The Little Letter With a Big Message

This letter is written to Philemon a leader in the Colossian church. It is a prison letter, co-authored by Paul the Apostle with Timothy. Paul I am sure wrote more personal letters but this is the only one that has survived. From most accounts Paul would have been between fifty-five and sixty years old. We see in this letter the power of Christian fellowship and the reaching out to the Christian community in absolute confidence. Let’s start by looking at verses 1-7. You might read into these first few verses the fact that while Paul referred to himself as an apostle, here in writing to Philemon he identifies himself as “Paul, the prisoner of Jesus Christ” and we know from the scripture that he is not alone, Timothy is there with him. Paul puts aside any claim to authority and states his appeal with sympathy and love. We read that good deeds can increase our knowledge of good things and bring us closer to Christ. We can also believe that joy and encouragement are the fruits of such behavior for ourselves and those around us. Paul is not seeking a favor for himself, Paul rarely sought favors for himself, this time he sought to help Onesimus find his way back. It is certain that Christian generosity was a characteristic of Philemon. He loved God and he loved Gods people. In his home they could rest and be refreshed. Philemon apparently was known among the Christian community as a generous and kind man.

In these next verses 8-17 Paul humbly summits his request. Again, he appeals not to office or authority but to the bond of Christian love between himself and Philemon. He now speaks of Onesimus for the first time. Paul makes no excuses for Onesimus, admitting there may be some problems with him. He who had at one time been useless is now useful. Onesimus was at least a runaway slave who while in prison with Paul through Christ became useful again. Barclay says that Paul presented himself to Philemon not as an apostle or as we said earlier one of authority, but as a man “who has lived hard and is now lonely and tired.” Knowing Christ does make a bad person good. Many things come to light here. Onesimus’ time with Paul had opened his eyes and heart to Christ. Even though his mind was now on heavenly things, he was once again useful on this earth. Paul is asking a lot of Philemon for it is certain Onesimus must have stolen some money or goods from him to get to Rome. It is the power of forgiveness through Christ that enables those of the Christian faith and family to forgive.

It is a very short letter that Paul wrote so long ago but carries to this day a powerful message. Paul through his dealing with this situation reveals a list of things we as Christians should recognize and practice.

-power of Christian fellowship and the reaching out to the Christian community

-good deeds can increase our knowledge of good things and bring us closer to Christ.

-sympathy and love

-We can also believe that joy and encouragement are the fruits of such behavior for ourselves and those around us.

-Christian generosity

-bond of Christian love

-Knowing Christ does make a bad person good.

-Even though our mind is on heavenly things, we can be useful on this earth.

-It is the power of forgiveness through Christ that enables those of the Christian faith and family to forgive.

How powerful is Christ in us when we summit to his will. Thanks for being here in the pew this week, hope you come back. jk

 

Judas…..A Bad Egg?

My opinion about him is gleaned from years of Bible stories, Sunday School and of course the scripture itself. The best I could say about him would be he was A Bad Egg; the definition of which is someone who does bad things, a dishonest person. We remember Judas for one thing, his betrayal of Jesus. Judas was with Jesus for three years, which means he witnessed many of the miracles that Jesus did during his ministry, shared many of the times when they were in danger and suffered the hardships that came with being a follower of Jesus. So I guess it is only reasonable to ask why he did what he did. It would also not be inappropriate to wonder why Jesus picked him to start with. Scripture leaves no doubt as to he was. One of the other disciples was named Judas (John 14:22) and in Mark 6:3 a half-brother of Jesus is named Judas. John 6:71 and 13:36, identifies Judas as the son of “Simon Iscariot”. Lastly in Luke 22:48 we read in scripture conformation that it is without a doubt that he made a conscious choice to betray Jesus. All the above leaves no doubt about which Judas is being referred to. There are so many things written about Judas by highly respected theologians that provide a depth to this Biblical account that goes beyond the written word. Having said that let’s move on to some other interesting things about Judas.

In John 6:70 Jesus says “have I not chosen you?” , speaking to the twelve disciples and goes on to state “one of you is a devil”. Reading from John 13:26 Jesus again calls Judas out. Did Jesus know the heart of Judas? Of course he did. The other disciples, well that’s another story. They did not give it a thought, after all he was one of them, a trusted member of the Twelve. Even when Jesus told Judas to “do what he was about to do and do it quickly” (John 13:27) the others simply thought Judas was off to buy food or do something for the poor. Judas betrayed Jesus with a crude brazen display of affection, continuing the sinful deception before the others. Oh how loudly the scripture speaks to us and guides us to our saviors divine nature. In John 13:18 Jesus reveals that it is Judas and his action will fulfill the scripture. Judas was was fully responsible for his actions. Most of us sitting in the pew go no father than betrayal for thirty pieces of silver and the kiss that sealed the deal. There is so much back story here that causes us to think longer about this act and the man who did it. This is what I refer to as the second act of scriptural record and Jesus’ path to the cross.

Why did Judas Betray Jesus? Most writers say we cannot be absolutely sure but there are some things that certain scripture reveal to us. John 6: 64 indicates that Jesus knew, although he picked them, that not all of the Twelve believed and he knew who would betray him. Professions of faith and loyalty from the Twelve are often recorded in scripture (John 6:68, 11:16). Also Judas never referred to Jesus as “Lord” but would address him as “Rabbi”. Judas saw Jesus as no more than a Teacher and like the Pharisees he believed Jesus would not and could not overthrow the Romans. John 12:5,6 reveals another disturbing fact about Judas. Judas was a greedy man and in John 13: 29 we learn that Judas was in charge of the money bag from which he no doubt took some from for his own use. We must be careful not to read to much into all these things but careful reading and study does show us this. If order of the Twelve in written word is an indicator of relationship with Jesus we can note that Judas is always last and infrequent. Theirs was not a strong relationship. Perhaps like many people of that day Judas just simply failed to recognize Jesus as God incarnate. So maybe he was just…..A Bad Egg.

Today we celebrate the resurrection of Jesus! He LIVES! We will rejoice and be glad.

God Bless,
jk

Reference: On Judas Iscariot -Warren Wiersbe

John Chapter 11…… After The First 44

The events surrounding Lazarus in this chapter are well known and it is possible they were the driving force in the decision to convene the Sanhedrin which was the supreme council, or court in ancient Israel, to deal with this Jesus problem. Last Sunday’s message led me to this weeks blog. Ever wonder what happens to the people recorded in these events? The adulteress saved by Jesus, “go and sin no more”, no other mention is made of her. The blind man, after he is called to verify the event of his regaining his sight, we hear no more about him, and there are many more. While it is important what occurred latter in Lazarus’ life, the real story here to me is what happened to Jesus and because we know what happened let’s look at the why.

We know Lazarus as a follower of Jesus. He is identified as the brother of the sisters Mary and Martha. Lazarus, Mary and Martha lived in the town of Bethany. It is believed that Bethany was less than 2 miles from Jerusalem. Bethphage is believed to have been even closer to Jerusalem. While details are important they can be a distraction. The importance of Bethany and Bethphage to Jerusalem and the story of Jesus’ crucifixion is that their distances and the time period that evolves in these last crucial days leading up to the crucifixion lend to the believability of this biblical event. Much will happen between Bethany, Bethphage, Mount of Olives and the final hours in Jerusalem and their close proximity to each other figures in the flow of events to come. Three important locations, add to that two important groups and our question concerning Jesus and we have a blog. This event is not mentioned in the three other Gospels. After some research I settled on the thought advanced by William Barclay, whom I quote below.

(3) Perhaps the greatest difficulty is that John sees in this miracle the essential cause which moved the Jewish authorities to take definite steps to have Jesus eliminated (11:47– 54). In other words, the raising of Lazarus was the direct cause of the cross. In the other three gospels, the great moving cause of the crucifixion was the cleansing of the Temple. It is difficult to understand why the other three gospel writers have nothing to say of it, if indeed it was the immediate cause of Jesus’ crucifixion. [1]

Lazarus or the temple, I’ll go with Lazarus because the healing acts of Jesus threatened the status and power of the Jewish ruling class. Who might they be? Sadducees and Pharisees would be the most prominent. They would have the largest presence in the council, also known as the Sanhedrin. The council numbered about seventy and the Sadducees were more numerous. The Sadducees were very much political and all of them were Priests. The Pharisees were not a political party at all; their sole interest was in living according to every detail of the law; and they did not care who governed them as long as they were allowed to continue in meticulous obedience to the law. [2]

Reading verses 45 through 48 we can see that the main concern of the Sadducees was to retain political, and social power and the prestige that came with it.

John 11
45 Many of the people who were with Mary believed in Jesus when they saw this happen. 46 But some went to the Pharisees and told them what Jesus had done. 47 Then the leading priests and Pharisees called the high council together. “What are we going to do?” they asked each other. “This man certainly performs many miraculous signs. 48 If we allow him to go on like this, soon everyone will believe in him. Then the Roman army will come and destroy both our Temple and our nation.” [3]

If I am reading this right some of the people went to the Pharisees, who went to the Priests, most of whom were Sadducees and were very astute in the political side of this problem. Thus the Pharisees who only wanted ensure the integrity of the faith had unwittingly energized the political arm of the Sanhedrin. To keep it simple their first concern was to protect themselves and in no way mirrors Jesus’ love and concern for all the people. “ If we allow this man to continue on we will lose control and Rome will impose their will on us with no respect to who we are or our position among our people.” The Sadducees were dominating and arrogant to others and at times even rude to each other. Their judgement had nothing to do with what was right but rather how it would affect their positions of power and influence and of course their wealth. I believe this would be a good place to ask this question. Does this behavior bring to mind the position we find our nation in today and in some cases the state of the “church”. Keeping this in the secular tongue the next verses show the Sanhedrin putting a “HIT” on Jesus and issuing a BOLO on Jesus.

John 11
49 Then one of them, named Caiaphas, who was high priest that year, spoke up, “You know nothing at all! 50 You do not realize that it is better for you that one man die for the people than that the whole nation perish.” 51 He did not say this on his own, but as high priest that year he prophesied that Jesus would die for the Jewish nation, 52 and not only for that nation but also for the scattered children of God, to bring them together and make them one. 53 So from that day on they plotted to take his life. 54 Therefore Jesus no longer moved about publicly among the people of Judea. Instead he withdrew to a region near the wilderness, to a village called Ephraim, where he stayed with his disciples. 55 When it was almost time for the Jewish Passover, many went up from the country to Jerusalem for their ceremonial cleansing before the Passover. 56 They kept looking for Jesus, and as they stood in the temple courts they asked one another, “What do you think? Isn’t he coming to the festival at all?” 57 But the chief priests and the Pharisees had given orders that anyone who found out where Jesus was should report it so that they might arrest him. [4]

As Paul Harvey a popular radio personality of “back in the day” would have said…. “now for the rest of the story”. Looking back to verse 51 Caiaphas, from his lips as the High Priest…..”51 He did not say this on his own, but as high priest that year he prophesied that Jesus would die for the Jewish nation”.

There is a strange twist to all this. The Jews insisted that Jesus must be eliminated so the Romans would not take their authority away. Then some years latter about AD 100, Rome tired of the Jewish problem besieged Jerusalem, left it in ruins and destroyed the Temple. We know what happened to Jesus, but we also know the rest of the story. Jesus died not just for a nation but for[5] all God’s people throughout the world. Of course the most important part, the ending that as a beginning. THE RESURRECTION. HE LIVES!! 

Thanks for joining me in the pew

jk

[1] William Barclay DBS   [2] William Barclay DBS  [3] NLT   [4] NLT  [5] William Barclay

DBS

 

What Cost The Price of Forgiveness and Grace

I can’t really say how I was led to this, maybe all the turmoil and hate that has pervaded our nation and world has led me to the importance of Christ and his mission in our lives. We must learn to forgive and seek and understand the grace of God.

Can we put a price on forgiveness and grace as promised by Christ? This won’t be the first time I will ask this question. The following was written by German theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer.

Cheap grace is the grace which amounts to the justification of sin without the justification of the repentant sinner who departs from sin and from whom sin departs. Cheap grace is not the the type of forgiveness of sin which frees us from the toils of sin. Cheap grace is the grace we bestow on ourselves. Cheap grace is the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance, baptism without church disciple, communion without confession, absolution without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ, living and incarnate.

From a book written by Kevin DeYoung regarding a totally different subject, I found these questions and answer which seem to fit well here. “Are we to believe that God’s love is conditional? Is there is common grace that all people enjoy and then a saving grace which only the redeemed experience? The answer to that question is no.”

Ok, now I ask that question again. Is God’s love conditional? Lets change that wording a little and ask could it be dependent upon and if yes, dependent on what? Let’s go to scripture, starting with Colossians 1:21-23

21 This includes you who were once far away from God. You were his enemies, separated from him by your evil thoughts and actions. 22 Yet now he has reconciled you to himself through the death of Christ in his physical body. As a result, he has brought you into his own presence, and you are holy and blameless as you stand before him without a single fault.
23 But you must continue to believe this truth and stand firmly in it. Don’t drift away from the assurance you received when you heard the Good News. The Good News has been preached all over the world, and I, Paul, have been appointed as God’s servant to proclaim it.

Take a moment to look a little deeper at these verses.The aim of reconciliation is holiness. Jesus died so that we might be reconciled and present ourselves to God consecrated and blameless. The fact that God loves us does not allow us to do whatever we want. It is our burden to be worthy of that love. Here being the first cost of forgiveness and grace. This love and reconciliation requires that we stand firm in the faith, holding to the hope of the gospel. Good times, bad times…….stand firm in the faith. This being the second item of the cost.

Continuing on….. Jude 1: 21-24

21 and await the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ, who will bring you eternal life. In this way, you will keep yourselves safe in God’s love.
22 And you must show mercy to those whose faith is wavering. 23 Rescue others by snatching them from the flames of judgment. Show mercy to still others, but do so with great caution, hating the sins that contaminate their lives.
24 Now all glory to God, who is able to keep you from falling away and will bring you with great joy into his glorious presence without a single fault.

Much is said in these verses but the one overriding lesson here is that to walk with God is to walk in safety….and if your still counting this is # 3. God will keep us safe. We know we can go to God in complete joy, all our fears laid aside because the God of sternness is now known to us as God the loving father.

Hebrews 12:14

14 Work at living in peace with everyone, and work at living a holy life, for those who are not holy will not see the Lord.

Even when we suffer it is our Christian duty to be at peace with all men, even those who might be the cause of our suffering. We cannot live a holy life if we are not at peace with those around us. For a true Christian there can be no holiness without peace. The scripture plainly states “for those who are not holy will not see the Lord” Here is #4. The price for this holiness is our willingness to summit to others and live a life at peace with the world around us.

13 But the one who endures to the end will be saved.

The best comment to Matthew24:13 would be the two scriptures below.

1 Peter 1:9New Living Translation (NLT)
9 The reward for trusting him will be the salvation of your souls.

Romans 2:7New Living Translation (NLT)
7 He will give eternal life to those who keep on doing good, seeking after the glory and honor and immortality that God offers.

So we allow that these scriptures will be #5, after the price and cost we have the assurance of salvation.

It costs nothing to receive the forgiveness and grace of God, we simply have to ask………….and in return Repent of our sins, “keep on doing good” and “trust him”.

Join me next week here in the pew……God Bless
jk
Other References: Bible Gateway,William Barclay,Matthew Henry

 

Gospel, Immigration And Politics

It was pointed out to me that a certain scripture set forth the biblical reason why Christians should not be supportive of the government’s attempts to control immigration into the US. The scripture referenced was: Leviticus 19:34 Any immigrant who lives with you must be treated as if they were one of your citizens. You must love them as yourself, because you were immigrants in the land of Egypt; I am the Lord your God.

Another close sister scripture would be:
Hebrews 13:1,2
Keep on loving one another as brothers and sisters. 2 Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it.

We are all familiar with the use of scriptural references when seeking to strengthen a position or policy but I do have concerns about such activities. Often the verse pulled is done so because it bolsters the position being discussed, or aids in making a point that strengthens our side of the discussion. I used the word pulled because if read in full context the meaning might be much different. One such issue today, right now, real time is the immigration debate we are having in our country. I am prejudice toward the law and the fair and equitable application of it. The Pew does not have a law library and I don’t have a law degree but I do have a dictionary that goes with me everywhere in this digital world we live in. The subject of today’s blog is The relation of the Gospel to the law and politics of the day. We need to know what it is we are writing or speaking about and Merriam Webster is a good place to start.

Definition of immigrant:  one that immigrates: such as a person who comes to a country to take up permanent residence. I believe we can all agree that we have a flood of immigrants coming into our country every day. Now there are many ways to enter the USA , here is another group that contributes to these numbers.
Definition of refugee
:  one that flees; especially:  a person who flees to a foreign country or power to escape danger or persecution; someone who has been forced to leave a country because of war or for religious or political reasons.There is one other classification and I will list it after the next paragraph.

Definition of illegal alien/immigrant
:  a foreign person who is living in a country without having official permission to live there.

Ok, see the difference here? One group comes by choice which might be any number of reasons; economic, educational, religious, there are a host of reasons I am sure. Now that other group, they are fleeing because they have no other choice. So, not everyone is an emigrant some of these folks are refugees. The third groups status is not debatable due to the definition of the first two. BUT, by law there are certain requirements expected of all people who come to the United States. This is a very simplistic view of a very simple person, that being me. So is it reasonable for me to ask just what is the problem here? I’ll answer my own question, of course it is! Keeping this simple, here are the three things that I see are causing the problem. Government, Law and Politics. Government is necessary but messy. Law is complicated and is contrary to what we have been told, not blind. The last one, Politics, is the reason Law is not blind and Government is messy.

Migrant
: a person who goes from one place to another especially to find work.
These folks have been with us for a long time. They supply much of the
labor needed to harvest produce. We have seen at times in the past a great
deal of controversy regarding these people.

Now the last part to this situation. We are a nation in a debate, not always peaceful, that has seen some ridiculous mind boggling statements that are void of any reason other than a “my way or no way” mentality. The disturbing thing about this is that it is not about any individual’s intelligence, it is about a position that has gained a “political agenda” status which is devoid of individual reasoning and has become a “you’re with us thing”. We are a nation of laws and pride ourselves on being fair and compassionate in judging others by law and not agendas. There is no reasonable retort to the fact that our laws regarding immigration are not being enforced or carried out fairly. There is also the fact that law for the sake of law is not always compassionate. What about the gospel, what about “christian charity”? Let’s go back to Leviticus 19:34 and take a closer look at this verse.
34 Any immigrant who lives with you must be treated as if they were one of your citizens. You must love them as yourself, because you were immigrants in the land of Egypt; I am the Lord your God.

I turn to Matthew Henry’s commentary concerning this verse. God had dignified Israel above any other people but that did not give them the right to do others wrong or insult them. It is thought that the stranger referred to here is not an idolater, but a worshiper of the God of Israel. So I think that perhaps just as many of us today cite the law of the land being pushed aside for what I believe to be a partisan agenda,the scripture here alludes to the possibility that the strangers may also worship the God of Israel and require such courtesy. As we read on we are reminded that “Strangers are God’s particular care, as the widow and the fatherless are, because it is his honor to help the helpless, Ps. 146:9.

The Lord watches over the foreigner and sustains the fatherless and the widow, but he frustrates the ways of the wicked.

God also reminds them (the Jews) that they too were also strangers in the land of Egypt at one time. It is important to point out here that the Jews were welcomed into the land of Egypt to escape a famine in their homeland. God reminds them that although the strangers may have many issues, they (the Jews) have no way of knowing how they might turn out and perhaps it was not right or fair to despise them. I asked the question sometime ago what is the problem here?

Here is the view from the pew. Government is responsible for a big part of this mess because of its irresponsibility in enforcing the law as written or at least offering a plan that would allow some discretion within the law. Second and quite honestly even or close to overtaking the Government’s part would have to be Politics and the many different agendas, populated by people whose only goal is to secure their agenda through partisan political action groups. Thirdly, for which I will be roundly criticized is “The Church” in general. The Church should never be in the business of advocating the disobeying of legally established law or participate in helping people who would do that for political reasons. I will also say that the government of Mexico has not done a good job of taking care of it own people, at least the less fortunate among them.

So to the Government and various Political organizations, get out of the way. Both of you have shown an inability to do for the people, rather working only to serve your own interests. I appreciate a strong and stable government and the things that come with it. I do not appreciate an agenda driven political solution to a people problem that is devoid of common sense compassion. To the “Church” get off your high horse of religious indignation and discounting those who disagree with you as prejudice or uninformed. Instead just simply love and care for those that are among you and accept your responsibility to foster harmony and unity among God’s people. The final verdict of this mess is really before us every day. It is Us, We, you and me. The birth, ministry, crucifixion and resurrection of Christ brought about the reconciliation between God and his people. It also was the adoption of all people into the family of God. We are all God’s children. We need to do better for our brothers and sisters.

jk

References:   Matthew Henry Commentaires, Merriam Webster

 

A MIRACLE……BEYOND THE WORDS

Most all of us know the account of the feeding of 5,000 found in John 6 verses 1-13. Jesus had went across the Sea of Galilee or if you prefer the Sea of Tiberias, the people had followed watching the things he did for those who were sick. I have shared with you in past blogs how we have become so familiar with these “stories” from the bible that we often read the words and miss what lies beyond; those things which move us from mere words to the gospel and enrich our minds and fill our hearts with hope. I love to read what others have written about certain verses and I mean the plural, more than just a couple of people. There are several commentaries that I often turn to. One of my favorites is “The Daily Bible Study” series written by William Barclay.

So let’s go beyond the words and follow Mr. Barclay’s thoughts on this miracle. You can picture in your minds the moment that the disciples realized the enormity of the crowd that had followed Jesus.

It is late in the day and the first thoughts are those of any normal person.

The realization that the people must be hungry by now. Step back for a moment and consider how we have arrived at this point. Jesus was under constant pressure from the demands of the crowds that always followed him. There were times he attempted to withdraw, get some much needed rest and even if possible instruct his disciples, leading them to a better understanding of who he was and what he was doing; preparing them for what was coming. There is a lot of detail in Barclay’s writings, things that help us understand the who, what and why of our gospel readings. I will as they say “cut to the chase”.

Second was Jesus’s wish to not call attention to himself at this time.

Jesus had gotten into a boat to put some distance between him and the growing crowd. At this time it was wise to avoid any confrontation between Jesus and the authorities for it was not yet his time. Jesus got in the boat and set sail from Capernaum to the other side of the Sea of Galilee. It was easy to see the direction the boat was taking. The distance would be about four miles. Let’s set the scene.

-They were headed for the fords of Jordan and near a village called Bathsaida Julias, this was the village Philip came from. Near this village there was a little plain where the grass always grew and here will be a wondrous happening.

-The Feast of the Passover is near, meaning the roads in the area were full of people going to Jerusalem.

-Jesus went up into the hill behind the plain and he was sitting there with his disciples.

-Also it is possible that the numbers of the crowd were swelled by travelers on their way to the Passover and seeking to avoid the territory of the hated Samaritans.

Thirdly would be:

Jesus’ concern upon seeing the size of the gathering crowd and condition of the people. They were hungry and tired and the route they had taken to avoid the Samaritans had added distance and time to their travel. At this point we get to the heart of our story. The weight of the problem being laid at Philip’s feet, which was really Jesus testing him. Philip would be the natural one to go to as he would have local knowledge of the area. Philip’s despair was evident. It would take more than six months wages to feed a crowd like this and they would be doing well if they had a days wages amongst themselves. It would also be a miracle if this much food could be bought or found in this area.

Coming in at number four on the list.

Andrew, he had discovered a young boy with five loaves of barley bread and two small fishes. A couple of notes here.

-Barley bread was the bread of the very poor.

-The fish most likely small sardine like fish which swarmed in the Sea of Galilee. They would have been pickled as fresh fish were an unheard of luxury.

-Andrew was always bringing people to Jesus.
Andrew went in search of something believing God would provide. He was not accepting things as they were, he had faith in what Jesus could do. Well we know what happened here. Jesus told the people to be seated, taking the Barley bread and two small fishes, breaking them up and distributing them until all had eaten their fill. He even told the disciples to gather what was left and put in baskets, so none would be wasted. Familiar story but beyond the words is a wonderful possibility. In a world of show me and widespread hostility, miracles have a rough road to travel. Even looking back most people today discount, disbelieve or avoid accepting anything as a miracle. Old or New Testament receive the same treatment, skepticism or out right unbelief. Admit, many just find it hard to conceive and herein lies the wonder of this story. Here in my opinion is William Barclay’s uncanny ability to offer insight through the Holy Spirit that could very well be truth. The question what is “The meaning of a miracle” has many answers and explanations. The truth is we will never know what happened on that hill and plain near Bethsaida Julias. Barclay has three possibilities. I like the third one and will share it with you.

It is not likely these people had just left on a nine mile trip without making any preparations at all, considering the burden of travel in those times. Barclay also points out that if there were pilgrims on their way to Jerusalem, who got caught up in the excitement of the day and fell in with the crowd following Jesus, they most surely would have possessed supplies for their journey. Miracle, consider this when taken literally it is easy for some to question such a small amount doing so much. You know when Christ spoke about being born again, even the Apostles thinking in a literal sense were confused. Maybe these people acting as many would were not about to produce what they had allowing their human side to selfishly keep it all for themselves. Look at it this way. Jesus producing what little he and the disciples had, and with a smile thanked God for what they had and began to pass it out. Maybe the miracle was not the changing of the loaves and fish but of men and women, who seeing what Jesus did, they followed his lead.

Well we have come a long way beyond the words and I will leave you with these two points in William Barclay’s own words.

-There was Andrew. There is a contrast between Andrew and Philip. Philip was the man who said: ‘The situation is hopeless; nothing can be done.’ Andrew was the man who said: ‘I’ll see what I can do; and I’ll trust Jesus to do the rest.’

-There was the boy. He had not much to offer, but in what he had Jesus found the materials of a miracle. There would have been one great deed fewer in history if that boy had withheld his loaves and fishes.Little is always much in the hands of Christ.

*You can find ‘Daily Bible Study” at most major bookstores also can be purchased on-line. It is a complete commentary on the entire New Testament and will provide many hours of profitable study. Thanks for reading and remember that there are many paths to study and read the Gospel in this digital world,while never forgetting to pray and seek the guidance of the Holy Spirit.
jk

The Sweetest Burden

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I have been trying to find the right words to began this weeks blog, which I had earlier decided not to write. Mitch Napier passed this week, Monday to be exact and for family, friends and church the loss will be felt for a long time. Funny how we dodge the reality of such by our verbiage. We could have said he died but most of us try not to say the “D” word. Death….there is a finality about that word which is in a way strange. There are many ways to say it but the reality of the result is the same. The efforts of friends, family and church to ease the grief is comforting and welcomed. One phrase of comfort I do not agree with, “in time it will be better”. I don’t believe that, I do believe that in time you will learn to tolerate it, adjust and live life as expected. Grief, the burden of which is heavy on the heart, mind and body can overwhelm the best of us. I saw such grief in Mitch’s family, friends, and his church family. There is a difference between the grief of acquaintance and the grief of love; the burden here is the heaviest to carry, but the sweetest.

The totally un-expected passing of Mitch left everyone confused and asking all the usual questions. How could this happen, I just saw him earlier in the day, this can’t be happening, why?…..Safe to say we all want this not to be true, but it is and we will have to deal with it, each in our own way. The pain and grief of his son Nathan was heartbreaking. You could see his realization of the burden he now has inherited. He is his father’s son and those traits of responsibility, compassion and living as God had intended has been passed from the father to the son. God and family and investing in the lives of others, giving without expecting any return. Living the servants life and joyfully looking forward to the day he is called home. Nathan knows he can do no less, these things his father believed, taught his family and showed his friends by his actions every day of his life.

Ecclesiastes 7:1

A good reputation is more valuable than costly perfume.
And the day you die is better than the day you are born.

The Napier family and those who have had the privilege to know them have Faith and Hope for the days to come. For we know without hesitation:

Thessalonians 4:13-14
13 And now, dear brothers and sisters, we want you to know what will happen to the believers who have died so you will not grieve like people who have no hope. 14 For since we believe that Jesus died and was raised to life again, we also believe that when Jesus returns, God will bring back with him the believers who have died.

Yes his passing will be a burden, but it will be a “Sweet Burden” whose fruition will be to continue to tell “The Story”, unselfishly serving others and finding peace at the foot of the cross. All of faith know a better day is coming.

jk

 

Issues Of Faith…Living for what is. / Pressing on

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Two interesting articles from one of my daily devotionals that gave me pause and led me to consider two very real issues of faith. The blog this week is inspired by two devotions published this month in the “Upper Room”. One challenges us to look at circumstances in which we may have forgotten that our God is constant and unchanging. The scripture reference is Psalm 46: 1-7. The devotion is written by Dave Brandon and puts forward the issue of living life by the “what if’s” instead of by “what is”. The other issue is one many of us struggle with every day. In our world today there are many obstacles that challenge and at times keep us from living a christian life. The author is Marvin Williams using as scripture reference Philippians 3: 12-21. Today I will reference only verses 17-21. The message is to “Press On”, something that the problems of this life can make difficult. So lets look at these verses up close and see how they might apply to living for what is and pressing on in difficult times. First we look at Psalm 46: 1-7.

I would suggest you open your bible and read by verse as we go through this. Albert Barnes has this introduction to this Psalm. “This psalm has been called Luther‘s Psalm. It was that which he was accustomed to sing in times of trouble. When the times were dark; when the enemies of truth appeared to triumph; when disaster seemed to come over the cause in which he was engaged, and the friends of the Reformation were dispirited, disheartened, and sad, he was accustomed to say to his fellow-laborers, “Come, let us sing the 46th Psalm.”

A very good explanation of the very core meaning of the 46 Psalm and translates well into our situation today. What do we do in times of trouble? What do we do when the enemies of the “True God” come against us? What do we do when we struggle to tell “The Story” and are marginalized and persecuted. Do we become dispirited, disheartened, and sad, or do we turn to God….our refuge and strength, a very present help in times of trouble. This being the very first thing we encounter at the very beginning of the Psalm. Trust in whomever and whatever you want but we have found him to be present and effective in meeting our needs in times of trouble. Verse 2 states plainly that we should trust in God. We shouldn’t let the political and natural commotions taking place in this world separate us from our God. Verses 3 and 4 are symbolic in depicting the many rivers and streams, possibly referring to people being converted to the faith and flowing as rivers and streams to the “City of God” which most commentators believe to be Jerusalem. God being gladden by this. So what can we take from these first four verses. Life is what it is, but with God we can find refuge in his strength that nothing can overcome. There may be chaos all around us but we must continue to bring people to the faith and thus persevere in his name.

Looking at these last three verses we see a God who appeared in times of distress, brought his people out of troubles and kept his covenant with their families. We are also reminded in verse seven that even though we may be feeble and outnumbered the Lord of hosts is with us. Summing up part one of this post, we will find no peace in the misery of the past living for “what if”. We must live for “what is” adding to that “to be”. Simply put, trust in God….The Lord of Hosts is with us.

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Again, open your bibles to Philippians 3 starting in verse twelve and going through verse 16. Paul shares with us that he is not by any means a complete Christian, but is striving to press on. Some of you will be familiar with the Wesleyan question asked of all Pastors as they are ordained, “are you going on to perfection”. Paul knows he will never be perfect but he continues to press on. If you feel you have been called out by Christ be assured that the calling has a purpose and only if you press on will you understand the full purpose of that calling. To carry that a bit farther, when you accept Christ you are called out to his purpose, all of us must press on throughout this life. It is interesting that Paul refuses to rest on his “laurels” so to speak having eyes and purpose only for what yet needs to be done. We need to remember that… “the fields are white for harvest”, we waste time seeking to harvest where it has already been done, we must press on to newer fields. Too often we lower our standards and relax our efforts to “tell the story” relaxing our resolve when God is calling us to press on. Always looking forward, keeping our eyes on the goal. If we wish to mature in the faith as Christians we have to accept that a certain amount of discipline is necessary which will include much effort and at times some agony. William Barclay put it this way.
“As Paul saw it, Christians are the athletes of Christ.

We close this chapter looking at verses 17-21. Paul begins in verse 17 by asking the people to “unite in imitating me” Paul was the one person who could invite people not simply to listen to him but also imitate him. Are we living in such a manner that we might invite others to imitate us in our passion to live for Christ, so they might “press On”? Paul reminds these people that “our citizenship is in
heaven” painting a picture in their mind that they could understand.Paul says to the Philippians: ‘Just as the Roman colonists never forget that they belong to Rome, you must never forget that you are citizens of heaven; and your conduct must match your citizenship.’ Paul closes on a note of hope of all Christians. Because we press on these mortal bodies which are subject to decay will become heavenly bodies which will live with Christ in the splendor of their reward. Press on for the goal of life everlasting in the presence of our Lord.

Join me in the pew next week, as we look forward to what is to be and press on to our goal.  jk

The Christian Yoke

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A yoke is a fitting for a so-called beast of burden that would be placed around the neck of one or more animals like an ox for example. This fitting was placed around the neck and allowed the animal or animals to pull various loads. it was a curved piece of wood with leather straps as a binding which would allow them to draw a plough or a cart or any other type of weight. During our bible study this past Tuesday a certain verse from Acts 14 caught my attention. They strengthened the disciples and urged them to remain firm in the faith. They told them, Acts 14: 22 “If we are to enter God’s kingdom, we must pass through many troubles.”

We also know that our Lord said this in Matthew 11:28  “Come to me, all you who are struggling hard and carrying heavy loads, and I will give you rest.” Many of us today are carrying heavy loads, in the workplace, family, debt and the emotional problems that they bring with them. The next two verses are ones of encouragement. In Acts 29 and 30 we find these words “29  Put on my yoke, and learn from me. I’m gentle and humble. And you will find rest for yourselves. 30  My yoke is easy to bear, and my burden is light.”

It is a hard truth and one we as Christians sometimes overlook or just ignore. As the church we must learn to accept our hardships, just as we should as individuals. Paul went back to encourage these people and the churches that were being established that this should not be a time to of wasted energy fighting them or wondering “why us or why me”. We need to spend our time getting to know God and his plan for our lives the more time we spend doing that, the stronger we will grow in the faith.

Paul also wrote about a yoke in 2nd Corinthians 6: 14-18 :
14 Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness? 15 What harmony is there between Christ and Belial? Or what does a believer have in common with an unbeliever? 16 What agreement is there between the temple of God and idols?For we are the temple of the living God. As God has said: “I will live with them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they will be my people.”17 Therefore,“Come out from them and be separate, says the Lord. Touch no unclean thing, and I will receive you.”18 And,“I will be a Father to you, and you will be my sons and daughters, says the Lord Almighty.”

Maybe I am taking to many liberties and searching for a connection that at best is a stretch. I believe that part of what Paul is saying here is that our journey will be much easier if we seek the fellowship and strength that is offered through the Christian community.  Do not mistake my writing to infer that we withdraw within our walls, that is not what we are called to do. Our burdens are many and at times too heavy but with Jesus’ “The yoke is easy to bear, and the burden is light.”I believe that many of our churches are torn apart by conflict and issues that distract from the real mission Christ calls us out to do. Let us be yoked together as one in serving Christ Jesus.

There is always room in the pew……jk

The Silence of Uncertainty

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Been a rough week here in the pew. Usually by Thursday of the week I have the blog written and I began to delete or add where needed. This time however I have only a blank page. I started the blog in 2013 and at the start of 2016 I devoted full time to it, trying to publish once a week and there are 75 posts to date. I have no formal training or education in the writing arts and it is a lot of work to put something on a page every week. Thanks to the digital age, Bill Gates and the wonderful world of knowledge that can be acquired on the internet, I have managed to sneak by. I was told, write about things you know about. Well the truth is I don’t know about a lot of things, which isn’t such a bad thing, it narrows the field a bit but produces a result I wasn’t counting on. Things I know about aren’t all that interesting. There was one thing I wanted to know more about, I wanted to know more about God and Jesus.

Now I have always thought of myself as a Christian, I believe there is a God and I know about Jesus. For a long time that was my standard answer to the question “are you a Christian?” When I look back at the years gone by a more appropriate picture of my faith would be as follows. I was like a person on a golf course, standing under a large tree during a violent thunder storm. “You believe in God?” “You bet I do”  I uttered quickly before the next lighting strike. When the sun came out I went back to the game. I have come to realize that being a Christian isn’t a game. There are no time-outs and no such thing as halftime, there is no quarter given. (weak play on words) It has been a difficult week and in retrospect a disappointing few weeks. There is so much chaos in the world.   The partisan divide in our nation which is driven by such hate and lack of civility has placed us at the mercy of those who use violence and destruction of things and people they disagree with as an acceptable form of expression of opposition to current elections and others policies. Silence comes in many forms. I will share one example with you. After 9/11 all air traffic was grounded for a few days. Ever look up and see the contrails (Contrails or vapor trails are line-shaped clouds sometimes produced by aircraft engine exhaust.) crisscrossing in the sky and wondering who was up there and where were they going? There was for those few days an empty sky, there was a visual silence. Well that is where I’m at today. To one who writes or tries to, a blank page is the ultimate definition of silence.  I have given thought lately to lay the blog aside. It is a case of time spent and results. Don’t misinterpret what I have written here. A lot of time is spent in preparation and after all these years the blog has never caught on. There is also the consideration that maybe I don’t write so well. I have been wondering if my energies would be better spent creating  bible studies, which keeps me in the word and requires research and study. This is not a question of ego, it is about how I can best serve and reach people with the good news. Well I have managed to fill the page with a rambling dissertation of my personal frustrations. You know God never leaves a blank page……and if you listen and seek you will see and hear.

Romans 8:25-27Common English Bible (CEB)

25 But if we hope for what we don’t see, we wait for it with patience.

26 In the same way, the Spirit comes to help our weakness. We don’t know what we should pray, but the Spirit himself pleads our case with unexpressed groans. 27 The one who searches hearts knows how the Spirit thinks, because he pleads for the saints, consistent with God’s will.

I do not know how this ties in, as I was writing, the above verses came to mind. William Barclay writes in his series Daily Bible Study:

THE first two verses form one of the most important passages on prayer in the whole New Testament. Paul is saying that, because of our weakness, we do not know what to pray for, but the prayers we ought to offer are offered for us by the Holy Spirit. The New Testament scholar C. H. Dodd defines prayer in this way: ‘Prayer is the divine in us appealing to the Divine above us.’

I know that I need to pray and seek his will but I have no words. H. Dodd gives this advice. We cannot know our own real need; we cannot with our finite minds grasp God’s plan; in the last analysis, all that we can bring to God is an inarticulate sigh which the Spirit will translate to God for us.

I think that applies to many of us. We need to leave the chaos and uncertainty of this world behind and just pray. His will be done…..jk