Monday, April 16, 2012

More misses than hits during the next 3 weeks.

For the next three weeks I will be volunteering a huge portion of my time to the General Conference of the United Methodist Church which is meeting in Tampa, Florida. Therefore, my postings on the blog will be very hit-n-miss ... more misses than hits ... I hope my regular readers will understand. Thank you for checking in from time to time to see if I have had an opportunity to write something.

Please pray for the delegates to General Conference as well as all of the volunteers.

Pastor Jim Martin

Friday, April 13, 2012

Friends come and friends go, but Jesus remains - John 15:4 with some of the best definitions of a friend

SCRIPTURE: John 15:4 (NIV)
Jesus said, “Remain in me, and I will remain in you.”

A British publication once offered a prize for the best definition of a friend. Among the thousands of answers received were the following: 

"One who multiplies joys, divides grief, and whose honesty is inviolable." 

"One who understands our silence." 

"A volume of sympathy bound in cloth." 

"A watch that beats true for all time and never runs down." 

The winning definition read:
"A friend is the one who comes in when the whole world has gone out."

Spring is upon us. For those of us who live in Florida it means that our winter friends are heading home. They will be missed. They leave a hole in our heart until they return. Some will return. Others, sadly, will not.

A fellow colleague once said, about the churches in Florida that are made up of mostly winter guests, “It is like serving a church of cut flowers. No roots. They are here for just a little awhile. Their presents add beauty to the church’s arrangement. But, they soon wither and are too quickly plucked from the arrangement.”

We call them friends as we do those who live full time in our communities, but are they really “friends” in the truest sense of the word? Oh, they share a portion of our journey. A meal or two is enjoyed. A card game or a round of golf is shared. A movie, exercise, long conversations over coffee, gentle walks around the park, partners in prayer … these are but a few of the activities that consume the hours of our days.

When we do get back together, and we pray that it will be sooner than later, we pick up our lives as if the summer months did not stretch between the last time we were in each other’s presence. Our life just continues as if we didn’t miss a heartbeat … and for that we are thankful.

Reality sinks in. They are friends for a season of our life. Here now. Much appreciated. They touch our lives and we are better for it. But, alas, they are all too soon gone. We are left alone.

I've found a Friend, oh, such a Friend!
He loved me ere I knew Him;
He drew me with the cords of love,
And thus He bound me to Him.
And round my heart still closely twine
Those ties which naught can sever,
For I am His, and He is mine,
Forever and forever.

Jesus remains – constant, continuous, compassionate – he is always there. He remains.

Thank you Friend for being there for us. Guide us so that we might truly remain in you. Amen.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

The Cross of Christ, foolishness or saving power? Reflections on 1 Corinthians 1:18 with a story from Poland and the transforming power of the Cross.

SCRIPTURE: 1 Corinthians 1:18 (NIV)
The message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.

STORY as shared by Chuck Colson:
The government of Polish Prime Minister Jaruzelski had ordered crucifixes removed from classroom walls, just as they had been banned in factories, hospitals, and other public institutions. Catholic bishops attacked the ban that had stirred waves of anger and resentment all across Poland. Ultimately the government relented, insisting that the law remain on the books, but agreeing not to press for removal of the crucifixes, particularly in the schoolrooms.

But one zealous Communist school administrator in Garwolin decided that the law was the law. So one evening he had seven large crucifixes removed from lecture halls where they had hung since the school's founding in the twenties. Days later, a group of parents entered the school and hung more crosses. The administrator promptly had these taken down as well.

The next day two-thirds of the school's six hundred students staged a sit-in. When heavily armed riot police arrived, the students were forced into the streets. Then they marched, crucifixes held high, to a nearby church where they were joined by twenty-five hundred other students from nearby schools for a morning of prayer in support of the protest. Soldiers surrounded the church. But the pictures from inside of students holding crosses high above their heads flashed around the world. So did the words of the priest who delivered the message to the weeping congregation that morning. "There is no Poland without a cross."

The Cross of Christ makes absolutely no sense … whatsoever. How does a symbol of murder become the reality of salvation? From a killing of an innocent man to atonement for all human kind – that is a quantum leap. No one can explain it. No one can … but the reality of the Cross is what it is. While it does not make sense it still is the means of salvation. To those who do not understand it, it is foolishness. To those who have been touched by its reality, it is the power of God.

The Polish priest was right. There is no Poland or America or Latin America or Africa or Asia … there is nothing without the cross. It defines us. It makes possible the rest of life. It brings into reality all of life. It is a means of mercy and the fulfillment of grace. As scripture states, “But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed.” Isaiah 53:5 (NIV)

To those who do not believe, there is nothing that can be said to convince them. To those who do believe there is nothing that can be said to unconvinced them. It is the power and the uniqueness of the cross. To those who do not understand it is foolishness and folly. To those who do understand it is the power of God. There is nothing without the cross.

Lift high the cross, the love of Christ proclaim
till all the world adore his sacred name.

Come, Christians, follow this triumphant sign.
The hosts of God in unity combine.

Each newborn servant of the Crucified bears
bears on the brow the seal of him who died.

O Lord, once lifted on the glorious tree,
as thou has promised, draw the world to thee.

So shall our song of triumph ever be:
Praise to the Crucified for victory!

Lift high the cross, the love of Christ proclaim
till all the world adore his sacred name.

Thank you for the gift of the Cross, Eternal God. Thank you for the salvation and atonement which it brought. Help us today to lift it high. Amen

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Living a condemnation free life, Hebrews 8:1,2 with an interesting little story of quick judgments of others.

SCRIPTURE: Romans 8:1,2 (NIV)
Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death.

In his little book Illustrations of Bible Truth, H.A. Ironside pointed out the folly of judging others. He related an incident in the life of a man called Bishop Potter. "He was sailing for Europe on one of the great transatlantic ocean liners. When he went on board, he found that another passenger was to share the cabin with him. After going to see the accommodations, he came up to the purser's desk and inquired if he could leave his gold watch and other valuables in the ship's safe. He explained that ordinarily he never availed himself of that privilege, but he had been to his cabin and had met the man who was to occupy the other berth. Judging from his appearance, he was afraid that he might not be a very trustworthy person. The purser accepted the responsibility for the valuables and remarked, 'It's all right, bishop, I'll be very glad to take care of them for you. The other man has been up here and left his for the same reason!'"

Why is it that we get caught up in judging others? We see them standing on the street corner. They appear in a TV news program. We walk past them on the street or in the store. And at every turn we pass a little judgment concerning their character or place in life.

We drive through “certain” neighborhoods and instantly lock our car door. We should be driving with our car doors locked anyway, but why is it in those particular circumstances we do what we haven’t done already? We pass judgment based on a variety of criteria … and all the while, others are doing the same to us.

It is a sad world in which we live when we are quick to pass a comment upon another … to condemn another person … to relate them to a lesser or even a higher position in life. We stand in the shoes of a person whom Christ does not condemn. We view others and pass judgment on them while all the time Christ does not condemn them either. Strange world in which we live!

As F.B. Meyer once said that when we see a brother or sister in sin, there are two things we do not know: First, we do not know how hard he or she tried not to sin. And second, we do not know the power of the forces that assailed him or her. We also do not know what we would have done in the same circumstances.
Maybe we condemn ourselves? Maybe we are too hard on ourselves? Maybe we desire something better for ourselves? Maybe we think too lightly of ourselves? Maybe we should try to see ourselves with the eyes of Jesus and then we would see others from the same perspective. Just maybe …

Jesus, your servant Paul shared that we were not to judge others and yet we do. Forgive us when we do and bring us gently back to where we should be living our life. Amen.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Living as Resurrection People with Alleluia as our Song - Hebrews 9:12 with a story from Prussia and the establishment of the Order of the Iron Cross

SCRIPTURE: Hebrews 9:12 (TM)
He also bypassed the sacrifices consisting of goat and calf blood, instead using his own blood as the price to set us free once and for all.

STORY as told by Lynn Jost:
During his reign, King Frederick William III of Prussia found himself in trouble. Wars had been costly, and in trying to build the nation, he was seriously short of finances. He couldn't disappoint his people, and to capitulate to the enemy was unthinkable. After careful reflection, he decided to ask the women of Prussia to bring their jewelry of gold and silver to be melted down for their country. For each ornament received, he determined to exchange a decoration of bronze or iron as a symbol of his gratitude. Each decoration would be inscribed, "I gave gold for iron, 18l3." The response was overwhelming. Even more important, these women prized their gifts from the king more highly than their former jewelry. The reason, of course, is clear. The decorations were proof that they had sacrificed for their king. Indeed, it became unfashionable to wear jewelry, and thus was established the Order of the Iron Cross. Members wore no ornaments except a cross of iron for all to see. When Christians come to their King, they too exchange the flourishes of their former life for a cross.

We have witnessed or at least heard of the sacrifices made by athletes preparing for the Olympics. We saw the media coverage of the women who lost both of her legs while covering and protecting her two children in one of the recent tornados. We might of made a sacrifice ourselves because of our love for someone else.

Sacrifices are demanding. They change our priorities. Sacrifices focus our attention elsewhere. Thus is the point of the story about of Prussia and the Order of the Iron Cross. What was once important is not in important any longer.

Our freedom, our life was so important to Jesus that he bypassed the normal process of offering up an unblemished goat or calf on our behalf. Instead he offered up himself. It was his blood, not that of an animal that was placed upon the altar of life. We hear that. We proclaim that. We celebrate it. But do we understand it? Do we appreciate it? Really, really?

Sacrifice made. Sacrifice given. Sacrifice offered. And we are free. Free to begin life anew. Free from the fear of those things that go bump in the night. Free from old agendas. Free from hatred. Free from bigotry. Free from prejudices. Free from worry. But to be truly free we must in turn embrace the freedom. Live as freed people. Live as if something has truly happened.

The people of Prussia wore their Iron Crosses with great pride. They had sacrificed and helped when the freedom of their motherland. People of the cross wear it different … by how we live, how we treat others, how we think and behave. We are resurrection people and alleluia is our song.

Help us live as truly free people, Gracious God. Help us to embrace it with our whole self. Help us throw off anything and everything that would hold us captive to our old ways. Help us become truly Resurrection People. Amen

Monday, April 9, 2012

Our anchor, our hope for our soul in the midst of a world of pain - Hebrews 6:19 with a story and an observation

SCRIPTURE: Hebrews 6:19 (NIV)
We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure.

From Parade magazine comes the story of self-made millionaire Eugene Land, who greatly changed the lives of a sixth-grade class in East Harlem. Mr. Lang had been asked to speak to a class of 59 sixth-graders. What could he say to inspire these students, most of whom would drop out of school? He wondered how he could get these predominantly black and Puerto Rican children even to look at him. Scrapping his notes, he decided to speak to them from his heart. "Stay in school," he admonished, "and I'll help pay the college tuition for every one of you." At that moment the lives of these students changed. For the first time they had hope. Said one student, "I had something to look forward to, something waiting for me. It was a golden feeling." Nearly 90 percent of that class went on to graduate from high school.

Anchors come in various ways into our lives. For 59 sixth-graders it came with a promise. Yesterday, Easter Sunday, we were reminded that for humanity … all human beings … it comes in a risen Savior.

Now comes the real challenge. Will it continue to hold? For 90 percent of that class it held. That meant that 6 students didn’t trust the anchor, didn’t want to pay the price, they set other priorities. We celebrate the 90 percent while ignoring the 10 percent who went a different direction. We are thankful for Mr. Lang’s support of these students, but who was there for the 10 percent?

It’s Monday morning after Easter and Jesus still holds! 10,000 Mondays later he still will be holding fast. He is the anchor for our soul. He is the hope for the world. He will still be holding as some of us succeed and he will still be holding as some of us fail. This anchor holds regardless of the intensity of the storm.

We came. We celebrated. We eat the ears off the rabbit. Eggs were hidden and found. Hats were worn. New clothes attired our bodies. Ham and sweet potatoes were spread before us and we had our fill. For a moment we forgot the pain of living in world filled with pain. Now Monday has arrived and the storms will start raging again.

William C. Martin (no relationship) pens these words in his hymn, “My Anchor Holds”

Though the angry surges roll
On my tempest-driven soul,
I am peaceful, for I know,
Wildly though the winds may blow,
I’ve an anchor safe and sure,
That can evermore endure.

And it holds, my anchor holds:
Blow your wildest, then, O gale,
On my bark so small and frail;
By His grace I shall not fail,
For my anchor holds, my anchor holds.

Mighty tides about me sweep,
Perils lurk within the deep,
Angry clouds o’ershade the sky,
And the tempest rises high;
Still I stand the tempest’s shock,
For my anchor grips the rock.

I can feel the anchor fast
As I meet each sudden blast,
And the cable, though unseen,
Bears the heavy strain between;
Through the storm I safely ride,
Till the turning of the tide.

Troubles almost ’whelm the soul;
Griefs like billows o’er me roll;
Tempters seek to lure astray;
Storms obscure the light of day:
But in Christ I can be bold,
I’ve an anchor that shall hold.

My hope is built on nothing less than Jesus’ blood and righteousness; I dare not trust the sweetest frame, but wholly lean on Jesus’ name … Thank you Jesus for being our anchor in the midst of the storm. Thank you for holding fast. Amen.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Living in the Saturdays of life as shared by Brent Beasley

I share a sermon written by Brent Beasley ...

___Tony Campolo preaches a sermon taken from an elderly black pastor at his church in Philadelphia. "It's Friday, but Sunday's Comin'" is the title of the sermon. And, as Philip Yancey tells it, once you know the title, you know the sermon.
___It's Friday, but Sunday's comin'. The world looks one way on Friday, but Sunday's comin'. On Friday, the forces of evil won over the forces of good, every friend and every disciple fled quaking in fear, the Son of God died on a cross. Yes it's Friday, but Sunday's comin'.
___The disciples who lived through both days, Friday and Sunday, never doubted God again. They had learned that even when God seems absent, he might be closer than ever; when God looks powerless, he might be more powerful than ever; when God looks dead, he might be coming back to life. They learned never to count God out, he's never out of the game. They learned that even when it's Friday, Sunday's comin'.
___That is wonderful news, but Campolo skipped one important day in his sermon--Saturday. The other two days have official names on the Christian calendar: Good Friday and Easter Sunday. But in a real sense, we live our lives on Saturday. We live between Jesus' first coming and his second coming.
___We live between promise and fulfillment. We live in the "until."
___And life goes on on Saturday. Can we trust that God can make something holy and beautiful out of a fallen, desperate world that includes Iraq and Afghanistan, and inner-city ghettos and over-crowded prisons in the richest nation in the world?
___Philip Yancey puts it this way: It's Saturday on planet earth; is Sunday comin'?
___Living in the 'until'
___Isaiah 62 is the cry of one who lives on Saturday. It is the proclamation of one who lives in the "until"--between the promise and its fulfillment. This poem is set in the context of exiles who have returned to Jerusalem.
___Chapter 62 was most likely compiled later than chapters 40-55 and much later than chapters 1-39. The historical background of chapters 1-55 includes the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple, and the removal of the Israelites from Jerusalem known as the Babylonian exile.
___Chapters 56-66 probably belong to the period after the first stages of return and rebuilding in Judah around 520-500 B.C. or possibly even later.
___The poem found in chapter 61 anticipates a massive reversal of fortunes that will be brought about by the power of God. Through that reversal, those who are now abused and oppressed will be given joy, security, prosperity and well-being.
___In chapter 62, the situation is that God has not yet accomplished the transformation promised in the previous chapter. The exiles who returned to Jerusalem found the city to which they had returned far less than glorious. In fact, their beloved city, which had been mercilessly destroyed by the Babylonians, still lies in ruins; it is a source of embarrassment rather than pride. God has promised a new day, but that day has not yet arrived.
___So the people who have returned to Jerusalem live in the "until." "For Zion's sake I will not keep silent, and for Jerusalem's sake I will not rest, until her vindication shines out like the dawn, and her salvation like a burning torch" (v. 1).
___How do we live in the meantime?
___With relentless faith
___The day is surely coming when God's promises of restoration and redemption will be fulfilled, but what do we do until? Life still isn't always fair now. The rain still falls on the just and the unjust today. Everything has not been made right, yet. That day of fulfillment is coming, but what do we do until? What do we do on Saturday? What do we do--we who live in between that time when God sent his Son, Jesus, into this world to save it and die on a cross and be raised from the dead and that time in the end when our world will for once and for all be fully reconciled to God, when God's love and justice will be complete?
___We live on Saturday. It's a good thing to remember that in the great drama of God and history we live out our days on Saturday, the in between day with no name.
___How do we live until? How do we wait for God to act as God has promised to act?
___Twiddle our thumbs? Kill time? Read a magazine? Crochet? Do crossword puzzles? What do we do in the meantime?
___One writer tells of a woman he knows whose grandmother lies buried under a 150-year-old live oak tree in the cemetery of an Episcopal church in rural Louisiana. In accordance with the grandmother's instructions, only one word is carved on the tombstone: "Waiting."
___Waiting is all right for someone already in the grave, but what about the rest of us who still have a life to live this side of heaven?
___The poet in Isaiah 62 does not spend time lamenting the fact that God has not acted; neither does he reflect on why God has not acted. He simply resolves to be vigilant and persistent in faith that God will keep his promises. He says he will not keep silent nor will he rest "until."
___The poet even devises a strategy to be carried out "until." Sentinels will be stationed on the walls around the city, and they will be relentlessly persistent in their work. Their task is to speak and never cease speaking in order to remind God and remind the people of the promises of God. They will "take no rest ... until" (v. 7).
___So, what do you do "until"--when everything is not right and everything is not fair? What do you do when you live on Saturday? You keep the faith. You remain relentlessly persistent in your faithful hope in the coming to pass of the promises of God--even when fulfillment of God's promises is not visible to you at the time.
___Elie Wiesel was a Jewish teenager when he and his family were uprooted, along with their whole village in Transylvania, and sent to the concentration camp in Auschwitz. The book "Night" is about his experiences there. After they were forced out of their homes, Wiesel and his father were separated from his mother and sister. And they never saw each other again. Because all of them, except Elie Wiesel, were killed.
___Reading the story of the people in the concentration camp at Auschwitz will challenge a person's faith. Not necessarily because there is so much evil, but it will challenge a person's faith because our trust in God seems so weak compared with those who in the middle of torture and murder and separation from their families and complete humiliation kept the faith. They kept the faith.
___In the book, one evening several prisoners decided to put God on trial. They wanted to try God for the horrors of the holocaust. These were men of faith, but it seemed to them that their faith was failing them. They asked young Wiesel to witness the proceedings. The prosecuting attorney brought charges. God's people had been torn from their homes, separated from their families, beaten, abused and burned alive in the incinerators. The defense attorney made his case. But in the end, they found God guilty of failing his people.
___The trial was over. The mood in the room was somber, dark, depressing. The men were prepared for bed. A few minutes later, the time came for the Jewish evening prayer. These same men who had just found God guilty of abandoning them got on their knees and prayed their evening prayer.
___They knew their Scripture. The book of Habakkuk says: "Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my Savior. The sovereign Lord is my strength" (3:17-19).
___Living between promise and fulfillment, the testimony of Isaiah 62 is that our task is to be vigilant and persistent in the faith until God's promises are finally accomplished.
___Sunday is coming
___The affirmation of Isaiah 62 is that God has indeed heeded the persistent faith expressed in verses 1-7. God did (or will) restore Jerusalem, and it is assured a joyful future (vv. 10-12). The "until" has given way to the "done." This city that once seemed to be forgotten will now be called "The Holy People, The Redeemed of the Lord." The city is clearly no longer "Forsaken" but "Sought Out," treasured, valued (v. 12). What was once only promise is now fulfillment.
___Living on Saturday, in the "until," the promises of God seem far away and perhaps even unbelievable or inappropriate. It is Saturday, and Sunday is coming, but sometimes it helps to make it through the worst parts when you know how the story ends.
___How do we live in the "until"--when life is not fair, all is not always right with the world, and all we have hoped for has not yet come to pass? We keep the faith--relentlessly. Because we know how the story ends. God will make things right. God is a just God. And God keeps his promises.
___No matter what day it is today, Sunday is coming.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Six-hours on Friday - a crucifixion, the ultimate sacrifice made, atonement completed, wholeness returns to humanity.

SCRIPTURE: Hebrews 13:12 (NIV)
And so Jesus also suffered outside the city gate to make the people holy through his own blood.

From The Message: He was crucified outside the city gates - that is where he poured out the sacrificial blood that was brought to God's altar to cleanse his people.

QUOTE: by Max Lucado, “Six Hours One Friday,” page 103
The King turns away from his Prince. The undiluted wrath of a sin-hating Father falls upon his sin-filled Son. The fire envelops him. The shadow hides him. The Son looks for his Father, but his Father cannot be seen.

STORY: Adapted from C. Truman Davis, M.D. in The Expositor's Bible Commentary Vol. 8.

What is crucifixion? A medical doctor provides a physical description: The cross is placed on the ground and the exhausted man is quickly thrown backwards with his shoulders against the wood. The legionnaire feels for the depression at the front of the wrist. He drives a heavy, square wrought-iron nail through the wrist and deep into the wood. Quickly he moves to the other side and repeats the action, being careful not to pull the arms too tightly, but to allow some flex and movement. The cross is then lifted into place.

The left foot is pressed backward against the right foot, and with both feet extended, toes down, a nail is driven through the arch of each, leaving the knees flexed. The victim is now crucified. As he slowly sags down with more weight on the nails in the wrists, excruciating, fiery pain shoots along the fingers and up the arms to explode in the brain--the nails in the wrists are putting pressure on the median nerves. As he pushes himself upward to avoid this stretching torment, he places the full weight on the nail through his feet. Again he feels the searing agony of the nail tearing through the nerves between the bones of his feet. As the arms fatigue, cramps sweep through the muscles, knotting them in deep, relentless, throbbing pain. With these cramps comes the inability to push himself upward to breathe. Air can be drawn into the lungs but not exhaled. He fights to raise himself in order to get even one small breath. Finally carbon dioxide builds up in the lungs and in the blood stream, and the cramps partially subside. Spasmodically he is able to push himself upward to exhale and bring in life-giving oxygen.

Hours of this limitless pain, cycles of twisting, joint-rending cramps, intermittent partial asphyxiation, searing pain as tissue is torn from his lacerated back as he moves up and down against the rough timber. Then another agony begins: a deep, crushing pain deep in the chest as the pericardium slowly fills with serum and begins to compress the heart. It is now almost over--the loss of tissue fluids has reached a critical level--the compressed heart is struggling to pump heavy, thick, sluggish blood into the tissues--the tortured lungs are making a frantic effort to gasp in small gulps of air. He can feel the chill of death creeping through is tissues. . .Finally he can allow his body to die.

All this the Bible records with the simple words, "And they crucified Him." (Mark 15:24). What wondrous love is this?

There is little in our present day life that even begins to come close to the pain and suffering endured by Jesus during his time on the cross. The experts tell us that crucifixion was the most horrible means of putting a person to death ever devised by humankind. It was horrible. It was painful. It was humiliating. It was for the likes of you and me.

The role of sacrificial blood plays no part in our religious observances today, but it does in the time of Jesus. Sacrificial blood was a great offering to God. As Leviticus 17:11 (NIV) states: “For the life of a creature is in the blood, and I have given it to you to make atonement for yourselves on the altar; it is the blood that makes atonement for one's life.” A life for a life. Becoming one with God again. Coming back into a relationship. Whole again.

Throughout the Bible there was no covenant made without the shedding of blood. Circumcision in the early days of the Old Testament to the ultimate covenant of Christ on the Cross. Sin demands a sacrifice. Relationships were broken. Through covenant there is healing.

And so we stop in our busy lives and remember. Good Friday. Six-hours one Friday. The weight of humanities sin falls on one person. The earth shook. The sky turned black. God was angry ... very angry. Jesus cries out. Dies. It is finished. Buried in a borrowed tomb. Hastily buried because Sabbath is about to start. Official preparation of the dead will have to wait until the first day of the week. It is finished … at least for now.

We cannot wrap our minds around the pain of Jesus’ death, Eternal Father. We try but we just cannot go there. Don’t know if we really want to understand. Help us today to embrace the atonement that was so gracious made on our behalf. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Amen

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Reflections on Jesus' struggle with doing the will of his father ... and ours with a story about Bishop Wright opinion on flight.

SCRIPTURE: Luke 22:42
Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.

A bishop of a century ago pronounced from his pulpit and in the periodical he edited that heavier-than-air flight was both impossible and contrary to the will of God. Oh, the irony that Bishop Wright had two sons, Orville and Wilbur! Wright was wrong. Sure of himself, but wrong.

It is Holy Thursday. A last meal is eaten. He prays in the Garden. It is Holy. It is struggle time. Doing what God wanted him to do is in question. Never easy this will of God stuff.

I’m not sure the story about Bishop Wright’s life is more urban legend than truth, but it makes an interesting point. We often “blame” our opinion(s) on the will of God. God probably doesn’t care on most of the “will” issues one way or another … it just sounds good to say it.

A good approach is to ask, is it a Kingdom issue. Kingdom issues are life and death concerns. Sacrifice is normally required. Going where it is uncomfortable … painful … is not easy. Making life-altering decisions can stop anyone in their journey.

Jesus struggled. We pause to remember that struggle. That sacrifice. That commitment. It is holy time.

Allow us to go with Jesus to the Upper Room, Holy Father. Allow us to sit around the table with the disciples. Allow us to experience the sharing of the cup and bread. Allow us to go with him to the Garden. To pray with him. To see the drops of sweat like drops of blood. This is holy time. May our day be marked by your presence. Amen.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Living under the authority and power of God ... and not putting up a stop sign where God has placed a green light.

SCRIPTURE: John 19: 10, 11
Pilate said, “Don’t you realize I have power either to free you or to crucify you?” Jesus answered, “You would have no power over me if it were not given to you from above.”

STORY: as told by Ernest B. Beevers
In a seminary missions class, Herbert Jackson told how, as a new missionary, he was assigned a car that would not start without a push. After pondering his problem, he devised a plan. He went to the school near his home, got permission to take some children out of class, and had them push his car off. As he made his rounds, he would either park on a hill or leave the engine running. He used this ingenious procedure for two years.

Ill health forced the Jackson family to leave, and a new missionary came to that station. When Jackson proudly began to explain his arrangement for getting the car started, the new man began looking under the hood. Before the explanation was complete, the new missionary interrupted, "Why, Dr. Jackson, I believe the only trouble is this loose cable." He gave the cable a twist, stepped into the car, pushed the switch, and to Jackson's astonishment, the engine roared to life. For two years needless trouble had become routine. The power was there all the time. Only a loose connection kept Jackson from putting that power to work.

J.B. Phillips paraphrases Ephesians l:19-20, "How tremendous is the power available to us who believe in God." When we make firm our connection with God, his life and power flow through us.

Jesus affirms the reality of the words in Paul’s letter. There is tremendous power available to us if we would only believe. All power and authority comes from God, but for some strange reason those of us who claim a relationship with God through Christ as one of his disciples have a tendency to want to walk by sight not by faith.

Faith requires trust. Trust in God for his future, a future of God’s design. We desire details, assurances … in the name of being prudent, practical, or any other concept that might come to mind … and all the while God desires to pour out his blessings on those who are willing to step out in faith … not knowing where we are going nor how we are going to get there, but simply that God said, “Go!”

As I am fond of sharing, God has told us to go “north” … but lately individuals are asking for a road map. Like Abraham of old, as he leaves Ur with his family and all of his possessions not knowing where he was going nor how he was going to get there only that God has said, “Pack up and leave this area to a land that I am going to show you” … and he did!

What happens is that we put up a stop sign where God places a green light. It cannot be counted the number of times it has been heard at the various churches throughout the world, “Well, we just cannot see how we can do that. Things are tight. The money or personnel or resources or space or (fill in this space with what you have overheard) just isn’t there.” And so, God’s plan is not fulfilled. God’s purpose is not realized. And God’s people continue to wander in the desert because we chose to listen to the 10 “spies” who said we couldn’t do it instead of the 2 “spies” who believed that God had brought the people to this point in history and was on their side (Numbers 13-14). And we wonder why are we STILL in the desert.

It is a power issue. Do we live by God’s power or do we live by our own? Do we live under God’s authority or our own? If by God’s, then we will be victorious. If by our own, we will fail to be all God has called us to be. It is moving forward not by sight or by knowledge, but by trusting God for the outcome.

Eternal Father, Jesus faced the last week of his earthly life knowing that you were in total and complete control. Help us to have enough faith to do the same. Amen.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Facing our ninth hour and the feeling of being abandoned - Mark 15:34 with a story from WWII about six Navy pilots with an observation and a prayer.

SCRIPTURE: Mark 15:34
At the ninth hour Jesus cried out in a loud voice… “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”

During WWII six Navy pilots left their aircraft carrier on a mission. After searching the seas for enemy submarines, they tried to return to their ship shortly after dark. But the captain had ordered a blackout of all lights on the ship. Over and over the frantic pilots radioed, asking for just one light so they could see to land. But the pilots were told that the blackout could not be lifted. After several appeals and denials of their request, the ship's operator turned the switch to break radio contact--and the pilots were forced to ditch in the ocean.

For lack of a light pilots ditched their planes. For lack of assurance we feel abandoned. And in the painful hour of death Jesus felt abandoned as well.

It must be an awful feeling – being abandoned, or at least having a sense that you have been abandoned. Forgotten. Ignored. Turned out. Left alone.

The silence can be deafening much like flying across the ocean in the blackest of night, looking for ones ship, a safe place to land and finding nothing. There was radio contact, but nothing in sight. The sense of being lost.

And so Jesus goes to the threshold of death feeling abandoned. Where was God in all of this? Thus, is the weight of sin on his shoulders. Being cut off. Abandoned by the very one he was serving.

Jesus went down that dark path so that we would never have to face our ninth hour without the sense of God’s presence.

Sometimes we feel abandoned. Sometimes we wonder where you are. Sometimes we even question your existence. Help us in our ninth hour, God, help us!

Monday, April 2, 2012

Obedience - a lesson to be learned, a life to be lived - with a story of an obedient dog.

SCRIPTURE: Luke 2:51
(Jesus) went down to Nazareth with (Joseph and Mary) and was obedient to them.

How we admire the obedience a dog shows to its master! Archibald Rutledge wrote that one day he met a man whose dog had just been killed in a forest fire. Heartbroken, the man explained to Rutledge how it happened. Because he worked out-of-doors, he often took his dog with him. That morning, he left the animal in a clearing and gave him a command to stay and watch his lunch bucket while he went into the forest. His faithful friend understood, for that's exactly what he did. Then a fire started in the woods, and soon the blaze spread to the spot where the dog had been left. But he didn't move. He stayed right where he was, in perfect obedience to his master's word. With tearful eyes, the dog's owner said, "I always had to be careful what I told him to do, because I knew he would do it."

Obedience is a fearsome thing. We chaff at the constraints. We long for freedom. We desire no boundaries. We have much to learn.

Jesus was obedient to his parents. We should learn his valuable lesson. We rebel against our parents. We fail to learn the valuable lesson.

Discipleship is being obedient unto to Christ. Much like the dog in the story we should be so obedient to the voice of God that he would have to be careful what he tells us to do knowing full well that it will be done … even if it meant our own death. But isn't that what God through Christ is asking of us ... obedience in that we die to self so that we might live for Christ?

We seek and desire freedom, but help us learn the lesson that it is only through obedience – absolute and total – that true freedom can and will be realized. Amen.