Monday, April 16, 2012

As the Father has sent me, so I send you.

Sunday was a sacred day.  We were privileged to stand on Holy Ground and to observe the presence of the Holy Spirit.  I was nearly overwhelmed by the Spirit's presence in our worship.  Brent Kahler set the stage beautifully with his rendition of "Remind Me Who I Am".  The confirmands and those being Baptized were ready to hear the charge being made to them, to answer the sacred questions asked of them and to accept the challenge offered by Christ on that first Easter morn when he said, "As the Father has sent me, so I send you".  What an awesome responsibility and challenge and privilege to know that you have been chosen by God; selected from the billions on earth to be appointed to the apostleship of Jesus Christ.

This was a bright and beautiful Confirmation Class and I charge the church with the important responsibility to continue to tutor them and grow them into the leaders that God calls them to be.  I do not know all that lies within them, but I know that they have been created with a plan and a purpose and if we help them to grow in the Power of the Holy Spirit and help them to discern the purpose for which God calls them, the Kingdom of God will draw near at hand.

I commend Tess Burroughs, Cooper Day, Carley Harris, Kyle Parkhurst, Kearston Thurmon, Kylee Thurman, Makella Coulson, Ally Bailey and Paige Forrester to you love and care.  The church will be well served by these young persons as they grow in their Faith and become the disciples that they dream of becoming.  My heart is filled with joy at the opportunity and blessing that I have had to spend the last 7 months with them instructing them of what I know about the awesome gift of the church and the marvel of the one who breathed it into being.  It has been my privilege to disciple them and now to send them, just as Jesus has instructed me.  My prayer is that we will not fail them now in their continuing growth and spiritual development.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

I woke this morning

I woke this morning to what sounded very much like the patter of little feet coming across the hardwood floor.  We have become accustomed to that sound in the last month as our beautiful little 2 year old grand daughter would rise early in the morning and come to our bed room door to seek admittance.  Each morning she would raise her arms to "paw" and be welcomed into bed with Granny and Paw where she would cuddle and rest for a few more minutes before telling Paw to "come on!" and we would begin our morning activities of watching the birds come to the feeder for breakfast and preparing the pancake batter for our own breakfast.  Of course there was not patter of little feet.  Micayla, her sisters and her parents were in London England this morning, resting before completing their trip to India to begin their new work there with Beulah Ministries.

How good is God's Grace that he would give me the sound of her feet this morning and remind me that though they are traveling far from me, they are still at home in my heart.  I thank my many, many friend who have prayed for our family and who continue to pray for us during a bittersweet time of goodbyes.  How blessed we are that our children have heard God's call on their lives and have responded in Faith.  We know that there is no safer place in all of creation than in God's perfect will.  We trust them to his care but we reserve the humanly selfish right to miss them and to weep from time to time when we are reminded of the beautiful gift that they have been in our lives.

I woke this morning to the sound of the patter of little feet and thanked God for his many wonderful gifts and mercies.  I pray that you will be blessed this day with a memory that warms your heart and melts it at the same time. 

Friday, February 24, 2012

Lenten Sermon Series

It is the season of Lent and time to turn our eyes and our hearts toward Calvary, not just to look at the empty cross but to look at the empty tomb and to contemplate what it means to us and to the world.  We will be looking at the 7 last words of Jesus from the cross as our Lenten Sermon Series.  I hope that the words of my mouth and the meditation of our hearts together will glorify God in this holy season and cause us, by God's grace, to grow closer to the one who died to save us from our sin.

The first sermon of the series is about those words that Jesus uttered as he witnessed the milling mass of humanity that gathered to watch his execution.  There were the Roman soldiers there to do their jobs as executioners and keepers of the peace.  There were the members of the Sanhedrin who had set their plan in motion not knowing that this was truly the "Son of God" that they were accusing of blasphemy.  There were the curious, the morbid onlookers who came to witness the spectacle.  There were the disciples and women who came to mourn the loss of a son, a brother, a friend.  Even they did not comprehend the hand of God at work on that forlorn piece of rock that is known as Golgotha. 

"Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing" were the words that Jesus uttered first.  They most have sounded strange to the soldiers who were casting lots for his garments.  They were used to hearing mutterings and curses from men who were condemned to death, but this man prays for those who persecute him.  Is this prophesy fulfilled as Isaiah pronounced "for he bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors." (Isaiah 53:14)

"Father, forgive them" were the words and they were intended for all those who were present just as they were meant for us in 2012 for none of us are innocent of the crimes commited against God our Father.  All of us are guilty of the sins that nailed him to the tree. 

"Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do."  Pray that God would convict us of our sin and heal us of our disease that we might serve him lovingly and mightily during this Lenten season.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Grace, Grace, Marvelous Grace

Some of you know that our daughter, Angela, and her family are staying with us for a few weeks while they make the final preparations to make their 5 year sojourn to the mission fields.  We are delighted to have them for this extended visit although three little girls aged 10, 9 and 2 can certainly alter your normal living pattern.

The youngest is Mickayla and she is a delight to my soul.  She absolutely wears me out with her energy and compulsion to be on the move.  "outside, outside" she declares every time we walk by a window.  "Swing, me swing" she will tell me several times a day.  "Come on" she demands if things get a little slow or if I dare to sit down for a few moments.  I must admit that I am ready for her to go to bed by the end of the day.

But she has this one little endearing quality that always makes my heart sing.  Every morning when she comes up the stairs she enquires, "paw (my name is paw), paw?"  When she discovers me, she throws her arms up in the air and her face is fully of a great big toothy smile; her eyes are fixed expectantly on me and she is genuinely and absolutely delighted to be in my presence.  How can I resist such love?  I cannot. 

But I sometimes wonder if we don't miss great blessings because we ignore the marvelous love that God offers us every day.  His mercy is great and his grace is free.  His mercies are new every morning.  Do you need to feel like you are the center of the universe?  Get a grand daughter like my Mickayla or center yourself in the knowledge that you have a "Paw" who is waiting for you to throw your arms up and climb into his gentle embrace.  Unlike me in my aging flesh, he never grows weary of you and he is always delighted to hear your voice.  Wait marvelous grace indeed.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

no greater love

Greater love has no one than this, that he would lay down his life for his friends.  John 15:13

It is Valentine's Day and I hope that you remembered (not too late) to do something special for those that you love.  The story of Valentine and his desire to celebrate love during a brutal time in the history of humanity is a great story of living to a higher ideal.  Christianity is all about that higher ideal....loving something and someone bigger than ourselves.

God calls us to first love him with all our heart, soul and strength and then to love our brothers (and sisters) as we might love ourselves.  To love God is to love all that he is and that includes his creation that he declared to be good.  Humanity is an important part of that creation and that part which was created in his image.  We cannot declare ourselves to be Christian if we are not busily about the business of loving (and caring) for each other.

Part of our problem with loving each other is that we have forgotten how to define love.  Popular culture has twisted the word and illustrated its meaning is some very unchristian kinds of ways.  Love, pure love, the kind of love that God calls us to is unselfish and always seeking the best interest of others.  So, my Christian friends, this is my challenge to you today on this St. Valentine's day.  Love someone fact seek the best interest of others today before considering yourself.  See if unselfish love doesn't have a uniquely wonderful blessing.  One that the rest of the world may not have yet discovered.

Praying that your life is filled to overflowing with giving and receiving the kind of love that God declares to be "very good".

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Home again

Patty and I have had a most delightful time vacationing in the Savannah/Hilton Head area for the last 10 days.  We have toured the antebellum streets of Savannah, walked the river walk, toured some of the historic homes, played golf and walked the shores of the Atlantic Ocean.  We head home today and look forward to being with a portion of our family for a few weeks before they begin their mission to India.  On Saturday morning I will be speaking at the First Baptist Church of Oak Grove as part of a 2 day Men's Prayer Retreat.  I would ask your prayers that God would give me a word and use me to help the 200 men who will gather to grow in their prayer life and walk with God.  I will be speaking about the power of prayer.

As Patty and I walked the seashore I was struck at the power of this mighty ocean to change the shore line moment by moment with its powerful tides and waves.  Every moment something knew was being brought to shore and something old was being remade.  And then I thought of the Psalmist who said our God holds these powerful, earth shaping oceans in the palm of his hand and I was humbled at the image of God's continuing ability to recreate all things.  He has set the Earth in motion and created these great forces with the word of his mouth and he is able to do all things in heaven and on earth.  What could we imagine that he could not do?

The world is filled with terror and anxiety.  We worry about the price of gas and what will happen to our ability to get from here to there.  We worry about the political tenor of our nation and who will be able to lead us through the mine field of political rhetoric.  We worry about nuclear power in the hands of those who do not fear its potential consequences for global destruction.  We worry for our children and our children's children.  How much better would our time be spent if we sought God's peace and purpose and acted out of the love that he has for his creation.  He has the power to make all things new again.  Let us pray that he will reshape our hearts and give us courage to act out of that love.

Looking forward to being home and greeting you in the love of Jesus.

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Be ready

Patty and I are spending this week in beautiful Hilton Head South Carolina.  The temperatures are in the low 70's and the water of the Atlantic are like the skies; a beautiful blue.  We spent this afternoon in historical Beaufort South Carolina, looking at antebellum homes and quaint little shops and visiting with some really nice folks.  It is interesting to strike up conversations with folks that you meet by chance, waiters, clerks, folks doing service work.  You smile and offer a kind word and they open up with the greatest information.  Ask where to eat and they tell you their favorite place.  Ask some place that you would have to see if it was your last day in town and they give you directions and reasons why.  Tell they how much you appreciate their kindness and they become your friend.  Everybody involved in the conversation feels better for the time invested in each other.

The apostle Peter tells us in 1 Peter 3:15, "Always be prepared to everyone who asks you to give a reason  for the hope that you have.  But do this with gentleness and respect."  How many non-Christians could be won to Christ if we exhibited the joy of salvation in every aspect of our lives.  Of course their are difficulties that we have to deal with.  Illness, disappointment and even the valley of the shadow will affect all of us, but we have this knowledge of eternity and our place in it that should allow us to walk confidently and joyfully in all the days of our lives.  There are many folks out their who are walking tentatively and without a knowledge of their futures that can keep them anchored confidently.  Who can you encounter joyfully?  Who can you give a moment of peace to?  Who might ask you where you can the hope to live joyfully and confidently in the difficulty of these days?  Can you engage them in conversation and display a zest for life?  Can you cause their lives to be better because you have entered it?  Can you treat them with gentleness and respect and wait patiently to give a reason for the hope that is within you?  Perhaps this is the day that your witness can help someone else discover a reason for hope.

Hope your week is filled with sunshine and that you might have opportunity to cause the Son to shine in someone else's life as well.  See you in a week.  God's best to you.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Amos, a tree dresser from Tekoa

I'm reading from the book of Amos and wondering at God's choice for a prophet.  Amos is a shepherd by trade but evidently he doesn't have enough livestock to care for to keep him busy so he does some additional seasonal labor as a sycamore tree dresser.  Whether this second job was to insure financial stability for his family or something that his father had done before him, we cannot tell.  But we do know that his profession, either shepherd or tree dresser (gardener), has nothing to do with formal training in the priesthood or to be a prophet.  His calling as a prophet is purely a spiritual calling from God and a most difficult calling at that.

Amos is called by God to leave his homeland of Judah and travel into the north country of Israel and to tell that country which is in the midst of an economic upswing that God is highly displeased.  Imagine how that falls on deaf ears!  Those who will be in agreement are the least and the lost and the dispossessed.  How much influence for change will they have?  Those who can make change are living high on the hog.  Amos words of warning fall on unhearing ears, even hostile ears and yet he persists in speaking the truth that God has revealed to him; a time of reckoning is coming.

As Christians, we are called to speak the truth in love even if that truth is unwanted and resisted.  In a time when sin is easily disguised and acceptable as freedom of speech or inclusive lifestyles, we need to be people of truth.  Not an easy thing to be, but one that is absolutely necessary if we are to be salt and light in a world that is dark and festering.  What is the truth?  Is there many roads leading to the same exalted place of promise and hope.  All I know is that which Jesus has spoken, "he is the way, the truth and the life.  No one can hope to know the Father unless they come by way of the Son."  Are you so bold as to live a life of truth?  To speak the truth in ways that may expose yourself to ridicule?

The example of Amos is one of boldly speaking for God even when others are content in their comforts that have come at the expense of those unable to speak for themselves.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Just an ordinary man, Elijah

Got to play golf on Monday, January 16.  The weather was an incredible 61 degrees with a wind out of the southwest.  I shot my best score of the new year.  (it was my first score of the new year)  After the last two winters of snow and cold, this is a remarkable January.  Hope you have time to enjoy the blessings of warm winter days.l

Preaching out of 1 Kings 19 this week.  It is part of the incredible story of Elijah, one of the greatest of the Old Testament Prophets.  You will remember him from our reading through the scriptures in 2011, but if you need to brush up on him, you will find him in 1 Kings 17-19 and mentioned in the New Testament in the Book of James.  He does some mighty miracles, but James says that he was a man, just like us.  Isn't that incredible good news that good uses the ordinary to do the extraordinary!  I am reminded by Elijah's story that God is in the business of using cracked pots to carry sacred water and all that needs to be done is to yield our brokenness to his Holy Spirit. 

Have you seen God at work in abundant ways lately?  Maybe you haven't yielded yourself to him?  What needs to be surrendered in order that God might bring rain on a dry land or that holy fire might descend to burn up the evil of our age?  Hope to see you in church on Sunday.  Maybe we can spend a moment at the altar together.....surrendering our ordinariness to God for his extraordinary use.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Fan or Follower

Spent 90 minutes last night with a group of great brothers and sisters in Christ who are reading books together this year and trying to learn more about what it means to be a Christ follower.  Our book this month was titled "Not a Fan" by Kyle Idleman and it posed the question, are you a fan or a follower of Jesus?  A fan is someone who roots for, has an interest in and who knows about while a follower is someone who passionately pursues and is engaged with.  Can you see the difference?  A fan is one who has a cheering interest.  A fan might change allegiances or have multiple allegiances.  A follower is a devotee, someone who has said "you are my one and only".  A follower has invested and committed, is "all in".

Idleman's book poses some hard questions for the Christian and asks us to consider our relationship with Jesus with the thought in mind, "are your ready to follow whenever, wherever and whatever?"  The mark of the true Christian is to be sold out entirely, nothing withheld. 

Idleman tells the story of the Knight's Templar who were baptized into their order by immersion and dedicated their lives to service, but as they entered the water they held their swords above the waters of baptism as if to say, "I am all yours except for this sword."  What is it that we withhold that keeps us from being followers?  Is it our checkbook, our lake house, our retirement plans, our children's interests?  What competes for your allegiance to Christ?  Does that mean that we have made an idol of that which we have not submitted to Christ?

What would happen this year at Faith UMC and in the world if 10 or 12 of us were "all in" for Christ?  Would the effect make a difference?  It did when Jesus gathered the 12. 

NOT A FAN by Kyle Idleman is now in the church library.  It is a good read, but be careful if you read might remind you of how far short most of us have fallen from the standard of 'true' Christianity.  Are you a fan or a follower?

Thursday, January 5, 2012

"on the spot" ministry

I have spent the week in Nashville attending the 2012 Congress on Evangelism.  It has been a great time.  I traveled here with a couple of good friends from St.Paul School of Theology and Course of Study.  One of them, Bob Debolt, pastors in Illinois and the other, Glen Hansen, pastors in Iowa.  It has been a lot of fun to be with these two men who are in love with Jesus and to be able to hear some great preaching, bible study, worship and workshops.  One of the things I miss most is the time to be in worship.  A pastor is often so busy making sure that worship happens for his congregation that he fails to be in worship himself.  I am so grateful to have been washed again this week by the Holy Spirit and to have been able to worship in spirit and in truth.

Tonight's preacher was Pastor Vance Ross from the Gordon Memorial UMC, the largest African American Church in Tennessee.  He preached with power and inspiration as he took his text from Acts 3; the story of Peter and John healing the lame man at the Gate Beautiful.  The man had been a cripple all of his life and had others who brought him to this busy part of Jerusalem to beg for his living.  He asked Peter and John for alms, but they had no money.  "Peter said to him, 'silver or gold I do not have, but what I have I give to you.  In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk." 

You know the rest of the story.  They took the man by the hand and he did rise and walk.  Many people knew man and when they saw him walking they were amazed and were filled with wonder at what had happened to him. 

Isn't it interesting that we often decline to be involved in ministry because we are not "properly equipped".  We don't have the right resources, the right training, the financial resources, but the lesson of this miracle is that God has equipped us to be in ministry at the spot where we find others in need.  We who have been saved by Jesus have also been equipped by the power of the holy spirit and in that power Jesus has promised to give us "all authority" to go and make disciples baptizing, and teaching.  Once we have become part of the "Body of Christ" through baptism we are equipped and ready to be sent to do the works of Christ in the world which include healing ministries.  The miracle that Peter and John performed was done in the power of the same Spirit that is available to us.  So the question is.....what stops us from performing those same 'signs and wonders' and being ready day by day to do 'on the spot' (meaning wherever we are that causes us to be in a place that calls for God's goodness and grace) ministry in the Mighty Name of the one we claim for our own salvation, the name of Jesus?

Looking forward to Sabbath and being with you in worship.  Enoch is the subject of Sunday's sermon, a man who walked with God.