God’s Direction in our Lives

Posted by on Oct 30, 2020 in Pastor's Blog | Comments Off on God’s Direction in our Lives

Dear Lord…Thank you for keeping us safe through this week. Thank you for the many gifts you give us each day…many of which we often don’t realize are really gifts from you. As we consider your words this day, speak to each one of us and how we can show we are yours through our actions. On this November 1, we are not only celebrating communion together, but we are also celebrating All Saints Day. This day is always celebrated the day after Halloween. In many denominations, Halloween is also called “All Hallows Eve”. It is on the next day that churches celebrate all of the members of the churches who have gone to heaven. Our gospel reading for today is from Matthew 5:1-12. These verses are part of Jesus’ “Sermon on the Mount” that is described by Matthew from 4:23 through 7:29. This section sets the stage for God’s mission through Jesus’ teachings and actions. Just prior to this section, Jesus has called his first disciples and they went with him seeing the healing that Jesus was performing just before they went to the mountain.In the first verse, we see Jesus observing the crowds that had been following and going up to the mountain with the disciples. At this point, Jesus needed to be alone with the disciples for a time to begin their instruction and give them the promises of God they would obtain and observe in their discipleship. These verses are called the “Beatitudes”. The description for “beatitude” is “blessedness”. Each beatitude implies a state of happiness and well-being. Jesus is indicating to the disciples how they were to live life when they had accepted God’s forgiveness and had repented from their previous life. It also indicates how people who have been forgiven will exhibit the gifts bestowed on them. The first four of the eight Beatitudes describe attributes of honorable disposition that followers of God will have as part of their lives on acceptance of God’s forgiveness. The first one of these attributes is that of “poverty of spirit” or in modern terms, humility. The humility comes for knowing we are nothing and have nothing without Jesus Christ. To paraphrase, “Blessed are those who humbly recognize their need for God, for they will enter into His Kingdom.”The second beatitude is talking about “those who mourn”…or who are sorry for their sins and repent. The forgiveness they find when they repent along with the joy of salvation is a comfort for those who repent. “Blessed are those who mourn for their sins, for they shall receive forgiveness and life eternal.” In the third beatitude we find the subject of “meekness”…or the submission to God’s authority and declare Him as Lord. In Revelation, we find God saying that His children will “inherit all things”. Those who are meek are imitators of Christ and are shown by their gentleness and self-control. The fourth beatitude talks about those who hunger and thirst for righteousness for they will be filled. This describes a deep, strong need for justice. In reality, this beatitude is one that can apply to both what God gives us when we recognize what we are lacking and what God expects us to exemplify as one of His disciples. God can feed us as well as give us living water to replenish our souls…when we accept His love and forgiveness.The last four beatitudes talk about our social relationships as God’s disciples. The first one is, “Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.” If we show people acceptance and kindness, that is what we will...

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Greatest Law

Posted by on Oct 30, 2020 in Pastor's Blog | Comments Off on Greatest Law

Dear Lord….we are living in a time right now that is unprecedented. Thank you for being our Savior. Thank you for listening to us when we are wanting to know what to do in any situation. Thank you for speaking to us and leading us to how we can show people we belong to you. Thank you for your love and forgiveness when we fall short.Our consideration this week is coming from our gospel lesson from Matthew 22:34-46. We are also celebrating Reformation Sunday this week, so there is a LOT God wants us to consider.On October 31, 1517, Martin Luther nailed his 95 Theses to the door of All Saints Church in Wittenberg, Germany. He also mailed this document to the Archbishop of Mainz for consideration of making changes within the church. I had never thought about looking at these writings, but I did make a copy of all 95 theses this week. I was impressed by the very first sentence of these 95 statements, that says, “When our Lord and Master Jesus Christ said ‘Repent’ (Mt. 4:17) he willed the entire life of believers to be one of repentance.” This was the beginning of the statements that Luther wanted the church to go back to the Bible…to the basics and back to Jesus, the core of the gospel. These statements began changes that were not popular with some, but helped other churches form their history. In fact, the Methodist church began as a part of the Church of England and was further developed by Wesley when he saw how people enjoyed meeting in smaller groups outside a large worship facility. This was not a peaceful change…and the history of all denominations is FAR from calm and quiet. John Wesley, himself was changed and “greatly warmed” when he heard Luther’s preface to Romans that stated, “Change is what God works in a person’s heart through faith in Christ.” At this time, Wesley was questioning some of his beliefs and found great comfort in the words. Even though Wesley did not leave the Church of England, he espoused many of the thoughts and considerations of Martin Luther…that was written about 200 years before Wesley’s ministry began. We still celebrate this day as a sense of moving toward unity and community.Now, we come to consideration of the gospel lesson for today, where Jesus is again faced with questions from the leaders of the temple. The Pharisees were disturbed when they found out Jesus had silenced the Sadducees and decided to see if they could test Jesus. The question they asked him was about the “greatest commandment in the law.” They, of course, were talking about the Torah…the law they followed and studied. These two laws were stated in Deuteronomy 6:5 and Leviticus19:18. Jesus response is stated in verse 37, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the greatest and first commandment.” In verse 38, Jesus goes on to say that the second commandment is, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”The Pharisees knew these verses, but they were on the offensive as Jesus had quieted the Sadducees. The Pharisees were responsible for knowing and studying the Law to be counselors and judges as well as administer the Law. So, this testing was really diabolical on their part as they were trying to prove they knew more. In preparing for this sermon, I wanted to look up the definition of “love” just to investigate. There are 12 different definitions in Merriam Webster for this word....

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Chosen

Posted by on Oct 18, 2020 in Pastor's Blog | Comments Off on Chosen

Dear Lord…Thank you so much for your gifts to us of our days in your world. Thank you for choosing us to use our talents here in your world. You know are strengths and weaknesses and we want to continue serving you all the days of our lives. Show us where we can be your voice in our world that needs to hear of your love and forgiveness. Thank you for giving us your peace, your love and forgiveness.Our message for this week, the 20th week of Pentecost is from I Thessalonians 1:1-10. Paul writes this letter to the people in Thessalonica because he has heard from Timothy how faithful the people in this area has been. You ask…why is this being said?At one point, Paul was in Thessalonica and had faced persecution from the people. The people had accepted the message Paul was giving them of the love and forgiveness of Jesus Christ and what Christ faced. However, they expected that Jesus would return in their lifetime. They were upset as they felt they had missed the rapture and all they thought they would experience within their lifetime. He now heard from Timothy that the people of this city had changed and were being faithful to what Paul was preaching. He wrote this letter to comfort them, to teach them and to praise (exhort) them to continue in their chosen fellowship with God. This city was made up not only of a large Jewish population, but also of Romans. Those from Rome were the city administrators who represented Rome. Also within this city were some pagan worshipers. So, it was a really mixed society. In other words, Paul was teaching to both Jews and Gentiles when he was in this city.In our reading for today, Paul is beginning by stating the letter is not only from him, but from the founders of the church there. His use in verse 1 of the phrase “Grace and peace” combines both Christian words and Greek words, which all would have understood. It also doesn’t discriminate against any certain group of people. All people are included.Paul is grateful that the people are showing their faith by working with others through love. He is thankful for their active faith, their working faith and urges them to continue to work with the people and to love those they work with. He assures the members of this community church that they were chosen by God and were given the power to work with the people to grow the church by the Holy Spirit. He remarks that he knows their words have moved past their community into nearby places of Macedonia and Achaia…as well as other areas in which the believers have been and have witnessed to Christ’s love and forgiveness.Paul says he is thankful for their faith, their love and the hope they bring to others. It is at this point that the work exhibited by the people who originally persecuted Paul, but repented for their actions equate to our actions in God choosing us to bring the gospel to His world.God has also chosen us to be his disciples. He has chosen us to work with the talents and gifts we have been given. He asks us to work in Faith….that rests in Christ on the cross. He asks us to work in love…in the presence of Christ at the Father’s right hand. And to work in hope that looks to the future…or Christ’s coming for his own. Paul is emphasizing to the people there, and to us that our work, as with the...

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Christian Joy

Posted by on Oct 12, 2020 in Pastor's Blog | Comments Off on Christian Joy

Dear Lord….it seems to us that we are in a time that is wearing on us. With the combination of the pandemic and the very divisive campaign time, all we hear and see is argument, bullying with words, unrest at how we will combat the virus we have been experiencing. It’s not easy for us, and for some people, is meaning division between friends. Thank you, Lord, for helping us all through this time. Thank you for the reassurance you are always with us. Thank you for your love and protection. May we all exhibit the mind of Christ and Christian joy to all we meet. The passage we are considering this week is from Philippians 4:1-9. In this section from Paul’s letter to the Philippians, Paul is first concerned about issues between two of the women who have been working with him. He is asking these two people to put on the mind of Christ in working with each other. As a reminder, the mind of Christ that we heard about a couple of weeks ago was specifically about having our minds centered on other people, not ourselves. We were to be working toward unity with God’s creation and people. Instead of being intent on keeping our own mind-set, we are asked to soften up our mind to consider the thoughts and ideas of other people. And, finally, as we transform ourselves to have the mind of Christ, we confess Jesus Christ as Lord. We know that we do not always agree with those people around us. We all have differing opinions, outlooks, etc. We are different people…and we are often asked to use those differing ideas and opinions to help each other solve problems in the world. However, there are also times when we are all asked to put aside our own ideas and consider, together, what is best to solve a problem or a situation. In other words, compromise and find the best solution together. In this passage, Paul is asking the women to reconcile their differences. He is also asking one of their fellow disciples to assist in the resolution of the issues. Notice that in verse 3, Paul asks for help as all of them have worked together in the work of the gospel, “whose names are in the book of life.” Just because of a disagreement, they are all members of God’s family and granted graces and forgiveness by Christ. Here is where we come to the concept of Christian joy, a concept that even in our day and age we can accept as our way of maneuvering through God’s world. In Christian joy, we are all grounded in the Lord. I said ALL are grounded in the Lord. There is no difference for having different ideas, for God is near always and ready to help us. When have you called on God to help you? In Christian joy, as in having the mind of Christ, we are to look outward, not inward. We are to share graciousness with all people. This whole message really spoke to me this week, as I have two friends who are diametrically opposed in many ways. This opposition is culminating right now in the fact that they are on opposite political sides. They have different needs in this time of “physical and social distancing” as one needs people. One doesn’t need to have friends, or so he thinks. These two are quite “stiff-necked” right now. I am attempting to be a sounding block for them….to let their frustrations be exhibited to me.I am also trying to just...

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Our Cornerstone

Posted by on Oct 4, 2020 in Pastor's Blog | Comments Off on Our Cornerstone

Dear Lord….thank you so much for the gifts you give us each day…the gift of health, the gift of friends, the gift of a home and place to lay our head in the evening…and especially for the love you give us every day. Thank you for the Son you gave us all who died for our forgiveness and life. Show us how we can spread your Good News to other people through our words and our actions.Two of our lessons for this Sunday come from Philippians 3:4b-16 and from Matthew 21:33-46.In the Matthew text, we see the third time Jesus has utilized a parable set in a vineyard. Remember that the vineyard represents God’s world, of which we are a part of, and the owner is God. He utilized this parable to attempt to speak to the temple leaders through a story, calling on their own minds to realize what he was saying.In the first usage of the vineyard, stated specifically in Matthew 20:1-16, Jesus was talking about the workers that were hired to work in the vineyard. The owner/manager promised them all a day’s wages, but those who began work early in the morning were upset when they received the same payment as those who began work in the late afternoon. The complainers were jealous of those who received the same amount of pay. Remember that “manager” asked the complainers, “Are you envious because I’m generous?” What Jesus was really talking about was that God gives grace and forgiveness to all those He chooses to give to. He gives to those who accept His truth and His Son. Also…God gives the same gifts and graces to everyone who believes in Him and accepts Jesus as Savior.Then, last week, we were again told a parable about the vineyard. In this parable, Jesus was telling the temple leaders about two sons. One son was asked to work in the vineyard and refused to do as his father asked him. He later repented and was accepted by his father. The second son was asked to work in the vineyard and said he would. However, he did NO work in the vineyard. Jesus was using the parable to expose the leader’s deficient view of both John the Baptist and Jesus. The first son was representing known sinners who were disobedient before they heard John’s message and later repented. The second son represented the temple leaders who feigned obedience to God and refused to accept John’s message. Jesus was telling the temple leaders that sinners will go to God’s kingdom before they would….as they refused to accept John’s message and would not believe.So…this week, we have the third parable about the vineyard. The theme of this story is that of “producing fruit”. In this parable, the vineyard is not only God’s world, but more specifically represents the people of Israel. The owner of this vineyard had put a great deal of work and protection into the building of the place. Then, it was leased to tenants and the owner left the country. With any vineyard, the owner was due to have a percentage of the product. So, the owner sent his slaves/representatives to collect what was owed to him. (Rather like rental payment for the owner.) However, the slaves were beaten and killed by the tenants. So, the owner sent his son to get what was owed him. He thought that the tenants would respect the son. However, they killed the owner’s son.OK…are you beginning to see what this parable represents? The owner is God. The tenants are the leaders of Israel. The...

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