Are scraps enough?

Then Jesus left Galilee and went north to the region of Tyre and Sidon.  A Gentile  woman who lived there came to him, pleading, “Have mercy on me, O Lord, Son of David! For my daughter is possessed by a demon that torments her severely.”

But Jesus gave her no reply, not even a word. Then his disciples urged him to send her away. “Tell her to go away,” they said. “She is bothering us with all her begging.”

Then Jesus said to the woman, “I was sent only to help God’s lost sheep—the people of Israel.”

But she came and worshiped him, pleading again, “Lord, help me!”

Jesus responded, “It isn’t right to take food from the children and throw it to the dogs.”

She replied, “That’s true, Lord, but even dogs are allowed to eat the scraps that fall beneath their masters’ table.”

 “Dear woman,” Jesus said to her, “your faith is great. Your request is granted.” And her daughter was instantly healed. Matthew 15:21-28

So here we meet this incredibly determined mother who appears willing to endure being ignored despite her sincere pleading and even an insulting rebuke from Christ as regards her worthiness to have her selfless request granted.

And what does she want specifically?

Not any of those trivial things we have in our “I’m going to ask Jesus about that one when I meet him!” brain file. Not even any of the: Who, What, Where, Why, When, and How we often need answers to. No, this Gentile woman only wants her daughter freed from an evil possessing spirit and she KNOWS all the five “W’s” and even the “H”.

And she knows the answer is Jesus!

Why doesn’t Christ say,“I tell you the truth, I haven’t seen faith like this in all Israel! Like he did when the Roman Commander declared his belief in the healing power of Jesus? That man voiced his empathy with being a commander and his understanding of what Jesus DID command and his request was granted! This woman – falls in worship at Jesus’ feet, declares his Divinity, recognizes his lordship, begs and pleads with him to heal her daughter so why doesn’t Jesus respond positively to her right away?

I do not know for certain.

But let us consider this incredible woman today as we prepare for the Lord’s Table!

How many of us can humble ourselves like this determined mother? How many of us fall literally to our knees, sincerely declaring the lordship of Christ in our lives in a state of honest worship – even when we pray for a desired miracle?

So here is this woman begging and pleading at the FEET OF JESUS and he tells her she isn’t in his target market and his exclusive product simply isn’t available to her. She is not on the “A” list to dine at this banquet table and the delicacies are so exquisite – to share them with her would be like giving them to a dog!!

She replied, “That’s true, Lord, but even the dogs under the table are allowed to eat the scraps from the children’s plates.”

What inspires me about the spirit of this dear woman is her obvious understanding that only a crumb or scrap from Jesus is a healing feast for all that troubles her daughter.

What if in place of everything else we need and want from God we start at what we already have been served after we believe, confess and taste of God’s mercy through Christ?.

What if our prayer was this simple, “Lord I give you thanks, your grace is sufficient.”

For truly in the light of the fact we are eternal beings entrusted for a short time with this earthly existence – What else do we need?

Closing Thought

This week a friend saw a post I made about drinking 5 gallons of chocolate malt whipped up with my new Christmas blender and he asked if I like chocolate to private message him.

So I did.

He then told me he has a TWO THOUSAND POUND block of chocolate and if I wanted any I could come over and (hack, chop, saw, chisel) take off as much as I wanted! He even said he could deliver it ALL with a skid loader!

Certainly we can not remain at the foot of the cross where we receive Christ’s all sufficient grace – because we must shoulder ours and work in his yoke. However we shouldn’t complicate our faith life beyond this:

 We believe that we are all saved the same way, by the undeserved grace of the Lord Jesus.” Acts 15:11

God saved you by his grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God. Ephesians 2:8

So before we go off and whip up gallons of theological solutions to swill – remember the amazing weight lifted from your shoulders the hour you first believed and understand the sweetness of Christ’s amazing grace – it is all sufficient as Paul heard from God in his plea for relief…

Each time he [God] said, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me.

And the grace of God through Christ is even sweeter than a ton of chocolate!!

Sanctity of life… CELEBRATE our new lives!!!

If we put in the effort to compile every passage of the Bible we find troubling– pull them out of context – and ponder on them, it would be a lengthy and disturbing enterprise which reinforces our need for corporate contemplation, fellowship and Worship. I am wading through Leviticus and for some reason in this season of my life it has been a heavy blood-stained slog and I had to earnestly and reverently ask God – What’s up with that?

“If the people bring a sheep as their sin offering, it must be a female with no defects. They must lay a hand on the head of the sin offering and slaughter it at the place where burnt offerings are slaughtered. Leviticus 4:32-33

And there are CHAPTERS like this but what bugged me the most in this particular process was having to lay YOUR hand on the HEAD of a sheep (without blemish) from YOUR flock and stand there and slit its throat.

Okay, we’ve got farmers in our congregation who raise animals – cattle for meat and/or dairy and I have heard stories of some cantankerous beasts with aggressive dispositions who have caused injury and nearly death in some circumstances! Yup – I’d put them straight in the “sin” pen and grin waiting for the day when they paid the price for my indiscretions!

But I don’t think that’s what God intended.

Should we continue to sin that BBQ abound (those Old Testament sacrifices were burned on an alter and some of the meat on occasion went to the Priests to eat)  – heaven forbid! Forgive me if that is a little too flippant but during this Old Testament dispensation (if you are amenable to that theology) it would have been tantamount to what Paul wrestled with as some people claimed God’s abundant and incredible gift of grace and forgiveness was testified to my their aggressive exercise of sin! If an Old Testament practitioner of working faith in God celebrated every ornery beast born into his flock as an opportunity to sin and then slaughter it… Do you know what I mean? The forgiveness of sin required real SACRIFICE and if there was none – forgiveness was withheld. God always required an animal without blemish and I think that went deeper than a sleek coat or woolly hide…

So why this gruesome, up close and personal, slaughter of an innocent animal – a valuable member of your treasured herd or flock back then?

Well maybe I am just a soft-hearted person when it comes to animals but if I had to look a nurtured creature in my care – right in the eye – and draw a knife across its throat to kill it for MY SIN…

I would sin less!

Randall this is supposed to be Sanctity of Life Sunday where we shout at the grievous sin of this world as it turns a blind eye on the slaughter of the innocent unborn and ignores the care of the elderly who aren’t contributing, and the plight of the unwilling impoverished…and ALL the guises our loss of the love of life drapes around its shoulders these days!! Why put the focus on some bloody practice of an age-gone-by ritual?

This is why:

The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, “Look! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world! John 1:29

For you know that God paid a ransom to save you from the empty life you inherited from your ancestors. And it was not paid with mere gold or silver, which lose their value.  It was the precious blood of Christ, the sinless, spotless Lamb of God.  God chose him as your ransom long before the world began, but now in these last days he has been revealed for your sake. 1Peter 1:18-20

So my point today is a simple one:

We won’t ever be able to out shout the hateful, angry mob who think taking a baby’s life at 9 months or even AFTER birth not only makes sense but is a RIGHT! We may not be able to out clap an entire state legislature who stands in applause of their evil act when they passed this measure in New York last year…

BUT WE CAN OUT LOVE THEM!!!

Because if we no longer have to slaughter a loved nurtured creature from our flock BECAUSE OF THE SACRIFICE OF CHRIST ON OUR BEHALF – we had better be living with such an exuded joy in our testimony of this gift that we can WITNESS EFFECTIVELY to what REAL faith looks like, lives like, and loves like!!!

If we TRULY want to promote SANCTITY OF LIFE we had better display our appreciation of what CHRIST DID FOR US – AND – BE GRACEFUL AND MERCIFUL to those who may even ardently oppose what is right and good!!

And ESPECIALLY to those who may be at crossroad or have taken that painful course of abortion which may have made sense to them at the time! Mary the mother of Jesus had to fear for her life when she became pregnant! She had the advantage of being visited by the angel Gabriel to reassure her…

BE AN ANGEL – NOT A TORMENTOR!!!

The ONLY thing that will reverse this upside down mindset of SO MANY is a spiritual revolution and it will not come with Facebook memes, vitriolic rants, bigger placards, nastier tactics, and graphic rhetoric!

We need to CONSTANTLY bear TESTIMONY to the GIFTED GRACE OF GOD THROUGH JESUS CHRIST!

Hatred and evil are spawning their own ugly child.

We who have received grace and mercy can’t bear its twin.

Closing Thought

Grace was never designed to let the willful, habitual, sinner rest safe in the presence of God. The purpose of grace is to constantly draw us closer to God as we grow in an understanding of that miraculous gift made possible through Christ!

A friend talked about being taught how to rabbit hunt and the grizzly practice he learned after shooting one… Being a young man, he at first was repulsed by the practice, but after being prodded aggressively to stop being a wuss he said he got used to it and even good and efficient at it.

That was never God’s intention in Old Testament times. He never wanted his people to get calloused to the shedding of innocent blood.

If we want to make an impact on a world which applauds the shedding of innocent human blood… We first must understand the SANCTITY of our OWN LIVES! Christ died for US not to instill us with a sense of guilt for a gift we can’t reciprocate – HE DIED FOR YOU AND ME BECAUSE HE LOVES US! Sharing that Good News (it is the ULTIMATE Good News) in real ways with those who do not know the Love Divine will do more to bring about the reawakening of the Sanctity of Life than anything else!

It’s not about who can make more noise – at the bottom of it all is who truly loves as God loves – as Christ loves – and awakens this world to it?!

“For this is how God loved the world: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life. God sent his Son into the world not to judge the world, but to save the world through him.” John 3:16-17

Epiphany…had one lately? Do you want one?

Epiphany – beautiful word – we use it in the church to signify the experience of the “Wise Men” (Magi) searching the heavens, following the Christ-star, finding Jesus, then gifting and worshiping the Christ-child. This joyous, reverent occasion could have been as much as two years after Jesus was born. We like to neatly package things so we can manage them better…and it does make for really cool Christmas cards to see three turbaned men riding camels silhouetted against the sapphire blue desert sky lighted by the heavenly harbinger of the Incarnation with Bethlehem off in the distance…

Regardless of timeline I also like the phrase “Wise men still seek Him!” and it makes me wonder if it is Mary, blessed of God, who has influenced women to often be a step ahead of us men when it comes to embracing the revelation of the Divine? Yes, wise men still seek Jesus but upon our arrival, how many of us have found our mothers already there on bended knee before our Lord and Savior in ardent prayers of intercession for us!?

Speaking of Mary and “epiphanies”… She just received a disturbing bit of news in a frightening visitation from the angel Gabriel but after being reassured…Mary responded, “I am the Lord’s servant. May everything you have said about me come true.” And then the angel left her. Luke 2:38

I saw this posted by a young lady from my home church in New York:

“You’re never given a dream, without also being given the power to make it come true.” Richard Bach

“Guys did you see that star?” asked the magi of his peers.

“Oh yeah!” they respond, “That is BIG!”

“You know what it means right?” the first star-gazer continues.

“Yup – ROAD TRIP – pack the treasure and saddle up! We are going to WORSHIP GOD COME AMONG US!”

“Where is the newborn king of the Jews? We saw his star as it rose, and we have come to worship him.” Matthew 2:2

My college psychology 101 professor asked me what my ultimate dream was and I stated, “To race in the Tour de France!”

He then made me VERY uncomfortable and inquired, “Why are you sitting here then?”

So I launched into this self defense of my unwillingness to follow MY OWN DREAM by saying my very necessary asthma medications were illegal and I would test positive (this was decades before HUGE amounts of pro riders now use an asthma medical exemption to take large amounts of these drugs – if I only knew I was being given the power to make my dream come true I could have been a pioneer! Haha). No – the point here is – how often do we have a Divinely-inspired revelation we know we should follow through on but immediately launch into every possible reason why we shouldn’t. Have you done the math? Do you have any idea how far away that star could lead us? Mary could have balked. The Wise Men could have hemmed a hawed about it being a big desert, a foreign land, occupied by Romans, and at the first hardship easily turned back!

Once a religious leader asked Jesus this question: “Good Teacher, what should I do to inherit eternal life?”

 “Why do you call me good?” Jesus asked him. “Only God is truly good.  But to answer your question, you know the commandments: ‘You must not commit adultery. You must not murder. You must not steal. You must not testify falsely. Honor your father and mother.’

The man replied, “I’ve obeyed all these commandments since I was young.”

When Jesus heard his answer, he said, “There is still one thing you haven’t done. Sell all your possessions and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”

But when the man heard this he became very sad, for he was very rich. Luke 18:18-23

Ever heard this? “It’s not about the destination, it’s about the journey?”

I couldn’t disagree more!!!

“Don’t let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God, and trust also in me. There is more than enough room in my Father’s home, If this were not so, would I have told you that I am going to prepare a place for you? When everything is ready, I will come and get you, so that you will always be with me where I am. And you know the way to where I am going.”

 “No, we don’t know, Lord,” Thomas said. “We have no idea where you are going, so how can we know the way?”

Jesus told him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me.  John 14:1-6

It’s ALL ABOUT THE DESTINATION MY FRIEND!!! That is what gives meaning and focus to the journey in the first place! We wander aimlessly with no destination!

Real wise men and women care less how far the star can lead them, and instead marvel, knowing where Jesus will take them!!

One day as Jesus was walking along the shore of the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew throwing a net into the water, for they fished for a living.  Jesus called out to them, “Come, follow me, and I will show you how to fish for people!”  And they left their nets at once and followed him.

A little farther up the shore Jesus saw Zebedee’s sons, James and John, in a boat repairing their nets. He called them at once, and they also followed him, leaving their father, Zebedee, in the boat with the hired men. Mark 1:16-20

Closing Thought

Finding Jesus isn’t hard. We don’t need to go on a “spiritual quest” for enlightenment. Christ is standing at the door knocking with the gift of eternal life for us.

I honestly think we enjoy pondering a journey like the star gazing Magi…because it is a lot more comfortable contemplating the search for Jesus than truly coming to grips with what he will command once we open the door to him! Curious thing; that hesitation is Satan at work!

Then Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.” Matthew 11: 28-30

Lie it all down as you take a knee in front of Jesus in worship, surrender, submission, confession, and recognize he is worthy of all you have. The Wise Men went home via another route – so will we if we are wise enough to honor Christ as they did!

I dare you to “Peter out” in 2020

I love Simon Peter, the disciple of Jesus for his raw, blatant, “Did I just say that? Did I just DO that?” headlong rush into life! The man had no filter between word and deed, whatever he felt or was urged to do he seemed to leap in without even a glance at where it all might land him!

One day as Jesus was preaching on the shore of the Sea of Galilee, great crowds pressed in on him to listen to the word of God. He noticed two empty boats at the water’s edge, for the fishermen had left them and were washing their nets.  Stepping into one of the boats, Jesus asked Simon, its owner, to push it out into the water. So he sat in the boat and taught the crowds from there.

When he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, “Now go out where it is deeper, and let down your nets to catch some fish.”

 “Master,” Simon replied, “we worked hard all last night and didn’t catch a thing. But if you say so, I’ll let the nets down again.” And this time their nets were so full of fish they began to tear! A shout for help brought their partners in the other boat, and soon both boats were filled with fish and on the verge of sinking.

When Simon Peter realized what had happened, he fell to his knees before Jesus and said, “Oh, Lord, please leave me—I’m such a sinful man.” Luke 5:1-8 NLT

I wonder what our “catch” would look like if we TRULY called Jesus “Master? We see what it earned Peter as he exercised – absolutely honest humility – before his Master the Messiah!

“Oh, Lord, please leave me—I’m such a sinful man.”

Faith in Christ should NEVER begin with ANYONE putting a virulent attack on who you are, what you have done or what you have been through… A proper introduction to Jesus should be us saying, “If you are going hungry in your heart-of-hearts, if you thirst constantly despite all you drink, if you keep fishing and coming up empty… Please allow me to share a Friend who will change all that!”

And then the Holy Spirit can (should) drop us all to our knees before Jesus because NONE OF US are any different than Simon Peter!!

“Oh, Lord, please leave me – I’m such a sinful man.” But Jesus at that moment does NOT leave us but instead begins his embrace of us for eternity!!

How about this classic “Peter” moment? Jesus needed some time alone to pray after a season of serious ministry and sends the disciples off ahead of him in their boat BUT they get caught in an epic storm…

About three o’clock in the morning Jesus came toward them, walking on the water.  When the disciples saw him walking on the water, they were terrified. In their fear, they cried out, “It’s a ghost!”

But Jesus spoke to them at once. “Don’t be afraid,” he said. “Take courage. I am here!”

Then Peter called to him, “Lord, if it’s really you, tell me to come to you, walking on the water.”

 “Yes, come,” Jesus said.

So Peter went over the side of the boat and walked on the water toward Jesus.  But when he saw the strong wind and the waves, he was terrified and began to sink. “Save me, Lord!” he shouted. Matthew 14:25-30 NLT

Good old Peter – in the midst of a life threatening storm (and he and a number of these guys were lifetime fisherman on that lake) takes the opportunity to call out a challenge, gets his “bluff” called by Jesus, and over the side he goes with classic Peter bravado! Until he succumbs to his senses and even more terror ensues!!!

“Save me, Lord!” he shouted. 

I swim like a 50 gallon drum of lead shot so I would have been hugging the mast of that boat and thinking, “PETER IS NUTS!!!” but there he went!! WILD MAN!!! CRAZY MAN! I used to think this was putting God to a foolish test (we NEVER should) but instead I see it now as Jesus testing Peter’s faith! AND what if it had NOT been Jesus out there on the water? What would the Deceiver had encouraged Peter to do?

THE SAME THING but certainly would have laughed as Peter drown!

That’s the difference with the Divine – He will lift us up when we falter!!

“Save me, Lord!” he shouted. AND Jesus did!

I like wild, crazy, people like Peter and  we should minister to wild crazy people because they might end up doing wild crazy things with/for Jesus and the “Good News”!!

The week before Christmas I officiated a second Memorial for a hard working, wild family (I was welcomed to the first one in the parking lot by a shirtless giant man drinking from a case of beer in the bed of his pick-up truck) and as I passed the back way to the lectern at the Funeral Home a salt of the earth young man intercepted me and announced energetically, “It is good to see you again! I have been reading my Bible A LOT!”

I tried not to spill the glass of water I was transporting and responded with no little surprise, “YOU have been reading YOUR Bible… A LOT?”

“HE _ _ YEAH!” he responded incredulously.

Yeah I know, we should only invite people to church who would have responded to me, “Per chance, may I inquire why thou art, in appearance, set back by my taking in heart and hand the Spirit-inspired word of God?”

Or not!! I think we need “Peters”!

And sometimes Peter got it RIGHT – I unfortunately got that exchange WRONG!

                        At this point many of his disciples turned away and deserted him. Then Jesus turned to the Twelve and asked, “Are you also going to leave?”

Simon Peter replied, “Lord, to whom would we go? You have the words that give eternal life. We believe, and we know you are the Holy One of God.”  John 6:67-69

And…Peter gets it right again!!

          When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?”

“Well,” they replied, “some say John the Baptist, some say Elijah, and others say Jeremiah or one of the other prophets.”

Then he asked them, “But who do you say I am?”

Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.”

Jesus replied, “You are blessed, Simon son of John, because my Father in heaven has revealed this to you. You did not learn this from any human being. Matthew 16:13-17

And sometimes Simon Peter got it REALLY WRONG (notice this is the same chapter in Matthew where Peter got it RIGHT)!!

From then on Jesus began to tell his disciples plainly that it was necessary for him to go to Jerusalem, and that he would suffer many terrible things at the hands of the elders, the leading priests, and the teachers of religious law. He would be killed, but on the third day he would be raised from the dead.

But Peter took him aside and began to reprimand him for saying such things. “Heaven forbid, Lord,” he said. “This will never happen to you!”

Jesus turned to Peter and said, “Get away from me, Satan! You are a dangerous trap to me. You are seeing things merely from a human point of view, not from God’s.” Matthew 16:

And probably the most heartbreaking of all Peter’s declarations…

On the way, Jesus told them, “Tonight all of you will desert me. For the Scriptures say,

‘God will strike the Shepherd,
and the sheep of the flock will be scattered.’

But after I have been raised from the dead, I will go ahead of you to Galilee and meet you there.”

Peter declared, “Even if everyone else deserts you, I will never desert you.”

Jesus replied, “I tell you the truth, Peter—this very night, before the rooster crows, you will deny three times that you even know me.”

“No!” Peter insisted. “Even if I have to die with you, I will never deny you!” Matthew 26:31-35 NLT

Unfortunately we have recorded Peter’s blatant denials and his soul wrenching reaction to the revelation he had done what he ardently promised Jesus he would not!

So why on earth would I encourage ANYONE in the coming year “to peter out” which is probably a weak catch phrase use for us to emulate this obviously weak, flawed, human being who couldn’t even get it right – right at Jesus side – when it seemed to matter most?

Satan LOVES nothing more than whispering in our ears, “You are unworthy of grace, mercy, and love.” And he can point out all kinds of stuff we fail at just like Peter did but..

Our simple answer should be – with GREAT JOY – “I know I am a sinner… …and yet!!”

Closing Thought

Like Peter there are times when we “nail it” in our faith, and there are times when we have to drop in contrition and repentance for the things we do – despite knowing Christ went to the cross for US!!

So why should we “Peter out” in 2020?

Because that crazy, wild man KEPT GROWING IN CHRIST despite his major foul-ups! He got filled with the Holy Spirit and went on one epic wild ride with God Almighty birthing the church as a building block and fighting tirelessly to bring the Good News to all he was led to minister to by the Holy Spirit!! Peter is not about exampling God’s limitless supply of grace – Peter is about the Transforming power of the Holy Spirit!!

Yup – I  dare us all to Peter out in 2020!!!

Peter out the Good News at any cost!

Peter out the proclamation of the Messiah!

Peter out abiding in Christ, the Word of eternal life!

Peter out of a storm swamped boat – keeping our eyes on Christ – not the waves!

Peter out our LOVE of Christ as we feed his sheep!

Communion

Prayer for the Bread

Dear Lord we give thanks for your patience with us.

Because we don’t always respond rightly to your great sacrifice.

May this bread representing you body broken for us, call us into a right relationship with you in humble adoration.

Amen

 

Prayer for the Cup

Dear Lord you – the Spotless Lamb of God – shed your blood on the cross to forgive our sins.

May this cup representing your forgiving sacrifice stir us to, fall before you humbly, trust you in the storm, proclaim you confidently… …

And love you always!

Amen

How to see clearly in 2020

Wednesday starts a New Year! So how can we see more clearly in 2020 those things which will straighten a few of the curves and level off a few of the hills (massive mountains) we faced in 2019?

There are three things we can do and I am going to kick it off right from the start with my favorite verse in the Bible (using the NIV here) Amos 5:4

The Lord says to the people of Israel, “Seek me—and live.”

So who is Israel? Anyone we sees themselves as being a creation of God and wants a healthy relationship with him as we contend positively with humankind.

This is good too! Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need. Matthew 6:33 NLT

What’s the difference between seeking God and seeking his Kingdom – it’s subtle but important. We can ALL contemplate God Almighty and seek him in our own way. In fact the majority of Americans believe there is a God. Good for them, they should seek him but if ANY of us want admittance into his Kingdom there is but one Way, one Truth, One Life – and that is Jesus the Christ.

As C.S. Lewis wrote so well, “The Son of God became a man to enable men to become sons of God.” This works for you lady folk too!!

This is too easy Randall – all we have to do is SEEK God through Christ and 2020 will be trouble free?

I wish it were so but let me say this; if we put more time into seeking God through a submitted and surrendered life to Jesus Christ (as we strive to live righteously) we would have a lot less energy to be doing dumb stuff which can set our lives sideways to Him! Considering Christ being along for the ride in our lives will change pretty radically our desired destination! Allowing Christ to do the driving is even better and God’s provision for our needs (not wants) WILL include: His peace during chaos, His armor in the battles, His living water when we thirst, and His strength during our weakness! All the nasty, evil challenges of our lives will NOT disappear upon our questing for God in Christ but our quiver just got stocked with the Divine and the more we abide with God the more arrows we get!

So seek God through Christ and 2020 will have a new focus!

The second thing we need to do is discern God’s will and it goes hand in hand with what we just talked about.

You saw me before I was born. Every day of my life was recorded in your book. Every moment was laid out before a single day had passed. Psalm 139:16. This doesn’t mean we aren’t autonomous! Who exercised your free will 2019? If we want a better 2020 we need to get on the same page as God Almighty!! For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope. Jeremiah 29:11

How do we get  there?

Never stop praying. 1 Thessalonians 5:17

Randall you’d be amazed how often I have to pray!!!

No, I wouldn’t because I have been there too but when we can shift from “Dear Lord WHY ME?” to “Dear Lord, not sure why I’m having to deal with this – it’s not my circus and NOT my monkeys – but use me in this difficult time to shine your light!” That’s a good sign we are in the discernment groove where God will guide our footsteps! And our constant prayer is not from bended knee always; it is a running conversation where we seek God at every cross road AND each step along the straight and narrow.

Conversing with God also helps us speak Spirit-inspired words when engaged in discourse with “mere mortals” vs. what we might fire away with before checking our tongues. How many fires did your tongue start in 2019? 2020 can be a new era for you, talking/praying with God and letting the words of your mouth represent Christ alive in your heart!!

Here is another path to follow to aid in discernment of God’s will for us: And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise. Philippians 4:8

“So far so good for me Randall because I am cool with God and my life is pretty sedate. I honestly don’t do anything contrary to Jesus’ teaching and I spend time in his word AND praying – in fact I don’t do much of ANYTHING else at all!!”

Interesting… … I long for those days and am truly envious if that is your life but the third thing we MUST do once we have entered communion with the Divine and enjoy conversation with Him IS ACT ON HIS LEADING!! But don’t just listen to God’s word. You must do what it says. Otherwise, you are only fooling yourselves. James 1:22

Here is another one I LOVE because God put it in the Bible for Pastors, Preachers and Ministers who enjoy taking advantage of a dramatic situation to launch into some, “This is what it REALLY looks like when WE talk to God” display. Here Moses is about to utilize  God’s power at the parting of the Red Sea as they face extermination by the army of Egypt but he’s gotten a little too wordy. Then the Lord said to Moses, “Quit praying and get the people moving! Forward, march!” Exodus 14:15 (Living Bible)

Finally in case we don’t think Jesus can relate to all the challenges that come with our seeking relationship with God, discerning God’s will in our lives and ACTING ON IT…

Then Jesus went with them to the olive grove called Gethsemane, and he said, “Sit here while I go over there to pray.”  He took Peter and Zebedee’s two sons, James and John, and he became anguished and distressed.  He told them, “My soul is crushed with grief to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.”

He went on a little farther and bowed with his face to the ground, praying, “My Father! If it is possible, let this cup of suffering be taken away from me. Yet I want your will to be done, not mine.”

Then he returned to the disciples and found them asleep. He said to Peter, “Couldn’t you watch with me even one hour? Keep watch and pray, so that you will not give in to temptation. For the spirit is willing, but the body is weak!”

Then Jesus left them a second time and prayed, “My Father! If this cup cannot be taken away unless I drink it, your will be done.”  When he returned to them again, he found them sleeping, for they couldn’t keep their eyes open.

So he went to pray a third time, saying the same things again.  Then he came to the disciples and said, “Go ahead and sleep. Have your rest. But look—the time has come. The Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners.  Up, let’s be going. Look, my betrayer is here!” Matthew 26:36-46 NLT

Humanity facing dire punishment for the constant exercising of our own free will finds eternal hope in this alone – Jesus sought constant communion with his Father, submitted his will to God after ardent prayer and acted on God’s plan for his earthly life! And we are the recipients of grace and mercy for that sacrifice!

May we see clearly in 2020, seeking God, discerning his good and perfect will, and moving within it to his glory!

Closing Thought

2020 is on the near horizon – UP LET’S BE GOING!!! There are people out there who don’t even know the embrace of Christ’s grace, mercy, and love awaits them because they are still in the death grip of the betrayer!

When he [Jesus] came to the village of Nazareth, his boyhood home, he went as usual to the synagogue on the Sabbath and stood up to read the Scriptures. The scroll of Isaiah the prophet was handed to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where this was written:

“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, for he has anointed me to bring Good News to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim that captives will be released, that the blind will see, that the oppressed will be set free, and that the time of the Lord’s favor has come.”

He rolled up the scroll, handed it back to the attendant, and sat down. All eyes in the synagogue looked at him intently. Then he began to speak to them. “The Scripture you’ve just heard has been fulfilled this very day!” Luke 4:16-19 NLT

Jesus still releases captives, gives 2020 sight to the blind, and liberates the oppressed! So – UP LET’S BE GOING!!!! Let’s, seek God, discern his good and perfect will and share his gift to all the Spirit inspires us to reach!

Do not be afraid! It’s a message of Peace!

IMG_20130227_071727

Advent Reading of Peace

John the Baptist’s father Zachariah prophesied

Because of God’s tender mercy, the morning light from heaven is about to break upon us, to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death,
and to guide us to the path of peace.”

Today we light the Advent Candle of Peace.

Advent Prayer of Peace

Dear Lord, may our hearts welcome your Son, the Prince of Peace today in our worship of you. May these lit candles remind us of your Hope, Joy, and Peace we find in you alone.But as these candles will eventually taper, wane and be extinguished… …We must continue to shine your light in a dark fearful world so the world may know YOU!

Amen.

Message: Do not be afraid! It is a message of PEACE!!!

In the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a village in Galilee, to a virgin named Mary. She was engaged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of King David. Gabriel appeared to her and said, “Greetings, favored woman! The Lord is with you!”

Confused and disturbed, Mary tried to think what the angel could mean. “Don’t be afraid, Mary,” the angel told her, “for you have found favor with God! You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you will name him Jesus. He will be very great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his ancestor David. And he will reign over Israel forever; his Kingdom will never end!” Luke 1:26-33

Have you ever been confused, disturbed, and afraid?

Can you blame Mary?

This is how Jesus the Messiah was born. His mother, Mary, was engaged to be married to Joseph. But before the marriage took place, while she was still a virgin, she became pregnant through the power of the Holy Spirit. Joseph, to whom she was engaged, was a righteous man and did not want to disgrace her publicly, so he decided to break the engagement quietly.

As he considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream. “Joseph, son of David,” the angel said, “do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife. For the child within her was conceived by the Holy Spirit. And she will have a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” Matthew 1:18-21

Have you ever been afraid to go into a relationship? That’s a big step… …dad!

That night there were shepherds staying in the fields nearby, guarding their flocks of sheep. Suddenly, an angel of the Lord appeared among them, and the radiance of the Lord’s glory surrounded them. They were terrified, but the angel reassured them. “Don’t be afraid!” he said. “I bring you good news that will bring great joy to all people. The Savior—yes, the Messiah, the Lord—has been born today in Bethlehem, the city of David! Luke 2:8-11

Would the appearance of the heavenly host terrify you?

Fear is a curious thing. I remember years ago people with big, fancy, muddy, pickup trucks would have “NO FEAR” decals splashed across their back windows. And then one day I saw a guy who really could care less about the state of his big muddy work truck and he had written in the back window – “FEAR THIS!”

Why would the arrival of the Messiah fill his mother and step father with FEAR? Should this not be a joyous, hoped-for-time filled of peace? Well…there were complications but still… Why would Marry fear Gabriel’s visit? Why would Joseph be afraid to embrace the love God ordained for his life?

Why would the shepherds be terrified to be visited by the vast host of the Angel Army of Heaven?

We fear because we are human.

When we are young we fear certain things and watch adults and older youth longing for the day our dark nightmares don’t disrupt us and then in each chapter of our growing lives we may conquer old fears, uprooting them from our troubled seasons, only to discover each turned page of our maturity sees new fears have grown to replace them.

Zachariah and Elizabeth were chosen to be the parents of John the Baptist who would announce Jesus as the Christ. But their fears were realized years before when they found they could not have children and then when the news of their coming child was brought to them…

While Zechariah was in the sanctuary, an angel of the Lord appeared to him, standing to the right of the incense altar. Zechariah was shaken and overwhelmed with fear when he saw him. But the angel said, “Don’t be afraid, Zechariah! God has heard your prayer. Your wife, Elizabeth, will give you a son, and you are to name him John. You will have great joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth, for he will be great in the eyes of the Lord. He must never touch wine or other alcoholic drinks. He will be filled with the Holy Spirit, even before his birth. And he will turn many Israelites to the Lord their God. He will be a man with the spirit and power of Elijah. He will prepare the people for the coming of the Lord. He will turn the hearts of the fathers to their children, and he will cause those who are rebellious to accept the wisdom of the godly.”

Zechariah said to the angel, “How can I be sure this will happen? I’m an old man now, and my wife is also well along in years.”

Then the angel said, “I am Gabriel! I stand in the very presence of God. It was he who sent me to bring you this good news! But now, since you didn’t believe what I said, you will be silent and unable to speak until the child is born. For my words will certainly be fulfilled at the proper time.” Luke 1:11-20

Zachariah wouldn’t it be terrible if we can’t have children! Zachariah you and Elizabeth are going to have a child! YIKES – I’ll be 85 when he graduates High School!! Today we may fear about raising our children and then we fear about the way are children are raising their children! There will always be something we fear! We once feared the dark now we fear paying the utility bill next month to keep the lights on!

Faced with our current fears, have we ever looked back and marveled at what we once let frighten, confuse, and disturb us? Will there ever be a day when we will fear nothing?

Today in our Advent Season (I know we got a few weeks switched around) we are contemplating Peace. We all have our definition of what peace means to us but today let me tell you what I think is most disrupting to peace…FEAR.

Conventional wisdom will argue that the opposing force of peace is chaos but I disagree for I have seen some wild peace displayed in some insanely hectic circumstances. I have however never seen peace coexist with fear.

Why then would these Biblical characters be afraid when visited by the messengers of God himself even with “glad tidings”?

Because the Messiah, the Prince of Peace, had not yet been fully revealed to them!

“I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.” – Jesus (in John 16:33)

Closing Thought

It has become a popular encouragement to ensure others facing stressful challenges, “You’ve got this!”

Now… I can appreciate a vote of confidence as much as anyone but the truth of the matter is when life gets TRULY sideways – if we rely on our own strength we may not “have this” and when we realize that fact there is no amount of earthly reinforcement to convince us things will resolve well! There are times when we LEGITIMATELY have a lot more to fear than fear itself!!

So where do we find peace?

Jesus said – “I am leaving you with a gift—peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don’t be troubled or afraid.” John 14:27.

Go in peace today not with the encouragement that “You’ve got this!”

Go in peace today knowing that Jesus the Christ – the Prince of Peace – HAS YOU!

If He doesn’t yet… What a GREAT day to turn your life over to Him!!!

 

JOY…and tears of?

GE DIGITAL CAMERA

An often overlooked event happened when the exiled Jews returned to Jerusalem from their captivity in Babylon. The returned people had – with many challenges – rebuilt their dwellings, the city walls opposite, and finally the Temple; but the laying of the Temple foundation was not an occasion filled with joy for everyone…

Then the people hired masons and carpenters and bought cedar logs from the people of Tyre and Sidon, paying them with food, wine, and olive oil. The logs were brought down from the Lebanon mountains and floated along the coast of the Mediterranean Sea to Joppa, for King Cyrus had given permission for this.

The construction of the Temple of God began in midspring, during the second year after they arrived in Jerusalem. The work force was made up of everyone who had returned from exile, including Zerubbabel son of Shealtiel, Jeshua son of Jehozadak and his fellow priests, and all the Levites. The Levites who were twenty years old or older were put in charge of rebuilding the Lord’s Temple. The workers at the Temple of God were supervised by Jeshua with his sons and relatives, and Kadmiel and his sons, all descendants of Hodaviah. They were helped in this task by the Levites of the family of Henadad.

When the builders completed the foundation of the Lord’s Temple, the priests put on their robes and took their places to blow their trumpets. And the Levites, descendants of Asaph, clashed their cymbals to praise the Lord, just as King David had prescribed. With praise and thanks, they sang this song to the Lord:

“He is so good!
His faithful love for Israel endures forever!”

Then all the people gave a great shout, praising the Lord because the foundation of the Lord’s Temple had been laid.

But many of the older priests, Levites, and other leaders who had seen the first Temple wept aloud when they saw the new Temple’s foundation. The others, however, were shouting for joy. 

The joyful shouting and weeping mingled together in a loud noise that could be heard far in the distance. Ezra 3:7-13 NLT

When I witnessed my father receiving the Olympic Flame in his torch for the Salt Lake Winter Games, turning, and starting off down that snowy road in Lansing I literally dropped to the ground in tears for ALL the INCREDIBLE work it took dad to reach that point following a brutal collision he had with a car while finishing a 100 mile solo bicycle ride. I honestly could not stand under the weight of the epic foundation laid for that half mile journey. They were tears for seeing a glimpse of who dad had been AND tears of joy for the amazing man he was to accomplish this feat after such a tremendous amount of work on recovering what he could.

So here in Ezra we have two distinct groups:

One is shouting for JOY to be taking part in the building up of God’s new Temple!

But…

The other is weeping for what they remember the Temple used to be.

The joyful shouting and weeping mingled together in a loud noise that could be heard far in the distance. 3:13

I wonder which group God was pleased to hear?

God could have said – Ah, this new generation has a fire in their belly to finally be coming into a place sanctified for a purpose of Worship and communion with me! It is their heart-state which matters after all!

Or…

God could have said – Ah, my “old guard” they get it! They recall the splendor of Solomon’s Temple… and this new building… well it just isn’t the way it was and I am glad a few people understand what my Temple should be!!

When I traveled to Israel we flew El Air and a number of serious practitioners of the Jewish Faith were pressing the Flight Attendant about whether the on screen airplane depicting our course was accurate because THEY HAD TO PRAY TOWARD THE TEMPLE (Mount)! See Solomon’s prayer in 2 Chronicles 6:36-39 upon the dedication of the first Temple. So today the Temple is critical to God’s people who seek him. Back in Ezra’s day it was equally important with those who remembered the traditional first Temple so emotionally. I also think it was equally important to those who were seeing God’s Temple construction for the first time and shouting for JOY!

Which group are you in?

Could you care less about where you meet God as long as there is JOYOUS corporate worship happening in real spirit and truth?

Or…

Do the old traditions mean so much to you that deviation from them brings tears to your eyes?

Here is the thing; we need you both!

I was sharing in conversation with Grace Coats’s (the matron of a family who first broke bread with our family when we started attending Woodgrove) granddaughter Kelly and she recalled the rich tradition of cooking and baking with the ladies of our church indicating to me the occasion filled her with joy! So we need the torch bearers of the past – provided the traditions are passed with MEANING and not simply because… we have always done it this way! And…remember we can’t build on ANY foundation unless the Lord ordains it and our work brings HIM glory!

We also need you all who just want to be HERE worshipping God RIGHT NOW – come what may! I love your energy!! But if something we do makes you ponder, “Now why do we do that?” Ask someone, and their answer may enrich you! My wife comes from the ceremonially rich worship experience of French Catholicism and when she first attended here and saw the acolyte carrying the “Light of Christ” and lighting the two candles in the front of the Sanctuary she felt a tie to home – so traditions matter but all of our acolytes are taught the meaning of this important tradition and carry it out with due reverence.

We need to balance the energy of our here and now worship of the I AM – with the embrace of the traditions which recognize the Alpha and the Omega!  This conversation may have occurred back in Ezra’s day:

“Hey the Temple is being rebuilt!! Why are you crying, moaning and weeping? You should be JOYOUS!!”

“Well, back in the day, the Temple was MOST GLORIOUS! God descended on this place with such power we had to stop the Worship Service for a time!”

Those excited about worshipping RIGHT NOW could shrug that off as a “buzz kill” or… They could have fed off the TRADITIONALIST’S emotion and the conversation may have continued, “Really? God descended in tangible power? Incredible! How do we get that relationship with the Divine back?”

So which family are you in?

Rich Traditionalist or Right-Now worshipper?

This is the family I want to belong to…

Don and DeLane’s 5 year old granddaughter leaned over to Don during worship last year and whispered in wide-eyed wonder, “Jesus is all around us!”

And just last week Roy and Tara’s youngest turned 6 right on Sunday and shared with his mom that being able to come to church was a critical part of making his  birthday “perfect” as he got to decorate the Christmas Tree (Hanging of the Greens tradition) snag a new Hot Wheel (Birthday Bag tradition) and eat a donut (Woodgrove Diet tradition).

So imagine having the faith of children who feel Jesus all around them RIGHT NOW in worship and count the corporate gathering with long held TRADITIONS vital to their JOY on their very birthday!

Let’s be like children who recognize in Worship the wondrous surrounding presence of our Lord and Savior and understand the meaningful traditions which invite God to  abide with us in power!

Closing Thought

Nehemiah was a contemporary of Ezra’s and he came back to Jerusalem to find the holy sanctifying traditions of the Temple had been ignored and he got a little rowdy reinstating what needed to be done.

Preparing this message has taken me to a place where I am examining the torch I pass. I want it to be glorifying to God, recognizing the meaningful TRADITIONS which honor him but also allow me to shout with JOY to the Lord and worship him with gladness, singing with JOY – RIGHT NOW AND ALL THE TIME!!

I want to celebrate this Advent Season rightly – even with tears of JOY – or even better…JOYOUSLY like our children do!!!

Advent Reading for JOY!

In Luke’s Gospel we hear of Mary meeting with Elizabeth and…

Elizabeth gave a glad cry and exclaimed to Mary, “God has blessed you above all women, and your child is blessed. Why am I so honored, that the mother of my Lord should visit me? When I heard your greeting, the baby in my womb jumped for joy.

During this Advent Season, may we open our hearts to the coming of Christ like a welcoming child!

Advent Prayer for JOY!

Dear Lord, today we echo the Psalmist who encouraged all creation and all your people to shout with JOY and to sing with JOY in your presence!

May these candles remind us of the hope we find in you AND the joy we should have as we draw near to you in worship and you to us!

Amen

Hope – deferred?

IMG_20171229_115709

Advent Candle of Hope Reading (from the Psalms) 

Lead us by your truth and teach us, for you are the God who saves us.

All day long we put our hope in you.

May integrity and honesty protect us, for we put our hope in you.

 

Advent Sunday of Hope Prayer (from the Psalms)

Dear Lord,

We put our hope in you because you are our help and our shield.

Let your unfailing love surround us for our hope is in you alone.

And may we realize this certain hope in you every day of our lives!

Amen.

Message

Hope… deferred?

Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a dream fulfilled is a tree of life. Proverbs 13:12

What is HOPE?

I think hope is the ardent belief in a guarantee which requires the application of our spiritual resources.

“I hope it doesn’t rain!” does not qualify as real hope – hoping it doesn’t rain is wishing. Wishing usually has a finite timeframe, “I wish it wouldn’t rain, because I have crops in the field that need harvesting – NOW!” Hope on the other hand can be placed in something we have no schedule for. Our hope found in salvation through faith in Christ is an eternity guaranteed in the embrace of the Divine but we have no idea when that may occur.

So is all hope deferred for the believer?

No, I think the proverb refers to those who wait – defer – for a future date to place their hope in the Lord as never being healthy in their hearts. “No thank you very much! I am doing just fine on my own! If I ever really feel the need for any ‘hope’ I may consider God but not right now.”

I have been there in my life – not resulting in the denial of communion with God but more of an unhealthy, prideful, self-reliance which took me from a place where I should have been offering wonderful thanksgiving to God and into a place where I kept him like a fire axe behind glass with a sign – IN CASE OF EMERGENCY BREAK THIS OUT! Sad thing is; the dreams I realized in that place were not a tree of life

Hope indicates a faith founded in an understood truth a desired outcome will occur if even accompanied by uncertain timing. As believers, our hope WILL BE realized… But we can’t just sit back, do nothing, ignore the needs around us, and sigh, “It’s a crazy world but I’ve got a mansion just over the hilltop (in heaven) and I can’t wait to get there! That’s where my hope is!”

Talking with Edith on Friday as I delivered promised pecan pie to her and Ron, Bob and Marilyn, she shared she would be gathering with family on Sunday so wouldn’t be here or at our sharing of the Word at Woodlawn Meadows. I told her today’s message would be about “hope” and about how hope goes beyond our promise of heaven. She paused for a time with a very thoughtful look on her face then said, “People who put their hope in God for heaven… …will realize hope all along the way.”

I do LOVE our Woodgrove Family!!

Edith has been through a very dynamic year with BIG changes to her lifestyle but she keeps carrying on! SHE REMAINS HOPEFUL and is replenished in it as she draws on her relationship with God through Christ.

And so, Lord, where do I put my hope? My only hope is in you. Psalm 39:7

Our HOPE in the Lord will secure a sense of direction AND guidance for this ride through life – rain or shine – EVERY DAY!!

Hope deferred?

I hope not!!

You lived in this world without God and without hope. But now you have been united with Christ Jesus. Once you were far away from God, but now you have been brought near to him through the blood of Christ. Ephesians 2:12b-13

Closing Thought

Do you ever feel like life is living you instead of you living life? Events occur which seem to dictate your every moment as if all your decisions are made for you as soon as your feet hit the floor – day after day?

You thought it would get easier when you got older and suddenly those candles on your birthday cake appear as blazing dictators of what waning things are possible and the growing edict of what is impossible?

Well there was a dusty corner of the Roman Empire where the oppressor could dictate life to any and all…But suddenly God’s plan since before time was time began to unfold!!

“Look at my Servant, whom I have chosen. He is my Beloved, who pleases me.
I will put my Spirit upon him, and he will proclaim justice to the nations.
 He will not fight or shout or raise his voice in public.
He will not crush the weakest reed or put out a flickering candle.
Finally he will cause justice to be victorious.
And his name will be the hope of all the world.”
Matthew 12:18-21

Do not defer your hope in the Lord!

Let us hold tightly without wavering to the hope we affirm, for God can be trusted to keep his promise. Hebrews 10:23

You’ll be amazed what dreams may start to grow in your tree of life!!

COMMUNION

Prayer for the Bread

Dear Lord,

The things of this world can satisfy us for a time.

But the only source of hope for eternity is You!

We give thanks for this bread representing your sacrifice which makes our hope possible.

Amen

Prayer for the Cup

Father God,

We thirst for hope in a world where it is often hidden.

We give thanks for this cup representing your Son’s shed blood… …

Which forgives our sins and brings HOPE to all humanity!

Amen

Be THANK FULL!!!

Tgiving

And let the peace that comes from Christ rule in your hearts. For as members of one body you are called to live in peace. And always be thankful. Colossians 3:15 NLT

If you had more peace would you be more thankful? What is keeping you from being at peace? If the reason for your absence of peace is within arm’s reach – correct it – if it is beyond your scope to address – trust God and be thankful for his response!

Let the message about Christ, in all its richness, fill your lives. Teach and counsel each other with all the wisdom he gives. Sing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs to God with thankful hearts. Colossians 3:16

The gift of grace in Christ gives us all we need to be full of thanks but I know the world can cloud the truth of this greatest gift ever offered humanity so when we are down, don’t wait until Sunday to gather with your loving brothers and sisters from our Body of Christ! Counsel, and love one another throughout the week with a simple phone call, visit, or note!

As such, Woodgrove’s “Luke Out” will be meeting at the Hastings Cinema on Wednesday at 11:20am to give thanks for high octane racing fuel and watch Ford vs. Ferrari.

And now, just as you accepted Christ Jesus as your Lord, you must continue to follow him. Let your roots grow down into him, and let your lives be built on him. Then your faith will grow strong in the truth you were taught, and you will overflow with thankfulness. Colossians 2:6-7 NLT

Life can be so dynamic it is hard to stay the course of faith! These shifting times require us to be sure of our foundation and for us to be rooted in Christ! Everything may be going sideways around us – day after day – but here is a reason for THANKSGIVING!! Whatever is good and perfect is a gift coming down to us from God our Father, who created all the lights in the heavens. He never changes or casts a shifting shadow. James 1:17

AMEN!!

Give thanks to the Lord and proclaim his greatness. Let the whole world know what he has done. 1 Chronicles 16:8

This world cannot argue with our personal testimony about what God IS doing for us! Thanksgiving comes easy when we are being used of God, and there, we don’t need to necessarily give verbal testimony to his acts of grace, love and mercy because we are his instruments of them in action (on our MUCH smaller human scale – but still!)!

Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good! His faithful love endures forever.                    1 Chronicles 16:34

“Nobody loves me, everybody hates me! I guess I’ll go eat worms!” What a sad Thanksgiving meal and what an unnecessary emotion because…

GOD LOVES YOU!!! If you look at what you are doing with your life and find that impossible to believe – CHANGE YOUR LIFE – by offering it to Christ so you can be REBORN and FEEL THE LOVE DIVINE!!

What better reason to be full of thanks!!!?

When I was prosperous, I said, “Nothing can stop me now!” Your favor, O Lord, made me as secure as a mountain. Then you turned away from me, and I was shattered. Psalm 30:6-7

This is EXTREMELY important – we MUST give thanks to God during times of prosperity! We must recognize the source of our well being! If you argue, “I earned this by the sweat of my brow!” You best give thanks for the strength you had to do it because strength is fleeting! If you argue, “It was my resourceful stewardship which prospered me!” Give thanks by offering God the first fruits of your prosperity because if you just start building bigger barns for your harvest taking pride in what you think YOU have achieved… … “But God said to him, ‘You fool! You will die this very night. Then who will get everything you worked for?’ Luke 12:20

Don’t ever give God reason to turn away from you!! ALWAYS give thanks!!

I cried out to you, O Lord. I begged the Lord for mercy, saying, “What will you gain if I die, if I sink into the grave? Can my dust praise you? Can it tell of your faithfulness? Hear me, Lord, and have mercy on me. Help me, O Lord.” Psalm 30:8-10

Feeling distanced from God only means we have moved away. What a joy it is that God is patient and merciful! What a reason to give thanks that He seeks those who have wandered!

You have turned my mourning into joyful dancing. You have taken away my clothes of mourning and clothed me with joy, that I might sing praises to you and not be silent.

O Lord my God, I will give you thanks forever! Psalm 30:11-12

Make this Thanksgiving Season one which FIRSTLY recognizes the source of all our thanks!! Be full of THANKS in the Lord – his steadfast loves endures forever and give thanks for each other in Christian love!

Closing Thought

Am I alone for finding it disturbing to see Halloween Pumpkins for sale next to Christmas Trees? Is this act a national conspiracy to “commercialize us” right past Thanksgiving? I do enjoy a good conspiracy theory as much as the next person but… no I don’t think it is a conspiracy as such. I do think our nation has reached a point where we fail to…“Be still, and know that I am God! I will be honored by every nation. I will be honored throughout the world.” Psalm 46:10 So this Thanksgiving Season – give pause, take stock, count your blessings, bless those around you, be generous – and be THANK FULL for the gifts God has entrusted you with!!

You all give me reason for thanksgiving! I always thank my God for you and for the gracious gifts he has given you, now that you belong to Christ Jesus. 1 Corinthians 1:4

So be THANK FULL for being God’s child, being blessed by him and may your life in Christ be someone’s reason to be THANK FULL!!!

Is wisdom tangible?

Starlet33

Wisdom shouts in the streets. She cries out in the public square. Proverbs 1:20

Come and listen to my counsel. I’ll share my heart with you and make you wise. Proverbs 1:23

What an offer! Wisdom doesn’t say, “I will pommel you with the rod of correction and scorch you with the fire of refinement!” No…she says, “I’ll share my heart with you and make you wise.”

During last year’s National 24 Hour Challenge the lead group was FLYING and at about mile 40 I was thinking the caloric price was a little too high and was about to drop from the ever shrinking peloton when my friend and Ladies Champion, Pascale said, “Randall, take my wheel!” Well, when an experienced, knowledgeable, champion with a beautiful accent (she hails from Belgium and met Eddy Merckx when she bought one of his branded bicycles) offers you a ride in her draft…you hang on as long as you can!

So is wisdom that tangible? Solomon just said “she” is crying out in the public square. What prevents us from answering her? Are we afraid of what light she might shine on our hearts as she opens her heart to us? I only lasted another 10 miles on Pascale’s wheel into the hills on Charlton Park Road but it was a fine ride while it lasted. Are we afraid, the road wisdom asks us to travel with her, will be too steep or require too much effort?

Are we afraid we won’t be able to hang on to what wisdom offers us?

James says, “If you need wisdom, ask our generous God, and he will give it to you. He will not rebuke you for asking.” 1:5 So that is a beautiful thing to strive for, or do we fear the responsibility that comes with wisdom’s acquisition as James continues his teaching, “If you are wise and understand God’s ways, prove it by living an honorable life, doing good works with the humility that comes from wisdom.” 3:13

What IS wisdom?

I think wisdom is the resultant growth of applied and practiced knowledge acquired from good teachers.

When I worked at Amway World Headquarters I dropped in on one of their sheet-fed print shops having a touch of “ink in my veins”. Their presses all sounded like they were running inky so I inquired why. “Because we overexpose our (printing) plates when we burn them,” they responded. I inquired why they did that? “Because that is the way we all have been taught!” they answered critically. Here’s the thing about Amway (at least back in the late 90’s) they promoted from within and even if you had experience as a printer/pressman they would take a forklift driver over an “outsider” if one of their own bid a job in the print shop. Hence, poor teaching is perpetuated and their applied and practiced knowledge is NOT wisdom in that model although it was handed down generation to generation.

Honestly though, how many of us REALLY want to hear something we have done for as long as we can remember…has been wrong? If we have a LONG held practice or behavior thinking it is the best or only way to do things will we let go of it to grasp wisdom? Well, at Wednesday’s “Luke Out” we got discussing wisdom and Pat pondered – PRIDE – as being a profound deterrent of wisdom and Solomon agrees!

Pride leads to disgrace, but with humility comes wisdom. Proverbs 11:2

And James goes a few steps further about what deters our hold on wisdom:

For jealousy and selfishness are not God’s kind of wisdom. Such things are earthly, unspiritual, and demonic. James 3:15. Goodness, jealousy and selfishness are certainly not resume building attributes but have you considered them in the light of being a bastion of evil? If we nurture, or even give a simple foothold to these behaviors guess who is walking through the door Christ is knocking at?

Finally then; is wisdom tangible? Is she crying to us in the town square and truly willing to open her heart to us? Can we ride in her draft? If we ask God for an increased bounty of it will a truck with PRIME on the side pull in our driveway and hook us up with a big bundle of REAL value?

Unfortunately my experience has taught me FOOLISHNESS IS SURE TANGIBLE and I have the scars to prove how I have come by what morsel of wisdom I DO possess!

Doing wrong is fun for a fool, but living wisely brings pleasure to the sensible. Proverbs 10:23

So there must be a better way to wrap our arms around wisdom than thanking God for surviving, “Hey! Hold my drink and watch this!”

Fear of the Lord is the foundation of true knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and discipline. Proverbs 1:7

I won’t ever try to “scare” anyone into a decision to commit their life to Christ and Solomon isn’t saying here we should lie awake at night shivering like a monster-fearing child because we think God is under our bed (or maybe we should?). No, the best commentary I have heard on this use of “fear” is defining it as reverential trust. Giving due respect and reverence to God Almighty and trusting him for our total spiritual provision is something we should grasp. Recognizing Christ as our Rock on which we stand and allowing the Holy Spirit to produce the words of our mouths from our Divinely occupied heart will give us an absolute sense we have a hold on a true wisdom sourced beyond our meager means to generate!

Closing Thought

Last week was a lot of fun as we joined with a band of youth to do various tasks and labors at the church and in the community. Saturday night we celebrated with a big bonfire and SMORES. The most lasting image of those days of celebrating, learning and laboring was Lois making her SMORE…

Tara had brought marshmallow toasting skewers and they were plenty long for a standard campfire. Problem was, our fire exceeded that size geometrically but Lois REALLY wanted to get those marshmallows toasted and create that coveted tasty treat… So I looked up from stabbing my marshmallows and there silhouetted in the raging fire was Lois about 10 feet out from the edge of the roaring infreno and SSTTRRETTCCHHIINNGG as close as she could get without being overcome by the heat!!Now, the night before I helped her and her husband Manny unload the new church fridge they networked to purchase at tremendous savings, and let me tell you – Lois and Manny – are military tough people so seeing Lois striking a yoga/ballet stance to get the job done on her SMORE opened my eyes to a WHOLE new venue of her abilities!!

So here is the deal – WE ALL NEED TO SEEK WISDOM WITH THAT KIND OF DESIRE! It doesn’t matter what we have to let go of, we need to want to grasp it even when the heat of this world is full in our faces! And living as we grow in wisdom will let the world see that we have something tangible because: But the wisdom from above is first of all pure. It is also peace loving, gentle at all times, and willing to yield to others. It is full of mercy and the fruit of good deeds. It shows no favoritism and is always sincere. James 3:17

Post Script:

Woodgrove we are on the right track with taking hold of God’s wisdom because when I posted an invite to last night’s Community Thanksgiving Dinner I got this response:

“I came to this years ago. You have the most loving church I have ever been to.”

Let’s keep a hold of God’s wisdom displayed as we love each other and keep sharing our wisdom and shining it in our community!!