Richly Blessed-Apr. 15, 2012

Richly Blessed-April 15, 2012

Ephesians 1:3-14

We have been blessed by God in Christ with every spiritual blessing.  God chose us in Christ to be holy and blameless before him in love.  We were born again into the new selves God desires for us.  Then the destined us for adoption as his children through Christ.  In adoption the families often endure a lengthy process of getting the child and there is usually great cost.  There is another work at play here as well, those who were of age in a family, whether by adoption or otherwise were able to receive the inheritance of the father.  It was also possible for the children to receive this even before the father had passed.  Such an example in scripture is the prodigal son story.  This adoption was the good pleasure of his will, so that we would praise the glorious grace bestowed on us in Christ.

“In him”, is part of the message that continues to get brought to the forefront.  It is in him all things are possible.  In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace that he lavished on us.  It may be too often that we forget that it is in Christ, and it is his work, and the price paid in his body.  All too often we cheapen grace and do not acknowledge the gift that we have in Christ.  The God would put his Son in my place to die for me is truly a lavish grace indeed.

In God’s great wisdom he has made known to us the mystery of his will.  We do not find ourselves with God trying to guess what he desires of us, or have to try to figure out his will for our lives.  Our God is personal, he gave a personal word to his people, then he gave the living Word, His Son to us all.  It was a plan that involved his Son, and in the fullness or time to gather up all things in him, things in heaven and earth.  Gather up all things in him.  Gathering up that which is disconnected, broken and bring all together in a redemptive healing work that is truly a great act of grace.  Without grace where would I be?

In Christ we have also obtained an inheritance.  What?  This inheritance is not something that we must wait to be a part of, it is something to be lived into now.  Too often we look to what we think we have as an inheritance in heaven, and we do have that as well.  In looking to the future we forget to live each day for him.  Evangelist D.L. Moody used to warn us about people who were so “heavenly minded they were no earthly good.”  In today’s time there seems to be a fascination with heaven and the “reward” that will be there are the streets of gold, and mansions.

The language itself is complicated, take for example reward, it implies that he is rewarding us for our response to his grace.  Christ himself speaks of heaven, but he speaks more of hell, and even more often about what we should be doing as well live our lives in this world.  Should we not also spend our time wisely in this world as we seek to be obedient to Christ.  The streets may be paved with gold, but who looks at what the streets are paved with here on earth and marvel at it?  Why, because its common.

The glorious creator of all the universe will be in front of you, it wont matter what or who else is there.  In Revelation we have a picture of eternity that is perpetual worship.  All of this gathered creation, crying out, Holy, Holy, Holy, is the Lord God Almighty, Who was, who is, and who is to come.  Falling down in worship of the king of kings and Lord of lords.  If heaven is going to be a place of worship.  We perhaps should focus more on that here too.  It is not a place of retirement from this life, but a place of life and worship.

The purpose of God was accomplished in Christ, so that we who were first to set our hope on Christ, might live for the praise of his glory.  God richly blessed us in Christ, lavished on us the grace of salvation and gave us in Christ the purpose for living to bring glory to him.  Then God sent the Holy Spirit to those who believed the gospel of our salvation.  The Holy Spirit is the seal of the promise of God.  This is the pledge  of our inheritance toward redemption as God’s own people, to the praise of his glory.  In a nutshell God saved us and it was a mighty act of grace on his part, then made us his own and lavished us with the blessing of inheritance toward redemption, that he might be glorified.  In is not about us, it’s all about him.  We will glorify him with our lives?

Do Not Grow Weary-Apr. 11, 2012

Do Not Grow Weary-April 11, 2012

“9 Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. 10 Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.”

Galatians 6:9-10

Often times we are busy, and it becomes an issue of what can we do or what should we do.  With so many options it can be nearly impossible know what to do.  The good things that we do, can also be the same things that wear us down and wear us out.  When we try to accomplish these good things in our own strength and time they can wear us up and leave us on empty.  This can a critical point, because individuals or even churches can experience compassion fatigue.  If this continues for long periods, spiritual apathy can begin to set in, and in the worst case people give up trying to do good all together.

I think there are a few notable things to mention here.  There is in this scripture a mention of time.  “At the proper time” there will be a harvest, don’t give up, but don’t rush as well.  Then there is the instruction that “as we have opportunity” let us do good.  This is also an issue about time.  In our culture where we always seem to have a need to be doing something we spend a great deal of time and energy looking around for something to do, both in our secular and spiritual lives.  The tragedy is in our busyness we have many times missed these same opportunities right in front of us.  In addition, this is the work of the Lord, let him guide and pass you and allow him to work in and through you rather than you try to do his work apart from him.

So let us do good to all people, especially those that belong to the family of believers.  As we do this work, remember that it is his work and in his strength.  To be patient and look for the opportunities (divine appointments) that God place in our paths.  Trusting in good time there will be a harvest for God’s glory.

*This was an abreviated service due to business meeting.

Do Not Hold On To Me-Easter Service-Apr. 8, 2012

Do Not Hold On To Me-Easter Service-April 8, 2012, 11am

Scripture:  Isaiah 25:6-9; John 20:1-18

The Isaiah passage helps to set the understanding for the celebration of the day.  It mentions swallowing up death forever, and he will wipe away all our tears, and he will remove the disgrace of his people from all the earth.  It is in that day they will say,

“Surely this is our God; we trusted in him, and he saved us.  This is the LORD, we trusted in him; let us rejoice and be glad in his salvation.”

We trusted him and he saved us, so let us rejoice and be glad in his salvation.

John 20:1-18-Mary Magdalene went to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed, so she comes running to Simon Peter and John, then they come running back to the tomb.  John beats Peter there but doesn’t go in but when Peter catches up he runs right into the tomb to have a look around and John joins him.  Once inside they notice the strips of linen lying there, as well as the burial cloth that had been around Jesus’ head.  In many cultures, when a person gets up from the table if they plan to return they will fold their napkins up to signify they plan to return, when they are finished the just crumple it up to let others know they are through.  The cloth that had been around the head of Jesus was folded, there was more to come.  We also on days like today where we observe the Lord’s Supper we to take the cloth that drapes the elements that are the symbols of Christ’s body and fold it up as well.

I also like the way John’s gospel reads when it describes in verse 8 that when he went inside, he saw and believed.  Verse 9 states they still did not understand from Scripture that Jesus had to rise from the dead.  So they saw and believed even though they did not completely understand or fully know all that scripture revealed about Christ.  It may also be true in our culture today that many in our information hungry culture want to know and understand before they have faith and believe.  It is in believing that we come to understand more of who Christ is as revealed to us in scripture.  They are many that have a head knowledge of the scriptures but their lives are not filled with resurrection joy, because they have not believed.

The disciples leave, but Mary stays weeping and looking into the tomb and sees two angels in white seated at where the head and feet of Jesus had been.  They wanted to know why she was crying.  She responds that, someone she calls they have taken Jesus away, and she doesn’t know where they have put him.  The point of amazement for me is that she is just having this conversation with two angels as if their very presence should be the announcing of the presence of Christ.  She then turns and sees Jesus but doesn’t recognize him.  He calls her woman, which is ok if you’re Jesus, not wise if you are a man addressing your wife or mother, he is the Lord after all.  He asks her who she is looking for?  She thinks Jesus is the gardener and ask if he has carried Jesus away, if he tells her where she will get his body.

Jesus then reveals himself to her by calling her by name the way he calls us by name.  She turns towards him and cries out teacher.  Jesus instructs her not to hold on to him because he has not yet gone to the Father.  Go instead and tell my brothers I am returning to my Father and your Father, my God and your God.  This is interesting because she is told not to hold on to Jesus rather go and tell.  Many times we want to do the same thing we want to hold on to Jesus, his promises, his blessing, and we often forget that he wants us to go and share.  We should share the good news of Christ with others, that he is returning to His Father and His God, but in his work of salvation, he is now our Father and Our God.    Will you worship him today.

Life from Within-Sunrise Service-Apr. 8, 2012

Life From Within-Community Sunrise Service-April 8, 2012, with Palestine Baptist, Huddleston U.M.C., and Mentow Baptist

Mark 16: 1-8

Several things of note in this passage in Mark.  The sabbath had past and it was early on the first day of the week and the ladies have made preparations for the body of Jesus.  They are up early before first light and are on their way to prepare the body of Jesus.  In our context today we honor the first day of the week as Sabbath, but what if we were up early before the sun to honor and serve God?  It seems a little odd in our world that we will get up early for everything from earning a living, hunting, fishing, vacations, trips, kids school activities, extra-curricular activities, etc., but when it comes to spending a little time with the Savior on the first day, third day, or any day often times the same dedication is lacking.  Have we come so far in pursuit of our comforts and sense of self-worth that we no longer seek those things from the Lord, and so it is that we manage our lives rather than letting Christ rule and reign as Lord and Savior.  That is until we are at that rock in our lives, the place we can no longer manage, and then we call out to him.

Even as prepared as the ladies were they began to say to themselves, “who shall roll us away the stone from the sepulchre?”  In route to do what they had all the preparations to do they continue on to the tomb of Christ not knowing how the stone will be moved.  And when they arrived they saw that the stone was rolled away and it was great or large.  There is the stone of sin in our lives and we are powerless despite all our efforts to live that perfect life.  The stone is great, but the power to remove the stone came from the life inside, not the efforts from outside.  It was resurrected life bursting forth in Christ that moved the stone from the grave and also the stone of sin that blocks us from God and weighs us down.  It is Christ working from the inside out in us that we find hope, peace, promise, deliverance, salvation, and life.

As the women enter the tomb they saw a young man in white seated at the right side, clothed in a long white garment and they were afraid.  Recognizing this the young man reassured them not to be afraid and knowing that they are looking for Jesus, he tells them the good news that he is risen and is not there, and they can see the evidence of the place where he had been laid.  Pausing for a momentary thought, the obvious is that we do not seek the living among the dead, and therefore Christ as one who was alive would not be in the place of death.  Death had been conquered.  You would good to find your friend who is living in their home, and not be searching for them in the graveyard.

It is plain what Jesus said about himself, “I am the resurrection and the life, and I am the way, the truth, and then life.”  It is life that we have in Christ and that life bursts forth from the grave of our hearts, to transform and change our lives that we may live for him.  The young man instructs the women not to dwell at the place of death but rather go and tell Peter and the disciples that the resurrected Christ goes before them into Galilee and they will seek him there.  We are to go and tell others about Christ as well knowing the Christ is always before us and will be there.

Scripture records that the women went out quickly, and fled the sepulchre, trembling and amazed, but neither said anything to anyone for they were afraid.  In Mark’s gospel we don’t know why they didn’t tell the others, but in another gospel when they do, they are not believed.  Perhaps, part of their fear was that they would not be believed, what they had seen was almost unbelievable.  So for us today what do we do with the message of Christ, do we hear it and maybe even experience it but do not think that others will believe or find us foolish for doing so, and so we take the light intended to shine for him and place is under a bowl, a light without air will eventually go out.  Will you burn bright for Christ letting your light shine before men?  For it is not that he has called us to be successful but rather faithful.  We can not change what others may do, say, or how they will respond, but he has called us to share the good news will you proclaim the name of Christ today?

A Service of Darkness-Apr. 4, 2012

A Service of Darkness

April 4, 2012

Scripture:  Isaiah 50:4-9a

**How Great is Our God/ How Great Thou Art-Greg and Congregational

Scripture:  Psalm 40:11-14,17

Reading 1:  Judas

The pain didn’t stop.  No matter what he did, Judas could barely lift himself off the ground.  It was as if a tremendous weight was sitting on his chest.  He felt like he could barely breathe.  He leaned against the door of the house of Caiaphas; his hands felt like they weighed a hundred pounds each.  When he knocked on the door, the ache from his knuckles passed through his body, and he nearly collapsed.  The door opened, and Judas could tell by the way the servant stared at him that he must have looked as bad as he felt.  Judas was lead through a hall.  The servant constantly had to stop and wait for Judas to catch up.  The servant took time into a room where the chief priests sat on the floor around a table.  Judas didn’t even recognize the voice that came out of his own mouth:

“What will you give me if I bring Jesus to you?”

They whispered to each other.  It didn’t take them a full minute.  The oldest of the priests stood and counted out 30 pieces of silver into Judas’ hands.  In spite of the cold he felt on his skin, the coins were so hot he thought surely they would brand his palms.  When he stepped into the night, he took a deep breath and filled his lungs with air.  It was the first deep breath he’d taken since he made his decision.  He stood erect, and the pain in his chest and bones was gone.  The throbbing in his head subsided.  But the coins still felt hot in his hand.  He dumped them into a small leather pouch and tied it to his belt.  He couldn’t help hearing the coins jingle when he started walking down the dark road.  It was an annoyance at first, but soon he was able to ignore it.

1st set of candles are extinguished.

Were you there when they crucified my Lord? Oh! Sometimes it causes me to tremble, tremble, tremble. –Chanting

Scripture:  Psalm 69:1-21

Reading 2:  Peter

Peter was the one they called “the rock.”  He was the strong one.  He was the one all the others leaned on when they began to question their beliefs.  But on this night, when Jesus put his hands on Peter’s shoulders, there was pain in the Messiah’s eyes.  He was hurt.  His face had become heavy and no longer looked like he’d be able to smile again.  “Peter,” he said, “tonight you will deny three times that you even know me.  “Peter’s first response was that of disbelief.  He knew there was no way he would deny his friend!  But then he saw the Savior’s eyes.  He knew it was true.  He knew.  Peter’s face then looked determined.  He would prove him wrong!  He would hide!  He would go someplace where there were no people!  He couldn’t betray someone if there was no one to talk to, right?  Right?

2nd set of candles are extinguished.

Were you there when they nailed Him to the tree?   Oh! Sometimes it causes me to tremble, tremble, tremble. –Chanting

**I Stand Amazed In the Presence-Congregational

Scripture:  109:1-31

Reading 3:  The Garden

In the garden, Jesus told his friends to sit and wait for him while he prayed.  He walked just a few yards away before falling to his knees.  He leaned against a large stone and pressed his tired face on the surface.  The night air had become cool-and so was the stone.  The sweat on his face and hands began to chill him.  Finally Jesus lifted himself on his knees and pressed his hands together so tightly that his knuckles turned white.

“Father,” he said, “if it is possible, I don’t want to die this way.  But if you want me to …I will.”

Jesus closed his eyes.  He prayed so hard that blood began to seep from the pores of his skin and fall to the ground like thick clots of mud.

HAMMERING-Sound Effect, (I used at mini-sledge and a hatchet in each hand, the sound is a remarkable effect)

 3rd set of candles are extinguished.

Were you there when they pierced Him in the side?   Oh! Sometimes it causes me to tremble, tremble, tremble.-Chanting

Video-Are You Amazed!-Featuring the song Your Grace Still Amazes Me, by Philips, Craig, and Den

Were you there when they laid Him in the tomb?  Oh! Sometimes it causes me to tremble, tremble, tremble. –Chanting

**This Service was an adaptation from:  The Book of Uncommon Prayer:  Contemplative and Celebratory Prayers and Worship Service for Youth Ministry  By:  Steven L. Case, Zondervan 2002

The Triumphal Entry-Apr. 1, 2012

The Triumphal Entry-April 1, 2012

Psalm 118:1-2, 19-29; Mark 11:1-11

When we look at Psalm 118 we are reminded that we should give thanks to the Lord for his goodness and mercy.  Give thanks for our salvation.  Recognizing in him is our salvation, and that the rejection in human eyes or human terms of Jesus did not change God’s use of Jesus as the cornerstone or capstone.  This is truly the essential piece of any structure.  When considering this Psalm and the corresponding text it is helpful to notice that there is a matter of perspective, such as the stone the builders reject in the Psalm passage to the celebration of Jesus in Mark’s gospel and how quickly attitudes change.

Our perspective plays a big roll in how we see and know Christ, and who we understand him to be.  This does not, however, change the reality of who he is.  An example from scripture is Jesus asks his disciple, who do others say I am, the responses come back, Moses, Elijah, etc.  Then the question becomes more directed, who do you say that I am?  This is always the most important question for the twelve and for all who would be his disciples throughout history, including us today.  Simon’s response is, “You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God.”  At hearing this Jesus responds that he would receive a new name, Peter and that flesh and blood did not reveal this to him, but rather God himself.  It is God himself who qualifies Jesus, it is God himself who does the work, and it is God himself who qualifies us.

The reality is how we honestly answer this question, not with our words, but our hearts.  If we answer that he is Lord, he is Christ, the Son of the living God, then he is not only worthy to be our Savior but to be worshiped as well.  It is in this that there will inherently be times of sacrifice.  Jesus’ disciples would soon find out how great the sacrifice.  There is an indication in Psalm 118: 27 “with boughs in hand, join the festal procession up to the horns of the altar.”  There seems to be a message that includes sacrifice and going up to the altar.

Triumphal Entry story in Mark’s gospel includes the details that the disciples to go find a colt that has not been ridden on, untie it and bring it to me, if someone should ask just tell the Lord has need of it.  This today would be like walking up into someone’s yard and taking their new car, and giving the explanation that the Lord has need of it and we will bring it back.  Then they placed their cloaks over it and on the ground as well as waving palm branches and shouting, Hosanna!  “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.

Jesus comes into Jerusalem and looks around, but since it was already late he and the disciples went out to Bethany.  The hour is already late and the hour is late with us as well.  When we look at and consider that Christ has come and will come again, the hour and the day is getting late and the hour is soon at hand.

When that day or hour comes to us, how each answer the question about the identity of Christ is very telling.  It is not an answer that can come by understanding a doctrinal statement, or being told by our parents, but must be answered by our hearts.  If our answer is like that of Peter, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God,” then the next question becomes will you worship him today?  It may cost you everything, but we must lose our lives to save them.  Will you worship Christ today?