Make that a Temple -to-go!

                      This Sunday (8/26/18) will find me filling the pulpit for my friends at the Lindenwood Union Church in Lindenwood Illinois. When I serve I use the Revised Lectionary as my guide for preparation. In considering the passage of 1 Kgs.8, I was impressed by the reverence and honor being directed to God as Solomon dedicated the great temple for the Name of the Lord.

            The overriding question to myself and what I hope to share this week was this. What is the condition of the ‘ark of the covenant” within me? As the wings of the Cherubim were spread over the Ark of the Covenant in Solomon’s temple, I couldn’t help but think that my “ark”, my heart, in fact is kept under the outstretched arms of the Lord Jesus Christ. There is the true mercy seat for myself and for all those who have come to a saving knowledge of Christ.

           As I make my journey in life, I am forever under His eye. So in a sense, having the Spirit of God residing in me, this somewhat portable temple, my walk is ever dependent upon my relationship in Him. I don’t wish to be as a piece of wood merely overlaid in gold, I want to be transformed into His likeness and be that “Jesus with skin on” that this world so desperately needs to see. 

           May we all return to the mercy seat and find forgiveness and the inspiration to continue in our ministries. Amen-

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Ok, What Now?

A recent article I read was very interesting, and it posed the question of “Are You Living on the Right Side of Easter?” It made a comparison between pre-Easter church mindset, and the post-Easter church mindset. Whatever side of Easter we find ourselves in, it makes a huge influence in our lives personally, and in the life of a church corporately.

  • Pre Easter is a mixture of great joy, followed by great tragedy. Where disciples and followers of Jesus are elated then by the end of the week are thrown into the deepest confusion and despair. But a time where religion had become religiosity, an act of obedience full of burdensome rule keeping.
  • Post Easter- the resurrection changes everything, or at least it should have with the discovery of an empty tomb. With the post resurrection appearances of Jesus, there is a time of comfort once again, but still mixed in there is confusion. Some still doubt, and then a very great task is given to be completed, more questions, more confusion.

So in thinking about this question of what side of Easter do you live, I turned to 2 Cor.5:14-19.The question put simply before all of us this morning in this Eastertide is “Ok what now?” The answer in a nutshell is verse 15 here in this passage, this is the foundation of the post-Easter mindset.

  • 15 And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again.

Do we have this as our focal point of life? Perhaps, but probably not if we were honest with ourselves. Religiosity becomes a part of us, and not the resurrection. We can move right through Easter and not let it effect us one iota. However the resurrection changes everything.

“Ok, What Now?”

  • 16 So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer.

Changing our opinions and prejudices towards others is a mighty tall order. When we compare others to the measure of this world, this is a very sorry state of affairs. When we judge others, (and you know we do) what side of Easter is your basis? Paul says here that we used to regard people from a worldly view, including even Christ!

The post-Easter mindset echoes the words of John Bunyan, a Puritan minister, who wrote the Christian Classic, A Pilgrim’s Progress. John’s answer to this was “ Canst thou not see the face of God in each man?” Victor Hugo in his monumental work, Les Miserable stated, “To love another person is to see the face of God”.

The resurrection changes everything- every person is of value, even that one person that so gets under your skin.

17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come:[a] The old has gone, the new is here!”

It is a constant battle to free ourselves and others from past history.This is where real hard work comes to meet us face to face.

  • Here is where we practice forgiving others as Christ as forgiven us.
  • Here is where we begin to cast away old hurts into the sea of forgetfulness, and leave our fishing poles back in the garage.
  • Here is where we practice mercy and grace, as that same mercy and grace has been bestowed upon us.

Releasing ourselves from our past takes a quantum leap of faith for some. But if Christ has given you forgiveness by your own acknowledgment of those events, you must forgive yourself, or you make a mockery of the grace of God. You in essence stand then in front of an empty tomb and say this doesn’t apply to me.

It’s even more difficult when dealing with people who have hurt you deeply, or have caused untold national or international tragedies. I would recommend a book, “Mission at Nuremburg” by Tim Townsend. It relates the story of a Lutheran pastor who enlisted at age 50 and was sent into the European theater of WW2 to minister to those wounded in battle. At the end of the war when others were being sent home, he was given the task of ministering to the Nazi officers on trial at Nuremburg. It is a fascinating story of faith, guilt, morality, forgiveness, vengeance and salvation. 21 souls were placed into his care, given a task he would never have volunteered for. 21 souls that the world would pronounce the judgment of death, and yet he served them with compassion.

And the third point is personal and also a commission to every pastor of His kingdom.

  • 18 All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: 19 that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation.

To proclaim the message of reconciliation is not the only task of the pastorateThat task is passed to each and every one of us.

We may stand in a pulpit and declare the Gospel and the truth of God, but we stand in the ordinary as shining lights because that resurrection changed everything!

Our lives are a living testament to what we hold most true to ourselves. Now think about that for a minute or 2. Your life matters, mattered enough for Christ to die for you on a cross. You’re not your own, you were bought with a price. (1 Cor.6:19-20) As evidence of this, we no longer live for ourselves but for Him. What is the testament we have been writing ever since we came to faith in Jesus Christ? That is a sobering thought for a believer with a post Easter mindset.

The resurrection changed everything, but if we find ourselves still in the pre-Easter mindset, there is still an empty tomb that calls for our attention. This Eastertide is the time to cast the old and put on the new. It’s not a time to look ahead to the next big thing, the big thing is you and what will be your response to how you will live your life.

With a post-Easter mindset we will find ourselves seeking the answers to our questions. Struggling with understanding how Jesus would have us to live. We begin to learn the real meaning of sacrifice, and just what it means to really surrender yourself to the Resurrected Messiah.

Ok so what now? Let it begin!

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Changes and Lessons

Well it’s winter, so it’s supposed to be cold, right? Well it is, but every once in a while there’s this temporary temperature rise that grants us just the slightest glimmer of hope.

It reminds us that nothing lasts forever, change is inevitable, and when one is speaking about the weather, well change is the norm.

Some changes we enjoy, others not so much. Seems that change, whether planned by us or forced upon us, is all a part of our existence. And it seems at the first of the year some of us are bound and determined to make some changes. If you are one of those (for I am not) I applaud you.

And I want to encourage you…. good for you! And if you have a setback, don’t let that deter you, and don’t let others comments upset you. Try again, and if it seems impossible at this particular time in your life, well I’m here to applaud your personal effort. Good for you (again), you went at it, you gave it a try. Maybe next time your efforts will result in what you had desired.

What is comforting to me is to realize that sometimes it takes years for something to change. Perhaps it was more of a behavior thing, you may have called quits on that, but you may have to deal with the aftereffects of those previous choices. The comfort is this, as a believer in Christ you have made a change, never forget that. People may never forget past behaviors and seem to be thrilled to throw up in your face at every instant.

Remember this, the past is just that. You may carry the lessons that you have learned from it, but it should not run your present life. As a believer you really are a new creation. As old behaviors and attitudes change, the past is left behind. What is the sense of dragging that into your present and on into your future when it’s a closed history as far as your heavenly Father is concerned?

You see it tells us in scripture that “I am the Lord I change not!”(Mal.3:6). And when you brings failures and such before the Lord and set things straight with Him, well you are given a new start and the past is forgiven and forgotten. (Micah 7:9). People have a problem forgetting, but not God- it’s over and done with, get on now with your changes!

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Thankfulness reminder

 It’s 12 below, that’s somewhat cold, it squeaks as I head out. It’s mighty dark and all I hear is the crunch, crunch, crunch of my steps as I head out to the garage.

I had started the car earlier, so I throw my work gear into the small bubble of warmth that is my vehicle. And I sigh, a week has passed and now I must return to work. Most of us had between Christmas and New Year’s off, a chance for some r&r.

Off I go, through the cold and I am once again reminded. I have come from a warm home. I have a car that decided to turn over and heat up as I asked. I have somewhere to go, and something to put my hand to. All the while knowing that I have somewhere to return when the work is done for the day.

And I sigh, and I thank God.

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the season of Christmas –

And so Christmas day proper has come and gone. How many have already taken down their tree in order to get ready for the New Year celebration. We haven’t yet, maybe another weekend to go before we do.

Now is the season of Christmas  really- for in the church’s liturgical calendar beginning on Christmas and going those “12 days of” to land at Epiphany, well this is technically called Christmas.

Wow! I don’t have to put the tree away, I have 12 more days to celebrate. But no that’s not right either…

I have all days to celebrate the spirit of Christmas. I want to be known as the converted old covetous sinner Ebenezer Scrooge at the end of his story.

“He became as good a friend, as good a master, and as good a man, as the good old city knew, or any other good old city, town, or borough, in the good old world. Some people laughed to see the alteration in him, but he let them laugh, and little heeded them; for he was wise enough to know that nothing ever happened on this globe, for good, at which some people did not have their fill of laughter in the outset:…and it was always said of him, that he knew how to keep Christmas well, if any man alive possessed the knowledge.”

Regardless if people laughed at the change over Ebenezer he was wise enough to let them shake their heads. He continued in his transformation, finally being noted for the ability to keep Christmas well. He had learned his lesson well with the visitation of the 3 spirits.

Now is the season of Christmas, and how shall we keep it? Perhaps we’re want to put it away, I pray not. The foundation of Christmas was the undeserving love of God towards us, towards a whole realm of Ebenezer’s. It is probably time for our own transformations, and in so doing, may we come to know how to keep Christmas well.

Show us Lord what Christmas is, transform our thinking to be in tune with the gifts of Christmas- salvation, compassion, and  charity towards all. Amen

 

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so this is Christmas

 

 

And so it is this Christmas day, all the candles may be lit on our Advent wreaths . The last candle is  the Christ Candle.

And Lord you remind me that the center of my focus is to be upon the one light that came into this world to dispel all the darkness that lies within… me.

There will always be darkness in this world, that will not change until He comes again.  But until that time we will contend with forces beyond our control. Forces that seek to tear at our communities, our homes, our relationships and within each one of us individually.

I need this Christ candle in my life, and I need to take it with me as I go from this day. For where there is darkness, there will be this light. Where there is hunger, there will I be fed on His word. Where there is confusion, there will be guidance. Where there is lack I will find all that is needed for this day and the day after that and the day after that and the day…

Hallelujah to the King of Kings, to He who sits on the throne of the God Most High. Blessed is He that came for me and sheds His light into the darkness of my soul. This is your day Lord, may you ever be praised in this life that I live.  

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Take my breath away

“Now there were in the same country shepherds living out in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. 9 And behold,[b] an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were greatly afraid. 10 Then the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. 11 For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. 12 And this will be the sign to you: You will find a Babe wrapped in swaddling cloths, lying in a manger.”
13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying:
14 “ Glory to God in the highest,
And on earth peace, goodwill toward men!”[c]

15 So it was, when the angels had gone away from them into heaven, that the shepherds said to one another, “Let us now go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has come to pass, which the Lord has made known to us.” 16 And they came with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the Babe lying in a manger. 17 Now when they had seen Him, they made widely[d] known the saying which was told them concerning this Child. 18 And all those who heard it marveled at those things which were told them by the shepherds. 19 But Mary kept all these things and pondered them in her heart. 20 Then the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen, as it was told them. (Lk. 2:8-20)

It was quiet on the plain that evening, the gentle breeze just beginning to cool the heat from the day. The fires were lit, the stations set and the dogs were out on the perimeter. The young ones had been gathered close, content to finally lay down from the day’s wanderings.

The men were lazily taking their meal, talking, and laughing among themselves. Then on the horizon it seemed that the sun had appeared- a great light was upon the plain and the men were dumbstruck. The sheep became suddenly restless, and yet they cowered as the dogs with the sudden brightness. Trying to shield themselves was impossible, instantly they tried to hide and clung to each other for safety. And then came the voice, followed by others.

Absolutely terrified came this voice from one who was barely discernable within the brilliance.

                “ Do not be afraid” it said… but the words only made the men cry out in their fear.

“Do not be afraid, for I bring you good news, great joyous news.” A few of the shepherds actually lifted their heads and made out the form of what appeared to be certainly some angelic form. The light was still surrounding them, but now they could see this beautiful messenger. Although their hearts were still troubled, they listened to the being.

“Today, in Bethlehem, there has been a Savior born, for you, for all of you, he is Christ the Lord!” the being said. In fact it almost sounding as if it was a song. The shepherds just looked at each other mouthing the word “Savior?”. The being knew their questions and continued to speak.

“And this is how you will know, you will find a child, wrapped in its swaddling bands, in a manger.” And as the word went out, the shepherds were terrified to see a great and mighty host of angelic beings. The night, once pierced by day, now rang out in rapturous melody to almost make them swoon. Caught up were these mere mortals in a song that had been rehearsed from the dawn of creation and it seemed to last for hours on end.

“Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace, good will to men!” Over and over like a wild and wonderful chant. And all they could do was huddle in abject submission. The cacophony of voices finally seemed to move away and then the light diminished, leaving the shepherds and their flocks as they had been found.

Looking up and at each other, they were speechless. Each one considering his own sanity, and what had really happened. But one by one, they found their voices and argued whether or not to go. But go where? A manger, a child, Bethlehem, that still left too much area to search. And it was decided that they would go in groups, each taking some of the flock, and if one had found the child to send a runner to find the others.

Off they went into the night to find the sign given to them. They would stop at every cave with a lite burning, surely there were others who had been told…

How would you have reacted to this terrifying encounter. Let’s give those shepherds a little credit for not deciding to just stay put out of their fear! And what was the response they got from strangers about their visitation? How many caves did they search before they found the one with a child just newly born, still wrapped in it’s swaddling.

Picture your local nativity scene- why is it almost every figure has their hand to their heart? (well except of course the wisemen)It’s a picture of someone catching their breath, that sudden intake of air. Well the entire universe had been holding it’s breath for several millennia. How could the shepherds naught but do  likewise when they found the child just as the angel had told them?

Advent Lord is drawing to an end, this has been our time of preparation for Your coming. We may think we know what to expect, but we really don’t have a clue. We may think we have everything ready, and all things are in place, yet that isn’t quite right either. Unexpectedly You God became Incarnate, the ultimate deity wrapped in flesh and it staggers our senses. May we sit in Your presence this day, and may the wonder of this moment take our breath away. To the One who breathes into us the breath of life we pray Amen-

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