Glory, Idols, and Caesar

Even today idols and governments of all kind beg us to “worship” them! “Worship” in the sense of devotion, following, and giving way too much attention to them! All this while the glory of God is nowhere to be seen. Or is it?

It’s a matter of what we give our attention to. It’s a God approved necessity to have food, shelter, and clothing. Having a job or some financial security is not far behind. Add commitments to family and friends and the most basic needs of life are before us. After that…we just might be tempted to follow after “idols” and “Caesar!” Most will deny they follow idols and few think government is the answer to everything in life! But……look at how we often spend the week!

Moses and God once again are in a discussion and the end result is the question of Gods glory or presence. The Golden Calf episode is now behind Moses but the need for some sense of God is still real. What can Moses hope for? God offers his Glory if only for a moment.

Paul says look at you, you Thessalonian believers! Paul virtually says “I see God in Christ in you!” “Models” of faith! Examples of the result of the Presence of God in their lives together as people of faith.

And Jesus gets to the heart of the matter of loyalty (devotion to someone or something) when he says “whose image is on that coin?” Give THAT to Caesar! Give what is God’s to God! Don’t confuse the two Jesus says. The Roman coin actually said Caesar was divine!! Idols anyone?

We face idols and Caesars all too often. Faith says “Seek ye first the Kingdom of God….” Worship is a good place to start ( and truly finish…see Revelation 21,22). Worship just might be our first line of defense against idols and Caesar! Surely a day of worship is helpful against 6 days of……????

See you at worship!

Pastor Barry

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Heart Disease

Psalm 95:6-8 Oh come, let us worship and bow down; let us kneel before the Lord, our Maker! For he is our God, and we are the people of his pasture, and the sheep of his hand. Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts.

Medical professionals estimate that as many as 80 million people in the US have some form of heart disease and 720,000 die every year as a result. It’s the No. 1 killer in the country. But something just as lethal threatens your spiritual life. It’s a blockage in your vital relationship with God that the Bible calls hardheartedness. Psalm 95:7-8 says, “Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts.”

My heart is hardened when I refuse to respond to God’s prompting to change a specific area in my life and instead put my fingers in my ears. It happens when He wants me to thank Him for something but I’m silent. I’m hardhearted when the Lord presses in closer to me to show me a bigger plan for my life, but I stiff-arm Him away. No further, God. You’re just asking too much right now. In a sentence, we harden our hearts not when we sin, but when we won’t let God deal with us about our sin.

We all have nifty tricks to rationalize our lack of response to God. One common way is procrastination. Tomorrow, God. If God could do in our lives all the things that we’ve already surrendered to Him, our lives would be on fire. Too often we say, “I won’t hang on to this sin my whole life; I’ll just struggle with it a few more days.” Is this true for you? Are you still battling with God about something you gave over to Him years ago?

You may ask, How do I know if I’m in trouble? What does a hard heart feel like? That’s the scary thing. It may be painful in the early stages when God is convicting you of what He wants to change. But if you say instead, “Hmm, I see what You mean, God, but I’d rather not go through all that pain,” then slowly, imperceptibly, you stop feeling anything prompted by the Lord. Hardheartedness has set in.

If you’re like me, you’re ready for the remedy. It’s simply this: Today, do something about your heart. At a former church I served, we had Psalm 95:6-8 written on the back wall of our sanctuary. We never want to be far from the reality that the condition of our heart is our responsibility.

In the most loving and urgent way I know how, I extend to you God’s invitation to draw near. Today, if you hear His voice, respond.

Don’t delay… Take care of your heart today!
Blessings,

Rob Dunbar, Chaplain, Maj, TN ANG

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Waiting . . . Patiently

But those who wait on the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint – Isaiah 40:31

The dictionary defines the word patience as “the ability to be calm, tolerant, and understanding.” If that describes you, you can skip the rest of this page. But, if you’re like most of us, you’d better keep reading.

For most of us, patience is a hard thing to master. Why? Because we have lots of things we want, and we know precisely when we want them: NOW (if not sooner). But our Father in heaven has other ideas; the Bible teaches that we must learn to wait patiently for the things that God has in store for us, even when waiting is difficult.

We live in an imperfect world inhabited by imperfect people. Sometimes, we inherit troubles from others, and sometimes we create troubles for ourselves. On other occasions, we see other people “moving ahead” in the world, and we want to move ahead with them. So we become impatient with ourselves, with our circumstances, and even with our Creator.

Psalm 37:7 instructs us to “rest in the Lord, and wait patiently for Him” (NKJV). But, for most of us, waiting patiently for Him is hard. We are fallible beings who seek solutions to our problems today, not tomorrow. Still, God instructs us to wait patiently for His plans to unfold, and that’s exactly what we should do. Sometimes, patience is the price we pay for being responsible adults, and that’s as it should be. After all, think how patient our Heavenly Father has been with us. So the next time you find yourself drumming your fingers as you wait for a quick resolution to the challenges of everyday living, take a deep breath and ask God for patience.

Remember that patience builds character . . . and the best moment to start building is this one.

The best things in life seldom happen overnight; they usually take time. Henry Blackaby writes, “The grass that is here today and gone tomorrow does not require much time to mature. A big oak tree that lasts for generations requires much more time to grow and mature. God is concerned about your life through eternity. Allow Him to take all the time He needs to shape you for His purposes.”

Blessings,

Rob Dunbar, Chaplain, Maj, TN ANG

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Always Messing With the Party?

Very few people start out to be anxious or disobedient in their relationship with God and the neighbor. But, stuff happens! Even with best of intentions we can find a way to spoil a party, a wedding, a trip, or a friendship.

I believe that about covers the themes in the scriptures before us this Sunday. The Israelites get anxious when Moses is not around and foolishly make an idol. The church folks at Philippi are in need of getting along. And Jesus says some people don’t know how to appreciate a good wedding party. They don’t have the “courtesy” to dress up for a great day of celebration!

We are forever capable of messing up. The Good News is that God is ever ready to remind us of who we are and Who we belong too!
Moses and Paul and Jesus set examples and tell us true stories of life in the Presence of a God who keeps on speaking to us: “Hey,” says God. “Pay attention here. Things have changed and are changing for the good when you listen to what I am telling you. And, you don’t have to go through both bad and good ALONE!”

Can’t get well all alone and surely can’t have a party all alone! We are all Israelites, Philippians, and wedding guests! Let’s act like something good will come of being who we are!!

Come to worship and, well, listen up and look in the mirror of scripture.

You might just like what you hear and see!

Pastor Barry

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Renters

As Yogi Berra, MLB catcher and pundit once said, “It seems like Deja vu all over again!” Yes, it’s Homecoming at one congregation with a guest preacher, Rev. Nan Zoller,  for the other. That’s what you get sometimes as a United Methodist charge! It’s that “connection thing” where we see it takes a team effort to spread the Gospel in word and in deed. It’s good to be connected in the Stones River District with over 100 churches with pastors knowing each other and calling on each other (or upon Lay Speakers) for pulpit moments. And churches pulling together to share preachers, mission, and human resources, all graciously given by God to celebrate and to serve.

I suspect both Nan and I will touch upon similar scriptural themes this week. “Renting” and “home qualities” both make us think about our “dwelling places” and Who (God) provides to give us shelter and families and friends to live with. Matthew 21:33-46 is Jesus’ parable about the “wicked tenants and the benevolent Landowner” while Romans 14:1-12 is much about “spiritual siblings” learning to live together in spite of their differences. Both scriptures speak to the qualities of “home,” how we treat one another, and the One who makes it possible to have “home.”

Wherever you worship this Sunday is always part of what it means “to be home.” As Dorothy says in The Wizard of Oz at the very end: “O Toto, we’re home….there’s no place like home!”

Brothers and sisters in Christ, there’s no place like the home God has in mind for you both here and forever! “Home” indeed is “where the heart (of God) is.”

Blessings!

Pastor Barry

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You Know That Church Over There?

Sunday is World Communion Sunday. This day we are reminding ourselves we have brothers and sisters in Christ around the world! We know this in our “head” but often we tend to act as though our church family is just where we gather each Sunday worship and weekly fellowships.

Here is simply where “we are planted.” The goal is to both bloom here but scatter “seed” to all the reaches of earth. In turn, we receive and learn that cultural and language differences actually enrich us saints and sinners here in Middle Tennessee!

For example, I cherish my early, brief 1979 missional time in Haiti and preaching in tiny Montserrat. I marvel at how at “home” I felt in attending alone a UMC service in Burlington, California (a state often thought by many to be a “world” unto itself!).

And how much joy I received, while being at home in the mid-Eighties on Christmas Eve with sleeping 1 and 3 year olds in bed, catching the Pope in Italy celebrating Midnight Mass.

Another time of experiencing our international Faith was when I helped serve communion with a student hospital chaplain from Romania, a Pentecostal minister studying in the USA.

We have been given a Great Commission to “go into all the world…..and make disciples.” And the faithful from all around our globe help make ME a growing and maturing Christian who happens to reside in Murfreesboro TN!

To God be the Glory as we receive the Bread of Life and drink from the Cup of a New Covenant this Sunday worship knowing millions do the same “planted and blooming” from Australia to Zimbabwe, nations A to Z and all in between!

Bring a neighbor this Sunday!

Blessings!

Pastor Barry

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Little Easters in Autumn

Each Sunday worship is considered by Christians to be a “little Easter.” Of course, every Sunday’s sermon, hymns, and scriptures are not specifically about Death and Resurrection, even so, the unspoken awareness of most is that we are present together to affirm both our mortality and God’s promise to overcome mortality.

I had a pastoral care professor who quoted Leander Keck, NT professor at Yale, saying that all teachers of classes on Scripture should be sure to tell students that they were in that class to always hear what these scriptures say about Death and/or about Life.

September 24 follows a week filled with news of death and destruction, threats about death and destruction, and even one more prediction about the End of Earth and Christ’s return coming on Saturday the 23rd! My experience in such predictions is that I will be conducting worship on the following Sunday and the End is not yet!

As brother Travis at Kedron is fond of saying, “I can be sure Christ is NOT coming back on THAT day whenever anyone predicts a certain day of His coming back!” I agree! Nevertheless, we, of all people on earth, should not shy away from hearing of both OUR end or of God’s promise about an End!

So, Jesus in Matthew 20 speaks to the First and the Last and Paul at the church in Philippi yearns to be with the Lord but stays here for “our sakes.” And the Exodus narrative has the Israelites grumbling about “dying in the wilderness.” But, whichever verses you focus on there will still be found Good News to cheer us about God’s Grace and Providence in spite of our Human Condition.

Come on to worship this Sunday! It’s a “little Easter” happening kind of day!

Blessings!

Pastor Barry

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Homecoming

Our two churches have their respective Homecomings on September 17 (K) and October 8 (LM). As of now I have not been given the power to bi-locate I.e. be in two places at the same time. This capacity has been attributed to a few saints, but so far…..not me! So, I will only be at Kedron this coming Sunday and Bill will bring the message at Locks.

We have spoken about the texts and Bill is focusing on the message of Grace in the Parable of the Unforgiving Servant in Matthew 18:21-35. I am drawn to Romans 14:1-12 and Grace given to help people live together as though Church was the best living example of a “home” for many very different people to live in!

As we worship relatively free from destructive hurricanes, our brothers and sisters in Christ, as well as all God’s creatures, are struggling to return to their homes and churches in other areas of our country. We will pray for them as our many churches send both supplies and volunteers to assist in helping thousands return to homes and communities in recovery.

We are all on life’s journey to be safe and secure in homes made by human hands and ultimately in God’s home where love lives forever and every tear is wiped away. In worship we celebrate both as we pray for Gods will to be “done on earth as it is in heaven.”

Join Bill and me in worship this Sunday! You are welcome at both and if you can bi-locate…..more power to you…..and thanks be to God!

Pastor Barry

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Shunning?

As Groucho Marx once said: “I wouldn’t want to be a member of any club that would have ME as a member!”

Church belonging is another matter. Church takes all kinds. And only later does the church deal with matters of misbehavior or interpersonal conflict. “Drinking problem? Come on! God accepts you!” Struggling with lust and pride?
Come on in! God loves you!” “Battling old wounds from someone in your family? Come on in, God will help you!”

As Steve Brown (amongst others) said, “God accepts you just the way you are; but God doesn’t leave you just the way you are!” So, what happens with the congregation when there are “issues?” What about misbehavior that affects some if not all? Discipline is one way as is counseling another way. Resolution and reconciliation are the goals. Does that sometimes require “shunning” or “excommunication?” What exactly do these words mean?

The United Methodist Discipline is quite specific on the disciplining of its clergy and uses counseling and even trials for remedial courses of action or even removal of clergy if deemed necessary. This is not spelled out quite as clearly for laity, members of a local congregation. Some guidelines but not as many.

Our scriptures for Sunday help show us how Moses, Paul, and Jesus spoke of situations where conflict arose or misbehavior was affecting how people got along and how this reflected upon their relationship with “God and neighbor.”

All in all, pretty good scriptures to read, study, and apply (if need be) as we head toward coming back together after Summer and Holidays and…well…being absent from the fellowship…for whatever reason! We are all in this together. Let God show us how to keep on “keeping on” when the way gets rough together!

God bless! See you Sunday!

Pastor Barry

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Three Reasons Going To Worship Is Good For You

Parents are always trying to convince their kids that certain things like fruit and vegetables are good for them. Or that going to bed and getting a good night’s rest is better than staying up late and playing video games! Sometimes persuasion fails and commands are issued. (That works easier with video games than vegetables!).

In the scriptures for this Sunday I see three reasons that going to worship, going to church is good for people:

1) There is such a thing as the Sacred, the Holy. People need to approach the Sacred and Holy rather than ignore it or “take for granted.” (See Moses and the burning bush in Exodus 3).

2) In spite of what we often see around us and in history, God says good will triumph over evil. As bad as we might feel, there is a One who helps and that One has helpers! There is a way forward out of the bad that is provided by God. We need to hear and to see this Hope and Promise! In all its imperfections and weaknesses the Church does point toward God our Helper. (See Paul giving examples of how very different people could ‘get along’ in the congregation in first century Rome. Romans 12:9-21).

3) Being a person of the Church, being “saved” is a way of living, a response to God’s grace that is a way of discipleship. And it can be a challenge! But who doesn’t want the challenge to have a life that is more than survival or boredom or all self-centered or just “entertaining.” We need deep within us to be part of a Greater Purpose than just what we want or think we need! (See Jesus’ challenge to his disciple Peter and all those who would follow the Messiah. Matthew 16:21-28 is about losing and saving one’s own life and soul).

Who wouldn’t want to know the Holy, find a Way through life’s troubles, and be part of a Challenge to live an exciting life with a purpose and a Guide??!! Are we the kind of Church that gets that across to others not part of Church? Are we the kind of Believers that take this awareness to our own hearts and are made glad knowing God our Savior??!

See you in worship this Sunday! Invite a neighbor!

Pastor Barry

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