Saturday, January 19, 2013

Update on Pastor Jim Martin

I've been asked, "Where I am?" ... I failed to inform my regular readers that I would be on vacation until February 4th ... Many things were pushing me - mental and physical exhaustion, a forthcoming family vacation that needed a lot of last minute details wrapped up, trying to complete a ton of work for my church for the weeks that I would be away, and some quiet time trying to discern the direction God wanted me to take with my preaching ministry at Family of God Church (btw, nothing has come to me yet) ... all of this came together this week and I just had to say: STOP!

Your prayers would be greatly appreciated because when I return from the vacation I am looking at a biopsy on my throat. Surgeon is not greatly concerned, but he is concerned enough that he wanted us to go in this particular direction.

JohnJennifer ... thanks for asking about me. Your concern is deeply appreciated. I will "see" everyone on Monday, February 4th ... if not sooner - who knows God just might push (nudge) me in a new direction.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Okay, what do we really want? What are we after? (John 1:38).

SCRIPTURE: John 1:38 (TM)
Jesus looked over his shoulder and said to them, "What are you after?" … NIV: has Jesus asking: “What do you want?”

A storekeeper in Maine refused to buy a salesman's wares. "You must remember, young fellow," he said, "that in this part of the country every want ain't a need."

“What are (we) after?” … “What do (we) want?” Boy, what a loaded question! If we only knew!?! If we did we would be well on our way to spiritual maturity.

We get confused between our “wants” and our “needs”. This confusion keeps us tied up in knots. And so, we “buy” into whatever comes our way that sounds plausible or halfway spiritual … thus the popularity of many of the radio and TV preachers.

We buy their books, CDs, and whatever else they are peddling. It sounds THAT good! We buy into it all … until something else comes along because what we accepted as being plausible and spiritual turns out to be empty words and meaningless theology. Just plain out cheap grace from the realm of “name it and claim it” thinking.

If we really knew what we needed or even desired we would be more than halfway along our journey. And yet, Jesus still asks the question and he still expects an answer. Do we have one that he will accept?

My spirit did not jump when their names were used. Actually it did just the opposite. My stomach turned with discomfort. Something didn’t seem right. When they returned it was with the attitude: “We’re here now use us!” So I did what any pastor would do … right? No, I simply waited to see if their real spirit would be reveal and in time it did. Since the red carpet wasn’t rolled out for them; since we didn’t praise them for their musical talent and service at every turn; since we didn’t put them to doing that which would bring attention to them … they returned where “they were be appreciated” (her words).

“What do we want?” “What are we after?” Is it a closer walk with God? Is it a deeper spiritual journey? Is it to be a servant of the King and his kingdom? Now that is the real question …

Help us Lord to allow your spirit to bring focus to our spirit so that we will seek your kingdom. 

Monday, January 14, 2013

The Savior comes our way (John 1:36) and because of a missed placed comma we can miss him with an observation by Tennyson.

SCRIPTURE: John 1:36 (TM)
He (John the Baptist) looked up, saw Jesus walking nearby, and said, "Here he is, God's Passover Lamb."

“There is only one piece of news I know,” said a woman to Tennyson when the poet on a journey had arrived at her house and inquired if anything of note was happening. “There is only one piece of news I know: Christ died for all men.” “Well,” said Tennyson, “that is old news, and good news, and new news.”

Too often we get lost on our way to the truth of Christ. We get bogged down with the “stuff” of church and fail to see the light of our faith. For example, and it happens to every pastor in every congregation, there will always be at least one individual who will find something to enlighten the preacher about – something that he or she missed during Sunday’s service – something that could make the worship experience better – something that we would never have thought of without their insight … and, here is the clincher, it is often the minor trappings of worship. A banner is hung a little crooked, the flowers were not turned right on the altar, the bulletin had a word spelled wrong or a comma should not have been in a particular sentence … and so the list goes on.

All the while everything was pointing to the Pascal Lamb that takes away the sins of the world. Christ is being lifted up and praised, only to be missed because their attention had been diverted to minor things. It is the “pussycat syndrome: “Pussycat, pussycat, where have you been?
I've been to London to visit the Queen.
Pussycat, pussycat, what did you there?
I frightened a little mouse under her chair.”

The “pussycat” missed out on the big picture by concentrating on the small things. John the Baptist didn’t want his disciples to miss out on seeing, meeting, accepting Jesus. It is easy to zero in on the “little mice” of our daily living and miss the “queen” or the King of Kings upon his throne or the Savior upon his cross. For the sake of a missed placed comma or the angle of a banner the Savior passed our way and was missed.

“Behold” we shoot, God’s Passover Lamb passes our way only to be missed because of a dust-ball under a chair or a cobweb in the corner.  

Help us to lift our eyes beyond the mundane so that we can see our Savior as he passes our way. 

Friday, January 11, 2013

It could be a foundation issue (1 Corinthians 3:11) if our life is leaning and we fear it might fall.

SCRIPTURE: 1 Corinthians 3:11 (TM)– larger reading: 3:10-17
Remember, there is only one foundation, the one already laid: Jesus Christ.

The Leaning Tower of Pisa in Italy is going to fall. Scientists travel yearly to measure the building's slow descent. They report that the 179-foot tower moves about one-twentieth of an inch a year, and is now 17 feet out of plumb. They further estimate that by the year 2007 the 810-year old tower will have leaned too far and will collapse onto the nearby ristorante, where scientists now gather to discuss their findings. Quite significantly, the word "pisa" means "marshy land," which gives some clue as to why the tower began to lean even before it was completed. Also--its foundation is only 10 feet deep!
Even though the year is 2013 – six years after the predicted time that the great tower would have fallen and it still is standing – doesn’t ruin the power of the story to illustrate the point that foundations matter. It is just a matter of time before the prediction will become a reality. Engineers have work diligently to stabilize this bell tower for the nearby Cathedral. The bells have been removed. Cables have been added and anchored. Counter-weights have been added to the stronger side. All of this has bought the tower 200 more years of life.

The reality is that “marshy land” and a foundation not deep enough has created the reality that imperfect ingenuity brings about a huge problem. And so it is in our lives. Without Christ life comes apart. Maybe not today. Maybe not tomorrow, but eventually. No matter what we do to shore up our life, it still leans gradually towards the point of no return.

As the engineers continue to apply their skills to keep the Leaning Tower of Pisa from falling they will probably lose the battle to keep it standing. Foundations that are shallow – not deep enough to carry the weight of the construction – or laid on unstable ground will bring about ruin.

We can work our entire life to keep ourselves “standing” emotionally, psychologically, physically and spiritually, but without the foundation of Christ we fool ourselves. There will come a time that we are going to be confronted with something that will overpower our best efforts and our “house” will fall. Wouldn’t it simply be easier to turn to Christ now – the one who lays the perfect foundation for us and our life – and give us the peace of mind knowing that nothing in this old world can or will destroy us, causing us to fall?

For the perfect foundation of Jesus Christ we give you thanks. And when we begin to “lean” bring us back to that perfect foundation because we really do not wish for our life to be destroyed … we really don’t. 

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Living life and leaving our worries up to God (Matthew 6:25) with a story from Connie Mack's life.

SCRIPTURE: Matthew 6:25 (TM) – larger reading, Matthew 6:25-34
If you decide for God, living a life of God-worship, it follows that you don't fuss about what's on the table at mealtimes or whether the clothes in your closet are in fashion. There is far more to your life than the food you put in your stomach, more to your outer appearance than the clothes you hang on your body.

Connie Mack was one of the greatest managers in the history of baseball. One of the secrets of his success was that he knew how to lead and inspire men. He knew that people were individuals. Once, when his team had clinched the pennant well before the season ended, he gave his two best pitchers the last ten days off so that they could rest up for the World Series. One pitcher spent his ten days off at the ballpark; the other went fishing. Both performed brilliantly in the World Series. Mack never criticized a player in front of anyone else. He learned to wait 24 hours before discussing mistakes with players. Otherwise, he said, he dealt with the goofs too emotionally. 
In the first three years as a major league baseball manager, Connie Mack's teams finished sixth, seventh, and eighth. He took the blame and demoted himself to the minor leagues to give himself time to learn how to handle men. When he came back to the major leagues again, he handled his players so successfully that he developed the best teams the world had ever known up to that time. 
Mack had another secret of good management: he didn't worry. "I discovered," he explained, "that worry was threatening to wreck my career as a baseball manager. I saw how foolish it was and I forced myself to get so busy preparing to win games that I had no time left to worry over the ones that were already lost. You can't grind grain with water that has already gone down the creek." 

Not sure who said it, but it is one of favorite quotes: Worry Is Like Interest Paid In Advance On A Debt That Never Comes Due. And there it is in a nutshell … why worry about something that we cannot do anything about?

But here we are allowing worry to consume our energy, our brilliant minds, our spirit, our time, our present and future – in other words, everything that we are or ever hope to be.

Not sure where it falls on the top 10 list of emotional and psychological issues that destroys our being, but my guess it is near the top. Usually when this subject is included in a sermon someone will respond with, “Preacher, you are preaching to the choir.”

We all know that we shouldn’t worry, but we do. We all know that our trust for today and tomorrow should be placed with God, but we still hold back a little for ourselves to carry around. We all know that worry can destroy our trusting relationship with God, but there it still remains anyway. We know what we should be doing and how we should be living, but at every turn in our life we confront the reality of the worry which consumes us.

Does this mean that we don’t trust God? Not really. Does this mean that our faith isn’t strong enough? Probably not. Does this mean that our faith is weak? Well, maybe. As the old farmer once prayed, “Well, God it’s just me, old Joe, again. I hate to bother you with my problems because you are so busy running the world and all, but I cannot get my mind off of this particular problem. I would really appreciate you taking care of it for me. I’ll try to take care of all my other problems if-in you take care this biggin for me. Thanks. Well, that is all. I be talkin’ with you soon.”

Maybe old Joe is correct … we just don’t want to bother God with our problems. But maybe old Joe’s wife, Sally, has a better approach. She has a worry box on which she has written “Wednesday” which is her “worry day”. Whenever something that comes up on which she feels she needs to worry she just writes it down on a slip of paper and places it in her worry box to be dealt with on Wednesday. When Wednesday rolls around. She sits down with her Bible and pours out all of those slips of paper. Much to her surprise most of them have already been answered and those that were not she just places them back in her Worry Box until next Wednesday.

Yes Lord, it is just us again with the same list of worries that we shared with you yesterday and the day before that and the day before that. We’re still carrying them around even though we asked you to do something about them. We don’t mean to say that we don’t trust you and all, but the burden of life just weighs us down. Please free our spirit from these burdens so that we can begin to live like you want us to live. O.K.? O.K.!

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Following Christ (Matthew 19:21), oh the reality of it all ... with an observation by Kierkagaard.

SCRIPTURE: Matthew 19:21 (TM) - (larger lesson 19:16-30)
"If you want to give it all you've got," Jesus replied, "go sell your possessions; give everything to the poor. All your wealth will then be in heaven. Then come follow me."

Kierkagaard in "And I looked around and nobody was laughing" says this, "I went into church and sat on the velvet pew. I watched as the sun came shining through the stained glass windows. The minister dressed in a velvet robe opened the golden gilded Bible, marked it with a silk bookmark and said, "If any man will be my disciple, said Jesus, let him deny himself, take up his cross, sell what he has, give it to the poor, and follow me."

There seems to be a disconnect between our lifestyle and our desire to be Christ’s disciple as illustrated in the Kierkagaard story. There is a cost related to being a discipleship per our scripture reading for today. The problem that confronts us is how to bring them together into a meaningful whole.

Does Jesus expect us to literally go and get rid of everything that we own for the sake of the poor and the needy? This has been the spiritual struggle for centuries and my response is, probably not, because then we would become a problem for others to deal with and a drag on society. The Desert Fathers gained fame and a following by literally getting rid of everything, living in caves out in the desert and relying on others for their daily needs – which wasn’t much. From them we gained great wisdom and insight to the spiritual journey. Should we follow suit? It worked them, but for others … probably not.

Each of us has to find our own “place” within the spiritual walk of discipleship. The deeper question, I believe, is this: What is standing between a deeper level of discipleship and us? For the young man in the Bible story it was his wealth. For someone else it could the degrees hanging on their office wall. For others it could be what they consume – food, desserts – or a wide range of other issues and things. The so called “stuff” of our life.

What is the one thing that we cherish most in our life … that is THE thing standing in the way of a deeper walk with Christ. If we confront that, deny its importance in our life we would then move into a stronger and deeper discipleship. But within the context of this stronger discipleship we will make another discovery. We will be confronted with something else that will require our emotional, mental, physical denial because it too stands in our way. There will always be a new issue to deal with, a new discovery, a new problem. The deeper we walk with Christ the more honest we have to be with ourselves and the more we will learn about ourselves.

The journey into discipleship is a life long process. We will make new discoveries at each turn. We will learn new things about ourselves. And, we will be confronted continuously with the “wealth” of our life which must be placed aside so that we can walk deeper with the Lord.

For me it is the control of chocolate on my appetites. Anything chocolate is hard to pass up. It is the wealth of my soul. How about you?

Reveal the truth about our lives and what is presently standing between us and you. We want to be a better disciple. Help us remove those things that are standing in the way … even if it means giving up chocolate.