To Endure……

Last weeks blog was about endurance, I had indicated that prayer was a big part of that and maintaining a relationship with God was of up-most importance. One of the devotionals I use on a regular basis is “Our Daily Bread” and I will draw from a recent devotion written by Arthur Jackson. The bible reading for that day was from Psalms 119. That Psalm and Adam Clark’s commentary are the seeds of todays blog.

Today we will be looking at verses 9-16 and 97-105. I recommend you read the entire Psalm, all 176 verses. Also you may find Mr Clarks commentary about these verses, especially the introduction interesting. How do we in  the world we have today continue to endure, keep the faith and be true to our God?  The Psalm we are studying today is remarkable in that it is in many ways a diagram of Holy Living. Adam Clark writes that all of the following are present in this Psalm throughout its entirety.

  • Testimonies;
  • Commandments,
  • Precepts;
  • Word;
  • Law;
  • Ways;
  • Truth;
  • Judgments;
  • Righteousness;
  • Statutes.

I never said that living a Christian life was easy and it might be that we at times in our passing reverence overlook the details. I believe that Endurance is nurtured by these things listed above. I realize that I am on a short limb with a crack in it but here is  another of my dirty little secrets of Christianity. Christians all over the world get up, clean up, put on their church face and go to their place of worship on the Sabbath. This is a time we celebrate our God and renew our faith and rejoice in our salvation. Simply put, we recharge our batteries and prepare to go out again praising God and sharing the message. You may not agree with some of the things I share with you today but that is alright. Being right with God, a favorite saying of the older generation is about living as Holy a life as you possibly can. Let’s take a closer look at Psalm 119: 9-16.

-consider the path we are now on and realize that sin separates us from God. We must study the word and through prayer discern what God has said and instructed us to do. We must make straight our path and preserve His way. Sin destroys mind, body and soul therefore we must do all we can to put it out of our life. We must not stray from a path of prayer and supplication, always seeking the good way, never allowing sin to separate us from God so that our prayers will not be in vain. 

-God’s word should dwell in our hearts and minds and actions at all times. The word of Christ should dwell richly in us. If God’s word is only in our  Bibles, and not also in our heart, we may well give in to the sins of this world. We should openly declare the consequences of sin so that others may realize the judgements that await them.

-As we gain strength in his word, living a Holy Life, we should rejoice at the happiness to be found in the path of obedience, giving our whole heart and strength to God.

-We must never forget what God has done for us, done in us, and the promise of eternal life through Jesus Christ. Like wise we must be true to the covenant we made to live a Holy Life and the vows we made to our God.

The above could be a path forward if you wish, the good way which includes some of the things that will help us endure.

Continuing with verses 97-105.  Some had thought that this Psalm was written by Daniel but whether that is correct or not there is an  important lesson contained in these verses.

-Obedience and love for the precepts of Christ, in his commandments in which we should delight; so much so that they become frequent points of our meditation.

-The wisdom of God exceeds all others. The breath of the spiritual nature of God’s law can lead us to avoid all sin as the spirit of this wisdom continues to grow within us.

-How much better is life when we are in communion with our God. This spiritual closeness with God leads us into a path of obedience and thus his grace.

-We are reminded that Proverbs 6:23; : “The commandment is a lamp; and the law is light; and reproofs of instruction are the way of life.” 

God’s word is a candle which may be held in the hand to give us light in every dark place and chamber; and it is a general light shining upon all his works, and upon all our ways. (Adan Clark)

Psalm 119 shows us a path to “The Christian Endurance” , standing firm in our faith, our God and the promises of Jesus Christ.

Thanks for stopping by the pew……Come back next week.

Life is Good 

jk

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Life Happens…… Why Does God Let Bad Things Happen To Good People?

I could not help but let my mind wander to another question that I am sure many of you have asked and struggled with. Why does God let bad things happen to good people? One example is of course Job. Those of us who have read and studied that book know that God did intervene and why, and Job was tested severely. I have a rather peculiar line of thought that involves a very simple theory………life happens. It is what happens after the intrusion of a bad thing in our life that I believe brings about a  God powered blessing that we often over look. That blessing is Endurance. With Endurance, add hope and perseverance. I am not of the belief that God is in the business of hurt and hard times. Our actions or lack of can sometimes lead to bad decisions which have consequences. So that explains in some way my belief, life  just happens. It is not unreasonable to believe that our God is in control, what is sometimes hard is the realization that no mortal man  knows the mind of God. There is the endurance of athletic competitors, the seriously ill, those struggling to feed their families and many more examples to numerous to mention. Christian commitment, is easily understood in the example of determination to endure in the face of life’s difficulties along with the hostility, persecution, and the death of Jesus and his disciples, this endurance of Christians in the face of persecution and temptation underlies most the New Testament.

It is not all that complicated when you understand the fact that the early Christians were not all that good in withstanding the times of persecution and temptations that were so common and overwhelming in their day.  We are reminded of the repeated failures of Israel to maintain faithfulness to God.  The New Testament writers  used these examples to provide Paul and others strong warnings of how not to behave. As is my habit here is the dictionary meaning of Endurance.

1: the ability to withstand hardship or adversity especially : the ability to sustain a prolonged stressful effort or activity

 2: the act or an instance of enduring or suffering

 There seems to be for many of us a willingness to quietly accept what life throws at us accepting these bad times as just karma, a popular buzz word these days. For those of the way there is this thing I call Christian Endurance. Endurance of this type is characterized by a commitment of looking to Christ in the bad times of our lives. Endurance, should be an important part of our Christian faith. We can and will get through the bad times if we will just remember:

John 3:16 

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.

We serve a God whose love, grace and forgiveness is an inherent part of the endurance and faith expected of every Christian. We should all ask ourselves in every life situation this question.

John 6:68  “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.  

True commitment endures by looking to Christ for the resources and the way that secures our faith and salvation as well as peace of mind, body and soul. To endure, to persevere, to hope we must have a strong prayer life. We cannot do it alone. Prayer is an important part of our Christian armour. Endure in Christ’s Name, AMEN

Life is Good

jk

 

Luke, Galilee and Jesus

The book of Luke, I don’t often go there and I cannot give an adequate reason as to why. First a look at Luke, the doctor and traveling companion of Paul. There are several references to Luke in NT writings. There is mention of Luke in 2 Timothy 4: 11 it is written that “only Luke is with me” alluding to Paul’s final time in prison. In Col 4:14 he is identified as the “beloved physician”. Irenaeus, the Bishop of Lyon, claims that Luke was inseparable from Paul. Luke actually was a fellow-laborer of the Apostles. Luke learned from the Apostles. 

Luke 1:1-4 

Many have undertaken to draw up an account of the things that have been fulfilled among us, just as they were handed down to us by those who from the first were eyewitnesses and servants of the word. With this in mind, since I myself have carefully investigated everything from the beginning, I too decided to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, so that you may know the certainty of the things you have been taught. 

In these opening verses we also encounter the intriguing question..who is Theophilus. As usual there are many theories and thoughts about the who. The name “Theophilus” literally means “loved by God,” but carries the idea of “friend of God.” After some study I am led to believe that Luke was indeed writing to a specific person but the message applies to all Christians and is timeless. Every gospel has its own identity or characteristics and Luke gives us a Jesus that is compassionate and a friend to outcasts. Jesus is the savior sent to find and save the lost. I find chapter 4 interesting because it is an introduction to Jesus’ ministry in Galilee. Reading from 4: 14-15: 

14 Then Jesus, filled with the power of the Spirit, returned to Galilee, and a report about him spread through all the surrounding country. 15 He began to teach in their synagogues and was praised by everyone.

There is the account of Jesus reading Chapter 61 of  Isaiah in the synagogue. I would like to take a closer look at these verses, Luke 4:16-21.   

16 When he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, he went to the synagogue on the sabbath day, as was his custom. He stood up to read, 17 and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written: 18 “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,  because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, 19 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”20 And he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant, and sat down. The eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him. 21 Then he began to say to them, “Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.” 

The return to Nazareth and to the synagogue is but a few verses but what we find here is precious to the eyes and ears of the believers. Now there is an order of service, if you will, in the synagogue as to reading and teaching. There is first the Shema, recitation of the Decalogue, the eighteen benedictions, the reading of the Scripture, the Psalms, the exposition, and the blessing. There would be people who were asked to led a prayer or a reading but here Luke gives us only part of that service. The Hazzan, or assistant would have handed Jesus the Scroll. It is possible that even in that day there were certain scriptures to be read, but Luke understood that Jesus himself chose this passage.

As we read this passage it is very clear that all Jesus does in the coming chapters occurs by the power of the spirit. The problem for some of these folks was that they found it hard to believe that God’s promises were for all people. We know that some of what Jesus said angered the people there that day. The Jews considered God to be theirs alone, they were jealous of the thought that others might be promised these things other than the Jews. They were so sure that they were god’s people that they tended to look down on all others. The wonder of it all does not stop here. Here was this Jesus, whom they all knew, preaching that all others, that meaning Gentiles also, which literally meant everyone, were favored in his message of grace and mercy. They were beginning to understand that this new message was unlike any they had dreamed possible. There is also a message here for us today. Jesus was always in synagogue on the Sabbath. There had to be many things that he found disagreement with and were a burden to him, but he went anyway. It was Jesus’ habit to join with those worshiping God on God’s day. How petty are the things that turn us from being among God’s people on God’s day.

Jesus brought the gospel good news. There are some other good things here. The grace of God has no boundaries, or limits. No one nation, church, group or race has any exclusivity in the promises of God. When we turn others away, we by our behavior turn away from God. There is a radical inclusiveness in the gospel that is all-powerful. At the same time, because of who we are, it sometimes produces in us barriers that keep us from loving all people. As long as we allow these barriers to exist, as long as we resist the teachings of Jesus as the gospel records, we can not be open to Jesus or the Holy Spirit. As long as we allow boundaries to separate us and limit our love for all God’s people, we can never truly be His. We will be blind, deaf and lost, just as those in that synagogue on that day so long ago were.

Thank you for coming by the Pew.

Life is Good

jk

 

Institution, Kuppa and Tamhui and Office-Bearers

As the early church came into being and  more people came to Christ it began to encounter the problems of an institution. Caring for those in need has always been a God thing. To care for those less fortunate than us is not a point thing. It is a command, given by God to his people. It is common in scriptural writings in the OT as well as the NT. Deuteronomy 15:11  There will always be poor people in the land. Therefore I command you to be open-handed toward your fellow Israelites who are poor and needy in your land.

Giving is not a thing of tradition or a precept but an important block in the foundation of the Church. In Acts 6 verses 1-6 we are reminded how much of a part of our faith and our church is the command to give aid to those in need. We also see the creation of  the first real office-bearers. We are privy to the problems that develop when people of different station, real or imagined must learn to share. We also see the importance of God led people in determining thy will be done with the appointment of Stephen and six others to oversee the distribution of goods. The Jewish nation had always been generous to the less fortunate in their community and accepted the responsibility with much zeal. I do believe that we can say that our Christian communities do the same even now in the present day. This responsibility of caring for the less fortunate among us was a routine custom in the Jewish synagogues. The early church as it grew had a very large percentage of Jews who had heard the message, believed and some even heard and saw Jesus and it is clear that the early church had taken over this custom as it grew. But among the Jews themselves a rift developed over the distribution of goods among the people. This chapter, Acts 6, is rich in topics that show not only the efforts of the new christians to reach out but also the impending opposition to them, even to the point of extreme and violent acts. Today we will look at the first six verses. Other research will show that there was a well thought out understanding by the church to acknowledge that some needs were greater than others. There were two collectors that went around to the private houses and to the market every Friday morning. They took up a collection of goods and money, that would be distributed later in the day. This was known as the Kuppah or Basket. They even took care to access the level of need. There were those who were  given enough to enable them to carry on. Then those who were permanently unable to support themselves received enough for two meals a day for seven days. Along with this program was another house to house collection made daily for those whose needs were more pressing. This was called the Tamhuri, or Tray.

 In the Christian Church we are all of one faith, one God but we are different people. The early church saw an influx of gentiles as well as Jews. The Jews who at this point were of the larger number were involved in a dispute among themselves. They found themselves divided by language and country of origin. The Jerusalem and the Palestinian Jews, spoke Aramaic, a form of their ancestral language. They took pride in the fact that there were no foreign elements in their lives. There were also Jews from foreign lands, they had come up for Pentecost, heard about and discovered Christ and decided to stay. These had been gone for generations and spoke only Greek. The spiritually snobbish Jews looked down on the foreign Jews.The crux of the problem was a belief that there was an element of unfairness toward the Greeks in the distribution of food to the needy. This disrupted the harmony and spiritual togetherness of the community, resulting in complaints to the leaders, specifically the apostles. They set about to pick seven men from among the people to find a solution and get things in order.

It is interesting that William Barclay noted that these were the first office-bearers to be appointed. They were charged to not talk but provide a practical service to the growing church. Here is an interesting fact. In looking for a quote or bible verse to close with I remembered that famous quote of John Wesley. So I looked it up to be sure I got it right and immediately found myself in the middle of a dispute among scholars and such. Seems there is some disagreement that John Wesley ever said or wrote this. I am going to use it anyway, it says it all in few words.

Do all the good you can, by all the means you can, in all the ways you can, in all the places you can, at all the times you can, to all the people you can, as long as ever you can.

 John Wesley

Come by next week, I will be here in the Pew.

Life is Good

jk

 

The Bishop’s Letter, A Layman’s Dilemma

Dilemma is a difficult situation or problem in which a difficult choice has to be made between two or more alternatives, neither being easy or comfortable. I had wanted to start this New Year off on a positive foot but my mail box contained an article that I believe will have a great influence on the future of the “church” worldwide. Again we find the Methodist Church sorting through a dilemma that has been with them for decades. In May of 2018 I posted a blog about the situation in the Methodist Church at that time “A Great Denomination….. A Greater Dilemma”. Now, February of this year another step in the process will convene. As the years have gone by I must admit my views have changed a bit but it must be said that the change is due to the increased study of scripture, prayer and biblical commentaries from various authors. I have tried hard to stay clear of emotional agendas, statistical essays, societal guidelines and trends. You might say that I am quite alone here in the weeds of public opinion. A letter published on December 28, 2018, by the Council of Bishops, United Methodist Church got my attention once more. It is a reasonable and well thought out letter that seeks to comfort and at the same time make some sense of the dilemma that continues to disrupt the lives of those involved in its community of interest. I want to keep this as simple as possible even though the view from the pew is one of frustration and confusion. Please consider as you read this that it is my opinion, while some thoughts from the “pew” have also made their way into by thinking, I take full responsibility for what I write here.

First the letter or more actually the first of two. The first was and open apology from the Bishops to the LBGTQ community in general. The second being in the form of an explanation of the reason and need of the Special Session of General Conference and an expanded apology for the continuing hurt and discomfort that such discussions bring to their community. My view of these letters is one of acknowledging the hurt and seeking to repair it. I see nothing wrong here but I do see a lot of words that are like more trees planted in the forest, which we can’t see for all the trees already there. This brings me to another article recently published. 

“Unity in the Church: Sacred or Scandalous?” by Rev. Dr. Jean Hawxhurst January 2, 2019. The article was in The Call which is a  United Methodist publication. The Rev. Dr. Jean Hawxhurst offers a scriptural context to the current debate within the church. Her plea, my words, is the necessity of unity as being necessary for the mission of the church to be successful. I appreciate the use of scripture as a foundation of her belief that unity, even in disagreement is a Christian value and necessary for productive dialog.  This is not in any way meant to be disrespectful to the author. There seems to be an attitude of dismissal toward people and views we don’t agree with. Value can always be found even in disagreement and to dismiss the belief of another removes an important step in our learning process. As a layman I am overwhelmed by the avalanche of paper and words that have buried the real issue here. In John 8:12-30 we see that the Jews had become so involved with their own ideas, so intent on their own way, so sure of their own conception of what religion was that they had become blind to God. In some ways we as the “church” today have become blind to what is a sin? We know that sin separates us from God and the acceptance of Jesus as the Son of God, repentance, following him restores that relationship and leads us to salvation. Most discussions, debates or the many words that have been written leave the church with no real answer. I am one that left the Methodist Church because of the turmoil and uncertainty of the direction we were traveling. I did not leave because the Pastor was not to my liking. He is still there and a great Pastor leading a vibrant congregation serving the Lord in their community. I was there thirty or more years and I am still dedicated to the Wesley tradition of living a holy life, striving every day to go on to perfection, serving my God to the best of my ability. Here is what I hope you remember after reading this. 

I left because I believed and still do that the Methodist Church is abandoning the very core of christian values that “it” has held and taught for more than fifty years. They are doing so in the mistaken belief that social relevance is important and that the agenda of societal change must be embraced even debating scriptural dictates and changing them to meet their needs. I could go on and on but there comes a time when it is just best to get on your knees and be obedient to God’s will. There are a lot of trees in this forest, step back and accept one fact that is never talked about. It is the judgement of God, before which all of us will stand, that is important in this time of crisis in the Methodist Church. No one knows the mind of God. 

We are required to love all people, no one should be turned away from God’s table. Here lies our dilemma…. By whose judgement are people accepted or rejected at the table. Of all the paper and words I have read the following seems to be the best “Way Forward”. Please read and God bless.

 

http://wesleyancovenant.org/2019/01/10/the-modified-traditional-plan-faithful-fair-and-gracious/

Join me again in the pew next week…..

Life is Good

jk

 

Drop The Blanket

**I am Re-Posting this blog. This is one of my favorites and it is brilliant. Have a wonderful Christmas Day and may God bless you and yours in the New Year to come. “From The Pew” will return January 20, 2019.

Drop The Blanket

01

Sunday

Jan 2017

Posted by John Kurt Carpenter in Uncategorized

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I am constantly searching the internet for little gems of knowledge and wisdom that will enrich and encourage us ordinary folks whose frantic pace in this life causes us to rush by without even taking the time to “smell the coffee” so to speak. Well over fifty years ago we were introduced to the world of Charlie Brown. Charles Schultz created a community of loveable misfits each with their own recognizable frailties’ of mind, body and spirit, in which many of us saw a part of ourselves in the characters and took this lovable bunch into our hearts. Unlike some of the modern animated cartoons of this day the brilliance of Charles Shultz shows us our faults in a gentle and endearing way. Charlie Brown also helps us see the real value of community, the need we have for others and the power of a simple love that transcends the norms of this day. Having said all this let me introduce you to a brilliant post of December 14, 2014, by Jason Soroski. I have edited his original post for space requirements and encourage you to go to the posted url to read it as posted. (jasonsoroski.wordpress.com)

Here are some excerpts from that post.

I was in the first grade back when they still performed Christmas pageants in schools (less than 50 years, but still a very long time ago), and our class performed a version of the Charlie Brown Christmas. Since I was kind of a bookworm and already had a blue blanket, I was chosen to play the part of Linus. As Linus, I memorized Luke 2:8-14, and that Scripture has been hidden in my heart ever since. But while working so diligently to learn those lines, there is one important thing I didn’t notice then, and didn’t notice until now. Right in the middle of speaking, Linus drops the blanket.

Throughout the story of Peanuts, Lucy, Snoopy, Sally and others all work to no avail to separate Linus from his blanket. And even though his security blanket remains a major source of ridicule for the otherwise mature and thoughtful Linus, he simply refuses to give it up. Until this moment. When he simply drops it. In that climactic scene when Linus shares “what Christmas is all about,” he drops his security blanket, and I am now convinced that this is intentional. Most telling is the specific moment he drops it: when he utters the words, “fear not”

 Looking at it now, it is pretty clear what Charles Schultz was saying, and it’s so simple it’s brilliant.

The birth of Jesus separates us from our fears.

The birth of Jesus frees us from the habits we are unable (or unwilling) to break ourselves.

The birth of Jesus allows us to simply drop the false security we have been grasping so tightly, and learn to trust and cling to Him instead.

I hope you have enjoyed this post and take Jason Soroski’s advice and “drop the blanket” in the comming new year. Again I encourage you to go to the url posted above and read some more of this gentlemen’s writings and activities.

See you back in the  pew January 20, 2019

jk

 

 

 

SHEPHERDS AND ANGELS

The stories of the season. They have become the casualties of familiarity, reduced to mere words, adapted to plays, concerts and seasonable objects of display. I have often used the phrase beyond the words to express my desire to know more and be challenged by the word. One such story of course is the birth of our savior, Jesus Christ. To me to preface the birth with the word story, leaves much to be desired as to the importance of God coming among us. So join me as I go beyond the words.First we see the lives of Joseph and Mary disrupted by civil responsibilities decreed by the Roman Government. I am sure it was not the wish of either to be traveling at this time. They had no choice as it had been ordered by Rome. The census was an institution of Servius Tullius, sixth king of Rome.  

“He ordered all the citizens of Rome to register their estates according to their value in money, taking an oath, in a form he prescribed, to deliver a faithful account according to the best of their knowledge, specifying the names of their parents, their own age, the names of their wives and children, adding also what quarter of the city, or what town in the country, they lived in.” Ant. Rom. l. iv. c. 15. p. 212. Edit. Huds. (Adam Clark Commentary)

The design of the census or enrollment was to record an account from the people who were ordered to give their names, quality, employments, wives, children, servants, and estates holdings. The value set upon the estates by the censors, and the proportion in which they adjudged them to contribute to the defense and support of the state, either in men or money, or both. We might even be tempted to ask why would Mary risk such a trip at this time in her pregnancy?   There was no reason for Mary to have gone to Bethlehem, as Joseph’s presence could have answered the questions without Mary. Scripture answers that question for us. In going the prophecy of Micah would be  fulfilled, and that Jesus should be born in the city of David; Micah 5:2.

With this information we are made aware of the reality of the day, so to speak. Joseph and Mary were ordinary people called by the grace of God to be part of an extraordinary event. We should be aware that God could call on any of us to be part of a kingdom event at any time in our lives. There has always been many different pictures presented of the birth place of Jesus but while many historical descriptions vary somewhat the one I find most accurate in this case is as follows. The term  laid him in a manger in that day would have meant not only the, manger which can also refer to a feeding trough but the entire stable. Why there? To start with the crowds traveling to Bethlehem would have been huge, everyone going to comply with the census. Was Joseph so poor he could not afford a room? Maybe not, some writings indicate he was a success at his chosen profession, given the crowds it is  not hard to understand why there would be no room available. Again, God coming among us in such ordinary circumstances. There are many details here yet to be discovered but I will move on to the next defining moment of this story. In verse 8 we read of shepherds abiding in the field close to their sheep. Historical writings from this period would indicate that they most likely had tents or booths under which they dwelt. We are further drawn into the narrative with the well-known phrase keeping watch by night. A normal watch would be about three hours at a time per man. The reason being to protect the sheep from beasts of prey and even more revealing from groups of roaming bandits which at that time Judea was infested. Why is this important? It points to how ordinary life was difficult at this time while making it plain this was a normal circumstance at this time. We live, most of us, a very ordinary life day-to-day. When the day comes for our Lord to return it most likely will be during a time of our living out another ordinary day. Will we fear at that moment the divine justice to come as most likely those shepherds did when the Angels announced his coming or where they even able to comprehend what was happening?

 Here again God takes an ordinary thing and makes it extraordinary. shepherds watching their sheep is nothing to write home about, quite common in this place and time. I have heard the story many times, read Luke’s account but there is something special here. God’s announcement came to the shepherds first, Shepherds were despised by the orthodox good people of the day and I would venture a bit unfairly. They were an unruly lot to be sure, being unable to keep the details of the ceremonial law; they could not observe all the meticulous hand-washings and rules and regulations because their job made constant demands on them; and so the orthodox looked down on them. It was God’s will that the message go forth first to the simple men in the field that night. Another obscure detail to a well-known story, while these were ordinary shepherds they were most likely protecting the flocks that belonged to the Temple authorities. These flocks were kept in close and well guarded to ensure that a supply of perfect offerings was always available to the Temple authorities as each morning and evening an unblemished lamb was offered as a sacrifice to God. William Barclay writes It is a lovely thought that the shepherds who looked after the Temple lambs were the first to see the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.”

These are just a few random thoughts about this story and I might add one more. It was the custom of the Jews that when a boy was born local musicians would gather at the house and greet him with simple music. Jesus’ birth in a stable in Bethlehem made this impossible . Instead the angels sang the songs for Jesus that the earthly singers could not sing. This is an account of God incarnate coming to this earth to live among his people, claiming no special privileges and experiencing the life of ordinary people. We might ask ourselves have we who are born again, squandered our new birth right to the sins of this world?

Life is Good

jk 

Reference Material         

DBS, William Barclay

Adam Clark Commentary    

 

 

 

 

 

 

Christmas and That Little Red Kettle

I am no longer surprised by how the best of things can become areas of contention among the good folks. That little red kettle has over the years become entwined with Christmas to the point that when we hear that little bell ringing, we look for that little red kettle. Ever wonder where that came from? Well, it got its start in 1891 in  San Francisco.

Salvation Army Captain Joseph McFee was aware of the many poor individuals in San Francisco that were going hungry every day and their numbers were growing every day. During the holiday season, he resolved to provide a free Christmas dinner for the destitute and poverty-stricken. He only had one major hurdle to overcome — funding the project. His thoughts took him back to his sailor days in Liverpool, England. There was this place where the boats came in and  placed there was a large iron pot into which people passing by would toss coins in to help the poor.  The very next day Captain McFee placed a pot at the Oakland Ferry Landing and beside the pot he placed a sign that read Keep The Pot Boiling. He soon had the needed funds to make it possible to feed at least 1000 people who holiday season. There is a lot more to this story but it will  do to just point out that the Little Red Kettle is all over our world today.

A recent discussion made me aware of how the biblical view of charity is so much different from the way some people view “charity”. As usual as per my habit, let’s look at some definitions of the word charity.

 : generosity and helpfulness especially toward the needy or suffering

also : aid given to those in need

 : an institution engaged in relief of the poor

 : public provision for the relief of the needy

 : benevolent goodwill toward or love of humanity

I am going to break this down a little more. The first one listed defines the parameters and the motivator for such actions. The next two indicate an organizational approach to help those in need. That last one is the biblical equivalent of a very well-known verse….. Matthew 25

35 for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, 36 I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.

Why has charity become a contentious issue? I would venture the need to control, the insertion of qualifiers and the cynical attitude of we who have and a lack of compassion which has been replaced by an unqualified judgmental attitude on our part. These things, the first two are debatable but the lack of compassion and a judgmental attitude is in direct opposition to the teachings of Christ and our Christian values. 

Consider these verses 2 Corinthians 9: 6-8, 10.

The point is this: the one who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and the one who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. Each of you must give as you have made up your mind, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to provide you with every blessing in abundance, so that by always having enough of everything, you may share abundantly in every good work. ……….

10 He who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will supply and multiply your seed for sowing and increase the harvest of your righteousness.

First off Paul says that no one is ever a loser through generosity. While these New Testament verses never suggest material rewards, such as the wealth of things, they do point to the wealth of a glad heart and spirit, there is even more to be considered. You will be rich in love and friends. When we allow our hearts to love others our love will be returned. We will be rich in help.There will come a day when all of us at one time or another will need help, of some kind. If we have been willing to help others there is a good chance there will be others willing to help us. Remember Matthew 25: 35-36, Jesus taught us that what we do to others we do for God. Make no mistake there will be a day that every time we opened our heart to others it will stand well in our favor. Now there are three benefits of generous giving.

-It does something for others.

-It does something for ourselves. 

-It does something for God. 

 The Christian side of this is very plain and simple. There are no additional laws or procedures to be considered. John 13: 34-35

34 I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. 35 By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”

Perhaps this is a bit to literal for the secular mind but this is one of the hard parts for us as mortals to understand. True Christianity is love and caring for others without judgmental prerequisites. In the Christian world there should be no committee to decide the worth of a need……just the love needed to meet that need.

Life is Good

jk  

Reference Material    Daily Bible Study –  William Barclay

                                              Salvation Army – Red Kettle 

 “Patient Expectation”  Mark 13: 1-13

For most of us in the pew all scripture has little hidden gems that we sometimes pass over or just don’t recognize. We have become so accustom to reading and hearing the word and in that forest of words we miss the tree of added knowledge that strengthens our faith. The disciples were impressed by the grandeur of the Temple as we read in verses 1 and 2. Jesus’ reply, “not one stone will be left here upon another; all will be thrown down”, a statement that leads to a literary pattern that Mark used often in the Gospel. Jesus makes a public statement (v.2) then the disciples question him privately (vv. 3-4) to explain what he had said. This time it was the first four disciples who were called that were pressing him to give them a sign as to when this destruction of the Temple would occur. In an earlier instance ( 8: 11-12) the Pharisees had sought to test Jesus by demanding that he prove his authority, which is not the case here. Jesus’ reply (vv.5-13) does not provide the disciples with the sign they seek. Instead in these verses Jesus is telling them how to conduct themselves in times of turmoil and persecution. Jesus speaks to discipleship. They must be able and willing to testify to the gospel, understand they will be put upon because of their faith and in (v.8) not to interpret political and social turmoil as a sign of the end time. We see here a rather common occurrence over the years in the “church”, the preaching of the end times and the signs that point to its being upon us. These apocalyptic writings speak of the evil to come before the ending and in some instances the righteous being led astray. Jesus’ words warn of false prophets, political turmoil, natural disasters and if that isn’t enough a church that while engaged in a mission to the gentiles will find itself hated by both Jews and Gentiles. However, here in chapter 13 Mark does not deny that a crisis exists, he counsels both HOPE and Patience. Here is that “little gem”  I wrote of earlier. Dr.Roger Hahn speaks of it as “Patient Expectation”. 

I lean toward this patient expectation to mean that as christians we are to expect certain times of turmoil in our lives. The turmoil endured by Jesus and his disciples was the result of such evil times. They could expect to be persecuted and in some instances put to death, family and friends would be turned against each other. In times of social and political turmoil christians are often at risk for their beliefs. These are the things we can expect now….in this time. Then there is a patient expectation that leads to something wonderful. Jesus and the disciples suffered all the way to the Cross and their patient enduring of  the expected evil of others led them to the resurrection and the salvation of the believers. To me this is a wonderful thought to endure with “patient expectation”, verses 9-13 Jesus reminds the disciples that their task is to preach the gospel. We too are the disciples of this day and our task is to give testimony to the gospel. Through patience and endurance to the promise of the word we will see our Expectation of salvation. Remember Jesus’ words Mark 13:13

13 and you will be hated by all because of my name. But the one who endures to the end will be saved.

We will wait serving our Lord and savior, preaching and teaching the gospel, with “Patient Expectation”…….

Life is Good

jk

1000 Words

 The painting to the left is a work by the artist Sigismund Christian Hubert Goetze. It has been said that a picture is worth a thousand words but if you look closely you will  realize the impossibility of giving even a faint idea of its power and awful significance with words from a people who refuse  to recognize their Savior. 

This is traditionally a time that we prepare to celebrate the birth of Christ. It is the time of the Angels singing on high and joy and goodwill to all mankind. Trees are going up and strings of colored lights decorate our homes and even our cities! Children’s faces are aglow with anticipation of Santa, presents under the tree  and there seems so little time to get everything done. The shopping malls will soon be full of shoppers, pushing, rushing from one store to another and if you look carefully there are few smiles of joy. For many the pressures of the season overwhelm them. In the city where I live there are a number of homeless encampments within hearing distance of the canned Christmas music that is being played everywhere. There will be the usual laments about Christ being taken out of Christmas even though the facts are plain, Christmas is a Christian thing celebrating the birth of Christ. That being said it is worth noting  “Many popular customs associated with Christmas developed independently of the commemoration of Jesus’ birth, with certain elements having origins in pre-Christian festivals that were celebrated around the winter solstice by pagan populations who were later converted to Christianity.”  As we make our way back to the painting I must share with you this scripture from   Isaiah 53: 3-5….

 

He was despised and rejected by others;

    a man of suffering and acquainted with infirmity;

and as one from whom others hide their faces

    he was despised, and we held him of no account

This chapter foretells the sufferings of the Messiah, the reason he did so and for which he died. The Jews were not impressed by this poorly dressed man and his humble appearance and manners. He would suffer for sins not his own, giving to us the gift of salvation. When you can, please read Isaiah 53: 1-11.    

According to an article on the painting in The Literary Digest, “‘At the exhibition of the Royal Academy in London, the great canvas by Sigismund Goetze … has created an artistic sensation.’ It is declared to be a ‘powerful and terribly realistic presentment of Christ’ in a modern setting.”

The complete link to this article will be posted at the end of this blog*. I cannot emphasize how important it is for you to go there and read the entire article. Overwhelmed by the season we are unable to see the real gift, the good news if you will, hidden amongst bright-colored ribbons and Christmas wrappings of red and green, mankind’s  only hope for redemption and salvation. The painting of course goes past that to the end result. Why in this time of celebration and great joy would I take us there? Simply put, we have the book, the word and yet we are the mirror image of the people in that painting. Going about our business, caught up in our importance, so rushed with life we can only spare a couple of hours out of this season to note the gift of our salvation coming among us. Go to the link and copy that picture, print it and post it, let every image in it be burnt into your mind. There among a heedless crowd, bound by ropes upon a pedestal stands the Christ. Do our actions say “it is nothing to me”?

To Christians Christmas is not a season, it is the presentation of the gift of the Father to his children in the person of the Christ child, a promise of hope, life and goodwill to all men.

Life is Good

jk

 

http://www.victorianweb.org/painting/goetze/paintings/3.html     *