Monday, June 4, 2012

Live Happy!

Wouldn't be great if we could all live as happy as the dog in that picture! The good news is that we can. Our God wants us to live happy and successful lives. We are the ones who get in the way. Freedom that comes from God through Christ should make us the happiest people on the planet. Unfortunately, that is often NOT the case. have you been to a church service where it looked like everyone present had swallowed a dill pickle sideways? I have! The thing is, it shouldn't be this way. As children of God we should LOVE being in worship. We should LOVE singing His praises. And we should LOVE being in the company of fellow believers. Way tool often, this is not the the way it is. Instead, we see people who are there to fulfill an "obligation" to God. They come to church, not to worship, but to appease God by their presence. That is not what God wants or expects from us. What God wants and expects is for us to JOYFULLY come into His presence and TRULY worship Him. We talked in church yesterday about "living as Jesus lived." Jesus had a lot of responsibilities while He was on earth, but that didn't keep Him from enjoying God and the people He interacted with. I believe Jesus laughed loud and often. He enjoyed spending time with others (even children!) and with God. We, too, should enjoy spending time with people and with God. We were created that way. We were made to be in fellowship with others. How can I be sure? The Bible tells us we were created in God's own image. God, who is in community with Himself--Father, Son and Holy Spirit. So if we are created in God's image (and we are) and if God is in community (and God is) then we too should be in community AND LIKE IT! So, the next time you head out to church make sure you check you frown at the door and instead enter with a smile on your face and joy in your heart. You'll be amazed at the difference you will experience in worship that day!

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Things happen!

Like the people watching the kite-flyer in the picture, that is how I felt recently at church! I had just finished the sermon and was taking "praises and thanksgivings" from the congregation when there was a flash of light outside and an accompanying sound that came through the sound system. It seems that one of the power lines running into a transformer just outside the window decided at that time to catch on fire and not only provide a sound and light show, but to also eliminate any power from the building! People were headed to the window to see what was going on. I didn't blame them! As it was, we were able to conclude the service and enjoy our fellowship time even with the lack of power. I did have one congregant tell me that my sermon did have him "see the light" for the first time! Things happen. We adjust. That is just how it is. In all of our lives there will be those times where interruptions happen. How we handle them says more about us that most things we will ever say. So, how are you at handling life little interruptions? Are you able to move on, or do you let them get you down? Let's all do our best to work though those hiccups in our plans and move on!

Thursday, May 10, 2012

I Can Only Imagine

This is one of my favorite songs of all time. Mercy Me says it best--I can only imagine what heaven will be like. I can only imagine how I will respond to being surrounded by the glory of God. The good news is that while we can only imagine what it will be like, it will happen! As Christians that is one of the amazing promises we have from God. As God's children we have a heavenly hope. And not just hope, but the assurance that we will one day come before God's presence. That day could be today or tomorrow or a long time coming, but it WILL happen. So, knowing that God has so much in store for us, what are we doing TODAY for Him? Are we walking in the light, working to reach those who do not know God? Or are we content to sit back and let others do the work? We have been called into service by God. We are all have a job to do in the Kingdom. Are you doing your part?

Tuesday, May 8, 2012


WIIFM or rather "What's in it for me?" seems to be how most people approach most everything these days. Why should I help out at a soup kitchen? Why should I be kind to others? Why should I go to church? What's in it for me? While some might think that is a selfish question to ask, I don't. Seriously, Why should we do any or all of those things I mentioned in the first paragraph? The simple answer is that as Children of God we should feel the pull to help those in need and to be a part of the gathering of God's children. But nothing is ever that simple. Americans especially want to know what benefit they will receive for investing their time, talent and money into anything. While that seems on the service to be a bit shallow, it still rings true. So why should we do these things? Because God tells us to do them! We are repeated told in Scripture to help the needy, to take care of those who can't take care of themselves. We are also encourage not to forsake the meeting together of fellow Christians. It is at these times of worship and fellowship that we "recharge" our spiritual batteries in order to continue to do the things God expects us to do. I could give you a long list of Scripture to back this up, but I will settle for one from the Old Testament. Micah 6:8 tells us, "And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God." If we follow that one verse, we can rest assured that we are doing what God expects of us. More importantly in our American culture, we will find what is "in it for me." What we will find is God's blessings poured out. Does that mean that we will never have troubles? Of course not! But it does mean that God will be with us through all those troubling times and never forsake us. Let us all do our best to act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with our God, and experience what God will do for us!

Monday, May 7, 2012


Yesterday was a big day in our household. Amy was ordained as a Teaching Elder (formerly Minister of Word and Sacrament) in the PC(USA). Ordination is a "setting apart" for ministry. for Amy, that means she can now preside over the Lord's Supper and administer Baptisms as well as conducting weddings. But, in reality, it is so much more. Before ordination, Amy (and all who choose this path in the PCUSA) must first go through a long process of discernment (personally, by her home churches Session, and the Committee on Preparation for Ministry.) The is also the process of going before the Presbytery--to move from Inquirer to Candidate and to move from Candidate to being approved to receive a call and be ordained. While all that is going on, Seminary is required (for a Masters of Divinity Degree)as well as passing five written ordination exams. As you can see, it is a long process that was finally completed with her actual ordination yesterday! I am so very proud of Amy. She has come a long way on her journey, but in reality, it is just beginning. There will be many highs and lows that come from being in the ministry. Amy is more than ready to face them all head on. Anyone who knows Amy, knows that she has the heart of a servant. What more can you ask of any minister? So, the next time you see her, feel free to congratulate her, but in the mean time, pray for her as she begins this great adventure!

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Unforeseen Circumstances?

The picture above is funny. How can a psychic have an unforeseen circumstance? Maybe it is because the psychic isn't really a psychic! I find it very interesting that I never hear of a "psychic" winning a huge lottery prize. It seems to me that it would be something that they both could do and would want to do. The bottom line is that there is only one Person who knows what tomorrow (and the days after that) hold, and that is God. We live in troubled times, but that isn't new, there have been many troubled times in the history of mankind. The children of Israel give is a portrait of what can happen when we take our eyes off of the One who holds the future. Through the Old Testament we see them lose focus and God allows other cultures to come in and dominate them. When they realize their mistake, they return to God and He rescues them out of there situation. What about today? If God's people will listen to His voice and pray, don't you believe that He can still help us out of our situation? Of course He can! Christians, we need to get serious about what God is calling us to do, and do it. I have know idea how long the Lord may tarry before He returns, but I do know this--we are called to be faithful. It is time for ALL of us to stop whining about our circumstances (whatever they may be) and start praying. Let us return to the One who made us, loves us, died for us, and rose again to give us hope!

Wednesday, April 11, 2012


Well, today was the day. The weather cooperated and I walked my first labyrinth. I wasn't really sure what to expect or how I would react. I went with an open mind to see if this was a way that God would choose to communicate with me. As many people already know, silence is not one of my strong suits. Adding to the silence was walking the labyrinth--alone and without guidance. But I did it and I'm glad I did.

Now, I didn't find any great inspiration in my walk. I didn't have what many might call a mountaintop experience. But that doesn't mean I received no benefit from the 45 minutes I spent. As I entered, I was trying to block out distractions and focus. I have to admit, I didn't do a great job of that! The good news is that God had something for me anyway.

As I walked, one step after the other, content to follow the path as it made its many turns, I realized how much this is a metaphor for our walk with God. As we walk, sometimes we feel closer to Him than at other times (much like the many times I neared the inner part of the labyrinth before I was led back away from the center.) What the labyrinth reminded me was that as long as we put one foot in front of the other on God's path, we will eventually end up where He is leading us!

I may choose to walk the labyrinth again before I leave and maybe something else will b e triggered. If not, I will be content to know that as long as I let God lead, no matter how many twists and turns are in the path, I WILL make it to my proper destination!

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Read, Rest, and Plan!

Well, that is my goal for this week! I am at the Silver Bay YMCA camp on Lake George, in NY state. It is colder than I was planning, but rest is an indoor activity, so that part is ok. I have my kindle, so the reading works. But without Amy's help the planning part (as well as my health) might not have happened. I left my netbook at the house and while I could have probably struggled to use my iphone for my study (yes i have an app for that!), my medications were unfortunately in the case with the netbook! Amy was wonderful and got it shipped overnight to me and I received it around 9:30 this morning, so I was only about 13 hours late with my meds.

Now I can work on being productive. Along with sermon planning and lesson planning and some "how can we work together with that church in Andover" planning, I am also going to walk a labyrinth for the first time. I keep hoping for a warm, less-wet day, but if I have to, I'll just do it in the cold and rain! I taught a Lenten Lesson about labyrinths, so I am going to practice what I teach!

The setting here is so peaceful, that study and rest seem to go hand in hand. While I realize that my mind and my body need this time to recuperate, I still have to remind myself that I am here to rest as I tend to get caught up in wanting to "do" rather than to let God heal me.

While I realize that it may not be practical for everyone to take a full week to let God recharge them, I do know that God gave us a Sabbath for a reason. I encourage all who read this to make it a practice to find time each week to rest and just let God love them!


Thursday, April 5, 2012

Maundy Thursday

Today's Scriptures: Exodus 12:1-8, 11-14; 1 Corinthians 11:23-26; John 13:1-15

Do you know what the "Maundy" in Maundy Thursday really means? It is about the foot washing that Jesus preformed at the last supper He had with His disciples. It comes from the Middle English maunde ceremony of washing the feet of the poor on Maundy Thursday, from Anglo-French mandet, from Latin mandatum command; from Jesus' words in John 13:34. I find it interesting that most mainline denominations (that includes us Presbyterians) seem to forget that point! Communion is obviously important, but the very title we give to the day focuses on something else entirely!

The it all too common in much that we do as Christians. We say one thing and do another! We say we want to follow God, but then we "do our own thing." God wants us to love Him, our neighbors, our enemies, and ourselves, yet we only want to love the lovable. Anyone can do that, the real test is in loving the unlovable.

God wants us to feed the hungry, cloth the naked and visit the sick and those in prison. We, if it fits our schedules and if the "deserve it" the we MIGHT do it. This is NOT what God wants. Jesus gave us the example to follow and we seem to have decided that it is only up to certain people to actually do it. That is SO wrong. It is ALL of our responsibility to do what God has shared with us to do.

Jesus gave himself completely for us. Isn't it reasonable for Him to expect us to give Him back ourselves and to do as he commanded? Love for God is a verb. It needs to be the same with us. Love one another. Love and don't do it because the people you love deserve it, do it because God told you to do it!

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Lenten Lesson April 3

Today's Scriptures: Isaiah 49:1-6; John 13:21-33, 36-38

The life and mission of Jesus were not some last minute idea on God's part. Right from the beginning, after the sin of Adam and Eve, God promised to overcome the forces of evil (Genesis 3:15). Then God called Abraham to father a people who would be ready to accept the divine gift of salvation. God freed them from their exile in Egypt and sent prophets to keep them aware of His divine plans for them. Everything that happened to them was somehow connected with the ultimate Servant, the One who was to come, the prophet like Moses. Even their rejection of the Servant when He came couldn't frustrate God's plans. Out of the Servant's suffering and death God brought about salvation for the whole world.

Our life is not some sort of chance happening either. God has plans for each of us and has had them since long before we were born. These plans may include suffering and uncertainty, but they are still God's plans. Like Jesus, each of us has a role to play and a cross to carry, but each of us is called to ultimate success. The Servant of the songs of Isaiah is Jesus but, because we are in Jesus, the Songs are also about us!

Monday, April 2, 2012

Lenten lesson April 2

Today's Scriptures: Isaiah 42:1-7; John 12:1-11

The Isaiah passage is one of the Suffering Servant Songs from Isaiah. From the earliest New Testament times, believers have seen Jesus as the embodiment of Isaiah's Servant of God. During these last days of Jesus' life the Church offers us the Servant Songs as kind of poetic meditation on the person and mission of Jesus.

In today's Song we hear that the Servant in endowed with the power of God. he will not be a revolution political leader, but will work quietly, with compassion for the weak, the sightless, the oppressed. His mission is to bring the justice of God to every part of God's creation.

That's how Christ has dealt with us. He has been patient with our weakness. He has given us a new kind of vision. He has brought us into a new Kingdom that stretches to all the earth and extends even into heaven.

Today we thank our heavenly Father for his Servant. Today we thank Jesus for his self-sacrificing faithfulness to His mission!

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Lenten Lesson March 29

Today's Scriptures: Genesis 17:3-9; John 8:51-59

Abraham was a hero to the Jewish people. He was the man whom God promised everything: land, prosperity, to be the father of the nation of Israel. We see this promise in the Genesis passage.

Now, here comes Jesus claiming that He can offer even more than was given to Abraham. Not only that, but Jesus claims that Abraham looked up to Him. He goes as far as to refer to Himself by God's own name, "I AM." The people who heard Him thought he was a blasphemer. They even prepared to stone Him as the Law prescribed.

We, on the other hand, KNOW that Jesus was God. We take Him at His word. He is the ultimate fulfillment of God's promises to Abraham.

These passages help us to understand why Jesus ended up on the cross. And they call us to renew our hearts and minds at the deepest level of our relationship with God--the level of faith. everything we are and do is determined by how we stand with Christ. These last days of Lent are a great time to renew our determination to be true to Him and to His word!

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Lenten Lesson March 28

Today's Scriptures: Daniel 3:14-30; John 8:31-42

Today we look at liberation. In Daniel, three men are cast into a fiery furnace by the most powerful king on earth and nothing could save them...nothing that is, except God. God rescues them.

In the John passage Jesus tells his listeners (and us!) that the Truth will set us free. Jesus also tells us in this gospel that He is the Way, the Life, and the TRUTH. It is Jesus who is the great liberator. Now Jesus' audience didn't feel like they needed any liberation because they were descendants of Abraham. They had a promise from God through Abraham that no political oppression could take away from them. Jesus lets them know that they are slaves to sin no matter who their father is. The people then claim that only God is their Father and Jesus simply replies that God can't possibly be their Father if they don't accept the One (Jesus) that God has sent to free them.

Jesus still liberates us today. It's not just that Jesus forgives our sins (even though He does that.) But Jesus down so much more, He offers us new values, new goals, new purpose, new energy in our life. We are no longer subject to earthly powers. He frees us form that. You see, we no longer live just our own life anymore, but His life, which will never end.

That doesn't make everything easy. We still have to struggle with our chains. But our struggle is not to achieve liberation, only to accept it. Jesus has chosen and saved us and therefore nothing can enslave us.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Back to Lenten Lessons!

Today's Scriptures: Numbers 21:4-9; John 8:21-30

In today's gospel passage Jesus says that he really belongs to another world. He calls himself by God's Name, I AM, and then compares himself to the bronze snake that Moses lifted up to cure the people of their wounds. He will be the source of salvation because He comes from the Father.

Most of us haven't been bitten by snakes, but we are wounded nonetheless. We are wounded by the sinfulness we have in our lives. We are wounded by the pain our own sinfulness has inflicted on us. There is only one cure. Jesus, who forgives and heals with the power of God. Today, we need to look up to Christ, lifted up on the cross, and acknowledge our sinfulness and renew our trust and hope in Him.

Lent is almost over. As we continue to work on changing our hearts, it is time to ask ourselves how far have we come and what do we still have left to accomplish? Are you prepared for Easter? If not, there is still time to get ready!

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Sorry :(

Well, this has been a week and it is only Thursday! I apologize for not keeping up with the Lenten Lessons this week but life has intervened.

Monday morning I conducted a funeral for a 3 month old boy who was accidentally killed by his own father. Tough. I am still waiting to see if I will be invited to visit with the dad who is currently in the Sussex County correctional facility. The loss of one so young is hard enough without the added troubles brought about due to the circumstances. Please pray for this family--you don't need to know their names--God knows who you are praying for in this situation.

Dealing with loss is always hard, but this has been very hard for me. As a father (and now a grandfather) it is so difficult to imagine life without a child (or grandchild.) These are wounds that will scar for a lifetime.

If you are a parent or a grandparent, please take time to tell your kids (and grand-kids) that you love them and more than that SHOW them! We live in a fallen world and therefore we will always have pain and suffering to show for it. make it your goal, your passion, to make the part of the world you live in a better, more loving place.

So, I will try to get back on track with the Lessons, but please realize that sometimes, life interrupts, and does it in a most unpleasant way.

Grace and peace to you all and may the God of Love guide you!

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Lenten Lessons -- Day 23

Today's Scriptures: Jeremiah 7:23-28; Luke 11:14-23

Jeremiah rebukes the people because they won't listen to God--Jesus deals with people who refuse to believe that His miracles are from God and instead say He is in a partnership with the Devil!

Most of us don't deliberately reject what God wants us to hear. As children of God, we strive to understand and respond to what the Lord tells us in His Word. But sometimes are attention level is not what it ought to be.

There are lots of distractions in this world: families, jobs, worries--even all the background noise that our culture provides for us. On top of all of that is the fear that if we pay too much attention to the Lord, we may hear Him saying things we might not want to hear; an invitation to be less dependent on what the world provides, a call to come to grips with the fact we aren't perfect, or a reminder that we have some more forgiveness to dole out.

This is why we pray. More than just words, prayer is a quiet attentiveness to the Lord. It is where we let God in our lives to work through us. A renewed sense of the necessity of prayer is a big part of the Lenten discipline. God is speaking--are you listening?

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Lenten Lessons -- Day 22

Today's Scriptures: Deuteronomy 4:1, 5-9; Matthew 5:17-19

Today's lesson is simple. Obey the commandments! Jesus doesn't remove this system, He takes it to another level.

The Commandments are a gift, not a burden. They are simply a way for God to test us to see if we are faithful. They are directions from God on how to live most productively with how we were created. If we follow them, we are wise. If we don't, well, we aren't wise!

But then Jesus takes it to a whole new level. We are to live as an extension of God's love for all. Nor only do we avoid murder, we avoid the hateful thoughts that lead to murder. Not only do we not commit adultery, we avoid the lustful thoughts that lead to adultery.

The questions for today are simple: How well do I observe the Commandments? and Why do I observe them at all?

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Lenten Lessons -- Day 21

Today's Scriptures: Daniel 3:25-28; Matthew 18:21-35

In the Daniel passage we see how a miraculous intervention on God's part leads Nebuchadnezzar to a change of heart. In the Matthew passage we see that God's mercy is always available, but only to those what themselves are merciful and forgiving.

Forgiveness is hard. It involves loving other people in spite of any wrongs they have done against us. When we forgive, we don't deny the hurt we have received. We don't deny that it was wrong. We don't pretend nothing happened. But we do acknowledge that there is more to the offender than the offense. We love them in spite of the offense.

Why forgive them? Because God has forgiven us and God has created us in His own image. If God forgives (and we are created in His image) it is necessary for us to forgive as well. We are called to love and forgive. Not once, not twice, but as many times as it takes! This is not easy, but it IS what we are called to be and to do. Who do you need to forgive today?

Monday, March 12, 2012

Lenten Lessons -- Day 20

Today's Scriptures: 2 Kings 5:1-15; Luke 4:24-30

Jesus mentions that "no prophet is welcome in the prophet’s hometown." People had heard about His miracles and wanted a show. Jesus wasn't and isn't a showman; he had His own agenda. Just like Elijah and Elisha, Jesus' agenda was wider than the local people expected.

In 2 Kings we read the story of Naaman. Jesus Mentions Naaman in the Luke passage. We see here that Jesus met hostility from the very beginning of His ministry. Even so, we see God's mercy is unconditional and universal. God cares even for "outsiders."

The point for us is that God's forgiveness and mercy are offered to us not because we desire it, but because God is God. None of us deserve it. We are all sinners and as such we are all "outsiders" when it comes to being what God wants us to be. yet God loves us anyway. During this Lenten season, it is important to remember that and share that with all we come into contact. You see, we all fall short and needs God's mercy. And yes, God's grace is there for EVERYONE!

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Lenten Lessons -- Day 16

Today's Scriptures: Jeremiah 17:5-10; Luke 16:19-31

What do we trust in? Jeremiah says that if our trust is in anything other than God we will end up like a barren bush in the desert. Jesus says that if we find our consolation only in what we have here and now we will end up in torment.

It wasn't that the rich man was completely bad. he was just shortsighted. He didn't see Lazarus just outside his gate. The rich man enjoyed all the good things of life and then discovered too late that he was the one (not Lazarus) that had been in misery.

Lent is a good time for us to look inside ourselves to see what is truly important to us. What are our priorities? What are we willing to give up and for what? How do we make our decisions? Are we willing to suffer? What are we willing to sacrifice for?

It is not easy, not is it always pleasant to look at our own value system. We can easily deceive ourselves. That's why we need to ask God for courage, honesty and even perseverance when we come to grips with who we are. We need to know our hearts in order to change what needs to be changed. Let us learn from this miserable rich man, so that we can avoid making the same mistakes he made. Let us use this Lenten season to change our hearts for the better!

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Lenten Lessons -- Day 15

Today's Scriptures: Jeremiah 18:18-20; Matthew 20:17-28

The Passion theme fills today as we read of the lament of the suffering Jeremiah and Jesus telling his followers about the cup of sorrow that he has to drink. But we can find ourselves in here too. These passages remind us that following Jesus can involve suffering.

It isn't always easy to carry out what God asks of us. It's painful to get rid of our bad habits and self-serving attitudes. Sometimes it hurts to give up those things that we have become quite attached to.

There is also the suffering of being different. As followers of Christ we are becoming increasingly outsiders in this world. If you don't believe that, just watch a few hours of prime time TV and see if those shows reflect Christian values.

We can also suffer from being rejected or ignored. Even our best efforts are either misunderstood or misinterpreted. They are often taken for granted. Sometimes they are resented or not even noticed!

We involve ourselves in a change of heart during Lent because we know that it is a good thing to be involved with Christ. We shouldn't be surprised then when the cross is involved.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Lenten Lessons -- Day 14

Today's Scriptures: Isaiah 1:10, 16-20; Matthew 23:1-12

Humility. A tough subject for many people, but that is what today's passages are all about. Isaiah tells us that no matter how bad we have been, God will still forgive us if we are willing to admit out sins and turn back to God. In Matthew, Jesus tells us that greatness doesn't lie in special clothing or titles; it lies in our willingness to serve others.

Humility is all about being realistic about ourselves. Understanding that what the world thinks is important is not all that important to God. Humility is all about admitting that no matter how great our human achievements are, they are full of sinfulness and not all that great anyway. That doesn't mean we are worthless. We are important to God, not for what we have done or what we can give, but for what we have received.

And just what have we received? The call and the ability to look out for our brothers and sisters as ministers of the loving God. Everything else is secondary at best and self-destructive at worst. Greatness lies in service and humility is that willingness to serve. Nothing else matters.

Today God call us to be realistic about our limitations and sinfulness, but also realistic about the potential for good that is in us from the gift of God. If anyone wants to become what God has intended for them to be, let them humbly serve others, especially the "least of these."

Monday, March 5, 2012

Lenten Lessons --Day 13

Today's Scriptures Daniel 9:4-10; Luke 6:36-38

The Scriptures for today both deal with retribution. Daniel points out that the sufferings of his people are because they have been inattentive to God. In the Luke passage, Jesus points out that we can't expect compassion and forgiveness from God if we aren't compassionate and forgiving ourselves. I we are generous in our loving, God will be generous with us. If we are not generous with our loving, God will treat us as we have treated others.

You see, it is our own actions that determines our ability to receive what God wants to give us. If we are forgiving, we won't be able to recognize forgiveness from the Lord. If we are cruel and judgmental toward others, God's generosity to us won't make sense. We probably won't even realize that it is there!

The Lenten change of heart is not an attempt to change God's heart. it is an attempt to change our own hearts so that we are able to receive what God wants us to have!

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Lenten Lessons--Day 11

Today's Scriptures: Deuteronomy 26:16-19; Matthew 5:43-48

What does God expect of us? If our Lenten changes of heart were fully successful, what would we be like?

In the Deuteronomy passage Moses tells the people that they are to carry out all the commands that God has given them with commitment and care so that they can become God's own people, a people sacred to the Lord.

The Matthew passage is even more demanding. Jesus tells us that God expects more of us than just being kind to those people that are kind to us. We are supposed to take after our heavenly Father, whose kindness know no bounds. we are to love as God loves. Nothing else is enough!

That is a pretty high expectation. It would be downright frightening if we had to do it by ourselves. But we don't have to do it by ourselves. God has promised to help us. God is going to provide what we need in order to love as He loves. As Christians we have the indwelling of the Holy Spirit so we are no longer limited to our own individual gifts and strength.

That doesn't make it all easy, but as Christians we know that we have what we need in order to live up to God's expectations. A change of heart doesn't mean becoming something new, but becoming more effectively what we already are.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Lenten Lessons--Day 10

Today's Scriptures: Ezekiel 18:21-28; Matthew 5:20-26

Responsibility. We are each responsible for what we do or don't do. Earlier in Ezekiel 18 we see the people complaining that there situation was dealt to them by the sins of their fathers. Ezekiel tells them that isn't the case. Each of us is affected by our own virtue or sinfulness. God is not unfair. He punishes the sinner because each of us is responsible for our own actions.

In the Matthew passage Jesus carries on with that same thing. But then Jesus takes it even further. Not only are we not to murder, but we are not to be angry with our brother or sister. It is wrong not to reconcile with those who have injured us, as real as the injury may be. We are even to settle disputes differently--quickly make friends with your opponents. you see, we bear some sort of responsibility for every aspect of our relationship with others.

Responsibility is heavy. That is why we must come to grips with it during this season of Lent. God is not trying to lay a guilt trip on us, instead God wants us to remember how seriously He takes our freedom and how much He wants from us. But what God wants from us can only come as a divine gift.

We need to change our heart. A change of heart doesn't mean that we should beat ourselves up with anxiety and guilt, instead we should become ever more aware the we can't carry our responsibilities without His help!

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Lenten Lessons--Day 9

Today's Scriptures: Esther chapter 12 and chapters 14-16; Matthew 7:7-12

In the Esther passages we see Queen Esther going to see the king to accuse the prime minister of a conspiracy. Her life is in jeopardy and she is praying as hard as she can. She knows that she needs the Lord's help.

In the Matthew passage Jesus tells us that prayer is something we have to be persistent in doing. A very literal translation from the Greek would be, "Keep asking. Keep seeking. Keep knocking." Prayer isn't something we do occasionally. prayer is (or should be!) a part of our everyday life. We pray hard, not because we can change God's mind or convince him what we are asking for is really needed (since He already knows what we need.) We pray so that we never lose sight of the fact that we depend on God's goodness and how vulnerable we are without it. We pray hard because if we don't, we run the risk of forgetting who and whose we are.

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Lenten Lessons--Day 8

Today's Scriptures: Jonah 3:1-10; Luke 11:29-32

The message that Jonah preached to the Ninevites and that Jesus preached to the crowds is the same one that we as Christians look at during Lent: Repent. Stop doing what you have been doing and change your ways! Sin was a problem in Nineveh. Sin was a problem in Jesus' day and sin is STILL a problem today. The bible teaches us that "all have sinned and come short of the glory of God." Sin has been with us since the Garden of Eden and will be with us until the Lord Jesus returns.

So what can we do about it? It is way too easy to get comfortable with our sins, to say to ourselves that they really don't matter that much. It is easy to wait to deal with them. I'll deal with them tomorrow or next week or sometime in the future.

Today God lays it out plainly for us. When the day of judgment comes, which side will you be on?

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Lenten Lessons--Day 7

Today's Scriptures: Isaiah 55:10-11; Matthew 6:7-15

The Lord's Prayer (found in our Matthew passage)is not a long and wordy prayer. It is short, simple, and to the point. It is a great example for us to follow in our own prayer lives. You see, it isn't the quantity of our prayers that matter, but the quality. Also, it is important to understand that God doesn't need our prayers to realize our needs.

As we look at the Lord's Prayer, we first see that we need to pray about God's holiness, about the kingdom he has promised us, and about the fulfillment of God's will. You see, prayer isn't about us, it is about God. However, even though our primary focus is on God that doesn't mean we don't pray about ourselves. We need to pray about our dependence on God, for forgiveness, and for the perseverance to keep doing what is good and right in God's eyes. The key idea here is that EVERYTHING that really matters in our lives comes from God.

From Isaiah we learn that no divine word is without its loving effect. That means that if we pray according to the pattern that Jesus gave us, our prayer will never be without results because we are praying in the way God has instructed us to pray. If we do that, our prayer life will come alive and so will we!

Monday, February 27, 2012

Lenten Lessons--Day 6

Today's Scriptures: Leviticus 19:1-2, 11-18; Mathew 25:31-46

In the Leviticus passage we learn how we are to relate to people. Truthfulness, justice, compassion, and love are the key elements here. But there is a deeper level embedded in this passage--that we do these things, not because of what we are, but because who God is! God is holy and he wants us to be like him--holy.

In the Matthew passage we see that we are to care for people--all people. When we reach out to the "least of these" we are reaching out with Christ's love in the same way Jesus reached out to these people when he walked the earth. No one should be denied our help and our love. NO ONE.

The change of heart that we are called to during Lent is not so much changing who we are as much as it is becoming more of who God has already called us to be. So, let us all take time today for "the least of these" that enter our surroundings today. Reach out with Christ's love and so fulfill what God expects of us!

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Lenten Lessons--Day 4

Scriptures for today: Isaiah 58:9-14; Luke 5:27-32

How good is good enough for God? The simple answer is that NONE of us will ever be able to be good enough on our own. The problem is that too many people feel that they are "good" people and that is all God requires. when those people become involved in a congregational setting, they often look down on people who are not as "good" as they are. What a joke! None of us is good, only God is good and when we take the time to really think that through it should change us. In Jesus' day the Pharisees and teachers of the law didn't "get it." When Jesus ate with sinners and tax collectors they were offended.

In reality, it isn't just the needy and the oppressed, the lost and the forgotten that need to submit to God. We ALL need that submission. When it comes to salvation none of us is self-sufficient. We all need God. We can't be what God wants us to be until we realize this. And when we finally realize this, we will stop blocking our doors(either intentionally or unintentionally) to those who need God.

As we journey through Lent, let us all become as welcoming as Jesus was (and is!)

Friday, February 24, 2012

Lenten Lessons--Day 3

Today's Scriptures: Isaiah 58:1-9; Matthew 9:14-15

Fasting is one of the disciplines that many people take on during Lent. I've done it myself, but now I am in a place in my life where complete fasting is not an option because of my diabetes. That is why I find the Scripture in Isaiah so important.The people in Isaiah's day were upset because they felt they had fasted and the Lord missed it! But God hadn't missed it, he instead wanted something more from them. He wasn't interested in His children going through the motions without it reaching their heart. That is why He says:
6 “Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen:
to loose the chains of injustice
and untie the cords of the yoke,
to set the oppressed free
and break every yoke?
7 Is it not to share your food with the hungry
and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter—
when you see the naked, to clothe them,
and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?

When we are doing these things, then we can look for the Lord and hear Him say, "I'm here!" The Lord is patiently waiting for us to give us our "religious practices" and start loving Him the way He expects!

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Lenten Lessons--Day 2

First of all, let me apologize that I have been neglectful of this blog. As part of my Lenten Discipline, I am going to do my best to keep up with the blogs with an emphasis on looking at a Scripture or two each day. Secondly, I am sorry that I am starting with day 2!

Scriptures to look at:Deuteronomy 30:15-20; Luke 9:22-25

These two Scriptures have one thing in common--making a decision. Everyday we face many decisions, from the mundane (what will I wear? what will I eat?) to the major (should I change careers? who should I marry?) The choices we make define us. Realizing these decisions define us, how should we choose? Are we going to choose the way that seems right to man or the way that seems right to God?

As for me, I'll take my cue from Joshua. "As for me and my family, we will serve the Lord!"