Advent Anxieties?!

Zephaniah 3:14-20, Philippians 4:4-7 and Luke 3:7-18

Dear Brothers and Sisters of Kedron, December 16, the Third Sunday of Advent, the sermon title is Advent Anxieties?! The scriptures are Zephaniah 3:14-20, Philippians 4:4-7 and Luke 3:7-18.

Advent should make one think of “A” words like “anticipation,” “awe,” “adventure,” “awareness,” but hardly “anxiety.” Well, the texts for Sunday CAN create feelings of anxiety if we look and listen closely. Zephaniah (I felt anxious because I first confused Zephaniah with Zechariah!) is complete with reasons to be anxious! Mercifully the verses are all about final “release of anxiety” with the coming favor of the Lord!

John the Baptizer’s preaching certainly can cause anxiety! And perhaps anxiety for him when Herod lands him in jail(!). Paul, also writing from jail, says “be anxious for nothing” Phil 4:6 which seems almost an impossibility….in any age, with any person facing life’s challenges.

But, rest assured anxiety will NOT be the final word for persons of faith during Advent. Some of us will face it but with the Lord’s help it will not have power over us. We have reason to look forward to better things in Advent! Christmas is coming! Jesus is here and now!

Anticipate Blessings…and breathe a sigh of relief: “What? Me worry?”

Pastor Barry

Cosmic Prophecy, Refiner’s Fire

Malachi 3:1-6, Philippians 1:3-11 and Luke 3:1-6

Preparing for these three texts was interrupted a bit by my watching the funeral of President George H.W.Bush at the Washington Cathedral. I was also struck by how all three texts have a context of government and leadership! John the Baptist is preaching during the reign of Caesar Tiberius in Rome and Pilate and Herod in Palestine. Paul writes while being held under house arrest by Roman authorities. Malachi announces God’s judgement on those who oppress the people whether government or the religious authorities are doing the oppressing!

All of this, of course, is the buildup to the coming Righteous One, Jesus of Nazareth. There really is a sense of a huge impact impending on both individuals and upon governments. And there is “cosmic” significance and transformation coming as in a “Refiner’s Fire.”

In the public televised Christian funeral of a former US President we hear echoes of God still at work in lives of individuals, communities, and nations. This gives us both anticipatory “concern and unease” in the call to change thru love and justice but also anticipatory joy knowing that God in Jesus Christ is bringing the True and Good to all people!

We are to hear the call of faith and then the following response of service to a greater good than just our own well-being!

Cosmic joy is coming!

See you in worship and in service!

Pastor Barry

Humility | Doorways, Not Doormats

Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. – 1 Peter 5:6

Humility. What is it anyway? If I’m humble, do I have to roll over and play second fiddle to everyone, all the time? Too often humility has been misunderstood as a negative character trait. I would like to help you get a clear biblical perspective on what humility is and what it is not. Humility isn’t thinking less of your-self; it’s thinking more of God and of others. In other words, humility isn’t about putting our-selves down, but rather, about glorifying God and affirming others.

Consider Jesus. He left His place of highest honor in heaven in or¬der to become a man, flesh and blood, here on earth. However, He didn’t tear himself down or deny that He was a person of value and importance. What He did do is lift others up through His humility and show them how valuable they were to God.

So, you see, humility isn’t about being a doormat; it’s about being a doorway–a doorway through which others enter into the presence and power of God. By focusing on building others up and help¬ing others connect with God, we show them the love of God, who desires the best for them.

Think about how you can strive to put others’ interests ahead of your own. I challenge you to show others in your home, your offices, or even in the checkout line at the market, how you and God value them. A good way to begin is by asking yourself what Jesus would do if he were in your place.

What kills a skunk is the publicity it gives itself. – Abraham Lincoln

May we all find ways to stay humble today!

Blessings,

Chaplin Rob

Anticipation Participation

Jeremiah 33:14-16, I Thessalonians 3:9-13 and Luke 21:25-36

Some are old enough to remember the Heinz catsup commercials from 1979 which depicted kids eagerly awaiting the slow moving catsup to descend out of the bottle onto their hamburger. The background song sung by Carly Simon was named “Anticipation!”

Our scriptures for the First Sunday in Advent definitely are about anticipation and coming events on “the big scale of things!” Momentous occasions wrought by God Almighty. A case can be made that the Luke passage was indeed fulfilled in 70 AD! Jerusalem was under siege and the Temple was destroyed. We will look at that time in Christian history but also at ancient Jeremiah’s longed for hope of Israel. Paul brings us to the attitude we should have as we wait with anticipation for God’s appearing in our lives throughout human history.

It’s a great start to the Season of Advent! We ask ourselves, “What are we longing for above all else? Gifts at Christmas give us a measure of joy but what lies behind that momentary happiness and points to something much grander?” What DO we anticipate coming from God?! What are some ways to do this together as God’s people?

Blessings in your waiting!

Pastor Barry

The Way To Find Life

“He who finds his life will lose it, and he who loses his life for My sake will find it.”—Matthew 10:39

If you go to a doctor because you’re having unusual aches or pains or some other issue, the doctor may have to give you bad news initially. He or she may have to tell you there is a very serious problem and that you need surgery or some type of treatment. You don’t like to hear that, but it’s the prescribed course to help change your condition.

In the same way, God will tell us the truth about ourselves: We’re sinners, and we need a Savior. Once we accept that, we can go from sadness to happiness. We discover that the way to find life is by committing our lives to God.

This is what Jesus meant when He said, “He who finds his life will lose it, and he who loses his life for My sake will find it” (Matthew 10:39 NKJV). We win by losing. The way up is down. The way to happiness is sadness.

Jesus said, “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted” (Matthew 5:4 NKJV). The word blessed used here could be translated “happy.” Jesus was effectively saying, “Happy are the unhappy.” Or another way to put it, “Happy are the unhappy, because one day they will be happy.” How? By mourning over our sin. We see ourselves for who we are.

We have our dreams and aspirations, and that is all good. But here’s my advice to you, especially here at Berry Field. Commit your life to God, and understand that His plan for you is better than your plan for yourself. He may say no to this and no to that. But what God will say yes to later is so much better. And as the years pass, you will look back on your life and give thanks to Him.

Chaplin Rob

Winning by Surrendering

Jacob named the place Peniel (which means “face of God”), for he said, “I have seen God face to face, yet my life has been spared.” The sun was rising as Jacob left Peniel, and he was limping because of the injury to his hip. —Genesis 32:30–31

The Bible tells the story of a man who had been sick for 38 years. He hung out by a body of water called the Pool of Bethesda, where there were many disabled people. Tradition said that periodically an angel would appear and stir up the waters, and the first person into the water would be healed.

One day Jesus showed up and asked this man an unusual question: “Do you want to be made well?” Now what kind of question is that to ask someone who’s been waiting years by a body of water that’s occasionally stirred by an angel?

It’s a very good question actually. Not everyone wants to change. You can go to an alcoholic and say, “Do you want to be free from alcohol?” Do you think everyone will say yes? No, not everyone will.

You can go to a person on drugs and say, “Do you really want to be free from drugs?” Or you can go to someone else and say, “Do you really want to be free from pornography?” Not everyone wants to change. Some people are comfortable right where they are, and they want to stay exactly where they are.

There has to come a moment in every believer’s life when he or she surrenders to God. It isn’t always easy, of course. Often God’s plans are plans that we love and agree with, but then sometimes God’s plans are different than ours. It is then that we have to say, as Jesus said in the Garden of Gethsemane, “Not My will, but Yours, be done” (Luke 22:42 NKJV).

That’s what was happening in the life of Jacob when he wrestled with God. He went from resisting to resting and from cunning to clinging.

When we surrender to God, we ultimately win.

My Prayer is that each of us will find a way to surrender to God today

Blessings,

Chaplin Rob

If I Were King of the…..?

Daniel 7:9-14, Revelation 1:4-8 and John 18:33-37

Democracy is a bad form of government but all the others are so much worse! I believe I quote Winston Churchill. In past centuries royalty were at the top of most nations and tribes. We spoke of “kingdoms.” Now kings and queens, e.g. Great Britain, are more for tradition, national unity, and ceremony rather than actual governing. Democracy thrives without a King or Queen.

What ARE we to make of a King today?! “No King but Jesus,” has echoed through American life for generations. From the beginning the USA avoided any allowance of “kingly power” over its citizens opting for three branches of government with checks and balances over against centralized power in a few hands.

So, what are we to make of King Jesus?! This Sunday the scriptures address the true and final king in the person of Jesus. His governance is always different from Pilate and Caesar. How different? It’s pretty much about how power is used and how DOES a King influence and guide a people. We truly enter the Kingdom of God in the best sense of the word “Kingdom!” We will take a look at how to identify the rule of King Jesus as contrasted with most kings and rulers throughout history. A rule that gives subjects of the Kingdom an incredible amount of freedom but freedom for divine purposes and freedom from the power of sin and folly!

Be prepared to follow!

Pastor Barry

Remember to Give Thanks

And one of them, when he saw that he was healed, returned, and with a loud voice glorified God, and fell down on his face at His feet, giving Him thanks. And he was a Samaritan.—Luke 17:15–16

The Bible tells the story of ten men who had a lot to give thanks for. They were miraculously touched by Jesus. Prior to this touch, they were complete outcasts, the very scourge of society. These men had leprosy, and you couldn’t get any lower in that particular time in history with this incurable disease.

If a man was found to have leprosy, he could have no contact with others. He had to leave his house and his friends and live apart from them. So here were these men living an isolated, miserable, lonely life. But they heard about Jesus. They heard how He had touched others and healed them.

So they called out to the Lord and asked for His healing touch. Now these men were standing before Jesus in various stages of decay. Their clothing would have been ripped from perpetual mourning. Their skeletal heads would have been uncovered. They would have been required, according to the Law of Moses, to cry out, “Unclean! Unclean!” wherever they went.

But Jesus did not respond to them with special effects or even a dramatic touch. He simply said, “Go, show yourselves to the priests” (Luke 17:14 NKJV). So that is what they did. And guess what? They were healed.

Yet only one decided to go back and give thanks. The Bible tells us he was a Samaritan, which may not mean a lot to us. But normally, Jews and Samaritans had no dealings with each other. The Jews looked down on the Samaritans. Yet it wasn’t one of the sons of Abraham that came to give thanks; it was a Samaritan. And he was commended for this.

We are so quick to ask for God’s help, but let’s remember to be just as quick in giving Him praise when He comes through.

Let us remember to thank God for all the things we do have.

This thanksgiving I hope and pray that God will bless each and every one of you.

Many Blessings,

Chaplin Rob

Unlikely Heroes

Through their faith, the people in days of old earned a good reputation. —Hebrews 11:2

Have you ever looked into a magnifying mirror? It’s disturbing when you see everything up close. It isn’t a bad thing to see your flaws, your shortcomings, and your sins. Just don’t allow yourself to be identified by them.

The Bible says that “if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new” (2 Corinthians 5:17 NKJV). In what is called the Heroes’ Hall of Faith, Hebrews 11 presents us with an amazing collection of characters. Some of those who made it in are expected, but then there are some surprising entries as well, like Jacob.

If we were honest about Jacob, we’d have to admit that this guy was a rascal, big time. This reminds us that Hebrews 11 is filled with ordinary people like us. They were world changers, and we, too, can be world changers.

They discovered the secret of staying on top is not talent. It is not opportunities or status. It is faith in God. These people were far from perfect. They failed often. But they are not in the Heroes’ Hall of Faith because they were great people. They are in it because they had faith in a great God.

Here’s what I find fascinating. You won’t find a single mention of any of their sins in this passage. And they did sin. However, not one word of their failure is mentioned. Why? Because they were forgiven, and God gives second chances. They were looked at for what they became, not what they were.

In the same way, when God looks at you He sees a work in progress. But He doesn’t just see you for what you are in the moment; He sees you for what you can become.

No matter where you are today or what you are dealing with… God is working on making you and all things new. Turn your trust to Him and know that he will do great things in the days ahead.

Blessings,

Chaplin Rob

How To Provoke At Thanksgiving

Daniel 12:1-3, Hebrews 10:11-25 and Mark 13:1-8

The word provoke usually means an act that could, in turn, lead to a “poke” as in “poke back!” A provocation between nations has been known to lead to armed conflict! This does not seem to be the best direction for a calm and thankful family Thanksgiving does it?

But to provoke in Hebrews 10:24 is to provoke to “love and good deeds.” Another translation uses the words “to stir up!” Either translation is a strong encouragement to earnestly demonstrate how Christians feel toward one another out of thanksgiving for what God in Christ (our final High Priest) has done for us! Gratitude leads to a good attitude! Especially toward the brothers and sisters as well as the neighbor, the stranger and even the enemy!

So, we arrive at being “provocative” around the Thanksgiving table. If used in the manner most often thought of “provoke” could lead to family feuds before everyone departs for their homes! Thus, we use it as intended in Hebrews 10:24!

Book ending this thanksgiving expressed in love and good deeds, however, is Daniel 12 and Mark 13 both speaking of a Final Wrapping Up, a great Stirring Up of all creation as God brings a great apocalyptic ending to non-love and bad deeds in all Creation.

Again there is Thanksgiving that God’s purposes will be fulfilled both in the work of Jesus on the Cross and in the Resurrection of all coming after the Resurrection of the first born I.e., Jesus!

When all is said and done the final word from us to God is “thanks.” From this response there is a great freedom to “provoke” love and do good to all. Sort of what you hope for at each Thanksgiving table or Thanksgiving gathering of family and friends, saints and sinners, the least and the lost, the loved and the forgiven!

Our hope is built on nothing less…..
Happy Provocative Thanksgiving!

Brother Barry