Alert! Woes and Blessings

Jeremiah 17:5-10, I Corinthians 15:12-20 and Luke 6:17-26

Jesus’ audience receiving a message which included woes and blessings, was, first, his disciples and then, “a great multitude of people from all Judea and Jerusalem and from the sea coast of Tyre and Sidon…” Blessings and woes were announced to a wide range of people….not just his “early church” the disciples.

I cannot but think of the “great multitudes” of the USA on this Sunday before Presidents Day. If anyone commands attention and has a huge audience today it is whoever is in the highest office in the land. And almost to a person our Presidents have been of some Christian Faith themselves. Presidents are not “preacher in chief” but are influenced by the Word of God, a nation of churches and preachers.

What might any President in our history have heard when Jesus speaks of the “rich, the poor, those who mourn, and those who are praised by all.” Presidents have all had to deal with these categories of our population in leadership, by example and by policies. Is there an overlap between “church and society” when it comes to policies on the rich, the poor, those who mourn, those who get praised by all?!

Jesus sounds much like the prophets, in this case, like Jeremiah who generations before found reasons to pronounce both blessings and curses. God’s word is for both individuals and for nations, people in lands such as Judah with its kings and intrigues with surrounding nations. Jeremiah in 17:1 speaks to Judah, the people collectively!

This Sunday as we anticipate honoring our Presidential branch of government we might ask ourselves how we as a nation hear the Word of God with blessings and woes pronounced upon individuals and the nation? Certainly a very big question! The answers will take time to sink in and affect us as followers of Christ.

Let us worship the Lord who questions us and our attitudes toward others, but is ever intent on leading us toward blessings!

Pastor Barry

The Art of Ending

The end of a thing is better than its beginning; the patient in spirit is better than a proud spirit—- Ecclesiastes 7:8

The poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow said, “Great is the art of beginning, but greater is the art of ending.”

And Solomon, the wisest man who ever lived, wrote, “The end of a thing is better than its beginning” (Ecclesiastes 7:8 NKJV).

Samson had a great beginning. He had superhuman qualities. Physically, there was no one stronger. He was a one-man army. On one occasion he killed 30 Philistines (the enemies of the Israelites) to settle a bet. On another occasion, he killed 1,000 Philistine warriors on the battlefield with a bone that he picked up off the ground. He once ripped a lion apart with his bare hands. He wasn’t a fictitious superhero; he was the real deal.

For a time Samson was a mighty man of God. And for a time he was even a true world changer. But in time the world began to change him. Samson turned his back on God. He had an amazing beginning but a tragic ending.

One day your life will be summed up in a paragraph or two on a bulletin that will be handed out at your memorial service. No one will care about how much money you made or how much stuff you owned. No one will care how high you climbed in your profession. Instead, they’ll talk about what kind of person you were.

We don’t decide the day of our death any more than we decided the day of our birth. But we do determine the spiritual state we’ll be in when we die. God wants us to be close to Him. God wants us in friendship and fellowship and intimacy with Him. But it’s our choice whether to have a relationship with the Lord or not to have a relationship with Him. We want to finish well.

May we all work hard today to leave a legacy, to finish well, to leave our jobs, our families, our communities, our nations better than we found it.

Blessings,

Chaplin Rob

In Spite of The Dirty Lips, The Least, and The Sinful

Isaiah 6:1-8, I Corinthians 15:1-11 and Luke 5:1-11

We talk about determination. Such as an incredible quarterback like Tom Brady. A courageous woman like Rosa Parks in the segregated South of the Sixties. Max Cleland a triple amputee decorated veteran being elected to Congress. Determination.

In our scriptures we actually discover three who, in spite of their failures and self-condemnation, come up against a God who is determined to call them out and away from their guilt and low self-esteem and “employ” them for the work of the Kingdom! God’s determination sinks in to them and we get a prophet and two apostles!

God is determined to bring the best out of our worst. Yes, we are told to confess our sins but the next step is to not stay “stuck” in our confession but rather move forward in our “profession.” Profession in the two senses of “I profess Jesus Christ” but also the sense of A profession e.g. a calling, a call to personal mission and service. “Here I am Lord….send me!”

Sunday we will look in the mirror. Let’s pray we see both our worst selves and the self that God sees as a beloved friend ready to participate in God’s work here and now and bound in heaven for all eternity. “Well done thou good and faithful servant!”

Come out of any self-imposed negative view of yourself and view how God sees you! Sanctification as a happy, giving life shared together in worship, witness, and specific works YOU are called to! Eyes and ears and hearts open to God’s call and guidance!

Pastor Barry

Better Than a GPS

Don’t you realize that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, who lives in you and was given to you by God? You do not belong to yourself.— I Corinthians 6:19

Every now and then, it seems that my GPS has a mind of its own. I’ll be driving on the freeway, going to a destination where I’ve never been before, and all of a sudden it tells me to turn right at the next off-ramp. It doesn’t make sense, but I turn right. Then it tells me to turn left, so I turn left. Then it brings me back to the freeway. What was that all about? It makes no sense at all.

The Lord gave the Israelites an amazing GPS system: a fire by night and a cloud by day. It was very simple. When the cloud moved, they moved. When the cloud stopped, they stopped. At night when the fire moved, they moved. When the fire stopped, they stopped.

We might think, “I wish I could have that, because a lot of times I don’t know what I should do and where I should go. It would be so easy.”

As believers under the New Covenant, we have something better than a cloud or a fire. We have Christ Himself living in our hearts. This is only for the Christian who has believed in Jesus Christ. God takes residence in our hearts. We don’t need a fire in the sky. We have the fire of the Holy Spirit in our lives, giving us the power to do what God has called us to do.

The Lord will lead us in the way that He wants us to go. Now, sometimes God’s will doesn’t make sense. Maybe we think God is trying to ruin all our fun. But in time we’ll realize that God knew what He was talking about all along.

A GPS isn’t always right, but God is always right. And God’s way is always the right way.

Blessings,

Chaplin Rob

A Super Bowl, A Groundhog, Rumspringa, and Holy Communion

Ecclesiastes 8:15; 9:7-10, I Corinthians 10:23-30 and Matthew 22:34-40.

One gathers to worship on Sunday. Yet, one knows that the other hours of the day offer a thousand other activities, routines, habits, works, leisure’s, and cultural diversities. Yes, we are in the world!

No generation of Christians goes without the need to consider their life as lived out in the culture of the day. Some remove themselves as much as possible e.g., Amish, questionable sects, while most live and move within the culture of entertainment, Super bowls, parties, diverse opinions and preferences for going about the day and week.

Jesus says “love God, neighbor and yourself.” Paul says, you have freedom, “but not all things are helpful, not all things are beneficial.”
From Ecclesiastes, in spite of all the writer’s concern for the passing away of all things, we are advised to “eat, drink, and be joyful.”

This Sunday’s hour of worship will hear these voices from the Scriptures and then celebrate together at The Table of the Lord. And in our culture many will then attend to the “Groundhog and weather, to the grand finale of football season, and ponder the meaning of what around us gives us joy and delight, peace and salvation.”

“Go, eat your bread with joy, and drink your wine with a merry heart, for God has already approved what you do. Let your garments be always white. Let not oil be lacking on your head!” (Ecclesiastes 9:7).

Pastor Barry

Crippled by the Past?

Therefore, 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

On the television series Fixer Upper, which ran for five seasons, Chip and Joanna Gaines would choose an old house in Central Texas and give it a new beginning. Sometimes the house was for a young couple getting their first home, and sometimes it was for a retired couple looking for somewhere new. Joanna, the designer, came up with amazing plans, and her husband, Chip, the builder, implemented them. When they were finished, it was hard to believe that it was the same house.

Have you ever wished you could start over again, maybe in your marriage . . . maybe in your relationship with your children . . . maybe with friends? In a way you can, because 2 Corinthians 5:17 says, “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new” (NKJV).

As the J.B. Phillips translation puts it, “For if a man is in Christ he becomes a new person altogether—the past is finished and gone, everything has become fresh and new.”

God can do that for your life. You say, “It’s messed up. It’s broken down. It’s falling apart.”

It can become new and fresh in Jesus Christ. It tells us in 1 John 1:7, “But if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin” (NKJV). Notice it says all sin—not just some sin.

You, too, can have a new beginning. It can start now. It doesn’t matter what time of the year it is. It can all change because of the blood of Jesus Christ. You don’t have to be crippled by your past anymore. You can put it behind you.

May you find new beginnings today!

Chaplin Rob

Set Free to Serve

But be sure to fear the Lord and faithfully serve him. Think of all the wonderful things he has done for you. – 1 Samuel 12:24

The great master artist Michelangelo once explained his creative process this way: “I saw the angel in the marble and carved until I set him free.” Michelangelo could look at a slate of stone and see what would come from it.

God looks at us and says, “I know what you can be. You don’t know it yet, but I know. I know what I can make you into. You’ll be a mighty man of God. You’ll be a mighty woman of God.”

It seems as though God goes out of His way to choose the most unexpected people. When God wanted to reach the people of Nineveh, He chose Jonah. Jonah, however, hated the Ninevites. He wanted God to kill them. So God effectively said, “Jonah, you’re the perfect guy to go preach to the Ninevites.” Jonah eventually obeyed God, and a great revival broke out.

When God was looking for a courageous man to free Israel from the oppression of the Midianites, He chose Gideon. Interestingly, Gideon happened to be hiding from the Midianites when an angel appeared to him and said, “Mighty hero, the Lord is with you!” (Judges 6:12 NLT). I think Gideon may have looked around and thought, “Is there another Gideon here?” If there’s anything Gideon was not at that moment, it was a mighty hero.

God doesn’t see us for what we are; He sees us for what we can become. He sees potential. God has a plan for each of us. He has given each of us gifts and talents and abilities and resources to use for His glory. But all too often, many of us are not doing that. And why aren’t we? We offer up excuses, never reasons. There is no good reason for us not to serve the Lord.

Blessings,

Chaplin Rob

What Happens When You Read The Bible Out Loud

Nehemiah 8:1-10, I Corinthians 12:12-31 and Luke 4:14-30

Preaching is, of course, a form of public speaking. Reading and quoting scripture usually accompanies a sermon. And you can find a WIDE range of responses to any public proclamation!

One response is falling asleep and the old joke goes: Preacher: “Deacon Jones! Wake up brother Bob! He’s fallen asleep during this sermon! Deacon Jones: “You wake him up. You put him to sleep!”

In the Nehemiah passage, the reading of God’s law causes people to weep but then they are instructed to not weep, but to have “joy.” They are told to go eat and enjoy the time spent hearing God’s word.

And when Jesus reads the text in Isaiah the people have a wide range of emotions about the passage and who is doing the reading. This is in Nazareth, Jesus’ hometown….and it doesn’t end well!

This Sunday in worship we will hope for responses “deep and wide “within us that carry over the rest of the week in our life together in community, at work, and in recreation and rest.

As Nehemiah 8:10 encourages, “Do not grieve (upon hearing the Word), for the joy of the Lord is your strength.” And for good measure also, “Go and enjoy choice food and sweet drinks.” Legends or O Charley’s!??

Be blessed in worship this Sunday!

Pastor Barry

Your Gratitude Meter

Then Jesus answered, “Were not ten cleansed? Where are the nine? Was no one found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?” And he said to him, “Rise and go your way; your faith has made you well” (Luke 17:17–19, ESV).

It’s hard for us to imagine what this scene was like. Leprosy was miserable, highly contagious, and incurable. Lepers were called “unclean” and were quarantined. Alone—for the rest of their lives. At a distance, these ten lepers had desperately shouted to the Lord, “Master, have mercy on us” (17:13b).

And Jesus offered them healing. “When he saw them he said to them, ‘Go and show yourselves to the priests’” (17:14a). In order for them to be declared clean, they had to be examined by the priests to confirm their leprosy was gone.

Jesus didn’t pronounce healing; He required them to take action. “And as they went they were cleansed” (17:14b). First they started walking, then they were healed. Imagine how these men must have felt. The constant itch, fear, isolation, and torment of leprosy, then—BAM!—instant healing.

Which leads to the heart of the story. Nine of the ten continued on; just one turned back to Jesus, making this point: Only a fraction of people ever truly thank God for His grace. What a picture of enthusiasm and humility, as the thankful leper praised God with a loud voice and fell at the Lord’s feet. Jesus changed his life, and he was grateful.

“Where are the nine?” Jesus asked rhetorically (17:17b). Ten were healed. Nine were thankless. One was grateful. The distinction was not lost on Christ, and His question gives us piercing insight into how God feels.

By the world’s standards, we each have a life of incredible blessing, and the Lord is aware of the reading on our Gratitude Meters. He knows you, knows what He’s done for you, and has a clear reading of your thankfulness right now. God is very aware of your heart response to His grace.

When you choose an attitude of gratitude toward the Lord, something changes in your life. Jesus drew a distinction between the nine and the one: “your faith has made you well” (17:19b). Thankfulness led to wellness at a deeper level. All were healed physically; only one was healed spiritually.

Faith grows in the soil of thankfulness. In the life of the one, gratitude led to faith, which led to salvation.

So where would you fall in the pack of lepers? Some of us are in need of Jesus’ healing. Others have accepted His gifts without thanking Him. Still others are overflowing with gratitude, experiencing a wellness of soul that comes only through grateful faith.

My Prayer for each of you is that you will find something to be thankful for today!

Blessings,

Chaplain Rob

The Path To Joy

In Your presence is fullness of Joy; at Your right hand are pleasures forevermore!— Psalm 16:11

Throughout Scripture, we see how God used men and women in the corridors of power to influence leaders. Daniel was taken along with other Israelites into the captivity of Babylon, but he had great influence on King Nebuchadnezzar.

We know that Joseph had great influence on the Pharaoh. And Esther, because of her influence with King Ahasuerus, was able to save her entire nation.

As believers we should be asking, “Lord, where do you want me to be?” He may put you in a corridor of power. Or, He might have you laboring in relative obscurity. Wherever you are, you need to use your influence for His glory. Ask yourself, “Am I going to enjoy life in my own way, or am I going to employ my life serving God and others?” Serving the Lord is the most joyful thing you can do.

The psalmist David wrote, “In [His] presence is fullness of joy; at [His] right hand are pleasures forevermore” (Psalm 16:11 NKJV). Those of us who serve the Lord have discovered a secret. Jesus said it very clearly: “It is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35 NKJV).

Another way to translate blessed is “happy.” If you want to be a happy person, then be a giving person. If you want to be an unhappy person, then be a selfish person. If you want to be happy, then be generous. If you want to be miserable, then be stingy.

Be generous with everything God gives you. Be generous with your time. Be generous with your money. Be generous with whatever is at your disposal.

Are you going to enjoy your life or employ your life? If you employ your life for the glory of God, then you will enjoy your life as never before.

Blessings,

Chaplin Rob