Monday, January 30, 2017

Alive in Christ Jesus

The past week has been a crazy week in the world not just in our country. For some that is a welcome event and for others I feel, it is quite suppressing. In this blog I want to simply discuss what the Lord calls us all to and what we, as Christians, should be focussing on.
Just this past week I posted something on facebook about it not being Christian to block our borders from others who might have different beliefs. I did not write the piece nor did I post it as an original post; it was something a friend of mine posted and I thought it made a lot of since. The piece was quoting the Pope and how he felt that people were not Christian if they built walls to keep others out of America. Another friend from my facebook page came back in response to that article by saying that the Pope is not Christian:)! What?
This is the real problem; people want what they want and they can be blinded by what they want to the point that they can say or do anything and call it "alternate facts" I cannot imagine anyone claiming that the Pope is not Christian. We should first of all never use falsehoods as tools to fight back against the things we are passionate about. Does it really make sense to claim that the Pope is not Christian? Not really but see he first claimed that they were not Christian.
This fight is one that really has not victor. The Popes claims should make people think about their actions and I think it did, but what is the response to finding out that we are not acting like Christians? To claim that they are not Christians. These attempts at arguing without facts are much like a child throwing a fit. They are often a reaction to not getting what you want. For those in our country who want to be called Christian and yet treat people with a style much unlike Christians(you are a Christian). Do you feel better now? You should not. The Pope or anyone else is right to call you out because being a Christian means that you respond in a Christian way. You don't get to define what a Christian is; it defines who you are. So if you are not acting like a Christian you have defined yourself. The words from the Pope were offensive to those who want to build walls on our borders which come directly out of fear. Fear that we are not safe. John says, 27 Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.(John 14:27) Being Christian means that we live by these words and not as the world. Yet the world has set the stage for our preset time. Fear has brought us to this present mistrusting decision to block our borders.
Many people will be offended by my words today, and that is fine, but please understand that when our hearts our disturbed by these things we must, as Christians, decide which side we will stand on. "But if serving the LORD seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your ancestors served beyond the Euphrates, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the LORD."(Joshua 24:15)

Saturday, November 26, 2016

The Need to Know

As a pastor I recognize that the Christmas Season is first of all a fun time in the church. People running here and there trying to get decorations up; inside and outside of the church. It can be very easy to miss the mark when t comes to the reason for the season. 
Tomorrow we begin the Advent Season and it is very important that in my attitude and my preaching I don't miss the mark. Isaiah 2:2 says, "In days
to come the mountain of the Lord's house shall be established as the highest of the mountains, and shall be raised above the hills; all nations shall stream to it." It is my goal and full intention to preach and live out this season so that all peoples will recognize Jesus as Lord of all. I ask that while reading this blog join me in praying this prayer. Father, during this season that we recognize as the birth of Jesus, we who believe ask that Your Spirit be poured out over the world that millions would come to know You, that they may have a true spirit of Christmas. Amen! 
 Verse 3 tells us that many will come to the mountain of the Lord for instruction. We must come to the Lord and kneel before Him giving Him our attention so that he can teach us his ways. The world doesn't want to bow before the Lord and give Him their attention. They feel they are doing just fine by being their own master. "No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money" (Matthew 6:24). 
So to those who say they know Jesus Matthew 6:24 should help you to see that you have two masters because you cannot seem to give to God that which He has called to to give. Those things would be money, time, talents, and gifts. I am also guilty of these things and so I write this blog knowing that I must recognize my faults if I am to lead God's people towards the vision which I have received. 
Many are praying for me and I ask you to continue to pray because the spirit is willing but the mind and body are weak. The sins of this world blur the vision and so I pray daily for a clean spirit that can find room at the feet of the Father. It is not enough that we know we can and will be forgiven because without each other to encourage we will all begin to serve the wrong master.
Verse 4 tells us that the mountain will judge, "He shall judge between the nations, and shall arbitrate for many peoples; they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more" (Isaiah 2:4). Only when we turn to the mountain of the Lord and give Him all of ourselves will peace on earth and good will be established.
I pray for my congregation, for my town, for my nation, and for the world that peace will reign and joy be abundant for all. May we all see the face of Jesus in the eyes of our neighbor. May we all be like brothers and sisters; loving and caring for each other. Amen!

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Post Election Depression

I think I am in denial of my post election depression. Amazed once again that our country seems to elect presidents with a broad stroke. I believe that it is a direct result of unrest in our society. Even though we may not recognize it, our Father in heaven is still calling us to Himself, and our resistance shows up in the voting habits and our disassociation from some political figures. I have said in the past that we believe the worst about people when it benefits our cause and we also believe the best about people, or dismiss bad aspects, when it benefits our cause.

 This mess is not about a political figure it is about us and until we fix us we will never find comfort. We are still trying to be our own masters, going through life complaining about others and in many ways demanding that the world change to fit our needs; yet it was Christ who came to serve, showing us an example of servant hood. "Listen, I will tell you a mystery!" "We will not all die, but we will be changed." (1Corinthians 15:51,53) This is what we should expect in our lives if we are to become the Christian that we claim to be. 
A good friend of mine was posting on facebook "I love that we are a Republic" "I love that we are a Christian nation" "I love that we are a democracy" and I acknowledge that I paraphrase what he had actually said to make my point or I guess you could say his point. My reply to his post was, "Are you being sarcastic?" His reply was "No" and so I explain why I am shocked by his post and somewhat dismayed. 
I challenge you as I challenge many, to define what it means to be a Christian. If you define it correctly I do not believe that you can claim that our nation, as a whole, could be considered Christian. Jesus told us that we could judge a tree by the fruit that it bears. If that is the case, and because I believe the scriptures, I believe in this statement declares to us, or it should, that we are failing as a so called Christian nation. 
When you look at corruption at every level of government; when you consider that the higher end of society continues to expand the division between classes, as far as money or wealth is concerned.
Yes you will say to the world that it is not a sin to be rich, that many characters in the bible were wealthy. I give you that. What I see though is disparity between society as far as helping and serving each other. In the days of Jesus walking the Earth the disciples and the people of society felt it was appalling for anyone but a slave to wash your feet when entering a house. Yet Jesus washed the feet of his disciples in an attempt to show them a better way. I ask you "If we are a Christian nation, why aren't we better at washing the feet of others? Why are there homeless, hungry, and naked people in our world. 
Yes our country is working at helping the world and yes we have our hands in so many other countries trying to be the hand of care, but we are not doing enough in my opinion because what I hear from many of the conservatives in society is, "don't ask me to help" or "It's not my halt" or "I am not paying" yes the bible calls us to work but it mostly calls us to be the hand of God into the world. It is not about them it is about us, you and me.    

Monday, October 31, 2016

What is Suffering for Christ all about?

As I continue forward in this stewardship Champaign I want to look to answering the age old question which seems to always be rooted in why. What would Christianity look like if we all better understood what suffering for Christ looked like?
I remember watching a video about this man who loved his son so much (his son was disabled from birth)that he did things with his son that he would not have been able to do without his acting on his son's behalf. The story is the story of team Hoyt. I want to encourage you to google the name and then watch the video about their story.
Long story short we often need to see these heroic stories because first of all we need to be inspired to act out in our own lives. Secondly we need this because we often times do not have the courage nor the discipline it takes to make this kind of suffering a reality. I do seem to be coming across hard about this subject and I will admit that it is harsh but true.
This next Sunday I will be putting this idea of suffering into a stewardship message that I feel we all need to hear, including myself. You see stewardship often times if not most of the time, lends itself to the idea that the church needs to be better givers of their money. Often times our churches are short on funding and we like to blame the lack of opportunities on the lack of funds. What I want you to know is that the blame is often placed wrongly. I would tell you that the fall of our churches can often times be placed on other stewardship issues that more strongly effect the growth of the church and the lack of growth contribute greatly to funding issues.
1Peter 4:1-2 says, "Since therefore Christ suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves also with the same intention (for whoever has suffered in the flesh has finished with sin), so as to live for the rest of your earthly life no longer by human desires but by the will of God ." So we should have the same intentions. This means that although we are not the first to suffer for something but because he set the bar we must follow with the same desire to serve fellow man and not just serve but suffer for them.
I will tell you right now that if we would do this as one of our first attitudes of stewardship so many of our other troubles would melt away or become insignificant in the picture of Christianity.
Verse 3 of this same passage tells us that we have spent enough time doing the things the Gentiles do. It is time to recognize that the end is near and we must turn away from evil ways and turn towards long suffering through love for each other. Jesus set the example when he died on a cross for those who crucified him for their selfish and short-sighted sinfulness. We must take this as a discipline much forgotten because we never look at the end as being close but yet still far off. It is the wise disciple that sees the benefit of being aware of the short time left to us.
We need only look to our most recent deaths in our own congregation to know that time is short and tomorrow is never promised, but a gift of God's love to us. We must, while it is not too late, suffer for our neighbor, our friend, and most importantly for those whom we rarely care for or think of much at all. Peace be to you.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Stewardship and What It Should Mean to You

In the coming weeks we will be focusing on Stewardship at Trinity UMC in Kentland, IN. I will be focusing on preaching a message that moves people to be good stewards might be the best way to put it. So as the pastor of Trinity I am looking at scripture that can lead the congregation to a better understanding of good stewardship.
I feel that stewardship drives turn off many people because in the past it always boils down to giving more money to the church. The first thing I want to help my congregation better understand is that we do not give our money to the church but to God who asks for 10% of that which we receive. So being a good steward of the money you receive means that you budget that money accordingly. Many of us, if not all of us, struggle with budgeting our money correctly, right?
Enough said about money because what I want to focus on are the other things that God calls us to do when He calls us to be good stewards. What do you mean, you might say, "there are other things we are called to give and be good stewards of?" Yes!
One of the biggest issues in our churches and communities today is time; we don't give of our time. But why are we not giving of our time? I feel it is because first of all the church has stopped serving the community and if the church has stopped serving the community why should I support the church with my time. We often point our fingers in an attempt to accuse, lay blame, as for why our church may be lagging with finances. Well there you go I brought up finances again after I said I was going in a different direction. I do this because I want you to know, as many of you already know, that all things of stewardship are connected.
So someone like me, the pastor, could easily say, "if only they would read their Bibles they would know that God is calling them to..." and you can fill in the blank. I could easily say that if we could get people to give more time to serving the church concerning community we would grow the church and a growing church could bring in more revenue so the church could better manage it's expenses.
In the next few weeks Trinity will be talking about stewardship and I invite you to pray about how God is calling you to re-examine your stewardship. I would rather you step up a little in each area of stewardship than have you lift one and not another. So going forward God calls for your giving of your gifts, service, prayers, and I believe talents as well. This year as we all examine our stewardship let us not do the easiest of these things but make sacrifice in the name of God so that our church will prosper in these times.

Monday, October 3, 2016

My Light and Salvation

One thing I cannot help but notice about society today is the lack of faith and the presence of fear. I believe that the presence of fear is the deciding factor in my determining that we have a lack of faith. I say we because in many ways I walk more by fear than by faith. King David declared that the Lord was his salvation. We saw evidence of this faith and salvation as David, as  young boy, facing his giant and defeating him through the faith that he had in his Lord giving him the victory. I have to believe that this was the salvation that David talks about. We could discuss how he might have been talking about a future salvation more symbolic perhaps but I think it was both futuristic and a salvation for the day.
Perhaps we do not see such strength in our daily walks because we choose not to face our giants at all. So if we choose to not step out against our giants everyday could we say that the lack of giant slaying in our lives today is more about our lives and how we choose to live? I have decided that this is precisely why we see no giant slaying in our lives. We have decided that the best way to avoid danger is to walk  away. Yet today I hear more and more about having guns in our possession and how the government cannot take our guns from us. Wouldn't it take more faith to walk without a gun? Well David did have a sling and a stone., but that is not really the point that I think we should be discussing; and you can stay at that last point if you choose to and many that I talk to will stay at that last point I made about guns and stones. What I think we should really discuss is that David stood his ground against insurmountable odds. You see the sling and the stone were only symbols of David's faith in God.
This past week I attended our RIM Retreat and I was surprised to learn that many of my fellow pastors are standing on the side of being armed with guns. I find this surprising because I find at times I am the minority when I choose to stand armed only with the word of God. You see it was faith that saved David and not the sling and stone. God was looking to defeat the giant and only needed or wanted someone to stand for Him. Those who stood armed with the best armor available were defeated by their lack of faith but a young boy who was left to defend the defenseless sheep had seen , through his courage time and time again, how God was the best defense.
If salvation in God is what we are truly seeking then what can the giant do to us? What can man do to us but kill us and if we truly desire heaven then isn't that giving us exactly what we are seeking?
So then do we need to arm ourselves today? You bet. But not the way that this world wants to be armed but armed with the word of God. Prepare yourselves with the word so that in that final moment when God takes you may you stand firm against the biggest giant of all, yourself.

Saturday, October 1, 2016

The Handwriting on the Wall

We live in a time much like many other times in our history and yet different than any other time in our history. What I mean by that is that we are still doing things to lose favor with our one true God.
First of all I want to go back to Daniel 5 and look at what was going on in the court of Belshazzar. Outside the once thought city to be impregnable, Cyrus the Great and his ally Darius the Mede were fighting against the king. We can at times be so distracted by our might that we do not pay attention to the world around us. Or we don't care that the world is falling apart outside because our great might has made us callus to the pain around us. 
In Daniel 5:2 we read that when Belshazzar tasted the wine he commanded that the vessels of gold be brought into the feast so they could drink the wine from the plunder, so to speak. It is hard to imagine that someone could be this brazen while destruction is going on outside the walls but isn't that the way the world works today? It could also be unimaginable that the world could find pleasure in profiting from the fall of the financial markets in the 2008 stock market crash, but we know that this has happened. 
In Daniel 5:5 we can then read that an unknown hand, which was obviously considered to be a miracle at the time, writes on the wall of the palace. King Belshazzar then sends out orders for all who can help him understand what has just happened. Of course this is immediately after his knees knock together with fear.
God can often make gestures of change in our lives as He did in this occurrence, but then there was Daniel, a good man who was able to interpret the image. Who is our Daniel today? Has God sent a Daniel to interpret the writing on the wall or has He left us to destroy each other with our greed for gold and wine? When is there ever enough money? when do we begin to give back a little of what has been given to us? I think it begins with the thought that we did this for ourselves and therefore we deserve all that we get. That statement might come back to haunt you much like the writing on the wall. Perhaps some day soon we will all get what we deserve.
I want to end this story with this final comment, Daniel does interpret the message on the wall to King Belshazzar but it is what he says to him before his interpretation that I feel is important for all of us to hear and that is, "Let your gifts be for yourself, and give your rewards to another." Daniel is very wise because in his answer he tells the king how to change his life so as to find true peace. We should pay attention to this message because if we treat the world as a place of tranquility and peace, to do for one another as we can with what we have, we shall find a sort of heaven on Earth. Daniel basically says I don't want your gifts, I don't do this for you but for my true King. 
One of my favorite songs of all time was by Casting Crowns and it was a song named after that group. In that song the idea of casting our crowns at the feet of Jesus pays homage to the king. Belshazzar called for such things as gold crowns from a previous time a time that he did not have a thing to do with but an inheritance from years past. We accept such riches as our own and we wear them with honor but we dishonor our past by not giving to support people with less than ourselves. We, if we bow to our true master and king, can be given a crown which we can choose to wear or lay at the feet of one more worthy to wear a crown. Most everyone who is worthy to wear a crown knows that he is not worthy.