Monday, December 31, 2007
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
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
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
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.
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
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
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.
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
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
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.
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
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.
Old Testament Lesson
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
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
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.
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
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
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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
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
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.
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
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!
Old Testament Lesson
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!
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
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 bestJust because we've heard it before; we all need to be reminded of that great story.
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.
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
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.
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.