Running on Emptying

Isaiah 50:4-9a, Philippians 2:5-11 and Luke 22:14-23:56

Jackson Browne had a popular hit back in 1978 with Running On Empty. The rock musician both celebrates and bemoans life on the musical performance road perhaps at the loss of enduring relationships: you keep going as tho you are just “running on fumes” as when a gas tank is about empty. Going on when your resources or sustenance is about gone is also a definition.

In our texts today, we hear of Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem at Passover with his full intent to fulfill his mission in life. Paul goes into depth in the Philippians passage telling us that Jesus was “self emptying himself” of all his strong divine attributes for his mission. He would, so to speak, empty himself of Godhood for this divine saving mission. Running on empty indeed!

I don’t think I could ever follow and serve God if God required ONLY a mere human to die for our sins. Why this prophet/man from Nazareth should die for us seems a cruel plan…..unless God is also involved in the suffering in the Son of God, or God the Son! It is therefore a hard to explain notion of the Wholly God and Wholly Human on the Cross. But what is being said is that God is in this atoning Suffering fully as much as the fully human man Jesus!

Having said that (as scripture does) I have hardly reached a clear reasonable understanding! But the response is finally gratitude and joy as Easter later confirms that God does not abandon the Savior who Suffers for us!

Palm Sunday celebrates the fact that we were on the right path to acknowledge Jesus as Messiah, but not quite on the right road when most everyone abandoned Him at the Cross and lost all hope for a few days.

Such is the human condition. Faithful but flawed, believing but unbelieving when we ourselves often find that “we are running on empty.” Jesus completed his journey without the divine attributes of power to avoid pain and suffering. The Rest of the Story comes later! And in power!

Join with millions this coming Holy Week to prepare and follow a Suffering AND Risen Savior!

Pastor Barry

Wholehearted Devotion

Now when He rose early on the first day of the week, He appeared first to Mary Magdalene. . . .Mark 16:9

Of all the people Jesus could have appeared to first after His Resurrection, He appeared to Mary Magdalene. It is interesting to think about, because, among the Jews of the day, the testimony of a woman was not held in high regard. In fact, some of the rabbis falsely taught that it was better for the words of the Law to be burned than to be delivered by a woman. Yet Jesus chose a woman to be the first herald of His Resurrection.

It is also worth noting that women were the last at the cross and the first at the tomb. Mary had courage that many of the men did not have when Jesus was crucified. She stood by Him through it all. In fact, the Bible tells us that after He was crucified, Mary “observed where He was laid” (Mark 15:47). She watched as they took His crucified body from the cross and wrapped it and placed it in a tomb that belonged to Joseph of Arimathea. And Mary, along with the other women, was at the tomb very early on Sunday morning to demonstrate her love for Jesus by anointing His body with spices (see Mark 16:1–2).

And her love was rewarded. God said, “And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart” (Jeremiah 29:13).

God rewards the person who is diligent. And for those who will take time in their day to seek the Lord, for those who will take time to read His Word, for those who will take time to wait upon Him, He will reveal His truths to them.

May we all take time to spend with God today and during this Lenten Season,

Chaplain Rob

Odors or Fragrance?

Isaiah 43:16-21, Philippians 3:4b-14 and John 12:1-8

It sure looks like Spring! And the odors in the air begin to change don’t they? Less the smell of cold, damp, and decay; more of green life coming around and even the sunshine brings new smells!

In our John text we have the extravagance of Mary with fragrant oils to anoint Jesus who has raised her brother to life; and that sad other sad smell that Judas gives off with his bad attitude and hidden deceit. Someone has been brought from death to life and extravagant celebration seems in order! Oils indeed! And Paul can only reflect on how the death of Jesus has left him changed and wanting to share the fragrance of the Gospel!

Yes, something new is in the land as Isaiah recalls what God is up to even if God’s people look the other way. God is making the desert to bloom, making a new way through the wilderness. Things are looking up! Don’t be so grumpy Israel, my chosen ones! Don’t be like Judas! And like Paul, put some old ways behind you. God is doing a new thing!

If nothing else, Spring is promise! Look forward not backward! God is still at work!

See you Sunday for the Word of New Life and for the Lord’s Table of abundant grace!

Pastor Barry

How To Find Contentment

Not that I was ever in need, for I have learned how to be content with whatever I have.—Philippians 4:11

A psychologist who conducted research on what brings contentment observed, “If people strive for a certain level of affluence thinking that will make them happy, they find that on reaching it, they become very quickly habituated, and at that point they start hankering for the next level of income, property, or good health.”

Getting more stuff won’t bring contentment. Someone who makes thousands of dollars thinks, “If only I were a millionaire.” The millionaire thinks, “If only I were a billionaire.” It’s always beyond their reach.

In his epistle to the church at Philippi, Paul said that he had found the secret to contentment. What’s interesting is that Paul was experiencing adverse circumstances when he wrote this. He wasn’t kicking back on some beach in the Mediterranean, eating a falafel. He was a prisoner of Rome. He was facing an uncertain future. Yet he wrote a lot about joy, rejoicing, happiness, and contentment.

How is that possible? The answer is found in a word that Paul used and referenced again and again in his epistle: mind. Which brings us to a simple point: The secret of contentment is found in the way a believer thinks. It is not found in the way a believer feels, because our emotions fluctuate. We don’t base contentment on the way that we feel; we base it on the way that we think.

Max Lucado put it this way: “The good life begins not when circumstances change, but when our attitude toward them does.”

Paul had experienced pleasure and health as well as sickness and weakness. He had highs and lows. He was a hero to some and a villain to others. But he learned this. Contentment does not come from conquering our circumstances. Rather, it comes from learning to live with them.

My Prayer for each of you today is you find contentment and joy in your situation wherever you are!

Blessings,

Chaplain Rob

Manna, Home Grown Produce, Starvation, Fatted Calf

Joshua 5:9-12, 2 Corinthians 5:16-21 and Luke 15:1-3b; 11-32

It would be difficult to either wander in a wilderness for years or to leave home, blow your inheritance in a foreign country and starve. The Joshua text and the Luke text tell us of familiar bible passages many have heard throughout a lifetime. Great human moments of change and transition under the Providence of God. At the very least these are stories about God’s long term care plan! And Paul in 2 Corinthians goes about reminding everyone of this and celebrating the ultimate coming to fulfillment of God’s “care plan!”

The parable of the Two sons has lots of drama and a twist or two! We should wonder a bit how it was heard by first century hearers and how it is heard today some 2000 years later!

Read ahead and ask yourself, “What is God saying to me and to others around me?” And which passage says the most about the course of your life, your attitudes, your hopes up to this day? Wilderness Manna or produce from the Promised Land? A Prodigal Son or the Angry Brother? An Old Creation or a New Creation?

Consider as you worship God this last weekend in March 2019!

Blessings!

Pastor Barry

Don’t Neglect Divine Mercy

Isaiah 55:1-9, I Corinthians 10:1-13 and Luke 13:1-9

WC Fields was a comedian in the first half of the Twentieth century known for his juggling, insult comedy, and movie roles. He often played scoundrels and had said of him (in jest) that “someone who didn’t like dogs and children wasn’t such a bad fellow!” One of the memorable lines he said was when someone found him reading the Bible alone, Fields famously noted he “was looking for loopholes.”

Excuses about and neglect of God’s wisdom and guidance for the church is what our texts speak about this Sunday. Deliberate neglect of walking in faith has consequences say both Jesus and Paul. They both site destruction as the possibilities and outcome of continuing to live as though God had not had mercy upon them and always intended a better life than the one people tended to pursue. We all look for loopholes when we catch ourselves taking a good hard look at the life we are living; a life often of spiritual neglect and lack of commitment.

Gods unmerited favor (Grace) does rest upon us by faith. How often though is our response one of taking such Grace for granted? Or worse one of open rebellion in spite of Grace?! Let us keep in mind that of the three scriptures cited it is the Old Testament prophet Isaiah that encourages us sinners most by emphasizing the mercy of God in spite of our misbehavior! And certainly Grace is present in the Luke and Corinthians texts, but just not as apparent in contrast to the deep seated sin we find ourselves continuing to give in to.

Perhaps difficult scriptures to address, to hear, to accept, but still we learn from them for our very good, for the constant “renewing of our hearts and minds.”

May it be so! Blessings in our time together in worship and fellowship!

Pastor Barry

Pray Instead

Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done.—Philippians 4:6

I was on the road the other day and saw a car up ahead with student driver signs on both sides, on the roof, and on the back. I gave wide berth to that car, because I knew they didn’t know what they were doing yet. And sure enough, as they were driving along, they stopped for no apparent reason. I give student drivers a lot of space because they’re still figuring it out.

But after we’ve been driving awhile, we may find ourselves eating a burrito, talking on the phone, and adjusting the radio, all at the same time. I don’t recommend this, of course. But the idea is that driving comes naturally to us because we’ve taught ourselves to do it. It becomes a conditioned reflex.

Then there are natural reflexes. If we touch something hot, we immediately pull back. We don’t have to teach this, even to a toddler. They know that when they touch something hot, it hurts.

When it comes to worry, we need to develop a conditioned reflex. We need to turn our worries into prayers. When something alarming or threatening comes our way, our natural reflex is to panic. The conditioned reflex—the biblical response, I might add—is to pray.

The apostle Paul wrote, “Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done” (Philippians 4:6 NLT). Notice that he tells us to pray about everything—not just the big, scary things. Everything.

God is interested in big things. God is interested in little things. And sometimes little things turn into big things rather quickly, don’t they? Little problems can suddenly become big problems. God is interested in whatever concerns you. So the next time you’re tempted to worry, pray instead.

May you take all your worries today to God!

Blessings,

Chaplain Rob

A Fox, A Hen, and Snakes

Genesis 15:1-18, Philippians 3:17-4:1 and Luke. 13:31-35

Interestingly enough, this Sunday is St. Patrick’s Day, March 17. Tradition has us wearing green and thinking about the Saint running the snakes out of Ireland. But our Luke text has more to do with a fox, a hen and Jesus almost “seeing red” in anger over Herod and Jerusalem’s treatment of prophets. Where power accumulates, such as in cities, God sends prophets and finally a Savior to address the issues of misuse of power. God’s promise to “deal with” that which opposes Gods rule or reign over all things goes back to even the Genesis text where God promises Abraham there is a future of descendants for him even though he is childless at an old age.

In a Fallen world God has to be about making good on the “bad” and on our misuse of freedom and power. God allows bad things to happen to people but provides a way of healing, recovery, and new hope.

Yes, St. Patrick had a rough start being kidnapped out of Britain into slavery in Ireland but after escaping he returns to Ireland years later as a missionary making good out of a bad beginning.

Our hope is that God is always about a better future when the present and past make us doubt and lose hope. Abraham, Paul, and Jesus are all recipients of God’s promises. We here today are also claimed by the God who goes about making promises to make “all things new.”

Be blessed whether an Irish Blessing or some other blessing!

Pastor Barry

Nothing is Impossible

Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but not with God; all things are possible with God. – Mark 10:27

Are you facing a situation that looks impossible to fix?

In 1969, the pollution along the Cuyahoga River near Cleveland, Ohio was terrible. It was unimaginable that it could ever be cleaned up. The river was so polluted that it actually caught fire and burned. Now, years later, this river is one of the outstanding examples of environmental cleanup.

But the river wasn’t changed in a few days or a few months. It took years of work to build new sewage plants and reduce the industrial pollution. Eventually, that hard work paid off and now the water in the river is cleaner than ever.

Maybe you are facing an impossible situation. Maybe you have a habit that is driving your family crazy. Possibly you drink too much or don’t know how to control your credit card use. When you face such an impossible situation, don’t you want a quick fix and something to change immediately?

While God can perform miracles and instantly remove your desire or a struggle you are having, for most of us the changes are gradual and involve a lot of effort and work . . . like cleaning up a polluted river.

I challenge you today as you are facing your difficulties to put them in God’s hands and trust in his timing.

Blessings,

Chaplain Rob

Tempted By Distraction!

Psalm 91:9-16, Romans 10:8b-13 and Luke 4:1-13.

Jesus being tempted in the wilderness is a familiar Bible story. Our Lord seems very human, like us, if he was susceptible to reach for power over things and conditions of the earth! Who wouldn’t like the power to be protected from harm and the power to always have what you need?! And in such a distracted state of mind and body: hungry, alone, and pondering “what next!”. But Jesus was single minded in that he was in the wilderness to worship God alone.

Worship is the thing that mattered most. Devotion to the Source of all that exists! All else would then follow from that devotion. And Jesus was so “close” to God that it was clear the Devil knew Jesus had access to all power to meet his needs and to command the universe to obey Him.

In our wilderness times we do have needs but don’t always have the power to meet or overcome the needs. What do we do and to what do we aspire to use to get what we need? Is true worship and devotion all we ultimately need?

We will look in a bit closer to Jesus in the wilderness and to Paul who declares what we really need on this first Sunday in Lent, that Forty Days leading to Easter the fulfillment of all God’s intentions for us! “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved,” Romans 8:13.

Be there! Don’t be “tempted” to stay away!

Blessings for the Lenten journey!

Pastor Barry