Wisdom, Suffering, and The Trinity

Proverbs 8:1-4; 22-31, Romans 5:1-5 and John 16:12-15

Religion in the broadest sense tends to offer wisdom on many matters. And no religion can avoid deep questions about suffering. In Christian Faith we have the revelation of God as Trinity—-Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. A Trinitarian idea of God has to include some notion of suffering since Jesus ,God the Son, suffers and dies!

And what better Sunday to address this head on than Father’s Day and Trinity Sunday both arriving on June 16. Our message will say something “wise” about fatherhood both earthy and heavenly. And suffering too will be explored especially as we read Romans 5:1-5 as the end result of suffering produces a number of virtues, e.g. endurance and character, which can often be seen in the experience of parenthood!

From our parents and families we first receive an awareness of what it is to be “wise” and to endure suffering. The Bible takes this quite seriously and places it before us when scripture “talks” about Father, Son, and Holy Spirit in relationship and in impacting us in our journey from birth to death.

So, come this Sunday with thoughts of those who have behaved wisely. Come with thoughts and memories of fathers and their kind. Come seeking wisdom and ways to help endure the “slings and arrows of outrageous fortune!”

Come to worship. And in doing so…..find some wisdom for your week!

Pastor Barry

A Closer Top Ten Walk

Genesis 11:1-9, Acts 2:1-21 and John 14:16,17

Pentecost Sunday. The Church does what it does because of being “filled with the Spirit.” It’s hard to get anything done without a motivating Spirit!

Motivation! A team is motivated because it would rather be a winner than loser. An artist is “enthused” to create a work of art to enjoy and that might last a long time. A startup company is motivated to succeed by a desire to make money and its pride in its product.

What are things in church life that inspire us?! Most every Christian begins their Top Ten List by saying “Jesus and what God has done for me/us through Jesus!” After that the list could include hundreds of “spiritual items” that vary in importance according to the person.

This Sunday we will worship and give thanks for those “gifts from the Spirit” which unite us in mission, service, and love for God and neighbor. So, consider in your heart a Top Ten (plus) List of gifts (and fruits of) the Holy Spirit in your life as we gather as “spirit filled Christians” to worship the Giver of all good gifts!

Be blessed!

Pastor Barry

Reality Can Hurt

But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin. If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. – 1 John 1:7-8

Discomfort, pain, conflict, spiritual warfare-these are aspects of reality in a fallen world. Healthy faith recognizes them as biblical realities. Healthy faith has you look to Christ for help when you’re in the midst of them.

Having a healthy faith certainly doesn’t mean you’ll always like reality, or that you should become complacent or indifferent to the darker side of life. But it does mean you’ll recognize the way things are. You’ll be able to admit you’ve failed, that you’re a sinner, and you’re stumbling along the way. But you can choose to walk in the light, and enjoy the companionship of family, friends and Jesus Christ himself.

Success is the ability to go from one failure to another with no loss of enthusiasm. – Winston Churchill

TODAY’S PRAYER
Father, help me face my realities with faith and hope with the understanding that while today might not be all I hoped it would be, tomorrow and all my tomorrows are in Your hands. Thank you, Lord for your faithfulness! Amen.

Blessings,

Chaplain Rob

The Art of Acceptance

Come to terms with God and be at peace; in this way good will come to you. – Job 22:21

Sometimes, we must accept life on its terms, not our own. Life has a way of unfolding, not as we will, but as it will. And sometimes, there is precious little we can do to change things.

When events transpire that are beyond our control, we have a choice: we can either learn the art of acceptance, or we can make ourselves miserable as we struggle to change the unchangeable.

We must entrust the things we cannot change to God. Once we have done so, we can prayerfully and faithfully tackle the important work that He has placed before us: doing something about the things we can change . . . and doing it sooner rather than later.

Can you summon the courage and the wisdom to accept life on its own terms? If so, you’ll most certainly be rewarded for your good judgment.

Surrender to the Lord is not a tremendous sacrifice, not an agonizing performance. It is the most sensible thing you can do. – Corrie Ten Boom

He does not need to transplant us into a different field. He transforms the very things that were before our greatest hindrances, into the chief and most blessed means of our growth. No difficulties in your case can baffle Him. Put yourself absolutely into His hands, and let Him have His own way with you. – Elisabeth Elliot

Ultimately things work out best for those who make the best of the way things work out. – Barbara Johnson

My prayer today is that all of us will be able to accept life on life’s terms

Chaplain Rob

Fields of Change

Sow for yourselves righteousness, reap the fruit of unfailing love, and break up your unplowed ground, for it is time to seek the Lord, until he comes and showers righteousness on you. – Hosea 10:12

Character isn’t instantly created. It’s carved out.

To God, our lives are like a series of fields that need working. Once one has been worked, we move to the next. At each stop He encourages us to get busy tilling ground hardened by sin, pulling weeds grown in neglect, and planting seeds of biblical truth. He makes us willing and able for the work; and He makes each task fruitful through the power of the Holy Spirit.

But change does happen. The Bible gives us insight how. Think of Joseph in an Egyptian jail, and Moses in the desert. Recall David’s years of flight from Saul and Jonah’s time in the belly of a fish. Reflect upon Gideon in a cave and Job’s catastrophes. Consider Abraham’s wanderings and Peter’s three denials of Christ. Look at the apostle Paul’s blinding encounter with the risen Lord on the road to Damascus.

These stories, and many more like them, recount the ways of God among the men He claims for His own. As you spend time considering them, you will see a pattern emerge: brokenness, humility, and the learning of patience all come before spiritual maturity and usefulness. Open up your Bible and search out these stories. Learn from them. They demonstrate the pattern of change for your own life in Christ.

Our days are a kaleidoscope. Every instant a change takes place. New harmonies, new contrasts, new combinations of every sort. The most familiar people stand each moment in some new relation to each other, to their work, to surrounding objects. – Henry Ward Beecher

TODAY’S PRAYER
Lord, when change comes, I pray that I will look to you for insight. As things change in my life and around me, help me to keep my eyes on you and trust that whatever the circumstance, your ultimate plan for me is a good one. Amen

Blessings,

Chaplain Rob

Taken Up But Still Here

Acts 1:1-11, Ephesians and Luke 24:44-53

As I write this I am “up high” at Beersheba Springs Camp and Retreat Center. Grundy County. With some Kedron youth and a couple of parents. A beautiful sunshine and clouds kind of day with just enough breeze to keep you from running for the AC inside!

Up on the ridge. Elevation at about 1,847 ft. Methodists acquired the hotel in 1941 and a camp and retreat assembly has been here ever since. Thousands have worshiped here close to 70 years! Thousands have left here spiritually renewed and committed to serve others.

The place just goes with our scriptures for today! They are about the Ascension of Jesus some 40 days after Easter. He ascends into heaven. I would like to imagine Jesus here at Beersheba blessing his disciples and then departing upward past the trees and hills. It would be memorable. I suspect not entirely unlike the first century experience. It is ALL about Jesus in any age and it is about the Church “the body of Christ” as Ephesians 1:23 puts it. The images are wonderful to work with in our imagination. Jesus departs to be “in heaven and rule over all” but nonetheless Jesus is with US, in US and we are still on earth! Jesus is both “away” and “very much here.”

I look around me here at Beersheba Springs at the beauty of nature and that of God’s people at work and on retreat at this assembly grounds. I can imagine Christ above me “in heaven” but just as much can imagine Jesus in me and my neighbor and even the stranger I meet at work and play. The Church is the body of Christ. A mystery indeed but we proclaim Christ in US and look to see how we are Christ to one another.

“I lift up mine eyes into the hills……” but I also look around me to see Christ at work caring, healing, and doing justice in the here and now! Ascension of Christ Sunday….yet still we walk in faith….. on earth~+ “Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”

Pastor Barry

Making Peace With The Past

Do not remember the past events, pay no attention to things of old. Look, I am about to do something new; even now it is coming. Do you not see it? Indeed, I will make a way in the wilderness, rivers in the desert. – Isaiah 43:18-19

The American theologian Reinhold Niebuhr composed a profoundly simple verse that came to be known as the Serenity Prayer: “God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.” Niebuhr’s words are far easier to recite than they are to live by. Why? Because most of us want life to unfold in accordance with our own wishes and timetables. But sometimes God has other plans.

One of the things that fits nicely into the category of “things we cannot change” is the past. Yet even though we know that the past is unchangeable, many of us continue to invest energy worrying about the unfairness of yesterday (when we should, instead, be focusing on the opportunities of today and the promises of tomorrow). Author, Hannah Whitall Smith observed, “How changed our lives would be if we could only fly through the days on wings of surrender and trust!” These words remind us that even when we cannot understand the past, we must trust God and accept His will.

So, if you’ve endured a difficult past, accept it and learn from it, but don’t spend too much time here in the precious present fretting over memories of the unchangeable past. Instead, trust God’s plan and look to the future. After all, the future is where everything that’s going to happen to you from this moment on is going to take place.

The past is past, so don’t live there. If you’re focused on the past, change your focus. If you’re living in the past, it’s time to stop living there, starting now.

Shake the dust from your past, and move forward in His promises. – Kay Arthur

Whoever you are, whatever your condition or circumstance, whatever your past or problem, Jesus can restore you to wholeness. – Anne Graham Lotz

Blessings,

Chaplain Rob

Hope Amidst Suffering

“For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the LORD, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.” Jeremiah 29:11

There are times when we are so confused and overwhelmed by the pain in our lives that we wish we could die. No matter what we do, we are powerless to change things for the better. The weight of the sadness seems too heavy to bear. We can’t see why our heart just doesn’t break and allow death to free us.

Job felt that way. He’d lost everything, even though he had always done what was right. His ten children were dead. He had lost his business, his riches, and his health. And all this happened in a matter of days! He was left with a sharp-tongued wife and three friends who blamed him for his own misfortune. Job cried out, “If my misery could be weighed and my troubles be put on the scales. . . . Oh, that I might have my request, that God would grant my desire. I wish he would crush me. I wish he would reach out his hand and kill me.. . . . I don’t have the strength to endure. I have nothing to live for. Do I have the strength of a stone? Is my body made of bronze? No, I am utterly helpless, without any chance of success” (Job 6:2, 8-9, 11-13).

Job didn’t know that the end of his life would be even better than it had been at the beginning. God restored everything he had lost, and then some. “Then he died, an old man who had lived a long, full life” (Job 42:17). Even when we’re pressed to the point of death, there is still hope that our lives will change. Our recovery could be so complete that the final line written about us might read: “Then they died, having lived long, full lives.” We must remember: life can be good again! The key is trusting that things will get better.

Trusting God in difficult times will stretch our faith.

Blessings,

Chaplain Rob

The Secret to Spiritual Success

But don’t just listen to God’s word. You must do what it says. Otherwise, you are fooling yourselves

Have you ever had one of those days when it seemed as though everyone was smiling, maybe even laughing, at you? Then you saw yourself in the mirror and discovered why. You had something stuck in your teeth. No wonder they were smiling.

The mirror just told you the truth about yourself, and you saw what everyone else was seeing. Then you had a choice: ignore the problem and leave it there, or clean yourself up.

The Bible is a lot like a mirror; it tells us the truth about ourselves. James wrote, “But don’t just listen to God’s word. You must do what it says. Otherwise, you are only fooling yourselves. For if you listen to the word and don’t obey, it is like glancing at your face in a mirror. You see yourself, walk away, and forget what you look like” (James 1:22–24 NLT).

It is not simply a matter of hearing God’s Word; it is doing what it says. The Bible must be our model for how we think and live. Problems will happen, family conflicts will happen, temptations will happen, sickness will happen, or something else may come our way. We can’t control that. But if we are in God’s Word and walking closely with Him and in fellowship with His people, then we will have the resources we need to face those challenges as they come. And challenges will come our way.

Dedicate yourself to worshipping God, confessing your sins, and hearing the Word of God. God’s Word has something to say to you. Spend time in it in the morning, in the afternoon, and in the evening. Continue in the Word of God. That is the secret to spiritual success. Just do your part, and then watch how the Lord will bless you and how your spiritual life will grow.

Blessings,

Chaplain Rob

The New Jerusalem and Lydia’s Home

Acts 16:9-15, Revelation 21:10, 22-27; 22:1-5 and John 14:23-29

When Paul shows up in Philippi after being diverted from parts of Asia Minor, he and his missionary team stay with a God fearing Gentile named Lydia. Both good and not so good events happen: conversions, baptisms, but also jail and beatings.

An interesting note this close to our Memorial Day is the fact that Philippi was a Roman colony of retired army veterans! Since the new Christian fellowship took hold there, Paul fondly writes and entire epistle to them later in his life. I would think that many new Christians there were Roman army veterans!

If Philippi is an example of God’s spirit moving with a population over time, the passage from Revelation is a glimpse of the Final City of God ( The New Jerusalem) with its marvelous vision of peace and healing for all nations. The bright light from the New Holy City shines, so to speak, backward and impacts Philippi with the generosity of Lydia and the spiritual transformation of many including her household!

Whenever we read of the future New Heaven and New Earth we should always consider how that vision and promise should awaken us in the here and now. What COULD be presently if we trust God to be at work now as well as in total fulfillment ahead of us! That bright future shines “backward” on us in our “cities and homes” even now.

Let us remember this Sunday our dead (alive in Christ), especially those who died in service to their country. Let us trust God to “make all things new” in the “healing of the nations.”

Pastor Barry