A Bishop, Compassion, Love and The Authority of Scripture….. Pondering in The Pew

(A Two Part Series)

First Peter 4:8  “Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins.”

The above Verse is one of ten important bible verses on love according to the writer, Jack Wellman, from an article he wrote in Patheos. As a matter of trivia Jesus’ commanded us Five times altogether, according to the New King James version to love….

John 13:34 “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another.

John 13:35 “By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”

John 15:12 “This is My commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.

John 15:17 “These things I command you, that you love one another.

The number of times that love is mentioned in the Bible depends on the version of the Bible. In the King James Version, love is mentioned 310 times, 131 times in the Old Testament and 179 times in the New Testament.  I will be using the KJV as a reference point in this blog. There are figures available for other versions. As the Methodist Church continues to vote and then vote again I believe I my have found some hope in an article in the latest Methodist publication of, The Call, written by Bishop Wilke. I will post the link to the article at the end of the blog. To quote the Bishop, “ Thirty years ago our daughter Sarah shared with Julia and me that she is gay and that she had entered into a committed relationship. She came out to us when she was 27 years old. We never imagined this was anything that would touch our family.”

Most articles about the same-sex issues facing the church are fueled by talking points and are agenda driven, peppered with social and cultural reasoning and here and there a scriptural reference. I have no doubt that years ago when this first became a discussion among well meaning lay and clergy members that they were attempting to find a way to minister to those who were truly not being encouraged to come to the table. I do feel that what started out as a journey to discern God’s will and bring the church together was hijacked by social justice warriors. Rainbow ribbons, hastily lettered signs, slogans and disrupting legally convened meetings to conduct church business does not speak to a spirit focused search for the answer to this issue. It should also be noted that pulling certain scripture and not considering the context in which it rests is also a habit many of us have adopted over the years. Bishop Wilke goes back to scripture but with and open mind, open heart, and hopefully may have opened a door to a much needed healing. The first step to healing this wound will be to admit all have sinned and fallen short of their calling. Having said all of this I found Bishop Wilke’s article pointed to the need to consider context, and the need we all have to better understand the scripture as written. While it didn’t change my mind about the intent of scripture it did open my heart to that which is most powerful….I believe the love of God is a powerful thing and right beside it is the love a parent has for their child. So before I go too far, some points to list taken from this part of the article.

-Context is important

-One or two verses do not a story tell

-The written word is best understood in its entirety

-God is Love

Let’s look at some scriptures found in or alluded to in the first part of the Bishop’s letter. The Bishop presents not an argument but a scriptural reason for all of us to consider the power of love as a factor of value in this issue. I will start with the story of Sodom and Gomorrah. The sin of Sodom and Gomorrah has over the years always been used to point to homosexuality as a sin. Bishop Wilke puts forth another reason for God’s anger at these cities. Ezekiel 16:48-50 requires me to ponder a moment the rest of the story so to speak.

Ezekiel 16: 48-50

48 As I live, saith the Lord God, Sodom thy sister hath not done, she nor her daughters, as thou hast done, thou and thy daughters.

49 Behold, this was the iniquity of thy sister Sodom, pride, fulness of bread, and abundance of idleness was in her and in her daughters, neither did she strengthen the hand of the poor and needy.

50 And they were haughty, and committed abomination before me: therefore I took them away as I saw good.(KJV)

Here plainly is a compelling reason, scripture based, that deserves prayerful consideration. The abomination the Lord speaks of is no  doubt in my mind, the demand that the men be sent out for the pleasure of the crowd gathered there. In these verses the Lord plainly lists the actions of the people that he found wrong and punishes them for their actions and lack of compassion for others. Context, context, exactly how does this fit contextually with the account in Genesis? For years Chapter 19: 1-13 has been used by people to condemn same-sex practices. It has been noted that it was this activity on that night that was the reason for God destroying these cities. Give this some thought. It has been said that the Bible never contradicts itself but over and over scripture does validate itself in other scripture, adding proper context that we may miss simply because we want so much for the scripture to validate what we believe and works for us.

I am going to rest here awhile, be back in the Pew next week with more of the Bishop’s letter. Please take time to read the scriptures we looked at this week, pray and re-think the importance of LOVE between God, his people and you and others.

Life is Good

jk

Reference Notes:

Bishop’s Letter:

https://www.umnews.org/en/news/bishop-gay-daughter-sent-him-back-to-scriptures?

https://www.funtrivia.com/askft/Question112529.html

https://www.reference.com/art-literature/many-times-love-mentioned-bible-f8eb228f4fe0a4

“Come and See”….Evangelism In Three Words

A picture is worth a thousand words, so they say but sometimes just a few words can bring about a revelation. Come and See is a simple phrase that is repeated a few times in the Book of John but when we go beyond the words and understand its theological meaning  a  revelation takes place.I will share with you today some of those places it can be found and go beyond the words to suggest a powerful way to share God’s word, that invites and challenges and has the potential of changing lives.   

The first of these can be found in John 1: 35-39. The first two of the verses John makes note of Jesus walking by. Two of John’s disciples heard his remark and followed Jesus. 38 When Jesus turned and saw them following, he said to them, “What are you looking for?” They said to him, “Rabbi” (Greek translation means Teacher), “where are you staying?” Jesus replied “come and see” and they remained with him the rest of the day. They wanted more than a causal few words with this man John had referred to as the Lamb of God. They wished to linger with him, talk about their problems, seek direction and have someone to share their troubles with. There are many such people in this world we live in today that just want to feel someone is listening. When Jesus said, come and see, they knew what he was saying. Jewish Rabbis used this phrase often. It meant do you want to know the answer to the question? Do you want a solution to your problem? Come and see, we will think about things together. Those seeking Christ will never be satisfied with a passing word of comfort, help them meet him, ask them to come and see. The next passage is found in John 1: 46.

 46 Nathanael said to him, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” Philip said to him, “Come and See.” John 1:46

Nathanael quickly replied that Nazareth was not the kind of place that anything good was likely to come out of. Philip was wise. He did not argue. He said simply: ‘Come and See!’ We  find within this exchange a little nugget that we all can profit by. No one has ever been argued into Christianity. Philosophical and argumentative preaching or teaching will do little to win men and women to Christ. We will do better to confront them with Christ, the story of the cross and a simple invite…Come and See.

From here we go to Chapter 4:29-30 and once again we find that phrase Come and See. 4 She said to the people, 29 “Come and see a man who told me everything I have ever done! He cannot be the Messiah, can he?” 30 They left the city and were on their way to him. John 4:29-30

We won’t always know or even be aware that a person has suddenly discovered Christ. We should understand that discovery requires a need for communication. It is a very simple equation. Most discoveries require sharing and with this woman at the well that is exactly what happened. She could not wait to share this encounter with Christ, she had found an amazing person and she was compelled to communicate that with others. Isn’t that what we are called to do today? We cannot communicate Christ to others until we have discovered him for ourselves. Again, it is a simple equation, we find and we tell the story to others. It may very well be that a very simple phrase,Come and See, will open the door to discover Christ and give us the opportunity to tell the story. Thank you for coming by the Pew we will be back here next week.

Come and See .   

 Life is Good

jk

Galatians 6: 1-10…and for me….a New Word

When you step out of the Pew, go to the library and stumble into the theology section, for the layman seeking to increase his knowledge a new word will arise to test his perseverance. I started this week to work with verses nine and ten but as I read and researched them, up came the old Wesleyan habit of being sure of the context leading to these two. I decided to include verses one through eight. For those of you keeping count we will now look at verses one through ten. At this point I introduce you to that new word.

eschatological.

1:  of or relating to eschatology or an eschatology

2:  of or relating to the end of the world or the events associated with it in eschatology

Now the theological side of the word.

eschatology.

1: a branch of theology concerned with the final events in the history of the world or of humankind

2: a belief concerning death, the end of the world, or the ultimate destiny of humankind specifically : any of various Christian doctrines concerning the Second Coming, the resurrection of the dead, or the Last Judgment

This very important part of Christian faith prompted Paul to share some very practical advice with the Galatian churches and in some ways that advice fits well into the narrative of the church today. From the very start of time it is obvious that God did not intend man to live a life of solitary. Paul believed that Christians should live as a community of faith. Paul viewed the church as an extended family, sharing the good times as well as the bad, feast and famine and to do good to everyone; specifically to those in the community of faith. There is a point here that many find uncomfortable. Living life in the Spirit is not meant to be a solitary endeavor, it is a life lived in a community of faith. Herein we find an interdependence that many are not comfortable with.The concept of an extended family and the responsibilities that it entails can be overwhelming. As a community of faith we are responsible for each others spiritual health, which may require concern as well as encouragement for other “family” members. We must learn to live together in a spirit filled and loving way, never forgetting that common bond that holds us together……we are members of the body of Christ and our welfare depends on our willingness to care and comfort each other as the spirit leads us. There were those in this time that favored the teachings that pointed to an elaborately detailed law of Moses as a guide to life, which was in direct contrast to a community guided by the Holy Spirit, Paul’s vision of living a holy life. Many Galatians desired a comprehensive manual of instruction so to speak. Paul gave them some simple thoughts as to how a spirit led community might look and the values that would be needed. Jesus led a life of self sacrifice always giving and never asking anything in return. Jesus presented a picture of loving service to the Father and putting others first. Paul urges the Galatians to bear each others burdens by conforming to the self-sacrificial pattern of Jesus’ life. The modern term might be to ask yourself “what would Jesus do?” Galatians 6:2 presents a quality of Christian behavior that is found in Christ’s service through which he brought the fulfillment of the law as intended. There are those that would use the law as a barrier against other people. There are those that use it to further their own standing in the community of faith. So one of the simple thoughts would be to emulate the life of Christ by being imitators of Christ and his love and service to others. 

There is discord and rivalry within the community as suggested in parts of chapter five and in 6: 1-5 it is an issue Paul addresses here. Much like the churches of today this conflict produces situations that weaken the ministry of the Christian community and presents hard realities the church must face. One of the issues causing problems was the questions about circumcision. I will put my own twist on this and hope not to offend those of a different view. This issue attempts to decide who can and cannot belong to the church. Any time the church becomes involved with fleshly practices and uses those to set the exclusionary criterion for membership in the community, the will of the spirit is by-passed for things not of God’s will. Our rivalries and conflicts will never be settled until we accept the leadership of the Spirit and understand our common identity is centered on our relationship with Jesus Christ. We must be willing to accept personal accountability and self examination. We must look within ourselves and our service to the faith and to Christ. We must not do things just too boast to ourselves later, or worry about how we appear to others. We must test our own works to see that it is pleasing to God and strengthens our Christian life as we strive to live our lives with God. It is in this way we will be able to eliminate the  things that lead to corrupting our relationships with one another. Now I will use the word. The church has lost sight of the eschatological factor, God’s judgement. Our present state has become our evil age yet we hear little if any judgement preaching. Will we be judged solely on our own works? Some say that is what 6: 5 implies. Did we do all these Godly things on our own? Here is another point to add to Paul’s letter. Our works were not of independent achievement but rather the spirit working through us. We are the instruments of God and it is only our letting Christ work through us that we are able to accomplish his will. This next point is one I put great value in. Verse six seems to imply that Paul thought the Galatians had a need for proper teaching. With all that’s going on in this world the church sometimes finds itself short of those needed to instruct others in the word, or lacks the resources that make that teaching ministry possible. The church can and often does lose its sense of direction without a proper teaching ministry. I believe the word, the Bible, provides the best orientation for a path forward and is critical to the spiritual health of the faith community. Faithful study and instruction of the scriptures is necessary in a Godly faith community.

It seems there are always new issues that the church must confront and in Paul’s day this was also true. The church is new and many of its first members are Jews who have accepted Jesus Christ. Imagine, many of these people not only saw Jesus but many heard him speak in the synagog, so it is not surprising that this particular issue was causing some discord in the new church. Circumcision was a topic of great debate. Must you be a Jew first before you could be a Christian? Do we sow to the flesh or to the Spirit? We have reached the last point in Paul’s letter. The Parable of the Sower is a parable of Jesus found in the three Synoptic Gospels in Matthew 13:1-23, Mark 4:1-20, and Luke 8:4-15. In the story, a sower sows seed and does so indiscriminately. Paul presents the Galatians with a choice. Will you sow your trust to flesh or Spirit? This time it is Paul who uses the seeds to teach and instruct. These seeds will either fall to the flesh or the Spirit and where you commit your hope, energy and resources will determine the course of your life. Here we must understand the theological path of the word flesh. Reading it in that manner it is simply referring to any activity that seeks security in anything other than the promise of God. From a community of faith view it can be those activities that promote ethnic exclusivity, valuing material possessions or seeking to impose the will of the flesh with intimidation and false words. When we sow our seeds in the Spirit, trust in the Spirit’s leading we will discover a more excellent way.

Being of one mind in truth and spirit will allow us to live and accomplish those things we have been called to do. It is good to be back in the Pew. Have a blest day and may the week ahead bring us closer to God and may the Spirit fill our hearts to do good to all, whenever and wherever we can.

Life is Good

jk 

There is No Practicality In God’s Love…. Matthew 18: 12-14

 

 

Some weeks I have to go looking for something to write and this was one of them. I usually have several places I look but this week I was drawn to my desk-side bible. I have read many religious pamphlets and study helps and over the years and they have been invaluable in helping to craft a discourse when the well runs dry. In my bible inserted between different pages are snippets of devotionals from different publications over the years, today I re-read one by Doug Ralls. It was written in January of 2013 and published in “Our Daily Bread”.

Matthew 18:12–14  ‘What do you think? If a shepherd has a hundred sheep, and one of them has gone astray, does he not leave the ninety-nine on the mountains and go in search of the one that went astray? 13 And if he finds it, truly I tell you, he rejoices over it more than over the ninety-nine that never went astray. 14 So it is not the will of your Father in heaven that one of these little ones should be lost.

Here I will do something I rarely do and insert a small paragraph from his article. Remember, these are his words, I did not write them.

“But ultimately, I don’t think this parable is intended as a practical solution to an everyday problem. See it more as a description of the radical love that abounds in the kingdom of heaven. God loves us with such reckless abandon that God will ignore practicality in order find us and bring us home.  That’s astounding love. (Doug Ralls)

Reality, and practicality would seem to suggest that to risk losing ninety-nine for one, would not be a wise thing to do. So here in this story of the ninety-nine and one, a very familiar reading and one most Christians know well, Mr. Ralls goes beyond the words and presents us with a wonderful possibility, that in reality, is fact. Here are the facts.

-God’s love is an individual love. As a parent would you not love all your children? You would not rest until all were safe with you.

-Sheep are known to do foolish things. We all know people who do foolish things and often we take the attitude that they got themselves into it, let them get themselves out of it. Give thanks that we have a God that loves us  no matter how foolish we might be. When we have no one to blame for our sins and the sorrow they bring upon us, our God still loves us. It is a patient love of mercy and grace.

-Our God is not content to wait for us to come home to seek forgiveness. The Jews could not understand that God sent his son Jesus Christ, to seek and bring home those that had wandered away. God will not be content until all his children are at home, no matter what it costs.

-Imagine, forgiveness with no grudge, no recriminations and no sense of contempt, just total and complete joy. That is a rejoicing love, a God that loves us with no pre-set conditions and at any cost. When we return to him he puts all our sins behind his back. His joy is boundless.

-Our God’s love is a protecting love. God seeks and saves removing from our lives the sins that cripple, we are free and in his love we become conquerers of temptation.

Yes, let’s give thanks that There is No Practicality In God’s Love…. Mr Ralls article is a great example of how to read and study the scriptures. Going beyond the words, always expect a revelation, hope and encouragement, it is sometimes referred to as the living word and for reason. Pray you have had a good week and I invite you back to the Pew next week.

Life is Good

jk

We Would Do Well to Remember……Psalm 33: 11-22

The events of the past few days leaves us wondering how such evil exists and where we have failed as a nation and a people. The politicians stand on the bodies of the dead and wounded and assign blame to gain political capital. The Churches pray and light candles, call for the people to return to God. The people, well some will parrot their political beliefs, there will be those with an agenda and those that just wish to enhance their public notoriety but the people, the ones who live ordinary daily lives, just want all this hate and violence to stop. Suggestions and solutions will be abundant in the coming days and for months but for Christians it is a time to remember who we are and what we are called to be.

Throughout all history God’s written word has served as a faith strengthener in times of uncertainty, a source of comfort and a place of peace and hope for the days ahead. We literally must seek comfort, direction and peace by returning to God’s word, we must reject the words of negativity and hate that are so prevalent in the discourse of the day. It is important that we remember God will determine what must be done. Did not our God determine to make a world, create man and woman, that he God, would be manifested in the flesh, know death and be resurrected? Did our God not determine that the Gospel should be preached in all the world? All of God’s counsels and thoughts for his people will be accomplished in his time. Seek his counsel, pray that the Spirit will be among us and the peace and assurance of our God be upon us all. We were once a Godly nation and our actions of late show us to be a nation whose path is taking us away from our God. We have only to look at God’s chosen people the Jews who because of their unbelief and rebellion were put aside and God sent his only son into the world with a message of salvation to those who repented of their sins, giving all people who did such the promise of life everlasting. We too are now heirs to the throne through the body and blood of Jesus Christ, we have been adopted into the family of God, so to speak.

It is important we realize that our God is a God of constant presence. He sees all and knows all, his eye is on all his people. Our God knows what is on our minds and what is in our hearts. Those who enact  and enforce the laws we live by, those in position of wealth and social standing need to know that without the protection of God, there is no time in which their might may not be turned into weakness, their wisdom into folly, and their dignity into disgrace. We all should understand that our God watches over us all and to them that fear him, there is hope in his mercy. Our God is everywhere, in all things and we place our trust solely in him and not the powers and things of this world. We rejoice in his presence in our life and find no peace or value of such lasting permanence anywhere as comforting as that at the foot of the cross. We are and will always be dependent upon our God for there is no shame or weakness therein. We must endure in the faith, or lose our very souls to the evils of the day.

Life is Good

jk

The Verses……The Intent

It saddens me greatly that after all these years the controversy and division within the United Methodist Church continues to this day despite numerous meetings at local, district and general conference and several votes. The controversy of course is the reaction of leadership and lay persons to same-gender polices. Make no mistake, this issue continues to divide the church and I believe that the damage done over the years, yes years, has harden hearts on both sides of this very emotional question. What began as something just kinda hanging around outside the tent of fellowship has managed to find a door and a voice within the fellowship. A few years back the arrival of the social justice warriors changed the discussion to a debate which has escalated to an all out battle for the heart and soul of the Methodist Church. It should be noted that pursuit of social justice has always been a Methodist thing.

Methodism

From its founding, Methodism was a Christian social justice movement. Under John Wesley‘s direction, Methodists became leaders in many social justice issues of the day, including the prison reform and abolition movements. Wesley himself was among the first to preach for slaves rights attracting significant opposition.

Today, social justice plays a major role in the United Methodist Church. The Book of Discipline of the United Methodist Church says, “We hold governments responsible for the protection of the rights of the people to free and fair elections and to the freedoms of speech, religion, assembly, communications media, and petition for redress of grievances without fear of reprisal; to the right to privacy; and to the guarantee of the rights to adequate food, clothing, shelter, education, and health care.”  The United Methodist Church also teaches population control as part of its doctrine.(https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Social_justice#Christianity)

So…..other than the subject matter, this is quite in character for the Methodist Church at this or any time, might say it is part of their DNA.  It is not my intent to question  the faith, sincerity, or credibility of the people within or without the church for their views but I do intend to be honest and forthright in my personal view of the current situation. I believe that the emotion brought about by same-gender questions which have damaged the church and have been an on-going thing for years have made it impossible to reach a reasonable, reconcilable  solution to this matter. I would like to introduce another aspect to an already long list of considerations. I present you with the consideration of intent. Consider the following.

Definition of intent : PURPOSE

It is recognized that other factors also influence the direction of this purpose and they are….. Aim, Significance and Sense.  Using these four points read and consider the following scripture from Genesis 1: 26-28

26 Then God said, “Let us make humankind in our image, according to our likeness; and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the wild animals of the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps upon the earth.”27 So God created humankind in his image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.28 God blessed them, and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it; and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the air and over every living thing that moves upon the earth.” 

What do you see as the intent in these verses? Keep in mind we are reading God’s intent. If intent has as place in this issue, then verse 28 contains the other three, Aim, Significance and Sense. At this point it is only fair that I remind you that I was a Methodist for well over thirty years. I did not leave the church because of same-gender issues but because I felt that the word of God was being, I will be nice here, marginalized to accommodate the changing attitudes and direction of societal change and the rush to remain relevant in the cultural changes of the day. There will always be scriptural differences and interpretations of the written word, consider the huge number of commentaries and other biblical studies available today in this digital age. It is my opinion that this whole matter should be about the intent of these verses we are looking at today. To me there is no wiggle room in these verses. There is by definition purpose, aim, significance and sense. I will even go as far as to say the Christian view of marriage has been regulated to personal preference and the societal and cultural direction of the day does not share the Christian view of marriage.  Marriage is but one facet of this issue. There is also the biblical fact that this type of relationship or activity associated with the same-gender life style is not compatible with living a Holy life. For now we will not pursue that thought, it is not my wish to lecture or judge at this point, let’s return to Genesis.

Some things in this first chapter are worth noting. The word beginning may not mean the absolute beginning of all things. God’s creative work begins with something already there. There is the view that believes of course God ordered all these things to happen and what is taking place is the beginning of the ordered creation, worldly as well as spiritual; God’s hand upon it all. God passed judgement on it all “and God saw that it was good”. To this point and the things that followed we see that God’s intention includes the elements of beauty, purpose and praise. Back to those verses which are the subject of today’s blog.

I hope you will read these and pray over them. The real substance of this issue that has torn the church apart has many elements and those who seek to impose their will have skillfully pivoted from the God’s command to live a “Holy” life to the call of cultural and societal’s “social justice warriors”. Something wonderful happens in these verses. God creates male and female in “our image” not referring so much to looks but rather to the substance within. We have been given gifts that will enable us to take on the responsibilities given to us by God in these verses. And now that something wonderful happens. From the very beginning God establishes a power sharing relationship with humans giving them this command.

28. God blessed them, and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it; and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the air and over every living thing that moves upon the earth.” 

The same-gender debate to me is about scriptural integrity. How can we allow God’s intent to be prevented to accommodate what is basically the selfish desires of any group. It is a very simplistic argument, from a layman’s view, sitting in a pew. So…..the bottom line here is how do we do as commanded by Christ and love all people? The real question which has been put aside is, how does the church defend the faith, the word as written and seek to live a Holy life among this hate and strife? You read the verses, pray and let the Spirit lead you.

jk

Life is Good

The Messenger…… Galatians 1: 1-5

The bean counters write that only about 35% of us read some Scripture at least once a week. In order of reader preference the book of Galatians comes in at about #4. Paul’s fight to lift up the message as one of mercy and salvation for all people places him in the position of challenging the Jewish leaders and there is a subdued  anger as he declares  “If justification comes through the law, then Christ died for nothing.” Paul  is facing two very real threats to the gospel. We see this same method at work in today’s world as social and cultural pressures come against the church and God’s word. They, the Jews, attacked Paul’s apostleship, many saying he was not an apostle at all, thus casting doubt on his gospel message. Personal attacks are a favorite tool of dissenters, they marginalize a person’s credibility and distract from their message. So as they sought to marginalize  Paul’s message they also attacked the gospel. This was the struggle that had become a battle, and Paul knew it had to be fought. One key fact was that even though there were Jews who had accepted Christianity they held to the belief that all God’s promises and gifts were for Jews alone and God’s promises were for them alone. Simply put, they were never meant to be for the Gentiles.

There are many things at play here in these verses but Paul is a great example of  a person who knows the glory and grace of God and add to that the fact that he knew we can never save ourselves. When his apostleship was questioned he did not present an argument to counter their statements, he simply stated that his authority and his calling had been given to him direct from God. He recalled that day on the Damascus Road when he had met Jesus Christ face to face. For many of us there have been times when we were unknowingly in the presence of God but the things of this life were stronger than our human ability to discern his presence. Paul was certain that God had spoken to him. It is not the vows we take to the church or organization within the church, nor the precepts of any chosen denomination that matters. The thing that matters is, have we come face to face with Jesus? This is critical to our christian faith. As with all things of such magnitude it always will depend on the certainty of the believer, the strength of their faith and then being able to discern God calling them to a specific task. The calling or task if you wish may seem huge and impossible, demanding of us the discipline of a Paul who saw every task as God given and worthy of our best effort. One truth of Christian faith is that we all have a God given task and it is our duty to see it through. Even the most simple of things becomes important to the faith when God calls his people to a task that serves the faith and his people. Paul’s God given task was to share the good news with the world. A large task indeed. Maybe for each of us it is to simply evangelize those around us as we go about our daily lives. It could well be that we are to live a holy life so that others might see Christ in us. Have you found your Damascus Road yet? We have a wonderful message to share. There is of course the undeserved gift in the generous love of God. Paul gave and suffered but for him the power and love of Jesus Christ overcame all and freed many from the bondage of sin. We have been called and chosen, will you answer?

Life is Good

jk

A Story With Many Lessons…Luke 24: 13-34

These verses are sometimes referred to as one of those enduring stories we find in the scripture and after a closer read we find some lessons we often overlook. Late in the day and on a long and dusty road toward Emmaus two men were discussing the events of the day.   Their grief and disappointment were so great that they failed to recognize their savior when he approached them. Do we not at times allow our sorrows in this life to hide God’s glory from us?  Focusing on their grief and feeling that their hopes died on that cross, they felt their lives had lost all meaning.‘We were hoping that he was the one who was going to rescue Israel.’ If we allow ourselves to ponder a moment here we can see what the followers of Jesus were failing to see. In bad times and when we are bewildered and lost, it is only through Jesus that we learn what life means. Our creator, our savior, our God, has given us the gift of free will and we can use it to invite Christ into our lives or pass him by. Another lesson hidden within this story is the power of the ordinary . The men had been walking and talking with Jesus for some distance and still did not realize it was the Lord. That realization came to them in a very ordinary situation. It was an ordinary meal in an ordinary house with an ordinary loaf of bread but it was as Jesus was breaking the bread that they suddenly realized who this stranger was. The Christian lives in a Christ filled world and with Christ our lives transcend the ordinary. We can also look to the behavior of these two men when they realized what had happened and who was speaking to them. They immediately started back to Jerusalem, seven miles away because they could not wait to share the good news with others. The good news of Jesus Christ is meant to be shared with everyone. The power of the message is released through sharing with others. One of the great glories of Christian fellowship is sharing our experiences with those of the faith.

One final word about these verses. These two men were blessed to be in the presence of the Lord and from this story we learned it all came about because they invited him into their home. What about you? Will you invite Christ into your home, your heart and your life?

Life is Good

jk

The World, Sinners and The Church

 

 

There are many things the church does right but there is as with all things those that are wrong. If I were to list my number one concern with the church right now, it would be the SIN of COMPLACENCY.  In chapters 5 and 6 of 1 Corinthians Paul deals with some very practical things that could create some very grave situations within the church.  Today we will ponder the message found in 1 Corinthians 5: 9-13. In the first eight verses of chapter 5 we see a practical truth. Discipline sometimes is necessary to maintain a healthy Church. To shut our eyes to the need for Christian discipline will most of the time result in damage to the church and its people. There are confusing elements involved and sometimes we Christians forget our place and calling, becoming  both judge and jury. Today’s verse’s 9-13, chapter 5, Paul deals with a couple of these situations. One thing is very evident, discipline must never be vengeful and should have as its goal  the purpose of reconciling  the person or persons to God, restoring them to the fellowship of the church and preventing such behavior in the future.

IT appears that Paul had already written a letter to the Corinthians in which he had urged them to avoid the company of all evil men and women. The problem as Paul sees it here is that it would be impossible to carry on a normal life without coming into contact with those  whom the Church would utterly condemn. This is also an impossibility because that would require our withdrawal from the world and that would not allow us to live out our calling and allow others to see Christ in us. It is always interesting to me how the scripture spans the centuries and has practical application in the world of today. Paul zeroes in on three sins which he sees typical in his day and they translate well into our world today and the people that we associate with them.

  • fornicators, those guilty of lax morality

Paul has a very healthy dislike for a lack of moral grounding among God’s people. He sees people living to satisfy their physical needs and using each other or others to meet those desires. All Christians who considers themselves to be children of God should never seek to only satisfy their desires for they will  lose their souls in the process. We have a body and a spirit created by God. A lax attitude of those things God considers to be immoral could banish us from his saving grace.

-There are those who are greedy for this world’s goods.

I call it a get it syndrome. We judge the goodness of life on our ability to acquire stuff. We are slaves to a material standard, the more we have and acquire the better life is. A true christian values service to others and finds joy in giving not getting.

-There are the idolaters. Mortals have always had a need to worship something. It seems to be a natural thing and all through the ages man has had his good luck charms, idols, religions, and even closely followed the stars to plan the course of his life. When people turn from the true God and worship these god’s of luck, their faith and religion grow weak while superstition grows strong.

Within these three basic sins we can find three directions a person could be led.

-Fornication is a sin of personal degradation. It reduces the person to less than what they can be and is a moral condition which is unfavorable in God’s eyes. It allows the lower nature to rise above the higher and we become less than God created us to be.

-Greediness is a sin against our neighbors and our fellow men and women. When you exploit people or situations to feed the greed, so to speak, you ignore the fact we are to love our neighbors as ourselves. If you cannot love others you cannot love God.

-“Idolatry is a sin against God. It allows things to usurp God’s place. It is the failure to give God the first and only place in life.”  (Barclay DBS) No more needs to be added to this statement.

Paul seems to set forward the principle that we should not judge those outside the church. The Jewish meaning was anyone that was not a Jew, one of the chosen people. Paul felt that their judgement was to be left to God, as only God knows what is in the hearts of men and women. There is a reason for this view he had. Those in the church have special privileges. They have accepted Christ and therefor have special responsibilities and they will held accountable if they do not keep them.

Paul brings the letter to an end by alluding the following verses to command the people to drive out the wicked person among them.

Deuteronomy

17: 7  The hands of the witnesses shall be the first raised against the person to execute the death penalty, and afterward the hands of all the people. So you shall purge the evil from your midst.

Deuteronomy

24: If someone is caught kidnaping another Israelite, enslaving or selling the Israelite, then that kidnaper shall die. So you shall purge the evil from your midst.

It should not be any Christians desire to hurt anyone, but we must put the evil among us out and preserve the purity of the faith. We must protect the Church from the threats of sinful behavior at work in the world today.

Remember….Ours is not a faith of condemnation but a faith of restoration and hope. Thanks for coming by this week, we hope to continue these as soon as we get to our new pew.

Life is Good

jk

A special note: I will be relocating the pew within the next two weeks. I hope to be able to continue the weekly schedule and if I miss a week the wagon hasn’t got there yet.

jk

 

 

A Place With No Borders

Ephesians 2:19–22

So then you are no longer strangers and foreigners resident in a land that is not their own, but you are fellow citizens with God’s consecrated people and members of the family of God. It is on the foundation of the prophets and the apostles that you have been built up; and the cornerstone is Christ himself. All the building that is going on is being fitted together in him, and it will go on growing until it becomes a holy temple in the Lord, a temple into which you too are built as part, that you may become the dwelling place of God, through the work of the Spirit.

Oh if only we as a nation could be like what Paul writes about in the above verses. We have been a nation divided for quite awhile now by many issues that without God will never be solved. One good example would the issue of segregation which was addressed in the late fifties and early sixties but damage was deep and could only be reconciled by legislative actions. While things are better now the one glaring lesson learned was that you cannot legislate what is in a persons heart. We still see the distrust and animosity between people and I can’t help but believe that when God is not present in our hearts there is no room for respect or love for others. That brings me to the issue of this day, our southern border and the influx of people illegally entering our country. As a society and a people we try to let this issue slide because there is no other explanation for what they are doing. There are many compelling reasons for it but by law it is illegal, period. It is compelling and begs for something other than just legislation, but the lack of divine wisdom, politics and the desire to prevail make a human solution impossible. John Lennon wrote a song, Imagine and I ask you to do that with me today.

Some theologians believe that this letter, Ephesians, was a circular letter to all of Paul’s Asian churches. It is with certainty that there was a letter circulating among the Asian churches and it is believed that letter was Ephesians. I could stumble through more words but this paragraph from William Barclay’s Daily Bible Study does a much better job.

Ephesians, as we see it, is the one letter Paul sent to all the eastern churches to tell them that the destined unity of all people and of all things could never be found except in Christ, and to tell them of the supreme task of the Church – that of being Christ’s instrument in the universal reconciliation of all men and women to one another and of their reconciliation to God. That is why Ephesians is the Queen of the Epistles. (DBS Barclay)”

Look at our southern border situation today. As the crisis worsens there, the politicians get louder and different agendas proliferate, the animosity and fervor of the opposing views overpowers humanitarian efforts and reason is no longer at the table. The result is most often we lose all hope of solving this problem. I say again, without God not all things are possible.

The similarities are there so let’s take a look back. Paul was also very good at painting a picture with words. In his day the word for foreigner was “xenoi” and they were in every Greek town. They were disliked and did not have an easy life. They were strangers in a foreign land. The Greek word for stranger was “paroikos”. They were described as a resident alien, one who had taken up residence but had never become a naturalized citizen. These people paid a tax for the privilege of living there. They had one thing in common with the our illegal aliens today. They were never really accepted and were always on the fringe. With all this in mind I ask you to imagine a place with no borders. Within the family of God there are no borders. Through Jesus Christ we have a home with God, there are no borders, come home you are always welcome. It might be a hard stretch to make but please consider this. If God were present in the hearts of those who can make a way here, things would be so much better. We put up barriers, close our minds to anything that might threaten our agendas, even at times refusing to let our own people come to the table of deliberations.

We are the church and Paul saw the church as a building with each of us as a stone, with Christ as the cornerstone that reconciles us to our God. We are many different people with many different ways but our unity in the faith makes us a family, The family of God. There is a lesson here or what I like to call “A God Thing”

Using the church as an example perhaps we would be better off as a nation and avoid such problems if we understood what unity as in the United States could mean. It would not all be about organizations, agendas, political affiliations or even the propagating the views of any body of individuals but just one simple fact. To get back as a nation to God and provide a home with no borders where everyone can dwell in peace, and placing God through Jesus Christ at the table. Maybe we can only imagine because we have allowed our hearts to be harden by the demands of this world.

Yes, it is a stretch….but one can hope. Thanks for coming by the pew this week. I will have some news to share with you next week.

Life is Good

jk