Remembrance

REMEMBRANCE

Remember, my friend, the days of our youth,

We were wild, crazy, and quite uncouth.

 

Remember the day you met your wife,

And took the vows that enhanced your life.

 

Remember the moment your daughter was born,

Your beautiful flower in a world of thorns.

 

Remember your wife before her old age,

Black flowing hair turned to gray.

 

Remember your face when it was tight,

Now loose and wrinkled, worn with life.

 

Remember your wife, she passed away,

Some years ago on a cold December day.

 

Remember no more my friend,

For your journey is at its end,

And this is in remembrance of you.

Wedding Blessing

WEDDING BLESSING

God Bless this marriage

The moments we will share

In the discovery of each other

And God’s perfect love that binds our hearts.

 

God Bless this marriage

The years we will spend together

Laughing, loving, and embracing

And the joy of growing in God’s love.

 

God Bless this marriage

Our time together, but a moment

Love is eternal

As we live in the promises of God’s love

 

Our lives have moments

Our bodies years

Our love eternity

 

Grant us these moments in our lives

These years to find them

And eternity to experience

The rich continuance God’s of love.

Walk Humbly with Your God-February 2, 2014

Walk Humbly with Your God-February 2, 2014

Scripture:  Micah 6:3-8

There will always be somewhere engrained in our human sin nature a desire to ask God for more.  We want God to do something for us.  Even today and the days leading up to this day, Super Bowl Sunday, prayers have gone up for one team to win and another to lose depending on which team you are hoping will win.  So which prayers should God answer ours or theirs.  If we are honest about it we may be guilty of this at any time, whether it is the Super Bowl, Basketball, College Football, etc.

Before we go further it would also be helpful to not it is not just sports.  We ask God for more things, more money, better jobs, and perfect things for our families, better health, you name any desire and we will always seem to want more.  With sports this can drift towards idol worship.  The largest stadiums in the world hold football games not churches.  More subtly we think asking God for some of these other things is ok.  Although they may not be bad in and of themselves, they can become all-consuming.  It is then that we can base our trust of God on the answer to these prayers.  It is tempting for us to think of God like a vending machine, fast food restaurant, or grocery store where we can have all we want on our terms.  When we become too concerned with the present we can think “what have you done for me lately” while forgetting the faithfulness of the past.

This is an understanding of what God has done will help us to be thankful and grateful.  God wants to bless us and is able to do so but God is never obligated to do so.  We find this time and again in the Old and New Testaments.  To walk humbly with our God is to understand all of life as a gift, seeking to make the world a better place and desire the things that He desires.  Doing justice, loving mercy, and walking humbly with our God.  It is actually these things that are seeking the best for all involved.  If we each seek the best for one another then we will be blessed through others.  It is humbling to live where we are trusting that God will work His will through us but it will take time to see the larger picture.  We begin by giving thanks for His blessings of the past.  We know that they would be enough but also that God desires more for us than we can possibly hope for, for ourselves.

God asks Israel here in the Old Testament, through Micah, “My people, what have I done to you?  How have I burdened you?  Answer me.”  Is it possible that we have been so blessed that we have become burdened by it and seek to ask God for more help and blessings than to be reminded of what He has already done.  That is what God does next for Israel, He reminds them of His faithfulness to them as a people.  He tells them He delivered them out of slavery in Egypt.  He sent Moses, Aaron, and Miriam.  He reminds them that in the desert He didn’t all Balaam to pronounce a curse only a blessing.  Then even through the to their entering the Promised Land.  He reminds them of what they already knew the righteous acts of the Lord.”

This is the same reminder that Paul gets when he comes and pleads before the Lord to take away the thorn in the flesh.  But he said to Paul, “my grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”  It is also true of us, what we need that reminded that what God is given us in giving us His Son for salvation is an amazing Grace.  That Grace is sufficient.  So even if God never did another thing for us in our lives, His grace is the ultimate gift and it is far more valuable than anything else we could possibly receive.  The greatest gift was given first.  What about us?  Do we remember what He has done for us?  That is what we will talk more about next week more.  That is why we have that reminder on the word on the front of this communion table.  “this do in remembrance of me…”  It is easier to walk humbly when we remember what He has done for us.  It is easier to walk humbly because we are reminded that all of life is a gift and so is our eternity.

The question that perhaps we should be asking is not what can do for us but what would He like us to do for Him?  He does not need our help but desires to use us in the spreading of His love, justice, and ministry throughout the world.  We cannot be used by Him if we are no humble.  It is in humility that we discover His true power at work in our lives.  His strength is made perfect in our weakness, not our stubbornness.

Verses 6 & 7 ask what is it we have the God needs?  Really nothing it is more about what His desire or what does He will for us?  The second part of verse 7 asks an interesting question, “shall I offer my firstborn for the sin of my soul?”  There were other religions whose cultic practices where the offering up of the children as sacrifices to appease their gods.  This phrase also reminds of an event earlier in Israel’s history when their Father Abraham was willing to be obedient to God and sacrifice his son Isaac.  Abraham proves his faithfulness but God does not allow Abraham to sacrifice Isaac.  Isaac asks about there being no lamb for the burnt offering?  Abraham’s response is a true statement of faith that foreshadows our reality, “God himself will provide the lamb…”  And God provided that day and ultimately through providing His Son in place of our sins and our sons.

No we do not offer our sons because He offered His and that is a lot to be thankful for.  We should not be surprised He doesn’t want us to die but something much more significant.  He wants us to live.  He has shown us this time and again through His word and later demonstrated through His own Son.  God has shown us what is good.  He requires not that we die but that we live for Him.  How do we do that?  First mentioned is that we act justly.  We practice justice, fairness, and integrity.  We do not seek out to hurt, slander, cheat, steal, lie, manipulate, neglect, and so on.  We seek just and acting justly means the rules don’t change to benefit us.  They are the same all the time.  Justice, Mercy, and humbleness is learning to live more for God by thinking less of ourselves, and serving others more.  If we can not do that then these other things will be impossible.

Each of these things takes u deeper and deeper.  Acting justly is about the outward reflection of that presence of the Lord in our lives.  Loving mercy is the transformation or our hearts, desires, and values before the outward changes come.  Loving something requires both sacrifice and desire.  Love means wanting it more than anything and not just for ourselves but for others first.  Mercy requires a sacrifice because often to love it and demonstrate it we must give up our right to ourselves, to our hurt, to our desire to have the feeling that we are right.  Showing mercy is giving a freeing type of forgiveness that often does far more for us that the other person.  Do you love mercy even if there is sacrifice on your part?

Lastly, to walk humbly with your God.  This is the first and I think the most critical part because it is the part where we do sacrifice ourselves in order to really live.  To walk humbly requires a different heart and spirit.  It is only truly possible with the Lord as our guide.  We cannot be full of ourselves and also walk humbly.  We cannot walk humbly if we are not willing to serve others for their benefit and not our gain.  If we only look at others and not God and what He has done for us we will not remain humble and serving for long.  Richard Foster notes that everything naturally in us cries out against true service, because there is no recognition and not done for our benefit.  To walk humbly with God also recognized that because He is God there is nothing in us to be puffed up about.

You want to transform a life, a family, a church, a community, this country, and the world, then walk humbly with your God.  Give up your right to the past hurts and recognize the past blessings.  Learn contentment of the greatest gift of God, the grace given through His Son.  Love the mercy that God has given you so much that you extend it to others that they may know it too.  Do justly, treat others fairly, seeking the common good, and the righteousness of God for others as much as ourselves.  We may find the blessings that we will receive is from others doing the same to us.  It is how we are to learn, live, and be the people of God.  So walk humbly with your God.

It Is Because of Him-January 26, 2014

It Is Because of Him-January 26, 2014

Scripture:  1 Corinthians 1:17-31

What qualifies us is not wisdom, stature, birthright, or humanly valued.  God chooses differently to humble the things of this world.  It is God’s reminder to those that think they can boast, that it is He that is God, it is He that is in control, it is He who qualifies, He who makes righteous, He who is and make holy, it is He who redeems us.  It is in Him that we have life.

It is because of Him that in Jesus, we are His.

No one can destroy a god that they didn’t create.  Destroy the idols or philosophies, they cannot be gods, we can only destroy that which is created not that which is.

If He is God, then is He always right?  Is there anything that He cannot do?  If there is a disagreement between God and you, then who is right?  What does it mean that He is God?

God being God means He is the one who gets to decide or have His will accomplished or He is not God.

Sometimes God demonstrates His power in direct and obvious ways and sometimes His power by demonstrating that He can and will use things that we do not think would be powerful.

It was God’s wisdom that He chose to use things that would confuse conventional wisdom to prove that He can do whatever, however He wants.

Is it so possible to be caught up in our own world that we miss the creator of it?

God chooses that which appears not, to demonstrate His greatness, and His grace.  This is done to disrupt, to confuse, and to help people understand the shift, it is not about me or you and if it were then it certainly not be grace.  The foolishness of the preaching of the cross is also that which is its greatest power, and grace.  Grace is foolish.

No flesh should glory in his presence.  You and I never get to say to God “I told you so.”  Many have tried again and again to prove God wrong and Job proved them right.  Who can compare their created temporary dying selves to the eternal creator of all?  No one can that is the definition of one, He is a singularity.

It is because of Him that we have hope, purpose, direction, peace, salvation, wisdom, righteousness and sanctification or redemption.

If we are to glory it is not about ourselves or others, but glory is reserved for God, this is the way the commands begin with no other gods before me, no idol, no image, nothing to pigeon-hole, nothing to label, nothing to doubt nothing but Christ Jesus who is a problem for both Jews and Greeks, and now there is this new “Christian” community and they are trying to find a way to get along an identity.  Paul reminds them, that on one has it right or has an entitlement but it was through the plain foolishness of preaching that we hear the most foolish of things, than the penalty of sin is death, but God although we stood already convicted even if we were not convinced we let His Son leave the glory of eternity to become the person who would bear the fullness of our death in His death on the cross.  I am glad to serve a foolish God.

It is foolishness to preach the cross of Christ, but foolish or not that IS the power of the gospel to change lives. It is foolishness to those who would think that they are too wise or this too simple. It is foolishness to those that would be foolish enough to believe that they have any glory, power, or position. It cannot be earned, checked off of a checklist, or reasoned away. It can only be trusted, believed in, lived into, and accepted as a gift. It can never be altered it can only be received as is. Scripture says that it pleased God to save through the foolishness of preaching the cross of Christ.

So each Sunday morning I join my fellow ministers of that gospel in a great act of foolishness to the rest of the world…that is preach. We preach the foolishness of the power of the cross of Christ to save. It is because of Christ that we have salvation, hope, and life. God doing it God’s way not any logical, human, way and that is what defines Him as God. God calls those that the world would not choose to show both His mercy and love, but also His power.

So I will foolishly preach that some may be saved through the power of the cross. The only thing more foolish would be to preach and not share the power of the cross for salvation. It may be foolish to the world, but I thank God for His extravagant foolishness, because it is the grace that saved me, redeemed me, and gives me hope, both for tomorrow and purpose for today. If I am going to be a fool, better to be a fool for God. I hope you will go to or visit a local church and hear the most foolish things. Others may think you foolish for doing so, but it is only foolish if it does not have the power to save and change your life. 1 Corinthians 1:17-31

What’s Holding Us Back?-January 19, 2014

What’s Holding Us Back?-January 19, 2014

Scripture:  Hebrews 12:1

When I think of Martin Luther King, Jr. it would be, I think correct to think of the continuing work that was still left to do after the emancipation of the slaves almost 100 years before.  Although the freedom was gained it would take continual work to live into the reality of that promise and that freedom.  In King’s time it had been almost 100 years but a good bit had not changed it would take another national “civil” conflict to begin to change that process.  Now we are some 150 years since that first emancipation or freedom granted.  It is interesting to remind ourselves that this reality is something that people need to be reminded of often and daily allow it to shape life.

This is also similar to many things in our own lives and walk with God.  I am young enough to have not lived through either of these times of conflict but what does seem a little striking to me is how little distance seemed to have been covered in those first almost 100 years.  Although a law had changed the hearts of people are much slower to change.

The institution of slavery had been around for a very long time and although it is a horrible thing it takes years for people to change.  Many who had freedom were glad to be free from oppression but were not to live out the full extent of that freedom.  The sin of that system is also one that is not so easily one to loosen its grip on the lives it once held.

Why mention all this?  I think it is similar to our journey in faith.  There are many who do not yet know or have not heard that there is freedom from our sin.  There are people now some 2000 years removed from the resurrection of Christ who do not know about the freedom we have from our sins in Christ Jesus.  Today with all our technology and communications we are both the most connected and disconnected generation of people.  It also speaks to both our human nature and our sin nature.

Sin has held its grip on the lives of human kind going back to Adam and Eve.  It is also so destructive that it then becomes intertwined into our lives.  It not only has emotional and spiritual consequences, but even physical consequences as well.  God’s Word reminds us that sin came into the world through one man but affects us all.  In another place, the sins of the fathers will visit the generations to the third and fourth generations.  It is demonstrated in the powerful ways today when we can see children born with horrible addictions and even if they are able to survive those early days their bodies may always crave even that which they have never had themselves.  They must be diligent each day.  Genesis 4:7b God reminds Cain, “But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must master it.”

The point is that there are many who still do not know at all that there is freedom available in Christ.  Secondarily, even if we do know that it is available and have accepted the reality of that on the surface, what do we do with that?  What I am asking is how do we go from saying that is great and I accept that statement of doctrine of faith, now what does that mean for my life?  The difficulty becomes not just that we say the right words, or understand it as a mental exercise that we accept it as information being presented in a news cast.  Most often we go wow! Really, but that is someone else, that’s not me.  Faith is a response to the revelation of God, it is not or has ever been something that is purely information or and intellectual exercise and where we have made it so we have robbed it of its very power to transform our lives.

Sin does not want us to be free from its grip.  It is a harsh and sometimes seductive master.  Many Christians have accepted the intellectual and not the effectual reality of Christ.  This means that they know that there is freedom in Christ and we say yes that is true for everyone who would believe, we say we believe in our minds and although there is freedom in Christ we don’t feel very free.  Some have experienced this let down when they go, well I made my decision for Christ but life is no different.  They have embraced the intellectual reality but no the effectual transformative reality.  We are a people who are free, but do not know yet how that changes anything.  Just as God’s Word and action are one in the same, so faith by its very definition is not an intellectual process of information but a response to God in action.  The active Word of God in our lives elicits an active response known as faith.  To know that a plane can fly and to know the math and science behind it, we say in theory planes can fly.  Faith is what puts our heads in the clouds and gets our feet off the ground.  It is not enough to know.  If knowing was enough then the death of Christ would have not been necessary.

Then there is the constant pull of sin upon our lives.  We must be careful at what waits at the door.  Giving our lives to Christ is not a one-time event.  It begins with that first active response of faith, but sin is not going to leave that easily.  It is as old as time, it is in our nature, our DNA, and it is the primary force at work in the world today.

A statement of faith does not make us faithful.  Living does.  A statement of freedom doesn’t make us free but being able to live each day in that freedom does.  Faith acknowledges by its very life and existence as defiance to the reality that seems present before us today.  It allows us to live out a different reality.  It is possible to be free from sin, and not be overwhelmed by it daily.  Sin wants to hold us back and hold us down.  We want freedom more than anything, and now we have heard and been given the knowledge that there is freedom in Christ Jesus.  It will never change your life if you just accept it as information, but to accept it as a life-giving, life-changing, life-altering reality means that we can walk out of here different today than when we came in.  That we can walk into the world with new life, new hope, new purpose, and a new freedom.

King reminded the people that he was a dreamer.  One who did not judge reality by what was before him, but by what he believed was God’s reality beyond that day.  It was more than an intellectual experience, but an act of faith that gave him both freedom and courage for action.  The dreamers know there is more here than what we can see.

I do not know a single person who can really say, “I feel free.”  Rather we live free.  Don’t just accept the information embrace the reality, cast off the sin that so easily entangles and then live, run, jump, play, and know with your whole life that freedom from sin means not just that life is different today but different every day.  Don’t wait for it to crouch at your door but allow your life to defiantly proclaim that the power of Christ is greater than the power of the world.

It is faith that allows us to say we know the power of gravity is strong (sin) but there is a greater power at work that has overcome that power.  Although the reality of gravity (sin) is always there it takes faith to put our heads in the clouds and get our feet off the ground and trust that there is a greater power at work.

Don’t just accept in your minds or your seats that there is freedom in Christ instead cast off all sin, find that freedom and run, live, love, and play each day.  Allow that freedom to truly make you free.

“Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”  They answered him, “We are Abraham’s descendants and have never been slaves of anyone.  How can you say we shall be set free?”  Jesus replied, “I tell you the truth, everyone who sins is a slave to sin.  Now a slave has no permanent place in the family, but a son belongs to it forever.  So if the Son set you free, you will be free indeed.”  John 8:32-36

We are set free by the blood of Jesus Christ.

Revelation 1:5…he has freed us from our sins by his blood.

Freedom from sin comes from Christ breaking the chains but daily freedom from sin for the believer is one that requires us letting go.  It is not so much that sin has a hold on us but we are holding on to it.  All the while being weighed down and drowning.

It is sin that keeps us from God and it is holding on to it that keeps us from finding fulfillment in Christ.  It is like being thrown a life-preserver and saying I choose to remain here and drown.  We don’t have to live being surrounded by death instead we can have life and live because we are free.

The greater freedom is not one that is earned by us but rather received.  It is hard to accept or too easily taken for granted.  Where are you?

Many Christians have accepted the intellectual (doctrinal) Christ rather than the living one that changes lives. The Christian life is not what we “know” or say we know it is a response to who Christ is. If only an intellectual exercise then knowing that you are supposed to be free doesn’t make you feel any free. Accepting an intellectual reality without embracing transformative life is like knowing a plane can overcome gravity but never putting our heads in the clouds or getting our feet off the ground. Faith is a response to the revealing of God in our lives. God’s Word and action are inseparable. God speaks things into existence.

Faith like the plane demonstrates that its power is greater than the one at work in the world. Faith is not purely an intellectual exercise, and where we have made it so we have robbed it of its very power to transform lives. Our feet remain on the ground while we long for the freedom of the sky. There really is no such thing as a statement of faith. Faith is the response to God’s activity in our lives. Faith is the (purposeful) defiant living out of the power of Christ that doesn’t change everything about the world but helps others to know they can fly too. Telling them the facts, although helpful, does nothing for the experience.

It is this type of dreaming we hear echoed in the words of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., who dreamed for a freedom was more than an intellectual exercise but a response to live in the world in such a way that he rose above it in freedom that truly is free. We do not talk about freedom we live free and that is faith. For if the Son has set you free then you are free indeed. John 8:36