Friday, October 28, 2011

I do believe....Mark 9

Mark relates the story of a father begging Jesus to cast an evil spirit from his son.  His son is afflicted by seizures that keep him from productive living.  The father asks Jesus to help him "if he can".   Jesus responds, "If you can?  All things are possible for those who believe."  Immediately the boy's father exclaimed, "I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief."

How like that are we.....we who call ourselves Christian.  We ask in our prayers, but we have no real expectation, no real faith that God will hear and answer our prayer.  Perhaps, we say, that which I ask for is not in God's perfect will.....perhaps.  Perhaps this bad thing is God's way of punishing me or refining me or training me or making me more patience.....perhaps.  And perhaps we receive not because we pray haltingly, faithlessly, unbelieving and untrusting.  God is a God of power, perfect love.  He walks with us through the valley of the shadow, he fills our cup to overflowing, he prepares a table before us in the very presence of our enemies.  God is able to handle all of our problems.  "would you God, could you God?"  That is a prayer without power. 

I do believe, heavenly father, help me to overcome my unbelief.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

And all were healed....Mark 6:56b

Even as Jesus walked the shores of Galilee and did extraordinary things they wondered who this man was, but they did not doubt that miracles abounded in his presence and wherever he went they brought their sick knowing that to touch the hem of his cloak was to be healed.  Who was this Jesus?  The church did not know, the government leaders did not know, his family did not know, his neighbors did not know and even his disciples were still trying to figure it out; but everyone seemed to know that he was someone you wanted to be close to. 

The church officials wanted to be close to accuse and denounce.  Government folks wanted to be around to make sure that there was no treasonous activity involved in these growing crowds.  Regular folks wanted to be close because miracles happened when he was around.  Why would you want to be near a fellow like this Jesus?  Is there something that you need from this mysterious personage?  Have you some difficulty that will only be resolved in a supernatural way?  Jesus is much more than a physical healer, he offers contentment, assurances, rest, justice, satisfaction, peace.  There is probably much more, but you get the idea.  What is it that you need to be made whole?  You might look in a lot of places without finding your answer.  Could it be that the promise of Jesus as the way, the truth and the life is true?  Could it be that if you would just draw intimately near.......near enough to touch the hem of his garment, that you would find strength (power) for the living of your days?  When you are tired of looking in all the wrong places, why not try this promise that is made in the scriptures; walk with Jesus for awhile, lean on him and share his yoke.  See if his promises are true.  I'll bet my life that they are.

Monday, October 24, 2011

The Gospel of Mark

The Gospel of Mark is thought to be the 1st (chronologically) of the gospels.  Interesting considering that John Mark was a 2nd generation Christian.  John is his Jewish name and Mark is his Roman name.  Both names are used at different times in Paul's writings.  The Gospel of Mark was written about 55 A.D. by the son of Mary who was a prominent Christian women who lived in Jerusalem and who provided her home for church meetings.  This home is mentioned in the Acts of the Apostles (Chapter 12) and was the home to which Peter went when the Angels miraculously released him from prison.

Many biblical scholars believe that Mark was a convert of Peter and became his scribe.  As a boy he would have been able to see and hear Jesus because of his mother's support of the Christ.  As an aide to Peter, he would have heard the many stories of the Great fisherman.  He was also cousin to Barnabas which made him available to Paul in one of his early missionary journeys.  Imagine the great wealth of knowledge that John Mark had as he walked and talked and listened to some of the great giants of the early Faith.  He was with Jesus and the disciples, he ministered with Peter and with Paul.  He becomes a leader in the early church and a disciple to the gentiles.  He helped Barnabas to establish the church in Cyprus and became and founded the church in Alexandria.  His account of the life of Christ in his gospel account is quoted extensively by the other gospels.  It is thought to have been written to the Christians in Rome.  It is another great account of God in the flesh, the one that we call Jesus.

For those who are reading through the Bible with me this year.....I am glad to share with you in the reading of this young man's account of the life and ministry of our Savior and our Lord.

Friday, October 21, 2011

The End...Matthew 24

Jesus gathers with his disciples and they ask "what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?"

Wouldn't we like to know?  I mean to have such knowledge of the last days would be a powerful.  What would we do with such knowledge?  Would it spur us to more time spent in good works?  Would it increase our efforts to speak the good news?  Or would it be so distant as to cause us to lag in our service to our God and King?  Most of the time I think that I am glad not to know, to simply trust in the Amazing Grace of God.  But still, for those that are disciples of the Christ, Jesus offers some information.

Do not be deceived, he says, many will come disguised as he, but don't be fulled.  When the Christ comes back there will be no mistaking his return.  If you need signs of his imminent return then know that there will be war and rumor of war.....don't be alarmed, it will not yet be time.  There will be famine and earthquake in various places, nation will rise against nation.  These are the birth pains of the new beginning.  The church and all those who confess in Christ will be persecuted, wickedness will be on the increase.  That sounds very much like today's news doesn't it?  But the gospel yet needs to be preached in the whole world before the return of Christ.  And then there is this....the abomination of desolation.  What is that and how will we know it?

I don't know that I am smart enough but many biblical scholars believe that the abomination spoken of in Daniel occurred when Antiochus Epiphanes erected an altar to Zeus in the temple and sacrifice a pig on the altar.  The abomination that Jesus speaks of may be something similar in the church of today.  Guard the church that those who would twist the truth of Jesus Christ do not take over control of the Body of Christ and pollute the testimony of God's word.  Would that be the abomination of desolation?

The day and hour are unknown except to the Father in heaven, but we can hasten the day by speaking the good news, by supporting our pastors and missionaries who carry The Word to many places that we cannot go to ourselves.  Be ready.  If God calls his elect today, let us be found at work in his vineyard, doing those things which bring glory to the one who is the author of life and the Savior of our souls.

If Jesus doesn't come in the next 48 hours or so, I hope to see you on the Sabbath.  God's best to you.

Pastor Dave

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

The Kingdom of Heaven is like....

Matthew 20 tells the parable of the workers and the vineyard.  The owner of the vineyard goes into town at various times to hire more workers to complete the harvest.  When the work is done all are paid the same wage.  Some of those who worked the longest complained that they should be paid more.   The owner responded that he could do what he wanted with his money and anyway he had paid the early workers exactly what they had agreed.  The kingdom of heaven is like this.

I am glad it is.  I think of those who have not yet heard the good news.  I think of those who have not yet committed themselves to trust in Jesus.  I am grateful every day that these have yet another opportunity to say yes to the owner of the vineyard.  I don't think it bothers me a bit to think that those who say yes in their final moments will be sitting right up there with us at the feet of Jesus.  I think that heaven will be too marvelous to worry about things as petty as earthly equity.  Eternity will be too joy-filled to give any concern to heavenly rewards.  God's grace, mercy and love will be beyond our imagination to spend a single moment on earth worry about who has the most jewels in their crown.

What we should be concerned with is making sure that none are lost, that all have every opportunity to say yes to the Lord of the harvest.  Do you have friends or family who have not yet signed on?  Maybe today is the day to tell them about the marvel, the majesty that awaits those who sign on for the grandest harvest that any can imagine.

Hope you are having the most blessed day imaginable.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Oh you of little Faith.

How often have we doubted the promises of God.  He has promised to care for those who are his flock, the sheep of his pasture.  Are our doubts related to our failure to return God's love.  Is it that we doubt our faithfulness rather than God's?  But to think that God might disinherit us is still to doubt the constancy of his love, the guarantee of his covenant to us.  How awesome is our God whose faithfulness reaches beyond the generations and even forgives our unfaithfulness.  In our weakness he is made strong and that strength should renew our faith in the power of his promise. 

The story of Peter walking upon the water in Matthew 14 reminds us of the power that God has to do miraculous things in and through us, even to lift us beyond the limits of nature if that is his desire.  Peter walks on the water at Jesus command, but sinks beneath the waves when his faith in Jesus promises wanes.  How like that are we, in a moment we go from complete trust in what God has in store for us to doubting that he will even remember our name.  The doubt is an instrument of the deceiver who would want to think that God is not faithful in every situation

How true are the words of scripture.  How wonderful the words of the hymn: Great is they faithfulness, O God my Father; this is no shadow of turning with thee; thou changes not, they compassion they fail not; as thou has been, thou forever wilt be."  Good times and bad, in the storms of life as in the joy that we share; God is the same, he is faithful.  Can we trust in that?  Can we walk in that knowledge?

Praying that your week will be marked by your faithful walk.  Keep your eyes on Jesus and the stormy waters will fade.  God is good, all the time!

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

let those with eyes to see

Isn't it interesting to listen and watch the world around us and the people who interact with it?  We look at the changing seasons and see God at work.  I marvel at a thunderstorm as it forms and I can imagine the psalmist proclaiming God in the handiwork of heaven.  A child examines a wooly worm or a butterfly with a sense of wonderment.  It seems to me that all of creation declares the presence of the Creator.  God speaks through the order and symmetry, the design and awesome beauty that surrounds us in the natural world.

The psalmist said, "the heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands." (Psalm 19:1)

How is it that some see and some do not?  Is that what Jesus is speaking of as he teaches his disciples in chapter 13, "though seeing, they do not see; though hearing, they do not hear or understand."  Let us continue to study God's word and seek him in prayer that he might give us eyes to see and ears to hear and the spirit of discernment that it might be said of us as Jesus said to his disciples, "the knowledge of the secrets of the kingdom of heaven has been given to you."  And then, let us be ready to speak the word of truth to all whom God trusts to us.

Praying that you will see the hand of God at work this day.  Blessings to you.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Go tell John

The Book of Matthew is filled with miracles.  Jesus heals the lepers.  He raises a young girl from the dead.  He heals the centurions servant.  He calms the storm on the Sea of Galilee.  He removes the demons from the demon-possessed man and sends them into the herd of pigs.  He cures the bleeding woman he touches the hem of his garment.  He heals the blind and the crippled.  He gives hearing to the deaf and the heals the mute.  The signs and wonders are so abundant that great crowds follow him everywhere.  "Nothing like this has every been seen."

Remember that Matthew writes to the Jews and tries to help them to understand that Jesus is the Messiah, he who was prophesied in the Old Testament.  Isaiah said of the one who was to come in 35:2b-6, "they will see the glory of the Lord, the splendor of our God.   Strengthen the feeble hands, steady the kness that give way; say to those with fearful hearts, 'Be strong, do not fear; your God will come, he will come with vengeance; with divine retribution he will come to save you.'  Then will the eyes of the blind be opened and the ears of the deaf unstopped.  Then will the lame leap like a deer, and the mute tongue shout for joy."

Matthew 11, John the Baptist is imprisoned and will be killed by Herod.  He wants to know and sends his disciples to inquire of Jesus, "are you the one?"  Jesus replies, "Go tell John; the blind can see, the lame can walk, the deaf can hear, the mute can talk, the good news is preached to the poor."  Without directly answering John's question, Jesus says, "yes, I am the one."  Every Jew educated in the synagogue will know the prophecy........the question is, then and now, will you believe that God has come and that he will come again. 

What say Jesus the one who can cause your heart to sing?  Is he the one who can cause you to see beyond the moment and into eternity?  Is he the one to whom you will pledge your allegiance?  Is he the one or are you waiting for another?

Monday, October 10, 2011

Matthew, a testimony to the Jews

Matthew was a tax collector who became a disciple of Jesus.  Most biblical scholars believe that this book was written about 60 a.d.  Each of the gospels have a little different focus.  Matthew is written to the Jews and is filled with references to the fulfillment of the prophecy of the Old Testament.  His writing is intended to point out how Jesus is that fulfillment and is the Messiah promised throughout the writings of the prophets.

Matthew contains several stories that are not found in any of the other gospels including: The story of Joseph's dream regarding his coming son,  the visit by the Magi and their gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh, the escape to Egypt to avoid the villainy of the murderous Herod, the slaughter of the innocents.  All of these are part of our Christmas traditions.  There are similar stories about the end of Jesus life on earth that are found in none of the other gospel accounts including: the death of Judas following his betrayal of Jesus, the dream that Pilate's wife has about Jesus, the bribery of the guards by the chief priests to keep them silent about Jesus' resurrection.  Many of these differences can be understood because of Matthew's purpose in writing the gospel; these incidents are the fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy and will have special significance to the Jewish reader.

After 9 months in the Old Testament, it is good to be reading of the life of Jesus and to hear his instructions to his disciple's to love.  The good news that we have because of the life of Jesus is a very winsome story of God's great love for his creation.  All of us who bear the name christian should be ready to speak of this good news and be ready to reveal our personal experiences (testimonies) of God's good news as it has touched our lives. 

I look forward to the next three months of preaching in the New Testament and sharing this great story of God's eternal love.  Hope you have a most blessed week.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Halelujah, the New Testament!!

I finished reading Malachi Tuesday.  I felt blessed!  I hope this doesn't sound bad, but I am glad to have completed my journey through the Old Testament.  There were parts that I really like, but the prophets kind of bummed me out and yet I found hope in every one of the 39 books of the Old Testament.  This is the Bible of Jesus Day.  These are the inspired writings of those that God trusted with his truth for their day and for ours as well.  Those writings include the wonderful promise of Jesus that we so delight in and I am glad to be reading in Matthew today.  I think this Sunday's sermon will be the first New Testament reading that we have had since Easter.

Before I leave Malachi I must remind you of what God said to sinful Israel, "I have loved you!"  Isn't that a great thing to remember in the midst of the world that we live in where sin and evil seems to be enjoying a period of growth?  God loves us and we should always rejoice at the goodness of God that is revealed in his love.  But don't forget the introspective questions that are posed in Malachi, "How have we sown contempt for your name?"  "How have we defiled you?"  Is there sin in our camp, personal and corporate?  Are we accepting of ways that cause a gradual decay of our spirituality and allegiance to the God who loves us?  It is a question that we should ask every day and respond to lest we fail to do the most important work of our lives which is to "love God with all our heart, soul and mind and to love our neighbor as ourselves."

This is only the 2nd time that I have read the Old Testament in its entirety in a purposeful and disciplined way.  I am grateful for your encouragement and for each of you who has read with me.  I think God has blessed us and made us wiser for our investment in his word.  Now to enjoy the fruit of his love found in the life and work of Jesus of Nazareth.  Welcome to the New Testament.

See you Sunday.....have a God blessed day!!

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Zephaniah, The Lord is mighty to save

Zephaniah prophesies during the reign of Josiah.  Josiah was a good king in Judah who was trying to bring revival to Jerusalem, the temple and Judah.  His reforms mark an uptick in the spiritual lives of his people.  Zephaniah is prophesying about a time when the Day of the Lord will come and judgment will be meted out to the nations of the world and the people of those nations. 

He speaks, as do many of the prophets, of a day of destruction, of fire and brimstone, of the death of many.  It is doomsday stuff, the stuff of Revelations, the end times.  He speaks of it in the context of Assyria, Israel, Judah, Moab, Ammon, Cush and the nations of his day, but it would be easy to speak the same stuff about the world that we live in.  He speaks of how leaders are enamored of power and wealth; how doing the right thing plays second fiddle to maintaining power (is that like saying that the ends justify the means?)  He says that there is a day and it is coming soon when God will come as a refiner's fire and all that is not pure will be burnt away.  Do you think that God cares more for the winners than the losers?  do you think he cares more for the powerful than the powerless?  Does he value the haves more than the have nots?  Zephaniah believes that God's measurement will be about righteous living and those who have pursued the unholy things of this world will face the wrath of a righteous God.

What does that mean for us?  What should we be doing?  Let me suggest that throughout the Old Testament prophets with their dire warnings of impending judgment, there is a thread that speaks faithfully about God's preservation of the remnant; that part of humanity that has resisted the call to the flesh and maintained their obedience to the God of Creation, Jehovah.  That remnant of faithful believer's will be protected from that judgment.  I don't know how, but that is the promise found in Zephaniah and in other of the prophets.

"The Lord your God is with you, he is mighty to save.  He will take great delight in you, he will quiet you with his love, he will rejoice over you with singing." (Zephaniah 3: 17)  Be faithful, honor God, worship in spirit and in truth, love your neighbor.  In the midst of failed economies and political upheaval with the powerful and wealthy scratching and clawing to maintain their positions; God will not abandon you.  His love for you will prevail.  Even in the valley of the shadow, God will keep you from falling.  He says, "I will rescue the lame and gather those who have been scattered.  I will give them praise and honor."  Could we want more from our God than to be found worthy on the day that judgment comes?  I think not!  May you be faithful this day in your service to the King!

Monday, October 3, 2011

Noah, a story of God's Amazing Grace

I like being a United Methodist.  I think John Wesley was onto something when we emphasized the many facets of God's Grace (love).  The familiar story of Jonah and his time in the whale is a story of that grace. 

Assyria was a rising power in the Middle East.  There army was fierce and they lacked little compassion for those that they conquered.  Israel is being threatened by Assyria.  Jonah is a citizen of Israel.  He has no love for Assyria.  They are enemies.  They are godless.  They are vile and vicious. And then God asks him to go to Assyria, to their capital city of Ninevah and preach to them about their need to repent of their violence.  He is called by God to offer God's forgiveness to them if they will turn from their idols and declare Jehovah, the God of the Israelites to be their God.

Jonah doesn't want to do this.  He is fearful that God will forgive his enemies.  His fearful that God will bless his enemies.  He doesn't want his enemies to be forgiven or blessed.  He wants God to smite them with a mighty blow.  He wants God to curse his enemies.

Doesn't that sound just like us.  Surely God can see the weakness of character in our enemy.  Surely God will want justice for our enemy.  Surely God will blast them with one of his heavenly lasers and give them just what you think they deserve.  Trouble is for Jonah and for us (maybe I should say thankfully for Jonah and for us), God loves his creation.....fallen though it may be.  He desires blessing for us(and for the Assyrians in our lives).  He longs that none would be lost.  All that is required is that they would turn from their sin and ask God to intervene in their hearts.

Jonah knew full well that God was a God of love.  He had received that love and that forgiveness that he did not want to offer to the Ninevites.  Who are you withholding forgiveness from?  Who are you seeking vengeance on rather than grace?  What does the story of Jonah tell us about who God would ask us to offer his grace too?  Pray that we would never be judged in the way that we judge rather that God would shower us with the Grace that will save us from our sin.