• Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

  • Seekers' ClassBible, open

    Sundays, 10:30 in the parlor. Please join us!

    For more information click here.

  • Hurricane Relief

    Donate

    Partner with UMCOR in responding to the needs of communities and individuals impacted by recent hurricanes and other disasters.

  • Messiah Resources

    **Right Now Media

    More Information

Thanksgiving

Today in countless homes, in all kinds of places people will think about and tell about things for which they are thankful. The list is long for most of us and most of us realize there are even more things than we are aware of.

However, the most intense moments of thankfulness are not found in times of plenty, but when difficulties abound. Think of the Pilgrims that first Thanksgiving. Half their number dead, men without a country, but still there was thanksgiving to God. Their gratitude was not for something but in something. It was that same sense of gratitude that lead Abraham Lincoln to formally establish the first Thanksgiving Day in the midst of national civil war, when the butcher’ s list of casualties seemed to have no end and the very nation  struggled for survival.

It is exactly the type of situation referred to in the Bible: give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. (I Thess 5:18) Our list of “fors” might be short. Perhaps in your own life, right now, there is intense hardship. Try following the directions of the Psalmist: Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth… Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to him and praise his name. -Psalms 100:1a, 4 (NIV)

Praising God, giving thanks won’t change your circumstances but it will change you. True thanksgiving is accompanied by joy. Through grace it is God’s gift to you.

Have a joyful Thanksgiving Day!

P.S. A personal story: Today I started my day with this song that I had not thought about for a long time and I experienced the results of praising God.

Disappointment

We rejoice in the hope of God’s glory. And hope does not disappoint. -Romans 5:2, 5

Have you ever been disappointed? If not, I would like to meet you.

It’s no fun. It can be devastating. So no one likes it.

For followers of Jesus (Christians) disappointment can be especially problematic. We can be disappointed with circumstances and events. But the disappointments often are in people. A close friend, a husband, a wife, other family members disappoint us. That can be especially painful. The church can disappoint us. But the most difficult of all disappointments is disappointment  with/in God.

But have you ever thought about the first cause of disappointment? What precedes any such experience? What is a prior necessity to your being disappointed? It begins with expectation. That is the prerequisite to disappointment.

Sometime ago I wrote about the place expectations play in the Christian gospel and life. God’s promises form a foundation for Christian understanding and living. But wrong expectations and the resulting disappointments are a great danger to faith.

Expectations that God will shield you from all difficulties, make you successful, and such are inevitably pathways to disappointment with God. And disappointment with God is of all things the worst. It can easily shut the door to real faith and confidence. God is not a cosmic Santa Claus that fulfills all our childish and sinful desires.  He does not rescue us from disappointments resulting from wrong expectations.

But our hope in what God has done for us in Jesus will not disappoint us.

 

 

Great Expectations

The people were waiting expectantly… -Luke 3:15  

“Great Expectations”

I read about a man who left a relative $1 million.  In return, the relative thoroughly cursed the man.  The reason—the man was Andrew Carnegie and he left $365 million to public charities.
This was a problem of expectations—he expected more.

One day a father told his son,
“Don’t swim in that canal.”
“O.K. Dad”
That evening he came home caring a wet bathing suit.
“Where have you been?” demanded the father.
“Swimming in the canal,” answered the boy.
“Didn’t I tell you not to swim there?” asked the father.
“Yes, sir.”
“Why did you?”
“Well, Dad,” he explained, “I had my bathing suit with me and I couldn’t resist the temptation.”
“Why did you take your bathing suit with you?”  he asked.
“So I’d be prepared to swim, in case I was tempted,”…

          To a great extent, our actions are determined by expectations.
So, our expectations affect our satisfaction with life and with people and how we act. Therefore it should not surprise us that expectations play a large role in our lives—spiritually. Notice the words of our text, “As the people were in expectation.”

It is no accident that promises play such a large role in God’s dealings with people and his  plan.  Every major event in the history of God’s redemptive action is preceded by a promise.  People were told over and over to expect certain actions on God’s part—at times against overwhelming odds.

God is THE God of Promise,
His People, THE people of Expectancy

The expectation often had bearing on the event.  Expectation has a close relationship to desire and is an element of faith.  How much do we want God?  What do we expect from him are important factors in our spiritual health.
It is of course  true that what happened was different from the details of what was expected—God’s surprises—but it was believing God would, as we say, “do God’s thing.”

As we have already seen, there are good and bad expectations—we might say holy and unholy ones.  The unholy ones when frustrated can cause bitterness, disappointment, frustration, and anger. Perhaps the most common form of unholy expectation is worry. Robert Frost once said, “The reason why worry kills more people than work is that more people worry than work.”

But there are the holy ones—the real “Great Expectations” and they make   a profound difference in our lives. Here are some of the most basic for the believer:

EXPECT TO BE RID OF YOUR SINS. That is God’s ultimate goal for you. The angel said to Joseph, “you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.”
EXPECT RESISTANCE/OPPOSITION (In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”-John 16:33)
EXPECT TO GROW (Romans 5:3-5) God will take you to another stage in your journey.
EXPECT TO SEE GOD WORK. He promises daily renewal and final victory.

So in 2019, worship God with heart and mind, and spirit. Tell Him you love him. Praise His glory, His goodness.  Keep on singing, praying and listening. Do all of this with Great Expectations.

Unbelievable?

“they did not believe the women, because their words seemed…like nonsense.” (Luke 24:11, NIV)

Those are some of the most telling words in the New Testament concerning the resurrection of Jesus. Forever they should dispel the notion that Easter was created by the wishful thinking of gullible, unlearned, poor fishermen and such. The first reports that Jesus was alive did not seem credible to them.

These people had to be convinced that what seemed impossible to them was really true. Only when they saw him with their own eyes did they believe it. And this Jesus, once dead but now alive for ever, changed their lives and the world. He has changed me and he can change you too. Because he lives, he offers life to anyone willing to follow him.

He is risen!
He is risen indeed!

Hallelujah!

It’s Holy Ground

  God said. “Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy ground.” Exodus 3:8

 Moses had just met God through the experience of a burning bush when God spoke these words to him. The details of this experience were unique. However, spiritual experience is a universal human phenomenon.

It can produce fear, confusion, questions, peace, direction, joy and almost any other imaginable reaction positive or negative. It is often sought and sometimes intentionally evaded or avoided. It can be misunderstood and misused. It can be divine or demonic, even satanic. We have it on no less authority than Jesus.

For the Christian, spiritual experience is the life blood of a relationship with God and God’s son, Jesus.

One of the common results of an experience of God is how often it is connected to a place. There have always been places identified as sacred—places where God has shown himself or often shows himself. Chances are you have a specific time or place where you experienced God’s presence. However sometimes it is possible to be so tied to a certain place or experience that we become closed to God’s fresh presence.

And we need that fresh, that new encounter with God. It is a place where God is welcomed, expected, believed and honored. That place can be here. It can even be now, this moment. We can allow God to produce a climate an atmosphere here in Messiah Church where God is given the freedom to renew us all so that He can accomplish His purpose here. God is not confined to one place but fills with his love, wonder, and power wherever people desire Him more than all else. Will that be here? I pray it will.

One of the best places to experience God is in the presence of other followers of Jesus in a small group setting. Check out a small group at Messiah or a church near you.

 

 

This article also appears in the February Messiah Newsletter.

It Couldn’t Be Done. But God Did It.

“I bring you good news of great joy….a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord.” Luke 2:10, 11

I know. I know. We’re two days past Christmas. Many people have already put away Christmas decorations or trying to figure out when they will have time to do it. There is a weariness that comes from the commercial push that started, to some extent, after Halloween and left many of us breathless. Whew! It’s all over except for maybe returning unwanted gifts and taking advantage of the after-Christmas sales.

But just maybe for those of us who have been fretting about taking Christ out of Christmas, the days after December 25th are the best time to make sure we really keep Christ in Christmas. Maybe we can find time to really listen to the story.

I have been thinking about those words of the angel to Mary, For with God nothing will be impossible.

Everything about the Christmas story is impossible!  From every important avenue, from every means of knowing, it is unbelievable, impossible.  It could not happen—but it did!  Even the little angel in JB Phillips’ story couldn’t believe it.  But the senior angle said, “But that he really went [to earth] I know, and all of us in Heaven who know anything know that.”  The reaction to the words of shepherds was, “All who heard it wondered [were amazed] at what the shepherds told them.

I wonder if there has ever been a time when those words needed to be heard more than today—with God nothing will be impossible. What are the implications for our world? What are the implications for you personally? What are the implications for our praying, our hope, our expectations?  Most of all what does it mean for the way we live?

My challenge to myself, and to you, for 2018, is to live on the basis of the truth of those words. Whatever I face, whatever you face, God help us to remember with you “nothing will be impossible.”

His Eye Is on the Sparrow

With some slight changes this was originally posted in 2010. I though it worth repeating in light of what’s happening in the Gulf Coast region.

In the midst of Hurricane Harvey and its aftermath we have heard (and will hear) so many words–sorrow, anger, courage, hero, fear, weary, shock, miracle, unbelievable.  We have heard explanations, promises, assurances, warnings.  Some of them have been wise, some foolish, some sinful and evil.  In these words there have the words from God, but also from fallible humans, and some straight out of the mouth of Satan himself.  Sometimes it is hard to know which are which.

The Bible helps us put things in perspective.

First, we are reminded that we cannot rid the world of suffering.  Someone has said, “This is a world where robins die, and sparrows, and people: the ones we love, the ones Jesus loves.”  The Peanuts characters put it this way:

Charlie Brown: “I have a new philosophy…’Life is like a golf course.’
Snoopy: “And ‘a sand trap runs through it.'”

The Biblical view says that God’s original creation has been damaged.  It is defaced, messed up. Hurricanes and floods happen.  We can endlessly debate the philosophical and theological issues here, but the reality is clear.  This is a world where people, innocent people, get hurt.

However, in the midst of this, God is paying attention.  God listens, God sees, but most importantly God cares.  In the Old Testament God promises Soloman and the people just that–My eyes and my heart will always be here. (II Chron 7:16b-NLT)  Jesus says that even the fate of sparrows is not lost on God (Matt. 10:29).  And in the defining text of the Bible He says, For God loved the world so much that He gave His one and only son. (John 3:16)

God is not just an observer, but, in fact, is in the midst of all this—in the Salvation Army relief worker, World Vision, UMCOR and scores of other Christian groups and individuals.  But, also in secular groups—the Red Cross, Chinese disaster teams, American military units—any one there with the will to help is doing God’s work whether they know it or not.

Finally, hope is intrinsic to the Christian message.  Along with faith and love, hope makes up the triangle of the Christian’s attitude.  A pastor dying of cancer took a leave from his church.  He was able to return and in a sermon he said, “We want to worship God in this church, and for our worship to be real, it doesn’t have to be fun, and it doesn’t have to be guilt-ridden.  But it does have to be honest, and it does have to hope in God.”

Hope is the future tense of faith.  Though we cannot deny what God has done and is doing, we must keep our perspective.  In our lives and those around us, much of  the Gospel is promise of what is yet to be.  But God is here, God is at work and is preparing a better place for us.  It is called heaven and without it, disasters/tragedies cannot be reconciled with a loving God.

Sisters, brothers keep the faith.

It’s Not Enough

Although he had performed so many signs (miracles) in their presence, they did not believe in him. -John 12:37

“Seeing is believing” is a statement so universally accepted that it seems to be self- authenticating. Yet in this remarkable statement, we find a situation directly contradictory to that idea. And it is not unique in the New Testament accounts of Jesus’ ministry. In John’s gospel it is a very common reaction.

If we were not so used to it, it would astound us.  They saw the lame healed, the deaf given speech, the blind sight and the dead given life AND THEY DID NOT BELIEVE! Many signs equaled few disciples.

On closer study it becomes clear that John and the New Testament distinguish between simply believing facts about Jesus and as it is put here, “believing in him.”  It is the difference in believing something to be true and acting on that belief. It is not just agreeing with him, but trusting him enough to follow him.

And make no mistake about it; that is the difference between salvation and lostness, life and death, heaven and hell. Jesus really wants followers, not just admirers. click here to begin.

 

Made Whole

Luke 17:19-Your faith has made you whole.

One day as Jesus travels he is encountered by ten men who are lepers. The horror of their predicament is illustrated by the fact that they cannot even approach Jesus but, from a distance, plead for his pity.

Jesus issues simple instructions to go show themselves to the priests; a requirement for anyone healed of leprosy to have it verified. And the text says, “as they went, they were cleansed.” Interesting—not “they were cleansed and went” but as they went. They obeyed and were healed.

Then one of them, only one, seeing he was healed returned to praise God and thank Jesus.

Does this incident surprise you?  It did Jesus!  I find it hard to say that and wondered if I could (I know the theological difficulty).  In one sense Jesus is never surprised.  He is God.  But, he is also human and in a human sense, he was surprised.  He was also apparently very disappointed.  It shows in his words: “Were not all ten cleansed?  Where are the other nine? Was no one found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?”

Then Jesus adds the words that put a whole different light on this story.

“Rise and go; your faith has made you well [whole].” Did you notice? All were “cleansed” or “healed.” But only this man was said to be made whole. Or as the Message has it: “Your faith has healed and saved you.”

Physical healing is great but it is not salvation. Fixing some problem we have, helping us be a better person, giving us insight into a puzzling situation all are things for which to be grateful. But only our faith in Jesus provides salvation, makes us whole.

The point of it all is to be made whole.  To stop short of that is to accept a treatment that deals with the symptoms rather than radical surgery which produces a cure. God wants to make you whole.

The nine received a touch from God, and they probably went on to do what they were told, but they were not made whole. It made them better able to fit into the community, better citizens but it did not produce the indelible stamp of faith: gratitude. When God touches us, then our praise, gratitude takes precedence over everything else!

God, don’t let me settle for anything less than being made whole.

“Things To Come”

For surely I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans for your welfare and not for harm, to give you a future with hope. -Jeremiah 29:11-NRSV

These days we hear a lot about living in the present—“go with the flow,” “seize the day,” “enjoy the moment,” “have it now.” And while, in the right context, these ideas have merit, they also can muddy our efforts to live full lives.

It is not without significance that when God reveals his plan for our life, an inescapable characteristic is that much of it is about the future. It is promise. So, much of the experience is anticipation. Anticipation is a powerful thing. Looking ahead to some desired event, a trip, a family get together can bring as much or more pleasure than the actual event. Negative anticipation can create dread, fear that is worse than what we actually encounter.

God has done a lot to help us have a holy anticipation. And if we don’t pay attention, we can really get in trouble with false assumptions and expectations about what God is doing in our lives and the world.

Joel Barker in his book, Future Edge tells about a man driving on a curvey, dangerous mountain road. As he comes around a curve, he sees this red convertible, careening back and forth across the road. The driver is a pretty, young, blond woman.
He slams on the brakes, and heads for the shoulder to avoid her. At the last minute she swerves and narrowly misses him. As she passes, the woman driver screams at him, PIG!
His face red with anger, he yells back at her, WENCH!” Muttering to himself he steps on the accelerator hits the curve at full speed and crashes into the biggest pig he has ever seen standing in the middle of the road. (as told by Maxi Dunnam)

Anticipation lets us risk as we break out of such assumptions to see a new vision of the world and the future. It will enable us to see beyond ourselves and beyond the obstacles.

God’s word to us warns us that things are not always what they seem to be. Looking around us doesn’t give us a whole lot of evidence for what we are told the final outcome will be.

In Birmingham, England, there is a store called Louis’. It’s a great chain store in one of the main streets, and it wanted to expand. But a little chapel of Quakers, a Friends Meeting House stood in the way. The store sent a letter to the leaders of this Friends Meeting house:

“Dear Sirs,
We wish to extend our premises. We see that your building is right in the way. We wish therefore to buy your building and demolish it so that we might expand our store. We will pay you any price you care to name. If you will name a price we will settle the matter as quickly as possible.
Yours, Sincerely.

They got this letter back:

Dear Sirs:
We in the Friends Meeting House note the desire of Louis’ to extend. We observe that our building is right in your way. We would point out, however, that we have been on our site longer than you’ve been on yours, and we are so determined to stay where we are that we will happily buy Louis’. If therefore you would like to name a suitable price we will settle the matter as quickly as possible. –by Donald English

Can you imagine how the person from Lewis who read that letter must have been laughing? A little Quaker Meeting House will buy Lewis’! All of that would change when they saw, “Signed, Cadbury.”

Yep. Cadbury, as in England’s Cadbury chocolate candy. They are Quakers. Who signs the letter makes all the difference.

The promise of heaven, eternal life is signed by God.