Thursday, November 29, 2007
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.
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
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
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.
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
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.
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 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.
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.
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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
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
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!
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
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.
Wednesday, November 7, 2007
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
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.
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
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
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.
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
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
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.
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
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.