Saturday, July 30, 2011

Isaiah, the mountain of the Lord

I am sitting in my office getting ready for Sunday (tomorrow) and for a lovely wedding that I will be officiating tonight.  The rain this morning was refreshing and, I hope, enough to cause the corn and the tomatoes to make.  Our youth arrived home a little after noon from their time in Pike County Kentucky.  They were ready to be home after the 700 mile trip, but they were also filled with enthusiasm about their experience.....ready to plan the next trip.  That is good.  I hope that you will engage some of them in conversation and ask them where they experience the Spirit of God in their journey.

In the 2nd chapter of Isaiah he speaks of the last days and of the mountain of the Lord being lifted up, chief among the mountains.  He speaks of Jerusalem and this correlates with John's revelation of a New Jerusalem.  He tells how, in those last days, that peace will be the pattern of our lives; that the instruments of war will be converted into implements of peace.  Isn't that a wonderful thing to think more war.  Will that mean that the season of our ugliness to each other, dividing into opposing sides and shouting at each other across the aisle or street or ocean will be done?  I hope so.  I grow weary of the vilification of our leaders and of the coarseness of our language and of our making enemies of those who disagree with our position.  Come Lord Jesus ascend into the hearts of every man, woman and child!  Reign as Prince of Peace!!

That day will be a marvelous day, but it will not come with out pain and sorrow, wailing and gnashing of teeth.  Mankind with all of his science, technology and warpower will be brought low.  The mighty will be humbled and the humbled will be exalted.  Those who have not come to terms with Jehovah on his terms should scatter to the hills and hide in the rocks (but it will do no good), judgment will come to those who have trusted in their own might rather than in the strong right arm of the Omnipotent one.

The warning of Isaiah to the kings of Judah and Israel: "stop trusting in man, who has but a breath in his nostrils.  Of what account is he?"  God and God alone is to be trusted.  Put your bets on the King of Kings, Adonai, Jehovah-Jireh; he alone is worthy of our praise.

Hope to see you on the Sabbath.  God bless you.

Thursday, July 28, 2011


We have been away for awhile on a short mission trip with our youth to Pike County Kentucky.  The trip was very successful with 10 youth and 6 adults participating in a variety of projects including building a handicap ramp, doing remodeling in a church, working in a thrift store clothing give-away project, sealing a church parking lot, doing repair on senior citizen homes.   The youth were great.  Jessica Robb led our evening study time and did an absolutely great job.  Chandler Meierarend brought his guitar and provided some great musical accompaniment.  We met some great youth from Pittsburgh, interacted with some wonderful mountain folk, saw some incredible Eastern Kentucky scenery, witnessed the hand of God.  We had no cell phone or internet contact.  It was great.

We are moving out of the Books of Wisdom and into the writings of the prophets and none is better known or more widely read than Isaiah.  Isaiah is thought to have ministered in Judah for nearly 60 years during the reign of both good and not so good kings. 

Isaiah was born to a family of nobility and was well respected in the courts of the kings and by the people of Judah.  That was a good thing because his message was not a fun one to deliver or to recieve.  Imagine a preacher trying to bring America back from the brink of destruction by telling our leaders that they are perverted and hard-hearted; that the nation had accepted sinful ways and practices as normal and that our courts favored the rich and those with influence. What would happen if this preacher told them that the economic downturn and ecological problems were the result of God's desire to drive them back to a more righteous lifestyle.  How do you think that would go over?  And if that wasn't enough, he added that the beatings would continue even to the destruction of the nation if repentence and a return to righteousness didn't come about soon.

Isaiah was even berating the church folks by telling them that their worship was hollow and was unacceptable.  Folks who were giving their tithes and offerings were doing so with wrong motive.  Sin was even acceptable to the church folk.  What if God sent one to us to say that we had  become to calloused toward pornography, that the plight of poor folk was unacceptable, that the homeless, teen pregancy, lack of healthcare, our care of the elderly, all were part of the downward spiral of our national status and eventually our nation would die by the sword of a rising power.  So said Isaiah to the rulers of Judah even predicting the destruction of Jerusalem.

Are their lessons for us to learn personally and nationally?  As you read, make the comparisons.  Is God speaking to our nation?  Have we been blessed hugely by God?  Is their an expectation that we will respond righteously?  Is our nation on a slippery slope.  Perhaps, but Isaiah also brings a word of hope.  Zion will be redeemed by justice, her repentant ones by righteousness.  Where do we begin?  We begin with our personal behaviors as we seek to walk faithfully as God has instructed us by his holy scriptures and we become an influence in our communities; an influence for righteousness and equality.  As John Wesley said, we become a people who are holy of heart and holy of life.

See you Sunday.  God bless you.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

enjoy life, Ecclesiates 8

The preacher observes all of the absurdities of life; wicked receive the rewards of the righteous and the righteous are treated badly.  Have you ever seen that.  I have and sometimes it causes folks to wonder, "where is God in all of that."  In fact, I know some folks who have walked away from the church because they cannot conceive of a good and righteous God who would allow the innocent to suffer and the evil to prosper.  It is a complexity, a conundrum that we will not fully understand in this life.

The preacher observes and comments "There is something else meaningless that occurs on earth: righteous men who get what the wicked deserve, and wicked men who get what the righteous deserve.  This too, I say, is meaningless.  So I commend the enjoyment of life, because nothing is better for a man under the sun than to eat and drink and be glad.  Then joy will accompany him in his work all the days of the life God has given him under the sun."(Ecclesiastes 8:14-15)

There are mysteries in this life.  The evil one has considerable influence with the souls of many men and righteousness seems far away.....mercy and justice are difficult to find.  Still we believe that promises of God, that the broken hearted will be comforted and the sick healed.  The righteous shall one day reign and the beast will be cast into a lake of fire and sealed up never to afflict God's children again.  In the meantime we must be content with the knowledge that God is at work and his plan cannot be derailed.  There is good being accomplished according to God's plan in every situation.

If we can be content in that knowledge, then we can enjoy life because we have the full faith in the promise and the promiser.  We will survive, we will recieve an eternal reward, the resurrection will be ours.  We can live in that joy, we can find comfort in the sunshine and the rain, the good time and the bad, our God reigns and that is enough to give us hope and joy and strength for the living of our days.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

consider the oppressed, Ecclesiastes 4

The preacher (king Solomon) considers all of those that are oppressed and he thinks that those who have lived a life of oppression are better dead than alive or, better yet, not yet born.  Why? Because there is no comforter for the oppressed.

Wow!! Isn't that an awful perspective and an even worse possibility.....there is none who will comfort the oppressed.  How insulated we are from such a condition where there is no hope.  But doesn't the Bible tell us that Jesus came to give hope to the helpless, Grace to the hopeless and to restore the Faith of the broken hearted?  Don't the scriptures promise peace and justice?  Yes, they do and when those things come, the kingdom of God will be near at hand.

We see glimpses of the kingdom as we read of the life of Jesus.  The hungry are fed, the blind see, the lame walk, the woman caught in sin is offered forgiveness.  John the Baptist, alone in prison and waiting to be executed for his faith sends a disciple to Jesus to ask, "are you the one or should I look for another."  Jesus response was not a yes or a no to his cousin but "go tell John that the lame have learned to walk and the poor can hear the word of God and the deaf can hear me talk and the blind can finally see."  Why, what does this mean?  These were the signs that had been promised by the prophets that the Messiah the Savior had come.  Restoration had begun.  Jesus had announced at the beginning of his ministry that the "Spirit of the Lord is upon me.   I have been anointed to preach the good news to the poor.  I am sent to proclaim freedom to prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind and to release the oppressed."  The Savior comes to comfort the comfortless and to gave aid to the oppressed...these are the signs that the Kingdom of God draws near.

We are the Body of Christ and have been trusted to usher the reign of God into this world.  We do this by declaring the year of our Lord and by restoring that which has been upset by the fall of man.  We are the comforters, we are the healers, we are the freedom fighters, we are those who give hope because we follow in the image of the one who is Hope and Health, Justice and Liberty, Freedom and Eternity.

We are those who declare, contrary to the Preacher in Ecclesiastes, there is hope for the helpless, there is help for the hopeless, there is comfort for the broken-hearted.  We have seen him and we bear his image and offer this to the oppressed of this world.  There is good news and his name is Jesus.

Is there oppression in places that we can influence?  Are there people that need to be comforted and lifted?  Do we have the heart, the faith, the passion to do the work of the Master?  That is our challenge....we who bear the mark of the Christ and call ourselves Christian.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Ecclesiastes, the preacher

Ecclesiastes is written by King Solomon near the end of his life.  You will remember that Solomon asked God in a dream for wisdom and he was reputed to be the wisest and wealthiest of men.  Kings and Queens from all over the known world came to ask his advice.  Solomon walked with God early in his reign but became enamored by his wealth, power and all that he could have of the world.  He strayed from God's path; he tasted of every pleasure that the world could offer and he led a life of dissipation.  Perhaps the biggest example of foolishness in his life is the record of his marital affairs; according to scripture he had 700 wives and another 300 concubines.

In experiencing all of the world's he found it to be, "meaningless! Meaningless!  Utterly meaningless!  Everything is meaningless."  Ecclesiastes 1:2  It was and it is.  Have you ever looked at a pile Easter candy and been tempted by the succulent taste of Chocolate.  You take the biggest, best looking Easter Bunny and bit off an ear only to be disappointed because it is hollow!  Hollow is what Solomon discovered in the pleasures of the world.  There might have been a temporary high, but it was followed by disappointment.  All that the world offers is temporary.  When our joy is dependent upon the world's pleasures, we will always find disappointment at the rainbows' end.

We must remember that as beautiful as God's creation is, it has been marred by the fall of man.  The Prince of this world is the deciever and until the Day of Judgement all of creation suffers because of his influence.  If we seek to find ultimate meaning in our work, our wealth, our status, even in relationships; we will ultimately be disappointed.  All of these things are terminal outside of the meaning that God intends for them.  It is only when these things that are commited to God's purpose rather than our purpose that they can be used for eternal good.  Nothing really matters outside of the eternal purpose of God.

God does have a plan.  We can resist that plan and find disappointment, frustration and sorrow or we can embrace that plan and rest confidently in the knowledge that God in his wisdom will winnow and sort and all will finally be as it should be.  Imagine how much easier life will be when we can walk in that knowledge.....God, who loves and cares for us, is in charge. 

there is a time and a place for everything.  there is a cycle which we all will endure.  there is birth and death.  there is planting and harvesting, their is building and tearing down.  There is weeping and laughing.  Their is keeping and giving away.  There is love and hate, peace and war.  Everything is made beautiful in his (God's) time. (partial paraphrase Ecclesiastes 3:1-11) Can you wait?  Can you trust?  Can you find your joy in the knowledge that God is on our side?  Only then can you find meaning and purpose.

Friday, July 15, 2011

By wisdom a house is built.....proverbs, part 4

Bible School is nearly concluded for this year.  I think it had a record breaking attendance.  The teachers were awesome and the students ready to learn.  Tonight is their program.  It will be a delight to all who attend.  I hope you are able to do so.  It begins at 7 p.m.  An hour in church on a hot Friday evening would be a good, good way to begin your weekend.

One of our church ladies has undergone shoulder surgery and will be coming home soon.  She lives alone and we will try to have someone available to her each day while she recovers.  Some of you have already said yes to my begging and I am grateful to each one of you.  If you would have a few hours any day in the next week to sit with someone who is healing, would you be kind enough to give me a call and tell me of your availability.  Thanks in advance for your kindness.

Early in the proverbs we are made to understand that wisdom begins when we acknowledge who God is.  Much of this book then tells us how we may operate out of this wisdom to build lives that are based upon Godly wisdom.  This is a great book to read devotionally.  It  is interesting that this book has 31 chapters as do 1/2 of the months in the year.  Hmmm......a chapter a day, I suspect a diet of the Proverbs for a few months would make each of us wiser.

Some of the proverbs in the later chapters include such adages as: "Do not withhold discipline from a child", Do not let your heart envy sinners", Keep your heart on the right path, Do not join those who drink too much wine, listen to your father and do not despise your mother."  All of these are wise sayings and principles that will help us to grow in Godly wisdom.

I particularly like what 24:3-4 has to tell us, "by wisdom a house is built,
and through understanding it is established;
through knowledge its rooms are filled
with rare and beautiful treasures."

The writer is, of course, speaking of the home rather than a physical dwelling place.  The home is established, maintained, expanded, passed from generation to generation when we build it upon the wisdom of God.  How are we to love in the family?  How are to mutually submit?  What does God tell us about raising our children?  How do we interact with the world?  What is our responsibility for our neighbor?  Do we owe allegiance to civil authorities?  Does God require our involvement in the church?  Is there biblical instruction for dealing with extended family?  The Bible is a book filled with wisdom teaching, not the wisdom of the world, but the wisdom of the one who created us with a plan and a purpose.  We are especially designed, gifted for accomplishment.  The Book explains God's design and to alter his plan is to play with fire.

By God's wisdom a home is established that will stand against the tests of a broken world.  It is in searching for God's wisdom and living in its principles that we will be transformed into the image of Christ.  It is yielding to God's will that we are made into rare and beautiful treasures.  Treasures that bless the world around us and treasures that will one day be transported into a most beautiful place, there to enjoy the fruit of paradise for an eternity.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Being Righteous......Proverbs, part III

The book of Proverbs is full of Godly wisdom, advice on how to live righteously and in so doing, honor God.  As I mentioned previously, these bits of wisdom do not come with guarantees, the world is a broken place and our enemy is always seeking to derail our best efforts.  Evil does sometimes seem to have the upper hand, but operating out of the wisdom that God has given us gives us the best chance at a blessed, God-honoring, life worth imitating, putting our trust in the Lord lifestyle.

There is much said in the Proverbs about living righteously.  As and example 10:24 says that  what the righteous desire will be granted.  Again, this is not a guarantee, but consider that if we ask with a righteous heart, then what we ask is most likely in the will of God and the will of God will always prevail.  We may ask without seeking, but God is at work accomplishing his will.  The key is developing a righteousness that allows us to see and to ask with a pure heart.  This advice should also make us a much more hopeful people.  We know that God loves and cares for the sheep of his pasture.  If we are working toward the same end that God is working, we can be assured that God is on our side.

One who is guided by a desire for righteousness cares about the same things that God cares about.  We should be concerned about God's creation.  That makes us aware of the things that are going on around us that are harmful to the earth and its inhabitants.  Pollution, wasteful use of resources, practices that endanger wildlife all would be areas that we would be active in.  12:10 says, "a righeous man cares for the needs of his animal."We were given dominion over all the earth in the creation and to practice dominion in a Christian way means to manage in a Christlike way to insure that their is sufficiency for all.

Likewise we will care about the poor, the widow and the orphan.  It is impossible to read much of the Bible without concluding that God cares intensely for those who have little.  Violence and gain that comes at the expense of the weak and the poor will eventually draw the ire of God.  Those who live righteously will be found laboring side by side with the poor, seeking justice and sufficiency for them.

11:23 tells us that "the desire of the righteous ends only in good."  Can you measure your words and deeds by what you believe to be the outcome?  Only that which results in good honors God.  Hurtful words, selfish deeds cannot be found in the heart of a righteous person.  Let us live righteously, seeking always to honor God and to love all that he loves.

Sunday is coming.  Hope to see you on the Sabbath.

Faith serves is going to Della Lamb for a service project on Sunday.  If you are interested in going, meet Kim Compton at the church at 9:00 a.m.

The Youth group is sponsoring a Missions Car Wash from 10-2 on Saturday.  Stop by and get a car cleaning.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Being wise, part II.....the Book of Proverbs

All of us want to be wise like the man who built his house upon the rock from the New Testament parable.  We want to act in ways that give us the best chance of success in all the facets of our lives.  We want to choose our friends wisely because they will be a source of encouragement and advice throughout our life.  We want to choose a spouse wisely, they will be our partner in life and one that we will share the most intimate feelings with.  We want to be wise in choosing our profession.....we will be working a large part of our life, we want to be able to live comfortable, provide for our families and feel like we are contributing to the well being of society.  We want to be wise as parents, to raise our families well that they will be productive and successful and happy and that they will be wise in their life's choices.  Wisdom is important.  The Proverbs is a source of wisdom, a book that is God-breathed and that has many general rules that, if wisely applied, will make us better children, parents, friends, employees, employers, neighbors, consumers, providers, etc.  It is a book that should be read from the perspective that it contains truths that are eternal and can provide a guideline for righteous and wise living.

The Bible names a number of wise people that are worthy of imitation in one way or another.  Examples include Joseph (after he learned to be humble) who prepared a nation to withstand a great famine and in so doing saved Israel as well.  Moses who learned how to organize and lead a nation and was used mightily by God to establish a nation.  Joshua, who observed Moses and learned many lessons and was able to lead Israel in the taking of the Promised Land.  David, who never forgot the source of his power and wisdom and who worshipped extravagantly.  Daniel, who was in touch with God and was a great problem solver.  The apostle Paul, who when converted to Christianity on the Damascus Road became a great instrument of salvation of a people who had not yet heard the story of Jesus.  He spent the rest of his life communicating the story to the Gentiles.  that wisdom has led to our salvation.

And Jesus who was wise as a youth, being found in the temple doing his Father's business and who was wise as a Savior, dying that the world might be set free from the burden of sin.  He was wise, of course, because he is the source of all knowledge and was present as the world and all its contents were formed.  It is the knowledge of Jesus that we seek.  That knowledge will guarantee our eternity and make us wise in this life and the next.

I hope that you enjoy reading the Proverbs.  Remember there are 6 things that the Lord hates, 7 that are detestable to him:  haughty eyes, a lying tongue, hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked schemes, feet that are quick to rush into evil, a false witness who pours out lies and a man who stirs up dissension among brothers. (Proverbs 6: 16-19)

May God bless your reading and you living this day.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Being Wise....the Book of Proverbs

Most of us want to be wise......well, I must confess that there has been a time or two in my life when I acted foolishly and knew it.  Those did not turn out well....but now that I am older, I do want to be wise.  I want to be wise so I can make good decisions, decisions that insure stability for our family; Wise decisions that make the world a better place and that honor God.

Being wise is a function of utilizing all of our resources, our acquired and innate knowledge and choosing among all of the available options that which provides the course that will lead to success and happiness.  Sources of wisdom may include our parents' instruction, the knowledge acquired in both formal and informal education, advise from experts and other learned sources AND, at least for Christians, the instruction provided to us in the Word of God.....the Bible.

Proverbs is a book of biblical wisdom.  It was written by King Solomon who is often referred to as the wisest man in the world.  In a dream, Solomon was asked by God to ask for anything that he desired and he asked for wisdom.  God granted his heart's desire. 

It is important to remember that Proverbs are not God's law like the 10 commandments.  These are general rules that if followed will give us the best chance to be wise and to live in ways that bring honor to ourselves, our families, our communities and our God.  They are not constants because they deal with humanity.  Human beings always have the choice to do unwise things.  We all know examples of times when honest, upright, righteous folks did not receive the reward of their good choices in this world.

Proverbs 13:1 says a wise son heeds his father's instruction.  But what if the father is a fool, will the son be wise to follow his father's foolish advice?

Proverbs 22:6 tells us to raise up a child in the way he should go and when he is old he will not turn from it.  But all of us have seen children grow up in good homes and have every possible advantage who turn out to be heartaches to their parents.

My point is that these proverbs do not guarantee success, but they do give us our best chance.  They are excellent advice for those who want to live a wise and righteous lifestyle.  I commend them to you for reading and study.  They are filled with Godly wisdom for each one of us.

The proverbs of Solomon:
for attaining wisdom and discipline;
for understanding words of insight;
for acquiring a disciplined and prudent life,
doing what is right and just and fair;
for giving prudence to the simple,
knowledge and discretion to the young....
let the wise listen and add to their learning,
and let the discerning get guidance....

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge.

May we have eyes to see and ears to hear.  May we be wise in the ways of our God.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Praise God! Psalm 150

1st day of VBS is almost done.....the church is alive with the sounds of children, big and small.  57 little ones on this first day, every face covered with smiles as the teachers tell them stories, do crafts, teach is a cacophony of praise.  I think God is pleased.

I love the sounds of music.  I have been singing for most of my life.  Church choir in the little country church.  School choir in the 60's.  Church music for most of my life and for the last 14+ years, a part of the Circuit Riders, an all male men's gospel music group.  We meet every Wednesday evening to practice.  We sing about anywhere that we are invited.  Churches, senior citizen gatherings, community celebrations.  We have done funerals and even a wedding our two.  We have traveled Missouri singing at revivals and have even gone to Pittsburgh Pa. to sing at a UMC General Conference and at a Maximum Security Prison there.  We have recorded 5 CDs and we have a great time praising God in song.

I am very pleased with the church choir that was begun this year under the leadership of Rachel Marchetti and now the new bell choir, led by Rich and Janie Wilson.  Chuck on the guitar, James on the drums, Opal, Sky, Cathy and Amy on the keyboards, Skye and Kim leading the singing; it seems that there are many joyful songs being raised at Faith.  But there are many glad songs beyond the traditional music that bring joy to the heart of God.  I think the sounds of VBS are among them.  When the church is alive with such youthful sounds; God knows that we have taken seriously his teaching regarding "suffer the little children to come unto me."  We are investing in the life of the church.  We are preparing the leaders and warriors of the faith in future generations.  I know that if I listen beyond the sounds of the children and their leaders, I hear the voices of angels celebrating this good work before the throne of God.

"Praise the Lord.
Praise God in his sanctuary;
praise him in his mighty heavens.
Praise him for his acts of power;
praise him for his surpassing greatness.
Praise him with the sounding of the trumpet,
praise him with the harp and lyre,
praise him with the tambourine and dancing,
praise him with the strings and flute,
praise him with the clash of cymbals,
praise him with the resounding cymbals.
Let everything that has breath praise the Lord.
Praise the Lord."

Praise him with the voices of children.
Praise him with the gift of your life.
Praise him with the work of your hands.
Praise him as you love one another.
Praise him all the days of your life.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

my favorite psalm, psalm 139

In just a few more days we will have completed our reading of the psalms.  I hope you have enjoyed reading these worshipful and praised filled writings.  They are important tools in our own worship and should always reminds us of many of the good and wonderful things that are part of God and his creation.  I hope that you will turn to them often and make them a part of your spiritual journey.  I know that there are many that are especially sweet to me because I have heard them so often or because they were special to someone who loved my ( my mother and grandmother often turned to the psalms).  My very favorite psalm is the lovely 139th psalm.  It is a reminder of God's great love for me.

The 139th psalm tells me that no matter where I go, for good or for evil, God does not leave or forsake me.  In our Methodist understanding that means that God never quits loving us even though we may wander far from his will and his way.  He knows every intimate detail of our being; physical, mental, emotional and spiritual.  He knows because he has created every thing that is us.  He knew us before we were formed in our mother's womb.  The number of hairs on our head, the color of our eyes, the beats of our heart are part of his grand design.  He knows it all.  How wonderful is that to know that God made us in every detail and he approves of what we look like because we are exactly what he intended.  I may have wanted to be 6 foot tall, but I am exactly the height that God intended and so that makes it the perfect height for me!

No matter where life takes us, we cannot escape the love and care of God.  That knowledge should make us ever bolder in our spiritual pursuit of God.  Though we have fallen far from God's perfect intention, God still loves us and is ready to set our feet on the higher ground.  Don't ever let anyone tell you that you have wandered too far from God for him to find you, forgive you or to love you.  You were and are (and so am I) the "apple" of God's eye.  I don't fully understand that, but this psalm convinces me that God will never abandon me until I am restored to that which he created me for; in relationship with my Creator and my God!

"I am fearfully and wonderfully made!"  How good is that!  I told you bald is beautiful and so is the way that you are made.  God does make junk, he only makes one of a kind, extraordinarily rare and beautiful treasures.  I am one of them......and you are another.  Doesn't that raise your self-esteem a notch or two.  Give thanks and praise to our God!!!

Friday, July 8, 2011

How Sweet it is! Psalm 133

Faith is a remarkable place.  It is filled with people who are ready to serve.  We have folks who water the flowers and folks who care for the garden, folks who mow the grass.  We have folks who usher and others who take care of our financial records.  We have folks who work in the kitchen, others who prepare communion, still others who volunteer to teach or serve the youth and it goes on and on and on.  Other churches ask how we do so much in a church the size of ours without more paid staff.  I tell them the truth, this is a church that enjoys caring for one another.

One of the reasons that we have such a record of growth is that we rarely fuss with each other.  I am sure that there has been disagreements in the 9 years that I have been here, but I don't remember a single time that someone left the church because of a disagreement.  I remember a number of times when some of you have reached out in concern to help soothe some tender feelings and helped to preserve the precious relationship that should always be in the Body of Christ that we call the church.  We seem to have pretty good unity of purpose and that binds us together and allows us to talk through our disagreements and to ignore some of the inconsequential quirks of our various personalities.  Those quirks are not important when we are trying to blend our gifts and talents into the church.

Paul taught constantly about unity of the Body, Jesus prayed for unity and God created us to be one with the Father.  Unity is a testimony to the centrality of our love of God and for each other.  It is an indication that we are being obedient to the commands of love that were given us by God himself.  When we are fussin', fuedin' and fightin' we are not living like God has called us to.  Make peace with one another and love with a pure heart.  Do not go to bed at night if there is something that separates you from your brother or sister.  God calls us to be instruments of his love.

"How good and pleasant it is when brothers and sisters live together in unity!" (psalm 133:1)

Thursday, July 7, 2011

out of the depths, Psalm 130

I was visiting today with one of my brothers in Christ about unworthiness.  Sometimes our knowledge of our own sin keeps us from serving God in gladness.  That is human, but only in the sense that we are fallen creatures.  In fact, convincing us of our unworthiness is one of Satan's greatest tools.  If he can convince you or me that our sin is too great to make us useful to God or for his purposes, he is able to negate God's love working in and through us.  What sin can God not forgive?  According to my reading of the scriptures it is only the sin of blasphemy against the Holy Spirit which is refusing to accept God in all his power and glory and, yes, ability to dispense grace that is greater than our sin.

God was able to use a liar and cheat like Abraham, a coward like Gideon, a murderer like David, a Christian killer like Saul of Tarsus; I believe with all my heart that he can use people like you and me.  The knowledge that God can heal us of our sins should drive us to greater thanksgiving for the power of God's love.  Even in our sin, God can find purpose for our broken lives.  Is that not proof of his miraculous power in days such as these?  Confess your sin, believe in his power to save, seek his will for your life, believe that he can do miracles in and through you.

"Out of the depths I cry to you, O Lord; O Lord, hear my voice.  Let your ears be attentive to my cry for mercy.  If you, O Lord, kept a record of sins, O Lord, who could stand?  But with you there is forgiveness.  Put your hope in the Lord, for with the Lord is unfailing love and with him is full redemption."

Praise be to God who is our rock and our redeemer.  In him is our hope for this life and for all of eternity.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

unless the Lord builds the house....Psalm 127

The financial struggles of recent years is a reminder to all of us that things come and go and despite our hard work and excellent plans, financial fortunes can vanish quickly in a world like ours.  How much better to build with an eye on the long term?  I'm not talking about a 401K but rather an eternal view, one in which we consider things that are beyond our current view.

One of the reasons that I want Faith UMC to be a place that is attractive to families is because I know that we must constantly be investing in children.  Unless their hearts are turned to the Lord, the church is always a single generation from extinction.  Children are our heritage and our investment in the world long after we have departed.  What will our investment yield?  Will it be a harvest of righteousness because we have sowed Godly virtues and understanding in their hearts?

The hard thing about investing in children is that, in some cases, we may not live to see the reward.  But God values children very highly and to fail to encourage them in their spiritual growth is to fail in one of God's great missions. 

Vacation Bible School is upon us....a great time to invest in the children of our community.  I long for the day when Faith UMC will be known throughout our community as a place that loves children and that love is taught daily in Christ like way we live.

Unless the Lord builds the house, its builders labor in vain.
Children are a heritage from the Lord, a reward from God.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

I lift up my eyes.....Psalm 120

We are half way through our reading of the Bible in 2011.  Congratulations to all who are making the journey.  I can only imagine the blessings that your are recieving as you invest yourselves in this sacred task.  The next Psalms (120-134) are called Psalms of Ascent.  They were pilgrim psalms sang by those who were making their journey to the Temple.  Some were written by David, some by Solomon and others were anonymously written; perhaps by temple Priests or scribes.

Imagine a traveler in a desolate land, who could he trust?  Who would help him if need arose?  It is Jehovah-Jireh, he is our provider!  Ultimately, it is God and God alone who can make a way for us in every situation and circumstance.  There are many famous chapters in the Bible; among them the Shepherd's Psalm (23), the love chapter (1 Corinthians 13) and this the traveler's Psalm.  It was among my Grandmother Hackett's favorite passages.

She was a young mother during the depression, raising 5 children.  The family farm was lost and Granddad made a living for the family by tenant farming, farming for shares.  If you listen to the tales of my Dad and my Aunts, there was always enough, but not much in excess.  They tell stories of hunting and trapping to supplement and support the family.  I can imagine Grandma sitting in her rocker on the front porch of their simple farmhouse.  She is holding her Bible in her lap in the closing moments of the day, perhaps watching God's handiwork in a North Missouri sunset.  She watches her children as they go about their chores, waiting for Granddad to return from his labor.  The table is set with the provisions that are hers to prepare and she utters the prayer of sojourners from before the days of the Christ,
"I lift up my eyes to the hills....where does my help come from?  My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth.  He will not let your foot slip...he who watches over you will not slumber; indeed, he who watches over Israel will neither slumber nor sleep.
The Lord watches over you...The Lord is your shade at your right hand; the sun will not harm you by day, nor the moon by night.
The Lord will keep you from all harm...He will watch over your life; the Lord will watch over your coming and going both now and forevermore."

How comforting it is to know that we have a God who cares so intimately for us and in whom we can trust in all the days of our lives.  Prayer God's best for you this week.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Oh Lord, save us. Psalm 118

I think that I am still several chapters behind in my reading, but I am hoping that Natalie Lunsford will keep me straight and I will catch up this week as the rhythms or our lives return to a more normal pace.  It is the morning of the 4th of July and I have been thinking about this thing that we call America.  I have enjoyed a great advantage throughout my life because I was born in this country.  Other generations that lived and died before me provided a form of free public education that has served me well.  Others built and established a system of government that protected me and allowed me the freedom to grow and mature without undue pressure to earn a living before I was fully prepared.  There were wonderful little country churches that spent time, energy and resources to develop my sense of spirituality and to help me to catch a glimpse of God in the now and in the eternal.  Family friends and wonderful teachers have helped me to grow in my knowledge of the world and to gain practical experience in navigating in its troubled waters.  The community that I grew up in helped me to see and appreciate the interconnectedness of our world and how I had a responsibility for my neighbor.  My mother and my father and others have taught me that there is much more to this world than the human eye can see and we do well to develop the eyes of our hearts as well.  I have been loved and cared for by a myriad of influential people who have shaped me and made me more than I could ever have dreamed.  I am able now to sit in the early morning sun and to marvel at God's presence around me and to sing at his goodness.  I am proud to be an American, but my real longing is to live in a way that honors the goodness of my God and to be able to influence others who come into my life in ways that helps them to develop eyes and ears for the eternal. 

"This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.  O Lord, save us: O lord, grant us success.  Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.  The Lord is God and he has made his light shine upon us."

I pray for America that she would always remember that we have been trusted with a great gift and like all good things, it comes from a wonderful God who expects that we will share our blessing with others.  My God bless us all and keep us from the deceiver.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

his love endures.....Psalm 106

Faith, Elisabeth and Micayla have returned home with their Mom and Dad after a week with Granny and Granpa.  What a delight it has been to have them in our home for an extended time.  We haven't had so much chaos since our own children were in our house.  Still, it will be nice to listen to the quiet again.  It will take a little while to get everything back where it belongs and I would expect that we will find some leftovers from the girls for several days.  The girls love their grandparents in such tangible ways.  They love to cuddle, the compete for space on grandpa's lap, they are quick to express their appreciation.  We love to hear their stories and their dreams.  Patty enjoys brushing their hair and having them near.  They are a reminder of the goodness of God.

I hope that you have some reminders in your life of God's goodness.  Sometimes, in our culture, we travel at such breakneck speed, we fail to appreciate the goodness that is around us.  I hope that you appreciate you good health, the faithful love of your spouse and your children.  I hope that you reflect upon your abilities and give God thanks for your ability to make a living.  And how could I forget the beauty of God's good work that surrounds us in the countryside or the blessing of this great land in which we live.

"Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love endures forever.  Who can proclaim the mighty acts of the Lord or fully declare his praise?"

Hope you are having a great 4th of July holiday weekend.  Don't forget to pause on the Sabbath and say a prayer of Thanksgiving.  God is good and his love endures forever.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Praise the Lord, O my Soul. Psalm 104

If you have been reading my latest posts, you know that Patty and I have been quite busy with 3 of our granddaughters who have been staying with us while their parents are on a short term mission trip in Chicago.  They have turned our house up side down, but they also fill our hearts with laughter and song.  Tonight, we think that their parents will be back and will take them to their home.  I think that tomorrow morning we will sleep in.

One of our habits this week with Micayla is to be out of doors in the morning and again in the evening.  Even though the days are hot, the early morning is quite comfortable and we have enjoyed looking for birds.  (we can usually find them since Patty is faithful to provide a bird feeder.)  Micayla is always captivated by the feel of the grass on her toes and never ceases to laugh when the wind blows her hair and dances across her face.  She loves to examine bugs and worms and always finds something that fully occupies her attention.

In the evening we play in the sand box and swing until Grandpa gets tired.  We water the tomatoes and Granny's flowers and when we are nearly done we have a great time getting each other soaked.  Until Grandma calls us in, we are busy chasing fireflies and looking for the evening star.  Life is filled with wonder and awe when you are in the company of a 18 month old.

I think the writer of Psalm 104 was filled with that same sense of awe.  God is abundant in the natural world!  Just thinking about the power that created the earth, formed the oceans and the mountains should be enough to cause us to bow reverently before the creator.  If that is not enough, consider the majesty of the night sky, the beauty of a sunset or sunrise.  He causes one portion of creation to serve another and thus the circle of life continues.

"May the glory of the Lord endure forever; may the Lord rejoice in his works......and may God grant me wisdom to "sing to the Lord all of my life." Praise the Lord, O my soul.  Praise the Lord.