unfaithfulness, their sin, and their ultimate punishment.

For Ezekiel, when God commands that he do this, he must be thinking, there's got to be another way. This probably didn't make sense to him, but it did to God. God's plans don't always make sense to us. They may look a little odd. They may not be the way that we'd do them. They may be done in a way that we would not choose. But, God's plans are His plans, and His ways are higher than ours. Even if you don't understand the plan, trust the one that made the plan. For God's plans will always work out as they should.

New Testament Lesson

Hebrews 6:1-12

We are told here to go on towards perfection. Do not get sluggish. Do not allow yourself to become too comfortable where you are. The Christian life is about growth. If we are not growing, then we are staying the same. If we are staying the same, we are not going on towards perfection. God's grace will not allow us to stay as we are. It is His plan to restore what was corrupted in the fall. He wants us to be restored, reconciled, redeemed. So, let us not be sluggish. Let us not be slothful. Let us keep our eyes on what truly matters and keep on going towards that goal.

Gospel Lesson

Luke 9:51-62

We see Jesus set His face towards Jerusalem. We see Him with purpose do what He was called to do. He had not other purpose but that which was given to Him by His Father. But, on the way, He meets others that do not share that same purpose. They want to follow Him, but only if they can do other things first. Jesus' first priority was being obedient to the Father and doing, serving, loving, forgiving, as He was called to do.

He asks those in the text to do the same, but they would not. They had other priorities they wanted to do; then they would follow Jesus. That was not good enough. He must have first place. So is it in our lives. He must have first place as well. Nothing can take His place as our priority. He set His face towards Jerusalem. May we set our face towards Him.

Friday, May 18, 2007

Easter: Friday, May 18, 2007

Old Testament Lesson

Ezekiel 1:28-3:3

We do not see the Lord telling Ezekiel that he will be particularly successful in this passage. We do not see Him promise Ezekiel that everything will be great and perfect. He does not promise him great victories. In fact the Lord tells Ezekiel that he is going to a rebellious house that probably won't even listen. The Lord in this passage and through this lesson doesn't demand that Ezekiel save everyone. He simply demands that Ezekiel be faithful.

Ultimately that is all the Lord asks of us as well. Be faithful. If we are are faithful, He will take care of the rest. We can't save everyone. We can't solve every problem. We can't cure every ill. All we can do is be faithful, and leave the rest up to God. He is bigger than we are; stronger than we are; more powerful than we are. We are simply to do what He has commanded, and trust Him, knowing that He will take care of the rest.

New Testament Lesson

Hebrews 4:14-5:6

To me, this is one of the best passages in all of scripture. We do not have a high priest that is unfamiliar with us and our struggles. We do not serve a God that is foreign to us. God, through Jesus Christ, knows our hurt, knows our pain. Christ Jesus experienced temptation, as we do. He experienced rejection, as we have. He even experienced death, as we will. However the grave could not hold Him down and He triumphed over sin, death, and the grave. And through Him, we too can share that same victory.

God is not foreign to us. He is not removed. He is not far away, but is close at hand. He knows our hurt, lose, worry, all of these things. So, let us boldly go to the throne. For, our Lord understands and is with us.

Gospel Lesson

Luke 9:28-36

As the other end to the coin of the previous passage, we see that while Jesus knows our hurt and loss, He is also the Son of God. And, while He is fully human, He is also fully God. Today, in this passage, we see Him in all of His glory. We see Him as He truly is. When we look at the glory and power and might, of our Lord, how amazing is it that He would humble Himself, for us. He would subject Himself to such things for our sake. Today, remember what a mighty Savior we serve, and remember what He endured so that we could come back home.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

The Ascension: Thursday, May 17, 2007

Old Testament Lesson

Ezekiel 1:1-28b

Today, Ezekiel sees this tremendous vision. And I'll be honest with you, I can't explain exactly what it was all about. I can offer opinions, I can tell you what different commentators say, but to actually tell you what is happening in this passage, I don't fully know.

What I know is this. For the longest time, the people of Israel through that God could only speak to them in the promised land, and through the temple. But, here we see Ezekiel in a foreign land, receiving a vision from. God can speak to His people anywhere. He does not just speak in church. He can speak to you through your work. Through your friends. Through your hobbies. Through your children. Today, be alert. Listen. God will be trying to speak to you, even through you may not be in church. Today, stop, and listen.

New Testament Lesson

Hebrews 2:5-18

We see Hebrews tell us that for a little why, Jesus was brought low to earth. But it was not for His good, it was for ours. He humbled Himself upon the earth to free us from our sins. He did this to destroy the power of sin in our lives, He did this so that we could live.

But, it is only through His power, His life, His Spirit that we can life. He did this work. Let us live through it.

Gospel Lesson

Matthew 28:16-20

Three things of great importance. Go. Don't sit there. Don't wait until they come to you. Don't expect them to come to you. Go into all the world. Go to where their is need. Go to where there is hurt. Go.

Make disciples. What does that mean? To teach them to obey everything He has taught. We are commanded to not just tell people about Jesus, but teach them to obey Jesus. That is what a disciple is. One that obeys Jesus.

I will be with you. We don't go by ourselves. He goes with us. We are not alone. It is not by our power; but His. Go. Make disciples. You can, for He is with you.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Easter: Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Old Testament Lesson

Leviticus 26:27-42

The Lord gives warning to the people today. If you break the covenant, if you go against what you have promised to do, there will be consequences. As parents, one of the things we try to teach our kids is that there are consequences. You touch a hot stove, you are burned. You disobey your parent, you are punished. There are consequences for actions.

That is what the Lord is telling the people today. If you break the covenant He has set, there are consequences. However, if after your sin, you see the error of your ways, and come home; there is forgiveness. Our actions have consequences. Consequences for us, for our children, for our grandchildren, for our church. Let us realize the importance of our actions in this day, and let us make wise choices.

New Testament Lesson

James 5:13-18

The pray of the righteous is effective. Today, do not doubt the power of prayer. Through praying churches, God can move in amazing ways. Through praying parents, God can redeem lost children. Through pray, much goodness can happen. The pray of the righteous is effective. Today, in your work, in your play, in your resting, in your driving, in all that you do, take time to pray. Prayer matters, and through pray, God can move in awesome ways.

Gospel Lesson

Luke 12:22-31

Consider the lilies. Think about creation. Does God not take care of it? How much more will He take care of us. Don't worry about the trivial, the earthly. Worry about the eternal. Worry, and work, about the things that will make a difference in the lives of others. God will take care of you. Has He not in the past? Why would He stop now? God will take care of you. Rest easy in that. Don't use your strength worrying about these things.

Use your strength doing good. Use it helping others. Use it obeying. Use it in the things that are eternal. Consider the lilies. Will God not take care of you as well?

Monday, May 14, 2007

Easter: Monday, May 14, 2007

Old Testament Lesson

Deuteronomy 8:1-10

I've been thinking a lot recently about the idea of God as Father and relating that to my experience as a father. The one thing I want for my children is their growth, physical, emotional, and spiritual. I will do everything in my power to encourage and develop that. And, as a father, that does sometimes mean punishing them. But, a loving father is not out to "get" his children. He doesn't punish at random. He is not waiting for them to make a mistake so he can get them. He only wants what is best for them and will not harm them.

If I am an imperfect father, and I feel this way, how much more must our Heavenly Father feel towards us?

New Testament Lesson

James 1:1-15

Someone once said the devil gets credit for a lot of stuff he has nothing to do with. James tells us that when we are lead into temptation, we are lead there by our own flesh, by our own sinful desires. That is why are temptations are so different, they are unique to each of us.

That means we must know ourselves and know our weaknesses. And be careful. Do not put yourself in a position to allow temptation to overcome you. If one is an alcoholic, they should not work in a bar. If one is glutinous, they shouldn't schedule a lunch meeting at a buffet. We must know ourselves to know the areas of life were we are more likely to fall into temptation.

Gospel Lesson

Luke 9:18-27

We see Jesus promise us life today. But it is not life like the world promises. Jesus says to know life, to know what means to live, to know what it means to truly be alive, we must lay down our life and follow Him. For life is found nowhere by in Christ. It is not found in the things of earth, it is not found in possessions, it is not found in earthly success. Life is found in Jesus and in letting Him lead, guide, and direct.

Today, know life. Know what it means to breath free, to have hope, and joy and peace. Know life, and know that it comes through Jesus.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Easter: Thursday, May 10, 2007

Old Testament Lesson

Joshua 22:7-20

Some of the people in this text are turning away from the Lord, and the rest of the people say, why? What are you doing? Don't do this, it will only bring trouble. In our lives, we need someone that can say to us, be careful. We need someone to hold us accountable. We need someone that can tell us when and where we may be making mistakes. Some where going to fall into sin today. The other called them on int. Do you have someone that will call you on it when you begin to fall into sin.

We may not want that person, we may not want to hear what they have to say. But, we need it.

New Testament Lesson

Romans 14:1-12

Paul here tells us not to argue over things that are not important, but instead live each day, each moment to the Lord. No matter what we do in life, or how we do it, we should do it to the Lord. If I live to the Lord in all that I do, and you live to the Lord in all that you, it should resolve any problems we have. If it does not resolve them, it will at least show that they are not as important as we make them out to be. Spend your time focusing on what matters, not what is trivial.

Gospel Lesson

Luke 8:26-39

This has one of the most unusually passages in all of scripture, to me. We see Jesus do this great deed, healing this man possessed by demons. Instead of celebrating, the people of the town ask him to leave. Normally people in the Bible ask Jesus to come, here they ask Him to leave. He changed things so drastically, they had rather stay as they were, dead in their sin, then ask Jesus to come and bring life. May we never be so accustomed to the sin our lives that we would ask Jesus to leave.

Wednesday, May 9, 2007

Easter: Wednesday, May 9, 2007

Old Testament Lesson

Joshua 21:43-45, 22:1-6

We see here God keeping His promises to the people. That is one thing in life we don't have to worry about. God will be true to what He says He will do. That is one of the amazing things about God. God wants to enter into covenant with us. Normally, a covenant is between two equal parties. Our covenant with God is. He is greater than we are, yet, He still wants to, and will, keep His word to us, if we keep our part of the covenant.

We are the children of the New Covenant. God has promised to give us life eternal, and life even now, if we will believe and obey. He will be true to what He said He will do. Will we keep our part of the bargain? That is what got the people in trouble so often in the Old Testament. God was true to what He said He would do. The people were not true to what they said that would do. We have the same problem today. Will we keep our promises towards God? He keeps His. May we keep ours.

New Testament Lesson

Romans 13:1-14

One of the interesting accusations made towards Christians during the early church was that they were not good citizens of the Roman government because they would not worship Cesar. In all actuality, they were the best citizens because they did what Paul commanded them to in this passage. Respect the authorities, live a humble and honest life, and try to do right by everyone.

We live in an age of personal destruction. We see it in politics on both the national and local level. We all know it has been like this for many years, but it seems to have got so much more personal lately. It is not just enough for us to defeat our opponent, we must destroy them. It is not just enough to disagree with some one's opponent, that opinion makes them a terrible person.

Paul tells us to respect one another, those in power, and those not. And, try to live a life of love and peace with everyone. That doesn't happen much in our current age. But, if those of us that are Christians do not do that, who will. Remember, our words carry a lot of weight. Let us be careful what we say, and how we say it. Let us try to build up one another not tear down. Let us seek to live and love and be the people God has called us to be.

Gospel Lesson

Luke 8:16-25

We see three things in this passage. First, we cannot hide the light of Christ within us. If you are a Christian it should shine through all that you do. There should be no doubt by the way that we live that we are a Christian. If our lifestyle makes folks doubt if we are a Christian are not, we need to examine the way that we are living.

Second, as the church, we are family. Jesus said that those that do His will are His family. Our church is more than just a gathering together of people, but it is a family. It is a body. Remember that family sticks together.

Last, He cares about us, as He calmed the ways. But, He demands faith of us. If we believe, we will see even greater things that that.

Monday, May 7, 2007

Easter: Monday, May 7, 2007

Today, just a quick quote:

If ever I reach heaven I expect to find three wonders there: first, to meet some I had not thought to see there; second, to miss some I had expected to see there; and third—the greatest wonder of all—to find myself there.

John Newton (1725-1807)

Thursday, May 3, 2007

Easter: Thursday, May 3, 2007

Old Testament Lesson

Joshua 13:1-13

We see the Lord tell Joshua that he is not strong enough to drive out the remaining people; the Lord will do it. While we may or not be as old as Joshua in this passage, we are all frail. None of us are as strong as we would like to think that we are; it is only by God's power we can do anything. God will accomplish what He sets out to accomplish. He will do what He intends to do. The joy is that He will also use us. Let us remember that He is the one at work; He is the potter, we are vessel.

New Testament Lesson

Colossians 2:8-23

One of the things we can do in life, if we are not careful, is that we fall in love with form more than substance. For instance in this passage Paul warns the church not get caught of in the old things, the new moon, etc. He says they were just getting the people ready for this new day; they were pointing people toward Christ. Not that they were bad, but they were not the point. Jesus is the point.

We can get so used to, and so comfortable with the way that we like things done, that we can believe to feel like it is the only way it should be done. I like to pray a certain way and do my devotional life a certain way. It is not the only way. I like a certain type of music, it is not the only type. I like my church. It is not the only church. These things only point to God, they are not God. Do not follow in love only with the arrow pointing to God, fall in love with God.

Gospel Lesson

Luke 6:39-49

I once heard a great sermon base off this passage. The preacher said that you cannot say the phrase "No, Lord." The reason being is that if you say no, then He is not your Lord. You simply do not say not to your Lord. It is not allowed. We cannot (or should not) call Jesus Lord if we do not obey. It is not simply enough to like Jesus or think He's a swell fellow, or admire what He did on the cross. We must obey. If we are are going to call Him Lord, we must obey Him. As James tell us, even the devils believe, but do not obey. Let us believe, and obey.

Wednesday, May 2, 2007

Easter: Wednesday, May 2, 2007

Old Testament Lesson

Joshua 11:1-23

It would appear to someone on the outside that Israel might have a mighty army to defeat all these tribes and people that stood between them and the promised land. It is not so. Remember these are the same people that wandered in the wilderness for 40 years. These are the children of those that were too afraid to come and take the land. It may look to us like they are strong and brave.

It is not so. They are not the ones that won the victory; it is God. God handed the people over to them. God was the one empowering them to win battles. God is the one that can be counted on the storm. In our lives; in the battles we fight and win, it may appear to those on the outside that we won the battle. But, we know, it is God. He is the one that wins the battle for us. And, He deserves the praise.

New Testament Lesson

Colossians 1:24-2:7

Paul talks here about how proud he is of their firmness in Christ. They are deeply rooted in Him and will not be pushed aside. They have deep roots, so that when the storm comes, they will be able to withstand it and keep from being washed away.

It is not a matter of if the storm will come; but when. Are are rooted deep in Christ to withstand the storm? He will not waver, He will not fail us. May He be our root for the time of trial.

Gospel Lesson

Luke 6:27-38

The world is good to those that will give it something good return. The world is kind to those that will allow them to profit. The world holds grudges. The world seeks revenge. The world looks only for itself.

Not so with you. We are to love, regardless. We are to forgive, regardless. We are to turn the other cheek. We are to bless those that curse us. We are show God's love just as God's love has been shown us. Unconditionally. Without strings. Simply because it is what we do. Let us love and pray and bless. And, as we do those things, we will show others just how much God loves them, and us.