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 it......it 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.