God at Work in All of Us

Posted by on Sep 27, 2020 in Pastor's Blog | Comments Off on God at Work in All of Us

Dear Lord….it has been a very long, puzzling time for us these past months. We aren’t used to being in one place for most of the days. We aren’t used to not being able to be with friends and relatives having dinner and coffee together. We welcome the reminder that you are always with us and you are working in us to make a difference in the lives of people…including ourselves. Our Bible readings for this Sunday are from Exodus 17:1-7, Philippians 2:1-13 and Matthew 21: 23-32. In the text from Exodus, we see the Israelites complaining because they do not have water. They are blaming Moses for bringing them to the wilderness without the things they had in their homes in Egypt. One of the things they need now is water. Moses follows God’s direction, hits the rock with the staff he used to strike the Nile River and the Israelites had water. In Philippians, Paul is teaching the Philippian people more about the mind of Christ. He is encouraging them to be of the same mind. Loving each other in the same way and agreeing with each other. He challenges them to look more to the interests of others rather than always to themselves…which imitates the mind of Christ, who thought of others in the ultimate way, by giving up His life for the forgiveness and salvation of all God’s people. Paul tells the Philippians that God is working in them to change what they like and prefer. God is also working in us to remind us of his love. He is working in us to move us to look for the good in others, to work for change in our lives. In verse 13, Paul states, “for it is God who is at work in you, enabling you both to will and to work for his good pleasure.” We MUST leave what is not necessary in our lives behind and move forward to serve others…with God’s blessings and help. God works through us…to change us and to help us bring others to his world. Then, in Matthew, we see Jesus the day after he cleansed the temple, being confronted by the temple leaders and scribes. These people are questioning Jesus authority, seeing that He has an effect on other people who become believers. These leaders ask Jesus where His authority comes from. Jesus knows what they are attempting to do. These people are not believers and they did not accept or follow John the Baptist. So, Jesus said he would answer their questions, if they could answer his one question. The question was about whether John’s baptism came from heaven or was it of human origin. The temple leaders did not believe Jesus and we are allowed to “hear” their reasoning and thinking. They found out that no matter how they answered, they would not win. They knew the people believed John and this made the leaders afraid. The leaders did not believe John or Jesus. Little did they realize that by refusing to answer Jesus’ question, they were showing their ignorance which made them unfit to lead the people. So, Jesus continued by telling the leaders and chief priests a parable. This parable again is about a vineyard and the owner and his two sons. The vineyard is God’s world. God is the owner. The first son represents known sinners who have repented. The second son are the religious leaders. The first son was asked to go to work in the vineyard, but refused to do that. He later changed his mind (repented) and went...

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Keep on Keeping On

Posted by on Sep 20, 2020 in Pastor's Blog | Comments Off on Keep on Keeping On

Dear Lord….Thank you so much for your free gift of grace that you grant us. Thank you for the forgiveness of our shortcomings and mis-steps we often take. Thank you for guiding us in your world, upholding us and giving us challenges to work with your world to bring your Good News to others.Our readings for this Sunday, come from both Matthew 20:1-6 as well as Philippians 1:21-30. The primary consideration will be with the words of Paul to the people of Philippi as they have been working to bring the Good News of Jesus Christ to the people of their nation. His goal is to have people know what Christ has done for us all and to exhibit this by living in Christ.Paul is encouraging the people to continue to work “in the flesh” which means to be in service to others. In verses 21 and 22, he states that to live in Christ and with Christ would be a wonderful gift. He also states that living and working with the people of Christ in the world is fruitful labor and he isn’t sure about which one to choose. Paul chooses to stay in the flesh, working with the people of Philippi as they bring the message to others in their land. He decides that the best decision would be to keep working with the people, which puts the interest of the followers before his own interest. Paul also mentions to the people that he will stand firm in the Spirit by working together for the spread of God’s message to all people. At this point, Paul states that he, along with the Philippians will put on the “mind of Christ”. By this he means that since Christ gave himself up for all people, he will give up his wishes to share the work with the people. Also, with this mind, he will have help the people pattern a life of community living with the basis being that of unity. He encourages them (and us) to “live your life” publicly and visible. Paul’s goal was to grow in Christ, which he also challenges the people he is writing to, to do the same…as we are to also do. Paul does realize that will not be an easy task. We are reminded of this when we read the text from Matthew. In this text, Jesus is specifically giving all a “true to life” parable of people who work in the vineyard for the owner/manager. The manager looked for laborers to work in the vineyard in the market place and hired some to begin work early in the morning, promising them a “days’ wages”. When the manager finds that more laborers are needed, he hires some to begin work in the afternoon, promising them to pay the “a days’ wages”. These laborers had not found work earlier in the day and were happy to have something to do and to be paid for.Normally work hours for these laborers were 12 hours….no matter when they began working…whether it was early in the morning…or later in the afternoon. Therefore, the pay would be for working for the day.This is where we see the “divide”. Those who began working in the morning were upset because the ones who began working in the afternoon were paid the same wages. No difference. Some of the “afternoon workers” may have been done with their task sooner than the 12 hours and were paid the same. The manager asked (in verse 15), are you jealous because I’m generous? It is not for them to determine who gets...

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Forgive and Reconcile

Posted by on Sep 11, 2020 in Pastor's Blog | Comments Off on Forgive and Reconcile

Dear Lord…as we move through these times in your world, you are talking to us about changes we all need to look at in our lives to help bring people to you. Sometimes we are unsure about how we should accomplish these changes, but you assure us that you are with us always and will never leave us. Thank you for your forgiveness of our shortcomings and for commissioning us to be your disciples in your world.Our texts for consideration today are from Matthew 8:21-35 and Romans14:1-12. In the Gospel from Matthew, we find Peter asking a question of Jesus. Remember that Jesus has just completed the lesson to them about working with people who are causing issues and accepting that person back when he/she is repentant. In other words, Jesus was teaching the disciples about church discipline.In this text, Peter asked Jesus about how many times we should forgive someone who is a member of the church and has sinned against persons or the church. He asks if seven times enough. Jesus responds by saying, “Not seven times, but, I tell you, seventy seven times times.” (v. 22). Jesus then tells the disciples a parable about a servant who asked his master to forgive a debt owed to the master. The debt was huge…10,000 talents. This was the largest amount of money in the roman world. That would equate in our money to several billion dollars and would have been almost impossible to even pay the master back.The master agreed to forgive the debt after the servant pleaded for the master to have patience in how long it would take to pay him back. Out of pity, the master forgave the entire debt. We can only imagine the relief the servant felt. The king acted as if the loan had never been made. However, shortly after being forgive of the huge debt, the servant met up with a friend who owed him money. This person owed the first slave 100 denarii. The people in this time earned one denarii a day for their work. This amount would have equated to 100 days of work. The friend pleaded with the servant to forgive him the debt, but the servant refused to forgive the debt and even began to physically threaten the friend. Friends of both men saw this action and were upset and went to the master to report what they had seen. The servant was summoned by the master and had him tortured until he could repay the entire debt. The servant did not show in any way that his debt had been forgiven, primarily because he refused to forgive a debt owed to him.What can we take from this story? The first is that owing money is not something that a church needs to gather together to consider. There are NO restrictions on forgiving, as Jesus said forgiveness must be seventy times seven times. Forgiveness is between individuals, but can often contribute to issues within an organization.This parable warns us that those who are brothers of Jesus who are saved and have received forgiveness from God are to exhibit this forgiveness by forgiving others . However, if these people refuse to forgive others, they will be disciplined by God. Paul is discussing the subject of differences in eating between Jews and Gentiles. They were at serious “odds” with the differences. Paul told them not to regard the practices and beliefs with contempt or judge the people. He is asking the people to accept each other’s decisions and beliefs and realize that God accepts all people. He asks...

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Resolution and Reconciliation

Posted by on Sep 7, 2020 in Pastor's Blog | Comments Off on Resolution and Reconciliation

Dear Lord….We are living in a world that is full of frustration that often shows itself in anger and hostility. Please come to us with your loving, reconciling presence that we may be part of the calming of the people we live with and work with. Show us the ways we can help ourselves make our way through this time as well as be helpful to others in your world to bring them to your peace.Our gospel lesson for this week is from Matthew 18:15-20. We will also be considering the words of Paul to the Romans in his epistle…namely Romans 13:8-14. It has been very interesting that the epistle readings and the gospel readings for the past two weeks have been considering the same issues for us to think seriously about.In Matthew, Jesus is teaching the disciples within the community that is the church of their time. He is teaching them some of the more challenging things they may encounter as they speak to the people they are ministering to. In this lesson, the goal Jesus is teaching them is to retain all members, even those who are offending members of the church. Jesus does not want the disciples or the members of the churches to dismiss that offending member. Jesus does not want a single one of the sheep to be lost and is really showing how to bring that lost member back. He is teaching them the method of conflict resolution he wants them to follow. The first thing he talks to the disciples about is to meet privately with the person and ask questions, listen to the person and, if necessary, admonish the person regarding how the people in the church have been offended. The disciples are not to use gossip or slander. They want to have the truth as the goal is to win the brother back.However, if this conversation doesn’t work, Jesus tells the disciples that they, along with two or three witnesses are to talk with the offending person. This would give some seriousness and weight to the issues they are discussing. This method would also make sure that restoration was done correctly…and agreed to by the group. After this discussion as a small group, the disciples were to include the whole church in the conversation and restoration. The restoration of the lost sheep to the church is the responsibility of all. If however, the lost sheep doesn’t agree to follow any suggestions of the church, the person is to be allowed to leave as the decision to NOT follow was the choice of the lost sheep by showing that he is unrepentant for his actions. Jesus is telling the disciples, and us, that restoration is the responsibility of all people…in a town, in a church, in a country. He is also assuring us that he is always with His people in the restoration. He will not leave us…and reminds us all that restoration depends on discipline and evangelism. To summarize the points Jesus is making, the procedure he is teaching for conflict resolution is first friendly confrontation, second negotiation and third adjudication. He also assures the disciples and us that God will concur/agree with whatever decision is made by the group as well as by the lost sheep…who may decide to not follow the agreements made by the church.We all understand what Jesus is asking us as members of our churches want us to do, with His support, knowing we will not be abandoned by God. There is more, though. How can we help people in our current time frame maneuver...

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