Debate all you want- except this-

from 1 Peter 3:18-22

Wow talk about opening a can of worms with this passage of scripture, trust me, look it up and read it. But putting all misunderstandings and agreements to the side considering baptism or where exactly Christ was as He proclaimed to spirits in prison- what’s the one thing most of us can agree on?

CHRIST TRIUMPHS! Can I get an amen here please?!

Oh my goodness I love Peter to death, but he sure gave a chunk of stuff to chew on.  Peter could have stopped talking after the first words- “For Christ suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous.” Remains me immediately of Paul’s words in Romans where he speaks of “while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us; that just the right time Christ died for the ungodly (Ro. 5:6-8).

Christ triumphs!  The triumph is not the death, but the resurrection- Christ indeed triumphed over death, and did so for the likes of all of us. And He is now seated in heaven with angels, authorities and powers, being made subject to Him.

We can debate over baptism, we can debate over other traditions of our divided denominations of Christianity. But one fact remains true overall and reigns supreme. It’s all about Jesus, it’s all about Him, it’s all about the triumph which He alone procured on our behalf- period.

In this time of reflection Lord, may we consider what Jesus has done for us. Let us cast aside our petty differences and focus in on what really matters and that is YOU! In His name we bow- amen!

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An everlasting sign

Gen. 9:8-17

A bow in the sky, what’s the thing here from Noah’s story doing as part of Lent? Again I’d have to say that maybe the last verse in this passage may help explain. “This is the sign of the covenant that I have established between me and all flesh that is on the earth.” God is speaking with Noah, and gives to Noah and all the following generations this promise- when you see my bow in the sky, it is the reminder to you that the water will never again be as a flood to destroy all flesh.

A symbol, a promise, a lasting covenant.

A cup of wine, a symbol, a promise as a new covenant was put into place. Jesus sat with His disciples one evening and passed  a cup of wine around the table. He spoke to them, “this is the new covenant in my blood which is shed for the remission of sin”.

On a hill, a cross, that promise fulfilled by His blood that flowed from a cross. The cross a sign, a symbol for us.

A symbol, a promise, a covenant for all future generations is still in play. A covenant bestowed by the actions of one towards another. His deliberate act, His deliberate sacrifice, His covenant put into place for us. Have we taken it up as our own? When we see the sign of the cross, when we lift the cup to our lips- do we remember?

Causing us to remember Lord, causes us to greater thankfulness- may it be so- Amen.

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Treasure beyond measure

Mt. 6:19-21

Consider the core of your being, consider your heart. Just three little verses and the punch line is solidly delivered in the last one. “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”

Take out your calendar and that’s an indicator of what means the most to you. Check to see how much screen time you spent this week, and see where you mostly spent your hours on-line. Is this where your treasure lies?

Anything on earth, in fact everything on earth is of a temporary nature. It will wear down, wear out, go out of fashion, go extinct, get corroded, be misplaced, lost or stolen by another or by time. Nothing in this earthly existence is of an eternal nature, everything will eventually just pfffft-gone.

Jesus is asking us to have those activities, to gather up those items that are of an eternal nature. The heart that Jesus is talking about is the center of your will, your reason, or your emotions. So what’s on your heart, is it a treasure, an eternal one or merely something that will eventually be gone? What do we set our hearts on? Is it things, or is it more about relationships?

Perhaps it would be good if we went a little treasure hunting with God. Self-reflection is that deliberate act, and between you and God we should all have a check-up on our hearts. Seems like a pretty good activity for Lent.

Oh Lord, you may know our hearts, but I don’t think we know our own hearts. Help us to do the tough work and truly consider what we treasure in this world, or in our lives. Whatever

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when to be 007…

Jesus speaks to the crowds from the Mount of Olives, this is a most beloved segment of the scripture. (Mt. 6:1-6) We get to consider part of His sermon on the mount. Hopefully you don’t fall into the category of being a “secret Christian”. This is the believer that you honestly would have never known that they were part of the family of faith unless you asked them. Maybe it’s just me, but I’m thinking that if having a relationship with Jesus is to be evident, I really can’t be a secret Christian, my life should show it.

On the other hand, my faith shouldn’t be like the Pharisees or scribes of Jesus’ day either. Jesus pretty much is calling them on the carpet for their pretense of righteousness by their public actions. In this case, some secrecy is exactly what Jesus is calling for.

Do we do these things for the kingdom of God in order that men might praise us, or is it to glorify God? And Jesus has some specifics about tooting our own horn- in short, put your horn down! When you give, just give, we don’t need to make a big thing of it, just do what you are moved to do. When you pray, keep it simple, you’re talking with God not a crowd. Maybe we need to follow Jesus’ example and be alone with God, people don’t need to hear all about our business anyway. We all know that there’s a place for public or corporate prayer, but let’s us keep it humble and honest.

As it comes to giving, there are lots of causes that we can get excited over and pitch in, but make that donation in compassion. There are a lot of hurting and needy people out there that have a hard time receiving from others. When we call our attention to ourselves, when we sound the trumpet heralding our generosity, it doesn’t have a very good effect on the receiver at all. Give generously, but give quietly Jesus is saying.

In the spirit of Christ, in humility and compassion, He calls us to be as Him to those who need our support and our prayers. During this season of reflection, the spirit may move upon us to be more charitable, and if so I guess we need to follow Jesus’ direction on this.

 

Lord help us as we help others to consider the true reason behind our actions. Move us to compassion, and move us to be almost secretive in our acts of charity or prayer. You know our hearts and that is the most important thing of all, for we serve, we pray in Christ’s name Amen.

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there will be that time

OOO- the judgement seat of Christ! Sounds a little scary, and yet Paul is telling the church at Corinth that he had a plan. Paul says my aim is to please him, meaning Christ, regardless of his physical state. Now Corinth was a town of many opinions as to spiritual matters. So there were all kinds of theories on the hereafter. But for the Christian, Paul’s words are an encouragement to us.

We know that these earthly bodies are wearing down as we age, to the point where we may actually want to purposefully cast it aside to be with the Lord. Paul desired that, but even though he was still physically here on earth in his beat up, flogged, shipwrecked and persecuted body, he said he was of good courage. How in the world could he say that?

Well, by faith, not sight he lived his life. He didn’t stumble around blindfolded, but he lived trusting and resting confidently in the promises that God had given to him and to all believers. He knew that in death he would be with Jesus. He knew that until that time he lived with Jesus, indwelt by the Holy Spirit. Either way, God’s presence and His promises were guaranteed to him.

Paul firmly believed that when he passed from this life, his physical body would be buried. However, his spirit, or his soul would immediately be in the presence of Jesus. There he would abide in that form until the time came for the resurrection of the body. Until that time Paul’s ambition is to live to please Christ.

On that day, before the judgement seat of Christ Paul states that we will be judged, and receive what is due for what we have done in the body. This is not a judgement of salvation; that eternal issue has already been dealt with when you accepted Christ’s death on the cross as payment for your sin. The cross settled that once and for all. This is the time when our lives will give the evidence of our faith by our actions. And Christ will reward that evidence of our faith.

Nothing really scary about that, we, like Paul can be of good courage. Only those who depart from this life without accepting Christ as their Savior will face a different type of judgement. Maybe that thought would move us to live our lives to please Christ and to bring as many others into His family.

Lord, help us to remember that once saved, forever saved. And let that knowledge spur us on to do the work you have called us to do. For if we are faithful to do that, then we are the living evidence of what we believe. Amen

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Hmmm what do you see?

Magic mirror, on the wall – who’s the ugliest one of all? Not exactly how that little line goes is it? But if the truth be known, we are all a tad bit on the ugly side. If you think about it, it takes real effort to be beautiful, but ugly, that’s an equal opportunity offering. And spiritually speaking it is because it is our nature.

Our psalm today is often heard during services within the church when we are about to celebrate Communion. As I was growing up in the Presbyterian church, we had a unison prayer that always included a general confession of wrongdoing coupled with the need for forgiveness. At the end of that prayer the minister would give us the assurance of our forgiveness through Jesus Christ.

A general acknowledgement though is something very easy to pass over or breeze through. During the Lenten season, we are seeking closer fellowship with God. And that would definitely involve deliberate and specific recognition and confession of the sin that has caused us to be “out of fellowship” with our Lord.

Lent is not the time where we point the finger at perhaps our neighbor or family member, but we point the finger at ourselves. We take a close look at the mirror and see where we are spiritually. Are we in fellowship with God? Are we in agreement with Him and what He has ordained as His law and purpose for us? Do we have areas in our lives that we covet thinking, “oh this is small, this isn’t a big deal-“.

Trust me, it is a big deal. Blessings are bestowed on righteousness, and in keeping short account with God when we have missed the mark. Consequences follow rebellion, or if that word seems too harsh for you – consequences follow disobedience. There is always forgiveness, but we still may have to deal with the consequences, David knew that when he wrote this psalm. But it never occurred to him that God would ever say to him- “ok, that’s it- you’re toast David”.

Some have misunderstood the phrase “take not your holy spirit from me” as to mean a believer may lose the Holy Spirit. You need to remember that in the Old Testament, the Spirit did not indwelt David, or others who worshiped Yahweh. The spirit of God rested upon a person as God desired and directed, given to accomplish His will and purposes. But with Jesus, as believers we are indwelt by the Holy Spirit upon belief and sealed until the day of redemption. We don’t forfeit the Spirit due to our sin, but we sure do hinder His work in our lives by disobedience. We are telling God we want to be restored, we want to be obedient to the Spirit, because we can feel our loss when we are wayward.

It is true, if we take the time to be deliberate with God, to be honest and talk to Him about our sin, our short comings, then He has promised to forgive us, and gives us a clean start. And that my friends, is a big deal of blessing heaped on us.

Oh Lord hear us this day as we come before You, humble of heart and seeking forgiveness for…

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true face of charity- do we shine?

Day 2 from Isa. 58:6-12

Another prophet’s voice brings us a message to shine, to receive the blessings bestowed on the charitable heart. Ahhhh, but having a charitable thought is not the same as a charitable act is it? We can be moved by many a cause that is put before us. A benefit here, a benefit there, a tournament over there, a blast on Facebook or Instagram. But unless we become deliberate, unless we actually get up and go – the thought remains merely an idea, and the need is still out there.

Maybe in order to be deliberate and practice charity toward another involves a little readjustment of our time. Maybe we need to take a quick look at our calendar and decide, “well maybe that isn’t as much of a necessity right now”. I guess what I’m hinting at, is we need to become available. We have to choose to be deliberate in our charity at times, and perhaps this Lenten season would be a good time to be more charitable.

Just as much as we are called to return to the Lord, we are called to be light and to be salt. ‘You are the light of the world” “You are the salt of the earth” . Pretty definitive words of Christ about who we are- not who we will be (Mt. 5:13-14). It is expected of us as I see it.

Maybe we think we’re just too small to shine. Look at a single birthday candle in a darkened room, although small it has an effect. And if we are salt, we are the flavor to this o’l world. What kind of seasoning are you? Do what we bring to our days an enhancement or bitterness?

Our light, the light of Jesus will rise in the areas of darkness in the simplest of gestures. Our light rises when we bring a comforting word, or the simple of act of sitting with someone as they grieve. We are salt when our actions spur our friends and co-workers to reach just a little bit more than expected. And all through this, the prophet says the Lord will answer when we call, when we need help, he says- here I am.

Lord, we can do this, we can be your light and salt to this world. It begins in our own backyards and homes. Cause the light to so shine in us that people will see you in us, that they will taste the goodness of you. Empty our schedules, empty our agendas so that we may be at work with you in your world- amen.

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Ash Wednesday- just a thought for my brothers and sisters in Christ

Only repentance can avert invasion… Joel 2:12-17.

We call this day Ash Wednesday. Why ashes? To sport the black smudge on one’s forehead is a visible reminder of the old saying- ashes to ashes dust to dust, a reminder of our created origins. In these days, with the decline of Christianity as a system of belief, many might just think you were cleaning out the furnace duct or the fireplace and didn’t quite get cleaned up. But for them it may cause you to have an opportunity to explain why you took the time to deliberately place the symbol of Ash Wednesday upon yourself.

Lent is all about deliberate acts, actions we choose to do or actions we choose not to do for a period of 40 days. To some the practice of foregoing a favorite treat is taken lightly, if one forgets, oh well, it is like the New Year’s resolution that falls away the second week of January.

But Lent is about deliberate acts. It is a call to be committed to an action for the direct result of bringing a positive outcome in one’s life. History speaks from this scripture today, saying to us that “even now”, those are words of hope. If Israel, if we would only return to the Lord, deliverance is the next promise of God. Israel as a nation had Assyria standing on their doorstep, an invasion was imminent. And God was giving them a choice to repent of the behavior that got them in this position. Who knows? Even now the Lord may relent…

The reason to return, which the word return means “repentance”; we return to the Lord because He is gracious and compassionate. He is slow to anger and abounding in love. That He can relent from sending calamities or tougher times and leave a blessing instead. I don’t see this as an opportunity to do something in order to get something- that’s not what Lent is about.

But I see it as a means to honor and thank the one who is so gracious and compassionate, who loves us inspite of ourselves and who is always willing to bless us, even if the blessing is a time of trial.

“Even now” the Lord awaits our return. Our return from the noise of our lives, our return from the self-inflicted trials due to bad choices. 40 days is not a cure-all, but it could very well be the beginning of a new and beautifully restored relationship with the one who is gracious, compassionate and abounding in love. Even to that love displayed on a cross for the sin He never committed, His blood sealing our redemption.

Lord, the call has been issued- let us begin to turn our hearts to you. Let us be committed in this endeavor, keep us close by your Spirit and move upon your people to move ever closer to you. In Jesus’ name- amen.

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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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